May 8 Chefs Challenge: Boca Wins
By Ryan Reardon
I’m big fan of food for two reasons: I take pleasure in the sheer joy of eating and love the way food brings people together—families around a holiday table, friends celebrating a special occasion, or even strangers gathering to see local chefs in action. The latter was the case last night at the eighth installment of the WNC Chefs Challenge, which pitted Chef Stewart Lyon and his team from Boca against the 12 Bones crew led by Chef Chad Gibson.
The night’s secret ingredient couldn’t have been more appropriate for a city that loves its beer. Yes, a collection of local and domestic microbrews flavored each and every dish, from the appetizers to the desserts.
The night’s first dish, prepared by Team Boca, wowed with its use of four beers in what was otherwise a simple crab cake and fried green tomato appetizer. I’m a sucker for crab cakes, so this one scored high right off the bat. As soon as I heard beer was the ingredient du jour, I was hoping for beer-battered something, and Team Boca satisfied with the Mother Earth Endless River Kölsch fried green tomato. I loved the flavor and creaminess of the Franziskaner Hefeweizen lemon-butter, which scored high marks for originality. And Lindeman’s Framboise Lambic was a great match for the pepper relish. It reminded me of the canned hot pepper jelly my grandmother always gives me. I’ve never been quite sure what to do with it until now.
Course two featured a roasted sweet potato and Green Man IPA soup with crab tarragon-apple salad prepared by Team 12 Bones. It was a simple, yet elegant, chilled soup that took me a minute to warm to. Tarragon seems tricky to work with, but nicely complemented the roasted, almost caramelized, sweet potato flavor. The IPA came through in the soup, but was a little bitter for my taste. I would have enjoyed a nut beer to complement the cashew and smoked sea salt in the crab salad.
Moving into the meaty portion of the night, it came down to beef versus pork. 12 Bones presented a Pisgah Blueberry Wheat rib eye confit with a fried green tomato and pleasantly surprising Duck Rabbit Brown Ale sorghum and Gorgonzola sauce. The sweet-pungent sauce earned the dish points for originality, but it was Boca’s Highland Gaelic Ale pulled pork, peppery corn chowchow, and Duck Rabbit Imperial Stout braised onion that won the crowd. It was a glorious union of salt, sweet, fat, and a touch of spice and topped the night’s votes.
This brings us to dessert. I was expecting a coffee porter torte or chocolate stout espresso cake, but these chefs took the unexpected route. Boca surprised us with an oatmeal chocolate Duck Rabbit Brown Ale ice cream with pecan brittle (certainly the highlight on the plate), puff pastry, and Angry Orchard Hard Cider apple redox. It was voted the No. 3 dish of the night. And while 12 Bones’ Duck Rabbit Imperial Stout duck egg ice cream, sweet cheddar biscuit, and lambic raspberry syrup was a delicious sweet-salty combo, it fell short of winning the popular vote. Perhaps it was the odd pairing of ice cream and cheese biscuit.
Chef Stewart Lyon and Team Boca’s dishes dominated the top three spots. The team moves on to compete against Chef David Ryba from Inn on Biltmore Estate in August. Tickets will be on sale soon at www.ashevillewineandfood.com.
Ryan Reardon is a co-owner and teacher at Asheville Music School, performs in local bands Zansa and Vertigo Jazz Project, and is a self-professed foodie.
Team Boca: Chef Stewart Lyon, Harrison Raines, and Chuck Kegg
- Bells Oberon seared crab cakes with Franziskaner Hefeweizen lemon-butter topped with Lindeman’s Framboise Lambic pepper relish over a Mother Earth Endless River Kölsch fried green tomato (Voted No. 3)
- Highland Gaelic Ale braised pulled pork and jus, Old Hickory Death by Hops corn chowchow, topped with a Duck Rabbit Imperial Stout braised onion (Voted No. 1)
- Oatmeal chocolate Duck Rabbit Brown Ale ice cream with pecan brittle, puff pastry, and Angry Orchard Hard Cider apple redox (Voted No. 2)
Team 12 Bones: Chef Chad Gibson, Joe Lewis, and Shane Heavner
- Roasted sweet potato Green Man IPA soup with crab tarragon-apple salad
- Pisgah Blueberry Wheat confit of rib eye with fried green tomato and Duck Rabbit Brown Ale sorghum and Gorgonzola sauce
- Duck Rabbit Imperial Stout duck egg ice cream with sweet cheddar biscuits and Lindeman’s Framboise Lambic raspberry sauce