April 17 Chefs Challenge: How Do You Like Your Eggs?
By Cat Kessler
The Tuesday following Friday the 13th may be the most appropriate of all days for a Chefs Challenge that became known as the “Battle of the Jasons.” And when chefs Jason Rowland of The Magnetic Field Café & Bar and Jason Roy of Lexington Avenue Brewery arrived at the Century Room above Pack’s Tavern and learned the evening’s secret ingredient, the latter may have felt a bit of déjà vu.
The ingredient in question—locally raised eggs—was precisely the same item that Roy and Team LAB incorporated into their dishes during their first Chefs Challenge appearance in 2011. Despite the coincidence, the evening revealed that both teams had more than luck on their sides.
The foundation for the evening’s dishes was a selection of chicken, duck, and quail eggs sourced from nearby Headwaters of Poverty Farm in Barnardsville and Milo Acres in Burnsville. Asheville Wine and Food Festival founder and emcee Bob Bowles brought around a few of the petite and artfully speckled quail eggs—not to be confused with bobwhite eggs—while the chefs were busy transforming the versatile ingredient into sauces, meringues, and other fitting additions to the menu.
Dinner opened with two dishes that placed the egg in supporting roles, beginning with an appetizer by Team Magnetic Field that piled light crab salad over of a duck egg and was garnished with dark, bitter greens that complemented the understated flavor of the seafood. This was followed by an egg noodle ramen by Team LAB, finished with mushroom chips, a poached quail egg and glowing red drops of chili oil.
The dishes that put eggs at the forefront were voted the No. 2 and No. 3 dishes by diners and guest judges. The second-favorite creation of the evening belonged to Team Magnetic Field. In a great display of culinary architecture, a sunny-side up quail egg was perched atop crispy pork rillettes, which were balanced on sweet, cubed melon. A bite of all of these ingredients together tasted like a summery, fruity variation on corned beef hash.
The most colorful dish of the night came in at No. 3. Electric yellow citrus hollandaise surrounded an island of crab-stuffed rib eye. Next to this, a cold-smoked soft-boiled egg, pink and lightly speckled as if still in its shell, rested atop a bed of asparagus slaw. A curlicue of bacon—made by deep-frying bacon twisted around a skewer—formed a decorative bridge between the egg and rib eye. The yolk of the expertly cooked egg was matched only in color by the hollandaise, which blended perfectly with the other flavors on the plate.
Two desserts awaited diners at the end of the meal, the second of which was a dense and tangy square of goat-cheese cake with a sweet, nutty crust, topped with a smoky tomato sauce that gave this Team Magnetic Field creation the aroma of a summer campfire.
What Team LAB thought may have been the worst stroke of luck actually produced the crowd favorite. Although they didn’t turn out as envisioned, the meringue nests with almond custard, orgeat ice cream, and coconut macaroon crisp were instant hits. The light, yet decadent, dessert used eggs in every component of the dish and had everyone in the room Googling “orgeat” on smart phones. (Turns out, orgeat is a sweet almond syrup made with rosewater. Thanks, Wikipedia.)
All of the dishes excelled in originality and creative presentation, and in the end, only a few percentage points separated the teams. With two of the top three dishes, it was Chef Jason Roy and Team LAB who were lucky enough to move forward in the competition.
Chef Jason Roy will face Chef Charles Hudson and the Sunburst Trout Farms team on May 15 at Pack's Tavern. On April 24, Chef Anthony Cerrato of Strada faces Chef Jesse Roque of Never Blue. For tickets, visit http://wncchefchallenge2012.eventbrite.com/
April 17 Chefs Challenge Menu
Chef Jason Rowland and Team Magnetic Field
Crab and duck egg salad, mussel reduction, and lobster demi
Sunny side-up quail egg, fried pork rillettes, charred scallion, and melon (Voted No. 2 Dish)
Goat-cheese cake, egg sabayon, smoked tomato
Chef Jason Roy and Team LAB
Egg noodle ramen, poached quail egg, mushroom chips, and chili oil
Crab-stuffed rib eye, smoked soft-boiled egg, asparagus slaw, ‘pigtail’ bacon, citrus hollandaise (Voted No. 3 Dish)
Meringue nest with almond custard and macaroon crisp, orgeat ice cream, and chocolate shavings (Voted No. 1 Dish)
Kessler is a marketing and public relations assistant for the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau and a former WNC magazine intern.