Do you like risotto? I have to admit that I rarely order Risotto - after all, another rice dish! So when I was invited to be a judge for the Frankie Lemmon Foundation (www.frankielemmon.org) at the National Truffle Fest (www.nationaltrufflefest.com), I figured I needed to do a bit more research.
Risotto is a traditional Italian rice dish that can include meat, fish or vegetables. Its origins are in northern Italy where rice paddies are abundant. Risottos are made using short-grain rice, with the stock being added gradually while the rice is stirred constantly. The cooking technique leads the rice to release its starch, giving the finished dish a creamy texture. (www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risotto)
So with my research done and a bit of practice doing my own Risotto at home, I figured I was ready to take my place at the judges table. The location was the trendy Flying Frog Restaurant (www.flyingfrogcafe.com) in downtown Asheville. Only 40 guests were allowed and I was one of the 5 judges selected. Best of all were the 8 chefs that had gathered to showcase their culinary skills and imagination! Our chefs were from all over the southeast, chefs from the Asheville area, even a chef who is the 2009 James Beard Foundation winner for Best Chef in the South.(www.trufflefest.com/chefs_2010.html)
Now I was intimidated! Eight risottos to sample, wine to drink and it was just noon on a Saturday. The dishes were spaced about 12 minutes apart, judges were served individual portions, and the attendees were served family style. The hardest part was keeping a straight face as we sampled the dishes (or licked the plates!). Each dish was wonderful. Some were creamy, others al dente, each cooked to perfection, each giving the judges a chance to brag about which taste they preferred.
The dishes were served with beautiful sliced or diced Perigord truffles and whether the dish was served with creamy fresh corn, potato butter, cracklins, roasted chicken, pork tenderloin, or prosciutto-wrapped saddle of rabbit, the dishes were all exceptional and the judging so very close. And the winner was – we were all winners! The chance to have some of the best chefs in the southeast serving exceptional dishes and share the table with friends in the spirit of promoting a wonderful non-profit dedicated to children with special needs is more than anyone could wish for!