It happens that goat cheese is my favorite ingredient and I'm a big fan of the Bravo show Top Chef, so this culinary smackdown was akin to Wonka's golden ticket for me. Six Top Chef "personalities" battled it out for the trophy, using local Giddy Goat Cheese to create some innovative dishes, many riffing on Southern cuisine.
The lines were long to taste each of the contestants' dishes and the tent was crowded and noisy with conversation, begging the questions I overheard several times: How do all these people have Friday off? Do they even have jobs? Not important. We were the lucky ones that got to taste these heavenly creations.
Guests each got a poker chip to cast their vote after tasting all the dishes. People had different strategies to choose their favorite. I decided to sample one dish at a time, while waiting in the next line, which I discovered was not a perfect solution. Some Goat Cheesecake dribbled on my shirt and camera while I waited — super classy.
I threw my chip down at Brian Malarkey's table and he gave me a shout and a high-five. His Lucky Rabbit Leg Confit with Goat Cheese Drop Dough and Prosciutto Cracklings was the most delicious bite and had a gorgeous composition on the plate. He garnished the dish with celery microgreens. The braised rabbit was meltingly tender, the drop dough was similar to spaetzle, and I will admit that I am a sucker for microgreens. And prosciutto cracklings? Oh hell yes.
After two hours of downing bottled water, eating, and chatting up my old friends and competition judges, Matt and Ted Lee, the winner was announced. Chef Dave Martin, from season one, won with his Root Beer-Braised Pork with Giddy Goat Cheese and Nuesky's Wild Cherrywood Bacon Grits. He looked shocked and sighed with relief. His dish was my second favorite and had a decidedly punchier goat cheese flavor, an important component in the judging. The announcer said he won by a landslide and got both the guests' votes and the judges.
Nobody likes losing, especially if a landslide brought you down. But I say they are all WINNING like chefs from the stratosphere coming to Earth to dazzle the minions.