Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baton Rouge Culinary Classic

Bite and Booze: Baton Rouge Culinary Classic in Baton Rouge, LA
The Baton Rouge Culinary Classic celebrated their 25th Anniversary this year and I was lucky enough to have a chance to attend the festivities.  The Culinary Classic is an annual event put on by the  American Culinary Federation of Greater Baton Rouge.  This year it was held in the downtown Sheraton Hotel Atrium.  I heard about it a week ago and asked Eusebio if he knew anything about it, being in the industry and all.  He had definitely heard of it but had never been before, so I bought a couple tickets and off we went!

The Culinary Classic a cooking competition with dishes entered into ten categories.  Chefs from around the state, and a few from out of state, gathered to try to take the gold medal and feed masses while raising money for scholarships for culinary students.  What a great way for me to spend a Monday evening!

When they opened up the dining a flood of people was unleashed upon the chefs at their stations.  My first stop was at the "crawfish" category where I sampled dishes such as Crawfish Four Way, Crawfish Ratatouille with Boursin Grits, and Crawfish Au Gratin in a Puff Pastry.  There were seven dishes in all, and each was spectacular.  It was a great way to start off the event.  The Crawfish Four Way was my favorite, if I had to pick one, but I could have gone back for seconds of everything.

My next visit was to the Pork, Lamb, and Game station where I was served generous portions of nine more delicious dishes.  I know it is a little dark, but see the picture below:

Starting at the bottom center was the best overall dish of the entire competition... not just according to me, but it actually won best in show!  It may not look like much in this snapshot from my iPhone, but it sure was delicious.  The dish was a Bacon Larded Venison Tenderloin layered with seared Foie Gras and Granny Smith Apple Fries, Cognac Cream Sauce, and a Balsamic Pomegranate Reduction.  Yeah, now I'm hungry again after typing that.  Wow!  Moving counterclockwise on the plate, I also had the Mojito Lamb; Grilled Venison ala Demetri; Blackened Foie Gras and Black Truffle Boudin; Walnut Crusted Pork Tenderloin with a Blackberry Bliss Demi-Glace; Bienvenue a Louisiane'; Braised Rabbit Grand Coteau; Sweet Potato, Tasso and Roasted Pecan Apple Wood Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry and Shiitake Mushroom Demi-Glace (freaking fantastic!); and Tea and Brown Sugar Candied Lamb.

All of the Crawfish dishes and the Pork, Lamb, and Game dishes were great.  Some were way more memorable than others, but all were incredibly delightful with intense flavors that the culinary creators should be proud of.  By the time I was finished with Pork, Lamb, and Game plate I was pretty full, but there were eight more categories to try so I couldn't put my fork down just yet.  Eusebio and I sampled some entries from the Poultry category and the Soup category, and then made our way to the desserts.  The dessert that really stood out to me was a spicy chocolate and cayenne soup!  It was perfectly spiced and had a beautiful consistency.  The soup was sweet on the lips but spicy on the back of the tongue.  So simple, yet it blended complex flavors together perfectly.  I could have had more of that dessert soup than any of the entrants into the actual soup category.

Since I didn't get to eat everything and this post has been long enough already, I'll just post the gold medal winners from each category for you to get a sense of the types of dishes that were available at the Baton Rouge Culinary Classic.  I think I'll have to go back next year!

Soup: Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Pepper Bisque (Very nice, but not incredible to me)

Salad: Asian Marinated Crab Claw Salad (Genius dish, very well flavored crab claw with salad on top)

Vegetables: Portabella Mushroom Wellington (didn't get to try)

Pork, Lamb, Game: Bacon Larded Venison Tenderloin layered with seared Foie Gras and Granny Smith Apple Fries, Cognac Cream Sauce, and a Balsamic Pomegranate Reduction (explained above, some of the best venison I've ever eaten, and I'm a deer hunter!)

Beef, Veal: Grilled Veal Tenderloin stuffed with Crawfish Mediterranean (didn't get to try)

Poultry: Duck and Foie Gras Wellington (tasty, but not that memorable for me)

Seafood: Mediterranean Stuffed Dual of Chilean Sea Bass & Atlantic Salmon (kicking myself for not trying this one!)

Louisiana Nouvelle: Pecan Blackened Pork Tenderloin with a Warm Pecan Pepper Jelly Glaze (see seafood comment)

Crawfish: Crawfish Tamale with a Chili Rotel Sauce (tasty, as was everything else on the plate, and I did not like it as much as the Crawfish Four Way or the Crawfish and Homemade Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi)

Desserts: Heaven in your Mouth (Chocolate Mouse with a Chocolate Cheesecake Square, not as good as A Study in Chocolate which was the soup mentioned above)

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