Sunday, August 27, 2006

Buen Provecho!

The Iron Chef New Mexico party was a huge success! Everyone had a great time and ate great, and the competition was very close, with strong entries by both teams.

The secret ingredients were unveiled at 1pm. The ingredients followed a "New Mexico" theme, and were green chile (of course), pecans, and avocado. We originally were going to have tomatillos instead of avocado, but we couldn't find good tomatillos in the stores but avocados were cheap, so we went with that.

Team Iron Chef Messilla, consisting of Tracy, Alexis, and Lacie, made some great dishes. Their appetizer was an avocado and nopalito (prickly pear cactus) salad served in martini glasses, which had a crisp, fresh taste like pico de gallo. Their main course was a really tasty Spanish lasangna made with tortillas, chile, and salsa rather than pasta, meat, and tomato sauce, with a cute little garnish made from a jalapeño. Their dessert was a plate of strawberry nachos with cinnamon, pecans, and whipped cream that was quite good and fun to eat.

Team Iron Chef Ventanas, consisting of Jenny and Kathryn, also put in a strong showing. They presented their dishes with a theme of "threes," and each dish featured one of the three ingredients, but included all three, which must have been a challenge. Their appetizer was a plate with three avocado appetizers on it: a three-pointed tortilla chip with classic guacamole on it, an avocado and goat cheese bruscetta with radish, and some "avocado sashimi," which was just thin slices of avocado with lime and pecan dust. Their main course was three three-pointed green chile ravioli centered with a pecan and avocado compote. Their dessert was three small cups of ice cream, each of a different flavor: butter pecan, green chile, and avocado. (Everyone seemed to like the green chile ice cream, but my favorite was the avocado.)

Our three judges were myself, Jen, and Jess, a friend of Joe's he brought to the party. Judging this event was a lot harder than I thought it would be, because everything was so good, your first inclination is to go with all five-out-of-five's, but then that doesn't do much to differentiate the two teams. Both teams produced food that was, frankly, better than any food you can get here in Las Cruces - you can't find this level of attention to detail and presentation in a restaurant (or at least, not in a reasonably-priced one). That made it very tough to distinguish between them, and I found myself having to really nit-pick to be able to justify in my mind a difference between the two. It was tough. In fact, after the party, I went back and did a little math on my scorecards and found that the point totals I gave both teams came out even.

But after all the points were tallied, team Ventanas won, but only by a slim margin: out of 150 possible points, the difference in scores was a mere three points. Both teams really earned the title Iron Chef.

Both teams said that the time frame - five hours - and the three-ingredient setup worked really well, so I think we have a winning setup for future Iron Chef parties. Anyone out there interested in challenging one of our Iron Chef teams? If so, let us know, and we'll set up another kitchen stadium rematch! Allez Cuisine!

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