Monday, October 27, 2014

big winners

They say things are bigger in Texas . . .  

Witness the glorious sky; layered streaks of red and purple on fall and winter afternoons, cotton-ball-clouds fill blue space on spring days and in summer, vast expanses of blazing sun for days on end.   

Bigger means big-hair on ladies and bigger hats on men.  Big is often confused with bravado, defined as a boldness designed to impress or intimidate, the concept easily grasped if you've ever driven behind a truck with an iron scrotum dangling from its bumper.

Let's not forget Dallas Cowboys' AT+T Stadium though it reflects a bit of both. 

A Texas size event was held tonight at Dallas' Westin Hotel at the Galleria.  A spacious ballroom hosted the XXII Annual Caesar Salad Competition presented by The American Institute of Wine and Food/Dallas.  Eight chefs competed for bragging rights to this year's best Caesar Salad including my friend Mark McDaniel.  I was lucky to be one of his guests.

Here are the chefs and their dishes:

Chef Thomas Holt/Ruth's Chris Steak House
Great Caesar's Goat

Chef Chad Kelley/Cafe Pacific
Lobster Deviled Eggs

Chef Andrea Maricich/The Second Floor
House Cured Fennel and Black Pepper Lonzino with Orange and Oregano Compressed Melon

Chef Antonio Marquez/Lazaranda, Modern Kitchen & Tequila
Watermelon and Tuna Ceviche

Chef Mark McDaniel/ReMARKable Affairs Cafe
Cajun Gazpacho Soup "Shooter" and Polenta Cake

Chef Kenny Mills/Chop House Burgers
Chop House Burger Sliders

Chef Brandon Moore/Ocean Prime
PBLT; crispy pork belly, lettuce and tomato

Chef Julio Peraza/Komali
Ancho Braised Short Rib and Queso Fresco Tamal, Black Bean Sauce, Crema and Chile de Arbol Salsa

It was an evening of excess with no bravado.

Chef Julio Peraza was the winner and when asked what he would attribute to his success, without pause he gave credit to his sous chef.

No one cheered in agreement more enthusiastically than my chef friend Mark, his eyes on his own sous in the audience, his smile directed at her, Leslie Robbins.  He had moments before, when introduced, spoken heartwarming words which though he didn't win the title, won over the crowd, friends and colleagues who knew those words to be real.

There was a silent auction and a live auction.  Someone won this pony.

Others ponied up big bucks for dinners and weekend getawaysHearts were opened, pockets were emptied, tummies were filled and a new generation of future cooks was given--let's say-- a Texas size boost.  

Several glasses of white wine and eight Caesar Salads later, I switched to red and I ate this cake.  It was provided by the very popular Plano restaurant, Whiskey Cake Kitchen + Bar.  Though it was absolutely delicious, especially the nutty toffee crunch on top, I was thankful the slice was not bigger.

My appreciation to Chef Mark McDaniel/ReMARKable Affairs Cafe(dot com)
Dallas  972.462.7470
For information on the next Annual Caesar Salad Competition, contact The American Institute of Wine and Food/Dallas    

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