Last night, I judged a cooking contest at Bistro 33 called The Best Dish Battle. The event showcased three talented home cooks, who took over Chef Gary's kitchen for the night and produced delicious dishes for everyone to enjoy.
Even before going into some of the food descriptions, I must give praise to each finalist for doing a bang-up job! I, along with my fellow judges were incredibly impressed by the professional way in which everything was handled. Not only is it hard to cook for a handful of people, but to successfully serve a full dining room of 30+ is quite the achievement. So...congrats to all!
My colleagues came from all sides of the food spectrum, including a chef with a catering company, to a freelance writer for TimeOut NY and amNew York and even two passionate neighborhood foodies. They were all wonderful, providing lively commentary and fun stories throughout the evening--a dull moment never existing.
There were three main dishes served last night, providing a little bit of everything--pork, poultry and seafood.
Asian Chicken Dumpling Soup - The first dish of the night, we were careful in judging it because we wanted to see how it'd measure up to the rest. Right from the beginning, I liked the broth. It had a lot of flavor and wasn't too heavy--it was salted generously but that didn't bother me. The dumplings were lovely on the outside and generally pleasing on the inside too. I thought that the chicken filling was a tad dry but it wasn't a deal breaker. My favorite component was the lime for spritzing the broth. It gave the senses a jolt, making this soup sing with freshness.
Salmon Packets with Black Bean Sauce - I was a tad underwhelmed when the salmon came out because it seemed small and there also was no "packet." But I was impressed that the fish was cooked perfectly and that the black bean sauce wasn't overpowering, gentle on the palate. However, the dish begged for something else...something crunchy or zesty to give it that much needed freshness. I'd gladly eat this with a side salad of crunchy slaw and maybe even a fruit like mango.
French Onion Pork Chops - This was innovative and interesting because it was virtually a deconstructed french onion soup, complete with bread, cheese and plenty of onions. Out of the above mentioned dishes, this felt the most cohesive, presenting a complete meal that didn't beg for additional ingredients. It did however have faults - one being the toughness of the pork and another the lack of caramelized onions. I, along with my fellow judges thought that the onions could've been fried and the pork perhaps served off the bone. However, we enjoyed this option immensely, especially loving the flavorful broth, which soaked up the bread beautifully.
The Winner: French Onion Pork Chops!
Will be featured on Bistro 33's menu this Saturday, June 27th
Kudos to all participants and to Bistro 33 for hosting this wonderful event, which promoted a sense of community as well as much-deserved recognition for passionate, home cooks. Thanks everyone!
P.S. - I think that a video of the event will be available soon on Bistro's website - stay tuned for more details.
Bistro 33 - 19-33 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria, NY 11105
N/W Train to Ditmars Blvd (last stop)