Photos by Jason Alan Fries
On Tuesday, March 26 foodies and local chefs came together to celebrate food and friendly competition at the Third Annual Top Chef Iowa City event held at Hotel Vetro. Fourteen restaurants and four breweries from the north side, downtown and beyond each took the preparation of food and drink to the highest level of the culinary arts. The event attracted foodies eager to try the culinary delights of many of Iowa City’s most notable chefs, mixologists and breweries.
Food for thought
In the food category, chefs really showed what they could do with local ingredients and a little imagination. Pork–the most popular local ingredient used–was stuffed, glazed, smoked and grilled in such dishes as Clinton Street Social Club’s ‘Orange Chili Hinterland Farms Pork Belly’ and Linn Street Café’s ‘Stuffed Iowa Pork Tenderloin and Polenta.’ Beef was the second most popular protein. Short’s Burger and Shine’s ‘Dundee Burger’ was cooked medium rare and served with arugula, heirloom tomato and shiitake mushrooms. Both bones and meat alike were utilized for Formosa’s popular ‘Pho Soup.’ Perhaps the most unique dish in this competition was the ‘Salmon Gnocchi’ from Xie, which incorporated potato, salmon, squid ink, greens and dehydrated tomato resulting in a French-Asian flavor fusion representative of their new business.
In the dessert category, new Iowa City businesses had their chance to shine. Molly’s Cupcakes, Yotopia and Gluten-Free Annex at John’s Grocery gave many foodies a first taste of what their respective establishments had to offer. Yotopia experimented with a new flavor combination of chocolate raspberries and amaretto that won the judges over, securing their win for best pastry chef. Molly’s Cupcakes elicited murmurs from guests about how they were saving room for the crème brulee cupcake goodness (people’s choice pastry chef) that awaited them in that corner of the room. New Pioneer Food Co-op also took part, sharing a giant chocolate mousse cupcake. Gluten-free desserts included a sweet white chocolate satin tart with a raspberry gluten-free beer reduction was presented by the John’s Annex, and a lemon curd cheesecake by Howling Dogs Bakery.
Wet your whistle
The beverage competition made guests yearn for warmer weather, presenting drinks that featured springtime flavors of watermelon, basil and lemonade best suited for nursing on a sun-bathed patio. The standout spring drink was Nick Brink’s (Linn Street Café) ’Smoke & Mirrors,’—a sugary and spicy mix of local Cedar Ridge Bourbon, sparkling wine, strawberries, basil, smoked peppers and fresh sour. The most daring cocktail was Xie’s ‘Cilantro Bloody Mary’ consisting of cilantro, vodka, tomato water (made by sweating tomatoes), wasabi and celery. In a sea of fruity drinks, the champion of the mixology competition was Clinton Street Social Club’s ‘Grandpa’s Coffin,’ bestowed to thirsty guests with dry ice and fire by bartenders dressed in black. A variation of Clinton Street’s very popular Old Fashioned, the stiff drink is made with Homestead Bourbon, Cedar Ridge Apple Brandy, artisan orange and cherry vanilla bitters, honey and chamomile, finished with a dash of Laphroaig and a flamed orange.
Brew Ha Ha
Cocktails were not the only libations up for competition. John’s Grocery, Millstream Brewing Company, Backpocket Brewing and Mississippi River Distilling Company competed for the people’s choice award in the best brew category. Millstream’s Weizenbock was one of the more interesting beers, exhibiting flavors of yeast, bananas and cloves.
The 2013 Top Chef Award Winners
Top Chef: Short’s Burger & Shine
Dundee with Wedge Salad, Kevin Perez
Top Pastry Chef: Yopotia Frozen Yogurt
Chocolate Raspberry Amaretto, Veronica Tessler
People’s Choice Chef: Linn Street Cafe
Stuffed Iowa Pork Tenderloin & Polenta, Brian Kirkman
People’s Choice Pastry Chef: Molly’s Cupcakes
Creme Brulee Cupcake, Abbie Misfeldt
People’s Choice Mixologist: Clinton Street Social Club
Grandpa’s Coffin Cocktail, Brian Lovejoy
People’s Choice Best Brew: Backpocket Brewing
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Photos by Jason Alan Fries
Heather McKeag enjoys eating and drinking in Iowa City.