Challah! The Risotto Challenge has been fought, and by “fought” I mean “feasted”! I hate to say, ‘You kind of had to be there’ about this event, but I seriously can’t even remember enough of it. All I know is that I had to replenish the plates and forks and one point, and we’d put out 100 each. (And not everyone was eating!) Billiardsburg took a field trip to the swank tables of the ‘Slope (or just Loki Lounge‘s), the judges tasted 17 different risottos and came up with 9 spectacular awards, 22 contestants and their friends old and new shared free grub, I got wasted, and you know. It was a good time. But most importantly, this night was all about The Food. To say that I was impressed by the risotto entries so undermines the situation that it would almost be like giving the contestants a slap in the face. All told, ingredients in them included blueberries, plantains, white peaches, goji berries, cranberries, pears, apricots, cashews, almonds, pine nuts, arugula, fennel, beets, peppers, olives, Chinese five-spice powder, sardines, Gorgonzola, Mascarpone, Zamorano, carrot juice, pumpkin butter, coconut cream, turkey sausage, mysterious Korean ingredients, and general insanity. I could not pronounce the names of many of the dishes as they were written in other languages, mostly Italian. In one case, a new Franco-Korean language was invented in naming a risotto.
I took a few photos early in the night when the contestants were filing in and arranging their risottos on the heated trays. Once I got up to the mic to present, though, I completely forgot about the concept of photography. (Mics make you feel powerful.) Thankfully, Saveur was there, and they did not. Check out their website for an illustrated account of all the risotto action sometime next week (I’ll keep you posted).
My scattered records indicate that in the special categories, Molly Reese won for Best Texture with a “Peaches ‘n Pancetta” risotto, and took home 2 kg of Pincipato de Lucideo Carnaroli rice, dubbed “the Cadillac of risotto rice” by the friendly owners of Stinky Bklyn, who graciously donated the prize. Matthew Wills won Most Meaty, and a signed copy of The Shameless Carnivore by Scott Gold for his “Neoclassical Revival Risotto Milanese” with maple glazed ham, homemade smoked turkey stock, asparagus and red peppers. I would have guessed that Merrie Bramlett’s “Antipasto Risotto” was a shoo-in for Best Salad Disguised as a Risotto, but an upset! This honor was won by Antonia Pereira and Alison Watts for their “Drunken Mushroom” risotto with shiitake, portobella, sherry and bacon, and they appropriately received a $25 gift certificate to Thirst wine store to celebrate. (All the awards, by the way, were brained up by the judges the night of.) Best Use of Seasonal Ingredients went to Cristen Bradshaw for her “Kitchen Sink” risotto with artichokes, asparagus, Prosciutto, saffron and other fine stuff, and she scooped up a canvas tote and $25 gift certificate from Urban Rustic. As for the Best Mystery Ingredients, Homin Lee won an array of relish from McClure’s Pickles for his risotto, a self-declared fusion of classic French and Korean dishes with… something. The team of Mark and Nora picked up the prize for Best Risotto to Cook on a Lonely Night for an inspired, if introverted risotto with beets and fresh oregano, and received an inscribed copy of judge Jenni Ferrari-Adler’s book, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant.
Moving onto the all-around awards, in Third Place was the “Golden Artichoke” risotto by the team of Arin Kramer and Alyssa Casey. They won a free pass to any class at The Brooklyn Kitchen, which they are presumably splitting in half by stopwatch. In Second Place was a scrumptious “Leftover Gorgonzola” risotto with carmelized pears and arugula made by Emilia Sicilia, who won a shiny new 2 qt. Emerilware Saute Pan with lid, hot off the ogle-worthy shelves of The Brooklyn Kitchen. Finally, First Place went to Shana Wright and David Roderick for their “Scarborough Fair” risotto involving short grain brown rice, citrus, mushrooms, Gruyere, Parmesan, cashews, parsley, sage, rosemary and, yes, thyme. The official word is in: More is more when it comes to risotto. It looks like they’ll be toasting to that with their $100 gift certificate/bar tab to Barcade.
I know what you’re thinking — the ultimate winners were your friends?? But please, let me insist that neither I nor Karol took any part in the judging. In fact, of the 17 contestants/teams, we knew just two other people competing. On the other hand, we will take part in sharing Shana and David’s prize, hopefully.
The end. Let’s eat here more often.