Duck-off at Jimmy’s No. 43 to benefit Food Systems Network NYC
Got duck? That might have been the most appropriate saying today at Jimmy’s No. 43, where the Food Systems Network NYC, a non-profit that brings together the various stakeholders in our local food chain, held the second Duck-off. Last year’s event was one of my favorite food activities that I went to, so I was really looking forward to the culinary wonders that awaited me this afternoon. There were fewer contestants than in the last one, and the competition seemed to be a bit scaled down as well, although, the entries were no less imaginative and tasty.
Veteran cook-off competitor and second-year duck-off entrant, Adrian Ashby wowed the group with his savory-sweet combo of Chocolate Donuts with Fois Gras Frosting and Duck Bacon. The flavor combo was a challenge to like at first, but once I got the hang of it, I enjoyed it. It was sort of along the lines of many bacon-enhanced sweets things that I’ve tried in the past that trick one’s tastebuds by starting off dessert-like then going down a smoky, meaty path. He said that many of the attendees “definitely liked the weirdness of it.”
Another returning competitor was Michele Lamorte who put together a flavor combination that I wouldn’t have considered but which she said she loved. Her Duck and Lavender Ravioli could have used a bit more duck to me, and I didn’t quite pick up on the lavender. She sourced the herbs from Lavender by the Bay, whose fragrant product perfumes the Union Square Greenmarket several days a week. The meat came from the Hudson Valley Duck Farm, also a Greenmarket regular.
While I think that this dish was geared to capture the Southerners’ votes in the People’s Choice Awards, I couldn’t deny the creativity of The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen‘s Fois Gras Deviled Eggs with Duck Bacon. As Susan put it, this was her spin on bacon and eggs for brunch by using Knoll Krest eggs and Hudson Valley Duck Farm meat (both available at the Greenmarket) to construct her entry. As her husband explained, the best way to eat them was all in one bite, which I attempted to do. Creamy, silky filling met cool egg white and chewy, hearty bacon. My brunch is never usually this inventive and fantastic tasting.
The Dumpling Diva aka Marja Samsom took duck into a completely different direction than the others with her Duck & Ginger Dumplings with Asian-inspired Slaw. By making the dumplings on the spot, we were treated to hot, chewy, plump dumplings with a slightly crispy shell accompanied by crunchy, miso-dressed slaw. For me, this was probably the best dish of the day, as I really got a lot of well-cooked, succulent, tender meat, which Marja said she accomplished by confit-ing the duck.
It’s kind of rude just to lick one’s plate, event at these kinds of tasting events, however, that is just what I wanted to do so as not to waste a drop of the dark caramel-like maple porter glaze that dressed every slice of the seared duck by Chef Gina Keatley. The duck and the porter were the best parts of the dish, with the beer a home-made concoction, making it a truly local ingredient. The risotto was completely overcooked and also seemed a little too sweet to me. It came across like more of a gloppy rice pudding, which distracted from the amazing flavor and texture of the meat and sauce.
The host location – Jimmy’s No. 43
At one point, some roasted duck appeared, but it vanished as soon as the tray was put down. It didn’t come up in the official competition, and I think it was prepared by the staff at Jimmy’s No. 43. Before the awards were announced, we also heard about a creation that one of the employees made involving bread pudding, apples, and duck. It sounded incredible and apparently everyone else thought so, too, as it was devoured before it even made it out to the tasting room.
Ed Yowell of Slow Food NYC, Paul Denamiel of Le Rivage, and Wen Jay Ling, local CSA advocate, judged the entries based upon regional sourcing and seasonality of ingredients, creativity, execution, appearance, and taste. As they said, it is never easy to pick the winners at these kinds of events, so they started out with the audience’s selection first. The People’s Choice winner was:
The winner for originality and creativity was:
The winner for presentation was:
And, for overall winner and Best in Show, based upon use of lots of parts of the duck and sustainability, was [drumroll please]:
Congratulations to Susan for her winning dish!!! Thank you to all the chefs for making a cold, grey March afternoon just a bit more enjoyable and delicious. See all of you again at next year’s rematch!