A Duck Cookoff? Really? Yep. That’s where I was yesterday, indoors at Jimmy’s No. 43 while other New Yorkers were enjoying a very bright sunshiny day out of doors. All proceeds of this event went to Food Systems Network NYC, a non-profit organization that seeks to bring together stakeholders across the systems of food production and consumption. As was mentioned by a few folks to whom I spoke and the judges as well, it was really interesting to see the variety of dishes that the contestants (both pro chefs and amateur competitors) came up with using this one protein as their base.
Before diving into the official entry dishes, I visited the Tasting Table that Jimmy’s staff had set up on the back bar. Filled with samples of goodies provided by local food artisans, it just reinforced the beauty and the bounty of what has been taking place in the local food scene here in the New York region. The tidbits of meaty, rich smoked duck breast were complemented by different styles of spiced chutneys and flavorful spreadable fruits or paired with tangy pickles, all piled on freshly-baked bread. Think about bringing these things to your next outdoor gathering for a change from the usual fare.
This was all really leading up to the featured activity, the Cook-off, so I limited myself eating only a few of these tidbits. I even decided to pass on the Duck Wings that someone had picked up in Chinatown.
In the back room of the restaurant, eight hopeful contenders assembled their dishes, as the patient queue of hungry carnivores made their way to each of the tables to try out the entrants. The judging for the Golden Ducky was done by an esteemed panel of food professionals, while the mere mortals, such as myself, were able to vote for our favorites as well. Here’s how it all turned out:
People’s Choice Awards
3rd Place – Demian Repucci – Duck Confit Meatballs in a re-Ducktion sauce with square of Duck Pate served with pickled oyster mushroom, asparagus pesto, fiddlehead fern pesto, and pickled spring onion
1st Place – Adrian Ashby with his unique combination of cannoli cream and pecans mixed with duck breast, duck fat, and duck proscuitto, served on toast squares with a dollop of a strawberry compote (made with strawberries, maple syrup, and rum)
I heard rave reviews from several of the eaters about these tidbits, so it’s not a surprise that they captured this prize. In accepting his award, Adrian acknowledged Matt Timms, Jimmy Carbone (the host of this event), and his grandmother and mother for “blessing me with these hands.”
Honorable Mention (selected by the official judges)
Special Research for an Ethnic Dish – Nathalie Herling (clay pot specialist) for her “New World Duck” – Roasted Duck on a corn cake, dressed with Mango Salsa and Duck Liver spread with hot sauce on a cracker
Additional Honorable Mentions
Cathy Erway – Soft steamed buns stuffed with 5-spice braised duck, dressed with a citrus-spicy mayo and garnished with cilantro, pickled carrot, and duck skin crackling
Michele Lamorte – Duck Tartlets with roasted duck on top of a bed of tahini and grape molasses
3rd Place – Richard Pinto, chef at Jimmy’s No. 43 for his silky-smooth and subtle Duck Confit (which contained brandy and parsley)
2nd Place – Rachael S. Mamane of Brooklyn Bouillon and Slow Food NYC board member with her gorgeous presentation of Duck Neck Terrine served as a cheese board concept (with creamy homemade ricotta, beet chips, kale chips, micro-sorrel, and watermelon radish in a Meyer Lemon dressing)
1st Place / Grand Prize aka The Golden Ducky – Demian Repucci – Duck Confit Meatballs in a re-Ducktion sauce with square of Duck Pate served with pickled oyster mushroom, asparagus pesto, fiddlehead fern pesto, and pickled spring onion. One of Nathalie’s gorgeous cooking pots was among the prizes that he was awarded.
So, how did I do in picking the winners? Basically, and in spite of these results, there really were no losers at this event. The dishes were amazingly executed and presented, each bringing out a different aspect of what could be done with duck if left in the hands of skillful craftspeople.
Among my favorites was Rachael’s for her beautiful presentation. If you’ve never had the chance to enjoy one of her fantastic food evenings courtesy Bonhomie Supper Club, I strongly encourage you to put that on your list of things to try. Each event is carefully researched and put together using seasonal and local ingredients prepared with the utmost care and attention to every detail. The dishes themselves are each works of art to be enjoyed with all of your senses. I can’t believe I’m even giving away this culinary tidbit, as now there will be more folks vying for places around her table.
Cathy Erway’s duck in soft, steamed buns was an entry that I also really enjoyed, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has read any of my other event reviews, as she captured my ideal food combinations. There was so much great flavor from the 5-spice duck that it needed little, if anything to go with it; however, she picked items that just enhanced the eating experience, in my opinion. The duck crackling on the top and the crunch of the pickled carrot along with the freshness added by the cilantro helped to balance out the textures of the roll and the perfectly braised meat.
I loved, as well, the hearty, robust duck meatballs and the square of smooth, creamy pate that was served alongside of it. While Demian and his team had this last item as a side accompaniment, I could have seen this as an offering on its own. One person to whom I spoke said that he could have enjoyed it as part of a “Duck Bahn Mi” concept. Maybe that’s an idea for next year’s contest.
*The judges for this event were: Ariane Daguin of D’Artagnan Foods, Ed Yowell of Slow Food NYC, Stacey Flanagan from the board of Food Systems Network NYC, Serena Di Liberto from Heritage Foods USA, Adam Robb of Fake Restaurant Girl / The Life Vicarious, Jake Schiffman from The Food Network, and Amy Zavatto of Edible Manhattan.
Thanks to Jimmy Carbone and the staff of Jimmy’s No. 43 for hosting another delicious and delightful food event. Check out their website for other great local food and drink happenings, including those to be held on Governors Island this summer.