With fall well underway, pumpkin seems to be the flavor for the season. The final round of Beaufort Wine & Food’s Chef’s Competition was no different.
More than 80 people filled the Coral Bay Club in Atlantic Beach on Friday for the competition that featured two secret ingredients: pumpkin and Autry products, whether its breading, flour or grits.
With his appetizer and three prepared dishes, Luke Maguire, of Amos Mosquito’s in Atlantic Beach, used the secret ingredients and walked away with the big prize of $1,000 for a charity of his choice, the Carteret Literacy Council.
Mr. Maguire, along with Jon McGregor of Clawson’s 1905 Restaurant and Pub of Beaufort and Gerry Fong of Craven’ Asian of New Bern, each won a round in the three preliminary competitions earlier in the month, which advanced them to the final showdown.
This competition was structured differently from the preliminary rounds. In each of the preliminary rounds, the ingredient was a protein, each course featured a specific wine and judges predetermined the winner prior to the event, and then announced their decision after folks sampled the creations.
During the final round, chefs were given free range with their protein, there were only three wines and the audience helped pick the winner with the People’s Choice Award. Votes were tallied at the end of the dinner.
While guests waited for the first course to begin, they munched on three different appetizers prepared by the chefs, sampled wine and listened to live jazz music by saxophone player David Robinson of Have Horns Will Travel.
The first appetizer was an Ashe County cheddar habanero pimento cheese with pickled watermelon rind on a candied bacon crisp. Next came the “Ahi-Mole” seared yellowfin tuna blended with fresh avocados, onions, roasted peppers and fresh herbs, followed by a savory lobster cheesecake with a parmesan-bacon crust.
After the appetizers, the guests moved on to savor six different meals.
The first course, prepared by Mr. McGregor, was oven-roasted local shrimp with vanilla bean-poached pear risotto cake, micro mizuna and pickled vegetables with Holstege Farms pumpkin lardons and toasted pumpkin seeds.
The next course, prepared by Mr. Fong, was blackened mahi over pumpkin and sweet potato fluff, topped with spiced pumpkin seeds and pecan brittle green apple slaw drizzled with a roasted garlic cilantro cream.
The third course, prepared by Mr. Maguire, was seared local sea scallop with creamy jalapeño grit cake and peanut and Foie gras soup and micro cilantro.
Course four, prepared by Mr. McGregor, was duck three ways: smoked breast with strawberry glace, confit with apricot coulis, Anadama toast cracklin’ dusted sweet potato puree.
Following course four was North Carolina honey-braised Cheshire pork belly, prepared by Mr. Fong, with House of Autry pine-smoked corn cakes, ginger soy green beans topped with blueberry and cranberry compote.
The last course, and ultimately the People’s Choice winner by Mr. McGuire, was braised Mills Family Farm oxtail wrapped in house-cured Hickory smoked bacon. It was paired with sweet potato and pumpkin ravioli with homemade farmer’s cheese and kale.
The wines featured at the dinner were Gran Sarano Cava Rose, Stephen Vincent Sonoma County Chardonnay and Stephen Vincent Sonoma County Pinot Noir.
The Gran Sarao Cava Rose was paired with the appetizers; the Stephen Vincent Chardonnay was paired with the first three courses; and the Stephen Vincent Pinot Noir was paired with the final courses.
While enjoying their dinner, guests mingled in the candlelit room and enjoyed the music. During the courses, murmurs of opinions could be heard.
One couple was Creighton McNeil and his wife Brittany, owners of Pescara in Atlantic Beach.
“I love duck and pork belly,” Ms. McNeil said. “They sound right up my alley.”
Mr. McNeil liked the third course, but felt the jalapeño grit cake added too much spice to the dish.
“It all worked together, but it had a lot of heat in there,” Mr. McNeil said.
Mr. Maguire was happy that his dishes won the competition and the People’s Choice Awards.
“I think it was a great event,” Mr. Maguire said. “We had a lot of fun. It was an honor to be a part of. (The competition) featured a lot of talented chefs.”
Lindsay Parker, executive director of Beaufort Wine & Food, appreciated the participation of everyone involved throughout the competition.
“We have a great team and a great staff in place,” Ms. Parker said. “I am so thankful for the support and generosity. It means so much to be able to give to charity year-round.”