Competition Dining: Fire in the City!


Shortly after creating The Lady Olive, I joined Twitter and followed a bunch of food and fashion bloggers, chefs, celebrities, musicians, and the few friends I have that actually tweet. I think it was Twitter that suggested I follow @CompetitionDiningNC, so, I did, despite not knowing who or what it was. I would occasionally see these posts about Fire in the City, these cook-off style battles in Charlotte and surrounding areas.  I thought it sounded incredible but just assumed it was an invite only kind of event. In my dreams, I am invited to restaurant openings and to sample new menus (a girl’s gotta dream…) but, when a new friend asked if I’d like to join her at the upcoming Fire in the City event I was thrilled! I love having friends that love to eat and appreciate good food as much as I do!

Here’s a little bit of info so you know how it works:

This is a single elimination bracket style tournament. Now THIS is the type of bracket I can get behind (forget March Madness…)

The series began on August 18, so last night’s event was a semi-final round between Upsteam and Epic Chophouse. Upstream is a wonderful seafood restaurant that has a touch of Asian flare. It’s consistently good and one of my go-to restaurants in town.  I’ve never dined at Epic Chophouse, but I would definitely be interested in checking it out.

Some rules:

  • Mystery Ingredients will be revealed on the day of each competition (teams agree to confidentiality)
  • Each Chef must create three dishes incorporating mystery ingredients (may be any type of dish, appetizer, entree, dessert)
  • Chef teams may not cook dishes from their own restaurants menus
  • Series’ scores will be weighted 70% Diners and 30% Pro Guest judges.
  • Final Fire scores will be weighted 30% Diners and 70% Pro Guest judges.

We downloaded the voting app and got ready to judge our food on aroma, presentation, overall flavor, execution, creativity, use of mystery ingredient, flavor of mystery ingredient and accompaniments.

The secret ingredient: Battle NC Fish & Old Mill of Guilford Grits

Note that the secret ingredients only had to be in two out three dishes.

It’s a blind tasting so you never know which chef made what until the results are in!

Course One:


I love a good ceviche.  This one tasted so fresh and flavorful! The fried grits added a nice crunch and almost had a sesame seed like consistency. The dumpling was also a great accompaniment to the ceviche.

Course Two:



Vermillion Snapper you say? I think that’s fancy for Red Snapper, but I’ll go with it. This course was very light but full of flavor. The crudo had a slight smokiness to it, almost like salmon. You can never go wrong with bacon lardon in my book and the peach puree gave the whole dish that sweet and salty taste that I love.

Course Three:



The gouda grits were tasty, but were too dry. The fish was also dry and should have had a a “juicier” accompaniment.  I would have liked these grits better with steak or saucy shrimp. Overall, too dry and a little bland. I found myself reaching for the salt shaker.

 Course Four:



Now this? THIS is what I am talking about. I would go to a restaurant JUST to order this dish. The flavors were outstanding! That heirloom tomato and poblano sauce was ever so slightly tart and went so nicely with the subtle sweetness from the butternut squash in the grits. The flavors were so well thought out. I absolutely loved it and cleaned this plate…ALL GONE!

Course Five:



This dessert got major creativity points from me.  It has fish in it! The greenish dots on the plate were a minted Amberjack fume blanc gelee. It tasted like cucumber mint, not fish, which was a relief. I love coconut, but the congo bars were overly coconutty. The White Grunt and grit cake was another creative approach to this dessert but I found myself hoping that the next dessert would be better.

Course Six:



If this had been a full-sized portion, I think I could have eaten it ALL to myself. This dessert was outstanding, and dare I say my favorite dish of the night? It’s like it was made for me! I am not a fan of overly sweet desserts and prefer chocolate in moderation.  The sweet grit and almond cake had sort of a moist cornbread consistency with a little extra grit.  That gooey white stuff is the Porter marshmallow-perfectly sweet and creamy. The white cylinder is the buttermilk sherbet-tart just like you would imagine, but when combined with the pine nut toffee and a drizzle of chocolate, it’s the perfect bite.

The moment everyone was waiting for…..

The results are in!



THE WINNER IS…UPSTREAM!  Courses 2, 4 and 6 belonged to Upstream. The only dish from the competitor that I preferred slightly was the ceviche. Otherwise, I was team Upstream all the way! Congratulations to Chef Brian Williams and team!

Carpe Diem and Mimosa Grill will battle it out tonight and Upstream will battle the winner in the next round.

I went ahead and put myself on the waitlist for the final round on September 29.  Maybe I will get lucky!

What a great night with good people and good food!

Have you ever been to a food battle or dining competition?

The Lady Olive

4 thoughts on “Competition Dining: Fire in the City!

  1. This is so “Up”, no pun intended, your Alley or Palate more specifically, TLO.
    Hope you get to participate in the Sept. 29th round…you go you girl !!!

  2. It sounds like your competition was just as tasty as the one I attended!! (I was at battle heirloom tomatoes and cheese on August 19). Course 4 looks and sounds incredible!

    I had a wonderful time at Competition Dining too and cannot wait for it to come back next year!!! It’s a great event.

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