|Niki's clams with chorizo|
I was honored to be asked to judge a cook off between my tenants Christian and Tyler and their friend Niki, a longtime EatingLA reader. The cook off took place over two evenings, and there were no real rules except that no vegetarians were invited. Each contestant chose a starter, entree and dessert. This was a really fun format for a dinner party that encourages the hosts to stretch their cooking muscles. Here's how the judging went down. Each cook started guests out with a fruity sangria-like spritzer, a refreshing kickoff for the evening.
Tyler sneaked in an amuse-bouche before the starter -- hollowed-out cubes of watermelon were perked up with balsamic vinegar and basil. Tyler's gazpacho was super-fresh tasting; paired with a simple red-leaf lettuce salad, it was a great way to usher out summer.
Score: 3 plus 1 for the amuse = 4
Tyler roasted a chicken with lemon slices and paired it with a cool herb-inflected rice salad; his carving skill was evident in the nicely-portioned pieces on our plates. Score: 3
Dessert:Niki made a caramel pot-de-creme topped with creme fraiche and salt crystals; it didn't have the impossible richness of a butterscotch budino but the slightly tart creme fraiche cut the rich custard nicely. Score: 4
Tyler went with a chocolate souffle with raspberries and whipped cream. Sometimes the classics are the best: Fresh out of the oven, the warm, deep chocolate flavor was a lovely way to end two nights of culinary skill. Score: 5
Both cooks turned out delicious meals with lots of thought, and I had a lot of fun judging the results. So next time you're inviting guests for dinner, why not make a contest out of it?
Here's the results:
Congrats to Niki, winner of the Griffith Park Blvd. area dinner championship and future "Come Dine With Me" star!