Best thing you’ve ever eaten? Cameron Seafood’s hot and sour…
The past week’s Iron Chef Uptown 21 saw the Waterloo- and Bali-based Bhima’s Warung go head-to-head with the boys from the Ancaster Mill. The secret ingredient: cheese, thanks to the good folks at Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese of Woodstock. They are a young and promising local dairy and cheesemaker.
Cheese is a difficult ingredient for cooks used to working the Indonesian side of things, but Paul Boehmer and Jon Rennie put together several good dishes.
Ancaster chefs Scott Bailey and Dan Burcher did the same.
Bailey’s and Burcher’s dish of beer-vodka battered fried cheese was perhaps their weakest dish.
Taste highlight: a pretty nice apple-brandy compote with ramps that gave the battered cheese both some bright acidity and colour on the plate.
A “grilled cheese” came up next and obviously hoped to foreground morsels of cheese, but there simply was not enough of the good stuff to do the trick fully.
Taste highlight: a drizzling of kimchi ketchup saves the day.
Bhima’s next presents rollmops, the dish of pickled fish which look pretty much as they sound. As Nick Benninger might say, Paul Boehmer is legendary in these parts and this plate is probably a good example of why.
He takes yellow perch and gives it a marinade to cook it before using the fillets to roll up cheese and green mango. This is served with raw Asian long beans and a beautiful chive flower.
Boehmer, in describing the dish, says that, “There is some other junk in there.” And in there lies more of the legend.
Taste Highlight: rhubarb chutney which adds a mellowness to the acid of the dish.
Ancaster volleys back with a stunningly delicious fennel-spinach stuffed pork chop that is perfectly cooked and beautifully plated with a cheese and caramelized rhubarb garnish. Cheese and truffle oil sit atop.
Taste Hightlight: A cheesy foundation of polenta.
Bhima’s sweet and sour shrimp broth is served in a mortar with onion, lemongrass, mint, fiddleheads, and pieces of cheese: a tough group of flavours and textures to hold together but certainly inventive.
When Boehmer was not in Kitchen Stadium, it meant he was in the alley out back barbecuing some Brady’s Meats hotdogs. Yep, The Legend took a soft rice noodle wrapper and rolled a tube steak into and topped it with an asparagus relish.
Taste Highlight: Fresh made taro-root chips to go with the dog.
Bailey and Burcher’s Limousin-inspired clafouti is chock full of cheesy almondy flavour and it rings with fresh basil, rhubarb and black pepper. The dish tastes great and looks the picture of rusticity.
Taste Highlight: Notes of thyme.
Not to be outdone, Bhima’s counters with a vibrant green banana-cheese dessert in dough purses: delicious with a tremendous texture.
Taste Highlight: Ginger and Thai basil creme Anglaise.
After all was said and done, congratulations are in order to the Ancaster Mill team. But what really counts are the $500 raised for the event benefactor The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.