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Sunday, February 12, 2017

2016 WFC Day 2: Bacon World Championship and World Steak Championship


After my lovely breakfast at The Southern Grind Coffee House, I was off to meet up with Jodi Taffel, a.k.a. The Fabulous Bacon Babe, for the opening round of the Bacon World Championship. The opening round for Bacon has two heats. The first is to present a bacon cornbread for the structured part. The second is to present a signature dish, which may already be an award-winning dish that qualified each competitor for World Food Championships.

Jodi slicing up slab bacon for chili
In each heat, she will need to make one “Hero”, which is the full-size presentation plate that the judges use to score for “Appearance”, and five sample plates. Depending on the heat, the competitors can make a smaller version of their “Hero” or cut a tasting portion from a full-size dish. It is the competitor’s choice. But, regardless of how the dishes are prepared, all six plates must fit on the silver tray for turn-in. It can sometimes can be like puzzle pieces, trying to place the plates just right so you are able to carry them to turn-in without them sliding off the tray.

For the first heat, Jodi made a Jalapeno Bacon Cheddar Cornbread Cupcake filled with slab bacon chili and topped with bacon infused sour cream “icing”, cherry tomato, and bacon sprinkles. When you say bacon, Jodi is all in with slab bacon she brought from SoCal and Hormel Black Label Pecanwood Smoked Thick Cut Bacon. Hormel, you need to supply SoCal with this bacon! It is fantastic! I was so happy that Jodi made a mini version just for me to try. I swear, if you didn’t know bacon was the competition, this looked like a sweet cupcake. She knew her audience (judges) and made a perfect southern-style cornbread, not too sweet with bacon flavor from the bacon fat she added into the batter. The bacon slab chili was hearty and made a nice contrast of texture. The sour cream “icing” balanced the heartiness of the chili adding cool, creamy flavor to the mix. Suzanne Clark provided the dishes for this heat. They had a coastal look to them like sea foam bubbles. Perfect for Orange Beach! If I had judged this dish, I would have scored it: E – 10, A – 10, T – 10. Perfect in all aspects! Her actual score for this heat was 87.875.

For the second heat, Jodi made Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Infused Bacon Steam Buns with ginger scallion relish, bacon lap xiong fried rice topped with a fried quail egg, and pickled vegetables. She definitely put the pedal to the metal on this one with full Chinese flavor. Steam buns, or bao (or we call it manapua in Hawaii), is the Chinese version of a sandwich. They are usually in two forms – round steamed or baked dough with filled with meat and/or vegetables or bun which look more like a bun split in half like a sandwich or taco. Pork belly bao is one of the hottest dishes around. You are likely to see it as an appetizer in most SoCal restaurants. Again, Jodi made me a mini size version and it was a pocket of goodness. The blackberry ginger balsamic braise flavored the pork belly as well as tenderize it. It was soft like butter and had a delicate bacon flavor with the perfect balance of sweet and tart. The bao was fluffy and steamed to perfection. As you might expect, I LOVED the bacon lap xiong fried rice! I could eat a whole dish of that with a fried egg on top! If I had judged this dish, I would have scored it: E – 10, A – 10, T – 10. Perfect in all aspects, but I was worried about the Asian flavors for this crowd of judges. Her score for this heat was 88.375, giving her a total of 88.125. She placed 8th for the round qualifying her for the Top 10 Round of Bacon. Stay tuned for more from the Bacon Babe!

After an ice-cold smoothie at The Southern Grind Coffee House, I headed over to the judges’ tent for the World Steak Championship. As media, I was allowed to take photos but not allowed to take any notes so I’m working from memory on these. In the structured heat, the competitors needed to turn in their best version of a Steak Oscar. A traditional Steak Oscar is filet mignon topped with crab, asparagus, and hollandaise.

Steak Oscar 1 – This was the perfect picture of a Steak Oscar with a perfect doneness of medium rare on the filet. I loved that they used king crab meat. The asparagus was al dente and not soggy or overcooked. The hollandaise could have been a little thicker. Risotto was a nice touch.

Steak Oscar 2 – This was not the picture-perfect Steak Oscar. The steak was cut into strips and ended up being overcooked with a rubbery, tough texture. The crab tasted like it was canned and was very dry. The hollandaise had a nice texture. Asparagus was cooked al dente. I’m not sure why it was served with a lime wedge, but if you need to put citrus on your seafood, don’t bother plating it. I think this was a big execution error by overcooking the steak and also using the wrong type of steak.

Steak Oscar 3 – This has a beautiful presentation and the use of lobster instead of crab worked, sort of like a surf & turf dish. I loved the accents of caviar for a bit of briny flavor. The tenderloin was perfectly cooked and had a nice char on the outside. I didn’t care for the relish on top as it was too acidic. But all in all, a really great dish.

Steak Oscar 4 – It looks like a Steak Oscar. Hollandaise could have used more yolk for a more golden color. Sorry, but I do not remember what this one tasted like.

Steak Oscar 5 – This was another nicely presented dish. I thought the steak was a tad over cooked and overly charred on the outside. Having a bacon wrapped scallop that is deep-fried sounds like a good idea, but it made the dish overly heavy.  The seafood is supposed to counter the heaviness of the steak. However, these would be great as an appetizer for a party.

In the signature heat, the competitors could turn in a signature dish, which may already be an award-winning dish that qualified each competitor for World Food Championships.

Steak 1 – Steak was grilled to perfection and had a good flavor to it. I loved the grits underneath! I may not be a Southerner, but I love me some grits!

Steak 2 – This was their version of a Beef Wellington or Filet De Boeuf En Croute. The puff pastry was not cooked all the way and was raw on the bottom, but it did have a lovely golden brown color on the outside. The tenderloin inside was perfectly cooked but very under seasoned. I liked that salt crystals were added as a finishing touch but it would have been better to have it seasoned while it was cooking.

Steak 3 – Tomahawk steak with a beautiful barbaric, manly presentation. I was almost grunting like Tim Allen on Home Improvement (RRR, RRR, RRR). The steak was grilled to perfection with just the right amount of char flavor. Although lovely to look at, the steak as under seasoned and could have used a dose of finishing salt for the tasting portions. It just needed a little to bring out that buttery flavor from the fat in the ribeye.

Steak 4 – I do not remember anything about this one. Sorry.

Steak 5 – This bone-in ribeye was also a beauty. It was grilled to perfection but again under seasoned. I think with beef in general, it can take more salt to bring out the buttery flavor from the fat and push the beef flavor forward.

Steak 6 – This dish felt more like breakfast. The steak was a little overdone and a little chewy. The egg was a bit odd. I love a runny egg, but it included some of the white that was not cooked giving the dish a slimy texture.

With a day of bacon and steak behind me, it was time to head back to the hotel and get comfy for my impending food coma.

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