Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Umami Fest Recap

Umami*: Food and Art Festival is a non-profit, biennale event created in 2008. The festival works in partnership with other organizations in New York City to foster collaborations between artists and food professionals. On February 27, 2010 I competed in the Cooking & Art Competition, which pairs together culinary students with student and professional artists

Upon arriving at the preliminary meeting my classmates and I were disappointed to learn we would not be working as a single team. We were split into two teams and my culinary school partner and I were paired up with high school 'artist' and 'professional' artist. Our mission was to incorporate their vision of the secrete ingredient – spaghetti, into a culinary masterpiece. But it was more than just the noodle we had to use we were asked to “dig deep within ourselves to understand what spaghetti means to us.” In, fact we didn’t even have to use spaghetti, just the symbolism of spaghetti.

[Hmm… all that talk and not a single mention of the word ‘umami’]

Coming off a hectic week and an umami fest’eve teammate switch-er’oo our group rendezvoused at Whole Foods at 9am the morning of the competition to come up with a menu and game plan. Three hours later we had exhausted our $50 budget (along with our ability to compromise) and decided to ‘just cook everything’

Our Plan: To cook a variety of dishes utilizing a variety of cooking methods and showcasing the diversity of the noodle by adding a new twist to regional dishes.

The contest started at 12:30pm and the final secret ingredient that was to be included in our dessert was announce – Jolly Ranchers. Ninety minutes later we had completed a total of 7 dishes, despite only needing to present three.

Appetizer [pictured right]: To get the judges ready to travel around the world in 3 courses we started with “Spaghetti-on-th-Go” filled with a crowd pleasures, Bacon & Cheese. The cooked pasta was broken down in a food processor and mixed with a combination of herbs and parmesan cheese then divided into golf ball size balls and stuffed with crispy bacon and fresh mozzarella cheese before being rolled in seasoned bread crumbs and deep fried. The “Spaghetti” was accompanied by a homemade marinara sauce.

EntrĂ©e [a sampling of each dish pictured below]: A tasting menu that included: Hazelnut Shrimp Pad Thai, Almond Pesto, Middle Eastern Lamb Kabobs, A Savory Ukrainian Kugel and “Tacos with a twist.” The “Tacos with a twist” was prepared by using parmesan crisps for the shells and filled with seasoned ground beef, pico de gallo and a cilantro and lime infused ‘rice’ made from ¼” pieces of spaghetti.

Dessert: We concluded our menu with a taste of New York City’s Coney Island. Shortbreads cookie topped with cabernet and black cherry sorbetto and a candied “funnel cake” – deep friend cooked spaghetti coated with powdered sugar and the second surprise ingredient, pulverized jolly ranchers.

The judging panel consisted of Chef Sam Mason, Iron Chef Judge Akiko Katayama, and Martha Wilson the Director of Franklin Furnace. Although we received high remarks from the judges (especially for our “Spaghetti-on-the-Go Appetizer” we ended up loosing to our fellow classmates. However, we did get the esteem recognition for the most sanitary team! And that’s award that really counts, right?