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I knew moving back to Starkville was a good idea for our family for lots of reasons, some of which were obvious from the beginning ‚Äď family, familiarity, and of course, SEC football.¬†
Other reasons have popped up along the way ‚Äď like food, and most recently the Forks and Corks event put on by the Starkville Area Arts Council.¬† Sure, a bigger city might have more chefs, more restaurants with valet parking and snooty maitre d‚Äôs, and maybe a few more celebrity sightings.¬† But to enjoy food from five excellent chefs all in one sitting, as we did at Forks and Corks, you‚Äôd probably have to sell off a child to afford it, or be the Next Food Network Star.¬† Not so in Stark-Patch.¬† Both my kids are intact and I don‚Äôt have my own show on Food Network ‚Äď yet ‚Äď but well over a hundred of us enjoyed some incredible-tasting and eye-catching food just the same.
If I could give each reader a literal taste of what we experienced that night I certainly would, but alas, I am neither a chef nor a magician.¬† Then again, maybe I am a magician ‚Äď I‚Äôll bet I can make your mouth water.¬†
The winning chefs have already been proclaimed, but I‚Äôm serious when I say that the guests were the real winners, the ones who got to taste these creative concoctions.¬†
My order of presentation, therefore, will not be related to any sort of medal around a chef‚Äôs neck, though they did work hard to earn them.¬† Instead, I have decided to describe each dish in order of the number of words in their respective titles.¬†
Some of these names were nicely printed out for us, and others I wrote down as the chefs told us the story of their plates.¬† Let‚Äôs get hungry.
The shortest title by far also brought back childhood memories of running around in circles and being tapped on the head.¬†
Chef Gregg Frazer, representing Harvey‚Äôs, called it ‚ÄúDuck-Duck-Goose.‚ÄĚ¬† But the number of ingredients brought together to make this work was far greater than three, by many multiples.¬† The base of his tasty tower was a disc of roasted potato, topped with a neatly stacked column of shredded duck confit (duck legs slow-cooked in their own fat, which makes the meat exponentially tender and helps preserve it to boot).¬† All that goodness was capped by a pan-fried slice of foie gras torchon (a very time-consuming way of preparing goose liver ‚Äď Chef Frazer invested a lot of time into this plate.)¬† On the side was a slice of brioche bread and two sauces ‚Äď a cherry gastrique and a duck reduction.¬†¬† As a bonus we also got to taste some rare blue-foot chanterelle mushrooms, an earthy contrast to the almost sweet taste of the duck.¬† Even the garnishes were unique ‚Äď a sprig of perilla crowned the tower of duck and goose, and the recommended last bite was an edible Johnny Jump-Up flower.¬† Yes, I ate a flower, and it was delicious.
Next up, at 14 words, was the creation of The Veranda team led by Chef Jay Yates.¬† They cooked up a dish that did a little Cajun dance on the tongue: chipotle-glazed apple wood-smoked bacon-wrapped shrimp on fresh Mississippi sweet corn maque choux.¬† There was a lot of flavor going on here.¬†The Gulf shrimp took a dip in a glaze made of chipotle peppers in adobo, brown sugar, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard and cilantro ‚Äď I hope I didn‚Äôt forget anything ‚Äď then wrapped itself warmly in bacon.¬† (What can you NOT wrap in bacon to make it better?)¬†
The spicy crustacean was then laid gently on a bed of maque choux, a Cajun-inspired mix of fresh-cut corn kernels, tomato, green onion, and maybe a bit of green pepper held together with butter and cream.¬† The sweet creaminess of the maque choux was the perfect complement to the shrimp ‚Äď a surf and turf combo in the purest sense of the words.¬† I think this may be one of the only dishes we tried that is currently on the menu.¬† Check it out.
Mouth watering yet?¬† Mine is ‚Äď I‚Äôm going to have to be careful not to drool on my keyboard. ¬†But to give each chef‚Äôs dish descriptive justice (not to mention the Faulknerian length of the titles) I‚Äôm going to have to continue this next week.¬† Too much richness in one column might not be healthy, anyway.¬†
Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist.¬† The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff.¬† He¬†¬†¬† welcomes your comments at email@example.com.View more articles in: