9.25.2007

It's in the Blood

During the past few weeks a lot of people have asked me where Ali and I learned to cook. My response has been two fold:
Firstly, while I do love to cook, Ali (as well as Jo, Dekin, and Madeline) has been responsible for the tasty treats that many of you have now enjoyed. I on the other hand, have spent the majority of my on-the-clock time working the front of the house, thus I have usually been the one who has fielded this oft-repeated inquiry. Though I am certain (and we have discussed this) that having Ali's mug work the cash register would no-doubt translate into higher food sales (as well as bigger tips), she is better suited than I to run the kitchen. Therefore, while many have asked where 'we' learned to cook, really 'where did Ali learn to cook?' is a more relevant question.
Which brings us to the answer: Her Momma (Madeline).
Cooking is in Ali's blood, which by rule of biology would state that a good portion of her culinary instinct is attributable to her mother. Without a doubt this is true. Madeline spent much of her childhood cooking for her own father, a time during which she perfected a number of Southern inspired delicacies such as Chicken-Fried Steak, Meatballs, Cream of Corned-Beef and Cabbage Soup, and Biscuits and Gravy (just to name a few). Yes sir Ali's mom can cook, and as they say, the apple does not fall far from the tree. Ali can cook, it's in her blood, and it comes from her roots. Yet another case in point: Ali's Uncle Tim.

To be perfectly honest Uncle Tim is not really Ali's uncle by blood, though he has known Ali's mom since she herself was in college and he himself was attending high-school. After high-school Uncle Tim lived with Ali's family for a few years, and over time became infamous for such activities as Refrigerator Jumping, performing routine organ transplants with toasters, and dying everything green (his favorite color) for St. Patty's Day feasts. Flash forward a few years and Ali's all grown up with her own brand new cafe, and Uncle Tim is now a seasoned Chef, and competing as a regional finalist in the Tillamook Macaroni & Cheese Cook Off.
We escaped from the cafe earlier than usual tonight and ventured over to Noble Rot, where we cheered on Tim as he battled two other competitors for the honor to represent the Pacific Northwest in a national competition to see who can dish out the meanest Mac 'n' Cheese America has to offer. The prize for tonight's winner: $1,000 in cash, 25 lbs. of Tillamook cheese, and $150 gift certificate to Noble Rot. Tonight's competition was between three finalists (one of which was Tim), who had already made it through a recipe based round of competition that saw over 150 entries. The competition was indeed fierce.
Tim's entry: A Tuscan inspired Mac that was highlighted by Artichoke Heart, Red Bell Pepper and Bacon.
Veronica: A Mac that featured Pancetta, as well as seasonal ingredients such as Butternut Squash, and Sage.
Frances (who I suspected was a ringer from the moment I saw her): A very Oregon Mac, featuring coastal ingredients such as Smoked Salmon, Nori, and Dill.
While the competitor's entires were baking in the oven, the viewing public (including myself) was treated to a demonstration and sampling of Noble Rot's now-famous Mac 'n' Cheese, hosted by none other than their head Chef, Gregory Smith. Smith was nice enough to reveal what makes the house's recipe so special: the Bechamel Sauce (in fact, their 'secret' is not really a secret at all, and is actually featured on their website). The demo and tasting were entertaining and necessary. Chef Greg is a natural ham in front of the crowd, and the scents of the competitor's entries baking away nearly sent me on a rampage into the kitchen downstairs (Thanks Noble Rot, and thanks to Chef Greg...you sure can cook up some tasty grub!).
Okay, okay, so I am sure you all are now hungry to find out who the winner was. Was it the bacon that grabbed the attention of the judges? Did seasonal ingredients win over their taste buds? Or was it a healthy dose of the sea which sent their forks diving back in for seconds?
Though Uncle Tim will always be a winner in our eyes, in the end it was Veronica Vichit-Vadakan's 'Autumn Comfort Mac 'n' Cheese' that ran away with the first place prize. My don't it look yummy:
Congratulations to Veronica! You are a true champion. Thanks for making dinner for us tonight. We hope you will do Oregon proud and bring us back the national prize!

3 comments:

Madeline said...

Muchas gracias para los complimentos. Thanks for a great evening and for representing LRBC so admirably. 3 cheers for Uncle Tim and the rest of la familia. Can't wait for the cafe's rendering of Tim's Mac 'n Cheese.

Metolius Mark * Computer God said...

I was there, and thought I had died and gone to heaven. Enough cheese to stop blood flow in a 5" pipe... aroma so exquisite that the room seemed to spin...

God, but I do love Macaroni and Cheese... I think I'd even love a Mac & Cheese with liver and Lima beans in it. (Probably not, so don't test me).

And, with all that wine and good cheer, a great time was had by all.

Congratulations to Tim for putting himself 'out there'; and for a marvelous recipe.

Anonymous said...

man, i wish i could have been there! great photos and fun blog! just an fyi, the winner's name is veronica, not victoria, despite her victory : )