Last week, I had the opportunity to judge a really fun competition between Jacob Hough, the newly promoted head chef at Barcelona, and Anne Sheridan, the chef for Sidecar, Barcelona's new catering company. The Iron Chef-style competition took place in front of a crowd of eager diners, who watched as each chef prepared a three-course meal featuring a secret ingredient: sweet corn. Yes, an out-of-season ingredient, but the chefs did manage to track some California sweet corn down for the challenge.
All proceeds went to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, a worthy charity indeed. Scott Heimlich, Barcelona's owner, indicated the company might do more chefs challenges like this in the future; if so, I highly recommend buying tickets.
The judges' vote for winner went to Chef Jacob, while the audience picked Chef Anne as the winner. Both put out some excellent food. My favorite dish from each of the three courses:
APPETIZERS: I loved Chef Jacob's pan-seared hunk of pork belly, served on top of a sweet corn succotash (with lima beans!) and topped with some crunchy fried corn tortillas.
ENTREES: The edge here went to Chef Anne's perfectly cooked braised short ribs, served with a sweet corn-and-potato hash.
DESSERT: My favorite course of the evening was Chef Anne's dessert. I'm generally underwhelmed my samey-samey desserts but L-O-V-E-D this sweet corn cake topped with berry compote, and a scoop of fabulous homemade sweet corn ice cream. The kicker was a sprinkling of jalapeno-caramel popcorn, which initially made me skeptical. It seemed like one flavor too many. But instead, that little hit of heat went a long way in balancing all the sugar of the rest of the dessert. I enjoyed every last bite, and hope it can find its way to a regular menu.