Amazingly, last night’s Iron Chef featured elite chef pairings doing battle over the sustainable table, appealing to localvore appetites and those motivated by green progress. The secret ingredient–anything from the White House Garden and official honey from the Presidential Hives.
First Lady Michelle Obama, along with the Pennsylvania Avenue Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford, greeted Iron Chefs Bobby Flay and Mario Batali and Super Chef Emeril Lagasse to partake of the Obama’s fine example of a premier component of America’s green future–the backyard garden.
Comerford, paired with Flay, were the victors with cuisine featuring a cornucopia of vegetables, including a dessert of sweet potato cake, carrot juice drizzle, tomatillo tamales, fennel, collard greens, and more. While both teams received equal points on taste, Flay’s and Comerford’s dishes won in plating and originality in featuring the secret ingredient.
Batali and Lagasse created formidable dishes with panache–chicory coffee for that Louisiana take. Purple cauliflower, icicle radish, and other organic gems were paired with dirty rice, honey-marinated quail, and a Batali ravioli dish that judge and organic home gardener Jane Seymour said she will never forget.
While many are already online arguing over the win–and the execution of the project–it looks to me like points went to Flay/Comerford for sticking to the mission and putting the vegetables on a pedestal. I also believe the win was elusive for Lagasse/Batali because Batali burned icicle radishes highly anticipated by the judges and Lagasse’s “yeah babe” turkey roulade was overcooked on the exterior and had to be braised-off to re-tenderize and complete interior cooking.
The message was the true victory of the show, with all the chefs, the judges, and M.C. Alton Brown extolling the virtues of cooking with and dining on garden fresh vegetables and local meats and eggs. Not only do I applaud the Obamas for their media strategy in deploying the crucial localvore message, but showcasing honey–the signature product of at-risk honeybees–will always have a special place in my heart.
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