Iron Chef! The CCSF Way

As you can see from the poster above, back in March we had our own City College of San Francisco version of Iron Chef. There were six teams of eight people each. We were given two weeks to plan a menu with day boat scallops and lamb loin as the not-so-secret ingredients. Each team had to prepare an appetizer, entree, and dessert and use each of the secret ingredients in a different dish. We were given 1.5 hours for the appetizer and entree, and dessert got a 0.5 hour head start. Judges were industry professionals as well as chef instructors at school.

My team split up into subgroups, 3 on appetizer, 3 on entree, and 2 on dessert. We settled on a middle eastern flavor profile for the entire meal. We made a scallop bisque with almond milk, fennel, and seared scallop with sumac foam for the appetizer, a lamb loin encrusted with coffee and spices with cauliflower couscous, parsley oil, beet coulis, and pickled onions for the entree, and a cardamom cherve panna cotta with candied citrus peel, spiced candied pistachios, honey gelee, and baklava cigarette with a hibiscus sauce for dessert. One of my classmates has more photos of the event here. We won for best appetizer, best dessert, and best overall. Go team! I am truly grateful for the great team that I had. We collaborated really well and were able to create something incredible.

As our prize, last night we got to have dinner at Michael Mina in San Francisco near the Embarcadero. I hope the photos are good enough to see here – lighting in the restaurant isn’t great for photos so they certainly don’t do the dishes justice. We started with a little grilled cheese sandwich with potato leek soup. Instead of the standard bread and butter, they served a lovely sourdough toast with a ricotta and mascarpone cheese with peppered honey. Delicious! I was sorely tempted to fill up on bread and cheese alone.

For the appetizer I ordered the ahi tuna tartare. I was pleasantly surprised that it came with a table side presentation. The server mixed up the quail egg yolk with the mint, habanero and sesame oil prior to tossing it with the tuna. Then he folded in the pine nuts, and shaped the mixture into a triangle on my plate. What fun! It had a rich sesame flavor from the sesame oil and was just mildly spicy. The mint was a nice touch as it added a burst of freshness. The pine nuts were toasty and added texture contrast.

Next up we got a surprise soft shell crab with apricot, cherry, avocado, heart of palm, and shiso. I had to give away the crab but enjoyed the rest of it. I can never say no to duck – it’s probably my favorite protein. This duck entree came with marinated cherries, apricot jam, black rice with licorice root, radish, cipollini onions, and arugula. It was wonderfully seasoned and delicious! Despite the fruit in the dish, it was only mildly sweet. The duck skin was crispy, the meat was medium rare – just the way I like it.

The best part, of course, is the dessert! I got the cheesecake souffle with hazelnut and chocolate. It came with a quenelle of chocolate ice cream that had a very smooth texture and light mouthfeel. The souffle was not very cheesecake-like or souffle-like. It was somewhat cake-like, in a souffle-cheesecake way. I have no idea how this item was created as it was a consistency and texture I’ve never come across before. As an additional treat, we tried ‘A New Trick’. It was Douglas Fir ice cream with sauce inside! It was almost like mint and chocolate – but not quite. It was a really interesting flavor and I think I’d have it again. It also came with chocolate twizzles (not a real word, I’m sure, but that’s the word that seems to fit) and pine cone sauce, which were really nice touches. As a final sendoff, we each got a macaron to enjoy later. Yay!

The staff were kind enough to give us a brief walk-through of the kitchen after we finished our meal. The sous chef also came out to say hello to us as well. Overall, it was a really fun experience with good company, wonderful food and fantastic service.

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