Recently, I attended the Competition Dining Series, held at 1705 Prime in Raleigh, NC where Chef Ben Adams from Piedmont Restaurant in Durham and Chef Chelsi Hogue from Ed’s Southern Food & Spirits in Goldsboro battled it out side by side in the kitchen. Each chef created an appetizer, entrée and dessert using a secret ingredient, which was presented to the competitors at noon the day of the competition. The secret ingredient at Piedmont vs. Ed’s was Cream Top Milk from Ran-Lew Dairy in Snow Camp, NC. Prior to the tastings, all guests were provided a sample of the cream top milk and chocolate milk – which was thick, creamy, and flavorful and doesn’t have a comparable brand to any grocery store-bought milk that I have encountered. Guests attending the event included media, professional culinary judges, foodies, couples and singles out for a night on the town. All guests participated in a blind tasting of six dishes created by both chef’s. We were given the task of evaluating and judging the six courses on presentation, flavor, aroma, creativity, and use of the secret ingredient using the ever so clever, Competition Dining Mobile App. It was exciting, interactive and most of all, a fun evening. Chef Hogue was the winner of this competition, creating a Pan-Seared Scallop, Pan-Roasted Joyce Farms Naked Chicken Breast and Ran-Lew Dairy Cream Top Milk and Yeast Beignet. Chef Hogue’s creations intrigued me enough to want to go to Ed’s – soon, meaning that same week.
The Friday after the competition, I called Ed’s for a 7 pm reservation for the following night. The drive was about an hour and a half from Research Triangle Park, which is relatively short considering that I have lived in cities like Dallas, where it takes an hour to get from one end of the city to the other. When we arrived to downtown Goldsboro, we noticed the mass construction underway which is an effort to revitalize downtown. It was hard to embrace the charm of the city because it was dark outside and the construction was distracting. However, I can tell you this, once the development is done…this is going to be a hip downtown destination.
While my boyfriend and I waited for our table, we saw a rush of diners come in after us. Unfortunately for them, they had to get on the waiting list for dinner. Ed’s was clearly the place to be on a Saturday night. You will notice the venue is cozy, charming but cool. There is a beautiful chandelier that hangs over the bar area and paintings by Christy Thompson adorn some of the restaurant’s walls.
We started our meal by ordering Fried Green Tomato Napoleon. I have learned to appreciate the fried green tomato and it has become one of my favorite appetizers to order in North and South Carolina. I am always interested to see the twists chefs place on such a simple, yet, traditional Southern staple. We also ordered the Crab Cake, which according to our server, is one of Chef Hogue’s specialties. Both appetizers were a knockout and we were off to an excellent start. I ordered the Russian River Ribeye with Truffle Fries and my boyfriend ordered the Bison Strip. The ribeye was cooked to a perfect medium and was topped with tobacco onions and a red wine shallot reduction. I always sample my boyfriend’s food, because he is always the gentlemen and offers me a sample of his entrée. The Bison Strip was lean and incredibly juicy – I will be ordering the strip next time…yes, because at that point, I knew I would be going back to Ed’s.
We both obviously ordered substantial dishes, so it was no surprise that we were stuffed. However, a perfect dinner always deserves a perfect dessert, plus we had made the long drive to Goldsboro – so why not. As my boyfriend said, “Enjoy the night, be happy, we are already here and so let’s indulge”. The restaurant has a rotating cheesecake dessert and lucky for me, the feature of the evening was a Coconut Amaretto Cheesecake, which I ordered. My boyfriend, a huge peanut butter fan, ordered the Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie and he loved it.
My description of the Coconut Amaretto Cheesecake will not do it justice…all I can say is I was lucky to try it. Since Ed’s has a rotating cheesecake selection, I can’t guarantee you will be able to try it on your visit. The crust was buttery and had a beautiful texture. I did not remember at the time to ask our server, but I will go out on a limb and say the crust was made out of amaretti cookies. The amaretto liqueur was also in the cheesecake and it married perfectly with the shredded coconut. Yes, I finished the whole slice and it was amazingly delicious. This cheesecake ranks top two of my favorite desserts in North Carolina and top ten desserts in the US, so you know its pretty special.
I congratulate both Chef Hogue and Chef Adams for such a fierce competition, presenting beautiful dishes, but most importantly for their stellar food at their respective restaurants.