Last Friday night at Stir to Learn Cooking School in Denver, two teams tied on their aprons, got out their knives and battled to the end at the Iron Chef competition. It was all in good fun, but no less serious than the real Iron Chef on the Food Network. Two teams, one male (Snowbirds) and one female (Girls Gone Wild), chopped, sauteed, baked and broiled through the evening to see who would win the Stir Iron Chef competition. The secret ingredient was heirloom tomatoes, grown by Kate Hume, chef-owner of Stir.
The teams planned out very different menus. Team Girls Gone Wild focused on comfort food recipes with an Italian homespun theme, panko crusted tomatoes with a diced caprese salad; stuffed tomatoes with ground beef, fresh mozzarella, bread crumbs and basil, along with an almond crusted eggplant crostini with pesto.
Team Snowbirds opted for two items, a spicy tomato shrimp bouillabaisse, scented with orange peel and a sausage, parmesan and tomato bruchetta with a surprising touch of warm cinnamon.
Both were ambitious menus that had to be prepared and plated for the judges in just over an hour. The teams were judged on teamwork, plate presentation, taste and best overall use of an ingredients. Judges Hume and yours truly kept a close eye on the proceedings. Though this food writer welcomed bribes, the competitors performed honorably, never once tempting me with a cocktail made by Stir bartender extraordinaire or even a new set of knives. Oh well, maybe next time.
Hume is a Culinary Institute of American trained chef. She is uber-involved in the community and Denver’s sustainable food movement. On the Thursday night before the Iron Chef competition, Hume cooked for the Slow Food C.A.F.E. community dinner series. Throughout the night she let us taste some of the leftover culinary creations from the evening–a pickled vegetable medly that I couldn’t keep my hands off and a house-cured smoked salmon that was both sweet and salty.
“I originally got involved with Slow Foods because I passionately stand behind what they believe in. Stir and the Community Table are a way to share that same overall goal: teaching people how easy and delicious it can be to not only cook your own food but use fresh, local ingredients that are great for yourself as well as the community. Nothing is more satisfying than cooking a meal that utilizes ingredients that were picked in your own back yard.”
Hume showed off her own culinary magic during the Iron Chef competition. In and amongst helping the teams find equipment and ingredients, and offering tips now and again, Hume made a tomato sorbet with black heirloom tomatoes. The frozen concoction had a magenta red color, matched by a deep rich, slightly sweet tomato flavor. There is no doubt the woman can cook.
So do you want to know who won? Hume and I had a tough time picking the winners. Both teams used the secret ingredient in creative fashion, they all worked well together and they only occasionally jabbed at the other team (much to Hume’s and my disappointment). In the end, Team Snowbird won by a smidgen. It was the sausage bruschetta with cinnamon that won us over for both plate presentation and flavor.
Stir is located at 3215 Zuni Street in the historic Weir Building in the Highlands area of Denver. Stir offers cooking classes for any and everyone from novices to professionals. Stir’s Friday night classes in particular make for the perfect date night. Showcasing both traditional and exotic cuisines with “Classic Steak Dinner” and “Moroccan Date Night,” Stir serves up the perfect Friday night activity. For more classes go to www.stirtolearn.com.
The professional chefs at Stir transport participants to a steak house for the first Friday night in fall, October 7th. The menu consists of the timeless iceberg wedge salad with homemade blue cheese dressing and bacon; seared ribeye with cabernet jus; “THE WORKS” twice baked potato; creamed spinach; and a mouth watering chocolate molten cake with vanilla ice cream. Pricing for the feast is $75 per person, class begins at 6:30 P.M. and will last three hours.
After visiting a famous American meal, cooks can learn about the unique and diverse tastes from Morocco in the “Moroccan Date Night” class on October 14th. Participants will make an authentic Moroccan meal and learn how to replicate it at home. The meal includes Moroccan carrot soup with harissa yogurt; chicken tagine with olives, lemon and root vegetables; Moroccan-spiced roasted leg of lamb with chickpea puree; spiced couscous with golden raisins, almonds and scallions; and, for dessert, coconut rice pudding. The class starts at 6:30 P.M. and will last three hours. Pricing is $69 per person.