Story by Sarah Murphy Robertson
Acme Ice House in Seacrest has done it again. Wednesday November 19th’s installment of “Food Fights” showcasing local 30A chefs cooking head to head (with three mandatory secret ingredients and only an hour’s time!), was overflowing with creativity, talent, and entertainment.
Eager guests poured into the warm, inviting doors of Acme, ready to enjoy the festivities and generous with their donations to the sponsored charity, Food for Thought. The room filled with the buzz and energy from supporters of both chefs. This month’s contestants were Chef William Wiehl of Restaurant Paradis and Chef Gregg Smith from The Pearl. It was quickly dubbed “The Battle of Rosemary Beach” as the prep gloves went on.
Surprised and enthusiastic murmurs were audible as the chef’s secret ingredients were revealed. Not for the food unadventurous, they were: duck confit, aged goat cheese in the Morbier style, and dried mullet roe. Just like mama never made!
As the chef’s began their challenge, Acme passed appetizers highlighting the secret ingredients to the guests. They included deviled eggs using the mullet roe, puff pastry topped with apples and aged goat cheese, and quesadillas with the duck confit. Tasty signature drinks were also flowing: a Cosmopolitan made with New Amsterdam Citron, Cointreau, lime and cranberry juice and a Manhattan with Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Providing attentive, excellent service, the Acme Staff seem to be having as much fun as the crowd.
Along with John Certo, Owner and Chef of Andy’s Flour Power in Panama City Beach and Denise Crider, Culinary Director at Gulf Coast State College, I was privileged to enjoy and assess the dishes created by these two highly talented chefs.
Chef William started with a version of hummus – a Mediterranean style dip including two of the secret products: the roe and the aged goat cheese. The dip was airy and light and a nice start to the meal. Next, he served us a salad made up of ribbons of carrot and zucchini as well as the thinly sliced roe, and dressed with a dreamy lemon-thyme vinaigrette. It was crisp, sweet, bright and well-seasoned. Chef William’s last dish was another star: the duck confit atop a hash of roasted carrots, potatoes, and pork belly and a sweet and tangy reduction complimenting the vegetables and duck expertly.
From Chef Gregg’s corner of the kitchen first appeared a homemade flatbread pizza: straight from Acme’s wood fire oven. The tender yet crispy crust was topped with aromatic caramelized onions, basil pesto, goat cheese and pulled duck meat. I mused that if offered on a menu, I would order this pizza combination again and again as the gourmet pie’s flavors melded so harmoniously. Chef Gregg also created the judges’ favorite dish of the night: his version of a Shepherd’s Pie. The duck was nestled in a ragout of vegetables with complex, rich flavor. It was hard to believe this plate was executed in just an hour’s time.
After a thoughtful deliberation including a lively debate, we came to a consensus and deemed Chef William Wiehl from Restaurant Paradis the champion! He was ecstatic and his friends and family swarmed him with high-fives and hugs of congratulations.
Follow us at 30afoodandwine.com to find out which two chefs will duel in January’s Food Fights contest! While enjoying watching them duke it out, you’ll be the real winner!