24: the number of hours in a day, the age at which my ignorant teenage self thought for sure I’d  be engaged by (off by a few years…), and the number of plates that I was asked to sample and judge for Cityview Magazine’s annual Top Chef event.

Top Chef is one of my favorite events of the year (last year’s recap found here). I essentially get to try an entree and dessert from 12, count ’em, 12 of Knoxville’s most notable chef’s. Many of the restaurants are one’s that I’ve frequented before and are some of my favorites. Others are not and this event gives me a chance to “test drive” the goods before investing in an evening there.

But you don’t care about that, do you? You want to see some of the beautiful, delicious, and innovative dishes don’t you? I apologize that you can’t taste it, as this year I had some truly phenomenal plates of everything from salmon and duck sausage to banana pudding and Guinness ice cream. Be warned, if these next few pics don’t have your mouth watering, I fear you have some sort of brain to saliva gland problem.

Top Chef Entrees

Do yourself a favor, and click to make this bigger

In order from left to right…

  1. Christopher Stallard
    Bistro By the Tracks
    Entree: Grilled salmon with white beans, Benton’s bacon, Brussels sprouts, & stout
  2. Mario Navarro
    Entree: Blackened fish tacos with pineapple and Pacific special sauce
  3. Amber Lloyd
    The Orangery
    Entree: Seared scallop, blood orange cream, roasted tomato polenta, radish, baby mache, & white balsamic reduction
  4. Deron Little
    Entree: Dill-scented seared Chilean sea bass on a pickled cucumber relish with caramelized leeks and tomato coulis
  5. Jesse Newmister
    Northshore Brasserie
    Entree: Housemade smoked duck sausage with Camembert-celery root puree and pickled cherries
  6. Ed Bates
    Puleo’s Grille
    Entree: Hickory smoked, pan-seared salmon with cajun cheese grit, shredded zucchini and squash, & honey champagne reduction
  7. Zach Anderson
    Entree: Traditional-style red fish ceviche with a port wine reduction
  8. Bruce Bogartz
    Entree: Smokey gnocchi with duck bolognese
  9. Jeffery DeAlejandro
    The Crowne & Goose
    Entree: Braised boneless short rib hoe cake tacos
  10. Brandon Burke
    Downtown Hilton
    Entree: Peach glazed baby back ribs and house smoked pork belly with sweet and spicy collard greens
  11. Brandon Cruze
    Entree: Smoked Kobe beef short rib, fresh queso, roasted plantains, arugula and cilantro salad, and sweet romesco
  12. Geoff Kenny
    Cru Bistro & Wine Bar
    Entree: Deconstructed shrimp cocktail: shrimp mousseline, tomato syrup, shaved radish, & candied lemon zest

    Top Chef Deserts

    Nom nom nom

  1. Downtown Hilton: Tennessee whiskey chocolate shooter with candied bacon
  2. Cru Bistro & Wine Bar: Banana pudding with banana cream, sugar cookie, & bourbon-vanilla bean glaze
  3. RouXbarb: White chocolate banana pudding with Moon Pie crumbles
  4. The Crowne & Goose: PB&J panna cotta: Cruze Farm panna cotta, peanut brittle, and Concord grape coulis
  5. The Orangery: Dark chocolate tart with shortbread crust, ginger whipped cream, caramel, and sea salt
  6. Sunspot: Chocolate whoopie pie, Royal Cola foam, and Guinness ice cream
  7. Puleo’s Grille: Blackberry cheesecake with chocolate-coated pretzels, applewood salted bacon, cherry sauce reduction, sweet cream, & caramel
  8. Northshore Brasserie: Belgian dark chocolate terrine with guava-passion fruit coulis and candied ginger
  9. Seasons: White chocolate creme caramel crowned with cinnamon vanilla Chantilly cream and fresh raspberries
  10. Meksiko: Fried flour tortilla with cinnamon and caramel and strawberry sauces
  11. Bistro By the Tracks: Lemon meringue “pie” with earl grey tea, honey, and blueberries
  12. Nama: Plum sherbet

My personal favorites? As if I could choose just one… for entree, it was a toss up between Rouxbarb’s Smokey gnocchi with duck bolognese, Meksiko’s fish tacos, and the Orangery’s scallops

For dessert, and this was not without some serious consideration, I absolutely adored Rouxbarb’s banana pudding with moon pie crumbles, but Downtown Hilton’s Tennessee whiskey chocolate shooter with candied bacon won major points for innovation and tasting like a boozy chocolate milk shake.

One of my favorite reasons for attending this event and documenting it so closely, is to get inspiration for my next fun recipe. I have been wanting to tackle scallops lately and nail down a recipe for a good bolognese as well. And honestly, If I can figure out a way to make a shooter, and send it to J’s place of employment without judgment and/or spilling it, I know a lot of people will be very happy. These two included…IMG_7960

Happy Wednesday, guys! What tasty treat looked or sounded the best to you??

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