Saturday, August 21, 2010

Beringer Great Steak Challenge, San Antonio

The reason for my recent trip to San Antonio was because I was chosen as a finalist in the Beringer Great Steak Challenge, sponsored by Beringer Wines.  This is the first year they've held it, and I'm really hoping it will become an annual cook-off.  The Beringer Cook-Off team did a fantastic job organizing the event. 

They're holding ten cook-offs around the country, with ten people competing in each one.  My region was San Antonio.  We were all vying for a spot in the grand finale cook-off in Napa in October, where the winner will take home $15,000.

The Beringer team booked us rooms at the JW Marriot Hill Country Resort and Spa.  I didn't know it at the time, but my husband told me it was a five star resort.  I would describe it as having a rustic elegance.  It was gorgeous and very, very Texas.
Texaliscious.  That's what I would say.

This is the view to the right of our balcony.  Yes, we had a balcony.  They actually had a water park in the resort. 

The view to the left overlooked the golf course.

The night before the cook-off, the Beringer team put together a "meet and greet" style reception, so we could all get acquainted with the team, and the finalists could meet each other.

The food was lovely.  The environment was relaxed and casual, and everyone was friendly and helpful.

The day of the cook-off, they also had a wine tasting.

A beautiful dish by one of the other finalists.

It was hot.  I mean really hot.  We cooked underneath a tent on the 18th hole of the golf course in two different heats, and since I was number five, I was at the station on the end, which was the one station that was actually in full sun.  Combine that with the heat of five grills running at full capacity, and it adds up temperatures that rival hell.

There were several times I got a little bit light-headed.  Hell will do that to you.

This is the moment that I realized my rib eye was not a whole rib eye, but one that had been cut into 1-inch pieces.  I tried to stay cool and calm, I mean just calm, but we only had thirty minutes to complete our dish, then turn it into the judges.  I showed the ingredients guy, and he ran, I mean ran, to get me a regular rib eye.  He managed to get back very quickly because I still had plenty of time.

Gorgonzola on my thumb, I know.

When and if I get the okay, I will post my recipe.

The grilling went well, and I turned it into the judges about one minute before time. 
Then I grabbed the microphone and sang the National Anthem.

Everyone had tears in their eyes.  But not in a good way.

The absolute best part of competing in cooking competitions has definitely been the friends I've made.  My friend Doreen came to cheer me on.  I met her when I was on the Ultimate Recipe Showdown a few years ago.  She created this winning cake.   We have maintained contact since then, so whenever we're in San Antonio, we drop by her diner and stuff our faces.  More on her diner in another post.

Cookbook author Camilla Saulsbury (in the middle) from Enlightened Cooking, was also competing.  She has won numerous cooking competitions, and has made many appearances on television, but you know what?  She is a genuinely nice person who will put you completely at ease.  I brought two of her Ultimate Shortcut Cookie Cookbooks with me (one for me and one for my daughter) and asked her to sign them, which she happily did.  She has a new muffin cookbook out now, and if it's anything like her cookie cookbook, you won't be
disappointed.  It's next on my list to buy. 

I also made some new friends.  I like making friends.

Good times.

At the very end they called us all back into the tent so they could announce the winner. I was elated to take second place, because the creativity of some of the recipes blew me away.

A sweet woman named Chara took first.  She seemed really, really surprised, and I was happy for her.

And I was really, really happy that I could go into the air conditioned hotel.

If you do a lot of blog surfing, you might have noticed that my blogging buddy Emily from Sugar Plum competed in the Beringer Cook-Off in Des Moines, Iowa, recently.  Here's her recap, part 1 and part 2, if you missed it.  

FYI:  The trip to compete in the great Steak Challenge was sponsored by Beringer Wines, but no one has asked me or paid me to blog about any of this.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rich Nutella Buttercream

I make this buttercream often, and I recently had someone request the recipe, so I thought I'd post it.  I adapted this from Southern Living's Rich Chocolate Buttercream.  It's smooth and velvety, and very, very chocolaty.  I like to put it on espresso or coffee-flavored chocolate cake or cupcakes.


Rich Nutella Buttercream

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 small jar Nutella
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the chocolate chips in the microwave on high for about
90 seconds, stopping to stir every 20-30 seconds.  Stir until completely melted and smooth.  Set aside.

Beat the butter and Nutella on medium-high speed until
creamy.  Beat in the melted chocolate chips.  Add the powdered sugar one cup at a
time.  Beat in the cocoa, milk, and
vanilla until smooth.

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