Updated 2008-08-25 12:33:54 ID=70:0

© 2008 The Romantic Table
©2008 The Romantic Table 2008-08-24 17:58:31:40
©2008 The Romantic Table

Chefs Tony D'avila and Matthew Riley at the 2008 Paso Robles Olive Festival Cook-off.

The Fifth Annual Olive Festival featured a cook-off between Chef Matthew Riley and Chef Tony D'avila.


The Fifth Annual Olive Festival featured a cook-off between Chef Matthew Riley and Chef Tony D'avila. It was a study in contrasts, Chef Matthew solidly in the traditional school, while Chef Tony pushing the envelope with a more nouvelle cuisine approach.

Veni, Vidi, Comedi!

The Fifth Annual Olive Festival featured a cook-off between Chef Matthew Riley and Chef Tony D'avila. Chef Matthew is a well know local top chef, and Chef Tony is a young and upcoming chef new on the local scene. I was privileged to be a "celebrity judge" of the competition. I was joined by fellow judges, Nancy Ash of the California Olive Oil Council and and John Whisenand of the Paso Robles City Planning department.

Chef Matthew chose to open the competition with a "crostini di olive" appetizer.. The crostini was a piece of sauteed Ramen noodle, one of the secret ingredients the chefs had to use (which you could take or leave in my opinion). The olive paste was wonderful, a bright piquant olive taste with a hint of Mediterranean herbs. Served with a twist of lime, a somewhat unusual combination, it was a wonderful mouth full. With a proper crostini, this is would be wonderful appetizer.

Chef Tony chose to start the competition with a salad of mixed greens, apricots, and a bold balsamic vinegar reduction - with a hint of caramelized onion, topped with a little crumbs coating of the obligatory secret ingredient Ramen, for texture. The apricots were served slightly salted or brined which gave a nice balance to the sweet-sour reduction of the dressing, which by it self could be overwhelming.

For the next course, both chefs chose to do risottos with the "real" secret ingredient, Ahi Tuna.

Although not served molded in the "haute cuisine" style, Chef Matthew chose to do a risotto in the style of a savarin where the rice with minimal stirring is infused with a mirepoix (that's a trito to Italians) until al-dente This results in a less creamy, but more textured risotto. Served with asparagus and a with piece of minimally braised Ahi Tuna, the dish was very fragrant but subtle in taste, in contrast to the crostini di olive appetizer.

Chef Tony keep up the pace set with his salad entree, and chose a do more classic Italian style stirred risotto, perfectly al-dente with a creamy texture. The risotto was served with a piece of subtly barbecue (Nuevo cuisine style that is!) seasoned sauteed Ahi Tuna, with crispy caramelized garlic and olives.

For the final dessert course, Chef Matthew chose to do a creme bavaroise in a light pastry shell served with a stone fruit coulis and creme anglaise. The creme bavaroise was light and the coulis and creme Anglaise gave a just the right "peaches and cream" intensity to finish.

Chef Tony, daring to the end, chose to do a dessert of fresh apricot, diced fresh tomato, cilantro, and sweet wine preserved garlic. More savory than sweet, the dessert was a perfect complement to the first two courses.

I was impressed by the presentation and the quality of the all the courses offered, all were excellent (maybe except for the Ramen!). It was a study in contrasts, Chef Matthew solidly in the traditional school, while Chef Tony pushing the envelope with a more nouvelle cuisine approach - I am looking forward to what this young man will do as he learns and works more with the wonderful produce our local farmers grow.

The scores were tallied. The offerings of both chefs were outstanding and it could have gone either way. In the end, the "silver fox" Chef Matthew won by a "whisker" appropriately. But he was hard pressed all the way by Chef Tony.

For more information about both Chefs, check out their websites:
tony-davila.com
www.matthewsattheairport.com




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A tip from Sue!

Eating well with no guilt!

For those health-conscious, alternate a "healthy meal" just before and after a "splurge meal." You can enjoy the food much more when you're not plagued by guilt! And this keeps you on a self-imposed "mini-diet" and maintains your weight much better than if you haphazardly eat at random.