The Human Services Inc. (HSI) Valley Vine Harvest Throwdown!

Last night Dave and I went to he Human Services Inc. Valley Vine Harvest Throwdown.  The Throwdown was at the Lake Elmo Event Center.  Each year, Chef John Schiltz of the Lake Elmo Inn challenges other area chefs to bring their best dishes to compete for the prize of “Top Chef of the Valley.”  Our good friends at San Pedro Cafe were competing so we just had to go!

There were 7 restaurants competing for the title of Top Chef of the Valley.

As we entered the event we were greeted by this incredible table of desserts!  We were strong, we started with real food!

Of course we had to start with San Pedro Cafe!  They were serving vanilla smoked baby back ribs with a cranberry and chipoltle barbecue sauce along with a great spicy slaw and caramelized onion and rosemary cornbread pudding.

I have to admit that I don't really care for ribs.  But these ribs were really good!  The vanilla came through and they weren't all fat!  The slaw was delicious with just enough heat to compliment the sweet in the ribs.

The ribs were paired with a 2008 Mazzoco Sonoma County Zinfandel.  This was a perfect pairing.  We really liked this Zin and will admit we went back for a second tasting!

Next we tried the dishes presented by Domacin Wine Bar.  They were serving butter poached scallops with a pumpkin puree and bacon, and a vanilla bean emulsion.  San Pedro didn't have to worry about this dish in our mind.  We both prefer our scallops seared rather than poached.  We thought this dish was fairly bland.

It was paired with a 2008 Ramey Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.  It was a nice Chardonnay, but nothing special.

Our next sampling was from Marx Fusion Bistro.  They prepared carrot, parmesan and potato gnocchi with garlic marinara and roasted lamb.  I had my hopes up!  I love gnocchi!  Well, they were good but not quite as good as Tratoria Da Vinci!  The lamb was falling off the bone and was good, and I don't like lamb!

This dish was paired with a 2008 Yalumba Shiraz/Voignier.  We thought this was a good pairing with the lamb and was our third favorite wine of the night!

We took a break for some yummy chocolate covered strawberries, carrot cake and mini key lime pie before we headed over to Phil's Tara Hideaway for some duck confit and Roquefort in phyllo with dried cherries, duck prosciutto, butternut squash and maple glaze. 

Ok, San Pedro had competition now!  Nothing of what was in this sounded good to me.  I'm not a fan of duck confit and anyone who knows me knows I don't like maple anything, but this dish was delicious!
This was paired with a 2009 Cedre Heritage Malbec. Neither Dave or I cared for this wine at all.

They had a "wall of wine" to help raise more money.  You bought a cork for $10 and got the bottle that matched the number on your cork.  What the heck?  We were very lucky the last time we tried something like this and it was for a good cause.  We ended up winning a 2009 Stemmari Nero d'Avola.  We have no idea what this is.  We'll let you know if we like it!

Next on the list of places to try was Minnesota raised beef Wellington with Bearnaise sauce and roasted mini vegetables from Lake Elmo Inn.  Chef John Schultz was in the spirit in his cowboy hat!  This was also very good!  We didn't think it was as unique as the duck confit dish from Phil's though.

The Wellington was paired with a 2008 Terra Valentine Estate Cabernet.  This was delicious!  It was our favorite wine of the evening!

Luna Rossa Trattoria and Wine Bar was the next place we visited.  They were serving pork tenderloin with kalamata olives, mushrooms and feta cheese in a red wine reduction with local vegetables.  It was good, but after the amazing pork tenderloin I had had the night before at The Nova, well, still not in competition with San Pedro or Phil's.
The pork was paired with a 2010 Luccarelli Salice Salentino.  It was a nice red wine but after the Terra Valentine it was hard to find something better!

Our final dish of the evening was from Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque, chicken with thyme, foie gras cotton candy and balsamic gastrique with rum and cherries.  Again, this was good but not great.  I am really not a fan of foie gras but when made into cotton candy it's not half bad!

Smalley's was in the Viking spirit, high on the first win of the season!

The chicken was paired with a 2010 Saracina Atrea The Choir.  This was a nice white wine but I can honestly say that after several reds, I'm not sure I could really taste a white and really tell you what it tastes like!

The evening ended with a live auction of some amazing things!  Baskets full of 14 bottles of great wine, 5 course dinners for 8 at Luna Rossa, an afternoon of sailing on Lake Superior, planked salmon dinner for 8 with wine at the home of Chris and Vicky Griese of Haskell's, and it went on and on.  The bidding was way out of our price range so we picked up our wine and headed out.  Of course, leaving early we never did hear who won.  We're guessing it wasn't San Pedro or they would have shouted out on their Facebook page.

It was a fun night for a good cause and we found another restaurant we have to try, Phil's Tara Hideaway!

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