Howdy, y’all—hope you’re enjoying a fabulous Saturday.

Huh. I have no idea why I just whipped out a “howdy” and a “y’all”—I don’t think I have a drop of Southern blood in me. Anyway…

I had a good time at the Cadillac Culinary Challenge event today. The trip out to Long Island was smooth and after checking in and getting a quick tour, Chris and I took our seats in the “Tasting Panel” section along with blogger Katy from Sugar Laws.

I can’t say I’d ever judged a cook-off before, and I do have a tendency to make a total a$$ of myself on camera, but when I heard the featured ingredient was heirloom tomatoes (did you know “heirloom” means “tiny seed?”—I didn’t), I couldn’t say no.

bird's eye view monitor

Celebrity Chef Geoffrey Zakarian of the Lambs Club (you’ve probably also seen him on Chopped) prepared a simple salad of heirloom tomatoes with stracciatella, a rich cheese similar to burrata. He demonstrated the proper way to peel and slice tomatoes, which he dressed with oil, vinegar, spices, and a fabulous sea salt.  

Heirloom Tomatoes with Straccietella

His local competitor, Chef Cornelius Gallagher of The Bohlsen Group, presented a marinated tomato salad with crispy bread, crescenza cheese, and pesto.  The instant the scent of the toasting pine nuts for the pesto hit me, my stomach started growling. This dish surprised me a lot—I’d never had crescenza, which was a lot like a brie but with more of a bite to it, which I loved. It’s also hard to go wrong with bread that’s been fried in butter. 

Marinated Tomato Salad with Crispy Bread, Crescenza Cheese and Pesto

In the end, I flaked out and didn’t vote. They put me on the spot! However, Chris and Katy went with Chef Gallagher’s salad. I have to admit, I think it was the more creative of the dish, though Chef Zakarian’s prep techniques and focus on a sophisticated yet uncomplicated taste were what ended up winning him the popular vote from the audience.

"The Tasting Panel" (hah)

Once the competition was over and raffle tickets for restaurant gift cards drawn, the chefs were kind enough to talk with us and pose for photos before taking a much-needed break.

Katy, Chef Zakarian, me, and Chris

w/ Chef Gallagher. There's a lot going on in this photo! FYI that boob-grab-in-action is not what it looks like!

(Do you ever have a day where you feel like you just don’t look like yourself in photos? No idea what the f is up in these! Must be the sunglasses-on-the-head thing…)

All in all, it was a really fun way to spend an afternoon. I met a lot of really nice folks, ate some great food, and got to look at some slick cars I will never be able to afford. If you’re in the area, the event is going on again tomorrow, from 10-6, and you can find more info about it here. After a stop in Reston, VA, the Cadillac CC will be stopping in Dedham, MA July 23-24.

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