Right before I took off on a two-week jaunt down south, I met up with my most mordant friend for sherry and snacks at one of my favorite spots in the city, Blue Ribbon Bar. Over a bottle of amontillado and cumin-roasted almonds, Snotty McSnobster and I exchanged stories about the scandal-clad party hop we attended after the James Beard Awards crowned Tom Colicchio culinary king, and Marea, the country’s best new restaurant. Snotty’s boss didn’t make out so bad either; Daniel Boulud’s eponymous restaurant received the Outstanding Restaurant Award, and Daniel himself was caught standing atop the bar at Eleven Madison Park dancing to MJ while spraying a magnum of champagne across the dining room. I hid under the bar to avoid staining my new silk dress (unsuccessfully), but was lured out from under the backside of this champagne waterfall by a swanky Greek whose latest culinary venture got written up in The Times just days later. Not exactly a Greek tragedy!

Deep into our bottle, the “snotty” spar I had anticipated began to unfold. McSnobster was touting the wonders of imported French truffles, claiming these tubers to be the most superior of all foods. “You should quit the farmers’ market,” Snotty said to me, a maniacal twinkle in his eye, an almond between his teeth, “Nothing could ever beat one of those French imports.”

Maybe. Truffles are pretty hard to top, but quitting seemed a crass suggestion. It’s possible I’d had too much sherry, not enough sleep, or just the right amount of fire in me from those chili-dusted almonds, but his proposition seduced an equally outlandish one from me. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I pointed an accusatorial finger at Snotty, my feet momentarily losing their grip on my bar stool. “You’ve been holed up in the temples of four-star demigods for too long. Anything at the farmers’ market can kick your French truffle butt.”

I swear I saw devil horns emerging out of the tufts of Snotty’s hair. “You wanna bet on that?” he implored me. “Yes!” I think I screamed this loudly enough to turn the heads of a few of the BRB patrons. We finished our amontillado (and likely a beer or two or three…who can remember?) and his challenge faded from my mind as quickly as the conversation turned to focusing on the spiny gruyère and smoky idiazabal cheeses we were now sampling.

The next afternoon, my head ringing from our sipping session, I was awoken by a far more unsettling ring–my phone, with the Snobster’s number flashing across the screen.

“Are you still on for that bet?” What was he talking about? As swiftly as my foggy mind would let me, I ran through last night’s conversation. Cocktail parties, cupcakes, truffles…uh oh, it was all coming back to me. Had I really claimed that all farmers’ market fare was superior to the French truffle? It appeared as if I had. I let out a weary sigh and asked my snobby friend what he had in mind to settle my not-so-sober proclamation.

“If you’re up for it, we’re going to have a little Iron Chef competition. Except you’re going to be the only one cooking. And I get to supply the secret farmers’ market ingredient.”

I had to say, I was impressed with Snotty’s gumption, even if it meant a lot of work and potential embarrassment on my end. “Does this mean you have to go to the farmers’ market?” I asked, suddenly realizing the wonderful implication of this bet. A sigh came through his end of the phone this time, “Yes, but it’s only to prove you wrong. I’m no locavore lover.”

I accepted the proverbial gauntlet that had been pelted at me, and we agreed the Iron Chef challenge would happen the following Saturday. Snotty would bring the secret ingredient and booze; I would be allotted shopping time and as long as it took me to cook a five­-course feast, every course containing the mystery seasonal ingredient. Truth be told, there’s NO way I could handle this sort of feat in an hour…there’s a reason Food Network’s most celebrated contestants have earned both the titles “Iron” and “Chef.”

After enough time and water eased the pounding in my head, I began to think that next Saturday’s contest wouldn’t only be a great way to stick it to Snotty, but a chance to show myself all I had accomplished in this food life of mine. Thanks to you guys, my blog is being read by more readers than I ever would have imagined. The Dinner Belle is approaching its 3rd birthday and is absolutely prospering. Erin and I have managed to build a successful business while staying true to our creative instincts and using my comfort chic recipes to highlight local, seasonal ingredients. Food is who I am, and I would be damned if I let Snotty have the last laugh.

To be continued

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One Response to “Market Report: Iron Chef Challenge (Part I)”

  1. Bells

    I cant wait to

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