Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fort Lee 37th Annual Culinary Arts Competition

                Last Thursday, I had the privilege to enjoy a meal at Fort Lee’s 37th Annual Culinary Arts competition. Every year Fort Lee hosts this two weeklong event which pits over 300 of the best United States military chefs, stationed around the world, against one another in over 600 different events.  There are numerous competitions in which they compete from ice sculpting to an iron chef type cook-off to the Field Team competition. Most of the events are open to the public but the Field Team Competition is the only one where the public actually gets to eat the delicious works of art.

                I attended the event with my co-worker, Mr. Ron White. As we entered we were met with a special escort who led us on a tour of the competition and showed us each of the different events taking place that day. Everything looked amazing - like tiny works of art that would look just as much at home in a fine art gallery as on your dinner plate.  But for as good as everything looked all that really mattered to us is how everything tasted. After the tour we made our way to the Field Team competition area and took our seats. While the event is open to the public there are only a limited number of tickets available for each lunch and they are purchased on a first come first served basis at the staggering amount of $4.55. Yes, a five star, three course meal for $4.55. McDonalds eat your heart out. We purchased tickets for the USAREUR field team. USAREUR stands for United States Army Europe based in Germany. The field competition is where two teams from two different military installations are pitted against each other having to make the best three course meal they can for around 50 people using only the equipment found in a military field kitchen, the type they use while at war. This as you can imagine is quite challenging.

                After we took our seats a member of the team came around and served us either water or sweet tea. After a few moments they came around to take our first ticket for our appetizer, which was an Asian chicken salad with mustard vinaigrette and cashews. While this looked quite fancy, I have to admit it tasted a little dull. Nothing other than the mustard vinaigrette had much flavor and they used that incredibly sparingly.  It took a while for our entree to come out but boy was it worth the wait. It was a stuffed tenderloin of beef with spinach, bacon, dates and blue cheese served with red wine sauce, sherried green beans and mushrooms, scalloped Yukon gold and Peruvian potatoes.  This may very well be the best thing I’ve ever eaten or ever will eat. The tenderloin was cooked perfectly and the stuffing inside of it was superb. The sweetness of the dates paired perfectly with the smokiness of the bacon and the pungent blue cheese. The green beans were crisp but still juicy and the potatoes were smooth and creamy with a slight crunchy crust on the outside.  I could have eaten five pieces of the beef tenderloin and still wanted more.  Our meal was then finished off with a pineapple cake with rum sauce and cherry cheesecake ice cream for dessert.  This was exceptionally good, especially the cherry cheesecake ice cream. The cake was warm and crispy and the ice cream a velvety smooth texture and they both played well off of each other.

                I recommend that everyone should check out the Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee even though you’ll have to wait until next year to do so. The displays are awe inspiring and the meals at the Field Team completions are some of the best you will ever eat and will definitely be the best thing you will ever eat for under $5.00 in your life. So come on out and support the United States Military, their chefs and your taste buds.

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