Quarterfinals Begin: Tomato Jam Wins

April 16, 2013 WNC Chefs Challenge Quarterfianls

Chef Daniel Wright – Tomato Jam Café

Chef Dan Moore – DoubleTree Catering


By Leah McGrath


Battle Ramp saw Daniel Wright and his team from Tomato Jam Café competing against Dan Moore and his crew with Doubletree Catering in this quarterfinal round. Like onions, leeks and garlic—other members of the allium family—ramps are either loved or despised for their strong flavor. The menu certainly reflected the degree of creativity the teams displayed in working with the pungent secret ingredient.  


Though ramps have become nationally known thanks to televised cooking shows, they’re truly a regional and seasonal delicacy and signal spring’s arrival in many parts of the South. This time of year, you can find ramps growing on shaded hillsides and sold at roadside produce stands.


The Menu

–Pan-seared spring crab cake with ramp salsa with ramp crème fraîche (Tomato Jam Café) Voted No. 2 Dish

–Steamed mussels with spaghetti squash, pork belly, grape tomatoes, and bruschetta (DoubleTree)

–Fried cornmeal trout and ramp potato cake over vegetarian collards with a ramp beurre blanc (Tomato Jam Café) Voted No. 1 Dish; This dish really struck a chord with our table and seemed to perfectly represent the South. 

–Seared New York Strip with spring succotash, fried potato and beet chips with goat cheese and demi sauces (DoubleTree) Voted No. 3 Dish

–Dutch apple crisp with green onion and candied pistachio ice cream (Tomato Jam Café)

–Frushi with ramp “wasabi” and sweet ginger sauce (DoubleTree)


Wright and Tomato Jam Café took the victory by just two points. Thrilled about the win, he’d been a bit apprehensive about the challenge. “ I knew that the competition was close,” Wright said. He advances to the semifinals.


As with all of the Asheville Wine & Food Festival Chefs Challenges, part of the fun is the company and conversation at your table. Chef Denny Trantham, formerly with the Grove Park Inn, kept our table entertained throughout the night. But he bemoaned the fact that the collards, part of the favorite dish, didn’t contain meat, saying “you can’t make collards without bacon grease or a ham hock.”


After the last course, we were all grateful to Mackensy Lunsford of the Asheville Citizen-Times for bringing multiple packs of gum; no one wanted to go home with ramp breath.


You can follow Ingles dietitian Leah McGrath on Twitter at www.twitter.com/InglesDietitian.


Hungry for more? Next week, chefs Mike Fisera of Lexington Avenue Brewery and Steven Goff of Zambra on April 23. To reserve tickets, visit www.ashevillewineandfood.com.