Our friends hold a mid-month cooking competition that they call "the Ides," which takes place at a different home with a different panel of judges each month. When they asked us if we would host one of the dinners, we were more than happy to oblige. Inspired by the Iron Chef series, the rules have been adapted for home dinner parties. The menu features a new ingredient each month, and the "drinkmaster" (our friend Danielle, in her self-styled role as Chairman) whips up a concoction to match. Drinks are served throughout the meal (and aren't included in the judging).
The Rules: • A group of 5 cooks competes together each month, for one year. • Each cook pays for their own ingredients, within a preset limit. • Every month, a new feature ingredient is chosen randomly from a hat. • The ingredient is announced a month in advance of the party. • Cooks prep in advance, and cook what they need to at the party. • Every month, 5 new people act as "judges." • The dinner consists of a 5-course tasting menu. • Dishes are judged in terms of taste, presentation, and use of ingredient. • Judges can't know who cooked what. • At the end of the dinner, points are tallied and the cooks are revealed. • Judges are encouraged to donate money to a pot that funds the grand prize. • The prize money pays for the winner's dinner at a restaurant of their choice.
The featured ingredient at our dinner party was avocado. Although the menu is usually set at five dishes and one drink, the cooks added an extra amuse-bouche to throw off the judges. This little opening dish gave the guests a chance to get comfortable with the judging process, but wasn't included in the final tally. The Menu: • Avocado Daiquiris with Tequila, Agave Nectar and Lime • Amuse-Bouche: Corn Tortilla Chip with Guacamole • Avocado and Pomegranate on a Bed of Frisee with Crabcake • Roasted Pork Jibarititos with Avocado Aioli and a Side of Avocado Yucca • Avocado Croque Monsieur with Avocado Mousse and a Side of Guacamole • Avocado Choco Taco • Avocado Gelato on a Cookie with Pineapple The food was great; the conversation was lively; and we were all very full by the end. And the winner was...the Avacado Choco Taco! Made with avocado ice cream and a white-chocolate-dipped shell, it was topped with fresh fruit and served with a dollop of sweet avocado cream...so delicious! Photos: Sarah Coffey