When you think of decadent food, what comes to mind? Rich, luxurious things like chocolate, caviar and champagne? Perhaps lobster, foie gras and truffle are at the top of your list. Dictionary.com defines decadence as "unrestrained or excessive self-indulgence", and that's exactly what I experienced last weekend.
Decadence was the theme of a cooking competition I had the honor of judging. Every few months, a group of friends who work for or are alumni from the best cheese shop in Chicago: Pastoral Artisan get together for a fun, friendly afternoon of competition. And when I tell you that these people take their cooking seriously, I'm not kidding. Months of planning, recipe testing and some trash talk precede these competitions. I was lucky enough to know the right people and landed a spot as a semi-regular judge.
Past competitions have included themes such as noodles, citrus, dim sum, pies and lots of other creative ingredients or genres of food. The competitions are major productions. When I saw the equipment being hauled into our hostess' kitchen, I laughed at the countless tools, decorative plates and even a deep fryer. I couldn't believe someone actually had a real deep fryer with a basket and was willing to lug it across town to Logan Square.
The first round of food came out, and I knew I was in trouble. How can you pick a winner when everything, and I mean every element of each dish, is so delicious? Plus, decadence is a truly personal thing. Who's to say that crab is more decadent than duck?
Here are the eight entries: