Kayem Artisan Sausage Food Truck Competition at NoDa Brewing
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by Kayem Artisan Sausage to help judge my first food competition – the Artisan Affair at NoDa Brewing. Not that I would normally pass up a free meal (you’ve seen my income reports…), but the deal was sweetened when I learned that the competition was between four Charlotte based food trucks.
I thought it would be fun to walk readers through the judging process as I expertly (with the aid of beer) dissected each dish and voted for my favorite. Oh, and I share the winning recipe at the end!
Artisan Sweet Sausage Breakfast Banh Mi & Lemongrass Chicken Crispy Fried Rice from Yummi Banh Mi
Already primed with a seasonal Saison from NoDa and a starter prepared by Street Spice of smoked Gouda mac & cheese topped with a bacon pineapple sausage crumble, the inappropriate sausage jokes and food competition began with Yummi Banh Mi. Yummi Banh Mi came out of the gate ready to impress with two dishes – a breakfast banh mi and a crispy fried rice.
I’m a big fan of Yummi Banh Mi, so it’s no surprise that I had trouble holding back from devouring both dishes. But there were three more courses to come, and each food truck deserved my equal attention.
I thought that the breakfast twist was fun and creative. The crusty bread and eggs on a Banh Mi already resemble breakfast. Why not add some Kayem Artisan Sausage breakfast crumbles? However the jalapeños were a bit overpowering. Like mouth-on-fire-can’t-taste-anything-get-me-a-water overpowering. The crispy fried rice helped cool down my mouth so that I could enjoy the Coco Loco / Nodajito, black and tan style beer pairing. What a brilliant melding of two beers!
Sweet Pepper Provolone Chiles en Nogada from Tacos Rick-O
This is where it became a little difficult to judge the competition. What were the rules? Were these dishes supposed to be items found on a food truck on a normal basis? Or was the chef supposed to show off the full extent of his or her talent? Yummi Banh Mi’s dishes were clearly something found on a food truck, but I doubt the chiles en nogada from Tacos Rick-O would be feasible to serve up at a food truck rally. Still, it was cooked on a food truck…
This very well could have been one of the best Mexican dishes I’ve ever eaten. Tacos Rick-O melded textures and flavors in a stuffed pepper that could appear on any five-star restaurant menu. The pomegranate seeds added a crunch and sweetness that laid down nicely over the creamy queso sauce and spicy poblano pepper. It was a dance party in my mouth.
NoDa paired Jam Session with the dish, but I’m thinking a lager would have been a better selection as the hops fought a little bit with the many flavors of the dish.
Andouille & Shrimp Cakes with Andouille Sausage Gravy from New Wrap Order
I’m not sure this was a dish that would normally show up on New Wrap Order’s menu, as it’s neither a wrap nor a bowl. However, they should seriously consider adding it. Once again, this dish was a texture and flavor explosion from the cheesy grits to the crispy shrimp cakes to the spicy, creamy gravy. This was almost a perfect dish. However, the chef didn’t sell it with the same amount of passion as Tacos Rick-O.
The andouille and shrimp cakes were paired with Ramble on Red. I’m going to get a little picky again here on the pairing. I think Jam Session would have been a bit more appropriate as the sweet malts were a bit too rich to extinguish the heat from the andouille sausage.
Southwest Wontons by Street Spice
I have to be honest, I couldn’t figure out how to eat these. According to Chef Tom Colicchio of Top Chef, if you have to explain how to eat a dish, then it wasn’t executed properly. For the wontons from Street Spice, was the relish essential to the dish? If so, how was I supposed to keep it on the wontons while I ate them? Wontons are finger foods, right?
I don’t want to judge Street Spice too hard though as their mac and cheese palate opener was amazing. I’m just sad that I wasn’t able to rate them on the mac & cheese, as it may have been my favorite dish of the night.
Hop Drop and Roll IPA was the chose beer for the southwest wontons. It was by far the most brilliant pairing of the night. The intensity of the beer helped bring the mild flavored dish to life.
And the Winner of the Kayem Sausage Food Truck Competition Is…
Alas, we had to choose a winner. If it wasn’t obvious already, I voted for Chiles en Nogada from Tacos Rick-O. Apparently, the other judges – including retired Carolina Panther Colin Cole – agreed as Tacos Rick-O walked away with the $500 grand prize.
Sweet Pepper Provolone Chiles en Nogada Recipe
- 4 roasted and peeled poblano peppers
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 12 oz Kayem Artisan Sweet Pepper Provolone Sausage
- 3 tbsp diced onion
- 2 tbsp diced granny smith apple
- 1 tsp raisins
- 1 tsp diced dried apricots
- 1 tsp dried cranberries
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp diced pear
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup sweet red wine
- Salt and ground pepper to taste
- 1 tsp fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
- 1 tsp pomegranate seeds, for garnish
- 1 tsp queso fresco, for garnish (optional)
- In a sauté pan heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.
- Add the onions and Kayem Artisan Sweet Pepper Provolone Sausage and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, apples, apricots, cranberries, pears, raisins and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the red wine and let it simmer for 3 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper, and then remove from the heat.
- Stuff each roasted poblano pepper with one-quarter of the sausage mixture.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tbsp diced onion
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/3 cup almond flour
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Heat up a sauté pan over low heat.
- Sautee the onions and garlic in the vegetable oil for about 5 minutes.
- Add the white wine and let it simmer until it is almost completely evaporated.
- Add the heavy cream and almond flour and let it simmer until reduced by half. Add salt and ground pepper.
- To serve, place each stuffed poblano pepper on a plate and top with 3 tbsps of sauce.
- Garnish with the cilantro, queso fresco and pomegranate seeds.
The good news is that you don’t have to cook a complicated recipe to enjoy Kayem’s all natural sausages. They’re great hot off the grill after enjoying a summer afternoon with friends and family. I also recommend trying their franks. To quote my father, “This is the way hot dogs used to taste.”
Thank you Kayem Brands for inviting me to the Artisan Affair at NoDa Brewing!