By Dana Mortell

On March 27th, Allagash co-founder Rob Tod and ICE Dean of Students Andrew Gold co-hosted the 12th annual Cookin’ with Allagash Recipe Contest at ICE. At this much-anticipated event, sponsored by Allagash Brewing Company, ICE students competed for scholarship money to apply towards their culinary school tuition. This year, students were charged with creating Belgian-style dishes to pair with Allagash’s popular Saison beer. Of the many students who submitted recipes, the top three—Hadar Aviram, David Kurihara and Adrian Brown—were picked to compete for scholarships at the event itself.

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From left: Adrian Brown, Hadar Aviram and David Kurihara with their dishes. Photo by Dee Dee Germain.

For the event, Allagash supplied multiple cases of Saison—their interpretation of a classic Belgian farmhouse style beer that is brewed in the winter to be enjoyed during the summer months.The beer is refreshing, with notes of spice and tropical fruit in its aroma. With ample bottles of Saison at their disposal, ICE student contestants were able to experiment with the beer as they developed recipes for the contest with Chef Virginia Monaco, Culinary Relations Manager at ICE. Chef Virginia helped mentor students during the recipe creation process, providing valuable feedback in the final days before the competition.

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Contest winner Hadar Aviram (left) plating with Chef Virginia Monaco. Photo by Dee Dee Germain.

On the night of the event, the Allagash team traveled all the way from Portland Maine to support the finalists during the cook-off. As in years past, the food was top-notch, the crowd energetic and the beer flowing. The distinguished judging panel included industry professionals such as ICE alumnus Ivy Stark (Corporate Executive Chef at Dos Caminos), Joshua Bernstein (Editor in Chief of Craft Beer New York and author of Brewed Awakening: The Complete Beer Course), Lauren Buzzeo (Tasting Director and Executive Editor at Wine Enthusiast Magazine) and James Piccolo (Sous Chef at Tarry Lodge in Westport, CT). The judges focused on originality, creativity and flavor, as well as the degree of completion, presentation and overall technique. They also look into account core skills such as sanitation, mise en place, fabrication, recipe accuracy and organization. But primarily, they were looking for the dish to complement the Allagash Saison.

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The judges (from left): Ivy Stark, Joshua Bernstein, Lauren Buzzeo and James Piccolo. Photo by Dee Dee Germain.

The scholarship amounts were as follows, first place – $2,000, second place – $1,000 and third place – $500, with Hadar Aviram taking first place with her “Harvest Saison Venison”: Seared Venison over Pommes Puree, Fried Venison Croquettes, Pickled Brussels Sprouts and Spiced Red Wine Sauce. When asked what inspired this dish, Hadar explained: “When I researched the region we were supposed to base the dish on, I was glad to find that game meat is very common, so I chose venison. Building around the main protein, I wanted to use typical Belgian produce (apples, pears and potatoes) and to be inspired by traditional local dishes. Basically, I was trying to create a fun, fine dining dish that would pair well with the beer, while using ingredients that were true to the region.”

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The winning dish: Harvest Saison Venison. Photo by Dee Dee Germain.

Second place went to David Kurihara, who prepared “Allagash Chicken and Gaufres”: Roulade of Chicken with Collard Green Slaw, Spiced Powder and White Gravy. At the end of the night, David was drained but excited. “The competition was the most challenging three hours I’ve put myself through so far. I can’t wait to do something like it again!”

Adrian Brown, who took third place, created Moules “Meatballs” with Belgian Waffle Frites, Endive, Fennel, Celery Root, Blood Orange and Grapefruit. When asked about the experience, Adrian noted: “The intensity in the contest proved to be a welcome test of the skills I have learned so far in class—the most important one being time management.”

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The hosts, judges and contestants at the end of another successful Cookin’ with Allagash Recipe Contest. Photo by Dee Dee Germain.

For guests at the competition, Chef Virginia Monaco prepared a buffet of pulled lamb sliders with pickled onions and smoky aioli; braised chicken thighs with mushrooms, kale and creamy polenta; and salmon with fennel, raisins and capers over white vegetable stew. These three dishes paired perfectly with the three beers provided for the evening: Allagash Saison, Coolship Resurgam and Allagash White.The food and drink were a hit, reminding us once again why we love Allagash beer – whether sipped on its own or paired with a delicious dish. We’re already counting down the days till next year’s event!

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