When I first heard about Lowertown Throwdown I’ll be honest- I was expecting to arrive in a crowded room full of amped-up foodies all with their attention turned to a kitchen full of dueling chefs going head-to-head to prepare a meal against the clock.
Instead what I got was a room of well-spaced stations, each manned by a chef (or chefs) from various Ottawa restaurants who were serving up pre-prepared dishes. The rabble-rousing crowd was in fact a group of folks seated about the space chowing down and chatting politely.
It was a bit disappointing to not actually find the type of trash talking, action packed competition I was expecting from the get go. Yet once I was there I started to appreciate the event for what it was on the inside (awww).
There are plenty of blogs and restaurant reviews, tweets and Facebook posts that give the thumbs up or down to individual menu items or entire restaurants around town. But the Throwdown is a unique opportunity to actually taste and compare the type of offerings you can expect when you sit down at each place.
That’s because each chef (or team) is asked to take a single ingredient (in this case stout beer) and turn out something unique, delicious, and ultimately crowd pleasing. When you grab a plate from one of those Throwdown stations what you’re picking up is literally a taste of insight into the creativity of each kitchen’s talent.
Now unfortunately I’m not the best critic to talk to about the food itself-I had to rely upon the opinions of my fellow chow hounds to get a real idea of what was good and what was great. Being a vegetarian I had to limit my taste buds to the delights of the two desserts on offer-but hot damn I was not disappointed. The funnel cake served up by Chef Paul Dubeau melted in my mouth and the brownie/ice cream combo served up from El Camino’s team was hands-down the best dessert I’ve ever had: the softest brownie known to man, creamy stout-infused ice cream, and a dollop of tartness a la raspberry puree…sorry if this is starting to sound a little dime-novel titillating but it was a sexy morsel for my mouth.
As for the rest, apparently the deep-fried foie-gras was amazing-everyone I was out with agreed that was the best of the savoury servings. But ultimately the winner of the Throwdown was the plate from El Camino. In my humble opinion he totally deserved it. Apparently 8 varieties of stout had been chosen by the six competing chefs to incorporate for the challenge-and 4 of those were uniquely being used by Camino.
In the end it wasn’t what I’d expected-and most of the bums-in-seats belonged to industry folks. But there’s a lot of potential here for it to get bigger-the word about these events just needs to get out.
So keep your eye on the Lowertown facebook page for the next event-its a great opportunity to compare head-to-head the minds behind the menus from some of the most talked about hot spots in Ottawa. The ticket gets you a beer, six tapas-size plates of very fine food, and the chance to cast a vote for your favourite creation. Some of the vote-casters I saw were automatically voting for friends (what is this, a highschool election?) but by and large it was a genuine competition where the best dish won.