All the writing I did today, I did first thing this morning.
Around lunchtime we went to the Tennessee Aquarium, which is a very fine aquarium. Highlights included seahorses, penguins, turtles, alligators, a caiman, cuttlefish, jellyfish, nautiluses, and otters.
The rest of the day was spent planning, shopping for, preparing, eating, and judging the Iron Chef Pear Battle. stevengould selected the theme ingredient, pears, and picked the names for the teams out of a hat. As it happens, all the couples present were split across the two teams. maryrobinette, whose family home this is, handicapped herself by taking the smaller, less-well-equipped kitchen. Her sous-chefs were stevengould, kateyule, and Sean. I was on princessalthea's team along with amberdine and Beth.
We had a lot of fun playing with food, cooking things we'd never even heard of before (Beth's dad is a chef and told us how to prepare a gastrique), and both meals came out fabulous. Eight courses all told: soup, salad, entree, and dessert from each team, judged by Mary's parents and a couple of her cousins. The competition was close -- our team won the soup and salad courses, but Mary's won entree and dessert, and her entree was Best in Show so her team took the overall competition.
Our team's menu:
- Pear and brie soup (served with thinly sliced pears and croutons on top)
- Campari-poached pear and spinach salad with goat cheese, with house-roasted macadamia nuts and a pear reduction vinaigrette
- Duck breast with pear-basalmic gastrique (aka Awesome Sauce), served over couscous with chopped pears
- Oven-roasted Anjou pears with frozen pear-cognac mush
Some photos from the battle are available on Steve's Flickr photostream, with more to come.