By BRIAN FERRY
The competition was fierce... but friendly.
Photo by Brian Ferry
A tough job, but...
Judges ladle-up portions of some of the fare offered at the annual Thorne’s BiLo/Times Observer Holiday Cookbook contest on Wednesday.
The annual Thorne's BiLo/Times Observer Holiday Cookbook contest resulted in some new champions, but, as always, the biggest winners were the judges.
A total of 10 judges sampled each of 18 dishes that had been named finalists in the recipe judging portion of the contest.
There were three finalists in each of the following categories: holiday favorites, main dishes, appetizers, vegetarian dishes, breads and rolls, and desserts.
The veterans among the judges agreed that this year's finalists were closer than ever. That feeling was borne out by the lack of a clear grand-prize winner.
Several different dishes received votes for the grand prize.
In the end, Amy Jo Ransom won with her crock pot chicken wing soup.
From top to bottom, the vegetarian category turned in the closest results, with vegetable fettuccini by Angela Mitchell edging Elayne Blystone's cheese potatoes, which narrowly downed Ramen Noodle salad by Jenna Chase.
Only one point separated first from second place in both the main dishes and appetizers categories. The sauerkraut balls by Carol Wilcox barely edged the crab-stuffed mushrooms by Doug Vaughn.
Renee Tower's enchilada lasagna had the worst draw of the competition. After finishing in a virtual tie, the lasagna took second place in the category that included the grand-prize winner. It is possible for a dish to be named grand-prize winner without that dish coming away with first in its category.
Defending champion Madison Hanks ran away with the bread category with her gluten-free pineapple zucchini loaf, but couldn't pull off the repeat overall victory.
In the holiday favorites, the pumpkin tarts by Kim Williams won easily, as did Anne Farrell's raspberry puddin' cake in the desserts.
Many of the competitors knew each other and had been among the finalists in previous years. That led to some friendly banter as they set up prior to the judging. Linda Chase let Tower know she expected victory in the main dishes. "We used to be friends," Tower said, laughing.
Afterwards, the competitors circled the table and tried each other's dishes, looking for new ideas or maybe just to fill their bellies.
Not everyone who had the chance to sample the dishes was among the judges or competitors. While it is customary to allow BiLo customers who are in the area to take samples, that is generally held for the end of the event. On Wednesday, one gentleman who was walking past prior to judging, but after all the finalists' entries had been set out, snagged a plate and samples of two dishes.
He was informed of his transgression, but, since he had already plated the food, he was allowed to keep it.