Swill & Suds, Swine Dining

A first-timer’s go at Iron Fork

May 13, 2015

Ed. Note: We have a terrific guest post brought to you by our beer blogger and nascent spirits/cocktail enthusiast friend Patrick St. Jean. As Jerry and I had to leave town for a spell, he and his wife went to Fair Park food and drink fest Iron Fork in our stead. Here’s Pat’s recap:

By Patrick St. Jean

My wife and I took DART down to Fair Park to check out the 2015 Iron Fork competition, try some food, and sample some drinks.

With our swag (tasting glass, etc.) collected, we started walking around the perimeter of the hall, checking out the various local restaurants and sampling their wares. My first stop was one of the many Alaskan Brewing booths for a Big Mountain IPA. From there we headed over to Rafain Brazilian Steakhouse’s booth to sample a skewered selection of their meats, with generous portions of chicken, beef and pork, all of which were delicious.

Next up was Quesa, a Mexican style street taco joint with some amazing food. With our hunger temporarily sated, we continued to browse until we happened upon an extremely long line. From what we’d seen, that could only mean one thing: swill. Once we got to the front of the line, we got to try one of American Born Moonshine’s Arnold Calmers, made from sweet tea moonshine and lemonade. It was fantastic, with my non-drinking wife taking a sip and proclaiming it to be “dangerous stuff.”

With a glass of swill in my hand, we continued on until we got to The Local Oak’s table, where we got to have the best swine of the evening in the form of their candied bacon. They are now on the very short list of places we need to eat in the near future.

At this point, the Iron Fork competition was getting close to starting, so we made our way over and found a place to stand that was close to the stage. Watching the competition was equal parts fun and frustration. Think of an Iron Chef-style cooking competition, including a secret ingredient, judges, and multiple courses of food to be judged. The biggest difference was that there were no sous chefs to help the exec chefs. We got to see the reigning champion Matt McCallister of FT33 and Omar Flores of Casa Rubia face off for their glory and our entertainment. For tonight’s competition, the secret ingredient was peppers, which included varieties such as bell, serrano, jalapeño, and more.

Once they got down to cooking, things went pretty quickly, but thanks to some serious audio issues, it was hard to follow them. We all crowded as close to the stage as we could to try to hear what was going on, but between the mics and distortion from the speakers, it was not happening. Not all was lost, though, because the eventual outcome was clear before the judging even started, when Matt was forced to give up on one of his dishes due to not being able to get his sauce to foam correctly. He continued to work on his other dishes, but ultimately only submitted one to the judges, which all but guaranteed that he would not have a threepeat. The judges did their thing, tallied the scores, and awarded the Iron Fork to the new champion: Omar.

With the competition done, we resumed our tour of the booths, working our way around the other half of the hall. I tried some of El Jimador’s tequila, not usually my favorite swill, but it was actually very good. The evening was winding down, so we capped off the tour with some delicious frozen custard from Wild About Harry’s and discussed which restaurants we were going to vote for. After casting our votes — which will remain secret, though they’re all mentioned somewhere in this article — we headed out to catch the train home.

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