The crowds at the City Hall Farmers Market got an unexpected treat on Wednesday. In celebration of Food Day, Recipe 4 Success threw its second-annual Veg Out! Throwdown, featuring some of Houston's best chefs and some delicious local veggies.
Last year's chefs created dishes based around collard greens, and this year competitors Kevin Naderi of Roost, ex-Plonk chef Erin Smith, Justin Yu of Oxheart and Kiran Verma of Kiran's were all tasked with spicing up the ultimate fall vegetable — the sweet potato.
Free samples were delivered to guests of the farmers market and to a panel of judges, including Cleverley Stone, Monica Pope (who won last year with her "greens and beets"), Recipe 4 Success founder Gracie Cavnar and this writer. Chefs were scored based on taste, texture, presentation, the amount of local ingredients used and the simplicity of the recipe — all the dishes were supposed to be able to be prepared in 30 minutes.
Mayor Annise Parker even stopped by the tables, though she declined to join the judges' table ("I don't want to lose any votes out here," she said.)
While Naderi's vanilla-scented sweet potato puree on croissant sliders with a goat cheese egg salad was a sweet and very munchable option, the judges declared Verma the winner for her roasted sweet potato salad wrap with English cucumber, mango, pomegranate seeds, cumin and tamarind chutney. The combination — a little spice, a little sweet — was both intensely flavorful and very focused on the vegetable element.
What better way to represent Food Day, a nationwide celebration of healthy and sustainable food?