A sweet treat from one of Houston's most-creative restaurants ruled the day at The Truffle Masters. MAD, the tapas restaurant from BCN chef Luis Roger and business partner Ignacio Torras, took the top prize at the sixth annual culinary competition.
MAD's pastry chef Karla Espinoza presented a chocolate lollipop she dubbed "Mad to the Moon." Made with 64-percent black truffle ganache, caramelized hazelnuts, and black truffle peels cremeux, the bite found favor with both the sold out crowd and a panel of judges that included Houston chefs Mark Cox (Mark's) and last year's winner, Kata Robata chef Manabu Horiuchi. For BCN, Roger prepared a wild mushroom and truffle cream. The winner takes home a pound of truffles and a massive trophy.
A sold out crowd packed the C Baldwin hotel downtown to feast on bites from 26 Houston-area restaurants. Sponsored by luxury foods purveyor DR Delicacy, the event benefits Second Servings of Houston, a nonprofit that collects leftover prepared food and delivers it to charitable meal sites such as soup kitchens and shelters.
La Table pastry chef Jamie Orlacchio took second place for her black truffle cheese mousse with pear jam, salted chocolate, pear nappage, and caramel. Brandon Silva, previewing his upcoming restaurant Degust, took third place for his Japanese milk bread with truffled pecans and shaved black truffle. Fourth place went to Kiran's chef-owner Kiran Verma, who created a black truffle and pistachio ice cream with truffle honey florentine. La Lucha chef Bobby Matos earned People's Choice for his sweet corn pansoti with black truffle.
Beyond the night's winners, lots of chefs earned raves for their creations. Killen's STQ chef Teddy Lopez created a memorable bite with his huitlacoche tamales that featured truffled masa and truffled queso. Aaron Bludorn, the former Cafe Boulud chef who's planning a new restaurant in Montrose, filled puff pastry with chicken and crawfish and then shaved black truffle on top.
Legendary Houston chef Robert Del Grande kept things Southern with a truffled pimento grilled cheese sandwich, while Tris chef Austin Simmons offered a savory goat cheesecake with truffle. Perhaps no team had more fun than Rosalie Italian Soul's Sasha Grumman and Valerie Trassati, who wore custom jumpsuits while dishing out truffle arancini and soft serve ice cream covered in truffle magic shell.
The event always draws a who's who of culinary professionals, influences, and food enthusiasts. Spotted in the crowd were Ianne and Brian Fasthoff (Batanga), Araz Garakanian, Victoria Ma, Felice Sloan, Linda Salinas, Alvin Schultz, Mark Sullivan, Lisa Gochman, Tiffany Halik, Sam Governale, Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl, Mary Clarkson, Adrian Dueñas and Marcelo Saenz Valle, and and a host of Texas food writers including Phaedra Cook, Timothy Malcolm, Patricia Sharpe, Kate McLean, and Megha Bhandari. Michael Garfield, the high-tech Texan, served as the evening's emcee.