The 4th Annual Kiss My Grits Throwdown: Shrimp 'n Grits and Crafted Cocktails
Photo by Mai Pham Tyler Mason at the Hotel Icon had the most visually appealing dish for Kiss My Grits.
Four years ago, the first inaugural Kiss My Grits Gulf Coast Throwdown benefitting the Young Texans Against Cancer (YTAC) charity took place at Silver Street Studios. I still remember the first year vividly, because I got to see the chefs exercise an immense amount of creativity. I remember grits gnocchi, grits congee, crispy round grits cakes, and kimchi grits topped with fried dumplings (the winning entry by Kata Robata's chef de cuisine at the time, Seth Siegel-Gardner). The second year was equally memorable, with offerings like panko-crusted grits balls, Indian-inspired grits three ways, chocolate-covered grits popsicles, and lobster grits topped with corn-cognac foam by winning team Uchi.
This year, however, while the cause was still just as important, and the party was still very fun, the creativity and competitive spirit seemed lackluster. So, what happened? My theory is that there are just too many things going on at the moment. In the last month or so, we've seen a number of throwdown events take place -- Go Pig or Go Home, Sugar Land Wine and Food, Taste of the Nation, Big Taste of Houston, etcetera -- with two more events this coming Sunday (Curry Crawl is taking place this coming Sunday at Straights, and a new Fried Chicken Throwdown is taking place the same night at Haven).
Photo by Mai Pham There were a lot of shrimp 'n grits dishes on offer last night, including this one by Jeff Taylor of Del Frisco's Grille, which featured a tasso ham gravy.
Maybe the chefs didn't have enough time to think about making something really unique. Or, maybe they just weren't acquainted with the level of creativity that had come into play during what I'll call "the early years." I was live-tweeting the event as I made my way from table to table and at one point, one of the chefs who was following my progress asked the obvious question: "How many shrimp 'n grits dishes on the menu tonight?" he asked. I waited until I'd made it to all the tables, and then replied: "Great question. 6 out of 8!"
Photo by Mai Pham Max's Wine Dive took home second place with "Country shrimp 'n grits" served in a martini glass. They won the throw down last year with the same offering.
On balance, the dishes all tasted pretty good, but unfortunately, when you taste six dishes that all have some version of shrimp and grits, they all start to taste the same. Michael Pellegrino of Max's Wine Dive went with a repeat of his winning recipe from the previous year, a country grits and shrimp that he served in a mini martini glass. He scored high on presentation and taste, earning him second place in the throw down. Skip King offered a shrimp and grits dish straight off of The Oceanaire menu. It was delicious, but I can't remember how much it differed from the shrimp and grits dish served up at Punk's Simple Southern Food. Nor can I readily differentiate its taste against Jeff Taylor's shrimp 'n grits with tasso ham from Del Frisco's Grille.
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