A few weeks ago, I was invited to a friend's house to participate in a "Throwdown". I was totally hesitant at first because those of you who know me know that unless I either invent the recipe, or have done it so many times it is borderline OCD, that I really don't belong in a kitchen, especially when it's considered a competition. Instead, I offered to be the unofficial photographer for the evening. (WHEW!!! Dodged that bullet!)

I arrived late, and cooking was well underway. I noticed relatively soon that as the cooking progressed the smell in Mellanie's kitchen was like walking into the best restaurant on cloud nine. All of the food was brightly colored, and while I was thinking we were going to vote on whose meal was the best, I wasn't disappointed to find out that it wasn't about challenging each other. Mellanie stated that the point of these friendly competitions is to "challenge yourself" and as we all know, we are our own worst critics (myself included). I thought this was a clever idea, as there are a lot of students from the culinary school we attended that would LOVE to go nuts based on one theme (which, for this particular Throwdown, was Caribbean themed).

Everyone seemed to have their own nook in her kitchen where they could create their ultimate dish. Mellanie's brilliance emerged when she opted to use tempura batter to fry her coconut shrimp in (which I prefer over nearly every kind of batter). They were crisp and light, and full of huge flavor from the pineapple marmalade dip she made to accompany the shrimpy beauties. A definite hit, and one that I would say would totally be the centerpiece at a party. The amazing thing about these shrimp were that they were still crispy well into our tasting of everyone's dishes. There was a point where they had been out for about 45 minutes, and these babies were still totally crisp. Seriously. Amazing.

Bryan's menu was totally extravagant (as he tends to be prone to extravagance when it comes to cooking). Cajun roasted sweet potatoes, grilled plantains (my first), and a pineapple-mango salsa accompanied his jerk crusted grilled chicken. Absolutely mouthwatering in every sense of the word. Look at yourself. You know you're drooling. He also created this totally beautiful mint-cherry julep which was colorful and super bright in flavor. I could see myself donning a pair of flip flops and heading to the beach with that drink, garnished with one of those cute little umbrellas that always come with beachy drinks. Lovely.

Another fun dish in the appetizer category was Candace's little coconut cream cheese butterfly. Balls of cream cheese rolled in coconut and served with sliced apple "wings" and graham crackers. I swear, she is the master of appetizers, because she had two home runs come out of the event yesterday. The second was bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with bleu cheese. Um, can you say "I'm running away with the plate and I'm not coming back?" Yes, yes you can.

The final surprise came in the form of a really brilliantly simple dish, created by Art, called Caribbean Hearts of Palm (my first) in Tomato Sauce. Yes, honestly, it was very good. Hearts of palm have a sort of artichoke flavor, but not as pronounced. They are soft and delicate and just fade blissfully away in your mouth. Seriously. Probably one of the simplest things we had that night, but it didn't have any shortcomings that can sometimes accompany a simple dish. Even though it wasn't warm by the time everyone was finished cooking (because someone took forever, you know who you are!!!) it was absolutely delicious, which is surprising because as food gets colder the flavor tends to be a bit muted. This didn't happen here. Very tasty. I had seconds...

While washing the dishes, I told Mellie that I was surprised that absolutely everything we tried was delicious. I was sort of expecting a couple things to stand out as either the best or the worst, and it turned out that everything was highlighted as its own particular uphoria. It was a very nicely done Throwdown at Mellanie's place, and I'm looking forward to the next adventure.

While I may not participate as a cook in the future, I offered to bring a dessert that has been at hit at my family parties (but I'm not telling you what it is because, in the words of Alton Brown: "That's another show", and I'm saving it for fall). I want to offer her something, even if I don't feel that I would be useful in the kitchen. I was just glad to have been invited to this unique, friendly culinary competition and to watch all the creative minds at work as they established their menus. Thanks everyone!


  1. Let me know if you ever need a guinea pig or food judge:D Everything sounds absolutely delectable!

  2. very well done, my friend! nice, enjoyable reading, and 'yummy photos' !!


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