by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
along with MEREDITH GREMEL
When in January we heard of the Reds on the River first ever recipe contest we figured, “What the heck, why not enter?” After all, your reporters are graduates of Chef Robin Toldo’s cooking classes offered yearly through Rockford Community Services, a service of Rockford Public Schools.
Reds was seeking an appetizer recipe to be featured, along with the contest winner’s name, on their newly created small plate restaurant menu. What an honor that would be.
We forwarded our entry to Executive Chef/General Manager, Glenn Forgie, and awaited Reds’ response.
In March, we were contacted by Meredith Gremel, Reds’ Publicist, and told that Chef Glenn was, “happy to inform you that you have been chosen as a semi-finalist out of 15 other contest entrants.”
We then moved on to the next phase of the contest. We were invited to demonstrate our recipe in the kitchen of Reds on Saturday, March 28. Each of the six semi-finalists was allotted one of six half-hour time slots beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 11:30 a.m. to demonstrate and prepare their recipe.
We chose the 10 a.m. time slot for our recipe demonstration and found ourselves in an already bustling kitchen, even though the restaurant would not open for another two hours. This was not just any kitchen but the spotless state-of-the-art kitchen of Reds on the River. Every day this kitchen serves up award-winning cuisine prepared absolutely from scratch. (Talk about pressure, we were like school kids taking an oral final exam while at the same time trying not to cut our fingers off.)
We named our entry “German Wurstchen Biss Wraps” (wurstchen is German for a small sausage or wiener and biss means small portion). As an appetizer it is as delicious as it is simple to prepare. Consisting of just three ingredients; thin triangles of pastry dough, old-fashioned, coarse-cut all-meat German-style wieners with no added fillers, and mustard for dipping. The wieners, cut into thirds, wrapped in dough and baked are to die for when dipped while piping hot into mustard. Our favorite is Beer’n Brat Horseradish Mustard. The choice is yours. The main ingredient is not just any wiener but Wimmers Old Fashioned Wieners available locally at Herman’s Boy. These are the same wieners used in the Herman’s Boy famous and best selling Bagel Dogs. The wieners were our secret ingredient and now everyone knows.
Hot out of the oven, we garnished and plated our creation that was whisked into the dining area for a tasting by Chef Glenn. Seated alongside Chef, we were peppered with questions about ingredients, preparation, and presentation. Water was served with the sampling (we ourselves would have preferred something a bit stronger).
The next contestant was already busy in the kitchen preparing their entry as we left the restaurant optimistic that we might, after all, have a shot at culinary fame.
Such was not to be the case however. On Wednesday, April 8 we were notified that the judging team, consisting of Executive Chef Glenn, Line Chef Michael Farrell, Sous Chef Scott Pershbacher, and Meredith Gremel, had chosen…the winner. Gremel tells us, “It was not at all an easy decision to make.” She went on to say, “Clearly we have many talented chefs living in West Michigan. Our team at Reds appreciates their efforts and we enjoyed getting to know each of them.”
Chosen was Gary Saulter who served up “Goat Cheese Stuffed Shrimp” along with sautéed spinach over angel hair pasta. The winning recipe has our mouths watering. We are nothing if not gracious losers and heartily congratulate Saulter. We can’t wait to try his creation when it is added to the small plate menu at Reds.
Gremel tells us, “The contest was such a huge success that Reds will offer it on a seasonal basis. We plan to hold an annual cook-off with all four seasonal winners. Additionally, each contest winner’s photo and recipe will be posted at Reds during the season in which they won and all four will be invited to a special dinner at Reds prepared by Chef Glenn. We will replace our current winner with our next recipe winner in July.”
Entrants are encouraged to enter their recipe for a summer appetizer featuring local fresh ingredients that will be served from July through September. Recipes must be submitted to Chefglenn@reds-live.com no later than June 1st.
We’re thinking this time around we’ll offer ourselves up as tasters!