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Sunday
Nov082009

The Lunch Belle guest-judges Bliss PR's Annual Cook-off

My website has brought me so much joy and opportunity over its 2 1/4 years of life: new friends, a passion for food photography, therapy (writing relaxes me), worldwide exposure, etc.  In September, my alma mater published a Q&A/interview spotlighting The Lunch Belle entitled "Alumna Takes a Bite out of the Big Apple, and Tells About It." Within days, I was contacted by a fellow alum and Texas ex-pat living in NYC who invited me to guest-judge her company, BlissPR's, annual cook-off.  How could I say no to such a deliciously flattering invitation? 

Held in spacious apartment just steps from Washington Square Park, the cook-off began promptly at 6pm on Wednesday, November 4th.  From the moment I exited the elevator on to the 6th floor, I smelled a fragrant bouquet of baked goods and savory dishes.  I was warmly greeted by a an enthusiastic group of approximately 30 BlissPR employees who were busy icing, sprinkling, stirring, topping and slicing the final steps of their submitted recipes.  Having been exposed to various public relations firms within the past year, I've noticed that the industry seems to have shockingly high turnover.  However, after speaking with some of the BlissPR employees at the cook-off, I learned that most of them had been with the company for years.  And who would want to jump ship when the firm has morale building and boosting monthly wine tastings, annual cook-off's, etc.?  This certainly wasn't the same culture that I was used to in finance!

With twelve sweet and savory cook-off submissions, we each had a lot of tasting to do!  From a range of beef meatballs, sweet & sour pork ribs, potato salad; to pumpkin bars, apple crisp, mini pecan pie tarts; each recipe had a unique story or family origin behind it. 

Dishes were judged both on their overall taste and their written description.  My personal favorites included: Banofee Pie, Sweet & Sour Ribs and French Breakfast Puffs (click *here* for some of the cook-off's most popular recipes).   

The first prize winner and recipient of a $100 check went to Emily, who made Seared Beef Tenderloin with Mustard-Horseradish Sauce.  Please enjoy her candid post-triumph photo and prize-winning recipe!

Click *here* to see the rest of the delicious recipes!

Seared Beef Tenderloin with Mustard-Horseradish Sauce
The Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood and its vendors are rooting for these delectable hors d'oeuvres to win the 2009 BlissPR bakeoff. The neighborhood butcher, baker and grocer each contributed a prime ingredient that  together make this dish a star:
The dish starts on 38th Street and 9th Avenue with prime beef tenderloin from Giovanni Esposito and Son’s – a family run butcher and west side favorite for more than 100 years. It then travels up to the Hell’s Kitchen location of the Food Emporium grocery, an NYC-staple, for the basics of the dish including fresh watercress, tarragon, horseradish and sour cream. Next stop is the 6th floor of a walkup building on 44th Street and 9th Avenue, where the ingredients are cooked with great care in a kitchen as old as Giovanni Esposito and Sons (and never updated), where preparing a gourmet meal is always an adventure and sometimes a disaster. The final stop for this Hell’s Kitchen homage is Amy’s Bread on 9th Avenue between 46th & 47th (the unassuming Hell’s Kitchen storefront is the flagship of the popular bakery). There is always line outside of Amy’s at 7:30 am when they first open – and this dish got the first loaf of the day,  a fresh handmade Tuscan Baguette.
For a taste of Hell’s Kitchen in your own neighborhood, don’t be shy to ask your local butcher, baker and grocer to help you find the best and most affordable ingredients to give every meal a gourmet flair.
  • 1 1 1/2-pound piece beef tenderloin (thick end), fat and sinew trimmed
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large bunch watercress, trimmed
  • 1 4-ounce jar capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 French-bread baguette, sliced
  • Mustard-Horseradish Sauce (see below)
Tie beef with kitchen string to hold shape. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Rub 1 tablespoon oil over beef. Add beef to skillet. Sear until brown on all sides and cooked to desired temperature, about 20 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer beef to plate. Freeze until almost frozen solid, about 3 hours. Remove string. Using large sharp knife, cut beef crosswise into very thin slices. (Can be prepared 8 hours ahead. Arrange slices between sheets of waxed paper on baking sheet. Cover tightly and refrigerate.)

Cover large platter with watercress. Arrange beef slices atop watercress. Drizzle with 2 1/2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle with capers and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with lemon juice. Sprinkle with pepper. Serve with baguette slices and sauce.

Mustard-Horseradish Sauce
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons prepared white horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
Mix all ingredients in small bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

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