Never imagined the day I would be doing intensive research on potato pancakes…and I have a pretty good imagination.
But there I was, doing some last-minute cramming before I headed out to Dubh Linn Square in Cherry Hill to do some more cramming – as in cramming my face with the real deal. I was graciously invited to be a celebrity (heh-heh, yeah, it made me chuckle, too) judge at the first annual Great Potato Pancake Contest. Us celeb judges would be sampling boxtys and latkes that would be made by amateur cooks (or so we thought…more on this later). The winner would get their recipe on the menu at Dubh Linn Square for a year.
First off, let me start by saying that I had my fears about Dubh Linn Square itself. Themed restaurants can work, but they can go horribly wrong, too. From what I could see, I liked the decor and the atmosphere of the place. It’s big, no doubt, but not cavernous. The Irish theme was present but not shoved down my eyeballs and throat.
But enough sightseeing – let’s talk fried starchy goodness. There were seven contestants in the potato pancake contest, and the inspiration for many of them was a family recipe from their mom or grandmother. These were cherished childhood memories being put on display for us to sample and savor. One contestant even had a picture of their 100+ old mother on display at their cooking station. Potato pancakes are seen by and large as comfort food, so it made perfect to see the connection with family.
But family was not everyone’s idea. For a couple of entrants, they looked at the potato pancake as a blank canvas to create something a little different. One of the amateur cooks, who is part of a group of home cooks and foodies that get together regularly to make creative meals, make a latke that incorporated the use of garlic and cinnamon. Very tasty and interesting – Mazel Tov meets Mumbai. And another cook took an Irish boxty and turend it into a culinary work of art, with bacon lovingly added. Yes, I know, everything is better with bacon.
Well, that beautiful boxty ended up winning the contest! But the story doesn’t quite end there. It was later revealed that the winning cook was actually a professional chef.
* dramatic music *
But the good folks who were running the contest came up with a very equitable solution: the Irish boxty gets six months on the menu, and the second place winner will get six months as well. And in the future, there will be two categories in the contest – so the pros will get to play along with the home cooks.
I enjoyed the Great Potato Pancake Contest, and I hope that this becomes another hit event for the South Jersey eating public.
I also want to mention the exciting series of events Dubh Linn Square will be holding for your beer lovers out there. Starting on January 16, they will be having a monthly beer school, erm, sorry, Beoir Scoil class to showcase a different style of brew. The “classes” will be held on the third Monday of every month from 6:30PM to 7:30 PM, and the cost is $20 per person.