The culinary world adores the “elevation” of simple, comforting dishes. And there’s something captivating about the process that draws diners to such dishes. It’s the promise of something familiar, recognizable, and consoling, presented in a new, vibrant, and (hopefully) more impressive way. It’s the reason we pay $17 for a bowl of “grown-up” macaroni and cheese, $6 for a foie gras donut, and $22 for a plate of fancified fried chicken. There’s a part of you, perhaps, that recognizes the ridiculousness of it all, but there’s also something in you that hopes to find that small spark of genius. Perhaps it’s that shaved black truffle on your shrimp and grits, the crispy guanciale in your BLT, or the Gruyère and leek confit in your grilled cheese that keeps you coming back for more of these “reinvented” classics.
One cannot eat more humbly than frozen pizza. What’s more, one does not eat more humbly than a Totino’s frozen pizza—those frozen discs of delight, the circles of satisfaction many of us grew up on. They’re simple to prepare, relatively filling, and when it comes to affordable—or downright cheap—you cannot beat the $1 pizza’s price tag.
But the lowly Totino’s often gets neglected in our adult years, a time where we seldom consider the opportunities afforded by these humble pizza pies. So in celebration of this freezer isle favorite, a group of local foodies participated in, what I have deemed, the “Totino’s Throwdown.” From all over Little Rock, talented home cooks have applied their culinary creativity to create some of the most inventive Totino’s based dishes you’ll ever find.
The rules were simple. 1) Take a Totino’s. 2) Dress it up.
Each contestant sent me a photo of his or her creation. We created a photo album on our Facebook page and asked followers to vote (via the “like” button) for their favorite dish.
Here are the results...
If you were one of the 3,000 folks who packed the Bernice Sculpture Garden and South Main Street on Saturday for the 2nd Annual Cornbread Festival, or even if you weren't, you'll want to know the winners of the cornbread contests, chosen by a panel of celebrity judges and festival attendees.
Best Professional Traditional — Fresh Ideas at Philander Smith.
Best Professional Non-Traditional — Loblolly Creamery.
Best Professional Sweet — Brown Sugar Bake Shop.
Best Professional Overall — Fresh Ideas at Philander Smith.
Best Side Item — The Root.
Best Amateur Sweet — No entries, no winner. And this is my favorite kind of cornbread. Hmph.
Best Amateur Non-Traditional — William Fisher.
Best Amateur Traditional — Terry Wright.
Best Amateur Overall — William Fisher.
Best in Show — Fresh Ideas at Philander Smith, taking home $500.
Amateurs and professionals in the three categories (traditional, non-traditional and sweet) won $100, a T-shirt and a gift basket. Overall winners also won a trophy and a trophy and a cast iron Dutch oven went to The Root for Best Side Item. Best in show also won $500.
The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the museum of black Arkansas entrepreneurship at 501 W. 9th St., is accepting entries for its first annual "Say it Ain't Say's" Sweet Potato Pie contest, open to both amateur and professional bakers. (The contest’s name refers to retired restaurateur Say McIntosh, famed for his sweet potato pies.)
Entries must be from scratch and not store-bought. Deadline to enter is Nov. 17; pies will be displayed and judged at the museum’s Holiday Open House 2-5 p.m. Dec. 2. The first eight amateur entries and first five professional entries will be accepted.
Prizes will be awarded for 1st and 2nd choice in each category and there will be a People’s Choice Award presented to the crowd favorite. Contest rules and entry forms can be picked up at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center or downloaded from the museum's website. Call 683-3593 for more information.
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