It happened again!
First it happened to Bove's, probably the best restaurant lasagna my husband and I have ever tasted. Bobby Flay challenged them to a "Throwdown" and Boves (shockingly) lost.
Next it just happened to the Peninsula Grill, one of our favorite restaurants in one of our favorite cities -- Charleston. I'm starting to think that the two of us having visited a restaurant jinxes it!
I wrote about our 2006 visit to the Peninsula Grill here. After the meal, I told my husband that if we had a chance to return to Charleston, I'd make a reservation there every night, and we could eat our way through the menu. He didn't think that was a bad idea. Sadly, there won't be a chance to return to Charleston with Southern Living Magazine footing the bill, because they discontinued their annual recipe contest -- a real bummer, because that was my all-time favorite cooking contest to date.
Anyway, back to the episode that featured the Peninsula Grill. The challenge was coconut cake. When I saw the title of the show, I squealed, "COCONUT CAKE -- you'd better be going to Peninsula Grill!!!"
Yeah, I know yelling at the TV is embarrassing, but it runs in the family. My husband yells at Bills and Sabres games. I yell at cooking shows. It freaks out the dog, but we can't seem to help ourselves.
Before I went to the Peninsula Grill, I wasn't a fan of coconut cake. As a result, I ordered a chocolate cake, which is in the foreground. And it was deee-vine. I tasted the coconut cake at the urging of the editor of Southern Living, and the moist cake with lots of rich coconut cream cheese icing made a convert out of me. In fact, it took all the restraint in me to stop at a polite-sized bite of his piece. I've had coconut cake since then, and I've enjoyed it, but none have been as good as that one.
Bobby Flay countered the Peninsula Grill's with a lighter cake with a coconut custard filling and a coconut buttercream. I don't even have to taste the two to know I'd prefer the Peninsula Grill's version. I hate custard filling in general, and I love cream cheese icing.
Here's the thing that's weird about the show. To be really fair, food judging should be done "blind." The judges they pick for "Throwdown" are local. The restaurants they go to are local institutions. As a result, the judges are likely to be very familiar with the restaurant version of the dish they are judging. For the coconut cake challenge, I'm pretty sure Nathalie Dupree was familiar with the coconut cake at the Peninsula Grill -- because she was at the same dinner I was at, when the coconut cake was served! Maybe she didn't eat the coconut cake that night, but given that Nathalie Dupree is a Charleston institution in her own right, it's highly likely she's eaten that cake.
In the end, I suppose it doesn't matter much. The Food Network appears to do a very good job of scouting the "best" of a given dish, so win or lose, it's good publicity for the restaurant to be on the show. And Bobby does have to win once in awhile, or the show would be boring. Even so, I wish Bove's and Peninsula Grill would have won!