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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Saturday, October 6

Iron Chef Saratoga!

The Spa City has a new Iron Chef! John Ireland of Panza's Restaurant on Saratoga Lake was crowned champion on Saturday.

John Ireland of Panza's Restaurant
The competition at the Saratoga Farmers' Market pitted bitter enemies (at least if you read into their names) Ireland against Max London of, you guessed it, Max London's.

Max London
Staying true to Iron Chef competitions, the challengers were presented with a basket of their "Mystery ingredients" at the beginning of the show and had an hour to cook. All of the ingredients came from venders at the Farmers' Market and they were also given $30 to buy any others they needed for their recipes.

The secret ingredients were Gar-La-La, kale and lamb. (Dum dum dum!)

London was the two-year reigning champion and came out swinging with a flat bread appetizer, an entree of lamb served with fennel, kale and ricotta gnocchi, closing out the meal with a fruit-filled crepe topped with crème fraiche for dessert.

As you can see from the pictures to the left (all of which were provided by the Farmers' Market), the competition was stiff. Head judge Daniel Berman, a food writer for and contributor to said "only a couple of points separated the two of them." 
But even before the judges rendered a decision, London did not look pleased. It could have been the drizzle of rain or the blowing wind. Ireland said the wind, in particular, made some of his dishes more difficult. However, he did add that the appliances, supplied by Adirondack Appliance, cut down on any issues with outdoor cooking. 

Ireland, maybe looking to prove something against a two-time Iron Chef, pulled no punches. 

He started with a salad of tomato, cucumber, fennel, grilled eggplant oregano, fennel fronds, "Gar-La-La, which is like a garlic, potato… almost a pudding," he said. "It was one of the secret ingredients they gave us along with fennel." 

The second course was lamb with braised kale, fish sauce-bacon jam and Brussels sprouts.

The third dish was an interesting dessert of butternut squash, braised in rice vinegar, pumpernickel, Serendipity goat cheese and plum. The judges praised it for not being too sweet.

 Here are the questions I asked Ireland after he took the title:

Me: So how does it feel have been judged the city’s new Iron Chef? 

Ireland: It feels good, I guess. It’s just cooking but it’s good fun. You have to challenge yourself so it was a good time.
Me: You obviously got the secret ingredient when the competition started and had an hour to prepare, so were these dishes you’ve made before or had to come up with here?

Ireland: I came up with them here when they let me in on the secret ingredient, but I had a baseline. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had an idea of what I wanted things to look like. From there it was just kind of putting pieces together. 

Me: How do you feel about the way the dishes came out?

Ireland: They were okay. There were a couple of things… like I wish my lamb was a little hotter and stupid stuff like that. But nothing crazy, I thought they were okay. 

Me: So what do you do now that you won the Saratoga Springs Farmers Market Iron Chef Challenge? Do you go to Disney World?

Ireland: No. I’ve got to go to work.


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