Fire in the City: Charlotte

Last night was so much fun! It was packed with local food, fun people and great energy!

Fire in the City

A few weeks ago I was invited to attend Fire in the City as a guest judge. Fire in the City is a competition dining series that takes place all over North Carolina. It kicked off in Charlotte last week and will continue through the end of September when a final chef takes the top prize. It’s a lot like the TV show Chopped, but it features local chefs and local ingredients… and you actually get to taste the food, not just imagine what it tastes like from your couch. Win!

We bought Ryan a ticket so I could have a hot date and the two of us drove to the Bonterra Dining and Wine room a little after 6 p.m. last night. Since Ryan was driving, I was in charge of manning his phone and selecting team members for his fantasy football draft.


(This picture was snapped once we were parked, don’t worry.)

Once Ryan’s team was mostly complete, he set his phone to auto-pick and we headed inside!


The event was set to begin at 7 p.m., so we had about 15 minutes to enjoy a glass of cabernet before taking our seats.


We were seated at a lively table with some fun folks from the D9 Brewing Company who recently opened their own craft microbrewery in Cornelius, North Carolina.

Fire in the City Table

Since D9 Brewing Company provided beer for the event, I was able to try their seasonal pumpkin beer and thought it was fantastic! It was also quite interesting to hear all about the growing pains of their small company from Andrew (one of the founders) and the way they had to open hundreds of cans of Libby’s pumpkin by hand to make the beer. I assured him their effort was worth it! Loved that beer! 

Located at our place at our table was a little card with our name on it that instructed us to download a voting app to use throughout the evening.

Fire in the city app

The app allowed everyone to vote and score each dish anonymously. Additionally, we were never told which chef made which dish. I thought that was a great way to remove any bias from the voting and keep votes focused solely on the food.

A little after 7 p.m. the event kicked off as the enthusiastic host told us more about the food we would be enjoying, the chefs competing and the secret ingredients.

Earlier that day Chef Brent Martin from The Summit Room and Chef Jon Spencer from Epic Chophouse were told that they had to incorporate each of the two secret ingredients into two of the three course they were going to prepare for 150 guests that evening. The secret ingredients for last night’s event were Fogwood Food blueberry syrup and ribeye from the Back Creek Angus Farm in North Carolina.

Fire in the City Truck

As the courses were served, we had no idea who prepared what but had a blast tasting the delicious food and discussing it with everyone at our table. 

Course One:

Rib Carpaccio

Certified Angus Beef Brand Heart of Rib Carpaccio, Pickled Vegetable & Arugula Salad Laced with Fogwood Foods Blueberry Syrup Mustard Vinaigrette

beef thai mango salad

Grilled Certified Angus Beef Brand Beef with Thai Green Mango Salad, Curried Yucca Crisps, Red Pepper Oil

For the first course, both dishes looked beautiful and tasted great, but my favorite was definitely Chef Brent Martin’s beef with the Thai mango salad and curried yucca crisps. It was full of flavor and the yucca crisps were unreal. I want to try to recreate them at home!

Course Two:

Ribeye Spinalis

Certified Angus Beef Brand Ribeye Spinalis Braciole stuffed with Johnston County Smoked Pork Shoulder, Ashe County Romano Cheese & Herbs; Served over U.A.V. Hay Mozzarella, Ashe County Romano, Goat Cheese, Fogwood Foods Blueberry Syrup Risotto with Cabernet Blueberry Sauce

Eye of Rib

Seared Certified Angus Beef® Brand Eye of Rib, Mashed Beef Fat Fingerlings, Fogwood Foods Blueberry Syrup & Shallot Jam, Pickled Chard Ribs, Blueberry Demi, Chive Oil

Course two had our table divided. I preferred Chef Jon Spencer’s ribeye spinalis braciole (the first dish) and thought the accompanying risotto was wonderful. Chef Brent Martin’s fingerling potatoes were awesome but found the meat in his dish a little underseasoned, which seemed to be the popular opinion at our table as well.

Course Three:

Chocolate Pistachio Dessert

Marquise au Chocolat over Pistachio & Fogwood Foods Blueberry Syrup Crust, with Blueberry Syrup Gastrique

mascarpone semi freddo

Mascarpone Semi Freddo with Fogwood Foods Blueberry Syrup & Orange, Maple Praline Almonds, Cat’s Tongue Cookies, Almond Cream, Wine-Poached Summer Berries, Blueberry Mousse

The third course of the evening featured my favorite dish of the night! Chef Jon Spencer’s marquise au chocolat dish was on another level of amazing. Our table could not stop singing its praises. The pistachio crust was phenomenal and I have already put in a request for this recipe! I’m salivating right now just thinking about it!

With all of the courses complete, the chefs were introduced to a chosen theme song (so fun!) and we were able to learn more about them which made the whole event feel a little more personal.


Then it was time for the big unveiling! All of the scores we submitted throughout the evening using the competition dining app were tallied and revealed on a screen, course by course. It was also at this time that we found out what chef made what dish!

In the end Chef Jon Spencer won by less than one point. It was crazy close and both chefs truly deserved to win. (In case you are curious, you may see how the scoring broke down course-by-course here.)

Ryan and I didn’t get home until close to 11 p.m. and spent most of the drive talking about the food and the event. It was so much fun!


I opted out of my morning workout this morning, but I am hoping I’ll be able to sneak in a run or something with Sadie before we hit the road for Florida this afternoon. It’s MOVING TIIIIIIME. 

Hope you guys are having a great Wednesday!


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