BR's Buffalo Chef's Challenge: Chayote w/Amaryllis
We recently organized the BR Buffalo Chef's Challenge: Chayote in which seven chefs â€śbattledâ€ť one another in a cooking competition. Each restaurant was presented with a mystery ingredient and given 24 hours (give or take a few) to develop an original dish utilizing it. This challenge will be held on a quarterly basis, if you are a restaurant interested in participating in our next challenge, please contact me through email.
For more information regarding this challenge, please see the initial post detailing the event. Each chef is ranked in first, second or third place (which happens to be a tie) or in one of three positions in our honorable mention category. The winners are revealed from honorable mention on up, with the winner being announced on June 14th. Again, please refer to the initial post for more information. For links to the other entries, please see below.
Third Place in BR's Chef's Challenge: Chayote was a challenge in itself. The only thing to do was to declare it a tie. And so we have. Here I offer you the first of the two Third Place winners, highlighted today based on alphabetical order.
Amaryllis is a fantastic restaurant. Located in the building that is also home to the Westbrook Apartments, Amaryllis offers guests an intimate and inviting atmosphere. Chefs and owners Jenn Stainrook and Matt Harrington run a friendly establishment. Friendly not only in the way it treats its staff (not many restaurants serve the much-deserved â€śstaff mealâ€ť anymore), but also in the way it treats the earth and its inhabitants. They buy â€śsharesâ€ť in cows, ensuring that the beef served to their customers is properly fed and raised, they use regional and organic products in every instance possible, and consider the sustainability of the food chain when developing the menu (eating prey, not predators). They even grow their own herbs and beautiful little micro greens.
For the chayote challenge, Stainrook really focused on trying to highlight the flavor of the fruit, not a simple task due to its extremely mild flavor. As with much of the cuisine at Amaryllis, the product was nurtured rather than prepared. By that, I mean, that rather than utilizing a battalion of tools, techniques, textures and flavors, it was instead, like a baby bird, just given the nudge it needed to fly. Self-restraint is a difficult skill for many chefs to learn, and it's exhibited at Amaryllis regularly.
As with almost all of the chefs in this challenge, I had not previously met Stainrook. In my very hectic day, I found her quiet energy to be soothing as showed me her collection of cookbooks and told me about her experimentation with the product. She had done her to best ascertain the changes undergone by the fruit's physical characteristics and flavor profile when prepared in various ways. Watching her talk about the process was riveting, her passion for food shown through in a calm, clear light, free of grandstanding and the need to prove herself. And that is exactly the way in which I would describe her dish.
Small pieces of chayote were roasted quite simply and paired with halves of sweet grape tomatoes and chunks of sharp parmesan cheese. Attractively served in half of a hollowed out chayote rind and decorated with micro greens, the plate was beautiful and the dish aromatic. Upon tasting, I found the chayote's texture to be perfect, the roasting process had not only infused a little nuttiness to the fruit, but had also imparted the perfect amount of tenderness to the the little cubes, leaving them soft, but still architecturally intact. The tomatoes were warm and juicy, and thankfully the fruit had not yet begun to pull away from its skin, a sometimes unappetizing texture in the mouth. The little hunks of cheese added the occasional bite and necessary saltiness to the chayote. Served in this fashion, the chayote was really more pronounced in flavor than in most of the other dishes showcased in the competition.
Amaryllis is one of Buffalo's best restaurants. Though it may not seem like it a t first, they are really a great summer restaurant. The next time you realize you've spent one too many evenings eating hot dogs on a pressure treated deck shored-up by concrete blocks, book a reservation at Amaryllis. The cool, serene ambiance and well-prepared food render it an ideal escape from the hot summer sun.
Amaryllis, 675 Delaware, 14209, 878.2741
Photo by Christa Glennie Seychew