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Cherry Dishes prove to be big hit in Alexandria

Gale Curcio
By Gale Curcio
Posted on Mar 01,2012
Filed Under Restaurants , Local Tastes,
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Courtesy Photo<br /> <br />J. B. Knapp serves up his award-winning drink, Fire-Roasted Cherry Blossom, to Jay Palermino.
Courtesy Photo
J. B. Knapp serves up his award-winning drink, Fire-Roasted Cherry
Blossom, to Jay Palermino.

ALEXANDRIA, VA.- Twelve years ago, the George Washington Birthday Celebration Committee was looking for a way to get local restaurants involved.

Courtesy Photo<br /> <br />The Cherry Cobbler at King Street Blues was a big hit.
Courtesy Photo
The Cherry Cobbler at King Street
Blues was a big hit.

“We had talked about various kinds of food-related events, and had trouble figuring out what the logistics would be," said Sharon Sobel, who served on the committee for the past 12 years. "We came up within this idea, and with help of restaurant owners and the committee, we got it going.”

That idea is called The Cherry Challenge, “a unique culinary competition only open to Alexandria restaurants.”

The culmination of this year’s competition (the fourth annual) coincided with the George Washington Birthday Parade last week.

Twelve restaurants participated the first year, while this year there was 20 participants. Sobel and others are hoping it will continue to grow.

The competition included restaurants from all over Alexandria. Hundreds of patrons enjoyed the unique dishes that the restaurants come up with that utilize cherries in some fashion.

Each person who ordered the dish or menu item was supplied with a ballot so that they could judge the menu item on taste, presentation and creativity.  Scoring was done by rating both the number of ballots submitted, and how each dish rated in the palates of the citizens who ordered the items.  
 
Votes were tallied up the week of February 12th, and the winners were announced from the parade grandstand during the George Washington Birthday Parade. RedRocks Fire-Roasted Cherry Blossom was also served at the annual Birthnight Ball that was held at Gadsby’s Tavern.

“Some were very close races, so we take into account how many ballots were submitted,” Sobel said.

The competition has four categories that restaurants are allowed to consider: starters, mains, desserts, and drinks. Restaurants can choose one category, or more than one.

Courtesy Photo<br /> <br />Virtue Feed and Grain wins with their Cherry Duck Sausage entrée.
Courtesy Photo
Virtue Feed and Grain wins with their
Cherry Duck Sausage entree.

The winners were:
 
Starters Category:  Cherry Duck Sausage from Virtue Feed and Grain

Entree Category:  Duck a la Cherry  from Murphy’s Irish Pub and Restaurant

Drinks Category:  Fire-Roasted Cherry Blossom from RedRocks

Dessert Category:  Cherry Cobbler from King St. Blues Old Town

Murphy’s Irish Pub placed in the finals with their three-time winning duck entrée.  This was the first year that Tempo Restaurant did not place in any of the categories, although they made a dish for each one of the four categories, and the number of ballots that were returned proved that they know how to market the contest to their sales advantage.  

“It’s a Four-Peat,” said Sobel, as the ballots were tallied, and the judges reviewed the results.

“I really enjoyed this event—it’s been a great week, but maybe not for my waistline,” said Danny Smith, who visited several of the participating restaurants throughout the week. King St. Blues’ Cherry Cobbler wasn’t a new concoction, but rather a revival---it was the same recipe used when the dish was featured on their original menu.

Courtesy Photo<br /> <br />Three-time winner, Duck ala Cherry from Murphy’s Irish Pub and Restaurant.
Courtesy Photo
Three-time winner, Duck ala Cherry from
Murphy's Irish Pub and Restaurant.

The winning restaurants were invited to ride in the George Washington Birthday Parade, on February 20. Winners will be presented with a commemorative plaque during a ceremony in May with Alexandria City Council.

The takeaway of this culinary challenge is that it is really unique,” said Sobel. It is truly decided by the people who patronize restaurants. It has a down home hometown kind of feel – we try to get across with all of our events.”

The George Washington Birthday Celebration Committee currently has eight vacancies. The committee meets on the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m.  For more information, visit http://alexandriava.gov/boards/info/default.aspx?id=2202.


Courtesy Photo<br /> <br />Ballot Boxes were placed at each participating restaurant.
Courtesy Photo
Ballot Boxes were placed at each
participating restaurant.





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