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If you were reading this blog a little over a year ago, you may remember that I traveled to Portland, Maine to be a judge in the Hood New England Dairy Cook-Off. It was exciting to be a judge in a cooking competition, and delicious to taste local food made by New England chefs, not to mention a lot of fun to spend the day and night in Portland. On a random, personal note, the trip happened two days after I quit my job, and I had pneumonia, but somehow I made it!


Hood New England Dairy Cook Off

This year, I will be in California during the cook-off, which is November 6, but the awesome people at Hood are allowing me to give away a pair of tickets to the event (travel and accommodations not included). If you are going to be in Portland, ME or need a reason to be, just leave a comment below letting me know your favorite dairy product (if you eat dairy) and how you like to eat it. I’ll choose a winner this weekend so that person can get started planning!


More information about the Hood New England Dairy Cook-Off

Annual Hood® New England Dairy Cook-Off®

Celebrity Chef Tom Pizzica Among 2011 Judges

LYNNFIELD, MA (October 17, 2011) – HP Hood today announced the 30
semifinalists who will compete for the $10,000 grand prize in the 3rd Annual Hood®
New England Dairy Cook-Off® presented by Hood Sour Cream. Judges for the 2011
event include Tom Pizzica, star of Food Network’s “Outrageous Food” and finalist
on “The Next Food Network Star.” Pizzica will join a panel of four other food experts
to judge the final round of the competition.

The Hood New England Dairy Cook-Off gives amateur cooks from across New
England the chance to compete in a head-to-head cook-off at the Ocean Gateway
Terminal in Portland, Maine, on November 6th, 2011. All recipes are original and
include at least one Hood dairy product in the following five categories: breakfast/
brunch; soups/chowders; appetizers/side dishes; lunch/dinner (entrée); and

The additional final round judges include Patti Woods, an award-winning journalist
and food blogger; J. Desmond Keefe III CEC, CCE, Culinary Instructor, Southern New
Hampshire University; Peggy Poole, Vice President of Quality Systems & Regulatory
Affairs, HP Hood; and Amy Traverso, Senior Lifestyle Editor from Yankee Magazine.

Judges will select the winning dish based on taste appeal, presentation/appearance,
and creativity/originality.

Veronica Callaghan, Glastonbury – Banana-Chai French Toast with Creamy Maple-
Walnut Syrup(Breakfast/Brunch)
Erika Fuery, Colchester – Roasted Butternut Squash and Salami Soup(Soups/
Lisa Keys, Middlebury – Pan Roasted Tomato Pie with Garlic Cream
Drizzle(Appetizers/Side Dishes)
Alli Masse, East Windsor – In Da “Hood” Chicken and Cheese Casserole(Lunch/
Marie Connor, Mystic – Mystic Magic Chocolate Tart(Dessert)

Lisa Caruso, South Portland – Noggy Berry-Buckle(Breakfast/Brunch)

Mary Lou Dahle, Durham – Creamy Fresh Tomato-Arugula Soup with Cheese and
Basil Crostini(Soups/Chowders)
Mary K. Blenk, Cumberland – Pan-Roasted Bacon Salmon Cakes with Creamy
Velvet Cheese Sauce(Appetizers/Side Dishes)
Jessie Grearson, Falmouth – Tandoori Express Chicken Naanwiches with Sour
Cream Raita and Buttermilk Mango Lassi(Lunch/Dinner)
Kimberly Parsons, Hampden – Rhubarb Spiced Baby Cakes(Dessert)

Elinor Ives, Fiskdale – Edgartown Crab Hash Benedicts with Lemon Dill
Paulette Di Angi, Osterville – Madagascar Corn Soup with Cilantro-Chili Oil and
Polenta Flatbread(Soups/Chowders)
Sophia Pattas, Northborough – New England Style Clam Chowder Rangoons with
Creamy Chowder Dipping Sauce(Appetizers/Side Dishes)
Maureen Donovan, Lynn – Seafood Pasta(Lunch/Dinner)
Scott Cohen, Charlestown – Cognac Cocoa Custard(Dessert)

Holly Campbell, New Boston – Fruity Brickle Breakfast Biscuit Blintzes(Breakfast/
Julie Sgroi, Exeter – Caribbean Chicken Chowder(Soups/Chowders)
Kevin Towle, Gonic – Mini Feta Basil Cheesecake with Sun Dried
Tomatoes(Appetizers/Side Dishes)
Joan Churchill, Exeter – Pan Roasted Pears and Pork with Leek Coulis in a Cream-
Pear Reduction with an Herb-Crusted Pear and Pork Dice(Lunch/Dinner)
Denise LaRoche, Hudson – Caramelized Raspberry White Chocolate Bread

Mary Jo Fletcher LaRocco, North Kingston – Oatmeal Shortcakes with Fresh
Cranberry-Blueberry Sauce and Cinnamon Maple Cream(Breakfast/Brunch)
Corinne Dillingham, Westerly – Decadent Seafood & Corn Soup(Soups/Chowders)
Dan Rinaldi, Cranston – Surf and Turf Sliders with Maine Lobster
Sauce(Appetizers/Side Dishes)
Zan Nordlund, Cranston – Tempura Waffles(Lunch/Dinner)
Patricia Dilorio, Cranston – Maple Mini Rice Pies(Dessert)

Joanna Scott, Milton – Taste of Fall Savory Crepes(Breakfast/Brunch)
Ellen Stark, Williston – YaYa’s Spring Time Soup(Soups/Chowders)
Thomas Young, Swanton – “Eggplantainini Sensation” – Heaven for the
Vegetarian(Appetizers/Side Dishes)

Carolyn Wheel, Fairfax – Poached Scallops in Saffron Cream Sauce(Lunch/Dinner)
Beth Gary, Milton – Velvet “Noodles” in Lemon Cream(Dessert)

“Hood is committed to providing home and professional cooks with the very
best dairy ingredients for all of their recipes,” said Chris Ross, Vice President of
Marketing, HP Hood. “In the three years we’ve held the Hood New England Dairy
Cook-Off, we’ve been impressed by the creativity of our entrants, their passion for
cooking and their loyalty to Hood products. We look forward to another exciting

Each of the 30 semifinalists selected to attend the Cook-Off will receive a prize of
$100. One winner from each category will advance to the finals for the $10,000
grand prize. Finalists who do not win the grand prize will each receive $500.

For more information on the Hood New England Dairy Cook-Off, please log onto
HoodCookOff.com. For more information on Hood, please visit Hood.com or become
a fan of Hood at Facebook.com/HoodCookOff.

About Hood

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Tags: events, giveaway, Portland

Being a blogger has definitely given me some amazing opportunities, and this weekend, the chance to be a judge in the Hood New England Chef’s Challenge brought my first opportunity to judge a cooking competition.

Because I was a judge in the competition, my hotel room at the brand new Residence Inn in downtown Portland was provided for free. The hotel was beautiful, very clean, spacious, modern, and ideally located across the street from the Ocean Gateway Terminal, the site of the Hood events for the weekend. The hotel was also blocks from many great bars and restaurants and gave us a chance to go out and about after the competition.

The hotel was also practically connected to the Shipyard Brewing Company, so we also had the chance to visit the brewery store to pick up some great local beer to bring back to Boston.

Residence Inn Portland Residence Inn Portland
island roses Shipyard beer

Everything about the weekend was wonderful, from the waterside accommodations (where, as you can see, island roses were still blooming!) to the food, and most of  all the Hood New England Chef’s Challenge competition.

Portland Harbor

Prior to heading to the competition, I met up with Amy from Poor Girl Gourmet. Amy is one of my favorite bloggers and recently published a book. Once we were inside the Ocean Gateway Terminal, we met up with my friend and fellow blogger, Michelle from Fun and Fearless in Beantown. I was honored to be included on a judging panel with such fun, great writers!

food bloggers

Once the competition officially kicked off, the chefs had an hour to create a holiday dish using Hood sour cream. During that time, the judges were allowed to wander around to check in on what the chefs were cooking up. Our New England chefs were:

Connecticut, Chef “Red” Keith Lanphear, Black Rock Tavern

Massachusetts, Chef Josh Ziskin, La Morra

Rhode Island, Chef Matt Jennings, La Laiterie Bistro

Vermont, Chef Steve Atkins, The Kitchen Table Bistro

New Hampshire, Chef Evan Mallett, Black Trumpet Bistro

Maine, Chef Gary Cartwright, Stripers

Chef Keith Lanphear Chef Gary Caron
Chef Steve Atkins Chef Matt Jennings
Chef Evan Mallett Chef Josh Ziskin

The smells in the room were amazing, and maybe at times, a little overpowering! There was so much activity and prep going into each chef’s dish, and to help them out, they had culinary school students as assistants in their demo kitchens.



harvest bread pudding

One of the standouts for me during the cooking portion of the competition was learning from each chef, as he cooked, how many local ingredients each of the chefs used. From locally foraged mushrooms to Granby Farms and Misty Knoll Farms turkeys, organic local sweet potatoes, and of course, the Hood sour cream, it seemed like the majority of the ingredients were carefully sourced from local farms. I think it was definitely reflected in the taste and quality of the food.

Harvest Bread Pudding

Each and every dish was beautiful, and it was difficult to decide on a winner!

chicken stuffed with kale image
chicken with spaetzle
The winning dish! A Hungarian-inspired chicken with spaetzle.
sweet potato gnocchiimage

As the chefs finished their dishes, the panel of judges went up to each station, were briefed on the dish, and then got to sample a bite before quickly moving on to the next chef. I think everyone agreed that the food needs to be cooked and tasted in a staggered time period next time as we were rushing around trying to taste everything right when it was done.

The final products were as follows: a harvest bread pudding with bacon brittle and sour cream ice cream from Chef Cartwright, sweet potato gnocchi from Chef Mallett, kale-stuffed chicken with mushroom polenta from Chef Ziskin, a chicken and spaetzle dish from Chef Lanphear, a deconstructed turkey pot pie from Chef Jennings, and a turkey tetrazzini from Chef Atkins.

We judged each dish on presentation, creativity, and taste, and when all was tasted and done, Chef Lanphear was the winner! I loved the rich, warm, spiced sauce and the tender chicken in Chef Lanphear’s dish, and I am not sure if I am allowed to say this. . . but it was my favorite. Each dish had some sort of outstanding quality, and I would have loved to have had the chance to sit down to eat more of each!

New England Chef Challenge

I love New England, the holidays, autumn, and Hood products, so it was a lot of fun to be able to judge chefs from around the region doing what they do best. I felt a little like a Food Network celebrity judge for the day, and I would judge another competition in a heartbeat! Thank you to Hood and everyone involved in making the weekend so memorable and fun.

Do you watch cooking shows or competitions on TV? What is your favorite?

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Tags: competition, cooking, Food, Hood, ME, Portland, sour cream

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to visit Portland, Maine for the Hood New England Chef’s Challenge. As a judge, the PR company that represented Hood gave me a complimentary hotel room, and since the competition was only part of the day, my husband, friends, and I spent some time wandering around Portland. Portland is an amazing foodie city, small, easily walk-able, and although cold, was a great place to spend the weekend.

I will recap the Chef’s Challenge tomorrow, but for tonight thought I would share some of our delicious Portland eats. We started at Duck Fat, a place well-known for its fries. And fries we ate. We ordered two cones of fries with every dipping sauce that Duck Fat has to offer, along with a Geary’s Autumn Ale.

Duck Fat Geary's Autumn Ale
Geary's Autumn Ale

The fries were very good but not the best I have ever had. My favorite part was most definitely the truffle ketchup with the fries. All of the dipping sauces, the horseradish aioli, the curry, the mustard, really made the fries, and the Geary’s Autumn Ale was the perfect pairing and a great way to control our hunger as we waited for an 8:15 dinner.

Duck Fat fries Duck Fat fries
Fore Street
Perrier Jouet

My friend Meghan’s birthday dinner was at Fore Street, one of Portland’s best-known restaurants, and a simply amazing choice. Fore Street is incredibly warm and cozy with a central, open kitchen and an emphasis on local ingredients.

We toasted with Perrier-Jouet Brut to ring in the birthday girl’s 30th year and feasted on oysters to start off the meal.

For my entrée, I had the bluefish with a hen’s egg. The egg was delicious, as were the veggies. The bluefish was good but a little too fishy for me.


We also split a bunch of sides: some to die for balsamic glazed beets, turnips, and heavenly mashed potatoes. All of those were perfection, and I could make a dinner out of sides.

On the way out I snagged a photo of the room where Fore Street keeps their vegetables. Isn’t it just beautiful?

Fore Street

We truly ate and drank to the best of our abilities in Portland, and I can not wait to return. It’s only about 2 hours from Boston, and there are SO many places to eat! We have barely scratched the surface.

Have you been to Portland? Any recommendations for our next trip?

Duck Fat on Urbanspoon

Fore Street on Urbanspoon

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Tags: Food, Portland, Travel

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