Tuesday, May 5, 2009

McDonald's McCafe coffee and food pairing competition

I'm a bit late in reporting on this, but last week I headed out to the Ashford Dunwoody McDonald's across from Perimeter mall for a pretty cool event. Usually you wouldn't find me in a Mickey D's, but I couldn't resist checking out a McCafe and food pairing competition. Students from the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Atlanta competed to see who could create the best pairing of McDonald's new McCafe beverages and a dish created from anything in the McDonald's kitchen. Kind of like a wine pairing only faster and cheaper!

Judges include several local owner/operators and Chef Dan Coudreaut, the Director of Culinary Innovation for McDonald’s USA. Each student cheftestant came out and served up a pairing and gave a schpiel about what inspired the pairing. They included everything from the mundane combo of a strawberry sundae and a iced mocha to a more original and diet friendly McWaldorf Salad and a iced mocha with a caramel shot.

Phillip McCrillis was the event winner for his dish, the "No Way, Mole!!!" He was awarded a $1,000 scholarship to support his studies. He paired the McCafe Iced Mocha with the following other McDonald's items:

Premium Grilled Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich
Southwestern Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Baked Apple Pie
Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream Cone
Low Fat Caramel Dip

He said of his inspiration, "This pairing consist of flavors from the southwest used in a traditional way...The chicken breast itself was covered in marinade that reminded me of a southwest seasoning... The sandwich comes with ranch, but in my findings with southwest chipotle barbecue sauce was that both of them together on the sandwich tasted amazing. The smokiness of the chipotle balanced with the creaminess of the ranch giving you an overall mouth feel. One sip from the Iced Mocha brought the flavors of the southwest into your mouth. The mixture of bacon, ranch, honey and poultry reminded me of mole -- a traditional Southwestern sauce made up of grinded chocolate, chiles and tomatoes, but the basis is that these flavors meld together in the mouth creating a memorable experience. I knew I needed something sweet to cool my mouth down. I then bought a baked apple pie with ice cream, caramel sauce -- and I crushed up a sugar cone to offer some sweetness to this dish. This really cools the mouth down while providing a nice dessert combination."

I must admit this combination sounds pretty tasty. I used to love dipping fries into my chocolate milkshake when I was a kid - there's just something about a salty/chocolaty sweetness combo that I love. And my newer found love of combining spicy chilis with chocolate adds another layer that makes these flavors even more compelling. I can definitely imagine how this pairing would be pretty darn good - next I'm on a car trip I'll have to check it out! I didn't eat anything while I was there this go 'round, but I did sample an McCafe iced latte, which turned out to be just as good as anything I'm used to drinking, and at $2 bucks and change, it was way cheaper than a Starbucks habit.

I have to say I thought this event as a pretty genius PR concept. What a great way to get people to take McDonald's food seriously, and at the same time they gave a budding culinary professional some help in managing his expensive studies. Congrats Phillip!



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