CHALLENGER NO. 1
Colin Alevras from The Tasting Room
Cheapavore chef Alevras was the odds-on favorite going into battle, if not for his considerable foraging expertise and cooking talent, then for the amount of time he spends hobnobbing at the city’s Greenmarkets. Like corn in August, he’s such a familiar sight at the Union Square mother ship that one wonders whether he moonlights there on his days off. His menu was brilliantly seasonal and took some chances, starting with the “vinaigrette” he improvised from Flying Pigs Farm bacon and rhubarb juice, for his crunchy salad of raw carrots, burdock, and chives. Right out of the gate, however, a startling confession: “I used Maldon sea salt,” he said sheepishly, taking a big fat penalty point rather than sacrificing flavor or putting money into the coffers of the eco-unfriendly upstate salt mine he found on Google. Next, he unleashed a hog choker, an obscure by-catch that Blue Moon’s Alex Villani would normally throw in for free. “I knew I was going to buy fish,” says Alevras, who ended up paying $3 for two scaly half-pound specimens. “You can always find something for $1 or $2 a pound, and whole fish is cheaper.” Steamed and roasted, the rough-scaled flatfish, named for its habit of lodging in pigs’ throats, was remarkably sweet and creamy, albeit not the meatiest fish in the sea. Anise hyssop made a fragrant garnish for a delicious finale of honey-sweetened strawberries and creamy ricotta.
Pluses: Points for ingenuity and outstanding flavor and a terrific seasonal, summery feel.
Minuses: What Alevras saved on protein for his main course he blew on boutique bacon for his salad. That profligacy ($7.38), plus the 221 miles his honey traveled from Van Etten, New York, to Elizabeth Street, cost him.
Finish: Third place.