My apologizes for the delay in announcing our Spar for the Spurtle winner. It’s taken me a few days to organize my thoughts enough to share with you. The event was a resounding success and just about the most fun I’ve ever had at work (with the actual Golden Spurtle winning out). Here’s the deal- it’s hard to recap the whole thing and give you those little details that really made the day. At the end of this post, head over and check out all of our photos. The images convey much more than I can fit into a simple blog post. Props to our very own Julie Garner for the beautiful photography!
On Friday I awoke with the familiar butterflies that signal a day much anticipated. I didn’t have to compete, but was I ever excited about the shindig and also a wee bit nervous about all of the details (would the bagpiper show up on time? would the burners work? would the judges find the store ok?).
Our three contenders kicked off the day with a personal tour with Bob, something few people get to experience and no one ever forgets. I can tell you about our mill history until I’m blue in the face, but it doesn’t compare to hearing the words from Bob himself. I think they all left a little star struck. I hope it didn’t affect their kitchen skills too much!
The Spar for the Spurtle competition kicked off at 2 pm at our Whole Grain Store and Visitors Center on Friday, August 26th with a beautiful bagpipe procession lead by Maire O’Brien. Matthew Cox, our former World Porridge Champion, and Bob welcomed the relatively small crowd of friends and family that had gathered to watch the festivities.
Celebrity judges Rachel MacRitchie, Leather Storrs and Kim Sunée waited with eager appetites to try these dishes for themselves while our three contenders got every last detail settled before Matthew started the clock. Each contestant had 30 minutes to create their dish from start to finish, making timing the key ingredient to success.
Naturally, the burners that worked fine an hour before the competition were finicky and not holding even temperatures, so we had a few minutes of head scratching and tapping on the burners to get them started again. It’s so hard with this kind of thing. On the one hand, we don’t want any of our contestants to have an unfair advantage. On the other hand, this kind of thing did happen at the real Golden Spurtle and no one was going around handing out extra minutes there. BUT, since we are stateside, we made up our own rules and got all the burners started prior to starting the clock. That didn’t keep them from hiccuping during the competition, but at some point, you’ve done all you can do.
My memory is a little blurry, but I believe Jim Schafer was done first with his Nutty Coconut Oatmeal and had the advantage (or disadvantage depending on your perspective) to serve first. What I really liked about Jim’s dish beyond the obvious (read: peanut butter and oatmeal) was that he really took to heart each ingredient. He made his own butter folks. You can’t say that about someone very often. He also made his own almond milk and put a lot of thought into which kind of peanuts and peanut butter he used in his recipe. Additionally, he broke plating tradition and served each judge a unique bowl to demonstrate the versatility of his dish. I was impressed.
Rachel was next up with her Gingerbread Oatmeal with fresh custard. I think Rachel deserves a little bonus point for the sheer simplicity of her dish. It was very traditional porridge with gingerbread spices, molasses and fresh custard. Where Jim went elaborate with ingredients, Rachel went simple. To top it off, she had baked tiny gingerbread heart cookies to place on her dish. Double points for cuteness!
Merry served her Black Bean Porridge Patties last. Of all the recipes that were entered in our competition, this is one that really intrigued me. I love the concept of a breakfast food being used in a new (and savory!) way. Her patties were just so perfect and her pico de gallo looked simple and tasty.
After the judges had tasted all three dishes, they left and kept us waiting for what felt like forever. They came back and handed Bob the result. He happily announced that Merry Graham was our Spar for the Spurtle winner and would be joining our team in Scotland this October to compete in the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship. Merry was very excited and simply beaming.
The judges told us they had a very hard time choosing, but ultimately chose her dish for its taste, creativity, and overall presentation. I was so glad it wasn’t up to me. I think we’d still be there tasting and discussing!
What happens next? Matthew and Merry will train over the phone and work together to get her ready for the Golden Spurtle on October 9th. Merry will be working to get her recipe down to a single burner and learning the ins and outs of making a perfect pot of porridge—all under 30 minutes. We’ll keep you posted on her progress and update you when the competition gets closer.
In the meantime, check out the photos and videos. I’ll be working to get Merry’s recipe along with all of the other amazing recipes that were submitted up here and on our website and will keep you up to date when new recipes are added.