Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Throwdown with Jonathan and Brad

Reigning Latke Champs
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard
My alternate title for this post is: Latkes, Latkes, Latkes!

The first weekend in December, I SO got to flex both my foodie muscles and my uber-judgmental mean girl muscles. Our friends Eileen and Brad invited us to their annual holiday party: a latke-off between Brad and his college friend Jonathan.

My previous experience with latkes was limited to the frozen kind from Trader Joe's, along with a few courtesy of Debra Salob's mom back in elementary school, during her annual "this is what Hanukkah's all about" presentation. I actually don't remember much about Mrs. Salob's potato pancakes - I think I spent most of those visits inhaling as much gelt as possible - but I'm afraid that the TJ's version of the treat might now be ruined for me forever.

The party itself was really, really fun: I woke up with a horrendous red wine hangover, made worse by the knowledge that I spent at least 30 minutes telling Eileen and Brad how much I loooved their party playlist. But that was just the icing. The latkes were the main event.

Since my version of latkes comes out of a little blue TJ's box and goes straight in the oven, I had no idea that they involved so much work. But grating a thousand potatoes takes time. Brad and Jonathan spent a good hour and a half, if not longer, holed up in the kitchen at the beginning of the party, trash-talking and sweating out their little treats. It was worth it. (As a side note, the trash-talking actually started earlier in the week, when Brad arrived home to find a package on his doorstep containing an apron that said, "I heart Jonathan's Latkes." Brilliant. I wish B. Flay would get inside his opponents' heads like that.)

Both sets of latkes were awesome, and both happened to have the exact same "surprise" theme: Maryland (shocker). Unfortunately, the Old Bay was a little hard to taste in the latkes themselves (though Jonathan's latkes also included scallions, which were an excellent addition). But the master chefs made up for the setback with their condiments: white vinegar that was straight out of Thrasher's French Fries from Jonathan and an Old Bay sour cream from Brad that made us all wonder why we'd never thought of it before. Seriously: I do not understand why every single seafood or chicken-related quesadilla and taco sold in the state of Maryland doesn't come with a side of Old Bay sour cream.

Unfortunately, in my beaujolais haze, I forgot to bring home a copy of the ballots. You'll just have to trust me when I say they were funny. The low score involved the Irish potato famine. Nothing makes me laugh like the suffering of my ancestors. And nothing bolsters my ludicrous sense of self-importance like getting to judge somebody else's hard work.

In the end, Brad eked out a win over Jonathan, who was sent home with a mini crown and a self-esteem-sparing "good effort" ribbon. And I managed not to spill any wine on the furniture (I think).

So really, a good time was had by all. I just hope I get invited back for the rematch. Next time, I promise, I'll keep my musical enthusiasm in check.

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