Saturday, March 12

National Maple Syrup Festival

This morning found me traveling south for almost two hours to judge the Sweet Victory Challenge at Burton's Maplewood Farm. A nice, leisurely drive through small towns and winding roads. The sky was happy to be back in blue and held tight to the warm sun and fluffy clouds, in other words...a perfect day for a drive.

Arriving earlier than needed for the desserts (I swear I didn't request it, it just happened) competition, I was able to meander about and meet folks, sample goodies and pick up a little festival fever. The season isn't in full swing yet, and the National Maple Syrup Festival was a good way to prime the pump.

Master of Ceremonies was Scott Hutcheson, a talented writer, food critic and family man well known throughout the Midwest. As an admirer of his writing style and knowledge, meeting him outside of Facebook made my life better. Other judges included Angie Burton of Burton's Maplewood Farm, Brian Blackford of Indiana Office of Tourism and Development and Paula Haney of Hoosier Mama Pie Company.

The contestants had been narrowed down to five finalists and awaited for the judging to cap the sweets winner. The requirement? Use Burton's Maplewood Farm's maple syrup and King Arthur all-purpose flour in the recipe.

Second place
Entries included, maple molasses shoo fly pie bars with walnuts, Indonesian coconut maple syrup dumplings, petite maple pudding cakes, maple sweet potato toffee cheesecake and double peanut butter chocolate and maple syrup pudding. Chef identities were concealed, naturally; so I will name the winner by the dish.

Second place went to the unusual idea recipe of Indonesian dumplings. Presented in a glass cylinder, the dumplings rested in a maple-coconut milk and garnished with fresh mint. The creativity rating on this dish was high...who thinks to make dumplings for dessert? The presentation contained the wow factor and, in my opinion, would have won had it not been for the intricacy of the winning entry.

Top honor went to the sweet potato cheesecake with bourbon whipped cream. This dessert was
complicated, consisting of numerous layers, chocolate, sweet potato, toffee, etc., but each layer held its place without melting into the underlying layer. The recipe was time-consuming and detail-oriented. A lot of pride and love went into this dessert. When the private chef came out to accept the title, he beamed as a person does who has worked hard and is enjoying the results of that effort.

It is completely worth the drive and time when it is obvious effort and passion were infused into the competition's entry. Each dish had good aspects and flaws, but certainly each one was well thought out and executed by talented cooks from around the state.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer, music, restaurant and theater critic. Catch her as Indy’s Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC and follow her on Twitter @ejmusgrave1 and Facebook. Gotta Go is published in the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, New Palestine Reporter, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.
Photos: EJMusgrave; Burton's Maplewood Farm

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