Supper Punch!!! (Week 1)

First, there was Garden Wars where three gentlemen engaged in an epic battle for agricultural supremacy. Now, there’s Supper Punch, an equally epic battle, but this time between four local food enthusiasts and the cuisine they lovingly put forth each week.

Voting for week 1 of Supper Punch!!! is now closed. Congratulations to our winner, Nick Dawson! And a special thanks to everyone who voted. Tune in on Wednesday, September 1 for the next round.

First, there was Garden Wars where three gentlemen engaged in an epic battle for agricultural supremacy. Now, there’s Supper Punch, an equally epic battle, but this time between four local food enthusiasts and the cuisine they lovingly put forth for consumption.

Each week, our competitors will submit two photos and a brief commentary (including ingredients and prep time) on a recently-completed dish of their choosing. You, our readers, will then declare a winner for the week by voting in the comments. Your vote can be based on whatever you like: creativity, good use of local products, what you want to put in your belly at that exact moment, whatever.

The competition will go on for a total of nine weeks. The winner will be awarded with glory and honor. And hopefully our readers will walk away with a little culinary inspiration.

Before we begin, let’s get to know our competitors.

First up, we have Sarah Bonkovsky, tireless contributor to Fan of the Fan and a gluten-free mother of three who loves to eat food from her own and nearby gardens. She also describes herself as “slightly lazy, distracted, and messy in the kitchen.” Don’t let her self-deprecating tone fool you — she can BRING IT.

Next up is Jennifer Carnam, Vice President of Marketing for the Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau (RMCVB) with 30+ years of experience. She’s a California native, a Boston Red Sox fan (by marriage), wife to Allyn, mother to Lex, and step-mother to Lincoln and Todd. She is also the most fun.

Then we have Ross Catrow, co-founder of local web design firm PharrOut, lover of beer, butter, and his family. He’s perhaps best-known as the master and commander of the good ship RVANews. Occasionally he takes a picture or two (you can see documentation of his Supper Punch candidates here).

Finally there’s Nick Dawson who recalls early memories of watching PBS cooking shows while home sick from school. By day he works in hospital administration, focusing on improving on the patient experience; by night he is a fan of all things porcine, a curer of meats, a producer of pickles, and a lover of simple foods done very well. He describes himself as “passionate about local, sustainable foods and their producers.”

Now that everyone has said their hellos, we declare Supper Punch…. BEGUN!

Bonkovsky: Trio of Grilled Pizzas

I have strange allergies which keep me from eating most restaurant or store-bought pizzas: gluten and oregano. And, because I love pizza so, I have decided I need to perfect a recipe at home. Two of these pizzas were done on Udi’s crust (bought from Ellwood Thompson’s) and one is done on a homemade crust. These pizzas were also grilled because that makes them taste yummy and it’s nice not to heat up your kitchen in the depths of summer. I’ve also found that my kids love to help make pizza (anytime they help make dinner they are more likely to eat it) and I can adapt each pizza to differing tastes.

Helpful tip when grilling pizza: put crust on grill top down to brown that side, then add toppings and grill again.

Pesto, Goat Cheese, and Artichoke Pizza: artichoke hearts; goat cheese; pesto

Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Pizza: garlic; olive oil; mozzarella; tomatoes; basil

Pepperoni Pizza: garlic; olive oil; red pepper flakes; tomato paste; mozzarella; pepperoni

Time spent
25 to 45 minutes, depending on crust and level of “help”

Carnam: Baked Wild Salmon with Cherry-Mango Salsa & Arugula Salad with St. Germain Vinaigrette

Nothing gets a girl excited like the massive September issue of Vogue waiting to be devoured. It was only fitting for me to gather some of my favorite edible things to celebrate my foray into 726 pages of fashion fantasy. For Sunday’s dinner menu, I gathered some of nature’s best in-season bounty, with a color palette sure to catch even Anna Wintour’s eye.

Baked Wild Salmon: fresh wild Sockeye salmon; brown sugar; finely grated orange peel; freshly ground black pepper

Cherry-Mango Salsa: mango; fresh cherries; fresh basil and mint; balsamic vinegar

Arugula Salad: arugula; sliced strawberries; white nectarines; goat cheese; pine nuts, fresh figs (to garnish)

St. Germain Vinaigrette: St. Germain elderflower liquor (or as I call it “Nectar of the Gods); extra virgin olive oil; balsamic vinegar; Dijon mustard

Time spent
2+ hours to marinate fish; 25 minutes to bake and make salsa; 15 to 20 minutes to toast pine nuts, chop fruit and mix dressing

Catrow: Quick Pan-Chili Over Quinoa & Tomato, Queso Blanco, and Green Bean Salad

Most times when I’m making dinner I don’t really know where I am going to end up. I had some lamb and rosemary sausage that I needed to get rid of along with an assortment of vegetables/sundries. Armed with my cast iron pan, I began. I took the sausage out of the casing and pan fried it and set it aside. Next, I sauteed some diced onions and some of the poblano peppers (which were insanely hot — way more than they should have been) in the sausage fat, while boiling some tomatoes (so I could skin them). Then I added most of a can of (rinsed) black beans to the pan, chopped and added the tomato, tore up some basil, added a bit of water and let it cook for a while. Finally, I put the sausage back in and let it cook for a bit more. BAM. Something that turned out to be chili. Tasted great.

Chili: lamb and rosemary sausage; diced onions; poblano peppers; tomatoes; black beans

Salad: olive oil; tomatoes; queso blanco; green beans; olive oil, salt, pepper (to taste)

Time spent
40 minutes, probably

Dawson: Cured Chorizo and Potato Tacos

This week, I made home cured chorizo and potato tacos. The tacos were topped with homemade guacamole, a cilantro and apple cider slaw, a house pickled tomato salsa, and queso fresco. Our goal was to use the chorizo I have been curing along with some other ingredients, as many as possible local, to create a homage to Richmond’s own Nate’s Taco Truck. The chorizo started life as a pork butt from our friends at Mt. Run Farm in Bedford Co. I ground, cured and stuffed it, leaving the links to hang in my “salumeria” for nearly 4 weeks. After a slow rendering that crisped up the sausage and left a nice layer of spicy saffron-colored oil, the shredded potatoes went in. For the slaw, some garlic, sea salt and a hand full of cilantro met the mortar and pestle and came out as a smooth paste that joined some apple cider vinegar and more salt to create a crunchy cabbage. The tomatoes came from Victory Farms and spent 3 weeks in a brine becoming pickled with extreme prejudice. They were pureed into a “salsa” unlike any other. We served the end result to some friends who didn’t arrive in town in time for a trip to Nate’s. They were spicy, tangy, crunchy — a mouthful of awesome.

Cabbage slaw: small head of cabbage; sea salt; garlic;cilantro

Others: corn tortillas (store bought); house cured chorizo; shredded new potatoes; homemade guacamole w/ lime and garlic; diced jalapenos; queso fresco; pureed pickled grape tomatoes

Time spent
About an hour

Ok, readers, now it’s up to you. Cast your votes for this week’s winner in the comments and tell us…


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  1. I am so conflicted:

    I love Bonkovsky because 1) three kinds of pizza and 2) I appreciate her determination to find something that works with her dietary restriction that her kids will eat.

    Carnam’s meal just looks so FANCY.

    I actually got to eat Catrow’s meal and I know for a fact that it was delicious.

    I have to love anything inspired by Nate’s Taco Truck.

    I’m going to have to think about this.


  3. Jeremiah on said:

    Ross I love you, but I”m going with the tacos!


  4. Renee on said:

    Hmmm…Carnam’s meal looks fantastic, but I think I’ll have to give it to Dawson for the home-cured Chirizo and the “pickled with extreme prejudice” VF tomatoes.

  5. Katherine on said:

    I vote for Jennifer because I love a good before and after pic. Also I love wine.

  6. Shane on said:

    You have to be kidding me right. Homemade chorizo tacos? Guacamole? The phrase “extreme prejudice” He’s playing right into my wheelhouse. Dawson FTW.

  7. My vote is for Nick Dawson. Because we have some Dawson-cured sausage and other meats in our fridge right now, and though I am not allowed to eat them at the moment, they are beautiful. And I want those tacos right now.

  8. This is even harder than Garden Wars because unlike gardens which I don’t have, I LOVE FOOD.

    While I love Dawson’s photos and tacos in general, and as a fashionista appreciate that Carnam threw in her September Vogue, homemade pizza will get me every time.

    I’m salivating at work right now. I vote Bonkovsky

  9. Ryan Smartt on said:

    Good stuff, guys. VERY tough decision. But I’m going to have to go with Carnam in week 1. Because I love every single ingredient she used.

  10. Erin on said:

    Gotta go with Jennifer – light and delish. Bring on the Omega 3s!

  11. I’m with Holly, gotta go with Bonkovsky.

    And because I didn’t vote for my husband, I’m probably on my own for dinner for the foreseeable future. Bonkos, I’m eating at your house!

    (Although I love, love, love that Carnam created a meal specifically for going through Vogue. Cracks me up.)

  12. Ross needs some love, and that’s the meal I most want to eat, actually ( as long as the sausage meets my local/”healthy” parameters, since I’m otherwise all-veg). This is gonna be fun. Lovely meals, all!

  13. really, dawson?

    i am all in for the TACOS.

  14. Ross, you really got me going. That plate looks perfect.

  15. Kristen on said:

    Sarah! All the way. Pizza is the food of the gods… so I hear.

  16. wendy on said:

    My vote goes for Jennifer, wonderful ingredients and flavor combinations.

  17. Holy cow I’m totally ready for lunch now and would like at least one of these selections to be delivered!

    I’m on board with the Charizo tacos, they look and sound amazing.

  18. Dave on said:

    Oh God, we have to go through this AGAIN? Garden Wars was awful and now we’re going to get nine weeks of this garbage? I remember when RVANews was fun to read.

  19. I don’t know about anyone else, but *I’m* having fun reading this.

  20. Melanie on said:

    I think it’s actually kind of boring too. Sorry.

  21. @maggi The sausage was from the Belmont Butcher. I’m all veggie except for trustworthy meats, of which Belmont is an excellent source.

  22. You had me at chorizo… Dawson.

  23. Kristi on said:

    I love this!

    My vote goes to Ross… YUM!

  24. Leslie Taylor on said:

    Jennifer all the way. She had me with the Vogue and the wine…but the salmon looks amazing!! The question is, how can I talk her out of the recipe??

  25. Julie on said:

    No article will be all things to all readers, all of the time. If you don’t want to read this, click another link. Etiquette lady should smack your typing fingers with the ruler of manners or something.

    I vote Bonkovsky…all things pizza are full of win. Having the steam to work around the food sensitivities AND deal with kid “helpers”…awesome.

    I wish Mike Derks could participate in this, the guitarist for GWAR & sometimes RVA bartender is totally Iron Chef material. The chocolate covered bacon was delicious, true story.

  26. MG Insider on said:

    @everyone: Disregard Dave. He is a Media General shill trying to spread ill will about RVANews.

  27. Susan on said:

    I have to go with Dawson- for one, I helped supply the idea and two, I got to eat the tacos which were like heaven in my mouth.
    The slaw, salsa, and chirizo were amazing!
    Trust me when I say they were fantastic!

  28. While Ross’s comment about ‘trustworthy meats” may be my new favorite phrase, I have a confession:

    My name is Nick and I’ve been a pizzaholic for 10 years. (this is where you all chime in with “welcome Nick”)

    I vote Bonkovsky

    (see what I did there?)

  29. Tommy on said:

    Dawson, those tacos look incredible.

  30. Blues Hound on said:

    Throwing my vote to Nick Dawson tacos es mi favorite

  31. Week 1 and it’s already a tough vote. Must give props to Ross for not including a picture of his Son eating this meal – which would have given him an instant win. He’s saving that card! But Dawson get the vote for those amazing tacos…

  32. Julie, tell me more about this chocolate covered bacon.

  33. Carrie on said:

    Dawson…tacos. homemade chorizo. wow.

  34. While Ross’s spontaneity that resulted in killer chili on quinoa was compelling, and Sarah’s gluten-free grilled pizzas (with adorable assistance) were inspiring, Nick’s “tomatoes pickled with extreme prejudice” atop those sumptuous tacos won me over in the end.

  35. kelly on said:

    my gluten allergy and kids-who-have to help in the kitchen pull me to vote for Bonk’s pizza.
    i’d like an invite to consume any of these meals, however, next week.

  36. I’m so happy that I get to only worry about voting this time around! Everyone, excellent work. But Bonko, you won my vote this week.

  37. Nancy on said:

    I have to cast my vote for Jennifer…her salmon looks amazing!! Love the “after” picture. Have to give props to the gluten-free pizza too.

  38. I’m going with Nick this week. Those tacos look incredible and anyone who has a “salumeria” seems pretty Top Chef status to me.

  39. Bryan on said:

    While I am most likely to go home and try the chili from Catrow’s recipie…I have to say that the previous post from Sharif summed up my feelings the best…

    Vote: Nick

  40. Jessica on said:

    It’s no fair putting delicious-looking pizza at the top…now I can’t even focus on what comes below. Sarah Bonk = winner!

  41. Elizabeth M on said:

    Jennifer gets my vote!! The presentation and culinary combo is divine. I’m sure it was delicious! And, I’m sure she enjoyed preparing it … and drinking the wine. Well done!

  42. Anna on said:

    Jennifer Carnam without a doubt. Are you kidding me…that dinner was GORGEOUS. The chili was a VERY close second, however. If it had a bit more “gravy” like consistency to it (more like a stew) – I would have been sold.

    Pizza never gets me very excited and unlike my husband, I’ve never been much of a taco fan. I’m sure, however, that they were ALL delicious. Very inspiring. Thanks!

  43. After much consideration and debate I’m going with Jennifer, for a meal that is high on glam and low on effort: my favorite combination in both fashion and food.

  44. Sharon Lilly on said:

    Have to go with Jennifer. This looks so good and it’s healthy too.

  45. Those pizzas look dang good, but I am going with Ross because quinoa is like, a perfect food, guys.

  46. Laura on said:

    I’m a sucker for fresh fruits incorporated into meals. And Vogue. Carnam gets my vote, although Bonkovsky’s adorable daughter with the too cute apron almost swayed me.

  47. Lex Burgess on said:

    I vote for Carnam for a number of reasons….1) being that I am related to her, 2) that is my Vogue, and 3) her cooking is pretty amazing! Knowing my mom she probably spent more time posing the finished dish for the photo op than preparing it!

  48. I vote for Nick Dawson because he spent four weeks making his supper. I would never have such forethought!

  49. Sandi on said:

    a mouthful of awesome?… pickled with extreme prejudice?

    Dawson, you’ve inspired my taste buds (salivating) *and* my writer brain (free associating)… you have my vote!

  50. Greg Corso on said:

    Wait, cherry-mango salsa AND St. Germain?!

    Carnam wins.

    Done and done.

  51. Oh yummers…I’m a sucker for cute kids and pizza BUT I’m going to have to go with Catrow for this one. The description and presentation are both delightful. Bonkovsky a close second

  52. Sue Quinn on said:

    Jennifer Carnam gets my vote. Her dish has the best ingredients AND the best presentation!

  53. Toni on said:

    Jennifer’s dish is well balanced, beautifully plated and healthy to boot. It’s a very elegant presentation and I am stealing the recipe.

  54. Travis on said:

    My vote is for Nick’s tacos.

    Amazing amount of work and wonderful presentation. I can almost taste tacos now.

  55. Kevin on said:

    I am going to have to go with the Dawson Tacos!!! They look amazing and if you have not had Dawson cooking you must try it some time soon!

  56. TACOS. I’m a child of the southwest, and these sound like something I’d find on a street cart near the Zocalo in Oaxaca.


  57. Denis on said:

    Dawson all the way. The tacos sound/look amazing!

  58. I vote for Nick Dawson’s.

  59. Jennifer Carnam gets my vote! Who else can blend food and fashion so stylishly?!?!

  60. Allyn Myles on said:

    The Carnam presentation is clearly the most elegant and real. I was ready to reach through the picture for that wonderful glass of wine!

  61. Bonkovsky, you had me at three pizzas – vote, vote, and vote

  62. My love of both Pizza and Tacos makes this a tough choice, but Dawson’s chorizo & potato tacos look amazing. I’m drooling over here.

  63. Tiffanie on said:

    I vote Catrow as it’s basically exactly what my husband would have done had he been faced with the same ingredient list.

  64. I vote for Jennifer Carnam….looks glorious and delicious.

  65. BOPST on said:

    I’m voting for the boss.

  66. I’m voting for my dang self!

  67. Gilbert on said:

    It’s my birtday and I’ve been in the mood for Pizza so I say the pizza’s.

    The salmon looked pretty but 2+ hours … woh buddy. I ain’t got time for all that.

    Tacos would have been second but I don’t eat pork.

  68. Hanson on said:

    I vote for Nick’s tacos… who can say no to tacos?!?!

  69. Julie on said:

    @Valerie regarding chocolate covered bacon:

    Backstage @ The National last June for GWAR… guitarist Mike Derks is such a good cook, the guys post pics of his gourmet exploits on Facebook, I’d heard about a “bacon party” where everything (Iron Chef style) involved bacon. There was bacon flavored ice cream mentioned by another band member. So I yell at Derks (who is a really quiet guy for the most part–I’m always trying to make friendly contact anyways) “How was that bacon flavored ice cream?? Heard about it online!” He disappears and when he comes back, hands me & friends pieces of frozen flat chocolate covered something…at first I thought nuts…but no, it was BACON! Cooked bacon, flattened, covered in milk chocolate, and served cold. It was the most surprisingly delicious thing ever! (I’m not normally very food-venturous…but I think I’m gonna try to make some one day.)

  70. lindsey on said:

    carnam! fo sho.

  71. Got to go with Dawson. I love slaw on tacos!

  72. Megan on said:

    I’m all about the tacos. My vote is for Dawson.

  73. Dina on said:

    Dawson’s description alone is a clear winner! Thumbs up for his support of local vendors!

  74. Scott Thews on said:

    Dawson’s looks far and away the best.

  75. Tamera on said:

    Carnam’s presentation is simply fabulous. Vogue magazine( a 700+ pager full of fashion to boot), a glass of great wine and an awesome beautifully prepared meal….what more can a lady ask for? Carnam definitely has my vote.

  76. Bashie on said:

    Jennifer definitely gets my vote. I love salmon and her meal is absolutely perfect

  77. Andrew on said:

    Carnam gets my vote!

  78. Brooke on said:

    The Cherry-Mango salsa did it for me. Jennifer C. gets my vote! It looks so delicious!

  79. And the winner is….


    (although Carnam gave him a real run for his money there for a while)

    Thanks to everyone who voted.

    Tune in tomorrow for week 2. It’s gonna be nuts. Trust me, I’m looking at the entries AT THIS VERY MOMENT.

  80. Lincoln Carnam on said:

    Having consumed Jennifer’s meal, I would be remiss if I didn’t enthusiastically advocate on her behalf!

  81. Stephanie Kenney on said:

    I have to go with Jennifer. The presentation is downright gorgeous and the meal sounds wonderful. I am actually hoping that by voting for her I get an invite for dinner ;-)

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