Earlier this month, 14 chefs gathered at The Camby hotel in Central Phoenix for the Rock the Guac competition in honor of National Guacamole Day and benefitting Free Arts of Arizona. Their challenge? Creating different guacamoles designed to stand out.
I know taste testing 14 different guacamoles may seem like a dream, but let me tell you that guac has the tendency to taste more or less the same after a few scoops. But in the name of journalism, I persevered.
The sweetest (perhaps weirdest) take was from Tarbell’s in Phoenix that whipped up a chocolate mousse dessert topped with an avocado mousse/puree. It was tasty but let’s face it, couldn’t pass as guacamole. I can’t say there were any competitors that I flat out didn’t like at all, but my favorite was The Market by Jennifer’s. I loved that the chef used focaccia instead of the hackneyed tortilla chip and how she managed to seamlessly blend many different flavors and textures together.
Below are four guacamoles that stood out, both to me and the official judges, plus a recipe for the first prize winner.
The Camby’s restaurant, Artizen, took home first place. The recipe – more involved and lengthy then your standard avo, lime and garlic mash-up – features lime, orange, cilantro puree, roasted poblano puree, shrimp, and mescal that’s topped with sliced radish, crumbled queso fresco and a dab of smoked vegetable aioli. Although I personally didn’t prefer this one over some others, my guess is that the spicy and sweet combination—the smoked vegetable aioli had a nice kick to it—is what won voters over. If you have a few free hours to make an appetizer, try this winning recipe for yourself:
2 tbs. cilantro puree
2 tbs. roasted pablano puree (see recipe below)
2 tbs. Roasted Corn
¼ cup small shrimp poached
1.2 oz mescal
Habanero pepper powder
2 sliced radish
2 tbs. queso fresco crumbled
1 tablespoon smoked vegetable aioli (see recipe below)
Mash avocados, with lime juice, orange juice and salt. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, season with salt and habanero pepper powder to taste. Top with vegetable aioli.
Roasted pablano puree
2 poblano peppers
Char all ingredients over flame, peel skin off the peppers. Blend into a puree with a hint of lime juice and cumin.
Smoked vegetable aioli
2 small onions
1 stalk celery1 carrot, peeled
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
2 cups mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lime
Smoke all vegetables using mesquite chips. Remove skins from tomatoes. Blend the vegetables in a food processor to make a smooth paste. Add spices, then stir in mayo and lime juice. Add salt to taste.
THE MARKET BY JENNIFER'S
The Market by Jennifer’s in Central Phoenix served housemade herb focaccia topped with guacamole, sunny side up quail egg, Arizona honey-chili flake bacon bits, and micro cilantro. I loved the balance of this dish. The rich focaccia, gooey egg and cilantro, while messy, blended together into a dynamic partnership, with each ingredient complementing but never overpowering the other. Plus topping just about anything with an egg and bacon bits is almost always a good idea.
JOYRIDE TACO HOUSE
The secret ingredient in Joyride’s guac? Walnuts. The crunchy, tajin spiced walnuts gave this guac a nice texture that made the dish shine. The recipe also featured palate-pleasing charred sweet onions, habanero salsa guacamole with cotija cheese, spec chips and sweet corn.
Chef Matt Carter’s The Mission restaurant took a sweeter line on traditional guacamole by topping it with pineapple. I appreciated the creativity here. Carter told me to take a bite of the guacamole served on a chile-mole chip, Oaxacan pasilla and huitlacoche – a Mexican corn truffle – and then drink the pineapple pisco paired with it, with vida mescal agave and lime bitters. I loved the sweet take on the dish, but it’s not for everyone. You gotta love pineapple, which has a sweetness that can overpower other flavors.
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