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Reality imitates reality TV

Consider it one of the culinary commandments: Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife’s Food.

Bill Johnson and Sloane Reed may not have been guilty of envying the grub next door, but they are guilty of trying to outdo it. The boyfriend/girlfriend combo defeated the married couple, John and Janine Troilio, in the unit beside theirs at an impromptu cooking competition held Wednesday in the lobby of the their apartment complex on Park Avenue.

The contest was friendly, but that doesn’t mean it was shoddily conceived. Bart Baker, a manager and bar tender and Zoom restaurant, and Daniel Rhoda, author of the cookbook Eat, Taste, Heal, were among the judges.

Modeled after the Food Network’s reality series, "Iron Chef," the contest required the couples to prepare three dishes in a matter of hours using a main ingredient drawn at random.

"We had to use 10 different ingredients to come up with three dishes that all had mushrooms," Johnson explained, "and we had to have it ready by 7:30,"

The deadline left just five hours for the couples, none of them professional cooks, to make gourmet meals.

Johnson and Reed spent $100 on portobello and wild mushrooms and other menu items. They used an electric Whirlpool stove and minimal kitchenware to marinate, dice, season and simmer.

They came up with marinated wild mushroom and arugula salads, a parmesian and asiago cracker rolled and stuffed with mushrooms, tomatoes and sprouts, and a Portobello mushroom and tomato tower with a reduced balsamic sauce.

Team Troilio countered with Thai mushroom soup, mushroom risotto and a sliced with California mushroom drizzled with a cabernet reduction sauce.

What they came up with was nothing short of gourmet, according to the three judges asked to participate.

After five-and-a-half hours of cooking, the couples were locked in a tie. The judges called for a 15-minute overtime. Johnson and Reed came up with an asiago cheese quesadilla with mushrooms.

"We won," Johnson said. "Barely."

The couples plan for a rematch soon.


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