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Last chance to catch Nickel City Chef

Buffalo's answer to Iron Chef has one bout left this season. The June 27 event pits Nickel City Chef Krista Van Wagner (of Curly's in Lackawanna) against Chef Marco Sciortino of Marco's Italian Restaurant. They will have 60 minutes to cook dishes that best show off a local ingredient, with the winner chosen by a three-judge panel.

For $35, spectators get a drink and a buffet of fine catered appetizers to nibble as they watch the chefs do their voodoo. I was a panelist at the June 6 edition of Nickel City Chef, and appreciated numerous improvements over last season's events. Now banks of widescreen televisions display close-up live details of what the chefs' hands are doing, and the finished dishes are whisked away for photographs that are displayed so spectators can see exactly what they're missing.

The secret ingredient June 6 was naturally raised pork - ground, chops and bacon - from T-Meadow Farm in Lockport. Nickel City Chef Paul Jenkins of Tempo squared off against Chef Jim Guarino of Shango. It was some of the best food I've ever eaten in Buffalo.

You can check out what the dishes looked like in the video above. WARNING: May induce hunger pangs.

Jenkins' menu:

Bacon-crusted king salmon, roasted tomato, cauliflower risotto

Handmade potato gnocchi, bolognese sauce, burrata

Pork chop with chimichurri, avocado salad, fried oyster

Guarino's menu:

Biscuit with thick sausage patty, topped with a poached duck egg, lemon oil, shaved truffle

Smoked and grilled pork chop, chayote slaw, pickled hot and sweet peppers and crawfish, topped with a cornmeal-crusted fried oyster

Banana bread pudding, bacon caramel sauce, bacon chocolate chip ice cream

Guarino's New Orleans-inspired cuisine narrowly carried the day, with his bacon ice cream getting an unusual amount of remarks from tasters, at least for a dessert.

If you ever wanted to watch what talented cooks can do in 60 minutes, Nickel City Chef's home arena at Artisan Kitchens will open once more on June 27. It's from 2:30 to 5 p.m., and tickets will be available at the door.

With WBFO's Bert Gambini as host and Chef Mike Andrzejewski of SeaBar providing color commentary, the judges will be Toronto food writer Mary Luz Mejia, comedian Kristen Becker and radio host Kevin LoVullo of "Spiel the Wine."

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