The vote's in: Other winners of interest

HAPPY EATER

November 04, 1992|By ROB KASPER

While the rest of America has been pondering who will be the best president of the United States, I've been ferreting out on the best waiter, the best pizza, and the best oyster cook.

The best waiter is James Aberle, who works at Rudys' 2900 restaurant in Finksburg. Aberle finished first last week in the Restaurant Association of Maryland Service Classic, a contest pitting the state's top waiters and waitresses against each other with the winner landing a seven-day trip to Cancun.

Aberle was one of some 20 servers who passed a written exam testing their knowledge of culinary terms and procedures. Then he and others moved onto the finals, serving a five-course meal to diners in the Holiday Inn Timonium Plaza.

As soon as Aberle and his colleagues began serving the soup, wild mushroom broth with roasted garlic and smoked chicken, their moves were noted by teams of judges.

There were judges in the kitchen. There were judges standing on the serving floor. There were judges, like me, sitting at the tables of diners. We watched the way a waiter carried himself. We observed how a waitress served the grilled shrimp salad. We noted how plates carrying the vodka and grapefruit were cleared.

After the entree, charred salmon with caramelized Bermuda onion and melon, had been disposed of and the dessert, kiwi and lime cannoli, had been presented, we filled out scoring sheets.

The sheets were tallied and Aberle was named the resort-bound winner. Second place, a trip to Orlando, Fla. went to Barbara J. Whitcomb, who also works at Rudys'. Third place, a trip to New York, went to Seamus Fogarty, last year's champion, who works at the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor.

The day before judging the best waiter contest, I was one of five jurists in the March of Dimes Best Pizza in Town contest held across the street, at the Mid-Atlantic Foodservice and Lodging Expo in the Maryland State Fairgrounds.

Right there on the Cow Place floor, pizza-makers from 10 shops rolled their dough, tossed on toppings and hurried their creations into nearby ovens. We judges eyed the pizza, smelled the pizza and ate the pizza. Ten times. Occasionally we were puzzled by pineapple toppings, overpowered by garlic, or forced to wait as a failed oven was coaxed back into action.

But we kept eating. When the last pizza had been cooked, the winner was Poppy's Place Pizza in Street. Second place went to Maria's of Timonium, with third place going to Hilltop Carryout in South Baltimore.

Finally, the newly crowned best oyster cook in the land is Dana Gunnels of Richmond, Va. Her grilled oyster salad recently won the $1,000 top prize in a National Oyster Cook-off in Leonardtown. Other winners in the oyster contest were J. Claiborne Stephens of Middletown for hors d'oeuvres, Jackie Stephens of Nashville, Tenn., for soups and stews; and Ann Nace of Perkasie, Pa. for main dish.

Ordinarily I judge this annual contest. That means I get to eat the winning recipe. But this year I missed the contest. So instead of inhaling the aroma of the winning dish, I had to settle for sniffing a copy of the recipe.

Oyster salad Serves 8.

1 quart Maryland oysters, drained

1 small head Boston lettuce, washed and leaves separated

2 heads endive, washed and separated

1 bunch arugula, washed and separated

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 medium zucchini, sliced

2 medium yellow squash, sliced

2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob

1 large yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges

1/2 yellow pepper, seeded, cut into strips

1/2 red pepper, seeded, cut into strips

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

salt and pepper to taste

2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

4 ounces bleu cheese,crumbled

1/2 cup croutons

Arrange lettuce, endive and arugula on serving platter. Brush oyster and vegetables with 1/2 cup olive oil. Sprinkle vegetables with cilantro, salt and pepper, place in perforated aluminum pan and grill over high heat, turning occasionally until color is bright. Drop oysters in pan and grill until edges of oysters curl. Arrange oysters and vegetables on salad platter. Drizzle with remaining oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Top with cheese and croutons.

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