Iron Fork 2012: The Winners and the Hangover

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Gut Check has a headache, we can't hear very well out of our left ear and our go-to white dress shirt is stained with all of the major food groups and a fair amount of booze.

Yup. Iron Fork 2012 was a success.

The chef competition pitted defending champion Carl Hazel of the Scottish Arms (6-10 S. Sarah Street; 314-535-0551) against Jonathan Olson of Market Grill (728 Lafayette Avenue; 314-436-7664), Jason Tilford of Milagro Modern Mexican (20 Allen Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-962-4300) and Cassy Vires of Home Wine Kitchen (7322 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-802-7676).

The main ingredient was a bone-in pork roast. The "secret" ingredient was almonds. Tilford might have smiled at this revelation: He'd already planned to use almonds in a mole sauce.

Coincidence? Or fate? Either way, the judges tapped Tilford's dish as the best, edging Hazel's strong bid for a repeat title.

Meanwhile, a field of twelve bartenders were engaged in a grueling mixology competition. It took a while, but in the end Shannon Ponche of Taste (4584 Laclede Avenue; 314-361-1200) brought home the prize.

There's a link below to a slideshow of the food, drinks and people of Iron Fork 2012, but before we leave you to that, some random observations:

Not only did Taste claim the cocktail prize, the Niche (1831 Sidney Street; 314-773-7755) family brought the most striking food sample: an eggshell with just its top clipped off, filled with maple custard and topped with bonito caviar. A beautiful presentation.

La Tejana Taqueria (3149 N. Lindbergh Boulevard, Maryland Heights; 314-291-8500) served its tacos on homemade corn tortillas in the shape of a heart.

Pastrami lovers were in luck: Not only did Bogart's Smokehouse (1627 S. Ninth Street; 314-621-3107) bring its remarkable pastrami, but Market Grill (728 Lafayette Avenue; 314-436-7664) was handing out samples of its tasty tuna pastrami.

If you've never attended Iron Fork or a similar tasting event before, take a lesson from the vets: Eat the sample you just received while standing in line for the next sample you want to try.

Oh, and never wear your favorite white dress shirt to a tasting event.

Allrighty, feel free to click away to view our slideshow of the food, drinks and people of Iron Fork 2012.

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