Cat Cora Contest Winners: "The Best Thing I Ever Ate"

It was a tough call, but we've made our decision. Chow Bella is pleased to announce the winners of our totally unauthorized "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" contest.

Each winner receives a Chow Bella apron, a pair of front-row seats and "A" spots in the book signing line (book not included) at the Cat Cora event at Changing Hands Bookstore this Wednesday night. (If you won, and haven't heard from us, please get in touch; we're looking for you!)

Thanks for playing! Read about the winners' favorite dishes after the jump.

The Taleggio Salad at Coup Des Tartes
Organic greens tossed with raspberries, apples, red onions, sugared pecans in prickly pear vinaigrette. Topped with warm Taleggio cheese on toast points. At Coup Des Tartes a BYOB neighborhood French bistro in Phoenix.
-- Robbi Fowler

Meatballs at Megu
Down a dark and deserted TriBeCa side street [in New York City], we found Megu. Appearing almost dark and deserted from the street, its unobtrusive door led us down a hallway to a lone hostess. We followed her around a corner, and found ourselves suddenly on a landing above a wide expanse of server bustle amid the immediately identifiable hum of engaged diners.
The instant our first foot touched the floor of the dining room, every staff member stopped mid-motion, turned to face us for a quick bow and an enthusiastic, clipped, "konbanwa," then went back to the task at hand.
We soon found ourselves with a mind-blowing sake and a plate of steaming meatballs between us. Meatballs?? True Kobe beef meatballs, actually, with a foie gras center. They were toasty brown on the outside, flash-fried for exactly the right amount of time to caramelize the outside, to render the inside delightfully rare, and to melt the foie center to molten perfection.
Cutting one in half was like glimpsing the inside of a perfect little culinary planet. I popped one in my mouth, and it was like the world stood still. The depth and complexity of the savory-sweet beef made its own mark before the velvet infusion of the foie joined the party. I'm sure I must have appeared absolutely insane in my reaction to the unheard-of decadence of this dish, but I didn't care. I was transported to a world where it was just me and this meatball, becoming one, like something out of "Alice in Wonderland." It left me breathless and spent, and I couldn't wait to do it again.
I have had the pleasure of eating too many amazing things to count or remember, but my culinary fantasies will forever rotate around that meatball.
-- Kimberli Baker

Dolce Della Casa at Grazie Pizzeria
The best thing I ever ate is quite uncomplicated but it is something I dream about. It's the dolce della casa at Grazie Pizzeria in Scottsdale. It's this warm, crispy calzone filled with Nutella & banana and topped with mounds and mounds of creamy vanilla ice cream.

I order it thinking, I'll only have a couple bites but it arrives at my table and my hearts starts beating a little quicker. I cut into the corner and this wonderful chocolate lava oozes out onto the plate. I take a little bite just to tease myself a little bit, knowing that the banana sits in the middle. The dough is slightly charred from the wood burning oven so you get this savory, slightly smokey flavor with the sweetness of the chocolate.
Oh but wait. There's the ice cream. I cut another bite & take a forkful of the ice cream. Sheer creamy delight. Time for the third bite, and I finally hit the banana -- pure deliciousness. The next thing I know, the calzone & ice cream are gone & I am scraping up the little bit of chocolate that's left on my plate. This seemly simple dessert is truly -- to me -- a little bit of heaven. I wish I had one right now.
-- Colleen

Tom Kai soup at Swaddee Thai
This amazing soup is creamy, spicy, complex and the best comfort food I've ever had. A blend of coconut milk, kaffir leaves, lemongrass, cilantro, chicken and vegetables, each bite is more complicated than the last. You can truly taste all the different flavors and it only gets better with time. I recommend ordering it medium and letting it sit overnight for the flavors to truly permeate. I've ordered this soup at Thai restaurants all over the country but none can compare to Swaddee's in Scottsdale.
-- Erica

Grandmother's Pancakes
My Grandmother's pancakes. They were thin with crispy edges on the outside and soft, melt-in-your-mouth on the inside. She died at least 30 years ago and I can still taste them. She always told me she made them with Bisquick...yeh, right. I have tried recreating them a million times and have come close, but never hit it on the mark. I will keep trying!
-- Sandra