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Tacoma chefs go small at Slider Cook-Off 2014

Shake Rattle and Grill pits seven Tacoma restaurants against each other

Multiple mini meals, live music and artsy entertainment will fill the Museum of Glass March 29. Photo courtesy of Museum of Glass

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Our nation is one that has held the motto "bigger is better" for eras upon eras. But as time progresses, the little guys are getting their time in the spotlight. Smaller cell phones, hamster-sized vehicles and mini laptops are all great examples, but our love for the miniature includes culinary admirations such as the burger slider.

These little sandwich-y morsels know no boundaries when it comes to the diverse flavor that can be found between two mini buns, and the crew at Museum of Glass - celebrating their 3rd annual Slider Cook-Off this weekend - proves that we just can't get enough of the little guys. At 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 29, MoG kicks off "Shake Rattle and Grill," pitting seven of Tacoma's best restaurants against each other in an epic cook-off battle featuring the fine art of slider concoctions.

I reached out to the participating restaurants Lobster Shop; X-Group Catering; Paesan Kitchen and Bar; Social Bar and Grill; Dirty Oscar's; Maxwell's Speakeasy; and Bite, in Hotel Murano to see what treats they had in store for this year's attendees.

"We're keeping our dish a secret this year," said Dirty Oscar's Operations Manager Jennifer Johnson. "Spicy chocolate mole is the only tidbit of info we are giving out." Sounds like Head Cook James Bacher has something flavorful up his sleeve for competition.

2012's Best Slider Champion, Hudson Slater of Maxwell's Speakeasy, is looking forward to defending his title. "I am really excited about this year," he said. "I love getting out and meeting new people, and I really enjoy cooking competitions. Tacoma is a burger/sandwich and beer kind of town, so if you make the best slider, you are king/queen for a while. It is kind of a big deal. We reached out to some of our local food friends this year and are featuring a local porter and pickles on our slider. Grand Central Bakery out of Seattle is hooking us up with fresh brioche rolls made the day of the competition. We are doing a Wingman Porter-braised beef brisket, with horseradish chive cheddar, Lynnae's sweet and spicy pickle and a dill onion aioli on a fresh brioche roll."

The Social Bar and Grill walked away with the People's Choice Award in 2012 and owner Philip Panagos has been quoted as saying he's excited to "have two ponies in the race" this year with both the Social and Paesan making an appearance.

"Paesan Chef Shane Costello got his start at Rosewood Café in the dish pit. He then found his way to Brix 25, Crown Bar and Primo Grill," Panagos told me. "Shane has been chef of Paesan since we opened July 1, 2013.  He's 6'2", blue eyes, Capricorn, loves dogs, whiskey and days off." Sounds like Chef Costello isn't just on the prowl for top spot on the slider scale. His slider will feature shredded pastrami with caramelized onions and Swiss cheese on a rye bread bun, with a light dressing of seasoned oil and red wine vinegar.

The ladies are representin' with The Social's Chef Michaela Ketchum.  A Tacoma native, Chef Ketchum has been with The Social Bar & Grill since the fall of 2012. Post culinary school, she apprenticed under Chef William Mueller, then moved to the Midwest for opportunities in resort fine dining. After returning from her work with Vail Resorts and The Grand Teton Lodge Company, Ketchum has been busy establishing herself back in the Puget Sound. Her slider will feature a chorizo and fennel patty topped with a roasted poblano pepper aioli, tomato and micro greens between a buttery sweet potato bun.

"This will be my third year participating," said Chef Matt Stickle of Hotel Murano's BITE. "It's a fun event that lets the locals come have a fun time at a reasonable price and try a bunch of delicious sliders, all the while dressing up in their '50s attire and watching beautiful pieces of art being created. We are going to continue with our theme of not doing just a beef patty on a small bun. The first year I did an Asian salmon slider. Last year we did crispy chicken and waffle with a maple aioli. This year we are doing pork. I don't want to give away the winning dish, but it is sooo tasty your head will spin! It's also fun that I get to bring different employees out to these events and interact with the locals they normally may not be able to since they are back in the kitchen. It's just too bad that it's a slider contest because we know they'll want more than just a couple bites of ours."

Though no word yet from the folks at X Group Catering and Lobster Shop, their slider contestants are sure to put up a fight.

Festivities include live entertainment by Daryl and the Diptones busting out some '50s-themed tunes and live glass blowing by artist John Miller. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 day of event. Must be 21 years of age or older to attend.

SLIDER COOK-OFF 2014, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 29, Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma, $35-$40, VIP tickets are $100 and include access to the VIP lounge, 253.284.4708

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