Last week the Historic Arkansas Museum held it’s 6th Ever Nog-Off competition. There were seven entries and the event was open to the public to help judge a winner. Since I am a huge fan of eggnog, it was my civic duty to attend.
The event, held in conjunction with Second Friday Art Night, was set up very nicely and a good amount of people visited over the course of the few hours. Ballots were handed out to everyone along with a pamphlet that included the recipes for each contestant. Some snack food and a free bar (with a suggested donation jar) rounded out the festivities. The museum was also open for people to tour the exhibits and enjoy themselves. Not a bad option for an early date followed by a late dinner which is exactly what we did.
Then of course there was the eggnog itself. I was able to taste six of the seven contestants and although all had their good qualities some were definitely not worth a second helping. I have had real homemade eggnog before and am aware that it is far thicker than the stuff sold in the grocery store. I also think that the requirement to use pasteurized eggs in the rules may have hurt some of the contestants, but I do understand the safety issue. Below are my wife’s and my impressions. To find out the winner visit the museum’s website. The site also has the recipes for the winners from 2005 on.
Nicholas Peay’s Eggnog
Prepared by Bill Worthen, the museum’s director
I found this one tasty but a little too thick, almost like a whipped mousse and the bourbon dominated the flavor of the eggnog. My wife liked this one the best I believe for exactly the same reasons I did not.
Katherine’s view: I loved it and didn’t find the bourbon overpowering. The texture was perfect and it had just the right amount of sugar. (The recipe calls for one heaping tablespoon of sugar for each egg.) I can see why it’s won before.
Prepared by Tracy Sterling, Java Roasting Express
This was my favorite of the night. Though thicker than commercial eggnogs it still retained the consistency of a beverage and had a creamy taste. The addition of Kahlua gave it an interesting finish setting the flavor apart from its competitors.
Katherine’s view: I love Kahlua too and thought the nog was really creamy. Plus, it had ice cream, can’t go wrong there.
Prepared by Gordon Wittenberg and Becky and Charles Witsell
I liked the idea of eggnog as a dessert instead of beverage I had to stick with a more purist criteria for judging and wanted to be able to drink it.
Katherine’s view: Whatever Mr. Purist, ice cream is good. Put it in egg nog it’s even better. And I’m now a bourbon convert too.
St. Nick Nog
Prepared by Tandra Watkins, Pastry Chef at Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel
The flavor of this one was the best of the bunch. Unfortunately the aroma of egg overpowered and gagged me slightly while drinking it. I was most disappointed in this one since it was prepared by the pastry chef of Ashley’s one of our favorite restaurants in town. We try to go to Ashley’s a couple times a year and everything we get is always excellent there. I think the requirement to use pasteurized eggs really hurt this recipe.
Katherine’s view: It actually reminded me of snow cream, which my mom made when we were growing up in Maryland. I don’t think the eggs hurt the recipe, but that they were whipped and cooked slightly, which is probably where the smell came from. But I get the whole safety thing and I guess we’ll just have to go back to Ashley’s soon to try Tandra’s other creations. (She’s wearing the apron in the picture above.)
Nutty Aunt Hazel’s Nog
Prepared by Kitty Lane
The taste was creamy and sweet but the consistency was like whipped cream making it a little too light. The addition of hazelnut liqueur and grated nutmeg added an excellent nutty spiced finish.
Katherine’s view: I loved the hazelnut and you could really taste the heavy cream. Plus, it had Amaretto.
Prepared by Mary Beth Ringgold, Copper Grill
I found this entry a little too thin but the addition of honey gave it an excellent flavor.
Katherine’s view: Mmm, honey. It was actually a honey brandy that was used, not honey itself. This was the first time the restaurant entered and that impressed me. It’s not something on their menu and they created it through trial and error for the event.
I loved how each nog used a slightly different liquor, whether it was whiskey, bourbon or less traditional choices. It showed how versatile egg nog can be and how cool. We’ll definitely be experimenting at home.