Chef Ryan Payne from Southern Season's Weathervane and Chef Chris Harris from North Raleigh's Fork and Barrel battled it out Wednesday night in the “Got to be NC” Competition Dining Series, Fire in the Triangle. Each chef created three courses using a “secret” North Carolina ingredient revealed only hours before the intense competition. Guests and chefs were both lucky after learning the secret N.C. ingredient was bacon. Hello, “Battle Country Ham!”

Guests were encouraged to “vote their palate” during the competition and each chef’s dishes would be revealed at the end of the night. I was highly impressed with the technology used at the competition; I was able to use my iPhone to rank each dish.

Dish one was a bacon and shrimp dumpling with grilled shrimp, sweet potato puree and coconut curry. The dumpling was hearty; I loved the combination of the different meats. The sweet potato puree went along nicely with the coconut curry. Talk about a flavor explosion.

Dish two was a lobster and lump crab strudel with crispy Johnston County ham, paired with a mesclun salad tossed in a bacon vinaigrette. The bacon vinaigrette added the perfect amount of salt to the greens. The seafood ingredients were fresh, and the strudel was extra flaky. Delicious!

Dish three was seared duck with smoked bacon and mushroom risotto, and tart cherry-country ham jus. The aroma of the dish reminded our table of Thanksgiving. I must admit, I used a piece of bread to make sure every last drop of the tart cherry-country ham jus was nowhere to be found on my plate.

Dish four was a bacon-blue cheese grit cake with crispy country ham, Fresno chilies and champagne tarragon vinaigrette. The chef had me sold at “bacon-blue cheese.” Bacon and cheese, what could be better? Dish four was by far my favorite of the night. The grit cake was crispy around the edges. I also thought the chef was daring to use salty country ham and bacon in one dish, but it worked. The spice from the Fresno chilies was also outstanding. I need this recipe!

Dish five was a flourless chocolate cake with bourbon bacon anglaise and cherry-apple-ham compote. The bacon anglaise was delectable, and our entire table thought the dish was very creative.

Finally, dish six was a “bacon moon pie,” banana marshmallow, bacon anglaise, candied bacon and mangalitsa cookie. Wow, talk about making a Southern girl’s night. Bacon in a moon pie? Life couldn’t have been sweeter. The moon pie brought home the gold for Chef Ryan Payne.

I had a great time enjoying dinner and a show at Fire in the Triangle. Both of the chefs did a wonderful job and used their imagination in the kitchen. Though this year’s remaining competitive events are sold out, I hope the series will return to Raleigh with more battles next year; Foodies should make plans early to visit and be part of the judging.