In one of the wine world's great annual traditions, the Beaujolais Nouveau is released to much fanfare in France every year, on the third Thursday of November. The fruity, friendly red is "new" (hence the name), made with the season's first pressing. Locally, La Chatelaine bistros celebrate with their own tradition: A cooking contest that asks chef apprentices from Columbus State Community College to craft special dishes celebrating the wine.

This year's student contestants were (left to right): Tyler Acheson, an apprentice at M; Joe Irsik, an apprentice at La Chatelaine; and Toby Walters, an apprentice at Scioto Country Club. The judges -- yours truly along with other media eaters -- charged with picking a winning dish, indulged in three great choices and one tough decision.

Irsik created a Seafood Gumbo with homemade andouille sausage and a crisp oven-roasted chicken thigh. The stew was surprisingly light despite the impressive lineup of autumn meats.

Walters served a Country Cassoulet, a rustic and hearty stew of beans, rabbit sausage, pork and wine, topped with an expertly cooked duck confit.

The winner was Acheson's Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin. The pork -- with a crisp, savory crust of parsley, thyme and rosemary -- was topped with a red wine butter sauce and accompanied by parsnip puree and carrots and brussels sprouts sauteed in bacon. The green, orange and burgundy plate was a visual feast as well -- a colorful array of fall vegetables.

Acheson's dish will be served at a special dinner on Thursday, Nov. 19, at all three La Chatelaine locations. The $25.95 meal includes a bottle of the 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau; reservations are required.

La Chatelaine 1550 W. Lane Ave., Upper Arlington 614-488-1911 Web: lachatelainebakery.com

La Chatelaine 627 High St., Worthington 614-848-6711 Web: lachatelainebakery.com

La Chatelaine 65 W. Bridge St., Dublin 614-763-7151 Web: lachatelainebakery.com