Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Case of the Failed Food Detective

We all know Ted Allen...he started out as the food guru on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", and later started showing up on "Iron Chef America" as a guest judge. And of course, he's been a beloved favorite part of "Top Chef" since the beginning. In all these shows, he's always impressed me as being funny and smart, so I wasn't surprised when Food Network decided to give Ted a show of his own - a show, I hoped, where his tastefully snarky goodness could shine.When I saw the promos for "The Food Detectives" I looked forward to seeing what Ted could do on his own. The premise sounded good - debunking, demystifying and sometimes even proving true, various food myths.I'm a big fan of MythBusters, and watching Jamie and Adam occasionally touch on food myths like "toast always lands butter-side down" and "mentos + diet cola = billowing fountains of carbonated joy" is always a hoot (not to mention that I love seeing them blow things up in the microwave...) So the thought of an entire show devoted to culinary urban legends with the added bonus of Ted Allen as host had me hopeful and curious. Then I watched the first episode. My first question is "Why in the world is Ted romping around in that primary colored playground from hell, and what has he done with his wicked wit?" I felt like I was watching "MythBusters meets Good Eats on Sesame Street (For Dummies)".Sadly, I fear that the "Food Network Effect" has turned our snarky, oh so cleverly catty Ted into "Kindergarten Teacher Ted" - a Ted who speaks very clearly to all of us little kiddies so we will understand what he is bringing to our television screens.

I wish Ted well with this show; I even hope I'm jumping the gun, and hope that future episodes will improve. But I still look forward to the television program that gives us Ted in all of his glory, because as of this writing, "The Food Detectives" is definitely not it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Top Chef Masters?

I caught this little blurb in a press release from Top Chef's corporate brain trust, announcing yet another addition to the Bravo reality series empire, Top Chef: Masters. This obvious attempt to slice into the Food Network's "Iron Chef America" foodie fanatic base might just work. Iron Chef America has been running on the Food Network since 2005, but it's basic format has remained much the same. The stable of Iron Chefs rarely change and most of the challengers are generally unknown to the viewing public. (Personally, I'm not a huge fan of Iron Chef America; I much prefer the kitschy glory and speed of the original Japanese Iron Chef.)

Bravo touts its "Top Chef: Masters" as "featuring world-renowned chefs competing against each other in a series of weekly challenges." Who knows, maybe this is just the smackdown Iron Chef America needs to kick its stale, overly fog machined, superfluously knife blade noised, bloated silliness in the ass. Eric Ripert vs. Tony Bourdain? Hell yes - count me in. April Bloomfield vs. Michelle Bernstein? Bring it on. Team Challenges? I would be in heaven. But who gets to judge? Will Colicchio preside or compete? Will Bravo lure Steingarten and Ruhlman away from the I.C. judges table? The Magical Elves have been pretty successful in luring big name culinary luminaries to Top Chef. I can't wait to see who they catch in their nets. The question is, will they make them live together in some crappy loft with no air conditioning and sleep on Ikea bunk beds?

Reality: It's not just for television.

Americans have never been among the top three at the Bocuse d’Or, a competition started by the French chef Paul Bocuse 21 years ago and considered the Olympics of food. We hope that Top Chef winner Hung Huynh will change that. Hung was chosen to participate by an advisory board consisting of Jerome Bocuse, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Dan Barber, Tom Colicchio, Jacques Pepin, Daniel Humm, Andre Soltner, and Laurent Tourondel.

Grub St. has the full story.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summertime Snacking

Summertime is great. I always think of it as the season of free food. It's when all of the overly ambitious vegetable gardeners realize that just maybe they went overboard with the tomato and basil plants; that no one can eat that much pesto in a year, let alone a month. You know there's a problem when co-workers hide in the bathroom from that well meaning soul making office rounds with yet another twenty pound bag of zucchini. It's also when you realize that forcing that same, well meaning soul into a ten box purchase of thin mints from your little scout a couple of months ago is about to bite you in the ass.

I, however, have a different approach. I take all that is offered. You've got a river of yellow squash flowing through your yard? Sweet! I'm there. Oh, and by the way, may I snip a few squash blossoms to stuff and deep fry? You're openly inviting the squirrels to eat your mountainous tomato plants? Never fear, I can whip those tomatoes and basil into a tasty tomato sauce that I will can for the winter months. Green beans? Yes, yes and yes. I want it all. And not just for stocking up for when there's snow on the ground, but for snackies now. All it takes is the basics and you can turn all of this:
...into this:

You can use a wide variety of hard or semi-hard cheeses to make the crisps. Lately I've been using UnieKass Parrano Robusto for this recipe and just plain eating but you can certainly use what's most available to you.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Quench Your Thirst

NOTCOT.org is one of my favorite sites on the web. Sadly their TasteSpotting site shut down after 18 months due to legal reasons. While FoodGawker is attempting to carry on the TasteSpotting banner, NOTCOT still has the luscious Liqurious, a site for all things that quench our collective thirst. While I'm not totally sold on the whole "mixology" trend, it's good to know where I can get cinder block sugar cubes and...
...Cane Rum Monkey Stirrers!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's Hot Outside

Time for Rocket Pops. With this handy mold you can make your own. Who needs the ice cream man and his stinkin' fuel price surcharge?

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Meat of the Matter

Long summer holiday weekends. Can there be anything as sweet? The kids are off from school. They currently enjoy that particularly obnoxious freedom that keeps them oblivious to any care in the world except making sure that the hose doesn't lie in the sun and deny their overheated noggins that brain freezing jet of cool water. Actually turning the hose off once they're done is your problem, not theirs. You finally get some relief from the work problems that constantly spin like dust devils in the back of your head. The biggest decision that you need to make besides not letting the always overly toasted Uncle Ray get into the stash of fireworks nestled in your SUV? Outdoor cooking. Flame or smoke? Grill or bbq? Low and slow or hot and quick? Beef or Pork?

These are important decisions. This is the heritage you pass down to your children. Oh sure, they'll scream for the "Beer Can Chicken", something some philistine yahoo down the street did to impress the neighborhood kids. Chicken? Chicken is for wimps. No, you want to teach your children the old ways of meat, not some recycling effort to pollute your protein with some shiny aluminum beer can.

I ask you, is this dignified? Is this really what you want to teach your children? I thought not. You want to teach them that you can control the fire so it doesn't burn the hair off your forearms. That smoke is your friend. That huge slabs of meat are a thing of beauty.

Why eat chicken when you can convince your gullible offspring that Fred Flintstone dropped off some dino-ribs and that you're allowing them to bring any well gnawed bones to Show & Tell on Monday. (Pictures of Toasty Uncle Ray in his Geico Caveman outfit are optional and may result in yet another Parent/Teacher Conference).

Tools are important.

The old school patio brick barbecue pit is fun, that is if your homeowners association will allow it. There are alternatives.

A sure fire hit with all the NASCAR-lovin' men in your life but with gas climbing over the $4.00 a gallon threshold and racing towards $5.00 maybe not the most economical choice.

This smoker is just bursting at the seams with meat and who doesn't love that? (Sorry Vegans) Plenty of space for a wide variety of protein.

Still feeling under-accessorized?

Yes, I want. Not as much as.....

...THIS! I understand it works on cocktail weenies just as efficiently.
Now some of you may want to take your grilling/bbq duties a bit further and go for...

...the Grillslinger. I don't know, seems a little Martha Stewerty to me especially with the monogram. Let's see if adding a famous chef will help?

Nope, not even Tony can help.

Looking for some inspiration? Why not try Bobby Flay's Grilled Prime Rib Steaks with Bourbon-BBQ Baste or Barbecued Baby Back Ribs With Firecracker Dipping Sauce by former White House chef Walter Scheib.

Enjoy the summer weather and like my favorite Hillshire Farm ad says, "GO MEAT".