Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Which is good because you need to save room for Dessert. Chocolate Bag with White Chocolate Mousse and Berries.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
It seems like a lot of us got up on the pissy side of the bed for this episode. One woman I totally agree with and the other, not so much.
First we have Jennifer, who I am liking more and more each episode. I'm calling it right now, I think she's going to win. It All. I know there's some pretty strong male chefs but the minute you underestimate this woman, she will cut you off at the knees (and only at the knees if you're lucky). She called the BS for what it was for this episode. Men are no better cooks than women. French cooks are no better than American or Japanese cooks. Classically trained are no better than self taught. But since this is still Top Chef we still have to stir up the drama hornet's nest. While I believe Jennifer believes what she said about the "boy and girl challenge", let's not kid ourselves either, she was also pissed off being on the less experienced team of women. While she was going to be safe with her dish, she's that competitive that she always wants to lead the winning team. Not the whining team.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Episode 4's Slouchy Magic Hat. It almost looks like a squeezebox for her head.
Episode 5 gives us the second red hat with extra wide brim.This episode seems to have been a battle between Gael's natural inclination to wear her hat down over her eyes and some poor producer directing her to wear it angled back more on her head. I call that battle a draw but you know it wasn't easy to even get that concession.
Episode 6 has Gael breaking from her red hat pack into what looks like an oddly shaped, hot and heavy, face obscuring chapeau. When asked why she doesn't wear wigs or disguises when she's out reviewing a restaurant, Gael claims wigs are too tight and hot to wear for three hours. I can't imagine this hat was any cooler under the hot television production lights.
The first round of the Championship brings another bellowy, slouchy hat seemingly color coordinated with James' outfit. I'm also noticing a hat to blouse slouch ratio that was probably unintended. At least I hope it was unintended.
Round Two of the Championship sees a repeat of Epi 4's hat with a green lizard chaser. C'mon, Hat Up Woman, it's the Championships. Not only does she repeat, she gets outhatted by this little cutie patootie.This is a woman who knows how to get her face on TV. Bravo, unnamed Friend Of Zooey, cute hat, cute outfit and we can see your face.Does she hat up for Round Three of the Championship? No, just another repeat of Epi 3's hat but with the bead bobbers prominently placed at the front. And we're back to hiding our face. Boooo!
Now you would think that for the Finale, for the crowning of the first Top Chef Master, Gael would pull something wonderfully Gael-ish from her magical bag of hats. You would be wrong because all we get another red repeater. I feel so used. There you have it, ladies and gay gentlemen. Not exactly Coyote Ugly but then again, I guess we should count our blessings. It could have been a lot worse.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
It was here as an appetizer at one of my favorite lunch spots, Michael Smith's Extra Virgin.
It was in the deli case in my Whole Foods.Heck, it was in the cheese and meat case of the wine shop not one block away from my office. With such an abundance of Speck, it was time to give it a whirl. I decided not to deep fry it with pineapple (a la Chef Patterson) but instead wrap it around some black mission figs and blue cheese and grill it. If you'd like a recipe similar to what I did, there's Michael Chiarello's Proscuitto Wrapped Figs, just substitute the Speck.
I used two different kinds of blue cheese mainly because I'm always looking for a good excuse to buy blue cheese. My selections for this dish were a Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue and a Valdeon Blue. The Roth is a creamier, milder, slightly sweet blue cheese while the Valdeon has the more traditional salty tang you expect from those deep blue veins. Both were excellent but personally when using the Valdeon I'd use smaller pieces on the fig so not to overpower the other flavors.What I like about using Speck instead of Prosciutto is the milder more subtle favor. It's a lovely layed flavor combination of the sweetness of the grilled fig, the burst of the blue cheese and the finish of the savory Speck. It's a simple yet sophisticated appetizer and would certainly work with any mildly sweet fruit. Chef Chiarello suggested finishing his version with a drizzle of olive oil but I decided against that. I think next time I will try drizzling just a hint of some nice warm clover honey.
So look around, you might be surprised just how close your Speck might be.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Or just your garden variety ham?I'm voting for the latter. I have a feeling that grandma's little boy is going to be an asshat to every single person he encounters. Did you catch his "encouragement" to the teammate cleaning shrimp?Nice. But here we are talking about him, his restaurant and all things assy about Michael. I think we're all forgetting who runs Top Chef. The folks who thought it was not good what happened to Marcel but not bad enough to jettison the finale (cha-ching). The folks who stunt cast a lesbian couple one season and brothers this season? Do I think he belongs on TV? I wish he wasn't there just like I wish that abomination Hell's Kitchen would finally die. But the season is in the can and for good or for bad but mostly for ratings he's here. I can only hope that what they are really doing is setting up the mother of all Battle of the Sexes between Michael and Jennifer because I think we have our most competitive female chef since Tiffany. And just like Tiffany, Jennifer looks like she'd cut a bitch to win. Let's hope she sharpens her knife for a big juicy slice of Isabella Ham.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Respect I have to say I was saddened by Michael's "attitude" concerning the past winners of Top Chef judging his food. Sad for two reasons. First, don't ever forget your paying customers, even if you think they don't have the knowledge to judge your food. Second, how about a little respect for those 5 individuals. Don't get me wrong, Rick, Michael and Hubert have all earned the respect due them. Top Chef Masters treated all their chefs much better in every way possible than the previous 5 seasons worth of Top Chef contestants. Were the Masters challenges harder? Perhaps but let's remember if not for the Harolds and the Hungs, the Michaels and the Ricks wouldn't be competing at all. And before you three gentlemen start patting yourselves on the back for "making it through" just remember you didn't compete and live with 15 other chefs, spend hours in the stew room with nothing but beer or water to drink, shoot 12 - 16 hour days for multiple weeks. You didn't have the camera on you 24/7. You never had Tom wake you at oh dark thirty and hustle you out for a Quickfire. You had no twist whatsoever for your finale. While I'm very happy that Top Chef Masters was about the food, you still owe a debt of gratitude to the chefs that came before you, not disparage them as some sort of twist to your strategy.
Judging I'm not sure what I expected from the judging. I do know what we got was very polite and adoring praise. When the harshest comments you get comes from Gael's suspicious nature towards foam (and who would have thought that) as opposed to say....Wolfgang Puck throwing your donut across the room? Certainly there's got to be a middle ground for these critics. How many cutaways did we see of chefs sweating Gael ripping into them. If that happened they must be saving it for Top Chef Masters - the Lost episode. I'm not sure Gael's the one you want to anchor this team. Make Gail Simmons your lead judge here. She won't hesitate a moment to tell you exactly what she thinks of the dish. Maybe Ruth Reichl or Patricia Wells. Whomever you get I want to see hot judging arguments, I want the judging passion match to the cooking intensity. I certainly don't want the cold fish that we were ultimately served. I do have to say that apparently critics find it much easier to criticize from the safety of their computer keyboards than to truly face a chef and tell him his food tasted like caramelized crap. If that's the case here then certainly they should audition some more courageous critics. I think the chefs can handle it.
Coming - The Ugly
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Speaking of motivation. There's been a change in the Quickfire. Money. Big money. $15,000. worth of money. Or enough to feed Padma for a month. That's good news. Apparently immunity just wasn't enough motivation for the chefs to do their best for the Quickfires. A big chunk of change should certainly get those creative juices flowing.Now for the bad news. They took one of my favorite parts of Top Chef and drained it of all it's excitement and drama.By having four teams competing at the same time without much at stake (they didn't explain the money prize until after the race) there was no excitement of rooting for your favorite or finding an unexpected champion rising to the challenge. It was all just a bunch of chefs nobody knows either doing well or not. Or injuring themselves.Top Chef Basics 101: Knives. They are sharp. Kinda like tattoo needles. When jabbed into flesh, the flesh will bleed. Thought that would have been obvious.Hey? When did she put that glove on? So at the end one team is left standing, and we're left trying to decide what's worse, bloody clams or no clams at all. It's going to be a very long season.
First let's look at the GoodBringing in each chef's personal Sous chefs. A really nice touch and a vast difference from bringing back angry past contestants that early Top Chef provided for their finalists.
Talisman Look at the glee on this man's face. This is a man who loves his truffles. French truffles. While Rick's heart might be in Mexican food his mortar and pestle certainly reveals his other touchstones.Michael brings the most basic element of his family vineyard to his final dishes, cuttings from the vines. You can just see the blood, sweat and tears in the very fiber of those cuttings.
Flirting. So many reality shows try to overpower us with the drama but forget to balance that out with the lighter side of life. Show us the fun, people, you're getting paid to eat the most amazing food and hopefully get to enjoy the companionship of interesting people. Watching Gail and Jay flirt just a bit was fun and cute.
Coming - The Bad