Wednesday, June 28, 2006

a few random things

You know how dogs pee to mark their territory? I cook. Last night the new house felt like home when I realized there were two pounds of strawberries that were a day away from going bad. I took inspiration from Scotte at Eat with Me to make strawberry jam. I doubled the recipe since I had two pounds of strawberries. This came from the Barefoot Contessa and I'd have to say that woman cannot write a bad recipe. As I was somewhat paranoid about ending up with strawberry sauce instead of strawberry jam, I simmered the sucker for half an hour. The end product tasted EXACTLY like strawberry jam. However, having made strawberry jam with Sure Gel, I missed that really fresh flavor of the strawberries although with Sure Gel, the consistency of the jam really was like strawberry sauce. I will experiment to see how little I have to cook the jam and to see how much I can cut down on the sugar. Obviously it would be easy jsut to use pection, but I find that pectin has a tendency to glop up on me. Nevertheless, on my fourth day living at the new house, it's nice to make a PB & J sandwich with my own J.

And as my fabulous link of the year, I present you all with this.

Monday, June 26, 2006

A tour of our first floor via Furniture

So here is the center of the room, our dining room table with leaves to accomodate 12. Very Under the Tuscan Sun don't you think?

And here is our kitchen cart that has our food processor, blender, juicer, and standing mixer.

We found out that the cushions get more comfortable the more you sit on them. That means lots of parties.

Finally the infamous sideboard. Thanks to Uncle Tim and Auntie Em for assemble this beast.

The move

We are now officially ensconced in the Town-That-Rhymes-With-Clevery and plans are afoot for the bellini bar open house. Already on the menu are mini quiches, steamed pork buns, sausage balls, citrus salad parfait, and popovers. We made the first stab at the invite list and are thinking late July for the open house.

So how did the move go? Swimmingly. Friday night, the Marrieds, Auntie Em and Uncle Tim and Pauline came over to move some stuff and assemble the dining room buffet. They were treated to a casual dinner of chicken salad sandwiches, tortilla wraps, hummus and six layer dip, and cookies and strawberries for dessert. All of this courtesy of my mother in law who is seriously the best in law ever born. She singlehanded assembled out dining room table that seats eight without the leaf and ten with the leaf and 14 if you squish. I'll tell you what, there's something different about sitting around a dining room table as opposed to balancing plates on your lap. The conversation feels easier and the sense of community is stronger. Already I am making up dinner party menus.

For the actual move, we really dodged a bullet. Somehow, mother nature decided to hold off on her deluge until Saturday night. Thank you mother nature. The movers came at 8 am and hauled ass on the move, getting us fully moved in by 10 am. J's mom was back at the house cleaning. That's too crazy. After lunch, while J and his mom were exhausted, I was pumped to get the living room/dining room/kitchen in order. I feel bad because J's mom seriously needed a long soak after going above and beyond the call of duty on the moving, assembling and cleaning. But I think my frenzy of unpacking gave her some undeserved guilt and she started unpacking with me. By the evening, the basement rumpus room, our bedroom, and the dining room/living room/kitchen were unpacked.

And can I tell you how fabulous our dining/living/kitchen looks like? It's a effing Ikea show room!!! We have a green Ikea Ektorp sofa with floating shelves of crown molding above it. On the shelves are my cobalt blue bottle collection and my shell collection, Directly opposite the sofa is the entertainment center and catty corner to that is our easy chair. I love the dining room unabashedly as it acheives the high end restaurant kitchen look that I was going for. Our buffet has drawers for the silverware, potholders and napkins, beneath the drawers is the first shelf which holds our wedding china and J's grandmother's daisy dishes. Beneath those in the bottom shelf are our artfully arranged cookware. While the house is spacious (for us), the kitchen is pitifully small with no drawers and storage space for pots and pans. We also bought a kitchen cart to hold our food processor, blender, standing mixer, and glass bakeware.

We're so in love with the house and the neighborhood. Yesterday a co-worker of J's who lives a few blocks away stopped by to see the house and gives us a housewarming gift of rootbeer, ice cream, and handpainted glasses. Even better is that we know we are only one town over from a certain blogging twosome. We promise to call first. :P

Friday, June 23, 2006

Dear Blogger

I don't know where you put our blog but I'm just happy you put it back. Please don't lose the blog again. On another note, how the hell are the movers supposed to move the contents of our house in the monsoon that's supposed to hit tonight?????????

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Java Green

This is my no means an unbiased review. I love Java Green unabashedly and if I could eat there every day, I most certainly would. I had eaten Java Green food at the DC Green Festival but I thought that Java Green, like so many wonderful and inexpensive places to eat, was in some kind of out-of-DC never never land, like Takoma Park. Then I find out form my intern who is a GW student that Java Green is like two tiny blocks away from where we work. TWO BLOCKS! I am so there.

And I have so been there since I found out about Java Green's promixity to my location. I will say this, I have yet to have any of their wraps or sandwiches. There are twelve million places that serve wraps and sandwiches in that Triangle that consists of Dupont Circle, Farragut West and Foggy Bottom. But there is only one place with your choice of vegatarian popcorn chicken, tofu, and bibim noodle. I have assiduously stuck to the asian side of the menu. Before I go into the menu, here are som lovely little touches that makes Java Green so wonderful. The first is their fiery (I mean FIERY) homemade Asian hot sauce that is habaneros hot but with the sweetness of thai chili sauce. If you can take the heat, it's a perfect dipping sauce. The second is their round wooden chopsticks. The third is their rice. I'm not normally a fan of food in the blue/purple realm of colors but their purple sticky rice is so good it can be eaten without any accompaniment. This is whole grain sticky rice with the soft stickiness of normal sticky rice with the a nutty flavor. SOOOOO good. Whatever I order, I always make sure I get the sticky rice, either by itself or in California roll. I will say this is fairly expensive for a work lunch meal being in the realm of $7-10 but it's well worth it.

Here's what I've gotten:

BIBIM NOODLE (7.50) buckwheat noodle, mixed greens, cucumber, carrot, onion, sesame seed, with spicy vinaigrette.
Perfect for a summer day. This cold salad is light, refreshing and flavorful. Don't worry, the vinaigrette is nowhere near as spicy as the hot sauce. Buckwheat noodles are cooked to perfection.

RICE BOWL (7.95) comes with the famous multi-grain rice, cooked veggie-mix(cabbage, onion, carrot), jobche noodle (clear thick cellophane noodles), broccoli and one choice of toppings - 1. Chicken 2. Tofu 3. Spicy Sausage 4. Spicy Chicken
I've had the Rice Bowl with the spicy sausage and the tofu. While the spicy sausage tastes authentically like a mild andouille sausage, I don't want anduoille sausage with my sticky rice, the tofu which was marinated and grilled was a much better choice. Along with the divine rice, the jobche noodles stole the show. They had a mellow salty flavor of light soy sauce that was overpowering. The vegetables had the same savory flavor as the jobche.

CHICKEN DELUXE (9.50) chicken extravaganza with soy chicken, soy drumstick, soy popcorn chicken, multi-grain rice, broccoli, asparagus, pickled radish.
It's kind of disturbing how much their fake chicken tastes like real chicken. I did hear one dreadlocked GW student whine, "I thought you said this was SOOOOY." It is nitwit. These are perfect when dipped in the homemade hot sauce but bland without any kind of dipping. Props to the broccoli and asparagus which are STEAMED and not boiled.

Monday, June 19, 2006

We're All Hateful, Awful People

If by "we" you mean "me."

Why is it that families can be so exasperating? This felt like the weekend of family exasperation. You see, my cousin got married this weekend and trying to spend ANY time with the family felt like such contorted, torturous schedule shuffling it hardly seemed worth it. My parents got into town last Saturday. I called them to get the 411 on the schedule of events and was told that there would be “something” happening Friday. I tailored my schedule so that I could spend the evening with the family. My friend Evelyn was in town and I planned to do an after work drink with her to catch of on three years of life. My goal was to get to the East Falls Church metro at 7:00 so that someone could pick me up and take me to my uncle’s place in Great Falls. Since the wedding was supposed to start at 5:30 pm, I thought I was safe in getting to my uncle’s place at 4:00 pm on Saturday.

I call my mom Friday morning to confirm and she tells me that the family is gathering at 5:30 on Friday for a barbecue at my uncle’s and not only that, the Buddhist ceremony would be at 10:00 am Saturday. Whuh? I tell my mom I can’t make the Buddhist ceremony because of another commitment and that I will be there at 4:00 as we planned earlier. Because of all the moving stuff, my friend Auntie em offers to drive me and pick me up from the wedding. This causes me to burst into tears at Java Green in gratitude. I don’t know how I got such a great group of friends.

In the middle of coffee with Evelyn, my mom calls and hands the phone over to my brother who I assume will be picking me up. I tell him that the plan was for him to pick me up at 7:00 and he complains about the trouble it would be to drive 20 minutes to pick me up and then drive me back ot the metro and couldn’t I just go back to Capitol Hill and drive myself. I say that’s not convenient since I’m already downtown. He hems and haws some more and then asks me to just rent a car and drive myself. WHUH??? What is so hard about driving to the metro? I mean seriously, WTF?????? I just tell him to forget it and I go home.

On Saturday, I walk back from my volunteer commitment at 2:30 pm to get a call from my Mom that I need to be at my uncle’s house immediately because they want to take pictures. I am unshaven, sweaty, and nowhere near ready to put on a suit. I am flabbergasted that she thinks I can just leave at the drop of a dime when we agreed to me coming at 4:00pm. Auntie Em changes her schedule at the drop of a dime to get me to Great Falls by 3:15pm. I walk into my uncle’s house to see half of my family still in shorts and t-shirts. We don’t leave for the wedding until 4:45. Nice to know that they needed me dressed and ready to go so early.

By the time I get to the wedding, I’ve become someone I really don’t like: the bitchy wedding guest. While I try and keep it to myself, I just can’t help but pick apart the wedding. Luckily, none of my bitchiness is directed to the bride and groom who both look marvelous. Hey, I am the only person to laugh at the Princess Bride reference during the vows. But I just can’t stop myself from internally picking apart the mother of the bride’s outfit, the totally generic country club decorations, and the Corinthians reading (Love is patient…RIIIIGHT!) I bitch about how a certain guest’s low cut gown let us know exactly how much she spent on her boob job. I bitch about the fact that hoisin dipped lamb chops aren’t really good as a passed hors d’ouerve. I bitch about having an outdoor wedding when it’s 93 degrees outside.

After the ceremony we wait and wait and wait. We first wait to get seated. And then we wait for the soup course. And then we wait for the salad course. And then we wait for the main course. It’s 10:15pm by the time the main course arrives. Since auntie Em is picking me up at 10:30, my plans to lead my cousins to the dance floor during Baby Got Back go down in flames.

And in the end I hate myself for not being able to put this aside and just be HAPPY for two people who obviously care about each other. I wonder why it’s so hard to be with my family and why I can’t appreciate what they do give me and let the other stuff slide. The darker side of me wonders why can’t my family make ME the priority and ask me what would be convenient. Why can a friend devote their Saturday to driving me to and from Capitol Hill to Great Falls but my own family can’t give me a straight answer about when I need to be somewhere?

If anything, this whole weekend is a pointed reminder all the love I DO have in my life, from J, from my in-laws, and from my friends. And that is family too.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Needing your suggestions

Before I make my ask, I'll have to say that Pride was so worth it this year. You know why? Because I encountered, The Boys, Jason and Scotte, on the parade route. My walking with my LGBT group and then I hear this person in the crowd go "T!!!!!" I see Scotte who I met previously waving to me and then see the infamous Jason next to him. Before you know it Jason, Scott and I are kvelling like sorority sisters. There was one moment that Jason was taking a picture of me and I was all Sean Penn with the paparazzi - NOOOOO don't put my pictureon your site. I'm all sweaty from marching!!! In our impromptu meetup I commit to having them over to the new place since where they live is one town over from Rhymes-with-Cleverly. When I get back, I watch some TiFauxed Food Network shows including Giada doing a bridal shower with a bellini bar. I go to J - "THAT'S what I want for our first get together in the new house." This leads to the idea of throwing a brunchtime open house. That way we can dod the bellini bar and still have time for an afternoon nap.

So here's my call for suggestions. What kind of brunch things can you all think of for a brunch-themed open house. Because this is an open house, things like pancakes or omolets are out of the question. What's coming off the top of my mind are mini quiches. So blogoverse - any ideas?

Friday, June 09, 2006

You know you're a foodie when...

You are in your empty, soon-to-be-moved-into house and placing all of the furniture so that there's enough space to add a folding table to the end of your dining room table and have seating for twelve around the table. My ideal dining arrangement is Chinese banquet style with a big round table and a lazy susan at the center. That requires a fairly large room. However, J and I have been making fantasy menu's of our first dinner party. Mine is an Asian theme with hors d'oeurve's of Vietnamese spring and summer rolls, a main course of rice noodles tossed in a satay sauce, sauteed spinach with garlic and pan seared red snapper with a black bean/hoisin sauce and for dessert a creme brulee.

I'm excited about the move, which will happen in the next few weeks, but June is a pretty hellish month. Both J and I have weekend things going on every weekend that include work stuff, volunteer stuff, cousin's weddings and Pride. My am very grateful that J's Mom will be coming to help. I just feel a twinge of guilt that she will be staying in the disaster area that is our current apartment.

Pride makes me feel old. Not because I am well on the other side of thirty, but that I've lived in DC 12 years. I feel good being a long timer here because for the first five years, I spent my time saying goodbye to friends going away to grad school. It's been nice making friends who are here to stay and comign to DC AFTER grad school. But Pride is a reminder of how transitory this city is and how my crop of friends looks vastly different that it did in 1996.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ginormous Double Recap - Part 2

I should just say that this episode should be titled "Forgone Conclusion." Because if they are judging this competition on interpersonal skills, Tiffani is screwed.

So yeah, Tiffani and Dave are the final two. They are in Chef Tom's restaurant at the MGM where Billy Joel's Child Bride tells them about the final challenge - making a five course meal for eight diners (stars of the culinary world). The guest judge is Lorraine Bracco. Considering Project Runway had Parker Posey and Deborah Messing as their final guest judges, Lorraine Bracco seems so...meh. It appears that Lorraine owns a winery, so I guess her presence is warranted. Maybe I shouldn't complain, because if next season I get asked to be a guest judge and some blogger asks who the hell am I to judge Top Chef, I will hunt them down and kill them.

The twist of the final competition is that Dave, Lee Ann, Stephen, and Miguel will be helping the final two on their meal. In a seriously mean twist of the knife, Chef Tom asks the eliminees who they would want to work for. Dave, Lee Ann, and Miguel choose Harold. Stephen chooses Tiffani, only to shake things up. I'd like to point out that Chef Tom did say that part of being a Top Chef is to inspire others. Therefore, Tiffani is so losing this competition. The poor eliminated chefs have to draw knives to see who they have to help. Lee Ann and Miguel get Harold, much to their collective delight. Stephen gets Tiffani and poor, poor Dave gets Tiffani. My F1 for this recap is - Tiffani is so screwed. Poor Tiffani tries to make nice with Stephen and Dave. Noone's buying that. F1.

Harold, Lee Ann and Miguel are happy as clams. That will be my F2. By the way, there's a rumor on the internet that Harold and Lee Ann have a thing going. That would make my day if that rumor were true. Actually, just the thought of Harold and Lee Ann slashfic would make my day. Any takers? Team Happy gets to serve their dish at the Nob Hill restaurant in the product placed MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. Harold is intelligent enough ask Lee Ann and Miguel for their ideas on the meal. Harold gives Miguel props for his duo of beef that went over well in another challenge. Lots of harmony when Harold talks about having everyone is invested in the menu.

The theme for Tiffani's meal is duality and she tells her "team" that they will do two tasting menus. Stephen shows he hasn't had TOO big a dose of self awareness when he says that the dual tasting menu is something he would do since it's so sophisticmacated. Stephen is concerned about the wine pairings, especially with artichokes. Tiffani is stumped for what dessert to make a Dave offers up a panna cotta he was planning on using if he made the final two. That was very nice of you Dave.

Day 1 of the final. Lots of prep work. Chef Tom comes to be completely useless. Tiffani tells him her menu and he gives no advice TO HER FACE. In a confessional Chef Tom expresses his concerns about the ambitiousness of the menu and the wine pairing. After Harold's description of his dishes, Chef Tom saysbehind Harold's back that Harold is playing it safe. Once again, it's a serious missed opportunity not to have the interaction of Chef Tom giving advice and the competitors either defending themselves or rising to the challenge and incorporating the feedback. Cut to Dave bitching about the fact his dessert recipe is benefiting Tiffani. Harold kvells about how great his team works together. Tiffani says that Dave and Stephen are executing her vision. F1 F1 F1!!! Dave begs to differ and apologizes to America for any role he might play in Tiffani's victory.

After the commericials, Lee Ann says how much she wants to make it happen for Harold. And a thousand Harold/Lee Ann romance novels are created. She brought a white truffle honey for him. I bet she did. Lee Ann and Harold pal around to the point where Lee Ann calls Harold chef and he insists on being called by his first name. Harold talks about how he sees Miguel and Lee Ann as peers. Chef Tom tells Harold to stay back in the kitchen as opposed to trying to run the front of the house. Harold wisely writes up a menu and decides to just introduce the food at the beginning and come at the end to be evaluated. Miguel is all over the place in the kitchen.

Ah. The elegant diners. And Gail and Billy Joel's Child Bride. Along with the three judges are Lorraine Bracco, Dana Cowin of Food and Wine, Chef Fleur de Lys, and Michael Mina of Nob Hill, and Drew Nieporent of Myriad Restaurant Group. Harold jokes that when he's evaluated, he will need his kevlar vest. The judges like his diver scallop first course. Lorraine likes the wine pairing and Chef Fleur likes the plating. Gail thinks it sat too long. Behind the scenes, Harold asks a server to eavesdrop. Harold blows it with the olive oil poached bass second course. Billy Joel's Child Bride finds a bloodline in the fish and Michael thinks it's underseasoned. In the kitchen Miguel tries to buck Harold up. The quail and foie gras is deemed as overcooked by Drew, but Dana is happy with it. And Miguel makes me love him all over again by saying that it's not about Harold letting him and Lee Ann down but about them picking him up. I'm sure later that night Lee Ann will be picking him up. Next comes Miguel's duo of beef. The beef is a hit. Lorraine is especially enthusiastic. The spy-server gives the happy news to Harold. The judges love the fig tart and cheese dessert course.

At the evaluation, Harold jokes that he's ready for their criticism. And they tell him their likes and dislikes. Drew asks Harold whether he is cooking to please the guest or himself. In my new F2, Harold wisely answers that he tries to do both.

Now it's Tiffani's turn. She starts off all alone as Dave and Stephen are late in arriving. And why are they late? They were pounding the tequila all night. And why were they pounding the liquor? They hate Tiffani. In fact, Dave asks for a bottle of wine so he could drink during food prep. Tiffani says that she's just happy to get their help, drunk, sober or hung over but really, she's seething. Can I get an F1???? Poor Tiffani is trying to rein in her control freak tendencies but that's a losing battle. In fact, when she comes to the front of the house to see all of the diners, she cuts Billy Joel's Child Bride off by saying she knows of everyone at the table. She starts yammering on about duality and the two preparations. The judges are impressed by the ambituousness but Lorraine is wondering if she should put her Dr. Melfi hat on to analyze Tiffani.

Back in the kitchen Tiffani gives in to her inner control freak and tells Dave and Stephen not to talk at all during the prep. That's just ridiculous. Keep digging your own grave there. Speaking of digging her own grave, Tiffani insists on describing every dish that comes out. Can we have an F1? Tiffani's first duo of dishes are diver scallops with squid ink (blech!) and a scallop crudo, slices of raw scallops with citurs segments. These will either be big hits for the clean flavor of the scallops or major disasters. The dishes are a hit. It's the wacky Dave and Stephen show in the kitchen. The three are trying to get along but there's tons of tension. Dave is itching for a fight and Tiffani gives him a reason when she asks him to take his wine glass off the line. Next up is Tiffani lecture on food, along with an artichoke risotto and deep fried artichoke chips. The judges, especially Lorraine, hate the artichoke wine pairing. Gail likes the risotto. Dave bitches that Tiffani's need to control everything meant that dishes sat too long. Another Tiffani lecture, another course. This time it's a steamed branzino with ratatouille and a crispy branzino with a black olive pappardelle. Tiffani can't shut it and the judges hate it. Tiffani tries to thank the guys but Dave is being a big ol' tool and says there's still time to fuck it up. In the meantime the judges have agreed to eat while Tiffani is still talking. What they are eating for this course is a veal saltimbocca and veal with minted peas and spinach crema. Once again, they hate the wine pairing. Lorraine is sad that she doesn't want to lick her plate. Dave is excited about the dessert. The dessert is really a showcase for Dave and Stephen since it's a cocktail/dessert pairing. The judges LOOOOOOVE it. Tiffani and Dave show some graciousness to each other - Tiffani thanking the two of them and Dave saying how much it meant to him to at least cook in the final.

Restauranteur Drew asks the "who are you cooking for" question and Tiffani blows it by saying "for myself." They heap praise on Tiffani for "her" dessert.

Ok judging. Lorraine is part of the judging crew. This will be a mess. Before the competitors come, the judges reiterate their talking points on Tiffani being more ambitious with her courses and loving her dessert. In a truly F1 moment, the judges ask the other chefs about what went on behind the scenes. Stephen and Lee Ann give Tiffani her props. Both Miguel and Lee Ann continue with their Harold lovefest. F1 folks. F-effing-1. Then Dave gets asked about drawing Tiffani and says that Tiffani was on her best behavior, FOR TIFFANI. And then goes on and on about how short she is with them. Then Stephen and Dave pile on. Oooh here's the kicker, Dave takes complete credit for the dessert. F1!!!!!!!!!

Next up is Tiffani and Harold. Billy Joel's Child Bride brings up the fact that Tiffani had to talk about every single dish while Harold just wrote up a menu. Tiffani is genuinely surprised that Harold didn't talk. She has that heavy-lidded Tiffani look of disdain and misery. She gets raked over the coals for talking too much. Harold gets criticized for the sea bass and the quail. Tiffani blows it once again by taking credit for the dessert. She gets smacked down by Chef Tom who mentions that Dave said otherwise. Tiffani tries to cover up by praising Stephen and Dave to the skies. On S.S. Reap and Sow (tm Miss Alli at Televisionwithoutpity), Tiffani's face drops when she hears that Dave and Stephen both wanted Harold to win. Tiffani says she should be Top Chef because she takes risks. Yeah whatever. Harold says that he should be Top Chef because of his consistency and his people skills (hint hint).

Judges deliberate. They try and throw us off track by just talking about the food and saying they don't care about kitchen drama but this is one of the most preordained reality show conclusions since Colby made the final two in Survivor. After commercial - it's Dave. DUUUUUUH. Tiffani cries in her confessional and Dave gets the lovefest from the other four chefs.

Thanks everyone for sharing this journey with me. Sorry for the delay in recaping the final two episode. I just have two things to end with.

1. I am the undiscovered supermodel
2. I'm not here to make friends (except for Scotte, Jason, Stef, Biscuit Girl, Brunette and everyone one of you I adore).

Ginormous Double Episode Recap - Part 1

We open with Billy Joel's Child bride announcing that their quickfire challenge is really an elimination challenge. She's trying hard to sound like she isn't stoned out of her mind, but it's a losing battle. I think the sound people have gotten the voiceovers better because they have included background noise behind Billy Joel's Child Bride's explanation of their challenge. Something about cooking for different audiences in a short period of time. They start with room service customers. Tiffani jaw gets clenched, Harold looks amused and Dave looks like he's going to cry.

Scramble scramble scramble. They tour the MGM's vast kitchens and marvel at the abundance. Poor Dave bemoans his lack of time management skills and Harold bitches about the room service challenge not being his style. The "VIPs" order seafood with a hot and cold course. Dave is frantic and can barely get a tin can open. Harold goes with a soup and red snapper. Chef Tom wonders why noone chooses to use caviar or kobe beef since these are "high rollers." This is where Top Chef is vastly deficient to the far superior Project Runaway (other than the personalities of their respective hosts). Whereas Tim Gunn was so deliciously spot on in his assessments and carefully gave the competitors feedback on their pieces, Chef Tom justs snipes from the sidelines. It's a pretty useless exercise. Tiffani chooses lobster and some kind of fish carpaccio. Dear god, Dave is freaking out, but his dishes of crab stack and prawns and a fish fillet sound really interesting. Dave, get out of your own way. Hovering over the competitors is the Chef from Fleur de Lys (the first quickfire challenge).

As it turns out the high rollers are Miguel, Lee Ann and Stephen. Miguel seems to have gotten fashion advice from Stephen and is in a full-on suit with a big ass knot in the tie. Lee Ann, rocking the side-parted bangs, is relishing her role as a high roller and asking for caviar. Dave's dish comes out first. The three former competitors don't like that the shrimp is unpeeled and Miguel actually flings one across the room trying to peel it. They like the flavors, however. Tiffani's dishes are up next. The high rollers rip apart Tiffani's sashimi. Can I point out that Lee Ann looks fabulous. She's got an elegant, cleavage baring black dress that is doing her all kinds of favors. Finally with Harold's offering, they like the presentation of Harold's dish but wish the sashimi was more flavorful.

The next part of the competition is making snacks for a poker room. More scrambling. Chef Tom thinks that Dave might have an edge because of his love of snack food. Tiffani enjoys the challenge because she plays poker in poker rooms. Dave whines some more about the time crunch. Harold sensibly makes a TGI Friday's munchies platter, with onion rings, mini-pizzas, and mini grilled cheeses. This is kind of ironic when you think of how much he bitched about other challenges that involved plebian ingredients. Tiffani makes homemade potato chips with three diferent types of potatoes, quince paste goat cheese with sesame crackers, herbed crostini in truffle butter, and a brie and tomato sandwich with curry mustard. Dave does the fry-daddy route with egg rolls, chocolate covered strawberries, and deep fried shrimp and a sundried tomato panini. Noone can tell how they are doing because of the room service nature of the challenge.

At the poker table, Gail is trolling for a boyfriend by bringing the food. The poker players like Dave's egg roll and the shrimp. They don't like the fact that Tiffani's dishes need utensils and that they are so hoity toity. They eat up Harold's dishes, especially the chicken wings.

The final part of hte challenge is to make a high carb, high protein, and lowfat food for the Cirque du Soleil performers at Ka, the MGM Grand faux-Asian Cirque du Soleil show. Tiffani complains that she's cooked for athletes before and 30 minutes is not enough to do food for athletes well. Harold is stressed but focuses on pasta for carbo loading, along with chicken and gnocchi. Dave makes a Kobe tenderloin with some kind of balsamic, brown sugar and fig glaze and a huge bowl of pasta marinara. Tiffani does a blueberry and blue crab salad with pork and a kobe beef dish. Chef Tom points out that Kobe beef has a lot of protein but a lot of fat. Poor Dave, he looks like he's about to cry when Chef Tom says that the three dishes need to be plated. Dave completely forgets that he needed to make three dishes and knows that he screwed himself.

The Crique Du Soleilers show-offily do cartwheels off the stage to get to the food carts. Harold's cart is a hit. Dave's cart is also a hit although Chef Tom points out that a dish is missing. Tiffani's not so much. The performers have a lot of complaints on that one.

Miguel, Stephen, and Lee Ann come in to the MGM kitchens and Miguel announces them as the high rollers. Miguel is wearing some pretty funky sunglasses. Both Tiffani and Dave look like they're screwed. Lee Ann tries to give the final three their props for making to the final challenge but Tiffani is all kinds of defensive. Miguel, on the other hand, is going for the jugular, saying that there have been better dishes in the competition. I am impressed with Harold just keeping his mouth shut.

At the judges table the three judges report back, Chef Fleur De Lys reports that Harold won the high roller challenge with both Dave and Tiffani a distant second. The judges hate Tiffani's carpaccio plating. Gail says she had a great time with the poker players. I BET you did Gail. While Harold's chicken wings were the top dish, Dave's overall meal was the winner. In the final challenge, Dave had the best individual dish with his beef but Harold gets the overall nod with his three dishes. Tiffani is up shit creek.

Oh god another stupid voiceover that sounds straight out of a studio. So fake. ANYWHOOOO. At judging, the chefs get reamed for not having caviar or kobe beef as part of their high roller meal. Tiffani tries to justify it by saying the high rollers she cooks for like simple things. Zip it Tiff. You're digging your own grave. When Gail reports that the chicken wings where the poker players favorite, Tiffani is dumbfounded. She totally grimaces but she knows she's screwing herself so she goes, "That's. So. Good. To. Hear." Acting is so not a backup career for that one. In talking about the final challenge, Harold says he was all over the place. Dave talks all about turbo carbs and that he actually works out. He disses Tiffani's dish. Chef Tom rips him on missing a dish.

So who is in the final two? Harold is safe right off the bat. Sadly, Dave's lack of a complete meal on the final part of the challenge does him in and he's kicked out. I don't have strong feelings one way or another but it seems clear that the producers were gunning for a Tiffani/Harold final two. This becomes even more apparent in the final two competition.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Gorgeous Orzo Salad

Ooooo! Lookee here! Isn't J a great photographer. Look out Eatwithme, we're gunning for your seat at the food porn table. I am never one for food presentation but I couldn't resist. The bowl is actually lacquered bamboo which means it's light and indestructible.

It had been a while since our gang has gotten together so the DSes offered to host a gathering at their place. Girl DS said she was making some Israeli dishes. As J and I are moving in two weeks, I wanted to clear out our fridge and a pasta salad is perfect for that. Luckily we had a box orzo laying around which made a perfect pasta for a Mediterranean pasta salad.

This is less of a recipe than a set of guidelines.

For the orzo:
2 cups of orzo
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups of vegetable broth
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

For the dressing:
Juice of one large lemon
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1 teaspoon of honey
1/4 cup olive oil

My add ons:
Sliced olives (I used green olives marinated in oil and red pepper flakes)
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 small tomatoes, chopped
4 oz of of feta, crumbled
Chopped mint

Other add ons:
Chopped red bell pepper
Kalamata olives
pine nuts
Green beans

Saute the garlic and orzo in the olive oil until the some of the the orzo are golden and nutty. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cover and cook for 15 minutes until al dente and fluff with a fork like couscous. Mix the dressing together and pour half the dressing over the still warm orzo (pasta absorbs sauces better when warm) and toss. Add the add ons and our the rest of the dressing over everything. Toss.

Friday, June 02, 2006

By Request - The Tennessee Tale of Woe

So J and I were doing this driving from Texas to DC. The most direct way is to take the 30 to the 40 to the 81 and that means going through the state of Tennessee. We leave the Dallas area the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and plan to drive to Memphis. We sensibly go on Expedia and sensibly get a room at a Best Western. Because this is Memorial Day weekend, every hotel in Downtown Memphis is booked, so we end up staying at the Best Western is about a half an hour away from downtown. When we get to Memphis we drive towards the hotel but it just seems SOOOOO far from downtown.

We decide to go downtown and have dinner and try our hand at finding a hotel in the downtown area. While there are exits going south on the freeway for downton, there are none going north so we completely miss downtown and end up going through some of the sketchiest parts of Memphis to get there. We finally get to downtown where the entire South has converged. Seriously folks, it's like DC on Fourth of July. We forgo the hour and a half wait at Corky's and somehow end up running into Beale Street where we end up eating barbecue and listening to some blues.

It's 11:00 pm by the time we get to the Best Western. The Best Western is pretty damn sketchy itself and I am simultaneously relieved and pissed that they gave away our room. We try another motel that has a vacancy sign. J gets the last room available Just no. Both the air conditioning and the phone don't work. The wallpaper is peeling off and there is a plexiglass divider at the front desk to keep the staff separated from the guests. It is at that moment where we decide we are done with Memphis.

We haul ass out of the cursed city. On the way out of town we pass by several elegant looking Hiltons and Radissons and we decide to drive on because we are just done. We end up in Jackson, TN at 1:00 am in a clean and air conditioned Microtel. After some much needed sleep we head out. Halfway between Jackson and Nashville, a state trooper pulls me over. Let's note that I am driving 68 mph in a 70 mph zone. I am completely befuddled about what I did wrong. Apparently, there a TN law that says when you see an emergency vehicle with flashing lights you need to be in hte left hand lane. Even though we tell him we're from out of town, he mercilessly gives us a ticket and acts like we should have known. For the rest of the trip we keep our eyes peeled for any kind of sign that would tell us about this law. We finally spot one, five miles away from the Virginia border.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

In case you cared

The recipe index has been updated. Still working on the ginormous Top Chef finale recap.