Saturday, April 29, 2006

Top Chef Episode Eight

Based on the teaser, we all know what happens. But let me say that that this is the most satisfying and frustrating episode I've yet to recap. Satisfying because of the ending but frustrating because of the totally bullshit challenge. So we open with the Stephen and Harold lovefest and Tiffani saying that as the competition gets further, everyone taking everything personally and throwing each other under the bus. Now this is an interesting point because Tiffani says she refuses to do that. This is a fine line that I can't decide which side I am on. On the one side this is totally what Tiffani does. She has ratted so many of her fellow competitors out to the judges. On the other hand, was anything she said unjustified or fabricated? And has she held back in a team challenge a la Wendy Pepper so she could have ammunition to bitch out another competitor? Nevertheless, we can all agree that others have been a lot more gracious in judging.

Billy Joel's Child Bride changes it up by telling them about the elimination challenge, which is to work together to cater a wedding reception. The quickfire challenge is to come up with a menu. At this point in the game there's almost not incentive to win a quickfire challenge because there's no immunity offered. We're quickly introduced to the Scotts, two whippet thin gay boys who could totally be guests at a Barefoot Contessa dinner. They are very nonthreatening gay. Stephen is excited because obviously the gays have more adventurous tastes. That is complete bullshit but then again, what in the stupid challenge isn't bullshit? The Scotts want a pan-Asian meal with fusion influences and they would like to taste a prawn canape for the reception. The dinner needs to have an amuse-bouche, three courses and a wedding cake. As someone who planned their own wedding, this challenge is a disaster waiting to happen. Caterers need MONTHS to make the cake alone. Harold agrees and thinks he's F%*^&ed. The team has to cook for 100 guests with a budget of $3000. While this is pretty much what we spent for the food costs of our wedding, our wonderful caterer at Cafe Asia got to get her food from wholesale markets. As we find out soon enough, the competitors aren't so lucky.

Stephen comes with a some tangerine and prawn ponzu thing that I totally can't figure out. His menu is very Japanese. He goes on and on about some minimono whatever. Billy Joel's Child Bride wonders whether he could stay in his budget. Tiffani's idea is an Evening in Shanghai with what she calls a Thai braised shrimp in what she calls a spring roll. As a Vietnamese, I call bullshit because of unfried rice paper making that dish not a SPRING roll but a SUMMER rolls. She decides to go crazy with making 100 little cakes. I would HATE to execute that menu. Harold apologizes for the lack of visual creativity in his presentation. I think he's deliberately trying not to win this challenge because his theme is Southeast Asia with a cabbage-wrapped prawn as his canape. It looks totally boring. Dave also apologizes for the lack of artistic flair in his presentation and talks about EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT in his prawn bruschetta that has a fried won ton skin instead of bread. Harold and Stephen are utterly hateful with their smirking at Dave's presentation. Stuff it you two. You're acting like you're in junior high. Lee Ann delights the Scotts and every Asian in America by cheerfully pointing out that she is, in fact, Asian. Her presentation is complete with watercolor pictures. I totally love her concept because it is authentically Chinese complete with the shrimp toast canape. Her menu seems like a catering nightmare with a dish that requires two origami paper cranes. Dave is concerned about the fact that other people's presentation represented a complete lack of catering experience and what was doable under certain constraints. Because the Scotts know nothing about catering themselves, they choose Lee Ann and her two hundred cranes of torture menu.

Billy Joel's Child Bride then tells everyone the kicker - the reception with be the following afternoon. That is complete and utter bullshit. The producers are setting these people up for failure. Lee Ann looks like she's about to throw up. Before assignments are made Lee Ann wisely goes over the menu so that people can pitch in and help other competitors on their dishes. Dave takes the canapes, Stephen does the amuse bouche, Harold does the salmon first course, Tiffani does the lovers' nest with the origami cranes, Lee Ann does the Peking beef, everyone will be help out with dessert that consists of cake and petit fours. Harold suggests using boxed cake mix and everyone jumps onto that idea. Well ALMOST everyone, Stephen is noticeably silent. Of course Stephen doesn't step up and actually TELL people his concerns. And really, in a crunch, boxed cake mix rocks. Most from scratch cake has a shelf life of a milisecond. Stephen stupidly assumes that 16 hours will be plenty of time and this should be, well, a piece of cake.

As the posters at the Televisionwithoutpity Top Chef boards point out, it's an hour to the Berkeley Bowl where they have to get the ingredients. So that's two hours used up right there. Harold and Dave point out how totally crappy it is to get provisions from a supermarket. $3000 can go mighty fast if you are paying RETAIL. Then comes THE INCIDENT. Harold tries to buy a few whole salmon. Unfortunately, the fish lady won't sell it to him because she wants to use it for sashimi. Harold takes no prisoners and insists. Tiffani buys 8 boxes of cake mix and Dave buys shrimp.

Back in the kitchen everyone is hauling ass. Chef Tom comes in and holds a product placed box of Betty Crocker cake mix. He disapproves and asks Tiffani about the box as Stephen smirks. Tiffani points out that there's a reliability factor with boxed cake mix and with the time crunch, they don't have the ability to ensure that the quality of a from scratch cake. Of course the undercurrent is that the evil producers totally put them up to it and got gobs of money from Betty Crocker. So Chef Tom, take it up with the producers. Both Harold and Lee Ann point out Stephen takes a crazy long time to prep his dish. Dave rocks as he makes his dish along with working on the dessert course.

The Scotts arrive at the hotel and I am totally irritated with them. There's just an air of privilege and entitlement about them. They joke about the short time frame that the chefs have to make their six course meal. Yeah it's a effing joke to you because you two don't have to slave away in the kitchen. And in the kitchen, the chefs pulled an all-nighter and are totally exhausted.

After commerical, Billy Joel's Child Bride wastes the Chef's valuable time by introducing the judges who are all decked out for the wedding. Gail looks like a total whore with about twelve pounds of eyeliner. And speaking of whores, Billy Joel's Child Bride introduces Marcy Bloom, wedding planner to the stars who, by the way, planned the Child Bride's wedding to Billy Joel. This makes complete sense because Marcy looks like the tackiest thing you've ever seen. If anyone from What Not to Wear is watching this, I am sure they are throwing up at the sight of Marcy's garish make-up, clown wig colored hair, and what looks to be a POUF skirt.

Guests come in and everyone scrambles. Lee Ann kind of rocks the wedding cake decoration with a cascade of orchids. The Scotts have their ceremony complete with a female officiant. It would be kind of sweet if they didn't have an air of smugness about the whole thing. And seriously, the guest list is even whiter than the Oakland Junior league. Stephen finds out that the canape pass is supposed to last for AN HOUR AN A HALF. What kind of crazy ass bullshit is THAT? And why didn't the chefs get a minute by minute schedule. I mean if you are going to do a catering challenge, at least give them SOME of the tools, like a timeline. This is so stupid. Once again Dave kind of rocks and makes another appetizer with crab, pineapple and mirin served on pita chips. The guests enjoy the canapes. All except for Gail and Marcy who both brought their bitchface on.

Despite the presence of a catering manager, Stephen decides to school the waitstaff in serving a wine dinner. While Stephen is busy doing someone else's job, Lee Ann and Dave discover that the Chinese soup spoons for Stephen's amuse bouche have not been taken out of their wrappers and need to be washed and have the stickers peeled off of them. Everyone is severely pissed as Stephen.

The chefs scramble to serve without Stephen who is STILL talking to the waitstaff. Everyone is wondering what happened to Stephen but there will be no dinner with Tim Gunn at Red Lobster for Stephen. The first course is sent out an one of the Scotts explains the concept of an amuse bouche. Harold tries to tell Stephen to help in the kitchen but his advice is totally falling on deaf ears. Sadly, Harold's salmon with green papaya is a huge miss with the guests, particularly the two Scotts. Two guests in matching striped shirts tell the camera that the salmon was useless. While I know some dude was probably behind the camera asking them to rip on the dish, it's pretty atrocious behavior.

Halfway through service the chefs are exhausted. The lover's nest comes with the requisite origami cranes and the guests appear to have their manners and are appreciative. Much to the chagrin of Harold, Stephen waltzes in to the kitchen and tells them that there will be a toast in between courses and the perfectly hot beef dishes will be left to go lukewarm. The REAL catering manager comes to tell the crew that they're finally ready. One of the Scotts totally queens it up by saying that the beef was solid but not stellar. Lee Ann is sad about the disaster that is the wedding meal and Dave is, as usual, crying in the corner.

When it's time to do the dessert, Stephen is nowhere to be seen. In a confessional Stephen expresses his disgust wit the cake mix wedding cake that he refuses to give ANY input in or help out with. The cake looks gorgeous. Sadly a guest finds a bit of an eggshell in his cake. After the meal, the judges asks the Scotts about the meal. They try and be gracious and say that everyone had a good time but are stumped to come up with a dish they loved.

Ah judging. This will be a bloodbath. Chef Tom spews out venom to the point where he says that he's had better food from a take out place n New York. Tiffani tries to cover he ass by saying it was good for wedding food. I try and love Tiffani but what comes out of her mouth in judging just makes her a big target. Evil Marcy counters that HER clients expect better. I'd like to point out that she would NEVER take on a job with such atrocious parameters. Professional caterers like the Food Whore would have politely turned a job like this down. Chef Tom then attacks Lee Ann on not being enough of a leader and take more control of the quality. He then turns on Harold to criticize the salmon with papaya. Billy Joel's Child Bride chimes in with her disgust at the whole idea of cake mix. And seriously, when you make CHRISTIE BRINKLEY look like a woman of substance, you've hit rock bottom. Shut it Billy Joel's Child Bride. Harold gets brownie points by taking responsibility for the cake mix fiasco.

Here's comes the juicy part. Chef Tom asks the team who should go. Lee Ann, being the totally classy person she is, sidesteps the question and announces that Dave, with his catering experience should NOT go. Dave gets ask who he would want to go. Dave rocks my world by pointing the finger at Stephen. Dave talks about how Stephen was not pulling his weight in the kitchen, pointing out the Chinese soup spoon fiasco. Tiffani piles on that Stephen only focused on his dish and didn't help with the dessert at all. Stephen lies through his teeth by saying that the catering manager ask him to show the waitstaff how to serve the food. From the shots of the catering manager looking annoyed at Stephen, there's no way that assertion is true. Stephen then says he was only gone for five minutes from the kitchen and that everyone else should have handled the food. My god Stephen's nose IS getting longer as he says that he let everyone know where he was going when he left the kitchen. Everyone else shakes their head at that one. Evil Marcy gives kudos to Stephen for the elegant service. Stephen then tries to save his ass by finger Lee Ann and her overambitious menu. Like the one he put together was going to be doable under those conditions. Stephen, pot, kettle, black. Lee Ann take responsibility for the disatrous menu. Blah blah blah, judges hate the meal. Blah blah blah Evil Clown wedding Planner likes the service. She wouldn't know good taste if it bit her.

At judging, each of the chefs get taken apart but in the end it's Stephen who likes to play Top Sommelier and who refuses to take any responsibility for his bad food. THANK GOD ALMIGHTY!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Top Chef Teaser

To all of those who watched Top Chef last night I have only one thing to say - YAAAAAYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Full recap to come.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Top Chef - Episode 7

We open with Tiffani and Miguel giving each other the cold shoulder. It's hardass Tiffani and "I'm playing the game" Miguel. Things are not pretty. The competitors walk into the quickfire challenge to see a pretty wide array of ingredients and Chef Tom in a hideous red shirt. It's even more hideous than Stephen's fat ties. The quickfire challenge is to make a sandwich for Chef Tom's casual restaurant "Wichcraft." Unlike other quickfire challenges, the winner will not get immunity in the elimination challenge, rather, their sandwich will be a featured "Wichcraft" sandwich. This reminds me of an engineer friend of mine who was asked to enter a contest to design a Disney ride. He said no, because he would go through all of that work designing the ride but then he wouldn't be paid a cent and Disney could take all of his designs. That prize doesn't sound all that to me.

Kitchen craziness. Miguel want to prove himself. Harold is designing his sandwich to fit the Wichcraft menu. Stephen's designs a brunch sandwich with an egg. Because this is Stephen his brunch sandwich is totally pretentious. Miguel thinks he has the challenge in the bag with his pitaless falafel sandwich. Chef Tom likes Dave's sandwich with the big flavors and the endless list of ingredients. Chef Tom has an impossible time trying to bite Tiffani's huge toad in the hole sandwich and has even worse luck with Lee Ann's sunchoke sandwich, trying to get a bite without pulling out all of the lettuce in one fell swoop. Miguel gets props for the flavors of his sandwich but gets slammed for assuming that Chef Tom would eat it with a knife and fork. The winner of the challenge is Harold who put some thought into how the sandwich would fit into the overall menu. While none of them lose immunity, the true loser of this challenge is Chef Tom and his loud red shirt.

For the elimination challenge, Billy Joel's Child Bride tells them that they will be going to a raw restaurant space in the city. They will split into two teams to create a dining concept for the two different rooms in the restaurant. The true challenge is staying awake during Billy Joel's Child Bride's flat delivery. The red team is Dave, Tiffani and Harold. The blue team is Lee Ann, Harold and Stephen. Lee Ann describes herself and F%&^*ED. Can't disagree with you there. Trying to sound like a hardass by squinting her eyes REALLY hard, Bill Joel's child Bride says one of them will win and one of them will join them at the judges table to be eliminated. Like we wouldn't have figured that out.

Lee Ann is so awesome, describing her teammates as The Big Thinker (Stephen) and The No Thinker (Miguel). In the cars to the restaurant each team picks their punching bag. The Red Team's is Dave. Tiffani preps Dave her upcoming smackdown of him by saying that they should all remember that nothing is personal in the challenge. What happened to the happy Tiffani who was flirting with the Junior League? The team comes up with the restaurant concept of classic American. Dave suggests beef and Tiffani totally rolls her eyes and cuts him off. Tiffani is acting totally hideous in the car by interrupting Dave every time he tries to open his mouth. In the Blue Team car, Miguel is the designated punching bag. His wine and melon dessert gets the big "no" from Lee Ann who wants to talk concept first. Stephen comes up with Spain as the restaurant concept saying it's the newest thing. Oh yeah, it's so new that tapas thing. Jaleo like opened a millisecond ago. Stephen and Lee Ann dump on Miguel's more Latin and Caribbean ideas, saying they aren't mainland Spanish enough. Then Miguel's idea for a white gazpacho with marscapone cheese and grapes gets slammed. I'd have to say that Lee Ann is totally coming off like a beeyotch here. At least hear the guy out.

Chef Tom tells them that 30 people will be coming and they will be judged on how many people choose their restaurant and how satisfied the "customers" are. The Red Team gets the very taupe, white room and the Blue Team gets the very red, Red room. The Blue Team calls their restaurant American Workshop, saying they will be doing restaurant's greatest hits. Because Dave has actually run a restaurant, they decide to put Dave in the front of the house and Tiffani and Harold concur with every idea Dave has about how the front should be set up. They decide to go with a family style seating arrangement so Dave can serve them easily. Tiffani wisely says that Dave will go downhill if he gets in a bad head space but things could be worse - they could have ended up with Stephen. Smart girl. Now get off your high horse and we'll all get along fine.

Segue to the Red Team saying that the name of their restaurant is Sabor, the Spanish word for "taste." Dear god, Stephen says something about esoteric technique that just kills me. Lee Ann says she will be in the kitchen, clearly hoping to have as little to do with Stephen as possible. Stephen rips on the other team's concept saying they will be serving slop on a plate. SO CLASSY.

The next day the teams go grocery shopping. Team Red acts as if Miguel doesn't know what he's doing. While that might be the right assessment, it's not like anyone will do better when their co-workers belittle them. Stephen keeps trying to buy more and more pretentious ingredients that eat up their budget. Miguel makes a huge mistake mistaking that a pound of fish cost $7.00 a pound instead of $17.00 a pound. Stephen bitches that Miguel's mistake would take money from his wine budget. Back in the kitchen Tiffani is playing mean mommy to Dave's blundering son. Harold is the golden child on that team. Dave decides to keep his mouth shut but if they fail Dave will rat Tiffani out. Not a good strategy but the is in keeping with Dave's crybaby personality.

Lee Ann laments that Stephen refuses to check in with the Team, looking wistfully at Team Blue and Dave consulting with his teammates. That's only because Tiffani will break him in half if he gets out of line. Lee Ann and Miguel clash with Miguel taking the Dave route of just going along with her. They get in a fight about salt. Chef Tom comes and asks Team Blue what their concept is to which Tiffani replies American classics with roast chicken and jus and tuna tartare (MISTAKE!). Lee Ann answers for Team Red that their concept is Spain. When Chef Tom asks Team Red whose ideas was it, both Lee Ann and Stephen cover their asses by saying it was a group decision.

Dave and Stephen go to the restaurant supply store to get plates, tablecloths etc. Dave rocks twelve ways to Sunday, staying within the budget and being clear about what he needs. Stephen's champagne tastes clash with the beer budget (props to Lee Ann for that assessment). Dave wisely, sends a picture of some dishware to Tiffani and Harold to make sure they are happy. The magic personality fairy has descended on Harold as he admits that he's happy Dave is buying the supplies as he has no sense of style and is happy just to be cooking. Tiffani wants to be on the front of the house but she can't do it all. Dave's seething resentment shows itself in a confessional that he will rat Tiffani out if things go badly.

Things are guaranteed to go badly for Team Red as the cost of Stephen's place settings is $1000, well above their $400 budget. Dave is back 2 hours before the restaurant's opening while Stephen is still picking out gravy boats. Stephen finally comes back and bemoans all he has to do. Billy Joel's Child Bride walks in wearing what can only be described as her Madame Butterfly outfit. A silver silk mini-kimono with black pants. This is what I call CACA - clearly Asian cultural appropriation. Even worse she introduces Jeffrey Chodorow, the evil business dude from tv show, The Restaurant. While Rocco Dispirito wasn't exactly acquitting himself on that show, Jeffrey Chodorow was insufferable. Harold goes on and on about Jeffrey's success in the restaurant business. What Harold doesn't go on and on about is Jeffrey's record of white collar crime. Miguel looks freaked out. Jeffrey describes the prize - accompanying him and a team of his chefs to the Cannes film festival. IN FRANCE. Jeffrey this is Bravo. The viewers know where the Cannes film festival is. And really, is traveling with Jeffrey Chodorow and his entourage that big of a prize? I'd sooner get my teeth pulled but different strokes for different folks. The scene ends with Billy Joel's Child Bride telling us that the winning chef will be going to Cannes while the losing chef will be getting Canned.

Scurry, scurry, scurry in the kitchen. Lee Ann realizes that "chunk" (aka Miguel) forgot to ask the fishmonger to scale the fish. Dave is happy because of the contrast between his homely and unpretentious and fully stocked restaurant to Stephen's half doned, wanna be pretentious restaurant. "customers" come in and choose the restaurant. Diners plotz over the home style of Team Red. Dave expertly explains the concept to diners, saying it's an Italian or family style feel because food is about socialization and meeting and greeting. Stephen goes on and on about what else? WINE. In an even better contrast, Dave is telling Tiffani and Harold to get the dishes ready for him to serve, while Lee Ann and Harold are stressing about their food going cold. On the floor Stephen CAN NOT SHUT UP. Lee Ann yells at Stephen that the food is COLD. Dave is on the floor SERVING and telling folks about the dishes. Team Blue is so going down. The diners love the chicken. Stephen pooh poohs the concept of having warming, welcoming food. Because what people want is an uptight dining experience. Dear god Stephen is a mess.

So in the shots of folks giving feedback on the restaurants, the editors try and fake us out with shots on ONE diner complaining about Team Red's concept. When the judges come, Stephen regales them about the wine. Unfortunately, Chef tom finds scales on his fish. Lee Ann is humiliated. All the judges talk about how condescending Stephen is. Dave is totally in his element with the judges and even gets Tiffani to serve. Evil Jeffrey Chodorow gives a non compliment that the chicken "is not fussed with, it's just there." Better unfussy than overproduced.

During customer evaluations the same cranky customer in Team Red is complaining some more while others compliment the informal and PROMPT service. Over at Team Blue, a big ol' drag queen talks about how much she likes the concept as others complain about the atrocious service.

At judging, Team Red with it's the homey American Workshop concept that's the winner. They are all relieved with their score of 26 out of 30 with the customers loving Dave. Can we see a smile Dave? But when it comes to who gets the "prize" evil Jeffrey Chodorow asks the competitors why they should go with him to Cannes. Tiffani goes first, saying that American Workshop was her concept and that while Dave rocked the front of the house, she could have done the same. Dave counters that he had integrity and where he excel was making the customers feel good. Tiffani tries to interrupt but Dave immediately puts the smackdown on her saying she had her chance to talk. She keeps trying to interrupt and that elicits the classic line from Dave, "I'm not your bitch, BITCH." Dave is sick of Tiffani's shit and he is completely losing it at judging. The try and calm things down the judges ask Harold what he thinks. Harold is an effing genius here because he takes the high road and says he should be the guy to go with Jeffrey because he was planted in the kitchen. When asked Harold shows that he should be a U.N. peace negotiator by saying that Tiffani was amazing to work with but that Dave was his choice because of his unique shillks in front of the house. WELL PLAYED HAROLD!!!! Jeffrey chooses Dave because of the fact that they won because of service.

During Team Blue's judging, the judges ream the team for their bad service. Stephen immediately goes into "I'm here to educate the customer" schtick. He digs his heels in even more saying that all of the customers TOLD him they loves the service. Billy Joel's Child Bride counters with their low evaluation score. Stephen looks shinier by the second. Gail hits the nail on the head, saying "earning is one thing, being satisfied is another." When asked about what went wrong, Lee Ann slams Miguel for playing the role of Sous Chef. Chef Tom slams Miguel for just going along with his team against his better judgment. Knowing that Miguel is CLEARLY on his way out, Lee Ann says that she hasn't been "wowed" by anything he's done this competition. She holds out an olive branch by saying she'll buy him a beer when they get back to New York, ending with a "sorry dude." Stephen fingers Miguel as the one to go as well. Miguel counters that Stephen should be the one to go.

While the judges say that there was poor planning and a completely ambitious menu, they rip Miguel on taking a back seat, not just in this competition but with the competition with Andrea. So of course the loser is Miguel. Miguel gives long, lingering hugs to Harold, Dave, and Tiffani. Bye Miguel!

Next episode, the chefs cater a wedding reception. AND TIFFANI USES CAKE MIX!!!!!! Color me surprised.

I guess the world didn't end...

'cause here we are. So last night i finally got to meet Eat with Me's Scotte. Along with a veritable bevy of Graces to his Will. While I was only there for like ten minutes, it was a ten minutes well spent. Scott was crazy nice and totally funny. You could totally see that relaxed look of someone who's leaving a crazy workplace. I've been there brother! I wish I could have shared the full evening's worth of merriment because when I left Scotte was pledging to get shitfaced. And I'm sure Scotte is one of those super friendly drunks who starts introducing everyone to everyone by pointing out their best attributes. I, on the other hand, am one of those batshit crazy drunks who start asking single strainght men why they can't ask my single straight female friends out. I am sorely disappointed that I didn't meet the rest of the Eat With Me blogosphere including the fabulous stef from view from 16th street and the chilefires. When I get the backyard cleaned up it will be a sangria and mojito cocktail party at the DCFoodblogs.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Seder, I don't even know her

Last Thursday Rootbeer had her annual goyish Seder. It's part of the two-part Easter-Passover cavalcade of events that starts with the goyish seder and ends with a Sunday Keaster (kosher Easter) brunch. This was the fourth annual seder that Rootbeer has thrown for her Jewish and Gentile friends, bringing the traditions of the Jewish half of her heritage to her community of friends in DC. Rootbeer's seder is a night of singing, tradition, learning, and most of all, fun. This year's seder was extra special because of the homemade haggadah and the presence of Rootbeer's boyfriend's mother who is not only Jewish but Jewish from BROOKLYN. I think her presence compensated for all of the gentiles at the table and she was truly a hoot, a perfect addition to the Passover feast.

While we follow the traditional service as read in the hagaddah with some interesting changes. The most interesting is the orange on the seder plate to go with the parsley, horseradish and lamb shank. This is because a very orthodox rabbi said that women belong in the clergy as much as an orange belongs on the seder plate. Many Jewish feminists have taken this as a call to arms and place oranges on their seder plates.

For those of you unfamiliar with a seder. The ceremony goes as follows:

KADDESH Kiddush (1st cup of Wine)
URECHATZ Wash hands, before eating Karpas
KARPAS Eat parsley dipped in salt water
YACHATZ Break the middle matzah - hide the Afikoman
MAGGID The telling of the story of Passover (2nd cup of Wine)
RACHTZAH Wash hands before the meal
MOTZI Blessing for "Who brings forth", over matzah
MATZAH Blessing over matzah
MAROR Blessing for the eating of bitter herbs
KORECH Eat matzah with bitter herbs & charoset
SHULCHAN ORECH Passover Dinner
TZAFUN Eat the Afikomen
BARECH Blessings after the meal (3rd and 4th cups of Wine)
HALLEL Recite the Hallel, Psalm of praise
NIRTZAH Next year in Jerusalem - conclusion of the Seder
Song of Rejoicing Song of Rejoicing (technically, this is after Seder)

In telling the story of passover, friends take turns playing the four children who ask questions aobut passover. For example, there's the wise child who asks "why is this night different from other nights?" I, of course, have the role of the wicked child who asks "what does this mean to you?" I got this role because at the first Rootbeer seder I wondered what was so wicked aobut asking aobut hte meaning of Passover. Didn't that signify a healthy curiosity and a keen itnerest in the tradition? But as we learned the key word was YOU, indiciating that the wicked child didn't feel Jewish. While I don't completely buy into that, I did say my line in my brattiest wicked child voice.

Like so many other holidays, food plays a big role in passover. Not just the symbolic bitter herbs, salt water, or parsley, but the meal itself which signifies plenty and suffering at the same time. Rootbeer makes well known Ashkenazi haroset (which symbolizes the mortar that Jewish slaves used to build with in Egypt) with apples, raisins, walnuts and wine. She also made persian haroset with pistachios, oranges, and dates. The meal was spectacular, gelfite fish (which I actually like), matzo ball soup with plenty of fresh herbs (Rootbeer's boyfriend's doing), two kinds of brisket, rutabaga, spinach frittata and a roast chicken courtesy of Rootbeer's boyfriend's mother. Throughout the feast we sang songs of passover to decidedly non-Jewish tunes. For example, we sang to the tune of Louie, Louie - Pharaoh, pharoah, whooooa baby, let me people go, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah. Or Doooooon't forget the Afikooooomen, to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

The best part of this traditional steeped meal is dessert that consisted of chocolate macaroon and Rootbeers famous crack matzo that consistes of matzo with bronw sugar and chocolate melted over it. It's like a Jewish skor bar.

I'm crazy gateful fro Rootbeer and the other Jews forbearance of our ignorance and their willingness to share their tradition with us. The boyfriend's mom was a great additional and for once I think the Jews outnumbered the gentiles. NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Top Chef - Episode Six

We open to Andrea and Lee Ann discussing Miguel "throwing Andrea under a bus" in the previous episode. Andrea uses some Pysch 101 by saying that Miguel has a lot more riding on being the Top Chef than she does. In a confessional, Andrea fingers Miguel as the person likely to go because of his competitiveness. For his side of the story Miguel says that he didn't attack Andrea, he merely said that he couldn't rely on anyone else in the "game." Oh dear, dear, dear. You are such a reality tv cliche Miguel, blaming your bad behavior on the "game." It seems the Top Chef editors decide this is Miguel's week to suck because they include a shot of Dave finding the dishwasher (my kingdom for a dishwasher!) overflowing with suds. The entire house fingers Miguel as the culprit as he put regular dishwashing detergent in the dishwasher. Isn't Miguel a trained chef? That's pretty basic. But as we find out later in this episode, sometimes the basics elude Miguel. Miguel bitches that no one is is helping him clean up HIS mess. Then he goes all Survivor on us, talking about everyone else having their own agenda and the game is getting ugly. Dude, did you see Project Runway, the game doesn't need to be ugly if you bring it with the talent.

In the quickfire challenge Billy Joel's Child Bride introduces to Ted Allen, the food guy from Queer Eye (ah the halcyon days of Queer Eye) to the competitors. Girlfriend, aren't you a bit young to be hitting the Xanax? Her delivery is flat as a pancake. Tiffani acknowledges Ted Allen's awesomeness in a confessional. As well she should. He could score you tickets to the Project Runway Fashion Week show. Billy Joel's Child Bride says the theme of this round is pressure, which elicits a reaction from Dave of "hasn't that been the theme of the show?" In this challenge the competitors have a selection of ingredients which are priced by the ounce. They have to make an appetizer with the ingredients (and the contents of the Top Chef pantry) while spending no more than $3.00. It's an interesting set of ingredients with smoked fish, radishes, mushrooms, cheeses, and baby yams.

While Stephen smarms that he was keeping his cool while others were scurrying, Lee Ann who proves that she's awesome says, "Man oh man, the mood of the kitchen I couldn't tell, because I was too busy WORKING." Tiffani is enjoying the pressure while Miguel gets paranoid about people wanting to get him out. Stephen's clams over sea beans, Lee Ann's deep fried oysters, Harold's bacon wrapped trevisano, and Tiffani's oysters three way all get kudos from an amiable Ted. Ted is unimpressed by Miguel's antipasto plate, Andrea's carrot and pear slaw, and Dave's really boring chicken skewers. In the end, Ted chooses Stephen as the winner which brings out the bitchy in Harold and Dave. By the way, the forum posters over at Televisionwithoutpity's Top Chef boards are pointing out the Stephen's face is getting shinier and more fish like with each episode. Is he really gunning for the lead role in the remake of The Incredible Mr. Limpet?

The elimination challenge is for the competitors to put together a seven-course meal for a dinner party Ted Allen will be giving at Frisson. Ted tries to be all hard ass about it, saying that a bad meal will make him a cranky chef but we've seen how he's cooed over the straight guys the Queer Eyes make over. He's a softy. During menu planning, Lee Ann points out that none of them are pastry chefs so whoever got dessert would get the short end of the stick. In front of Chef Tom, Tiffani points out that Stephen has immunity and could take one for the team by choosing to do the dessert course. While some may view that and sneaky and bitchy, I think it's well played. What does Stephen have to lose? He'll have a solid excuse for not doing well on the challenge and would gain the goodwill of his fellow competitors. Stephen, quite sensibly, agrees, Miguel volunteers for the first course cold platter, Dave volunteers to do the second course which is a soup, Andrea volunteers to do a fish for the third course, Tiffani does the fourth course with duck gnocchi, Harold is dying to cook up some meat so he takes the fifth course, Lee Ann volunteers to do a pre-dessert which is a beet sorbet and cheese before Stephen's dessert.

In some of the worst product placement since The Restaurant's use of American Express credit cards, the gang decides to have a BBQ with not so artful shots of Kingsford briquettes and LIGHTER FLUID, KC Masterpiece, and Hidden Valley Ranch. In another obvious and awkward product placement Stephen logs on to AOL to find dessert recipes.

When they go to buy ingredients, everyone is getting along except for Miguel who is relying on himself and only himself. We'll see how that works out for him. The crew comes to Frisson to ooh and aah over the decor when Chef Tom comes in with THE TWIST. Much to everyone's dismay, the chefs have to pull knives to cook each other's dishes. Andrea is nonplussed but everyone else is dismayed. The way it falls out is that Miguel gets Lee Ann's cheese platter; Dave gets Andrea's fish; Andrea gets Miguel's caviar smoked scallop latke; Tiffani gets Harold's meat; Harold gets the dreaded dessert; Lee Ann gets the gnocchi; and Stephen gets the soup. Harold is PISSED as he's been looking forward to the meat hates Stephen esoteric use of black tea and saffron in his dessert recipe. Harold and Stephen wisely decide to work together to make their dishes, particularly because Stephen doesn't want Harold to get screwed on the dessert. Everyone is explaining their recipes to everyone else. Miguel continues to freak and Dave just seems to deflate. Like the rest of the world, I think Dave is acting like a big cry baby. Suck it up Dave. Tiffani seems chill about cooking the meat but says it should be done perfectly.

Then comes THE INCIDENT. Miguel kvetches in an almost cartoon-like voice "duuuuuuhh, I did a REAAAAL doozy." As it turns out he put salt instead of sugar in the beet sorbet. The next five minutes are of Miguel going on and on that "he's done." Miguel's reaction to royally messing up is to butt in on Andrea making his recipe. When Chef Tom comes to check up, Miguel is totally losing it to the point where he forgets what cheese is in the cheese course. OOOOh foreshadowing. Andrea decides just to let Miguel focus on the dish that SHE's supposed to be making.

Guests come. Big luminaries in the food world. Stephen serves as sommelier and opens champagne with a sword. Andrea and Miguel serve the latkes. Guests note that the latkes are cold. That's not a good sign. Harold and Stephen serve up Stephen's chanterelle soup beautifully presented with a little shot glass of soup and a spoon of caramelized mushrooms. The crowd loves it. In a display of classiness, a shiny faced Stephen says that he and Harold collaborated on their dishes. Dave serves the John Dory and says to the guests how stressed out the twist made him. They offer him a glass of wine. The guests hate the vegetables of the dish saying the carrots were bland and the skin was on the peppers.

On the other hand, the guests go gaga over Lee Ann's gnocchi. Tiffani scores a solid triple with her rendition of Harold's meat. The only down side was that the meat was over-rested. In presenting the dish, Tiffani is relaxed and self-deprecating, a far cry from the tight ass she was with the kids. Now comes the reconstituted version of Lee Ann's cheese plate. It ends up being a beet and bleu cheese salad with a cheese cracker, I'd like to point out that Mr. I Rely Only On Myself got a LOT of direction from Lee Ann. In presenting the dish, Miguel completely forgets the name of the cheese. The guests loved the cheese cracker. Finally Harold serves the dessert, a trio of milk chocolate soup, a white chocolate semifreddo, and warm flourless cake. The guests comment on how totally rich and overpowering the desserts were. Overall Ted is happy with the meal and gushes over the chefs. My theory of Ted being a softy is born out.

In judging, all the judges were commenting on how effectively everyone worked together. They were impressed by the overall menu. While waiting for judgment, Miguel is sitting apart and pissy with everyone. Of course the top three are Lee Ann, Tiffani, and Stephen. After the appropriate amount of gushing over all the top three's dishes, Lee Ann gets her long-awaited victory. Lee Ann wins a place in my heart by giving Tiffani the credit for creating a good dish. But then judges decide to sow some discord by asking the top three about how well things were in the kitchen. Lee Ann talks about Miguel's big mistake. Chef Tom furthers the shit starting by asking the three whether Miguel should be out. Lee Ann tries to be diplomatic and says it's a tough call but Tiffani calls it like it is and says Miguel should go. She goes on to talk about Miguel's downward spiral in the kitchen. Stephen says he's ashamed to see it because Miguel isn't at the bottom of the ladder and points out that Dave and Andrea are weaker.

Harold is left out of the bottom three much to his relief. The judges slam Dave on his vegetables. Ted kindly points out that Dave was so focused on Andrea's vision he didn't put enough of himself in the dish which causes Dave to beat up on himself even more. Ok Dave pull it together and stop crying. Miguel has to account for his freak out and especially the fact he forgot the name of the cheese. In a moment of pure evil, Chef Tom points out that Lee Ann and Tiffani thought he was a mess in the kitchen. Miguel tries to justify it by saying that he pulled himself together at the end. Andrea gets slammed for only making the latkes and not putting anything of herself in the dish. You can tell Andrea wants to leaves.

While everyone is waiting to hear who's out, Miguel gets in Tiffani's face about ratting him out. Hey Miguel, Tiffani can't fire a shot if you didn't give her the ammunition. Tiffani tries to backtrack and says she never said she wanted him to go home but that's a bi ol' lie. Come on Tiffani, you're tough, stand by your words. Dave is bawling in the background. Miguel tries to corner Tiffani about whether she's threatened by him which is totally laughable considering her cooking skills versus his. Then Miguel calls Tiffani and snake, making hissing noises. Way to have a Sue Hawk moment, Miguel.

In judging, Ted Allen endears me even more to him by calling Dave out on his emotional outbursts. At some point we don't care. Ted seems to be "gunning" to be the Top Chef Tim Gunn when he says about Dave and the recipe, "He should have throw that idea out the window and sauteed the damn thing in a stick of butter, BA DA BING!" Which is seriously so awesome I can't even begin. In the end it's Andrea who really didn't seem to want to be there after her first elimination.

Next week: Jeffrey Chodorow! BOOO!!!!!!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ellington’s review

It’s been a long time since we’ve done a restaurant review. Between all of the non food stuff we’ve been posting, and the Top Chef recaps, and the fact that we just don’t have the time or money to find new restaurants, reviews haven’t been in the cards. But we just discovered a gem in our own backyard – Ellington’s on 8th. We’ve long avoided Ellington’s because of the live music. Not that the live music was bad, it’s just both J and I find it hard to have a conversation with live music in the background. Therefore, we’ve never wanted to have a meal at Ellington’s (where live music is part of the experience).

Last Friday, however, we were just too tired to go any further than a block away from our place so the logical choice was Ellington’s. It was a pleasant surprise that the actual dining room of Ellington’s was in the back, away from the music. The yellow walls and the wood rafters gave the room a warm, almost Provencal feeling. It faced sliding glass doors that led onto the patio. That definitely insured a return trip. Ellington’s is definitely a hole in the wall experience in the good and bad ways. The service was friendly and informal but perhaps a little too informal. Many dishes were unavailable and we had to wait for our entrees. But we were served with good cheer and the wait staff apologized for the delay.

One nice thing about Ellington’s is that each table got its own pitcher of water. This makes a HUGE difference for me because I drink water ALL the time. If anyone reads our restaurant reviews regularly, you’ll know that water is a big thing for me. I like prompt, tasty, and plentiful. And free. At some point I will do a post on the best tap water I’ve tasted. But that’s another post. I will sing the praises of their homemade rolls, which are the best rolls I have ever tasted. The rolls were served warm and were light and fluffy with a hint of sweetness. It was so good, I asked for another round of rolls. Thank god I got them because the service that night was SLOOOOOW. It took a fairly long time to get our ground beef patties (they were out of the chicken patties but it was well worth it. The patties are misnamed because they are more like Caribbean empanadas. The crust was flavored with I think tumeric and was surprisingly not greasy. The meat inside had a hint of curry. Enough to make the patty interested without overpowering the flavor of the meat. I was baffled by the jerk sauce. The jerk seasoning was a strong mix of salty and bitter that were really complements to the patty. After one taste, I just ignored it.

In what took a lifetime, we finally got our entrees. While I ordered the chicken Mafe which is chicken with a peanut tomato sauce, I ended up getting served the beef Mafe. I was too hungry to turn it down. It was really divine. This was like an African goulash with peanut butter both thickening the sauce and giving it a rich flavor that didn’t scream PEANUT. J’s dish was the jerk tofu. The tofu was a great consistency but the bitterness of the herbs really distracted from the dish. What compensated for that were the pigeon peas and rice and the sautéed cabbage which were both excellent.

Despite the slow service, Ellington’s is a place we’d go back to. Their Caribbean and African dishes seem really authentic and have flavors that you don’t find in most other restaurants. And the restaurant is a training ground for African immigrants who want to learn about the restaurant business. What we’re looking forward to is their Thursday all you can eat BBQ buffet.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Si Se Puede!

Best sign at yesterday's rally for immigrant rights - Butterstick is the son of immigrants.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Top Chef - Episode Five

Ok. I just realized something. Billy Joel's Child Bride and judge Gail Simmons are the Rich Girls all grown up. Now hear me out. I know that Ally and Jaime are like actually ENTERTAINING as opposed to Billy Joel's Child Bride who is an automaton, but if you picture how these two will grow up, it will be into Billy Joel's Child Bride and Gail Simmons. Billy Joel's Child Bride has Ally's bored/stoned way of talking and if you think about how Ally Hilfiger would grow up, it's not a leap to see her take herself more seriously and lose that glint of self awareness about how ridiculous she is. That would result into the stoned/bored/deadpan delivery without any sense of humor. Also, isn't the career trajectory of Billy Joel's Child Bride perfect for Ally Hilfiger? Doing short stints of "working" at gourmet food places in the Hamptons, deciding that it was too much work and "startng" her own website before meeting some rich older guy at a Hamptons party whose real, earned fame would give her an entree into showbiz? And the slightly more zaftig Gail is the perfect Jaime to Billy Joel's Child Bride's Ally. Because she wasn't as skinny or conventionally pretty as Ally, Jaime would have had to snooze her way through college, get a communications degree, and have her daddy set her up in some magazine as an editorial assistant where she "works" her way up the ladder to become a food writer. Then one day Ally gets bored and realizes that EVERY hot socialite has their own reality show and they need to get back on that train and since she has like this food website, why not have rich husband's agents call Bravo and have her do a food show? And wouldn't if be fun if she got her old friend Jaime along to make bitchy comments, especially since Jaime writes or something? Of course since she's prettier and married to like a rich, famous person and Jaime is like working 10 hours a week for some magazine, so this show would be about ALLY and she would have to narrate it all the damn time. Hence you have Top Chef.

Cue morning wake up scenes. Lisa is feeling insecure about crashing and burning in the last challenge but expresses her desire to win while Andrea is asserting that she deserves to be there in spite of Stephen's disdain. In the fakest little scene, Lee Ann, Miguel, and Dave are on the roof of the house and "spontaneously" Lee Ann asks, "I wonder what the next challenge will be?" Cut to the Top Chef kitchen where Ally, I mean Billy Joel's Child Bride introduces guest judge Mike Yakura, chef at La Coloniale, a restaurant that fuses French and Asian cusines. I'd like to point out that Mike Yakura is kind of hunky in a stocky CA surfer boy way. I am hoping that there's some Top Chef fanfic where Mike puts a smile on Dave's face because Dave really does need to smile more.

So the Quickfire challenge is to identify 20 ingredients blindfolded in five minutes. We start with Lee Ann and go through several of her attempts to figure out what she's tasting. As we see, the challenge is pretty damn hard. It looks like she's only figuring out two or three ingredients. Cut to a montage of the other competitors tasting and it's a challenge for everyone. What's funny and what endears me to Dave even more is the fact he cops to being more knowledgeable about junk food than fancy ingredients. Tiffani, in particular, seems to be crashing and burning. In the end it was a chastened Tiffani and Miguel at the bottom having only identified one ingredient. In the middle is Lee Ann, Stephen, Harold, and Lisa with three correct answers. This leaves Andrea as the surprised winner with four correct answers. In the class/no class display is Tiffani, Dave and Lisa looking truly happy for Andrea, while Stephen and Harold look on with disdain.

The elimination challenge requires them to fuse Latin American cuisine with another cuisine to produce street food from a cart (which hunky Asian judge brings in). By drawing knifes, the competitors create teams ethnic cuisine. The teams are:

Tiffani and Dave - Morrocan
Harold and Lisa - Japanese
Stephen and Lee Ann - Chinese
Andrea and Miguel - Indian

Lee Ann warms the cockles of my heart by voicing her displeasure at Stephen as a teammate. Also not happy are Harold who is worried about Lisa's inexperience and Miguel who is worried Andrea has not incentive to win the challenge since she has immunity. Hippy dippy Andrea already has ideas for her dish which could mean good or bad things. Each team gets to go to an ethnic grocery store specific to their fusion cuisine and afterwards, they all converge at a Latino market. Lee Ann and Stephen agree to make a Chinese verrsion of a sope, a Mexican masa patty. Stephen proudly admits he's used to four star dining and not htis street food. POOOOR baby. Dave and Tiffani, on the other hand, are pysched for the challenge and are particularly excited to get the Morroccan option. They chose to steer clear of the cliched burrito. I think it's the same gender loving vibes they must be giving each other that is creating the team harmony. It also helps that Dave lets Tiffani take the lead and develop a Morrocan version of a Cuban sandwich. Dave also buys a short Moroccan fez. Andrea seems to be running roughshod over Miguel and convinces him to do a lentil burrito. Considering Miguel is Latino, he isn't asserting his own tastes in this challenge at all. Harold appears to lord his professional experience over Lisa and they go with a seared tuna and crunchy Latin salad for their street food. Lisa appears to be appreciative of Harold's experience even though he totally looks down on her.

At the Latin market it's total chaos. Andrea wins brownie points from me by noting that Miguel can speak fluent Spanish in the Mexian grocery store. I was fearful that she would say he spoke fluent Mexican. You see! I'm a total softy. When they are done with the shopping, the crew decides to cut loose at home and come up with a trashy, junk food version of the blindfold challenge. Dave and Miguel are the victims being forced to taste a variety of product placed items such as Whoppers, Hidden Valley Ranch, and of course KC Masterpiece. Miguel is the winner. What I love about this challenges is that the producers are editing it with the same seriousness as a real challenge. Well Played!

The next day it's total chaos in the kitchen. Harold constantly give Lisa pointers on chopping. It gets old. Tiffani is challenged by Dave being a big spazz in the kitchen where she prefers quiet and harmony. Chef Tom comes in and does the Tim Gunn thing but he's fairly useless and there are no Tim Gun style bon mots from Chef Tom. He expresses concern about Harold and Lisa and Andrea and Miguel in a confessional. Oooh foreshadowing. It's a scramble in the last few minutes for everyone except for Harold and Lisa who are done early, but ARE they? They all pack up to go to CA-Rebecca's stomping grounds - the Mission District. Certainly one of the funkiest and most diverse parts of San Francisco. Here's what happens on the street:

Harold and Lisa
- they go with a seared tuna with very California ingredients that include a lime vinaigrette and avocado. Unfortunately they forget the jicama which is the base of the salad part of the dish. In this predominantly Latino part of town, seared tuna is a pretty hard sell. It doesn't help that they serve their stuff in little bowls. Not exactly street food.

Miguel and Andrea
- they seem to be suffering from the same problem as Harold and Lisa in the fact that their Indian lentil-rice burrito is open face and needs to be eaten with a knife and fork. They serve it with a tamarind punch and Miguel's knowledge of Spanish brings in a crowd.

Tiffani and Dave
- Team Same Gender Loving doesn't need any Spanish spekaing skills because their Morroccan braised pork sandwich brings in a crowd for them. It helps that they nailed the whole concept of the challenge which is easily to carry street food. Tiffani's personality transplant seems to be in place because she is personable and happy. She applauds Dave for talking to the crowd and getting their praise. It's all about the Same Gender Loving. Tiffani is just happy to dish out the sandwiches.

Lee Ann and Stephen
- I know I hate Stephen, but it's pretty obvious who was responsible for what in their menu planning. On the menu is a sopa (kind of like a pupusa without the cheese) with Chinese Char Siu pork and vegetable slaw artfully arranged on banana leaves. This is served with a virgin lychee mojito. Stephen looks like a total tool in his orange tie and pinstriped suit. He's walking around the mission as if he's the sommelier for Courdoroy (although the sommelier at Coudoroy is certainly not a tool). Stephen smarms that he crowd who are pointedly ignoring him are "not their target market." Well for this challenge they are, STEPHEN. Once folks finally get to eat they enjoy the well thought out flavors.

The judges come and taste the dishes on the street. Chef Tom's comment about Stephen's inappropriate attire (as the best dressed man in the Mission) is contrasted with Stephen saying he and Lee Ann were bringing refinement to street food. Street food is plenty refined thank you very much. Hunky Guest Judge is a fan of the Char Siu pork. As well he should be. Char Siu Bao is one of the highlights of a dim sum menu. The judges no likey Andrea and Miguel's Indian burrito, pronouncing the rice bland and the flavors too varied. Miguel says he confident about the collaboration. What they judges do likey is Team Same Gender Loving's Morroccan Cubano sandwiches. Both Tiffani and Dave give each other props. Harold and Lisa fight over whether to tell the judges they forgot the jicama. Harold wants to come clean (a good choice since the judges would probably nail them for hiding something). Lisa wants to pretend the jicama was never part of the dish to begin with. They have to cop to it when Tom points out what's missing.

So judging. Team Same Gender Loving and Team China get called to get praise heaped upon them. In fact, Chef Tom thinks they are the strongest dishes of the entire competition. Dave and Tiffani get kudos for the mix of hot and cold flavors and textures and particularly for the fact that what they made was truly street food. Hunky Guest Chef is effusive about the lychee virgin mojito and wants to poach the recipe for his own restaurant. The winners are Team Same Gender Loving for the portability of their dish. Lee Ann looks sad because she has yet to win an elimination challenge. I have two words for you Lee Ann: Jay McCarroll. A plus for me is seeing Dave smile. I love that he looks boyish and goofy.

The judges then call the two remaining teams in. In their self-assessment, Lisa and Harold bemoan the lack of jicama. Lisa takes responsibility for the lack of jicama. When Chef Tom asks Harold about whether his team's dish was actually street food, Harold responds by saying he wanted to educate the customer and elevate their palate. Dear god, the educating the customer excuse is becoming hackenyed after the fifth episode. That's so sad. Hunky guest Chef excoriates Team Japan for their lack of vision declaring seared tuna so last season. Team Japan redeems themselves when chef Tom asks who should go home. Lisa volunteers herself because of her lack of experience and horrible past performances. Harold gains brownie points with me by saying that Lisa is definitely a professional. The judges ream Team India even more for the fact that could have made their burrito portable but they chose to serve it open faced. Uncharacteristically, Miguel totally fingers Andrea as the culprit for the bad open-faced burrito. Chef Tom points out that Miguel decided to take Andrea's lead even though she had immunity and had less motivation to do well. Miguel is totally digging a hole for himself as he defends that HE did most of the cookng. However, when Chef Tom tells him the rcie was bland, Miguel again points the finger to Andrea, saying the rice was her idea. I can't wait to see the footage of when they go back to the house.

At judging, Lisa's lack of motivation bites her in the ass and she is chosen to leave. Among the visibly moved is my new favorite, Dave, and Tiffani. Awwww, teary Dave is jsut as cute as smiling Dave. Harold is surprisingly upset at Lisa's departure. Miguel loses points with me by saying that the rough judging is the nature of the game. Oh Miguel, don't go Wendy Pepper on me.

Seeing Billy Joel's Child Bride as Ally and Gail Simmons as Jaime certianly makes the judging more bearable. It explains the Child bride's dead demeanor and Gail's limp bitchiness.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Food Network News

So I was just reading on Well Fed about the Food Network's upcoming shows. I'll have to admit I had previous thirdhand knowledge about this because the brother of the boyfriend of one of our good friends is in the marketing department at the Food Network. J let him know that we are both raging Food Network freaks and he gave J some inside knowledge which J passed on to me.

His insider tidbits were confirmed by some television newsletter called Cynthia Turner's Cynopsis which was posted in Well Fed (which next to East With Me has some great how to food photography.

Among the new shows are:

Two for the Road, premieres June 27 at 10p, Paula Dean's sons, Jamie and Bobby, criss-cross the country in search of the best local, homemade foods and family-run businesses. (Well Fed writes - The last thing I want to see is the spawn of Paula on a road trip) I totally agree. Their frat boy schtick gets laid on way too thick.
Throwdown with Bobby Flay, premieres June 29 at 10p, in each episode Chef Bobby Flay will challenge the best amateur cooks in different food arenas – bakers, pizza makers, BBQers and more to a surprise cook-off. (Well Fed writes - I can't stand Bobby Flay. His recipes are so samey and he's such an arrogant asshole, pardon my French.) And WORD. I still have not forgiven Bobby Flay for beating one of hte Iron Chefs and standing on a table and crowing aobut it. I guess I just don't like frat boy schtick.

Other new series coming next season include:
Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger, premieres April 8 at 1p, nutritionist and author, Ellie Krieger will show viewers how simple it is to stay on track with a healthy diet by offering tips for life's most stressful situations in this half-hour show. (I'll give this show a chance but I'm skeptial. Shows about healthy cooking always seem to be a bit soft.) I find shows about healthy cooking annoying because it ends up viewing food as good or bad.
Paula's Cooking Party (working title), premieres September 2006, shot in her hometown of Savannah, GA, Paula will cook and connect with fans in-studio and in field segments on the road, by answering questions and encouraging audience participation. (Well Fed writes - This sounds like torture, right?) And actually Paula's schtick is wearing thin on me too. I am officially dead inside.

BUT. I'm not truly dead inside because I am crowing with glee at the next bit of information. I am literally giggling like a little girl the next new Food Network show (drumroll please)....

Nigella Feasts, September 2006, based on her recent bestseller, Nigella Lawson comes to the Food Network for the first time with this new series about food, family, public holidays and private passions and how to celebrate with dishes that stimulate the senses and the palette. (Well Fed writes -Welcome back, Nigella! Welcome back!)

You have to understand that Nigella is my role model in all ways (except for my love life). She's smart, zaftig, sexy, witty, and a damn good cook. Nigella Bites and Forever Summer were two of the best food shows ever produced and paved the way (as Well Fed points out) for Barefoot Contessa and EveryDay Italian, two shows that use real kitchens that are lusciously lit and that end with a group dining experience. I cannot tell you how many times I've just read Nigella's cookbooks for fun. I love that woman unabashedly and I can't wait to see her back on tv. Well played Food Network.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Pastry Review

We haven't had a review in a while so here's a review of some Pastries by Randolph. I've heard many good things about Pastries by Randolph. They've had a reputation in the area for making mind-blowing desserts. My uncle had them make his wedding cake. Therefore, I was excited that the Timily's not only wanted to go with us to Dim Sum at China Garden in Rosslyn, but wantedto make sure we got some pastries at Randolph's. Last time we tried me missed their 1:00 pm Sunday closing by seconds. This time we were getting the pastries BEFORE going to Dim Sum.

As all of you know, Sunday was one of those days that makes you grateful for living in DC. It was the perfect blend of slightly nippy air with bright sunshine and tress in full bloom. We got to Pastries by Randolph by 11:15 am and already they were all out of their famous hot cross buns. J and I went all out and got two pastries each. He got a capucinno mousse cake and the huge rum ball (covered in chocolate sprinkles). I got the fruit pavlova and the strawberry napoleon. The Timily's exerted more control than us and got the chocolate flower pot and the chocolate Easter Egg.

After dim sum, we retired to the Timily's backyard where we reveled in the glory that was spring in DC. Their garden was filled with all sorts of daffodils and camelias. It was the perfect place ot eat dessert. After our stomachs had a chance to settle we tasted each other's desserts like we were eating dim sum.

Me being a more of a fruit and whipped cream type of person, I adored the napoleon which was really spring on a fork. The strawberries had an intense fragrance of strawberries with the taste being tart enough to balance the sweetness of the vanilla pastry cream. The puff pastry sheets retained their buttery flakiness despite the moisture from the pastry cream and strawberries. This was a hard dish to eat iwth crumbs flying all over. It was also hard to share because of the flakiness of the pastry but there's no denying the flavor. Also part of the whipped/fruit combo was the pavlova. While the flavor has that light/airy/fresh combination I so love, Randolph's went overboard on the whipped cream and I wished for more meringue to balance it out. J being a coffee/chocolate person, adored his capuccino mousse cake with little coffe cookies on the side. It was very intensely coffee flavor with the kind of bitterness you find if dark chocolate. The rum ball was more like a really big truffle and had that same intense richness. I'm not a huge fan of dense chocolate desserts, so I only had a taste. If you are a fan of such things, this is your dessert. I did love the flower pot that was made of chocolate and filled with a dab of raspberry mousse that had the flavor of pure raspberries with the texture of mousse and a wonderful chocolate mousse. Compared to the strong flavors of the other desserts, the egg was rather meh. It was simply a pound cake in the shape of an egg with a chocolate ganache on it. While it taste fine, it wasn't special. Overall, Randolph's is the kind of bakery Washington needs more of. It's unabashedly a bakery, not wanting to dab into prepared meals or dips or cheeses. That means it's focus on baking produces things that really taste like themselves whether that be a mousse, a ganache, or a cupcake. I'd also add that the care that Randolphs gives towards dessert presentation is spectacular. These items really looked too good to eat.

Because of the priciness of the desserts, I am grateful Randolph's is not within walking distance of our place otherwise we'd be 20 pounds heavier and broke.