Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Top Chef - Episode 2

I love this episode. I LOOOOOOVE this episode. First they have the Hiro and Ando of the sushi world for the quickfire challenge and then they have the divine Ming Tsai at the elimination challenge judge. I wish Ming Tsai would take Tom Colicchio's job because he rocks at being a judge. Finally, the theme of the episode is Asian food, specifically Korean and Vietnamese for the elimination challenge. Do I have opinions? Is the Pope Catholic? BTW have you seen Lee Ann's blog on Bravo? She's totally awesome and is quite the looker. More fuel for my Lee Ann/Harold 'shipping.

So we open at the Not-Atlas apartments and people are sad that Suyai left. As noted by the Televisionwithoutpity recap, Sam is glowering. Everyone's justifying their existence on the show. Next thing you know, it's morning and Chef Tom is giving the contestants their 4:30 wake up call to go to the fish market for the best fish. This actually makes sense. A couple of sushi chefs I've talked to never go to the fish market after 6:00 am because the fish is already picked over. Particularly affected by the lack of sleep is Mia who is literally nauseous.

The chefs come to the fish market where they are greeted by a pigtailed SRTW. Mia is sick at the thought of raw fish. None of the chef's look happy. Mia walks away to retch in the gutter. Literally. Much scrambling at the fish market. Josie and Elia are happy as clams. Pun intended. Mia is still sick. I would totally not be eating her sushi if she's feeling sick.

Back at the KENMORE kitchen we have what I call Hiro and Ando, a hardcore sushi chef and his partner/translator. Chef Hiro does look like he could stop time. Wow Marcel's hair is totally immobile. Ok much F1. We get useless exposition from Frank about how great it would be to win immunity. It also looks like the sushi rice is pre-made. More F1. In judging we don't get to see all of the contestants' dishes. Of the dishes we are shown, Chef Hiro likes Frank's, Cliff's (who shows his profound respect for Chef Hiro), Otto's (who raising some controversy by referring to himself as a round eye), Elia's (who put olives in hers) and Ilan's and dislikes Mike's and Mia's. Cliff is the winner and that makes me happy because I am getting a Project Runway Michael vibe from him. Good casting people!

In the elimination challenge, the chefs are separated into two teams - one making Vietnamese tinged food, and one making Korean themed food. Team Vietnam (aka Team Team) consists of Josie, Mia, glowering Sam, the depressed Emily, Betty, Carlos, and Mike. Team Korea (aka Team Unteam) consist of Ilan, Marcel, Cliff, Frank, Elia, the evil Marisa, and the doomed Otto. They have to make a cold dish and a hot dish for a charity event for an organization that serves the Asians called Project to Project. They will need to make enough for 1000.

Team Team which can alternately be called Team Common Sense, work well together and just pound out an menu. There seems to be a healthy respect for Mia and Betty's experience as caterers and good dialogue about the menu. Betty points out that to make they only need to make 125 "spring" rolls to serve 250 people. Sam glowers that they should make 250 but Betty correctly points out that they would cut the rolls in half for better presentation. And people, I know you all are a bunch of non-Vietnamese, but all of this spring roll talk is working my last nerve. SPRING rolls are deep fried. SUMMER rolls (what they are making) are rice noodle and assorted veggies and meats wrapped in a sheet of rice paper. Emily pisses me off when she says she loves the Vietnamese use of bok choy and baby bok choy which is so off the mark it isn't even funny. My mom made dishes with bok choy once a year, if that. Josie makes up for Emily's complete ignorance by mentioning the profuse use of cilantro, lime, and mint. You know what the dynamic seems to be? The women are talking and the men are listening. A good team dynamic.

Team Unteam, on the other hand, come up with the great idea to get stark raving drunk when coming up with their menu. Or I should say the MEN on Team Unteam. Poor Elia is trying so hard to do menu planning as the drunkards are getting stupider. And she is kind of awesome because she was just like "can we FINISH the menu first and THEN get drunk?" Marisa makes the dessert which is a jasmine pannac cotta. That is so far from Korean flavors.

At the grocery store Team Team detailed and organized in their shopping. Team Unteam is a big hungover mess. On the other side of the Korean menu, I am surprised that they wouldn't go for a nice beef short rib as opposed to the braised pork. And definitely don't understand using red cabbage for kim chee since it wouldn't take the kim chee flavor the way cucumber or napa cabbage would.

Ah lycheegate. What do I feel about it? It was an honest mistake and I don't think there was any active cheating but I think there's blame all around. Otto is definitely in the wrong in not just asking to go back and return the box of lychees. Then again, NOONE, especially Miss Sexual Attraction, insisted either. It would of saved a lot of drama if Marisa just stopped the whole thing right then and there and just asked to return the box on the spot. I find her attitude to be just snotty and reprehensible.

Back at the kitchen there is much F1 and equal amounts of Marisa bitching to her team about lychee gate. Ilan makes me love his again by busting Marisa for just wanting to cover her ass. Marisa and Elia bitch some more about Otto as they F1. On Team Team, Josie is selected as team leader. Much harmony ensues. Unlike Team Unteam. Otto is completely in his own world.

Chef Tom does his sniff and sneer to Team Team and points out that if Team Team loses, Josie will take the fall. Whatev, they are so not losing. Then he goes over to Team Unteam where Elia and Marisa bust Otto for the purloined lychee. Chef Tom grills Otto about it and Otto tries to do some ass covering. Otto has to go return the lychee and the Unteam is dejected at Otto absence.

At the fundraiser Team Team has a lot of love when there is much consternation at Otto. But all of that is goes out of my mind when I see Ming Tsai who is twelve kinds of awesome. He reminds me of my brother's volleyball buddies at Berkeley. More Team Team love. More Team Unteam tension. A minor break in the Team Team is Mike's inept cutting of the SUMMER rolls. Josie charitably wonders whether the knife is dull but Sam glowers that it's Mike. Josie has to tell Mike to go do something else which causes him to be all pissy. He voice overs that she's talking to him as if he were ten years old. Actually Mike she's talking to you as if you CUT like you're ten years old. There's a difference you big baby.

I am totally busting up over every attempt to pronounce "pho". Sorry Ming, you didn't get it right either. The closest that Western lips can get to the pronunciation is Fuh. But there are all of these tones squished into those three letters so really it should be pronounced FUUuuuuUUUUh. And what Team Vietnam made? That is so not pho. Shreds of carrot are not a substitute for rice noodle. Each is fine in it's own right but neither is going to replace the other. And that dish was nowhere near pho. Pho needs to be drowning in broth. I barely saw any broth in that bowl. Not that anyone cares but here's what I would have made for this challenge. For the hot dish I would have made one of several menus:

A. A cold Bun Thit Nuong (REAL vermicelli rice noodles with grilled caramel pork and tons of fresh veggies) and a hot banh tom (a deep fried shrimp and sweet potato cake with nuoc cham dipping sauce).

B. A hot thit kho (braised caramel pork) with sticky rice and cold gai xe phai (a Vietnamese chicken salad) on a shrimp cracker.

If did a dessert, I would have done a Vietnamese coffee panna cotta.

During the fundraiser Betty is working the crowd and Team Team gets props from Ming Tsai for the summer rolls and the refresher. BTW Padma is wearing some awful monstrosity of a dress that looks like it crawled out of the 80s. Chef Tom and Ming love the pork but hate Marisa's leadened panna cotta. Everyone's happy to have it over.

At judging, Team Team gets called first. The judges play around with Team Team acting as if they were on the chopping block. Many stern looks are exchanged and they tell Team Team that the pho was dry and the pork was blah. Marcel delusionally thinks that Team Unteam is the winner. SRTW tells Team Team they are the winners much to the dismay of Team Unteam who can hear the celebrating. Betty gets major props for her refresher and customer service. From Ming Tsai she gets a rare sashimi knife for winning. Betty wins me over by giving mondo props to her entire team. Aaaaaw.

Now here comes the bloodbath. Ilan digs his hole deeper by trashing Team Team's pho. While I agree, that isn't going to get you any points. Gail acknowledges that Team Unteam's pork is better but says there are other factors. Frank gets ripped on for his nasty rice. Marisa gets ripped for her hard as a rock panna cotta and she tries to spin it as being a little firm. It's a little firm in the way I'm a little snarky. When the judges ask Elia what she thinks, she states that she's "not big in gelatin" to which J responds "but she's big in Peoria." Marisa turns on Elia for not telling her she didn't like the panna cotta. Then it's Otto's turn to be ripped apart by his teammates. Both Marcel and Elia pile on. Otto tries to spin it but you know what, it was a huge mistake. Marisa calls him out as a liar. Frank is pissed because there's no team spirit. Frank then gives the team the "there's no I in team " speech.

The judges say that if Otto doesn't take responsibility for lycheegate, he should go, but if he owns up, then Marisa and rubbery panna cotta should go. The judges read Otto the riot act to which he responds that he is throwing himself under the bus. SRTW tells Otto to pack his knives and go home. Everyone on Team Team is sad to see Otto go. This makes sense though because if I were Otto, I wouldn't want to spend another millisecond with Marisa.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Top Chef Episode 1

My TiFaux taped the last few minutes of Project Runway and boy is that leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Boo Jeffrey. Luckily Top Chef appears to be my reality tv palate cleanser. We open with the dulcet voice of Salman Rushdie's Trophy Wife (SRTW) who explains the premise of the show. In voice over she's showing ten times the life of Billy Joel's Child Bride. Her makeup is looking very un-hoish unlike Billy Joel's Child Bride and the bitchy Gail.

So contestants:

Josie - A sexy butch lesbian. She has a Lee Ann vibe to her with a sense of no-nonsenseness.

Betty - A former actress (and I mean former because girlfriend looks a bit rough) who became a waitress and got sucked into the food business.

Ilan - Looks like a younger version of Ted Allen. Nerdy and adorable. I am hoping he doesn't piss me off. But I don't like I want to be famous schtick.

Marcel - Wow. His hair looks like Hugh Jackman's as Wolverine. He's already pissing me off with his molecular hoo ha. It's one thing to be a science nerd about food a la Alton Brown. It's another thing to be an insufferable prick a la Stephen from last season. I think Ilan and Marcel might hook up. Marcel shows Ilan his knives. HoYAY!

Elia - Saucy latina who works at the Mandalay Bay in Vegas. Trying to decide whether that is good or bad. She is the token Mom.

Sam - Proclaims himself the youngest executive chef in New York City. Already getting an arrogant ass vibe from him.

Frank - Rough and tumble guy who looks like he was a firefighter in a past life. He sensibly brought earplugs.

Marisa - Working my last nerve with her whole using her sexuality bit. Seriously, you are going to give Tom Colicchio a blow job (look away mom!)? SHUT UPPPP!!!

Suyai - a cute blonde who is clearly the Candice Kumai of this season. Had an eating disorder. Betty thinks they could be sisters but really Betty, you are her maiden aunt at best.

Michael - Clearly the frat boy of the pack. His wife put her panties in his suitcase. He wants to open up a sports bar. I am seriously hoping he ticks Frank off so Frank can give him a whooping. He supposedly has balls.

Carlos - Ok I am loving Carlos. The not so token gay because he is awesome. He owns a restaurant with his life partner and seems to be fairly laid back and confident. He's self taught so I am hoping he doesn't develop a chip on his shoulder as the season goes on.

Mia - The other Mom of the group. Also gives off the no-drama vibe. Good on her. has her own restaurant.

There's an unidentified guy who we are hoping to meet at some point.

When they go to the Kenmore kitchen, a very badly dubbed SRTW voice-over welcomes them. The more things change. Joining SRTW are Chef Tom and last season's winner Harold! Chef Tom, who obviously knows he isn't holding a candle to the divine Tim Gunn announces that he isn't their mentor, he's the head judge. The first quickfire challenge is to make a flambe dish.

Otto - Another elder statesman in the group. He has gravity defying gray hair. He explains what flambe is. Does anyone who watches Top Chef not know what flambe is?

Suyai is nervous because flambe wasn't taught at her cooking school. She's really getting the Candice edit here. Contestants scramble. Who's the dude they haven't introduced????

Emily - Another Vegas Chef (this time at Nob Hill). Her droopy eyes make her look depressed.

Eeeew! Marcel is putting bananas and avocados together.

Cliff - Finally we get to meet Cliff who is another 28 year old executive chef in New York. So much for being the youngest SAM! He seems fun and excited.

Lots of flames and we're not talking about the gays. Sadly Elia chooses red wine to flambe which even I know doesn't have a high enough alcohol content.

Harold judges. Marcel's banana avocado thing doesn't look as bad as I thought. Harold seems indifferent. Elia's red wine and strawberry thing looks like a hot mess. Betty makes a spicy curry. Suyai makes a tequila lime shrimp.

Harold is just rocking as a judge. He gives everyone props for using seasonal ingredients. He dings Carlos for his use of jalepeno as a garnish (you can't eat it), Elia for her strawberries, Suyai for her flavorless shrimp. He loves Sam's complex dish, Emily for her pork with apples (which brings him back to his childhood), and Betty for her curry. Sadly the winner is Sam. Sam is stoked. Elia is sad.

Back at the chef house, people are drinking product placed beer, especially Mike who is getting shitfaced. That's going to be fun the next morning. Speaking of the next morning -- hangover city. Ilan and Marcel are sniping about each other but we know they so want each other.

At the Kenmore kitchen, Harold, Chef Tom, SRTW are joined by the bitchy Gail Simmons who is seriously sporting her Jaime Geicher bitchface. We looked at Food and Wine and can't find Gail's name in the list of writers, contributors or editors. I'd say Gail is as much a food expert as Katie Lee Joel. The contestants divide into two groups - black and orange. The chefs are shown boxes with five ingredients inside. They have to use those ingredients and the KENMORE appliances. Did you hear that Kenmore is sponsoring Top Chef.

Each group will cook and the other group will judge. Orange goes first. Scrambling in the kitchen is my F1 (that tv behavior tht happens so much it becomes cumbersome to keep writing about it). Marisa is dismayed at the contents of the box which includes - artichokes, processed cheese, potatoes, snails, and peanuts. How's that sexuality working for you? Suyai is also at a loss. The chef's F1. Carlos and Ilan are kind of adorable. If there were the Real World Carlos would hook up with Ian and be pissed off at his partner back home isn't more accommodating. Marisa cuts her finger and Carlos helps bandage it up. Chef Tom comes over and Marisa shows him her cut finger and tries to flirt with him. He's kind of embarrassed for her. Elia is befuddled by the cheese. Suyai is flogging her own cooking. More F1.

The food:

Carlos - The Robert Best of this group. He made a well presented potato cake with fire roasted artichoke with escargot. Gets a bitchy comment form the lesbian.

Frank - Makes ravoili with the escargot and cheez.

Marisa - Actually makes a nice pastry with carmelized onions and uses the escargot as a garnish.

Michael - Makes fried shoestring potatoes with a cheez sauce and a peanut pesto. That gets a bitchy comment from Mia.

Elia - Makes snails with a ginger butter and mashed potatoes. Cooks the artichokes with lime and the "delicious" cheez. Eye rolls. Betty likes it.

Ilan - escargot with white wine and peanuts over a palm puree. Deep fried artichokes on the side.

Suyai - Poor Suyai. She keeps on adding all of these adjectives to her description of her dish like delicious and wonderful that totally lets you know her dish is anything but. It's braised potatoes and artichokes with sauteed escargot. Marcel doesn't like.

The black team puts Carlos and Suyai at the bottom. There is a unanimous ruling that Ilan was the top dish from that group. They also pick Frank (yay!) and Elia as their favs but the editors won't let us know who gets to be in the top two. I like the judging from the competitors. It seems fair and drama free. And you know Ilan seems to be cut from the same cloth as Harold.

Then it's time for the black team to cook. In the Black team's box is: frog legs, chicken livers, cornflakes, eggplant and peanut butter. Wow. This challenge rocks. F1 F1 F1. Betty purees the chicken livers and says she will make a flavorful cake from the puree. Um. EWWWW! Chef Tom does his usual sniff and sneer (TM Keckler from Televisionwithoutpity). Marcel is making frog leg lollipops. Mia is bringing the love for me as she's excited about the challenge and cooking the frogs legs like chicken wings. I like people who aren't intimidated by unusual food. I say this as a person who grew up eating pate and brie for breakfast and congealed pigs blood with peanuts on a rice cracker. And I have eaten both escargot and frogs legs and both rock. For those who are wary of escargot, its like a softer, yielding version of abalone or clam that is drowning in garlic and butter.

Michael is also rocking as he is breading the chicken livers. Another aside, in college a friend of mine had a condo in Park City Utah where we would go skiing for spring break. On the way to Park City, we would always make a detour to St. George to the KFC which was the only KFC in the west that served Kentucky Fried chicken livers. Wow, pate and brie for breakfast and skiing in Park City? I sound like Paris Hilton. Please forgive me. Chef Tom comments that there are a lot of breaded frogs legs. Marcel is confident.

Marcel - Frogs legs lollipop with a garlic and parsley puree. Great presentation. Seems like the second coming of Stephen. The orange team hates the dish.

Betty - frog leg/chicken liver cake Asian style served on a salad with a peanut butter ginger sauce. Nice to go the satay route.

Sam - another breaded frog leg served over eggplant and capers.

Josie - Another breaded frog leg. I guess you need to use the cornflakes somehow.

Cliff - braised and shredded frogs legs with five spice and eggplant salad with the chicken liver. Way to bread the chicken liver and not the frog leg.

Emily - Dear god another breaded frog leg over grilled eggplant.

Otto - Guess what he made? Yeah, breaded frog leg. Ilan says the dish is underflavored.

Mia - A Southern Sunday supper with a breaded frog leg. At least she has a point of view.

The favorites are Betty with her cake and Mia with her strong point of view. I totally agree. In the bottom two are Otto and Marcel. Marcel gets dinged by everyone except for Elia who loved his dish. Poor Cliff also gets dinged.

Harold is just too awesome. He's looking kind of James Bondish. I hope he and Lee Ann are having some hot sweaty Top Chef Sex (look away Mom). All judges talk about the difficulty of the challenge and cooking for the other competitors. The judges agree with the choices of the competitors evaluating the orange group. The love Ilan and Elia and liked Frank but said his dish was badly presented. In the black group, the judges disagree with the love for Betty's dish but LOOOOOVED Mia's dish. SRTW called in the Mia, Betty, Ilan, and Elia. The judging back and forth is my F2. Loving Mia for her enthusiasm. She seems friendly and genuine and invites everyone to her house for Sunday dinner. Harold announces Ilan as the winner. Overall a satisfying victory and all of the people in the top are fairly likeable as competitors.

Oh the elimination. Carlos, Suyai, Otto and Marcel (BUUUUURN!). Lots of F2. Suyai is just digging her own grave. Gail tries to be nice but Chef Tom is laughing. Marcel is a total tool. Chef Tom fingers Carlos as someone who hated Marcel's dish. Marcel is all kinds of defensive. The judges hate Carlos' dish in a big way. Gail points out that the other competitors are gunning for Marcel but his dish wasn't TOO bad. The do heap the hate on Suyai and Otto. In the end, it's Suyai and her pile of self-hatred.

Overall I am loving this season.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The happiest food holiday...

In all the land! I know we aren't even past Halloween but the excitement over Thanksgiving is bubbling over like a pot of chili. This year I am staying put in DC, much to my family's dismay. You see, we have this great big table that can seat 16 so I HAAAVE to stay and make Thanksgiving dinner for our friends. J and I went over possibilities and we came up with this menu.


Chive griddle cakes with stilton and pears

Main course:

Rosemary and thyme roasted turkey (duh!)
Stuffing (an adulterated Pepperidge Farm)


Sauteed green beans with lemon zest
Corn pudding


Pumpkin tartlets
Apple tartlets
Pecan bars

I ask you, our wonderful readers for feedback. How does it sound, especially knowing the people we invite will be bringing stuff too?

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Sorry about the delay in Top Chef recaps. Things have been crazy busy. I did love last night's episode because, dude, I'm Vietnamese. I love it when non-Vietnamese mangle the word Pho. Monday, J and I went with our friend Boy Married to the Bombay Curry Company in Del Ray. In the same complex was the Pho King. J kept on pronouncing Pho like Fuh so he kept on saying Fuh-King. I kept on asking, "Fucking what? Fucking what?"

Monday, October 23, 2006

Magical Device

How did J and I peel, core and chop 15 pounds of apples in an hour? With this magical device:

Our friend Pauline gave it to us for Christmas a few years back. And I think because of some evil apples, my first few tries were disastrous. This year we had so many apples I had to use the magical device and was luckily sucessful. I did the first few apples, and J did the rest while I chopped the slices into little bits for applesauce. The applesauce turned out beautifully. This year I have some babies I will be giving the applesauce to so I didn't put any cinnamon in this batch. For anyone who picks apples like we do, this is a invaluable device. It also works on pears. It won't work on a peach, unless the peach you are using is so underripe that it's as hard as an apple.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Eat With Me isn't the only one cooking his signature fall dishes. Last weekend the gang had our annual apple pick followed by a fall potluck at the Timily's.

We went to Homestead Farms in Poolesville, MD and boy was it crowded. Our usual orchard was already picked over but we were led to an orchard with Pink Ladies (insert Grease joke here), Sun Fuji, Golden Delicious, Braeburns (meh), and Romes (Meh). It was a totally perfect fall day with bright sunshine and a little nip in the air. My apologies to the Homestead Farms folks but we must have eaten a pound of apples. There truly is nothing like freshly picked fruit. You just don't taste it, you FEEL it just infuse your body with its fragrant goodness. Golden Delicious, which I would never buy in a store, live up to their name when picked off the tree. The key to most apples (except for Granny Smith) is to look for the blush of pink. If it's completely yellow or green, it's likely underripe.

For the potluck I made an apple crostada and fried some premade Vietnamese spring rolls that I brought to DC with me from the O.C. My mother was fairly adamant about the high quality of Little Saigon spring rolls which Eden Center spring rolls couldn't hold a candle to. So I take a styrofoam cooler with those blocks of fake ice filled with 100 spring rolls, a bag of won tons, and several rolls of cha, which is Vietnamese sausage. Other dishes at the potluck were an almond scented pear pie, pumpkin cupcakes, cheese platter, salad, the Timily's barley, and squash soup.

Tomorrow I will have the time to turn the 15 pounds of apples into applesauce. For both applesauce and apple pie, it's really useful to have a variety of apples involved. The firmness and tartness of a granny smith is a great compliment to the more butterly texture and flavor of a golden delicious. And heaven knows I have plenty of each.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Top Chef Season 2 - Initial Thoughts

A recap is on its way but I wanted to give some initial thoughts. First off, the switch from Billy Joel's Child Bride to Salman Rushdie's Trophy Wife is a stroke of casting genius. Not only is SRTW gorgeous, but she's also completely competent as a host. I think her sylky (hee!) talking style gives the competition is more food focus. Unlike Tom Colicchio, she doesn't seem to be invested in stirring shit up. Best of all, she really knows what she's talking about. The second best bit o' casting this season was getting Harold from last season to judge the quickfire. First of all, Harold's gained a little weight, which has made him all the tastier. Secondly, he seems to give constructive criticism that is less about how smart he is (TOM!) and more about the actual food. Did anyone else think that Tom Colicchio's "I'm a judge not a mentor" speech was a direct reaction to the fan criticism that he can't hold a candle to the utterly lovable Tim Gunn? I'll give my opinions on the competitors in the recap.

Speaking of reality tv, I am crazy disappointed that Jeffrey won Project Runway. This was hardly as surprise as the judges have consistently gone for ugly and innovative over beautiful and well constructed.

Also on the reality tv news, J and I have gotten sucked into watching Master Chef At Large on BBC America. This is kind of the anti-Top Chef. It's a cooking competition that has a hundred people from all walks of life competing for a chance to work in a five star restaurant. I'm sure all of you in the food industry are like - that's a prize? They have a cooking challenge but also have a professional kitchen challenge where the competitors work in a restaurant kitchen. What's great about this show is the competitors are completely drama free and laid back. There is nothing to indicate that the competitors are fighting with each other. And then there are the two hosts. One is the restaurant guy and one is the food guy (yeah, I don't understand either). They are like the foodie Tim Gunn. Their comments are right on the money and genuinely helpful. They seems to really be looking out for the competitors.

What are you thoughts about Top Chef? Any frontrunners? Any divas you hate?

Monday, October 16, 2006

By Special Request - Our Song List from the Wedding

Thanks Playfulinnc! We had the swing band do two 45 minute sets before we launched into the music from the cds. In between the sets we had toasts and after the swing music, J and I cut the cake. We had little kids there so we didn't want to wait until the end of the night to cut the cake. It was 9:30pm by the time the cake was cut so we only needed to have an hour and a half worth of music. This is purely from memory so I'm giving you highlights. Please know that our musical tastes seem to be stuck in the 90's.

Song list:

At Last (Etta James) - This was our second first dance. Since we didn't feel like dictating to the swing band what to play first we wanted to have one first dance to swing music and another after the cake cutting.

The Chicken Dance - So cheesy but you know what? It gets the old folks on the dance floor.

Baby Got Back (Sir Mix A Lot)- You know what gets the young folks on the dance floor? I don't care if you don't like rap. Play this song.

Downtown: the remix (Petula Clark)

Finally (CeCe Peniston)

Don't Cry For Me Argentia: the remix (Madonna)

Blister in the Sun (Violent Femmes) - Yes we did grow up in the 80s. We knew all the words.

Groove is in the Heart (Dee-lite)

I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor) - Completely inappropriate for a wedding but the power of I Will Survive to get folks on the dance floor cannot be denied.

Living on a Prayer (Bon Jovi) - It was this or Sweet Home Alabama to throw our bouquets.

We Are Family (Sister Sledge) - This came from Pleather and Leeanne's wedding where everyone formed a circle around the wedding couple to end the evening.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Top Chef Season 2 Preview

I was watching a midnight showing of Clueless on Bravo. Come ya'll, we all love that movie. For me it's one of three movies I can spontaneously starting quoting from. The other two are When Harry Met Sally and Drop Dead Gorgeous. But that's neither here nor there. Anyway right after Cher's speech on the Haitians (pronounced Hate-Tee-Ens), Bravo shows a little preview of Top Chef. Returning to Top Chef will be the sneering Tom Colicchio and the Jaime Geicher-all-grown-up Gail Simmons.

The contestants themselves seems like a bunch of preening asshats themselves but it's hard to gauge anything from such promos. I would have never guessed from the first season's promo's that the totally loveable Lee Ann would be part of the mix. There is some lady who isn't all that attractive but delusionally says that she will use her sexiness to get what she wants. Has anyone in the history of reality TV actually be able to trade on their looks to win a challenge? Pluh-eeease!

The biggest change in the second season is the replacement of Billy Joel's Child Bride with Padma Lakshmi, a sometime actress, food personality, and most notably wife of Salman Rushdie. Unlike Billy Joel's Child Bride, she does have some concrete professional experience in the food realm. She hosted a couple of Food Network goes to exotic countries specials and was a presenter on Melting Pot, a Food Network show in the daytime that has rotating chefs cooking ethnic cuisine. Sadly Food Network would prefer white folks to educate their audience about ethnic food (i.e. Paula Deens collard green won tons). Anyway, I am excited at Padma's role in Top Chef, she's pretty laid back, slightly exotic, and a decent food presenter. I'm hoping she can balance the bitchiness of Gail.

In anticipation of the upcoming Top Chef Season, I ask you, my readers, what should be my nickname for Padma?

1. Sylk - After her unintentionally hilarious performance as Mariah Carey's rival in Glitter.

2. Salman Rushdie's Trophy Wife - Since this appears to be the landing area for women married to much more famous and certainly more accomplished men.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ten Things I Learned From...My Wedding to J

I think J and I have gotten to that age. You know, the one where everyone seems to either be buying a house, getting married or having a baby. This year alone marks three couples we know who have gotten married and two that have gotten engaged. Ah that brings me back to the nostalgia of January 18, 2003 - the fateful day of our wedding. It has been described as a queer, Quaker, fragrance free, feminist, Vietnamese, Pan Asian, Tex Mex BBQ. The whole thing went on without a hitch. The rentals came on time. The flowers came on time. The food was delicious and the decorations were gorgeous. It was as DIY a wedding as we could get without actually catering ourself (which we so weren't going to do because really we're not masochists).

A lot of the success came because we went to other people's weddings and cribbed their good ideas and learned from their mistakes. For the readers who might be getting married (or planning a big event), here are some tips, for making your special day a sane one:

1. Take as many pictures as possible beforehand. I know we're two guys getting married but this applies to the ladies who are invested in hiding their dress from the groom until the moment they walk down the aisle. I know you want to see his face go all OOOOOO about you in your dress but is it worth having your guests wait an extra hour at the reception?

2. Feed em early and often. Ok, I probably won't convince anyone to do their posed couple shots before the ceremony so I'll have to recommend that you have hors d'ouerves and drinks available for your guests when they first get to the reception so they won't be miserable by the time you make your grand entrance.

3. Buffet baby!
I know people think buffets are tacky but I love buffets. People can eat what they want and the vegetarians can avoid the meat dishes without flagging a server to find the vegetarian option. The other benefit of buffets? - seconds!

4. Have an MC (and use a sound system).
You don't necessarily have to hire a DJ (we burned cds) but designate someone to get the program going during the reception and make sure everyone can hear them. People will miss things like speeches and cake cutting if their aren't directed to pay attention. West Coast Rebecca was our and she did a fabulous job.

5. Get me the manager.
In regards to the caterer, make sure the person you are talking to when planning your wedding is the person who will actually be there at the reception. If it isn't, make sure you meet and go over things with THAT PERSON. Things get lost in translation and people forget to write things down.

6. Find a safe person to toss your bouquet (and garter). I know there supposed to be all this spontanaeity but here's a scenario you don't want to happen - An engaged woman catches the bouquet. A man WHO SHE IS NOT ENGAGED TO catches the garter. He puts his hand dangerously close to her vajayjay putting the garter back on. Collective EEEEEEEWWWWW goes through the crowd.

7. Ditch the band, even better, ditch the DJ.
Provided that your reception space already has a good sound system. It's far better to burn some cds with music you know you'll like then to rely on a band which will butcher your favorite songs or a DJ that will end up playing the macarena.

8. Use Unique Places. Unique Meeting, Wedding and Party Places in Greater Washington is one of the best wedding resources out there. It's organized by size of the location (for 50, 100, 150, and 200+) and lists the price range for the place and gives narrative of the amenities. The only down side is when you find out there's a huge dearth of reasonable (less than $3000) places that seat 100.

9. Ko Gi Bow is not actually the front for a drug cartel.
You know that cake company Ko Gi Bow in Adams Morgan? The storefront is seriously run down looking with an old cardboard cake and a dilapidated trellis. Inside you see Spider Man and Dora the Explorer cake toppers and you think maaaaaybe not. Well if you're Asian this is the perfect cake place for you. It serves the classically Asian style of cake which has a light but moist sponge and frosting with a whipped cream consistency. You can choose your filling of fruit cocktail or strawberries (that's a tough choice). And when you look for how you want your cake to look, bypass the crazy ones with the bridges and doves and fountains. Ask for pictures of the one the owner made for his daughter's wedding.

10. Make sure someone packs a doggie bag for you. Because of all of the excitement, you will eat like three bites of your wedding food. And of those three bites, you'll remember one. We DID remember the food that was packed for us that we ate with our hands at the hotel with the world's most comfortable bed.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Nigella Feasts - Episode 1 recap

The day has finally come when Nigella Lawson has a show on the food network. Many in the blogsphere (myself included) have been waiting with bated breath for the first episode. What's the verdict? The same verdict as I'd give for pizza. Pizza is like sex - when it's good, it's great; when it's bad, it's still ok. Nigella Feasts isn't exactly bad Nigella, but it doesn't hang together as well as it should. There's something about the film and sound quality that makes the whole thing a little stark as opposed to warm and inviting. The shots are herky-jerky and the sound has this weird echo. Someone else noted that it might be because they are using digital video instead of film. Nevertheless, Nigella is gloriously Nigella. She's still a hoot to hang around and her sly sense of humor still comes through.

Like Nigella Bites and Forever Summer, we start with a shot of Nigella louging around on a couch talking. This time she is stating her cooking philosophy - casual and easy food. The goal is for everyone to have a fabulous time, especially the cook. She introduces the menu - spicy beef chili with a cornbread crust, served with guacamole and other chili fixin's and a chocolate cherry trifle. I knew that her first dessert on this series had to be a trifle or a pavlova.

Cut to Nigella in her kitchen with a big pile of chopped onions and red bell peppers in front of her. In a related note, this is the same kitchen as the one in Nigella Bites. This is actually the kitchen of her house she lived in when she was married to John Diamond, British columnist. She's since moved into the house of Charles Saatchi, her new husband, a super rich art collector and investor. Her sister lives in this house so it's not as if she's barging in or anything. She opines that there's no better dish for a sight at a party than "a vatful of cornbread topped chili." She sautees the onion and bell pepper in oil along with a bit of minced garlic. Through the sauteeing, she talks about how she wants the food she makes at home to be welcoming and comforting.

Ooooo!!!!! Nigella is going to her pantry. I love these segments. She describes her pantry as an Aladdin's cave and gleefully chirps "open sesame." In her cave, she says that while most people go abroad and visit museums to buy souvenirs, she goes to supermarkets. From Italy she gets some kind of powdered broth (since she doesn't feel like making broth herself) and from Sweden she shows off her poetically-named cloudberry jam. She tells us that cloudberries are yellow, fatter raspberries.

Back at the stove she regretfully adds the spices to her onion/pepper mixture, noting that they will muddy the translucent color of the vegetables, but knows that the payoff in falvor is more than worth it. As her chili flavor, Nigella puts in chili flakes as opposed to chili powder along with cumin, dried coriander, and strangely enough, crushed cardamom pods. From the fridge Nigella gleefully brings out a big slab of ground beef. Making a goofy face, she notes the meat is "one big mother." This sends me into a burst of giggles. She recommends us to break up with meat using a wooden fork. Once again her skills as a writer shine as she tells her audience that the fork allows you to coax and cajole the meat. Seriously, how poetic is that? To the meat, she adds tomato paste and ketchup where she regresses into adolescence by slyly apologizing to the audience about the farting sounds the ketchup is making. Her final dose of tomatoes are two cans of chopped tomatoes. The final two ingredients are kidney beans and cocoa powder. She explains that cocoa doesn't really have any sweet flavor on its own and adds an earthly heat to the chili. As a lover of mole, this makes sense to be. She notes that even uncooked her chili looks good but qualifies that by saying that "all children look good to their mother" and asks the audience not to disillusion her. She simmers the mixture for an hour and a half where it is ready to be reheated.

After the commercial we see Nigella at the grocery store. Nigella says she is all about making her life, and ours, easier. her cooking philosophy is to buy something and then fiddle about with it and make it into something better. For example, in her chocolate-cherry trifle, she is more than happy to buy a few chocolate cakes but will make the custard herself.

In the kitchen, Nigella nonsensically but poetically declares that whatever the question is, the answer is always trifle. Do I know what she means? No. Do I care? No. Because right now her hair is fabulous and she is wearing a scoop necked sweater that shows some skin but isn't the cleavage-fest that constitutes Giada's outfits. She's breaking chocolate into bits to melt. While she's doing that she's talking about the inspiration for the trifle which is a black forest gateau with chocolate and cherries. While the black forest gateau is ridiculously hard to make, the trifle is ludicrously easy. She musters every bit of restraint in her being by dumping ALL of the chocolate over a double boiler. She then heats heavy cream and full fat milk (turning to the audience and saying "you don't think I was going to say skim, did you?") She adds egg yolks, sugar, and cocoa to the mixture. She then simmers the mixture and adds the chocolate until it thickens. She leaves that to cool and moves on to making the cake base of the trifle. This is where she cuts the cake into slices, and makes jam sandwiches with them, smearing cherry jam between the slices. She squishes the sandwiches into the bottom of a trifle dish and pours a heavy glug of cherry brandy onto the sandwich layer. I am dubious about this because it seems like that much brandy would make the cake really soggy. Next she dumps a can of drained sour cherries onto the cake layer and pushes some of the cherries towards the edge of the bowl so you can see them when they are layered with the custard and the whipped cream.

After commercial, she prepares the cornbread topping which includes buttermilk, eggs, vegetable oil, honey, cornmeal, flour baking powder and surprisingly, cinnamon. Televisionwithoutpity boards say that the cornmeal topping is rather dense. As a final bit of embellishment she grates sharp cheddar cheese on the top of the cornbread. As she pushes the casserole in the oven, she makes an adorable face at the camera. LOVE!

I will totally have to remember this - Nigella has a tub full of ice which she is pushing bottles of wine into. As a throwback to her college days, she has to use the tub because she doesn't have room in the fridge to keep beverages cold. in putting together the party, Nigella spreads a thick layer of whipped cream and shaved chocolate on top of the trifle. She then throws cutlery and PAPER napkins on the table for people to help themselves. She makes the guacamole that she previously made in Nigella Bites' Entertaining episode. She states that her guacamole preference includes NO tomato because she wants clear avocado taste and using scallions instead of onions because they have a milder flavor. There's a whole chili accoutrement plate with guacamole, corn chips, sour cream, and cheese.

The party scene is classic Nigella. Her eclectic group of friends is clearly having a good time without Nigella asking leading leading questions about how good the food is or any of the guests making stilted stupid compliments about the food. There's just a healthy buzz of laughter and conversation.

In the final classic Nigella scene, she is doing her trademark midnight fridge raid of the leftovers. First taking a ladylike spoonful and then taking the whole pot of chili to eat. HEEE!!!

Thanks for coming back Nigella. I hope you can get your producers up the production quality.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Because I can't stop talking about Grey's Anatomy

I swear I am doing a recap of the first Nigella Feasts episode, but that's slow going mainly because I can't find more ways to say how gorgeous and witty she is. In the meantime, I wanted to talk a little about my OTHER favorite show on tv - Grey's Anatomy.

Somehow I read a certain unnamed blog about a guy who think's he's a "nice guy" - in that "girls don't date me because they want a bad boy" way. I really hope this guy doesn't read this entry, but if he does, I stand by every word I say. Recently he wrote the that best way to approach women is to think that you are better than them because his previous approach was to act as if THEY were better than HIM. And that is the core of his crazy ass dysfunction - acting as if women are some alien species that he as a cultural anthropologist need to figure out. He never wants to entertain the fact that the women he pursues might want the same thing he does - a hottie. When someone on his blog comments that maybe he is going for the total hotties and suggests that he keep an eye out for the less hot, he either deletes their comments or comes up with the stock reply of - I'm attracted to who I am attracted to. That's fine as long as you stop condemning women for being attracted to men other than yourself and consequently explaining it away with an excuse that women just want bad boys. Could it be that the women you are mooning after, like you, want the hottie? And could you effing give them and all the women of the world a break and let them like who they want to like without it being a condemnation of an entire gender. Let's get this straight buddy. The world does not owe you a hot girlfriend just because you are a "nice guy." And the real key to this is to stop acting as if women are these puzzles you need to figure out. Women I know overlook the geeky guy next door for the hottie down the street. Women I know like to have a wingman (wingperson?) at bars to facilitate hooking up. Women I know like sports, quote Monty Python, have sex with people just for the hell of it (not naming names) and pull away when they feel emotionally vulnerable.

What does this have to do with Grey's Anatomy? The show treats both genders as if they are PEOPLE - individuals who can be alternately giving, closed off, insecure, neurotic, confused, and confusing. Look at the Burke/Christina relationship. Burke is the emotionally open one, pushing for more intimacy and Christina is the one who needs to open up. Look at what they've done with the Meredith/McDreamy/McVet triangle. McDreamy finally becomes free to commit to Meredith and what does she do? Dither over two potentials. Kinda what McDreamy did to her right? Finally look at George and Callie. George spends much of the first two seasons mooning after Meredith, who is chasing after the hottie. Once Callie came along, did George learn from the shitty way he was treated and resolve not to dick another person around? Hell no. The man is incompetent at expressing himself and is leading someone who clearly (if dysfunctionally) loves him. That's the thing that Grey's Anatomy gets so well. We're all complicated. We all at one time in another have been crushing hard on someone or have had someone crush hard on us. As much as we'd like to think if the shoe is on the other foot, we'd do it better, we don't.

Next entry - Nigella.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Board Meeting in Paradise - Final Installment

So I'm at my parents' house which is gradually turning into a museum of Asian art complete with a bonsai and orchid garden and a koi pond.

I was telling J on a layover in San Francisco that I was already going through Hawaii withdrawal. You always surrounded by beauty on the island of Oahu. If it isn't the ocean, it's the mountains. It was a great week to say the least. We were lucky to get a lot of cultural education at the Hawaiian conference, not only with the native Hawaiian culture but also the Native Alaskan culture as well. I have learned that the Hawaiian language has a LOT of vowels and the history of missionaries in Hawaii was pretty wretched.

Foodwise, most of the food was hotel/convention center food. Pretty unremarkable. But we made a second trip to the shaved ice stand during the latter part of the week. If you are ever in Oahu, please go to the Waiola market for shaved ice. Not only do they have flavors like mango, lilokai (passionfruit), and coconut, they can surround things like ice cream or flan in a shell of shaved ice. Kind of like a cold version of baked Alaska.

Our final night we all decided to hell with Convention food, we wanted fresh fish. On the advice of the guidebook we went to the Ocean restaurant at the Outrigger Reef hotel. As we got there at 9:45 pm, we decided to go the more casual restaurant next door. The set up for this restaurant was that you ordered your choice of grilled meat/fish and you got their salad bar. The salad bar ranged from ok to kind of vile. Avoid the cardboard pasta salad. But surprisingly, the fish is excellent. It's ordered daily from local fishermen and cooked perfectly. Half of us ordered the local fish Olo and half ordered the ahi tuna.

Finally I DID go to a rainforest but I couldn't be sure if it was the Lost rainforest. On that side of the island, it's all a beautiful rainforest and as you drive you are surrounded by it. While that was lovely, what was lovelier was snorkeling at Hanalua bay, a crater that became a coral reef. We saw tons of fish and could check off the entire list of fish on our fish map. They were pretty nonchalant about the presence of people and went about their way even when we were a foot away from them. I was amazed by the size of many of the fish. In particular, the parrot fish was the size of my leg. But the real treat was coming within a foot of a sea turtle. woo hoo!

Tomorrow I am headed home. It was a good trip and the best part is knowing I am coming back next year with J.