Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top Chef New York Episode Three

Top Chef New York opens in Brooklyn, where Ariane is stuffing her face fulla breakfast.

Ariane knows the rest of the chefs are looking at her like "why is she still here?" But they're looking at each other like that pretty much all the time.

Superior European Stefan was really happy for Almost-as-Superior Fabio's win last week.

...and Richard was getting to know the other cheftestants...

Finally the ritual morning shenanigans are done and the chefs head to the Top Chef kitchen where they find Padma and chef Grant Achatz, of the restaurant Alinea in Chicago. You might be wondering why Grant wasn't featured on last season's Top Chef Chicago. It's because he was battling tongue cancer, a particularly horrific disease to strike a chef. You can read all about it here, in this great New Yorker article, but finish reading my recap first.

A great chef must learn to roll with the punches. And the Quickfire Challenge is going to deliver a few. Cheftestants are then instructed to choose a knife from the block; each comes away with an different number.

The chefs have one hour to do their own spin on the recipe assigned to them by the knife block, using any ingredients they find in the Top Chef kitchen.

After a period of time, Padma stops the chefs.

It's time for the punch - Padma and Grant have decided they want soup, instead. The cheftestants must take the ingredients they've assembled for the cookbook recipe and create a soup with them in fifty minutes. Since one can't make stock in that short amount of time, they are encouraged to cheat by using products from a new sponsor.

I'm sure the judges would love some tube sock, rubber band, duct tape, and paper clip soup!

After tasting all fourteen selections, Grant choses Jamie's, Leah's and Daniel's as his favorites, with Leah's white asparagus and tuna version as his number one. Leah now has immunity from elimination in the next challenge.

Speaking of which, the Elimination Challenge involves dividing into two groups and cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for the Foo Fighters on the road, at a stop in beautiful downtown Rochester. Because Leah won the Quickfire, she gets to choose which chefs she wants in her group. No dummy, she picks Jamie, Stefan, Fabio, Radhika, Melissa, and Hosea, competitors whom she thinks are the most talented of the bunch.

The chefs must prepare food for 60 people, including the band, roadies, and entourage (for most bands that would be the groupies, bodyguards, drug dealers, and drug dealers' bodyguards). The team whose food the Foos like best will be invited to watch the show. The losers have to stay backstage and clean up the mess.

The chefs hit the road for Rochester. Once there at the über-glam Blue Cross Arena, one of the Foo's roadies takes them on a tour. Who cares about the arena itself?

...and he gets his answer.

Voila! The keetchen is outside, featuring banks of microwaves and toaster ovens, one burner, and no freezers. Who needs freezers in November, right? Oh wait...this was filmed in the heat of summer? Oh, too bad, dudes.

I think what Fabio is trying to say is that if they can construct a full Thanksgiving meal for 60 people while lacking a functioning kitchen, then there's no excuse for anyone not to be a decent cook.

The chefs pick names for themselves. Leah's team is, inexplicably, Team Sexypants. Chef pants are not the sexiest apparel out there, but that's probably her pet name for Hosea or something so whatever.

Team Loser, I mean, the other team, is Team Cougar, a slur on Ariane. But she doesn't realize that.

Duh, woman. Duh.

Ariane wants badly to redeem herself after the last two episodes, so she takes the task of cooking the turkey.

Piece-a cake. Fuggedaboudit.

The chefs head out to do their shopping, afterwards having three hours for actual cooking before service. The enterprising Gene decides to jury rig a grill for himself with some racks and charcoal in order to cook his pork dish. Genius. And on the opposite side of the scale, Richard sets himself up for major failure.

Hey, wasn't that the name of a Jessica Simpson movie?

The Foos' rider lists that they like frozen chocolate-covered bananas, a thought that turned Richard on, big-time. But with the lack of freezers, that would be an impossible feat, so he decided instead to make a variation on s'mores, using bananas, chocolate ganache, and some vanilla foamy stuff.

As the cheftestants do the best they can cooking outdoors, Mother Nature decides to make things more difficult for them by adding some rain to the picture. They rush to cover food while people rush around with tents to cover the cooks.

Tragic, right?

Finally, time is nearly up and the chefs have to move everything downstairs to the catering area.

I believe the correct but no more glamorous phrase is "by the skin of our teeth." Otherwise, you're not going to be able to sit for at least a week, Gene.

The teams set up their chafing dishes and then the roadies and band enter for their meal. Hosea is all impressed.

Maybe because they are rock stars?

Richard is more impressed when Tom enters the room. He even gets butterflies in his Team Rainbow belly.

Everybody gets in line and just like an actual Thanksgiving, has two plates of everything. And then they get to go jump around on stage. >burp!<

After eating, the Foos choose their favorite - Team Sexypants! Team Loser has to clean the dining area while the other team gets to clean themselves and enjoy the concert.

Too bad Daniel was all dressed-up and had no place to go.

After the show, they still have to endure Judge's Table. Team Loser is excused one by one until only Daniel, Jeff, and Richard remain. Daniel's neck is on the line because his potatoes were undercooked. Richard's s'mores were a big bomb and Grant Achatz seemed particularly offended by them. And Jeff made both too-dry spoonbread and unpleasant parfait.

When asked about team leadership, Daniel pointed at Jeff. Richard clarified that he didn't actually claim to be the leader, he just organized things.

The judges deliberated for a while on the three. I thought for sure Jeff was toast, but surprisingly, Padma announces that young bear Richard should pack his knives and go.

Richard was very sad. Me too. :(

Team Rainbow loses another member. Now their fate rests solely on the shoulders of Jamie, the Lone Lesbian. A shame Richard couldn't recruit Alex.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More TC Previews!

Meet the Foo Fighters!

And check out a preview of the companion webisode series, "After the Knife." Starting tomorrow Bravo is giving viewers an inside look into the Top Chef sequester house, where you'll be able to see what life is like after Padma tells eliminated chef'testants to "pack up their knives and go."

Who Will Win Top Chef

So...out of the fourteen remaining cheftestants, who do you think will end up as Top Chef? I have my ideas as to who will *not* win, but the ultimate winner could still be almost anyone at this point. Who do you think will win?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Top Chef Previews!

Despite being filmed in the summer, it’s Thanksgiving on TOP CHEF this week. Suspend disbelief, ok? The cheftestants are cooking a turkey-day dinner for six-time Grammy Award-winning rock band Foo Fighters. During a hurricane.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Asian Court

For my birthday, I wanted to try dim sum at the new-ish Chinese restaurant, Asian Court (it used to be Oriental Manor). After driving up and down Baltimore National Pike for a few minutes, trying to determine which of five or six shopping centers contained the restaurant, we found it in the one with the Giant Foods.

Asian Court offers dim sum seven days a week, with cart service on Saturday and Sunday only. From the limited weekday menu, Mr Minx and I tried only four items: baked char sui bao; har gow; sticky rice in lotus leaf; and fried minced shrimp balls. There were three small bao in an order - good, but nowhere near as good as the Gold Standard from Mee Sum Pastry in Seattle's Pike Place Market. The har gow was standard. The minced shrimp balls were coated with something and fried, so they had a crispy texture unlike most others I've tried; they were also smaller than usual. Finally, the sticky rice in lotus was chock-full of shiitakes, dried shrimp, and pork, far more filling that I've ever seen at other dim sum restaurants, and the lotus lent only a subtle perfume to the rice (often I find it to be a bit overbearing).

We definitely want to go back on a weekend and try their other offerings.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jill Snyder Leaves Red Maple

To find out more, read Elizabeth Large's blog.

Good luck to you Jill, in whatever you endeavor!

Me on TV

Well,'s a video of Cajun Kate's appearance on The 10 Show. I'm the chick in black at the counter.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Top Chef New York Episode Two

As the day breaks, we see the cheftestants stirring in their apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There was no way Bravo could afford a place big enough to sleep 15 in Manhattan.

Ariane is still upset from being thisclose to going home after the last challenge. She seems to be pretty close with fellow cheftestant, Carla.

Ariane, btw, your table manners are atrocious.

Superior European Stefan, who won both challenges last week, is inordinately pleased with himself. But he does show a bit of modesty when he admits that he does have competition in this contest.

Ok, maybe not so modest.

The cheftestants troop over to the Top Chef kitchen to find Padma and the special guest judge for the Quickfire Challenge.

You may be more attractive, but I'd bet Anthony Bourdain likes her better.

This week's Quickfire involves a food that is so beloved by Noo Yawkers, they spend over $100 mil per year on it. That's a lot of clams! But no, it's not clams. Bloombergers? nope. Trump-on-a-stick? getting closer. Ok, I'll give you a clue - it's pink, tube-shaped, encased in a skin.... geez, not that! (Well, maybe, in some neighborhoods....)

Padma continues to tease the group by calling out a person with whom the cheftestants must compete - Angelina D'Angelo, of the Dominick's and D'Angelo's hot dog carts in Queens.

The cheftestants get 45 minutes to create their own signature hot dog which will be compared against D'Angelo's Sabretts.

Most chefs set about making their own hotdogs, grinding meats and wrestling with casings. Except for Jill. What? 45 minutes wasn't enough time to season some ground meat and form two lousy sausages?

Needless to say, her store-bought hot dog wrapped in rice paper was not a hit. Superior Stefan's panini dog was also not popular with Donatella and Padma. Those they liked came from Fabio, Hosea, and Radhika, whose Indian kabob-style dog won her the Quickfire and immunity from elimination in the next challenge.
Padma then presents the Elimination Challenge. She starts off by saying that New Yorkers are the toughest of customers (yet they spend $100 mil on beef-lip sausages popularly cooked in dirty water?). The challenge is to "open" a Top Chef restaurant in Manhattan and serve three courses of New American cuisine to fifty diners. Each cheftestant is responsible for one dish.

Surprisingly, when the group tries to decide who gets to do what, we hear several volunteers to do dessert, a task most Top Chef competitors in the past have avoided like the plague.

Once organized, the cheftestants made a field trip to Whole Paycheck with the grand sum of $2500 to spend among the fifteen of them.

Hosea couldn't find fresh crabmeat anywhere, so he bought some crab-like stuff of unknown quality and origin in a can. I've bought that stuff before, and it's really not worth using in a dish where you need the crab to shine. If you want it to be slimy, on the other hand....

Back at the Top Chef kitchen...

Jill bought ostrich eggs and thinks they would be a daring ingredient to use in her dish. Hmm...a New American entrée made with vast quantities of egg..... Pondering....

Um, no. Not American at all, akshully.

Ariane was equally thoughtful in her dish selection.

Once settled in, the chefs start on their prepwork. Tom comes in to tell them about their new venue:

Carla is a little excited about the prospect of cooking in the kitchen of a world-famous New American restaurant run by a pre-eminent American chef.

Tom also announces that the fifty diners who will be partaking of their menu are NY-area Top Chef rejects. They are jealous and bitter, and most likely very hard to impress.

Fabio isn't fazed. He goes into some weird Superior European Medieval fantasy mode and talks about the "many dragoons to keel."

Back at home, we see that perhaps Fabio and Stefan are having a bit of a bromance, as they are cozied together on one sofa, chatting and laughing. On another sofa, we have Hosea and Leah, flirting shamelessly. Leah is very into having a boyfriend, and if she can't have Tom Colicchio, then a member of his fan club will certainly do.

The next day, the cheftestants head to Craft where they set up stations and work on their dishes for the day. Fabio is very inspired by being there, and he's making what he calls "spherical olives" with liquid centers without mentioning the words "molecular" or "gastronomy." Or maybe he deed and I deedn't undeerstan' his-a theek accent.

Out in the dining room, the Reject Chefs brag, bitch, and moan, even before they get to taste the food. They definitely got an "asshole edit."

Finally, we see the angry hordes eating. Some were impressed enough by a few dishes as to actually compliment them. Others didn't fare as well.

Back at Judges Table, Donatella, Padma, Gail, and Tom decide they like Jamie's corn soup, Carla's apple tart, and Fabio's tartare the best. It seemed to be a toss-up, but in the end, they chose Fabio as the winner of the Elimination challenge.

Now, who'sa going to be eliminated?

Hosea's crab salad was, as expected, not good, Ariane's lemon meringue martini was far too sweet, causing Padma to spit it into her napkin, and Jill's quiche tasted like glue and looked like dogfood.

Not to mention there was nothing New American about it. Tom went on a rant about setting American food back a few decades and blah blah.

The judges appeared not to hate Hosea's dish as much as the other two, so he was probably safe. Ariane feared for her life. And Jill, after disappointing in both the Quickfire and now the Elimination challenges seemed to be the surefire loser this week.

Gail said her defense was the lamest she had ever heard in the history of the show, and I have to agree. Jill was sent packing. Although disappointing to us Baltimorons, I think it was a good call. Bye Jill - we hope you have great success in your restaurant career, maybe even eventually working at one that has real tables and chairs, and maybe some good lighting....

Next Thursday is Thanksgiving, y'all, and I'm doing part of the cooking for our family feast. Look for my Top Chef recap on Friday or Saturday....