Friday, November 30, 2012

Top Chef Seattle Episode 4 Recap

Oy. I am not in the mood to recap. I just got back from a whirlwind trip to New York and I'm mentally and physically exhausted. But as they say - the show must go on!

This week's show opens in last week's stew room. John is once again proving why he's the Most Hated Chef in Dallas (and by the time the show is over, possibly the Most Hated Chef on TV, except maybe Gordon Ramsay) by insulting all and sundry in the room. He even goes so far as to call Mr Mustache a "blogger." Honestly, I think he should be proud to be called that - we bloggers are more influential than chefs these days. Heh heh. Stefan above it all, saying it's too much like the Real Housewives of Seattle. Andy Cohen, make sure you give Stefan credit when you put that show on your network.

RING!!!! RING!!! Ok, hold on...have to answer the phone.

I'm back. Just in time to put up the Christmas tree. Yeah, that's why this post is so late. Man. My back is killing me. And I could use a drink....

Back to blogging. And back at the Top Chefpartment the next morning, there's more bellyaching, but Stefan decides his time is better used by giving pretty Kristin a foot rub. Despite the fact that she's not a lesbian. With any luck, he'll turn her into one.

Finally, we're in the Healthy Choice kitchen with Padma - who is wearing Seinfeld's puffy shirt - and Portland-area chef Naomi Pomeroy, who Padma calls "Nye-omi." You might remember Nye-omi as the bossy finalist who yelled at her dad during a Quickfire in Top Chef Masters season 3. In case you don't remember, Bravo airs a little clip of that very moment.

On to the Quickfire. Padma dramatically removes a curtain set up behind to to reveal two primal cuts of beef. Essentially dead cows are hooked up on a rack behind her, and the chefs have to take them down and butcher them for the cuts they want to use in a dish. The guys get one primal down easily, but three of the female chefs wrestle with the other one for several minutes before managing to get it off the rack and onto a butcher block. A mere hour later, the cheftestants present their beefy dishes for judging. CJ feels confident because his tartare is fantastic, and Mr Mustache's meatball is quite tasty, but Pads and Nye-omi give the win (and immunity) to the biggest ego in the room, TMHCiD (aka, John Tesar).

For the Elimination Challenge this week, the chefs are celebrating the beloved Seattle institution, Canlis, which has been around for 62 years. They must recreate the original 1950 menu for a special dinner. The winner of the challenge will get a cool $10,000 from their corporate sponsor, Healthy But Not Tasty Choice, AND there will be two chefs eliminated. Yay! Hopefully that will shave a week off the competition.

The chefs get some time to peruse the 1950 menu and divvy up who makes what. Stefan decides to delegate tasks and gives a squab dish to Carla. Now why did he give her that particular dish? Because she doesn't make thquab regularly? Because she snapped at him last week? Dum dum DUM!

TMHCiD decides since he's got immunity, he'll expedite. Also, because he's superior to the other chefs in the competition. And expediting takes someone who knows what he's doing. You know, like TMHCiD.

Commercial break and Bravo's "text in your answer..."question of the night:

Is John the chef to beat?
A: Yes. With a baseball bat.
B. No. But smack him with a bat anyway.

The next day, the cheftestants get three hours in the Canlis kitchen to prepare their dishes..It's difficult for a cook to prepare a dish he or she has never eaten before, especially when he or she doesn't have the recipe. Carla is having trouble butchering her squab; she doesn't know if she should remove the rib cage, or what. Chrissy doesn't seem to be having much luck with the Canlis special salad. Kristin, meanwhile, has a big chore ahead of her: cooking onion rings and mushrooms. How will she handle the pressure? And poor Tyler, who's terrified that he's on the bottom again, worries and makes terrible faces over his crab cocktail.

The guests arrive and the first set of tickets come in. TMHCiD does a terrible job of expediting right off the bat, asking The Mustache for two onion soups, then calls for a "second soup." Mustache clarifies that there are only 2 soups "all day," so why did TMHCiD ask for three? Because he's not as superior as he thinks he is. And, according to the text poll results, Bravo viewers don't think he's all that tough to beat.

The judges this week, besides Tom and Padma, are Hugh Acheson, Emeril, Nye-omi, and the third generation of Canlis owners, brothers Brian and Michael.

John and the Apps come out first, to mixed reviews. They love Tyler's crab cocktail (which surprisingly doesn't taste of flop sweat and tears), but aren't so fond of The Mustache's cold French onion soup with hard croutons and a lack of cheese. Chrissy's Canlis special salad is overdressed and her croutons are soggy. Maybe they should switch croutons?

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Carla has to face order after order of squab being sent back because it's nearly raw. So for the judges' order, she overcooks the beast a bit.

The sauce is actually pretty tasty, but the presence of the ribcage makes the judges unhappy. Micah's vegetable side dish is both over- and under-cooked. Something for complain about. Stefan's liver is very good, but CJ's lamb kabobs are mealy and underseasoned, not to mention cooked with the very un-50s technique of sous vide. Kristin's mushrooms and onions are a big hit.

Anyone else notice that Nye-omi tended to disagree with everyone else's opinion? There's a reason her name is Nay-omi.

Finally, the desserts are presented and thoroughly enjoyed, particularly Danyele's vanilla ice cream.

The chef go to stew elsewhere in the restaurant until Padma calls out Tyler, Stefan, and Kristin. They are pleased to learn they are on top, and Stefan pretends to be delighted that Kristin wins for her lovely mushrooms.

On the bottom are Carla, Chrissy, CJ, and The Mustache. The judges complain that Mustache's soup was cold, and he seems surprised. They then ask how John was as an expeditor, and Mustache truthfully tells them he was "a monkey" at the job. Which I'm assuming is not good. When asked about the temperature of her squab, Carla admits only trying the first and last ones and not testing each (which is why most of them were sent back to the kitchen). CJ gets hell for using a modern technique to cook his lamb, and Chrissy is bashed over her soggy salad. Chrissy, surprisingly, is eliminated, but then so is Carla, who won last week. So far, that's a pattern - Kuniko wins week 2 and is eliminated week 3. Carla wins week 3 and is eliminated week 4. Guess that means Kristin is out next week?

Speaking of next week, the cheftestants seem to be paired up, and at one point one of the judges declares that the "whole team" is going home. Does that signify another double elimination? Let's hope!

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

J Paul's

When I initially received an invitation to a media dinner at J Paul's restaurant in Harborplace, I was amused. "That's still around?" I thought. I'm always surprised that anything is in Harborplace anymore, especially after Phillips jumped ship last year. Back in the day, in the early 80s, my family was at Harborplace all the time. We lived in Fells Point, so it was a quick trip in the car, or a long walk if we were feeling energetic, to get there. We ate very frequently at Bamboo House (a precursor to Joey Chiu's Greenspring Inn) and later, in the 90s, Paolo's was a favorite. But they're both gone, and so is almost everything else in those big glass pavilions. Bubba Gump's has moved into the spot where Phillips ruled for 30 years, and H&M occupies a great deal of the Light Street building, including Paolo's old digs. There's a Hooter's in there, and the Fudgery is still around after all these years, but Harborplace is probably even disappointing to the tourists these days. Which brings me back to my surprise at a media dinner at J Paul's.

The restaurant has been in the Light Street pavilion since 1997. (The original Georgetown restaurant has been chugging along since 1983. Somehow, DC has been kinder to establishments in the Capital Restaurant Concepts group - Paolo's is still open there, whereas Baltimore has lost both outposts.) Fifteen years and a major renovation later, they just wanted to remind Baltimore that they're still around. And they're worth a try. Honestly - we enjoyed our meal, and were sad that the restaurant was so empty.

We started our meal off with a couple of Blue Point oysters, which were supremely fresh, meaty, and delicious with a dab of lemon juice and sprinkle of mignonette. It might seem odd to eat only one oyster, but neither of us are fans of raw bivalves. However, our server was persuasive, and later, after we commended her on her recommendation, she suggested we try more on a Thursday, when the restaurant offers half price raw bar items from 5pm until closing. Not a bad idea.

Next were bowls of Maryland crab soup and chili. I'm always skeptical about restaurant chili, which is usually a flavorless melange of ground beef and kidney beans. J Paul's is made with short rib as well as ground beef, and the shreds of meat are the predominant texture. The bowl of red was well-spiced without being hot, and it was almost as good as my home made. Color me impressed. The Maryland crab was also quite good, with a spicy tomato broth that did not have the typical Old Bay flavors. A nice change. And bonus for me - no lima beans!

For our entrees, we tried the crab cakes and the fish and chips. Mr Minx's cod was so delicately beer-battered as to seem like tempura, and the fish inside was moist and flaky. Even better was the fresh-tasting, very crisp, cilantro-spiked cole slaw, which had the perfect amount of sweetness.

My crab cakes seemed small for the price ($26) but they were very tightly packed. I'm a bit of a crab cake snob, and would say these were merely ok. However, I was impressed by the cakes' accompaniments, which seemed somewhat unconventional, as far as crab cake sides are concerned: perfectly cooked asparagus topped with a sundried tomato tapenade, rice pilaf, and a cherry pepper remoulade that had a real kick.

For dessert, we had a rich peanut butter pie served with a pool of very good, obviously house-made chocolate sauce, and a fudgelike slice of flourless chocolate cake with more of that chocolate sauce. Thumbs up for both. Especially the chocolate sauce.

We washed down our meals with a crisp J Pauls amber ale, and a J Paul's mojito, which is a mojito in name only. Rather than rum and mint, cherry-flavored Jim Beam Red Stag is muddled with basil, with added brown sugar, simple syrup, and lime. A bit too sweet, but interesting.


If I happen to find myself hungry at the Inner Harbor, J Paul's has definitely made itself a dining option. We need to check out the Thursday raw bar special, and the weeknight happy hour nibbles (filet mignon slider, vegetable tempura, shrimp corn dogs, deviled eggs) are tempting, too.

J Paul's
301 Light St
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 659-1889

J Paul's on Urbanspoon

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Top Chef Recap Will Be Late

This week's Top Chef recap will be late - hopefully I can get it ready for tomorrow afternoon. Please come back then :)

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide 2012 Part Three

In part three of our 2012 holiday gift guide, we offer pre-made goodies for your holiday gifting.

Starbucks Christmas Blend

This is our favorite coffee, hands-down, and we always hoard several pounds of in the freezer to drink through much of the year. It's roasted to the perfect amount of darkness for us, and has a nice balance of sweet and spicy (it's not a flavored coffee, btw). If you like darker or lighter coffees, there are also light roast and espresso roast versions available, and decaf, too. Purchase at your local Starbucks, grocery store, or online at the link above.

Taste No. 5 Umami Paste

Everyone knows by now that besides sweet, salty, bitter, and sour, there's a fifth "taste" called "umami." It's the indescribable savoriness found in foods like mushrooms, tomatoes, and olives. Indeed, those are some of the ingredients of this paste (along with anchovies, Parmesan, and seasonings) which can be used to add some "oompfh" to pasta sauces, stews, risottos, or gravy. It can also be eaten straight out of the tube as a condiment. (It tastes like black-olives.)

Mallow Crunchies

Mallow Crunchies are delicious treats made with crisp rice cereal. You might say, "hey, I can make those at home!" Sure you can, but how many of you are going to bother to make the marshmallows, first? And homemade marshmallows make a huge difference in the flavor and consistency of these goodies. Mallow Crunchies can be purchased at the Mallow Bar in Rosedale, various local shops and farmers' markets, and via their online store; you can buy the marshmallows (Mallow Softies) at the shop as well.

See's Chocolates

Every Christmas for a number of years, I purchased a custom mix of See's chocolates for my brother, who has nut allergies. One year, I bucked tradition and ordered a box from Vermont Nut Free Chocolates, which processes no nuts at all in their plant, figuring it would be safer for him. The look of disappointment on his face that year has stayed with me, and so it's been back to the See's. Everyone else on my gift list usually gets a box, too, which we usually purchase at the handy kiosk set up in Towson Town Center (and other area malls). Why See's? Because they are outrageously delicious. Even those folks who stick their fingers into the bottom of a candy to check if its a yucky cream will be pleasantly surprised at how tasty even the non-caramel, non-nut flavors are (my favorite is the raspberry cream).

Glaceed Apricots

One of my favorite things to get and receive come holiday time is glaceed apricots. Most of the time, they're pretty damn expensive (Norm Thompson charges $30 for 1.4 lb), but I found that my favorite source for nuts and dried fruits,, sells 8oz for $9.99. Not cheap, but less expensive. And they're just as tasty, even if they're not packaged in a fancy box.


Just about everyone loves to drink a nice hot cuppa tea in the wintertime. David's is my new favorite place to buy tea, for myself and for everyone else. There's a shop on Bleecker Street in New York, and all over Canada, but if you can't get there, David's does mail order, too. Some of my favorite flavors: Chicory Dickory Dock, Coffee Pu'erh, and Genmaicha green.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide 2012 Part Two

If gadgets aren't the perfect thing for the foodie in your life, then perhaps he or she might prefer a cookbook or three. Here's a list of some of my favorite cookbooks, along with some new releases that I find interesting.

Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition

I've found the Joy of Cooking to be an indispensable reference for all things food. If I need to make pancakes or pot roast, I consult the Joy of Cooking for proportions, temperatures, and technique, if not the whole recipe. And there are 4500 recipes within the book's 1152 pages, covering everything from soup to nuts - literally. I think this would be a great gift for anyone who has expressed an interest in cooking, from beginners to folks with years of experience in the kitchen.

Lucky Peach Issue 5

Serious food nerds might enjoy Lucky Peach, a quarterly journal of food writing, brought to you by the mastermind behind Momofuku, David Chang. These slim magazine-sized volumes are packed full of interesting travelogues, essays, and photography, none of which is scholarly, snobbish, or inaccessible. In other words, it's no typical journal. Issue one, which was all about ramen, has become a collectors item, selling for $85 or more (I'm glad to have grabbed one when I did). One issue is a mere $7 and change at Amazon, or you can subscribe to a full year for $28 from McSweeney's.


Speaking of David Chang, fans of the Momofuku restaurants can make many of the most popular dishes (pork belly buns!) at home using recipes from Chang's cookbook. If the recipes seem a bit challenging, it's because they are; this is not a book for beginners. However, fans of Anthony Bourdain might enjoy reading Momofuku like a novel, as Chang's writing style is both engaging and irreverent. I read it from cover to cover and put it on my bookshelf, completely satisfied.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I can't say enough good things about this book. Before I bought it, I was completely intimidated by bread. I had one badly failed attempt 15 years ago and swore never to try making bread at home again. But then I relented, because I had read so many good things about the simple technique in this book. I tried it, and what do you know - not only was I able to make crusty and delicious white bread, I also made the best brioche I had ever eaten. Now, if the best brioche you have ever eaten isn't a selling point, I don't know what is.

A Cook's Tour

Anthony Bourdain's Travel Channel show No Reservations has completed its run, but did you know that the Food Network had its own version of the show first? Personally, I preferred A Cook's Tour because it seemed more outrageous. It also had a companion book, which is some pretty entertaining reading.

Here are some more interesting options, some of which are on my own wish list! Just click through to see more about each title.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide 2012 Part One

So what to get the foodie in your life? The person who loves to cook and eat and feed all and sundry? Some nifty new kitchen gadgets would surely be appreciated. (I know I wouldn't mind at all if someone bought me a Vita-Mix.) Here's a list of things I find indispensable in my kitchen or otherwise covet.

I deliberately didn't post this on Black Friday because everything on this list can be purchased online, most things via And isn't that better and more convenient than waiting in line overnight just to get into fisticuffs with another shopper over that last video game?

SousVide Supreme  

Fans of Top Chef and Iron Chef have seen contestants using a machine called an immersion circulator to cook foods at a constant temperature. These devices are basically a motor that heats and circulates water in a large basin. The result is usually perfectly-cooked protein, whether it be chicken, pork, or beef. The SousVide Supreme water oven does much the same thing, but in a self-contained unit without visible moving parts. Just put the water into the container, punch in the temperature, and plug it in. You'll then need to seal the food you'd like to cook in water-tight plastic pouches and place them in the water when it comes to temperature. Depending on what you're making, cooking times range from minutes to days, but it all happens quietly while you're doing other things. I've made some perfect pork tenderloins and chicken breasts in my machine, and highly recommend it.

(While you're at the SousVide Supreme Web site, don't forget to order a vacuum sealer and some bags!)

Cuisinart Stick Blender 

I've had my Cuisinart stick blender for at least 15 years. Maybe even 20. My dad purchased it and I confiscated it when I got married. It's been used to smooth out countless soups and sauces and has never let me down. Dad bought another less-expensive brand as a replacement, and it just didn't do the trick - the motor wasn't strong enough.

The Cuisinart also comes in many color choices, to match your kitchen decor or not. Plus, it's easy to clean.

Vitamix Turboblend

If you need something solid turned into a puree, the Vitamix is for you. Far mightier than the average blender (mine doesn't even particularly like soft food, like the ingredients for gazpacho) the Vitamix does stuff that a food processor does (chop, pulverize, grind) and turns out a really lovely smooth soup to boot. I covet one of these, but a) can't afford it; b) don't really have counter space (unless I get rid of my blender - which I am happy to do if suddenly gifted with a VitaMix (hint hint to the Vita-Mix Corporation).

Microplane Classic Zester/Grater

If you don't already have one of these for all of your zesting and grating needs, what are you waiting for? This nifty kitchen tool is perfect for zesting a lemon, grating fresh Parmesan over your pasta, even grating a bit of fresh nutmeg for a custard. It also grates fresh ginger (which I keep in the freezer, so I grate it frozen) in a flash. The long shape is perfect for resting over most sizes of bowls, to give stability while grating. We've had ours for 10 years now and it's still going strong.


There are several brands of silicone mats on the market now, but Silpat is still the best. It's indispensable for baking cookies, especially during the holidays - nothing sticks to it, and it doesn't need to be greased. It's also great for rolling out pie or bread dough, and for most baking chores. We have two, and I can't believe we ever went without them.

KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer

We received our KitchenAid stand mixer as a wedding gift from my mother, and it's one of my all-time favorite appliances. It mixes up cookie or bread dough in a snap, and it's easy to clean. Also, I prefer the crank lift on the professional models to the lift-up head on the standard models (those heads are heavy and I have weak wrists). It comes in a bunch of nice colors, including chartreuse and tangerine, but I still love my more traditional cobalt blue.

Zojirushi Fuzzy-Logic Rice Cooker and Warmer

Another small appliance that we received as a wedding gift oh so many years ago was a simple on/off rice cooker. I had added it to the gift registry for the hell of it. Mr Minx thought it was an impractical gift, but in the end, we've used it about once a week for the last 12 years. It still works great, but when it finally kicks the bucket, I think we'll invest in this fancier "fuzzy logic" model that can be used to cook more than just plain white rice.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Top Chef Seattle Episode 3 Recap

Happy day after Thanksgiving! Has everyone emerged from their tryptophan comas yet? Ready for another recap? How about one I write without consulting my notes? Good! Because I am too!

The cheftestants file into the Healthy Choice Top Chef Kitchen and find Padma showing off her skinny legs alongside Food & Wine's Dana Cowin. Dana's a big fan of dumplings, apparently, so the cheftestants are going to cook them for her - wrappers, fillings, sauces and all. Next to Padma is a map with little knives stuck into it, each representing a particular dumpling from a particular nation. She invites the 'testants to charge the board like a hoard of shoppers at the WalMart on Black Friday, grab a knife, and get to work making a dish as authentic as possible. For those folks unfamiliar with the dumpling her or she got stuck with picked, Amazon kindly furnished a big pile of Kindle Fires for them to use to find pertinent information on teh Innernets. If they can do so in five minutes.

Meanwhile, if you remember back to last week's show, Carla cut her hand while reaching into her knife bag. (They called it her knife bag, but someone may well have switched it for a bag of cobras. Yes, Carla is that likable.) With her hand bandaged like the Mummy's, she couldn't work the tablet properly, thus couldn't find the proper recipe to use for her fufu. Sounds like a plausible excuse. Maybe. Odd that "fufu" was considered a dumpling; I think of the African staple more like mashed potatoes. But then Stefan was able to snag the German "dumpling" klopse from the board. They're meatballs, and I'm pretty sure he made the same dish in season 5. In any case, after an hour of work, Dana and Padma do their tasting thang. Carla ends up on the bottom with her non-fufu, along with Brooke who couldn't find flour to make a wrapper for her dumplings, or Kuniko, who didn't even get her octopus balls on the plate. (How is it that Japanese Kuniko lucks out with Japanese takoyaki, yet can't finish the dish?) Stefan's meatballs were on top with Micah's and Josie's dumplings, and amazingly, Josie wins the challenge. Did she ever win anything in season 2? I hope she enjoys it, because this might be the last challege - and last immunity - she wins this season.

Padma tells the gang that suddenly, despite it being the middle of summer, it's Thanksgiving. The chefs nod like they accept the charade completely. Fools. Padma divides the group into two, calling one batch of chefs the Gray Team (how festive) and the other team the Red Team (how inventive). I'm going to call them the Turkeys and the ToFurkys. No I'm not. That would be too confusing. So Gray and Red it is. Padma then announces that for the first time EVARrr, in Top Chef history, two of the judges will be leading up the teams. She calls out Emeril and Tom, who strut into the room like they're important or something. Or like turkeys. Emeril takes the reins of the Gray Team and tells them they will be doing it Oppa Gungam New Orleans style, with Cajun/Creole influences, but no Turducken.

Tom's Red Team is doing an Italian-influenced meal, but no lasagna. Is lasagna on Thanksgiving a thing, btw? When we went grocery shopping on Tuesday, the Shop Rite was having a special on quarts of ricotta cheese. There were huge bins of the stuff in the dairy aisle, and I was tempted to buy some because I like eating it straight out of the container with a big spoon, but our refrigerator was going to be packed with enough food as it was. Mmm, lasagna. I would certainly prefer that to turkey. But I digress....

The Big Shots hang around for day one, then the cheftestants will have to finish the food on their own on day two.

That next day, they head off to a place called Fare Start, which offers culinary training to struggling and homeless persons. The whole "teach a man to fish" thing, I guess. Once the two teams are in the kitchen, Stefan immediately starts bitching that the Gray Team is taking up too much space and shoos them away from a piece of prime real estate that he wants. Then he and John Tesar get into a dick-measuring contest. "You're a kindergartener!" shouts Stefan. "No! You're the kindergartener!" shouts Tesar.

We know the show has a medic around, but how about someone who changes diapers?

After Stefan and John are done bellyaching, Stefan gets into it with Carla. She's making soup, and Stefan and CJ go in for a taste. She goes ballistic, saying it's not yet seasoned and she knows what she's doing. Stefan makes the mistake of calling her sweetheart, in that endearing misogynistic way of his, and she goes off again. Apparently, while she wants to be a James Beard with a nice ass, she doesn't want to be called "baby," "sweetheart," or "honey." Not that it will stop Stefan. She needs to thank her lucky stars that she's not a lesbian, otherwise he'd be cooing sweet nothings into her ears for the foreseeable future.

Time to eat, and Emeril's team serves first. Among the judges this week are Dana Cowin, Fare Start's Megan Karch, and local chef by way of France, the chef with the hat, Thierry Rautureau.

Josie's turkey is grossly undercooked, practically bloody at the bone, but she's got immunity so lucks out. Tyler's gumbo is underseasoned and lacks depth (which is pretty much the way I feel about any gumbo that hasn't come from Cajun Kate's). Kuniko's potato pave is almost completely raw. It's beginning to look like Emeril's team will be the loser this week.

That's even more obvious when there's pretty much only praise for Tom's team. CJ's turkey is perfection, Lizzie's mashed potatoes are simple perfection, and Carla's carrot soup with meatballs is even more perfect than the other perfect dishes, even if Tom was expecting cabbage soup. Cabbage, carrots - both sound the same when spoken by Carla.

After dinner, the judges get to business. Emeril and Tom take themselves out of the voting and the remaining judges unanimously choose the Red Team as the winner. They then start nominating losers on the Gray Team. Dana thinks Tyler should be gone for his lackluster gumbo, Emeril nominates both Sheldon's greens and Kuniko's potatoes. Tom hates Josie's turkey and despite having immunity, he wants her to stand with the other nominees.

Later, Padma comes into the green room to proclaim the Red Team the winner, pulling aside CJ, Carla, and Lizzie to face the jury. While they loved all three dishes, Carla's soup gets the nod from the panel. Wonder if she'll be more obnoxious with a win under her belt?

From the Gray Team, we see Tyler, Kuniko, Sheldon, and Josie face the judges. Tom tells Josie that he wants her gone for her turkey fiasco, but he can't kick her off this week. She thought perhaps her turkey was maybe slightly medium, rather than well done...she understands why she's there. Sheldon's infraction is pretty minor - his greens aren't cooked long enough - so he's safe. It's Kuniko's raw potatoes that get her the boot. The others tell the judges that she was busy helping everyone else, but since she alone was responsible for her dish, and she couldn't get it completed in five hours, she has to take the fall. Fair enough, but disappointing considering she won last week's Elimination Challenge.

Back in the green room, Tesar is trying to make himself into the Most Hated Chef on Top Chef by maligning Kuniko's skills, suggesting that any moron can make potatoes. Douche.

Next week - the recap will be late again. Hopefully Friday. There will be a double elimination! Yay! And...the return of Last Chance Kitchen is impending.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Scallops with Lavender Honey Brown Butter

Remember when I complained last month that scallops are the restaurant world's biggest rip-off? Here's some proof. I paid $15.95 per pound for U-10 drypack scallops at the local Giant. U-10 means there are fewer than ten scallops per pound - these three babies weighed .37 lb. ("Drypack" means they were packed and shipped on ice without the use of preservatives. They sear quite nicely and don't leach a lot of moisture into the pan.)

I seared the scallops in a bit of olive oil, removed them from the pan, and turned off the heat. To the still hot pan, I added a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of honey, about a teaspoon of dried, food-grade, lavender buds, and a teaspoon of chopped preserved lemon. The honey caramelized almost instantly, creating a rich, lightly sweet sauce for the scallops, which were also garnished with a sprinkle of green onion and a few more lavender buds.

Had I ordered this in a restaurant, it would have cost $35. Cost me around $6 to make at home. And they were damn fine.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Guy Fieri's New York Restaurant

By now all or most of you have heard about or read for yourself Pete Well's scathing review of Guy Fieri's new restaurant, Guy's American Kitchen & Bar in New York's Times Square. And maybe even read the angrier one in the New York Observer. (Go on - go read them if you haven't. I'll wait.) Personally, I think they're both a riot, and I really didn't expect anything less than absolute crap from that bleached-blond bozo (that would be Fieri). But expecting crap, I wouldn't bother to eat there, even if writing a negative review is So. Damn. Fun. (Just ask UK food critic Jay Rayner of the London Observer.)

So what does Fieri think about the criticism?

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Sotto Sopra's Green Monday...

...because everyone has an expired Groupon, etc., they haven't been able to use.... This is a great idea!

November 26
Recycle your expired dining coupon or gift certificate

(Baltimore, MD – November 19, 2012) In the spirit of Thanksgiving, of giving thanks for their customers’ continued patronage, Sotto Sopra Restaurant at 405 N. Charles Street has created a whole new holiday, GREEN MONDAY. There is Thanksgiving, there is Black Friday, there is Small Business Saturday and now there is Sotto Sopra's GREEN MONDAY, Monday, November 26, where customers can recycle their expired dining certificate or gift certificate (of any kind - even unused/expired spa gift certificates) into savings.

Bring Sotto Sopra Restaurant your expired dining coupon or gift certificate on GREEN MONDAY and they will recycle it into a 30% savings. Only one expired certificate or gift certificate needed per table. You and your companions will receive 30% percent discount off a dinner tab of $100 or more. Dinner service starts at 5:30 p.m.-no other promotions or discounts apply.

Enjoy Sotto Sopra's GREEN MONDAY - Recycle an expired gift certificate or dining coupon, and keep more green in your pocket. Call for reservations at 410 625 0534 or us

Sotto Sopra Restaurant features true contemporary Northern Italian cuisine paired with Maryland’s regional foods, and has been doing so for over sixteen years. The restaurant is located in a 19th century building with lends a very European and cosmopolitan ambiance along with its exceptional cuisine and service.

Sotto Sopra Restaurant
405 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 625 – 0534 Twitter @SottoSopra

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Kofte with Pistachio Sauce

You may recall from my recap of Time Machine Chefs back in August that I expressed admiration for chef Silvena Rowe, of the restaurant Quince in London's May Fair Hotel. Her ballsy attitude on the show made me check if she had any cookbooks available in the U.S. - and yes, she does! A couple, actually, and I chose to buy Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume: Cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean, mostly because I liked the idea of purple citrus. :) While no actual purple citrus were harmed during the reading of that book, by the time I was done with it, I wanted to cook every recipe. I even bought a jar of grape leaves, which I have never used before.

The recipe that stood out most for me was for lamb kofte with pistachio sauce. Kofte are meatballs or small patties made from ground meat, and I just happened to have some ground lamb in the freezer. There were also pistachios and tahini kicking around for the sauce, as well as the last vestiges of our garden's fresh mint and all of the recipe's required spices. (Find the recipe here.)

Toasting and grinding the pistachios was the most difficult and time consuming part of the process. Well, not that either the toasting or the grinding part of the equation was difficult, but cleaning out the coffee grinder that I used for the purpose was not fun. (We have two - one for coffee, one for other stuff.) The sauce ended up tasting more of the tahini than the pistachios, which was a little disappointing, but the kofte were wonderful. I had swapped out the currants in the recipe for dried cherries, and they lent a lovely sweetness to the savory spice- and mint-flavored patties. I also chose to serve some home-made preserved lemons as a garnish, and their juicy salty tang was a perfect accent.

I hope to try other recipes from this book over the coming months and will post my adventures here. In the meantime, do try the recipe for yourself.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Cherpumple Pudding

Cherpumple. It's a funny word, isn't it? Kinda like "turducken." Exactly like turducken, as a matter of fact. That particular funny word is a portmanteau combining letters from the words turkey, duck, and chicken; the dish it refers to comprises a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck which in turn is stuffed into a deboned turkey. Poultry on poultry (on poultry) action, and an interesting dish to serve for Thanksgiving dinner.

Like the turducken, the cherpumple combines multiple elements into one over-the-top dessert. This combination of cherry, pumpkin, and apple pies bound by cake was created by humorist Charles Phoenix after noticing that his family tended to take small servings of each of several desserts served during a typical holiday meal.

While I'd happily eat turducken, I think three pies, each baked into a layer of cake, and covered with cream cheese frosting, is like a nightmare starring Paula Deen. Or maybe Sandra Lee, considering that the original recipe calls for frozen pies, cake mix, and canned frosting. BUT...I think the combination of flavors, at least of the pie components, would make for a pleasant holiday sweet.

Rather than dealing with pies and such, I opted for a much simpler solution: pudding. A nice tapioca pudding, flavored with pumpkin and spices, and topped with a compote-like mixture of sauteed apples and dried cherries.

Cherpumple Pudding

1 large egg
2 3/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Minute tapioca
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons dried cherries

Beat the eggs and milk together in a saucepan, then stir in sugar and tapioca. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Mix together pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. When tapioca has cooled somewhat, stir in the pumpkin mixture. Pour into a bowl that has a cover, or cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed down onto the surface of the pudding. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Cook apple with butter and brown sugar until the fruit is tender and the sugar is syrupy. Stir in the cherries and cook an additional few minutes, until they plump up. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.

When ready to serve, spoon some of the tapioca into a bowl. Top with some of the apple and cherry mixture. Garnish with a dollop of freshly-whipped cream, if desired.

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