Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oysters Rockefeller Bisque

This was Sunday dinner - oysters Rockefeller bisque from Cajun Kate's. God, it was decadent -spinach, fennel, bacon, oysters...and lots of heavy cream.

I might try making this for myself someday, although I doubt I can get close to the deliciousness of Don's recipe.  If you'd like to give it a try, here's a recipe from Emeril Lagasse...

...and if you're weird and don't like bacon, here's another recipe.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Eco Trip - Cotton

Did you know that we consume cotton almost every day? Turns out that only 30% of the cotton that's harvested turns into the clothes we wear and linens we use. The rest makes its way into our food supply through livestock, which are fed cotton seed, and cotton seed oil which is used in all sorts of processed food, from candy bars to spaghetti sauce to peanut butter.

But from a sustainability perspective, cotton is apparently one of the most toxic crops we grow. How toxic? David de Rothschild explores just that in the new episode of Eco Trip, airing Tuesday, April 28th at 9PM ET on the Sundance Channel.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Classy Wedding Cake

How about some poop on your wedding cake? Nummy!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You're Kidding Me, Right?

From a Food Network press release:

Premieres: August 2009
Everyone knows Brian Boitano won an Olympic gold medal in figure skating. What they don’t know: Brian is an accomplished cook who loves to entertain! In this new series, Brian takes viewers on a reality cooking adventure as he creates amazing food for a new event in each episode. Funny, knowledgeable and irresistible, Brian brings himself and so much more to What Would Brian Boitano Make?

I know I for one can't wait to regularly hear the squeaky voice of a man whose nads have been damaged by decades of wearing spandex....

Foodie Book Review

I've always read a lot of books about food - cookbooks, anthologies, chefs' memoirs - so I thought it appropriate to start a semi-regular book review feature here at MinxEats. First up is a book I only recently read and enjoyed immensely.

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop

British food writer Dunlop has written a very engaging personal narrative describing her travels in China and her fascination with the Sichuan province in particular, where she learned to cook authentic dishes while enrolled at the Institute of Higher Cuisine.

Having quite a bit of interest in China and Chinese cuisines myself, I was drawn in by Ms Dunlop's story. As she discovers the many tastes and especially textures of Chinese foods, she learns the language and becomes rather Chinese in her way of thinking. She does not explore the country in any superficial manner; rather she absorbs it into herself. The affectionate way in which she describes the food and the people of China make me want to walk in her footsteps and explore that country. And especially the food.

In addition to her delightful memoir, Ms Dunlop has taken her travels and translated them into cookbooks, including Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking and Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province, both of which are on my "must-buy" list.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weekend Dining - Lazy Edition

Lazy because I didn't take any photos. :)

On Saturday, the family went to Grace Garden again. New items tried were Sichuan beef, chock-full of ma-la (spicy and numbing from chiles and Sichuan peppercorns); the hot and spicy smoky shrimp; 5-spice-scented wok-fried quail; Hakka-style braised tofu, and a very pedestrian chicken and string beans. We also re-tried the pork belly with mui-choy, and the vermicelli. Apart from the chicken and string beans, everything was flavorful and enjoyed by the entire party. Already planning our next excursion for sometime in June!

Here's a pic of the pork belly dish from the first time we tried it. It looked the same this time.

On Sunday morning, I made some orange/chocolate chip/walnut drop scones from a recipe in the Joy of Cooking. They blew up to amazing proportions and were somewhat muffin-y in texture. No matter, they hit the spot. (I was in the mood for donuts but wasn't about to leave the house in search of bad-for-me treats.)

For dinner, I had to make sense of the panoply of leftovers stocking up in the fridge. So I threw together a cup or so of leftover tomato-basil pasta sauce which housed chunks of sundried tomato chicken sausage, half a can of coconut milk, and about half a cup of clam sauce, with some shrimp and fish bouillon cubes, a tablespoon or so of Thai chile basil sauce, and some frozen tilapia. Oh, and a cup of leftover gemelli pasta and a roasted bell pepper, chopped up. It was spicy and rich and went well with some sunflower flaxseed bread from Atwater's schmeared with a bit of smoked paprika butter.

I'm looking forward to eating my leftover leftover concoction for lunch today.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Barefoot Broccoli

We had a big bunch of broccoli in the fridge and while contemplating what to do with it, I remembered reading a post about "the best broccoli of your life" on the Amateur Gourmet. In it, Adam waxes rhapsodic about a recipe from Ina Garten's cookbook, Back to Basics, involving lemon and Parmesan and a trip through the oven.

"I can't imagine it will be the 'best' broccoli of my life," I thought to myself. After all, not much beats perfectly steamed broccoli topped with butter. Except maybe gai lan (Chinese broccoli) with oyster sauce. But then I thought, "what the hell? I'll try it."

So I cut up the broccoli and tossed it with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mr Minx sliced up a few cloves of garlic for me (so the smell won't taint my hands which have a bit of knitting to accomplish in the next few months. Nothing worse than a garlic-scented baby blanket.) and in the oven it went.

After a few minutes, the smell of the garlic permeated the house with its...garlicness. Twenty-five minutes later, I pulled it from the oven, seasoned it with more olive oil, grated on the zest of one lemon, added the juice of half, and a handful of Parmesan. And we ate it.

It was good - the lemon/garlic/cheese combo made the dish. But was it the best I've ever had? Nope. It was too crunchy for my taste, and made for some indigestion later on. I don't think adding the basil and pine nuts that the original recipe calls for would have improved it any. I did think it would be a nice treatment for cauliflower, minus the lemon and plus the pine nuts. And maybe Brussels sprouts, too. And asparagus.

Will I try it again? Maybe - it was easy enough. Or I might just steam my broccoli and add butter. Mmmm.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Next week, the Sundance Channel will premiere a new eight-part original series called ECO TRIP, in which host David de Rothschild explores the origins and environmental impact of common everyday products. So why am I talking about it on my food blog? Well, the first episode is all about the processes involved in making chocolate.

Chocolate is good for you, you know. :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Dinner

After a bit of pondering, we decided to make an atypical Easter dinner this year. Neal made his delicious meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and I slaved over buttering some microwaved asparagus. Heh. It's nice to have someone else cook the main part of the holiday dinner. And man - was it delicious! Possibly the best meatloaf he's ever made, and it's wonderful every time, so that's saying something.

I did make dessert, a strawberry trifle, to christen the trifle bowl my MIL bought us for Christmas. I wanted it to taste a little like the strawberry pie from Haussner's (check out the link; there are photos of the restaurant AND a menu), with pastry cream and toasted almonds. But as it was a trifle, I used good old Bird's custard rather than making it from scratch. And rather than ladyfingers, I used a Sara Lee poundcake.

It didn't look like this for long - we decimated it. There was just enough left over for a wee bedtime snack the next day. It's really amazing how tasty eggless custard from a mix can taste - it's far better than any boxed pudding I've eaten, possibly because the cook adds sugar to his or her discretion.

Of course, the trifle might have been even better had I taken the time to make pastry cream from scratch, but I figured with the booze (framboise), blackberry jam, strawberries, cake, etc., the difference would have been pretty subtle. And I got no complaints.

Hope you had a good Easter. :)

I'm Jealous...

...this bird has a nicer kitchen than I do.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shrimp, Apples, Peanut Butter

A recent episode of Chopped required the contestants to create an appetizer using peanut butter, Granny Smith apples, and shrimp. I knew I could create something successful with that combo, so I tried it last weekend.

First I made a sauce with peanut butter, brown sugar, fish sauce, coconut milk, Korean chile pepper, lime zest, and ginger.  I remembered how delicious the apple salad was from the time I made Lisa Fernandez' strip steak, and wanted to do a simpler riff on that. I didn't have apple juice to make an apple reduction, so I used a caramel sauce instead. We had a jar of good-quality caramel in the fridge, so I warmed some up and added the juice of half a lime and a squirt of fish sauce.  This I tossed with two Granny Smith apples, cut into batons. (Next time, I would cut them into matchsticks. In the brownish caramel sauce, they looked too much like french fries.)

Finally, I marinated a pound of colossal shrimp in one clove of crushed garlic, a teaspoon of veg oil, and a splash of soy for 20 minutes.  These went into a hot sauté pan for about 5-7 minutes, until cooked through.

I put a puddle of peanut sauce on the bottom of the plate and used a ring mold to make a base of rice. On this I put a handful of apple salad. Around the rice went some shrimpies. To add color and some oniony bite, I garnished the dish with some chopped scallion and sliced shallot.

Mr Minx mixed up some cocktails with some leftover coconut milk, banana nectar, lime juice, and rum. 

The dish was a big success. The salty/sweet/earthy peanut sauce was a perfect foil for the garlicky shrimp and jasmine rice, and the tart apple salad with a hint of sweetness was refreshing against the richness of the seafood and sauce. The banana colada was a nice tropical touch.

I guarantee I wouldn't have been "chopped" for creating this dish, and I definitely plan on making it again.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Washington Post Peep Contest Winners

I'm always amazed by the creativity some people have.  See this year's winners here.

Cooking with Dog

Yes, you read with dog. This is better than most shows on the Food Network!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I'm So Busy Posting...

...that I completely missed when I put up my 500th post here at MinxEats. This one is 513, so I guess that would have been week before last sometime.

Happy 500th post to me! :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Interview With Fabio Viviani - Part Due

Part Two of the conversation with Fabio Viviani:

Where are you from?
From Florence, Tuscany. The first and only true capital of Italy. Rome is capital right now because we didn’t care to be that. First historical capital of Italy was Florence. We decided that we were keeping the art and giving the glory to someone else so Rome stepped up and took it.

I haven’t been - yet. I’ve been to Milan many times for work but that’s about it for me.
It’s beautiful, and shame on me that I left my country. It’s good if you go there for hanging out, but if you have to work there, the government is screwed up. The economy is screwed up. The health system is screwed up. It’s all screwed up. It’s not a good place if you want to have a business; if you want to have a life. If you’re filthy rich, you go there you spend a good amount of money. You buy your villa on the Tuscan hill. That’s it. That’s the la dolce vita. It’s not so sweet for those who stay there for everyday living.

How long have you been here?
It’s been 3 ½ years. I love it. I have all my businesses. I’d be stupid if I did all this and didn’t love it. This is truly the land of opportunity. If I have done what I’ve done in 3 ½ years - I can’t even speak English yet, guys!

What would you say was the dish from Tuscany that would best represent your region?
Fresh pasta! Fresh pasta and steak!

You’re not saying that just because you are Italian?
Well, because I grew up with it. I want to tell you a little story. You know about how my mom doesn’t know what’s going on with me on television? Okay. She thought it was bad for me to be on TV, as a chef. If you are a chef and you are on on TV, you’ve done something really wrong. You’ve either killed somebody or robbed a bank. So, she was really worried. She’d say, “You know, we know people. We can get you out of there. We’ll bring you back to Italy.” I say, “It’s okay. Don’t worry, mama. It’s a good thing.” She say, “How could it be good? You’re a chef and you’re on TV, for Chrissakes!” How could I fix that?

So, I called my friend and I said, “Show my mom what’s going on.” So, there are like 2,000 pictures of me on Google. Links everywhere, interviews everywhere. So, he shows her, now she thinks Google is a TV show. How cool is that? That’s why I’m writing a book, “My Son is on Google.” And my mom starts the book in this way…the first phrase of the book, in the introduction is, “food has always been a big influence in our family, and Fabio loves it. And Fabio met food when he was very little. Not because of our passion, but because he set his grandma on fire.”

Now I did set my grandma on fire when I was five. It’s a very sad story. I was evil. I was the wrong kid to be staying at home, especially with a 60-year-old in a wheelchair. Wrong fucking kid. If you were looking for a nice cute Italian kid, you were lost with me. I was brutal. I was the Tasmanian Devil. And my family we were way below the low class income in Italy. I’m not kidding. When I was 10 years old, I was going out with cardboard shoes. I started to work when I was 12 because there was no money in the family. So I started to work my ass off.

My father and mother worked hard. Anything they could have done they did to get money in the house. There was no money to send me to kindergarten, or for a baby sitter when I was five, so I was locked in the house with my grandmother all day. I was hyper. Impossible to deal with. Climbing on furniture. I loved fireworks. One time, I was playing with fireworks and rubbing alcohol and one landed on my grandma’s lap and she caught fire. It was a big fucking mess. My dad beat me with a bat for like 2 hours. My ass was so sore, I still remember. My grandma she couldn’t handle me, and you can’t handcuff a 5 year old kid, not even in Italy. You can hit him with a bat, but you can’t handcuff him. So she and my mom had to figure something out.

Now my grandma was in a wheelchair since she was 50 so she couldn’t work. She used to stay home and make pasta and bread for everyone. So now I start making fresh pasta and bread with her when I’m 5. It takes a long time to make pasta and bread and stirring the polenta. So now I’m 5 and I’m quiet. I found my zen with food. It calmed me. And that’s how I started and my mom is very happy that she introduced me to food when I was very little. Thank God you set your grandma on fire. If you didn’t do that you might be a pediatrician by now or an astronaut, or a professional wrestler.

Or somewhere else.
Or somewhere else. Or dead probably. Or in some rehab center. So that’s how I started in food. It was an early love affair.

My mom, when I was 10, she got very sick and almost paralyzed, with a disease like carpal tunnel but much worse. She’s paralyzed. Every year, in order to do little things like wash her hair and brush her teeth, she needs surgery. $30-40,000 surgery every year. It’s a lot of money and my family couldn’t afford it. So I went to work, I went to public school. And I went to the culinary institute.

At 12, I started to work. I was underage, you have to be 16 to work in Italy. I worked almost 4 years underage. I started work in a bakery, at night, from 1:30 to 7:30 in the morning. And then I’d get my backpack and go to school. I wasn’t the sharpest pencil in the jar at school because I was very hyperactive. But I was working and they knew I was going through stuff at home so they let me alone.

I was a smart kid but not the best in school. History for me is…I know they’re all dead. I know that geography is something around my country but I don’t know capitals of countries, I have no clue. That’s why I am planning to retire by 35 so I can travel around and keep up.

How old are you now?
I’m 30. Almost 31. 10/10/78. I’m working very hard so I know I’ll be done in like 5 years. And I don’t talk about it because it sounds very cocky.

I think it’s good to have goals.
I have very big ones.

Where is the first place you’ll go?
Italy. Back there. I go once in a while but I can’t get the Italy that I want because it would take more than ten days. Then I want to go to Africa, someplace like that. I’m really into helping people a lot. I don’t need to be filthy rich. Once I have the money to do anything I want, who cares about the rest? What’s the deal if you die tomorrow with 10 million in the bank? You could have done so much to make people happier. That’s why I’m putting 80% of what I’m getting in charity. I have my and I’m working with kids who have nutrition problems in the United States, I’m trying to change the school lunches. I do all kinds of things. Money is not a goal. Money can help you get to your goals.

And it makes you feel good when you give back.
I am working now with a kid and writing a book with him. He’s had leukemia since he was 2. He’s 8 now and it’s over. And he’s cooking, he’s a kid chef. He wants to be a chef. He went through shit, lost hair, lost teeth, and the thing that keeps him together is his love of food. When I first met him, he was 4, and I swear I was crying like a little girl. Now we’re working together. And I’m really into helping kids. You’ve got kids who are 10 years old with diabetes and heart disease. That’s fucked up! You get married, buy a house, plan to have kids. The first think you look up is for sex offenders in the area. The way kids eat, they won’t live long enough to meet the pedaphiles. Dude, you’re killing your kids! Processed food, crap. Don’t get me wrong, once in a while they have to have a burger, drink a soda.

But I’m doing this Website, Cook With Fabio…it’s not open yet. I will teach families that in 10-12 minutes, the same time it takes to heat up a processed meal, they can cook great food for the family. I will change the food program in the United States. I’m just not big enough, not important enough, and people don’t know me well enough to meet the people who can do that. Whoever decided what kids should be eating in school doesn’t have his kids eating there.

In the first 15 years of my life, I’d been to the doctor three times. I cracked my head, fell of the bike, twisted my knee playing softball, or I got punched in the face and my nose was bleeding. I grew up eating 1 ½ lbs of pasta and bread every day, gelato by the mouthful, red meat – rare, not cooked well done, raw fish, eggs. I eat 1 – 2 eggs every day. And my cholesterol is 127.

In Italy you don’t have health system, you don’t have health care. If you have enough money to fix something, good for you. Otherwise you’re in trouble. In the United States, thank God there is insurance. You pay a little money, they pay for most of things. I had blood tests, and Blue Cross said that in 50 years, they have never seen such a healthy person. I drink two tablespoons of olive oil every day. I’m not a big fan of fruit and vegetables, but…

If you live in a Mediterranean country…
Yes! My grandpa is 96, completely blind, but rides his bike every day. Four months ago, he had a heart attack. Because he’s 96! So we brought him to the hospital and two days later, the doctor called my mom and said, “Signora, your father is gone.” My mom is crying, “grandpa is dead!” “No,” the doctor said, “he’s gone. He got up and left. We don’t know where the fuck he is. He got up and left the hospital two days after a heart attack. And my mom says what? He’s blind, he can barely walk! So they find him and take him back. So I get him on the phone and say “Grandpa, you can’t do that. Why did you leave” He said “the food is crap at the hospital.” He didn’t like the food so he decided to leave!

So how can I think “I’m going to get my meal out of this box?” I have 20 acres here and I grow every single vegetable I have in the restaurant. There is a farmer doing it for us. I am organizing the Moor Park Farmer’s Market, starting in May. In the hundred year history of this community, this is the first farmer’s market. It took an Italian who doesn’t even speak English to build something healthy around here.

So I don’t sleep at night. I’m like a vampire.

How did you decide to come to the United States?
I had, In Italy, at the end of 2005, 6-7 restaurants, a farmhouse bed and breakfast. But like I said, the economy is bad. We were making good money for Italy, but the liability was too big. It doesn’t matter if you make $20 – $30,000 a month, if one month goes wrong, you’re out for a couple million dollars, and it’s not worth it. So I decided to move. My partner in crime was already here, another Italian, Jacopo, who runs the front of the house. He was running this little medium quality restaurant in downtown Ventura. I got there and we improve the service we improved the food, but the management wanted to make money with lower quality food for higher profit. I’m not like that. I import expensive ingredients from Italy. I make my own mozzarella. I import seeds from Italy and plant them here. I do 1500 lbs of fresh pasta every week.

How many people work here?
Seventy-five people work here. It’s a 260-seat restaurant.

So when you do have time, what will you do?
When I have time, I go make sure the vegetables are growing right. I hang out with my wife a little bit. I play with my dog a lot. I ride motorcycles. I’m a big fan of Ducati. I go on one wheel, do all the shit that’s illegal in this country but it’s so fun. I like to go fishing. I enjoy my life. When I have time off, which I never have, I lay back and relax. I eat a lot. I travel – I go to NY once a month, San Diego, I travel a lot. If you don’t travel, you don’t know what’s going on around you. And if you don’t know what’s going on around you, you don’t know if you’re on top of your game or not. And I plan to be on top of my game for a very long time.

Thank you, Fabio. We hope so too!

Click here for part one of the interview.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Interview With Fabio Viviani - Part Uno

My friend Vavi was visiting Los Angeles recently and decided it would be fun to take a road trip to Top Cheftestant Fabio Viviani's restaurant, Café Firenze, in Moorpark, Ventura county. And while there, she thought, why not see if she could get an interview with the man himself? I thought it was a brilliant idea (and wished I was in LA with her). So after a couple e-mails and Facebook messages back and forth with Fabio, Bravo, and his publicist, a date was set.

Mr Viviani was gracious enough to have quite a long conversation with Vavi and her friend Meredith, and pose for photos afterward. And have lunch. The Minx was quite jealous. But, I now have the exclusive interview to publish here on MinxEats.

After receiving the audio interview, it took a couple days to transcribe. Huge thanks to Mr Minx for taking care of a big chunk of that duty.

Part One of the conversation follows; part two will be published on Friday the 10th. Enjoy!

So did you have fun on Top Chef?
I had fun learning a new experience. It’s not cooking. I cook for a living everyday, 12, 13 hours in the restaurant business. It’s quite different. It’s not a learning process. You go there and you try to do the best with what they throw at you and most of them, quite frankly, don’t happen to you everyday. They actually don’t happen. It’s not everyday that you have 3 minutes to come up with something or 10 minutes to work out fine dining with frozen food. Who cooks with oats, really?

It’s different from the restaurant business because you are out of your element. You don’t enjoy the experience. You don’t enjoy the cooking because most of the time you look like a retard. I don’t overcook meat in this business. I don’t undercook meat in this business. It’s just over there you are out of your element, so, I did the best that I could. I tried to stay myself. I wasn’t playing, I wasn’t faking it, that’s myself. So I enjoyed the outcome. People liked it. That’s the way I look. That’s the way I am. Some of the other kids are not happy with the outcome or what they look like but, guess what, that’s what they are. If you do something or you say something, nobody’s faking it. Everyone’s blaming the TV that they look like an ass but, they can show what you said, but they can’t put words in your mouth. It doesn’t matter how much beer you drank or what you were thinking at the moment, it’s done.

I did enjoy the experience overall. It’s good to see what’s going on on the other side of the fence. I refused to do season 2, season 3, season 4. We were still very busy when I decided to do season 5, but I thought, a little exposure doesn’t hurt. We doubled our sales in this economy. I’m opening three more restaurants, working on a second book, and I have all sorts of licensing deals.

That’s the book, “My Son is...“
“My Son is on Google – Recipes and Memories from an Italian Mama.” It’s made from me and my mama. She’s telling me what I did right or wrong growing up and I’m pairing recipes with those eras in my life. It’s fun. The first book coming out, The Café Firenze Cookbook, is also fun. I walk people through recipes in my own mind. Why we should do this or that. The only cookbook that will make you laugh your eyes out of your head.

So you didn’t look at any of the blogs?
No, I have a Web site. I have a publicist. I receive everything that’s going on on the blogs. I don’t go there on purpose because what little time I have, I don’t go there. If you go on the blogs, you see Stefan is always there. He reads, he answers. I don’t have time. I’m busy yeah…

It’s funny because he (Stefan) responds back and he gets the interaction going…
Yeah, and to me it’s a waste of time because...

...People are going to say what they are going to say...
And I say let them be, don’t get upset with it. He tells me all the time, “I don’t know why they say my food was bad – “ I say, “Dude, don’t say it, it don’t look good. You look like an ass. And you’re a nice person.” So, but it’s all right. I guess he has time on his hands.

Well, he’s quite busy as well.
He’s very busy. I know he’s very busy. That why we don’t hang out lately. I actually don’t have time to go there and answer blogs. I prefer to answer all the nice e-mail I get everyday. I don’t want to answer someone who thinks I’m an idiot or something. I don’t plan to change it.

But how do you deal with the media attention? I mean, basically going from having your own restaurant and people knowing you to having the celebrity chef thing?
I don’t call myself a celebrity chef. I call myself a chef who happened to be on television. I do good food and I am myself. I keep doing good food. I was on Good Morning America a few weeks ago. Two weeks from now I’ll be on the Today show and Good Morning America again.

You’re becoming a celebrity chef.
Uh…I’ll let you say it. ‘Cause I don’t want to sound like “big time.” I think celebrity chefs do more TV and less cooking. I still work for 12 hours in the kitchen everyday. So it’ll take some time to say “yes, I’m a celebrity chef,” but I don’t think I’ll ever get there. I’m going to stick with my food and my restaurants, my people. Try to make people happy. That will bring me to be a celebrity. That will build my business. That’s not my goal. I want to make good food, good restaurants. That’s my goal. But it’s nice to do the talk shows…

I’m a spokesperson for the United States Pellegrino. I’m a spokesperson for Dr. Oetker. I’m a spokesperson for Ducati. I have my bike outside - that’s love, that’s not for money. I’m the spokesperson for Santa Margherita wines. I have my own line of food. I’m a spokesperson for a gelato company. Samsung approached me to do a commercial for their 3G Phones. You know the commercial with Ozzy Osbourne where nobody can understand what he’s saying? I think I’m going to do the next one because no one understands me. Cartoon Network has approached me to do a Fabio chef character. I’m really involved with kids and family and so that’s what they want to do. Plus, we are thinking about going back on television, but I can’t talk much about that.

It’s been good. It’s incredible, the attention. Since I got kicked off, I received a little over 2 million e-mails. That’s a lot of people there.

Saying how much they love you on the show and...
And, “Fuck you!” “Screw you, they kick you out. I’ll never watch Top Chef ever again!” And I’m like, “Guys, it’s okay. It’s a competition. You can’t always win.” And still, I’m getting a good deal out of it. I don’t think to ask what Hosea is doing but...

Do you keep in touch?
Not really. I’m very honest. It’s silly to pretend you’re best friends because you’ve spent 6 weeks together in a house. I mean, I like all of them. I respect all of them. If I’m in New York, I call the ones who live in New York. Stefan, he lives 30 miles away, so it’s very easy to hang out with him. But he has his own business, I have mine. We talk once in awhile, but best friends is something different. I have three friends, but I know 2 million people.

Did you learn anything from them? Did you learn any new techniques?
Not really. When you’re there, you don’t learn much. You think about your food as best you can, but you don’t really pay attention to what others are doing because in the end, it’s a last person standing competition. So you hope that everyone else screws up so you can take the prize home.

How do you keep the food warm on the show?
You can’t. That’s why I got screwed a couple of times and I got upset. Especially the show with the “great chef” Scott Conant. The “great chef” was judging my food, he said my venison was overcooked. I said, “Fuck you. Honestly, you asked for a bite-sized portion, I sliced the venison thin. It’s sitting there with a hot side, in a hot sauce, for 10 or 15 minutes for camera reasons, because you have a wet head and you need powder and because they had to take pictures. Of course it’s overcooked!” And as a judge, he should’ve taken those things into consideration. But, because it’s a TV show and nobody sees it, and now everyone thinks I overcooked the venison. I threw a fit with him. I thought I was going home. I threatened his life almost. They didn’t show what I said, but I was like, “Dude, don’t go there!”

Click here for part two.

Holy Crepe!

funny pictures of cats with captions
This reminded me of La Palette. But without the bloody Mary and with a cat.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Introducing the All Top Chef Blog!

There's a new blog in town, and its all about Top Chef: All Top Chef. (Ok, so the name is a little obvious.) My co-bloggers in this enterprise are the fabulous Laura K and Tbone from Blogging Project Runway, everyone's favorite TC and PR recapper Cliff, lovely and talented Baltimore food blogger Kit of Mango and Ginger, and the totally awesome and phenomenal Mr Minx.

I'll still be posting here about Top Chef and its spinoffs, particularly my recaps, but please join us on the new blog for more in-depth coverage!

Top Chef Masters!


24 World-Renowned Competing Chefs Revealed Along
With Guest Stars Neil Patrick Harris, Zooey Deschanel, Morgan Spurlock, And For The First Time Together All "Top Chef" Winners

NEW YORK – April 7, 2009 – Calling all foodies…it's time to salivate! "Top Chef Masters," the spin-off series of the Emmy and James Beard Award-winning No. 1 food show on cable, "Top Chef," will premiere on Wednesday, June 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The judges' table has finally turned – and we'll see what happens when these top chefs are now on the other side. "Top Chef Masters" will pit 24 world-renowned chefs against each other and see how well they fare in the tried and true format of "Top Chef." In each episode, money will be at stake for the chefs, with the winners of eliminations being awarded cash donations for their charities. The first six episodes will consist of four chefs competing against each other to name one winner. The six winners of each episode will then meet up for the final four weeks when one person will get eliminated each episode until the finale where one winner is crowned Top Chef Master. The winning chef will receive $100,000 for the charity of their choice.

“Top Chef Masters” will feature guest stars and judges Neil Patrick Harris, Zooey Deschanel, "Lost" writers and executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, “Flipping Out’s” Jeff Lewis, and for the first time, all past "Top Chef" winners will be together during an episode. The series will also showcase chef'testant fan favorites as well as appearances by “Top Chef’s” Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons.

"On 'Top Chef,' the biggest names in the industry join us as guests to pass judgment on the chef'testants,” said Dan Cutforth, Executive Producer, Magical Elves. "Now we'll get to see how they handle equally tough challenges."

"We are thrilled to have such an amazing line up of celebrated chefs putting their reputations on the line for their charities,” said Jane Lipsitz, Executive Producer, Magical Elves. "'Top Chef Masters' will take the kitchen competition to the next level."

To meet the cast of "Top Chef Masters," visit Photography and bios are available at

Following are the 24 "Top Chef Masters" competing chefs:

 Rick Bayless – Frontera Grill, Chicago, Ill.
 Wilo Benet – Pikayo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
 John Besh – Restaurant August, New Orleans, LA
 Graham Elliot Bowles – Graham Elliot Restaurant, Chicago, Ill.
 Michael Chiarello – Bottega Restaurant, Yountville, Calif.
 Michael Cimarusti – Providence, Los Angeles, Calif.
 Wylie Dufresne – wd~50, New York, N.Y.
 Elizabeth Falkner – Orson, San Francisco, Calif.
 Hubert Keller – Fleur de Lys, San Francisco, Calif.
 Christopher Lee – Aureole, New York, N.Y.
 Ludo Lefebvre – Ludo Bites, Los Angeles, Calif.
 Anita Lo – Annisa, New York, N.Y.
 Tim Love – The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Fort Worth, Texas
 Rick Moonen – Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, Nev.
 Nils Noren – French Culinary Institute, New York, N.Y.
 Lachlan McKinnon Patterson – Frasca Food & Wine, Boulder, Colo.
 Cindy Pawlcyn – Mustards Grill, Napa Valley, Calif.
 Mark Peel – Campanile, Los Angeles, Calif.
 Douglas Rodriguez – Alma de Cuba, Philadelphia, PA
 Michael Schlow – Radius Restaurant, Boston, Mass.
 Art Smith – Table Fifty-Two, Chicago, Ill.
 Suzanne Tracht – Jar, Los Angeles, Calif.
 Jonathan Waxman – Barbuto, New York, N.Y.
 Roy Yamaguchi – Roy's Restaurants, San Diego, Calif.

Kelly Choi, food journalist and creator, producer and host of NYC TV's weekly restaurant show "Eat Out NY," will host this highly competitive spin-off uniting some of the brightest stars in the world of food, showcasing the often cutthroat world of the culinary arts. A former model, Choi recently finished her book called "The 20 Most Delicious Dishes in New York," which is set to hit stores in spring of 2009.

Joining the judges' panel is Gael Greene, New York Magazine's famed restaurant critic for over 40 years, a best-selling author and co-founder of Citymeals-on-Wheels, which provides food to the homebound elderly. James Oseland, culinary expert and Editor-in-Chief of Saveur magazine, and British journalist, writer and broadcaster Jay Rayner, will also serve as regular judges for the series.

Each episode of "Top Chef Masters" holds two challenges for the chefs. The first is a twist on the classic "Top Chef" quickfire challenge which tests their basic abilities – for example in season 2 of "Top Chef" where the chef'testants had to create an amuse bouche out of items from a vending machine. Each quickfire challenge will be judged by a blind taste test and a five-star system, similar to fine dining reviews.

The second challenge is a more involved elimination challenge designed to test the versatility and invention of the chefs as they take on unique culinary trials such as working with unusual and exotic foods or catering for demanding clients. The food will be tasted and evaluated by the judges and a wide range of tasters for whom the challenge is aimed, whether it is patrons at a five-star restaurant or a room full of hungry kids – the food has to appeal to the diner as well as the critics if the chef is to survive.

This season, will host a "Top Chef Masters" B-Hive sponsored by Stacy’s® Pita Chips where viewers can host weekly viewing parties for their fellow food-obsessed friends, including provided party kits, game ideas, and more! Fans can also visit the site weekly to find out how to make each winning dish through video demonstrations. Visitors will be able to watch interviews of the eliminated chefs and the winning chefs of each challenge. The tables turn with "Rate the Plate," where the user can determine which dishes were the best each week. Also, fans can play "Memory Match" and test their foodie and chef knowledge with our challenging — and addictive — IQ quizzes. Television Without Pity ( will recap each episode in their signature snarky tone.

"Top Chef Masters" fans can visit from their web-enabled phone for exclusive content including trivia games, video and behind-the-scenes dish. Viewers will also be able to voice their opinion each week with live voting and later share their vote with Facebook friends on

"Top Chef Masters" is produced by the Emmy-nominated Magical Elves. Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz and Shauna Minoprio serve as executive producers. "Top Chef" head judge, renowned culinary figure and chef/owner Craft Restaurants Tom Colicchio serves as consulting producer.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fabio Update

I have received the interview audio and now I need to transcribe it. Might take a few days...that Italian accent, you know! Thanks for your patience. :)

Bravo A-List Awards

Bravo's second annual A-List awards isn't scheduled to air until Wednesday, April 15th, but they were actually held this past weekend. Several Top Cheftestants were in attendance, including Carla, Radhika, Ariane, Leah, and Stefan from Season 5, plus Antonia and Ryan from Season 4.

And of course, Padma. Here she is on the red carpet, wearing her slip.

And that charmer, Fabio, who dressed up for the occasion.

I'll post more pics as I find them!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Chowing Down in NY

My friend Andrée and I were in NYC last week for a perfume-lover's event called Sniffapalooza. We went up a day early in order to do our own sniffing at stores not on the 'palooza agenda, and after a few hours at Saks and Barney's, we popped into POP Burger on 58th Street for lunch. We ate upstairs in the "lounge" area, with a full bar and low tables in front of banquettes. Not the most comfy place to eat, but we were desperately hungry, and didn't want to do counter service downstairs.

POP Burger's menu isn't all burgers - they also have a few salads, plus stuff like lamb chops and steak on the dinner menu. Andrée decided to go for the burgers, and I chose the mini lobster rolls.

The burgers were nicely sized, cooked perfectly to medium, with cheese, lettuce, and tomato.

The lobster rolls were adorable (Barbie hoagie-sized) with chunks of lobster in a nicely seasoned mayo on crunchy little rolls, garnished with taro chips.

We also ordered the fries, which were served in a paper cone. That's how you treat yummy skin-on Belgian-style frites, but these were those nasty fries with the batter on them that make them all warty-textured. Blech!  Who likes those things?

Apart from the fries, the other food was really quite yummy. Wish the place didn't smell like a bathroom though.

After a trip to Zabar's, I spotted a Beard Papa's on Broadway. I had just mentioned the Japanese chain's cream puffs to Andrée that morning, so we couldn't pass up going inside for a snack.  The puffs were on sale for a buck that day too.  We each had one of the delectable delights and washed them down with vividly-colored green tea lattés.

The pastry is a little lighter than the typical French cream puff, and the custard tastes like it's lightened with a bit of whipped cream.  They are really quite yum.

Later that evening, we stopped at a place called Nada Sushi (Lexington and 50th) for dinner.  We shared a couple of rolls, a delicious eggplant appetizer topped with shreds of bonito that waved about like tiny tentacles, and some really delicious eel.  We also had saké and were happy to see the tab wasn't all that much higher than that from lunch. 

The next day, we went to La Palette, an itty bitty place on Greenwich Ave, for lunch.  They were offering a $14.99 brunch that included a cocktail. Andrée had the spinach, mushroom, and Gruyere crepe with a mimosa, and I went for the Brazilian eggs Benedict (with beef, mozzarella, and onions) and a bloody Mary. It was quite cold and windy outside and we were somewhat inappropriately dressed, so the nice food and alcoholic beverage were just what we needed to warm up. 

Finally, that evening before heading to Penn Station, we stopped in the Europa Café across the street for dinner. I had the Thai Chicken "Zesto" sandwich (Thai spice-marinated chicken breast & cheddar jack cheese with mango salsa on rosemary focaccia) and Andrée had the Balsamic Chicken (balsamic chicken with grilled portobellas, roasted tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, on focaccia). Apart from somewhat dry chicken (which tasted grilled) and putting "Thai" chicken on rosemary focaccia, they were pretty decent for a chain.  Can't beat the location, and it's sure better than sitting on the floor in the train station while balancing dinner on one's lap!

POP Burger
14 E 58th St
New York, NY 10022
212) 991-6644

Pop Burger on Urbanspoon

La Palette
94 Greenwich Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 366-6110

La Palette on Urbanspoon

Beard Papa's
2167 Broadway
New York, NY 10024
(212) 799-3770

Beard Papa Sweets Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 03, 2009


Interesting name for a restaurant. Does it describe the chef? or the diners?

The menus actually look pretty good.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sorry for the Delay

Because of a slight SNAFU involving both the USPS and my being in New York this coming weekend, the interview with Fabio won't be up until sometime next week. Thanks for your patience. In the meantime, please to enjoy this image of fab Fab at his restaurant, Cafe Firenze.

The Rare Hairy Lobster