Top Chef Seattle, Episode 3

November 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Omg, I was travelling last Wednesday and totally missed Top Chef! Not to worry, I TiVo’d it for you and am summing it up here.

If you’re pressed for time, Kuniko went home. If you have a little more, here’s how:

The guest judge for the Quickfire Challenge is Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine Magazine. The chefs are presented with a map and on it are 17 kinds of dumplings from all over the world. They sprint to the map to get their pick. Fortunately, Amazon has set them up with some handy-dandy Kindle Fires so they can research the dumpling they receive. There are three components to the dumpling–wrapper, stuffing and sauce–on which they’ll be judged. Oh and some authenticity as well.

Stefan picks Germany which is a big advantage since he grew up eating his dumpling. Josie seems to know what she’s doing as she rolls her wrapper out. There is somehow no flour of any type left in the Top Chef kitchen for Brooke to use for her dumplings. Then, when the buzzer goes, Kuniko has plated… NOTHING. She didn’t have time to get it on the plate so she is not eligible to be judged.

As Dana makes the rounds, she meets Sheldon for the first time face to face since he is one of Food & Wine Magazine’s People’s Best New Chefs. On the bottom were Brooke, Carla and Kuniko. On the top were Josie, Stefan and Micah with Josie winning the ultimate prize of immunity. Now it’s time for the Elimination Challenge.

It’s Thanksgiving Dinner and they’ll be cooking for the organization Fair Start. They will be divided into two teams and headed by some special leaders–Tom Colicchio and Emeril Lagasse for a Top Chef first. Unsurprisingly, Tom and his team develop an Italian themed meal while Emeril and his group add a New Orleans creole twist. Josie declares it the “Civil War” of Thanksgiving. The teams prep and pack and there seems to be some all around good cheer in the kitchen as the Tom and Emeril show their stuff in the kitchen.

Once they get cooking the next day, things get a little messier of course. The kitchen is cramped with everyone in there and Stefan kicks some people out of his area. Then Stefan and Carla get in it for some reason or another. A word of advice to future Top Chef competitors: when the challenge is a team competition, make sure you completely finish your dish before you even begin thinking about helping out the rest of the team. Being the good Samaritan always seems to hurt your personal dish and put you in the bottom three.

The New Orleans team goes first and there are some pretty obvious issues with the meal–the turkey is under cooked, root vegetables are under-seasoned, the kale is too chewy, the gumbo utterly lacks all flavor except bitterness and the the potato pave is completely raw. The shining star is Brooke’s sweet potato biscuit.

Tom’s team comes out stronger. Apparently Tom’s family stuffing recipe includes fois gras, the carrot soup with turkey meatballs is creamy and beautiful, the greens are well dressed and the buttery mashed potatoes are a home run. Elizabeth’s mashed potatoes, CJ’s turkey and Carla’s soup are the top 3 with Carla being the ultimate winner.

Tyler, Kuniko, Josie and Sheldon are on the bottom. Sheldon’s kale was under cooked, Tyler’s gumbo had no flavor,  Josie’s turkey was raw (but she has immunity) and the judges decide that Kuniko’s raw and undercooked ptotato pave is the worst offender. It is sad to see her go since she is sweet and I think secretly, a creative genius chef with expert skill. But our emotion subsides when we’re faced with previews from next week and an entire cow carcass hanging in the kitchen. Holy. Cow.


Top Chef Seattle, Episode 2

November 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

So last week on Top Chef, we saw 21 chefs compete in the judges’ kitchens whittled down to 15. They made it to Seattle and as they enter into Top Chef Kitchen, eye one another up.

Padma enters soon after with three former contestants from previous seasons by her side. These former Top Chef hopefuls will be the judges. Here comes the Quickfire.

For their first task, the chefs are asked to divide themselves into 5 groups of 3. Seeing as how they just met one another, these groups turned out by pure luck. Although John has a strategy– he sees Kuniko and thinks as a Japanese chef she may have some good knife skills. As he is leaning in to cnospire with her during the directions, Padma totally calls him out for speaking when she is. Next time, the principal’s office.

Their task is to highlight local shellfish. Apparently, the hot item here is geoduck (sounds like gooey-duck) which Kristen describes as looking like, “a really big penis.” Cheftestants are throwing their hands into some murky looking swamp water to retrieve these things that are going like hot cakes. It pops up in two dishes and the yellow team is SOL when all the geoduck is gone by the time they get there and they have to choose something else.

This turns out to perhaps be their downfall because with their dish now of razor clam soup with grilled corn and lime, the yellow team turns out to be on the bottom. The judges are a little too confident and persnickety in their tastings (they did lose after all). But despite the dish describing the dish as needing, “a hair more salt”, they declare…. the geoduck as the winner! Turns out John was smart sticking with Kuniko because he now has immunity. Oh and then BOOM the three former contestants will now be joining the competition. And the judges become the judged.

The elimination challenge takes place in the Seattle space needle. Staying in their teams of three, the chefs have 45 minutes to prepare a dish using regional ingredients. After shopping in the Top Chef Kitchen for items to use the next day, the judges pack up and head to their new digs at Olive 8.

The next day, the teams cook two at a time. The reigning team of Sheldon, Kuniko and John come up with a hot chili oil poached cod with dashi and vegetables. They face off with the red team, the only team of all women, and dominated by Carla, who is still subtitled despite the fact that she is speaking in English. The kitchen is loud and crazy when she is in there and most of the chefs look on in wonder as she runs around shouting obscenities preparing her dish.

Meanwhile the judges are enjoying a nice glass of wine and quite the view as they meet with famed Seattle chef and restaurateur, Tom Douglas. Gail mentions she wants to go fishing while they are here. Gee, I wonder if they’ll get the chance.

The other two sets of teams face off with more fish/ spot prawns and a lone quail dish. The judges seem all around pleased with what they’ve seen and are looking forward to the season.

The big winner is Kuniko for her ingenious hot chili oil poached cod which she admits was her first time trying. Alas, someone’s got to go though and Padma announces they’d like to see the grey team and-gasp!- the vets at the judges’ table. Season 5 contestant/ persnickety judge Stefan is charged with an overcooked quail but the offense is less than Jeffrey’s overdone fish. He holds his head high as he leaves and is so nice it’s definitely Sad to see him go.

Top Chef Season 10 Premiere

November 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

I am so excited to the see the return of  one of my favorite shows, Top Chef. If you are as big a fan as I am, I hope you’ll be happy to hear that I’ll be recapping each episode here this season so you don’t miss a thing.

Last night’s Season 10 Premiere feels more like a pre-episode since we see the judges whittling down competing chefs to see who actually will go to Seattle. The judges who include Tom Colichio, Hugh Acheson and (newly added!) Wolfgang Puck, each have their own test for the cheftestants.

First, we’re at Craft with Tom and his hopefuls who he has working on different tasks in the kitchen. We meet John Tesar who we learn was voted “most hated chef in Dallas”-a title he wears with pride. There is Lizze Binder hailing form South Africa who immediately (in magical TV editing time) comments on Tom’s lovely baby blues. There is Micah Fields from the Standard who is seriously sweating as Tom peers over him working, Jorel Pierce who has the first crazy mustache of the night and Anthony Gray who seems like that inevitable co-worker who sort of sits back and eyes everyone else and never seems to be doing any work. We learn they’ll all be in the kitchen for REAL dinner service that night. Yikes.

Next we see Emeril and his hopefuls who he has challenged with making soup. Josh Valentine presents us with the second crazy mustache of the night. Jeffrey Jew who settles on a gazpacho despite the limited time, manages to pull it off, and is the first chef we see told to pick up a chef jacket and head to Seattle. There are friends Stephanie Cmar and Kristen Kish who cook together, live in the same building and have matching spoon tats. When we find that only former model Kristen Kish makes it through, it seems like the set-up was kind of cruel. Also asked to leave is Tina Borbeau whose seafood and chorizo soup didn’t make the cut.

Then we’re sent to Wolfy’s kitchen where he’s looking for omelets. There is the boisterous Carla Pellegrino who cracks her omelet and tries to cover it up with mushrooms and other toppings. CAUGHT. Despite Wolfgang declaring it “like a woman with too much make-up on” she is safe. While Eliza Gavin is cooking, Wolfgang casually drops that she should serve steak which she smartly obeys and she puts out a monster steak on top of her omelet. “Complicated’ but good enough to get her through to Seattle. Chrissy Camba assesses the situation, “He holds my future in his Austrian hands” and brings some of her heritage to the omelet.  We learn Kunio Yagi is new to the States from Tokyo who came to America on her own to further her career. You can’t help but root for her. Tyler Wiard seems like he needs a little confidence boost as he faces his omelet and Daniel O’Brien rattles off his rankings on Yelp, etc. Yet after serving too much grease, he’s the only one of the bunch asked to leave. He has a bad attitude about it and you let out a sigh of relief. Dodged a bullet with that one.

I have a deep love for Hugh Acheson. To me he has that subtle, dry humor that is just absolutely hsyterical. And it’s nice to see the South have a representative up there! He asks his cheftestants for a “beautiful salad.” Brook Williamson serves up fried kale (the second time we’ve seen that tonight) which is the big winner of the group. We also meet Bart Vandaele who is actually knighted. Sir Chef. The group, which also includes Sheldon Simeon and Danyele McPherson, on the whole performs well. Only Community Food Program Founder Gina Keatley falls short.

We finish up back at Craft in LA where no one seems to be completing their butchering/scaling up to par so you don’t know who is making it through. But during dinner service that night, John proves his skills quickly and is asked to continue to Seattle. Micah’s positive energy in the kitchen seems to be the determining factor that gets him through. Lizzie is also safe but Jorel and Anthony are sent packing. Two crazy mustaches is too much for this season.


Superba, Venice Ca

October 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

This weekend, the stars aligned to create the perfect time for a quick trip to California. Since my brother lives in Venice Beach, we always have a vacation and place to stay at our fingertips there. The flight out from Nashville is much easier than from the East coast so even leaving after work on Friday, I landed in time for dinner. I’m so glad I did because the restaurant was fantastic. It was an Italian spot with a Southern Californian twist called Superba that invites lingering late outside over wine (they have blankets table-side if you catch a beachy breeze). We chose the tasting menu which was served in a totally unique way- small plates style. Instead of everyone getting their own mini portion of each dish, plate after delicious plate was set down before us to share. It’s my favorite way to eat and with pastas made in house, the food was four stars.

I am not one for terrine (center) but I do love me some pastrami and this was some o the best ever (left)

elderflower persimmons, burrata, pistachio crumble, butter greens & hibiscus jelly. I have a confession to make, before this trip, I had never heard I burrata. Have you tried it? It is smoother, creamier, yet somehow lighter mozzarella that I then continued to nine on all weekend. I can not imagine it not going with anything.

black kale salad, parmesen, pickled raisins, pine nuts, croutons & olive oil. Perfection.

broiled hamachi collar, thai bbq glaze, apple & celery leaf salad. I love the way it’s served with the tail on, gorgeous!

crispy brussels sprout, bacon, dashi broth & poached duck egg. Oh this broth was heaven. You could put anything in there, chicken, beef, etc but it just made the Brussels sprouts even more succulent.

brown butter gnocchi, burrata, spigarello, chestnuts & pomegranate. Believe it or not there were two other pasta dishes as well but I didn’t want to gloat. More burrata, and some beautiful gnocchi.

In other news, today is Food Day celebrating real food!

Germantown Street Festival

October 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Oktoberfest. The name alone conjures up images of lederhosen, steins of beer and good cheer all around. That’s exactly what we found this weekend in Germantown at the 13th annual street festival to commemorate the holiday. All that, plus tents of food blockading streets in every direction, fun bands around every corner and a healthy 5k to kick off all the merry-making. Throw in the fact that it’s mid-October and I was in sandals and I just may choose this over a flight to Munich.

The honey stand brought their very own live bees

Brat + kraut + beer. Ideal

Oh street meat, how I’ve missed you

Totally burned off all those beers/meat sticks

Al Fresco Dining

August 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

Last week we picked up some patio furniture. This is the perfect time to buy because everything from the summer season is on sale. The best part, though, is that in Nashville the weather is so much milder than the Northeast– I think the peak time that we’ll use it won’t even fall until late September and I’m sure we’ll be out there through October. This got me to daydreaming about all the wonderful ways people use their natural, outdoor spaces. Our set is a little more modest, but I wouldn’t mind suppering in something below…


Today, I Sliced Fruit

June 14, 2012 § Leave a comment


Sounds thrilling, right? But seriously, my sister gave me this tip and I now swear by it: As soon as you return from grocery shopping, take the extra 15 minutes to wash and slice the fruit you purchased. Sometimes, I’ll stare at a pineapple sitting on our counter for days until finally tackling. But once all the work is taken care, I promise you will munch on these goodies all week long. It’s a nice healthy tip because fruit is the perfect snack for those trips to the fridge just looking for something easy to pop and sweet, probably out of boredom (no, is that just me?) Plus in summer when so many juicy things are in season, you want to make sure you enjoy them!


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