Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: November 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Top Chef Texas Episode 4 Recap: Red Hot Chili Cook-Off

On week four of Top Chef: Texas the competition gets red hot as the cheftestants whip up chili pepper-themed dishes! In episode 4, we meet guest judges Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, the chef/owners of Border Grill Restaurants and former Top Chef Masters contestants. Mary Sue and Susan join our fabulous Top Chef judges, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons.

There are 15 cheftestants left. The other cheftestants asked Sarah Grueneberg and Lindsay Autry why Keith Rhodes was eliminated. They speculate whether Keith would have been eliminated, if they hadn’t turned against each other. Sarah and Lindsay deny the possibility. After all, Sarah and Lindsay didn’t turn against each other – they were too busy teaming up against Keith! Sarah went so far as to claim that Keith did not go home because of the shrimp, but because of his use of flour tortilla instead of corn tortilla for his enchilada. Last episode she had gotten into an argument with Keith over the enchiladas, but she did not reveal that to the group. Nyesha Arrington made the astute comment that all of a sudden, the completion got cutthroat.

Quickfire Challenge

Create a dish highlighting one chili pepper from a set. Chuy Valencia explains that the Scoville Scale measures how hot chili peppers are. Depending on how high on the scale the peppers are, the cheftestants could receive up to $20,000 furbished by Tasbaco brand sauces. Cheftestants were advised to find the balance of tasting the chili without destroying the palate. They were also given 30 minutes to cook.

Beverly Kim chose the Anaheim chili because it’s fresh and you can eat it raw. Smart decision, and yes, she did actually taste the chilies raw by taking a healthy bite out of them. Richie Farina felt apprehensive about the challenge because he does not like spice. Sarah and Lindsay were very buddy-buddy when competing against each other, asking if it was ok to use each other’s space. Makes sense, since they both recently teamed up to get Keith kicked out. Chris Jones wanted to go for the ghost chili, but decided to go for the Manzano chili since it’s a step lower. He claimed his stomach has issues with really spicy food. Perfectly understandable! Paul Qui decided to use the ghost pepper because, as he said, he was “in the bottom of the last competition.” Go Paul! I commend you for choosing to use the world’s spiciest pepper, good luck!

· Beverly Kim used Anaheim Chili to prepare Anaheim Chili Crudité with Samjang Paste.

· Sarah Grueneberg used the Fresno Chili to prepare Salmon Belly Seared with Fresno Chili Relish.

· Richard Farina used Fresno chili to prepare Fresno slaw with pineapple curd and seared bay scallops.

· Chris Jones used Manzano Chili to prepare Seared Chicken with Manzano Vinaigrette.

· Chris Crary used Thai chili to prepare coconut soup with Thai chili.

· Heather Terhune used Thai chili to prepare date and pistachio cous cous, pickled cucumbers, red onions and thai chili.

· Chuy Valencia used habañero chili to prepare sautéed scallop with achiote.

· Grayson Schmitz used habañero chili to prepare Habañero Popper with Cream Lime Sauce.

· Nyesha Arrington used habañero chili to prepare Baby Fennel & Rock Shrimp Salad with Orange Habañero Vinaigrette.

· Paul Qui used the Ghost Pepper Chili to prepare Chilled Coconut Soup with Kaffir Lime, Ghost Pepper Relish.

The least favorite dishes were Beverly’s, who didn’t cook the chili to change it or highlight it, Richard’s was too sweet and lost the power of the chili, and Chuy’s canned tomato overpowered the chili. The favorites were Heather’s, because the thai chili brought heat to it, Grayson, because she used a whole habañero and served it as a dish showcasing the chili, and Paul’s for using the most difficult chili and making it delicious. And the winner of the quickfire was Paul! For using the hottest chili he won $20,000 along with immunity.

Elimination Challenge

As promised by the title of this blog, the challenge was going to be a Chili Cook-Off. The cheftestants were separated into blue, white, red, green and black teams. Nyesha was not happy with her team because Richie has been on the bottom for the quickfire challenges, and Beverly is meek. Nyesha did not want to carry the team on her back. Chris C. was worried about being on a team with Sarah because he thinks her “interactions with Keith is what brought the team apart.” Cheftestants had all night to cook and had until 7pm the next day. They would serve over 200 cowboys and rodeo fans, who would judge their chili. Nyesha, Beverly and Richie had a plan of what each was going to take for cookware. It paid off amazingly as Heather screamed “oooh bitch, she took all the beer (referring to Nyesha).” A+ for planning Nyesha!

Tom surprised everyone when he walked into the house to ask what each team was cooking. He actually really freaked out Heather when he asked her if she was using peaches for her dish, but she wasn’t.

When it got late at night, and the chefs were getting delirious, Chris complained that Chuy was drinking too much beer, telling too many stories of his accomplishments, and too many stories of his dad inventing chili. Chris therefore dubbed Chuy “the most interesting man in the world.”

· Green Team (Sarah, Chuy, and Chris C.) Chili Con Carne.

· Red Team (Dakota, Whitney Otawka, and Chris J.) Braised Brisket & Short Rib Chili.

· Blue Team (Heather, Edward Lee, and Paul) Smoked Brisket Chili With Summer Pickles.

· Black Team (Nyesha, Beverly, and Richie) “Chili Mole” With Cornbread.

· White Team (Lindsay, Grayson, Ty-Lor Boring) Three Bean & Three Beef Chili Poblano.

As the judges deliberated, they claimed the black team was less successful (too sweet for chili). The Red team’s shredded meat wasn’t good. The White team had no heat in its chili.

Beverly once again started crying, this time because she missed her husband. That and the lack of sleep probably didn’t help either. Nyeasha was weirded-out because professional chefs don’t cry. Even though, on a personal level, Nyesha was compassionate she did not want to let her emotions show out of fear of being perceived as weak.

The green team won, most likely because they had someone from Texas. The black team lost, but had one last chance to prove themselves and were given 30 minutes to turn their losing chili into a winning dish. Now they were all competing against each other.

· Beverly prepared seared tuna with habañero creamed corn.

· Nyeasha prepared a frito-encrusted black tiger shrimp with roasted corn salsa.

· Richie prepared frito-encrusted pork tenderloin, potato hash and ricotta cheese chili puree.

Beverly’s was the favorite. Nyesha’s dish was nice, but didn’t go far enough. For Richie’s dish, imagination was no issue, but there was no acid or spice to it. Richie was asked to pack his knives. I felt so bad for him, he started crying for not being able to show what Moto can do. Being a great friend of Richie, Chris shed a tear for his pal. And now for Last Chance Kitchen, Richie gets to cook against Keith.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top Chef Texas Episode 3 Recap: Quinceañera

On week three of Top Chef: Texas the competition starts getting personal as we become better acquainted with the cheftestants! As rivalries and friendships form in the show, we begin to have preferences based not just on cooking performance, but also on personality traits. Episode 3’s guest judge is none other than Johnny Hernandez, chef and owner of La Gloria restaurant. Joining him are our favorites, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Hugh Acheson.

On to the Top Chef: Texas Episode 3 Recap: Quinceañera… 

Chris Crary prepping for his dish
Beverly Kim starts the show off by taping a note onto a mirror that said, “Congratulations Beverly Kim… you have won Top Chef… $125,000!!!!!” She said it will help her stay focused on her goal. Keith Rhodes introduces himself as a chef/owner who, as a child, went to jail but has been given a second chance by cooking. Now he has been nominated for the James Beard Award. He also doesn’t like snakes and didn’t know he was in for a surprise!

The Quickfire Challenge
The Quickfire Challenge tested the cheftestants’ nerves of steel, which they will need to win Top Chef. Cheftestants were given a rattlesnake and 1 hour to win immunity and $5,000. While other contestants were clueless as to how to cook a rattlesnake, Chuy Valencia and Paul Qui felt right at home and almost felt an obligation to win the challenge. Beverly was concerned that her snake was chewy, but “from a Korean background,” she said, “some things are supposed to be chewy.” Chris Jones and Richie Farina work together in real life, and as very good friends, work together in the show. I’m always amazed at how much they are willing to help each other even though they are competing against each other. What a predicament, don’t you think?

When Padma asked Johnny what his least favorite dishes were, he immediately said Paul’s. Paul was extremely surprised and couldn’t believe it because he thought he had plenty of experience working with snake as an ingredient. Richie’s dish was also one of the worst ones because, like Paul’s dish, the condiments were so strong that the snake could not be tasted. Nyesha Arrington was unfortunate to have overcooked the snake, so hers was also a least favorite.

Johnny liked Beverly’s dish because it was elegant, Dakota Weiss’ dish because it was “a good nod to Texas,” and Sarah Grueneberg’s dish because it was cooked to perfection and it showcased the flavor of the snake. In the end, he picked Dakota.

Team Challenge
Next, the chef-testants picked knives that divided them into green and pink teams. One person from the losing team would be going home. Padma introduced Blanca Flores and Edward Lee commented that he did not know who she is, “maybe she’s a Mexican rock star.” Pretty funny for a very serious chef. Turns out, the next day was Blanca’s quinceañera. The teams were to cook traditional Mexican food and as Padma put it, a “fabulous cake.” To begin with, the contestants had 30 minutes to plan a menu. They interviewed Blanca to see what she likes, asking questions like, “does your family usually eat spicy food?” “Do you like ceviche?” “Do you like Tres Leches (for the cake)?” After the questions they agreed on what they would cook. After the chefs bought the food, they had 3 hours to prep the kitchen.

The first point of contention for the pink team was that Keith ordered pre-cooked shrimp to save time. Lindsay Autry was very disappointed that he bought pre-cooked shrimp in a cooking competition.
The green team had Heather Terhune, who had previously trained as a baker, to bake their cake. The pink team, however, had Dakota making their cake. Dakota was very nervous about it, since even though she has made small cakes, but never for a crowd of 150 people. The green team had Chuy on it, the self-proclaimed “Mexican resident of the bunch.” He took it upon himself to taste people’s dishes so that they tasted good to a Mexican palate. 

The teams had 2 and a half hours to cook. Heather’s cake, with three layers, started tilting due to the extreme heat in the kitchen.

Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Hugh Acheson, Johnny Hernandez
The quinceañera was an awesome party! There was a huge banquet hall, a lot of food, a great

dress (worn by the quinceañera), and a mariachi band! This episode was actually very funny in the sense that while the judges were ripping on the food, the Mexican guests were enjoying the Mexican food, all saying they loved it. Except for the cabbage and the mole. The mole, a very difficult sauce, was unconvincing and had too much cinnamon. Dakota’s cake had too much frosting. The Tres Leches cake was adored as a “classic Mexican cake (said one of the guests).”

At one point during the party, the quinceañera and her father had a dance. Beverly could not hold back her tears and confessed that she was thinking about her dad. Beverly wants to show her dad that, as a daughter, she can accomplish as much as a son can. 

The judges concluded that, as Tom said, “one team pushed a little further, (was) a little more authentic, and (was) a little truer to what we were looking for.” That team was the green team. Someone in the pink team will have to go home. After the pink team talked amongst themselves, trying to figure out who deserved more blame, Padma asked for Ty-Lor Boring, Sarah, Lindsay and Keith. They had the least favorite dishes of the pink team. Dakota, with immunity, was not called forth (even though the Tres Leches cake was better).  

When the subject of who bought the cooked shrimp came up, Tom had one question, “were you shopping by yourself?” Hugh said he would be yelling at Keith too (talking about Sarah), if Keith brought him pre-cooked shrimp. Sarah smirked at the comment. Ty was excusing his fritter by saying he didn’t have time to create a new appetizer. Tom coldly asked, "certainly that’s not the reason it was dry?” Ty accepted responsibility and said, “no sir, that’s a cooking failure.”

Keith Rhodes explains his decision to use a flour tortilla
Keith made enchiladas with flour tortillas, usually they’re made with corn tortillas. Sarah and Keith got into a squabble over the mistake. Keith claimed that if she would’ve said something about him making a mistake, he would’ve fixed it. Sarah was unconvinced. In the end, Keith’s mistakes with the pre-cooked shrimp and the flour enchilada cost him the competition. It was an agonizing farewell for Keith and everyone agreed that he’s a gentle man. Everyone was sad to see him leave. 

But wait! It’s not entirely over for Keith, as he gets to cook against Andrew Curren in the Last Chance Kitchen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vodka Tampons defeats Vodka Gummy Bears as the Latest Stupid Drinking Trend

I'd like a vodka straight-up, with a tampon-twist, please!
What do vodka tampons, vodka eye-balling, and vodka gummy bears have in common? They’re the three most retarded drinking trends of this decade. Call me a fundamentalist, but I like to drink the old-fashioned way: From a glass to my mouth and down my throat. Can ya dig it? 

Stephen Colbert had a segment on his show about the uprising trend of “vodka tampons”. You read it right: teenagers are now dunking tampons into vodka and inserting said tampon into places they really shouldn't for a faster form of “buzz”! I’m sorry, but WTF?! Is there anyone else out there that doesn’t find this style of drinking incredibly disturbing and offensive? I’ve heard the claim that a recession increases rates of alcoholism, but this is ridiculous.

I’m all for a jello-shot now and then. And a vodka-laced gummy or two may not be so bad. But it’s clear that the term “alcohol abuse” has taken on a more dangerous meaning. We know that this type of alcohol consumption has a much higher death rate than drinking booze the old fashioned way. What no one seems to be offering is a viable solution. Should we lower the drinking age in hopes that college kids choose to drink at a bar instead of shoving tampons up their asses and pouring liquor into their eyes? Maybe "substance ed" should be added to the National high school curriculum? Watch this news piece by CBS 5 and tell me what you think.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Top Chef Texas Episode 2 Recap: The Heat Is On

Emeril Lagasse, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio & Hugh Acheson

It's week two of Top Chef: Texas and the third and last group of chefs compete to determine the final 16. Eleven chefs have already earned there Top Chef jackets and four chefs are in the bubble waiting to see who else they'll compete against for a spot in the final 16. Once again, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Hugh Acheson, and Emeril Lagasse will determine the fate of the contestants.

On to the Top Chef: Texas Episode 2 Recap: The Heat Is On…

The episode opens with four chefs already in the bubble. Grayson Schmitz comments on how much pressure she is already feeling. Edward Lee comments on how they feel a sense of camaraderie since they all have been through a rough time, but he doesn’t want to befriend the others too much since they are his competitors. Later in the episode he confesses that he would have killed every one of them for a spot.

The Qualifying Challenge

Cheftestant Lindsay Autry begins plating her food
As part of the third group, Lindsay Autry comments on how they don’t know how many spots have already been taken. She’s right, since that does determine how many contestants will move forward. The judges for this group were Tom Colicchio and Hugh Acheson. As usual, the contestants introduced themselves. Beverly Kim made it personal by claiming that she was the one “bringing home the bacon” and therefore needed to win the challenge.

The contestants were given ten ingredients, each had to choose one. Underneath a cloche, which was next to the ingredient, was a clock with the amount of time to cook their ingredient. The clocks either had 20, 40, or 60 minutes on them. Tom and Hugh walked the room asking what the contestants were making. Hugh made a couple of comments like an ingredient was “a stumbling block in the past” for other contestants, or “Time’s ticking, getting there.” Hugh was definitely not very encouraging in a situation that was stressful enough without his influence. As the audience, I was sweating for the contestants!

Kimberly Calichio was the first one to get kicked out. Andrew Curren was the first one of the episode to be placed in the bubble. Chaz Brown was having an issue cooking the risotto in only 40 minutes. He claimed that his wife, an Italian, requires that the risotto be cooked overnight. Unfortunately, Chaz was so concerned with cooking the risotto properly (and he eventually did), that he did not have enough time to serve the risotto into the bowls. Needless to say, he was disqualified. Laurent Quenioux, a Frenchman that reluctantly came to the U.S., but couldn’t leave Los Angeles, went on the bubble. The veteran chef was given another chance to prove the skills his experience has afforded him.

Molly Brandt and Edward were making small talk until he asked her where she’s from. She said she’s from Minnesota. Then he asked where she cooks. When she said she cooks at the Allure of the Seas for Royal Caribbean. He laughed at her occupation as a sea chef, which made her pissed! Talk about making a new enemy!

Hugh Acheson samples a cheftestant's dish
Emeril, Tom, Hugh, and Padma were all judges for the bubble. Contestants were given 45 minutes to pick any ingredient in the kitchen to show why they deserved to stay in the show. Edward Lee cut himself really badly and his finger was pumping out blood like crazy. His first instinct was to cover his hand with a glove so as not to get any blood on the cutting board. True chef if you ask me, he deserved to go through just for that.

The bubble had two spots for the remaining contestants. Four had to go home. Molly, with overcooked shrimp, was the first. Laurent, with competing flavors in his tartar and cooked scallops that did not go well together, was next. Despite the duck being a little overcooked, Edward was chosen to continue. Grayson was the last one to be accepted onto the next phase.

Since everything is bigger in Texas, Top Chef promises a BIG twist in episode 3! Chefs that have been disqualified get a second chance to redeem themselves by cooking one last time. The audience (yes, that’s you) gets to choose which chef will be brought back by visiting Bravo TV's Last Chance Kitchen! (I like this interactive component that Top Chef added, hence the excitement)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Top Chef Season 9 Episode 1 Recap: Everything’s Bigger in Texas

Gail Simmons, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio

On the Premier of Top Chef Season 9, 29 chefs compete for one spot out of 16 that will be allowed to continue to compete across the state of Texas. Hosted by Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef: Texas will be judged by Head Judge Tom Colicchio, Food and Wine Magazine’s Gail Simmons, Top Chef Master’s Hugh Acheson, and introduced as Culinary Legend, Emeril Lagasse.

The prize for this season: a feature in Food and Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Food and Wine in Classic in Aspen, and a comfy $125,000 provided by Healthy Choice… and oh yeah, the title of Top Chef.

On to the Top Chef: Texas Episode 1 Recap: Everything’s Bigger in Texas…

The first episode begins by showing typical scenes from texas, including (my personal favorite), a “don’t mess with Texas” sign. Season 9 begins at the Alamo in San Antonio.

Top Chef Season 9 Chef Contestants
After each contestant briefly introduced themselves, the challenge was given. The 29 contestants were to split up into 3 groups, and as a group, were to be given a challenge.

The first challenge was for each individual to prepare a dish using one cut of a pig. The group’s challenge was to make a feast using an entire pig. The first group was going to be judged by Tom, Emeril, and Padma. During the one hour to prepare and cook, Emeril and Tom walked around the kitchen judging cooking and butchering techniques. The entire group had to decide by themselves how to split the pig. Chefs that are good at butchering got to cut the pig. Tyler Stone, a personal chef who was cocky from the very beginning, claimed that he was an ace at butchering. Simon Pantet complained that he wasn’t that good and that Tyler was instead ruining the one piece he wanted. Tyler gave Tom a weak excuse that he doesn’t “usually work with pork.” Tyler got kicked out in the first 30 minutes of the competition (12 for the viewer). Too bad for Tyler, who said he wrote a book in 3 weeks. I don’t think I’ll be buying that book anytime soon!

Emeril Lagasse, Tyler Stone, Tom Colicchio
Grayson Schmitz had given Tyler the task of cutting her tenderloin so that she would have more time to prep. Unfortunately, her plan backfired and she got a measly, mutilated piece… that she had to stuff! Tom knew she got screwed by Tyler and taught her the lesson of never trusting a competitor. Colin Patterson, a vegan cook, ran out of time and rushed to pour the soup, making a huge mess. The judges didn’t even try his dish and kicked him out. Talk about a tough lesson in time management!

Padma explained the rules for selection. If the three judges agree, then either the competitor is kicked out, or stays. If they are undecided, the competitor stays in what she calls “the bubble.” That means competitors compete in one more challenge to earn a top chef coat.

Molly Brandt was the first contestant to go on the bubble. Her soup was good, but as Emeril said, “the cheeks (of the pig) need to be more prominent.” Grayson was the second in the bubble. In an almost cruel moment the judges stared down Ritchie Farina, a contestant who was already incredibly nervous (and is obviously shy-natured), like bullies in a playground. Personally, I thought this was an ugly moment in the episode.

The second group was judged by Tom, Padma, and Gail. The group had to prepare a dish with the same ingredient chosen out of a list. They all had to reach a consensus. They also had 1 hour to prep and cook. The group chose the rabbit as their ingredient.

Nina Vicente, when asked about her young age, reassured the audience that she could hang with the best. Unfortunately, she spaced out and lost track of time and didn’t have enough time to place the rabbit on the dish. She was the first contestant of the second group to be kicked out.

Keith Rhodes, possibly the biggest contestant in sheer physical size, confessed to have been arrested and have served time for dealing drugs. He also seemed be very well acquainted with the craft, being an expert at cooking with seafood, yet feeling perfectly comfortable with using rabbit as an ingredient. He went on to the final 16, and I was glad. He’s very mild-mannered and eloquent. That tells me that he’s a good person and smart. I hope he makes it far in this competition, so that he can show what a second chance can do for a person. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Edward Lee, a big time favorite, was told by the judges that he obviously had skills, but had to take them to the bubble.  

The next group is still to come in Episode 2, an episode that promises delicious food, drama, and blood… and no, this is not a Halloween remnant for me. A contestant actually cuts himself and bleeds all over the place. I’m sure the contestant, in true "Top Chef form", will be more concerned with the time wasted not trying to spill blood on the food than on his shanked body.