Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Delicious Deliciousness

My sister Janet and I made pastel de tres leches (three milk cake) this past weekend as dessert for a dinner party. It came out divine. It was sweet but not sickly sweet, moist yet firm. I have been a huge fan of pastel de tres leches ever since I gave a friend the recipe for a Latin America food day. When done properly, it can be heavenly. When one element is out of sync, it can be cavity inducing and blah. This recipe was fantastic and pretty simple to follow. Make it with a friend b/c baking is more fun with two!


Monday, October 15, 2007

Thoughts on Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize... wait a minute James Lipton is a pimp!

Well, this is old news now. But it's great news and well deserved - I love Al Gore, he was my first politician crush back in the early '90s (whatever, he was skinny and strapping back then). He has done wonderful things for the environment and he is a persistent and innovative advocate for going green.

But enough about Gore, I just read this today and it is much juicier:

James Lipton, host of Inside the Actor’s Studio, spent his early years working as a pimp in Paris. James has interviewed the top actors of our time for the past 13 years and is revealing the details of his life in a new book. ABC News reports:"This was when I was very very young, living in Paris, penniless, unable to get any kind of working permit... I had a friend who worked in what is called the Milieu, which is that world and she suggested to me one night, `Look, you'll be my mec... We would translate it perhaps... as pimp. We were earning our living together, this young woman and I, we made a rather good living, I must say."

He does have those shifty pimp eyes!

This has been a banner week. Dumbledore is gay, Marie Osmond faints, and James Lipton is a pimp. I love it!

Rundown on "Gossip Girl"

I was too busy at work to comment on this when it was more relevant but I will attempt an abbreviated commentary now.

I started off ambivantly towards GG (not to be confused with "Gilmore Girls" a far superior program). It had some elements that showed potential - NYC scenary, rich kids doing bad things, snobby one liners, good wardrobe. However, it didn't really live up to its' campy potential. Characters were too one dimensional, there didn't seem to be real stories, and the parents were waaaay too young. The main heroine that you root for really did terrible things to her best friend and apparently only eats yogurt for lunch (which is funny but a little anorexic). Plus many of the actors struck me as cheap versions of actors on "The OC".

For example,
Dan Humphrey = Seth Cohen without the wit, geeky charm, and good taste in music. Better looking in a classic sense but too uncomfortable in his own skin and not in the endearing way.
Serena Van Der Somethingsnotty = Marissa Cooper with better wardrobe and saucy vibe (UPGRADE!).
Mom Van Der Woodsen? = cheap Kelly Rowan wannabe, I didn't even like you on "Melrose Place" Kelly Rutherford (even the actress's names are similiar)
Blair = budget Summer Roberts but not as pretty
and so on...

I became a casual viewer. I watched bits here and there since it was preferable to "Private Practice" (grow up, you guys are like 40+, this behavior is no longer charming) but I did not find it tape worthy although it seemed as though every single person on the street and everyone I knew was watching. I don't buckle to peer pressure.

However, one lazy Sunday (who am I kidding? all my Sundays are lazy), there was a MTV marathon featuring all the GG episodes. I believe at that point 4 or 5 were shown in a row. And that is when I decided you know what? I kind of like this show. It started to grow on me and feel comfortable and comforting much like the way a martini washes over Serena and comforts her by masking the pain. Blair became super bitchy with a heart and some of her lines are pretty good. I am finding the show pretty watchable as a whole. But something still irks me beyond belief. And some parts of my rant may sound snooty and elitist on my end but considering I'm reviewing a show about elite Upper East Siders, I think it's allowed.

The subject of my rant is the Humphrey family (minus Jenny, the kid's alright and she's only 14. I will not talk trash about someone so young unless it's Dakota Fanning jk). YOU DRIVE ME CRAZY HUMPHREY FAMILY!!! Ugh, first off, that dad is far too young to be believable. There was some scene where he was reminscing about like Nine Inch Nails or something that was so recent that it made me feel like I was old enough to sire a child Dan's age. Soon we are going to have parents on the CW say "Remember when Britney Spears was hot? Back when we were young and in middle school in the 1990s?" Also, the Humphrey's are poor. They spend all their money to send their kids to top NYC private schools so they have a better shot at a good education blah blah. Well their apt in Brooklyn (which is apparently in the boonies. yes yes I know that is what all the other kids think but it's just so ridiculous) is gorgeous. It's huge, it's well organized, it looks totally hip. They are not poor. Maybe Dan doesn't have enough money for duck at a fancy restaurant but at least papa Humphrey could fix up some bolognese for them. Also, Dan is supposed to dress like a hip "outsider". He sometimes wears hip army green jackets and tight plain t-shirts. This denotes the fact that he's "indie" and should give him street cred. Puh lease, we all know those pieces from Urban Outfitters and American Apparel don't come cheap Dan! And this is what enraged me more than anything. Dan wants to go to Dartmouth. That is his dream school. He got pissy with his dad because he didn't get to be an usher during Ivy Week b/c he didn't have the family connections. Let me break it down for you Dan. Dartmouth, while indeed an Ivy League school and a fine institution for higher learning, is what one might consider an "easy Ivy". Great school, great reputation but Yale, Harvard, or Princeton it is not. There are lots of kids who go to public high schools who do well on their SATS, get good grades in honor and AP classes, and are involved with activities who get into Dartmouth. I'm not saying it's easy to get into Dartmouth by any stretch of the imagination but you don't need to go to some fancy ass school and have family connections to get in. If Dan is as literate, smart, and well rounded as everyone says, a guy like that should have a really solid shot of getting into Dartmouth. You know why S wasn't stressing Dan? Not b/c she already had an "in" with the school (although that helped) but b/c she was eyeing Brown, another easy Ivy. So Dan, get off your melodramatic high horse and stop bitching at your dad. Just start volunteering and write some deep personal statement and you will get into Dartmouth. The end.

Spaghetti with chorizo and almonds

I made this Spanish pasta on a whim right before I commenced with my Chinese food themed week. I made this for lunch and it was really unique and delicious. I stayed pretty true to the recipe - there wasn't much need to mix it up.

Recipe from Gourmet Magazine:

For this Spanish-inspired pasta, you break the dried noodles and cook them more like rice — the result is a silky mix speckled with crunchy almonds, smoky chorizo, and aromatic saffron.
Active time: 30 minutes Start to finish: 35 minutes
Servings: Makes 4 servings. (and this is a true 4)

1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron thoureads
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 ounces Spanish chorizo (cured spiced pork sausage; not hot), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
12 ounces fideos (dried coiled vermicelli noodles) or angel-hair pasta or thin spaghetti, broken into 2-inch lengths
1 (14- to 19-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup sliced almonds with skins, toasted

Bring broth, water, wine, saffron, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan, then reduce heat and keep at a bare simmer.Heat oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then sauté garlic until pale golden, about 30 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Add chorizo and sauté until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towels with garlic. Add butter to pot and sauté onion until golden, about 5 minutes, then add pasta and sauté, breaking up fideos with a wooden spoon, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add broth mixture and cook, covered, until all liquid is absorbed, about 6 minutes. Stir in chickpeas, chorizo, garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve pasta sprinkled with almonds and drizzled with oil.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jessica Seinfeld sticks things in your food without telling you....

So Jessica Seinfeld wrote a book, "Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food." http://www.amazon.com/Deceptively-Delicious-Simple-Secrets-Eating/dp/0061251348/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-2346179-3657453?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192036379&sr=8-1
I'm assuming she wrote the book herself as "Jessica Seinfeld with [INSERT NAME HERE]" does not appear on the cover. She worked with a nutritionist (Joy Bauer who seems like she's BFF with Jessica) and a professional chef on most of the content of the book. I feel like Jessica's contribution is probably limited to writing a few intros and providing some family photos and personal anecdotes and then BAM - instant author.

I think the idea behind the book is great in theory and probably in practice (I haven't read the book yet or tried out any recipes but yes, I am fit to comment on it). Basically, Jessica sticks vegetable puree into classic recipes so that children who refuse to eat vegetables get their nutrients and vitamins. Some of the purees make perfect sense (sweet potato puree in pancake batter) and others are very interesting and somewhat unique (spinach puree in cookies, avocado puree in chocolate pudding).

However, I do have a few potential issues with the book and maybe Jessica Seinfeld. Jessica commented today that she also puts raw and more obvious vegetables alongside these dishes to show her children that vegetables are an important part of their lives and diet. This is very good and I was glad to hear that. But uh Jessica what if your kids still refuse to eat these vegetables? Do you just go "oh well I put them there, they know vegetables are a part of the food pyramid. It doesn't matter if they don't eat them because I've snuck the veggies in their food anyway! Ha!). She also mentioned on the "Today Show" that her kids think that her tofu nuggets are actually fried cheese. From this story, it sounds like her kids are truly being deceived. They are eating vegetables and enjoying it and not even being told! Wouldn't it be a better policy to tell the Seinfeld children that they are eating mac and cheese and then when they say, "ooh I love this mac and cheese, it's so yummy" (or however kids talk talk these days), you can say, "you know there is cauliflower in that mac and cheese" and then the children will realize that they do enjoy the taste of vegetables and may be more open to eating all different forms of vegetables in the future. By giving kids essential nutrients for their body but letting them believe they hate vegetables and don't eat them, you are, in a way, poisoning their minds! Well that is over dramatic, but you get the point. In my opinion as a women who does not have any children, kid's minds can be pretty simple. If something tastes good they will eat it. Even if something doesn't taste good, kids will eat it (aka any child that has ever eaten paste). If a child truly enjoyed a particular dish and then found out it contained vegetables, it would be safe to assume that they would continue to eat the dish even after the big reveal. This might encourage children to try more vegetables in the future and therefore promote healthy food choices for life. We don't want a bunch of fat 18 year old college students wondering why they don't feel as good ever since they moved away from home and stopped eating their mother's "fried cheese".

Another thing I am pondering is how much did Jessica Seinfeld really contribute to the book? Was it her idea to puree vegetables and then she just introduced the professional chef to the nutrionist and just let them have at it? Does Jessica even cook for her children? Or does she just dictate to her chef what she wants to eat that day?

What I really want to see is a book by Jessica Seinfeld talking about how she landed Jerry Seinfeld. She can call it "Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Getting a Rich, Eligible Bachelor to Propose." I'm sure some deception was involved as she was married to Eric Nederlander when she first met Jerry at the gym and they began their courtship. I think they are well matched actually. She's a smart, attractive, articulate Jewish woman who is obviously very cultured and professional. She's attractive enough that everyone can agree that she's attractive. But she's not so hot that people think she's a bimbo just out for your money. She's an ideal wife type. But women like that also always strike me as being really hungry - hungry for the best deal, always hunting for the next best thing. Jessica gets to run philantropic organizations and plan black tie charity events and is always rubbing elbows with celebs in the Hamptons. Which leads me to another issue with the book which I will call "The Anderson Cooper Effect".

The Seinfelds are famous. People love them. They have a lot of famous friends. And these famous friends lend support when you publish a book. But sometimes you have to wonder about the relevance of this support. Below are three highlights of reviews for the book:

--Anderson Cooper, CNN Anchor, Anderson Cooper 360 and best-selling author of DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: A memoir of War, Disasters and Survival. "Deceptively Delicious is a book anyone wanting easy, healthy meals will find indispensable. Page after page, you'll find yourself saying, "what a great idea!"

Really? Anderson Cooper? What is the relevance of his reviewing a cookbook for children? Does he also hate vegetables? Does he give the cookbook to his latin lover and tell him to prepare healthy dinners but lie about the vegetables pureed inside?

-Sarah Jessica Parker, Mother"It's not just a cookbook, it's a manual. For everyday. And what a clever and inventive way to change mealtime discourse. Oh what joy."

Funny, I thought SJP was both a mother and an actress. Well I can't say anything bad about this one. I am a woman who watched SATC and therefore, I love SJP. I even forgive you for Bitten.

-Kelly Ripa, actress, co-host, Live with Regis and Kelly, and Mother "Jessica Seinfeld is genius. She puts practical advice, delicious and easy recipes together in such a creative way! Somehow she makes good nutrition taste delicious. "

I actually like Kelly Ripa too. I watched her on "All My Children" and we go way back to when I was in elementary school. However, should we just be throwing around terms like "genius" so casually? I understand that you think Tide to Go is "magic" too but let's pull it together Ripa.

--Alexandra Wentworth - Actress, Writer, and Mother "She incorporates genius recipes with whimsical quotes from her kids and other moms and the photographs are practically edible. This is my Bible. "

So let me get this straight. We can call Alexandra Wentworth an actress but not SJP? Don't get me wrong, Alexandra was great as "herself" on "The View," "Politically Incorrect,"and "Living It Up! With Ali and Jack" but I think her 2 day episode stint on "Felicity" should not qualify as acting cred. Also, does George Stephanopoulous know his wife is godless and follows the cult of puree piety?

This blog is dedicated to my sister Janet who basically decreed I comment on this book. Apparently, I now take blog subject matter requests.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Noteworthy Obsessions of the Week

1) Finding out about the Masons (My Open House NY tour left me with more questions than answers about this secretive group)
2) Josh Ritter (songs off his two most recent cds)
3) Uncovering whether or not anyone I am friends with is a fan of John Mayer's music (his good looks are a separate issue not to confuse the point)
4) The H&M on 59th and Lex (so much better than all the others!)
5) Staring at my new Ralph Lauren tan boots and plotting when I will actually have an opportunity to wear them (http://www.zappos.com/n/p/dp/17499181.html). So so beautiful.
6) Things I can make with mint or heavy cream

An open note to Degrassi, The Next Generation

Dear Degrassi,

Sometimes it's okay to be subtle. I understand that you are Canadian and advertise that you "go there" and it's true. No one beats "Degrassi" or the N network in general for cutting edge stories and risky subject matter. But in your recent season premiere, Darcy managed to get roofied at a ski party, got raped by an unknown assailant, found out she got chlamydia, and then had the school think she lost her virginity to Peter (and insist she remove her abstinance ring). Then Darcy slit her wrist in the shower in the girl's locker room during cheerleading practice. This was an hour long episode but come on! Too much going there Degrassi. Maybe split that drama up for a change. I feel like sometimes you need to lighten things up. Plus, if you keep up at this pace, you may run out of stories. You can only have so many pregnancies, stripping, school violence, and drinking problems when most of the kids are still in high school. Save it for "Degrassi: The College Years".


Recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara

I made really delicious spaghetti carbonara last night. I combined a few recipes to meet my tastes. It was very quick and simple to make. Just make sure that you purchase good quality meat and cheese as it makes or breaks the dish.

If you make a salad or serve bread to accompany this, it could serve up to 6 people. But I don't care for salad or bread and I eat a lot of carbs so this recipes serves 4 mes. I would say in general this recipe serves 5.

1 lb of spaghetti (can be whole wheat or you could even substitute fettucine - whatever is your preference)
1/2 cup cream (I used heavy cream b/c it was cheaper at Garden of Eden but you can also use light)
1/4 lb panchetta, chopped into tiny cubes (have them cut it thick in the store). Some people prefer to use bacon for their carbonara, which is fine. However, it does add a more smoky flavor to the pasta and the dish has a different feel to it.
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped finely
3 extra large eggs
1 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and more for garnish
Black pepper

Timing on this needs to be coordinated b/c the hot pasta should be ready to go into the meat as soon as you are done cooking it. This will ensure that the eggs get cooked in the hot pasta, etc.

Boil a pot of hot water, add salt and pasta. Stir occasionally.

While pasta is cooking, put olive oil in either a large saute pan or a dutch oven. Cook panchetta and onion over medium heat for about 7 minutes until both are soft and aromatic. Add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add cream and cook for 1 minute.

While the panchetta and onion mixture is cooking, beat the eggs in a bowl.

By now your pasta should be ready - quickly drain pasta, reserving some of the pasta water in case you want to modify the sauce (optional). Add the hot pasta to the meat and onion mixture, stir to coat the pasta. Then add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and quickly stir. Then immediately add the eggs and stir the pasta until everything is well distributed. If you want to thin out the sauce, you can add the reserved pasta water here a little bit at time until it reaches your desired consistency. I had no use for the pasta water but everyone is different.

Serve pasta in little nests if you are fancy and own tongs. Or if you are like me and cook only for yourself, serve plopped in a bowl b/c presentation doesn't really matter. Add black pepper and extra cheese and voila! Delicious!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Kite Runner movie delayed due to controversy with child actors


Sodomy scene in movie causes fears for child actors' safety. Interesting article. If you watch the movie (which I did), Assef basically pulls down Hassan's pants from behind but you don't actually see anything. It's more of a suggestion of what happened b/c there is the movement of pulling the pants and a swishing action noise. Belts are undone and later drops of blood fall to the ground (as in the book).

Hot New Couple Alert

Breaking News:

Deacon Phillippe + Shiloh Jolie Pitt = Aryan babies + Today Show wedding in 2027.

Remember, you heard it here first.

Pam Anderson = Liar?

Say what you will about Pam Anderson being a bubble headed blonde. I think she's smarter than she seems and I always felt like she was actually a caring (if unconventional) mom. However, this story that Kid Rock is spreading around disturbs me. What do you guys think? Who's right in this he said/she said story?

Kid Rock blabbed to Rolling Stone about his suspicions over the miscarriage Anderson reportedly suffered shortly before they split up in November 2006. According to Kid, he flew to Pam's side in Vancouver, British Columbia, when she told him the news, but "when I get there, she's partying at this restaurant, drinking champagne, jumping on the tables. I'm thinking, 'That's a quick recovery from a miscarriage.'" Pam recently called her ex "bitter" and sighed to Rolling Stone, "If he has nothing nice to say about me, then please tell him to stop talking about me."

Today Show Throws a Wedding Part Deux

What can I say? I just love me some Today Show.

Today was Cody and Jessica's wedding and it looked really nice and it's great that everything is planned for them and it's free. However, a thought hit me as I was watching Natalie Morales at Tiffany & Co. (the site of their Breakfast at Tiffany's themed reception). Are the Today Show wedding receptions always just breakfast? They must be because they show the wedding live on the plaza at 8 something in the morning and from there they go on to the reception and I am not sure if the party continues until....lunch. As Natalie showed off the baby Bloody Mary's and Tiffany blue rimmed champagne glasses, I felt grossed out by the idea of having the reception for the biggest day of my life at 9am. I barely like eating breakfast at 10am and I really don't care for champage before that. Is the entire affair basically over by 2pm? Because that would be a very bizarre wedding set-up.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Is America Racist?

Exhibit A: Today Show throws a Martha Stewart wedding. Why did young upstarts Cody and Jessica win the wedding? Is it b/c they are cute, blonde and energetic? Is it b/c Cody sings bad songs on his guitar? Is it b/c Jessica's eyes crinkle and she smiles like a Democratic, more benevolent Elisabeth Hasselbeck?

They are babies, I think they are still in college in fact. They competed against older, more established couples that probably went through more traumatic things than zits to find one another. Nonetheless, they are getting that wedding.

I was pissed about this but today I looked at them on the eve of their wedding and I have to admit, they are freaking adorable. I forgive America!

Hung Jury

I'm not sure if that play on words really works but I do love reading tv reviews that use puns and the like so I'm throwing it out there.

Okay, so the "Top Chef" finale was last night and I was beyond excited. I was looking forward to it all week long with bated breath and I found myself emotional during the last few minutes of the show.

It started out with the chefs being shown a cornucopia of gorgeous fresh meats and produce amid the mountains in Aspen. Casey, Hung, and Dale bit into the goods and reflected on how best to combine the existing spread before them with their specific ingredients which they were allowed to bring for the finale. From the beginning, Casey seemed to be having issues with the elevation and the air which ultimately may have affected her performance in the finale. The three chefs discussed their planned 3 course menu and it became apparent that giant prawns were the big winner since all three chefs wanted to use it for their second dish. Dale decided to switch to lobster which perhaps also led to his undoing in the end.

Per usual, the chefs drew knives to pick their sous chefs. Typically, previous "Top Chef" cast offs have the distinction of serving as sous chefs - usually the chefs who were most recently eliminated and thus most skilled. This time, however, there was a twist which I just loved. Celeb sous chefs! Rocco DiSpirito (an uber famous talented chef now more known for his tantrums on his short lived series "The Restaurant" and shilling for Bertolli frozen dinners and buying bikes for supermodels in NY Magazine), Michelle Bernstein (famous for umm being a lady chef and uh maybe she won a James Beard award? I have no idea) , and Todd English (owns more restaurants than he probably can name) came to assist the final three. They were instructed to simply be the kitchen bitches for the finalists and not provide any type of commentary or assistance which might influence the outcome of the competition.

Hung drew Rocco's knife, Casey drew Michelle, and Dale got Todd and it seemed like in terms of flavors and taste, the matchings could not have been more perfect than if it had been pre-determined by Bravo. Hung and Rocco shared some sweet, tender moments of mutual fawning. It was nice to see someone actually be nice to Rocco. Most of the chefs bashed him, called him a tool and a sell out, and Tony Bourdain loves to give it to Rocco in his blog. Now, I did not really watch "The Restaurant". I've heard about it on more than one occasion and I get the idea. But I've also read Ruth Riechel's reviews of Rocco's restaurants and seen him on "Top Chef" this season and read his blog and I like the guy. He seems like he's learned his lesson and is humble and hard working and knowledgeable. His blogs actually rival Bourdain's in terms of enjoyment. Where Anthony is saucy and hilarious and witty, Rocco is clever and educational. He takes the time to explain cooking methods and origins and he's a great writer. While Anthony Bourdain is right in that Rocco vaguely resembled David Gest (cringe) in his first "Top Chef" appearance, last night he looked downright hot. Yes, he has slimmed down due to his marathon trainings but his face looked quite fetching as well. Kelly Hu syndrome me thinks.... Anyway, Rocco followed Hung's precise directions as did Todd and Michelle. All expressed some hesitation about the sheer number of ingredients going into these dishes. Simplicity was stressed and there was the overriding concern that the chefs were overthinking in their zest to blow the judges out of the water. Michelle was very wary of Casey's choice of pork belly. Casey was braising it first and then planned to stick it in the oven. Michelle seemed to think this meat was a dangerous choice for our fair Casey which was increasingly getting frustrated. I think Casey seems to work by herself best as does Hung to an extent. Casey seems like she needs to actually be in the moment, touching and tasting her food and seeing how the elements work together and then improvising changes and clarifications. It seemed difficult for her to do that when Michelle was prepping her mise en place. As for Hung, he's such a whirlwind and talks so fast and has so many ingredients-sometimes it probably is more efficient for him to take care of things than to have to explain it. Now Dale on the other hand seems to enjoy managing and delegating and Todd English commented on how nice it was to "not think" and just do what Dale told him to do. Yes, Todd, I agree. I love being a robot sheep too. Baaa baaaa.

The next day, the chefs are hard at work when the big bear himself head judge Tom comes in and tells them to come outside. Now anyone who's ever watched any Bravo show or reality competition knows a twist is coming. Sure enough, they have to prepare a "surprise" 4th dish. But they can get help from sous chefs CJ (the gentle giant with one ball and eyes for Padma. They are totally getting it on now that she is divorcing), Sara (cheese lady with bad cous cous), and Howie (his secret ingredient: sweat). So off our little chefs go. Hung decides to tackle desert and sends Sara on her way. Dale and CJ decide to do a scallop and hopefully CJ's knife skills are faster. Casey and Howie decide to do lamb but apparently it's out along with poor Casey's chances and she goes with beef (yawn).

Let's get to the good stuff now. The celeb sous chefs are part of the table alongside the standards-Padma, Tom, Gail, and Ted Allen (I wonder if he has ever noticed how much he and Ilan, the Season 2 winner, resemble one another). They are joined by B-rok aka Brian Malarky, recent cast off. Brian lost the cowboy hat for the occassion and jokes that the meal is his $100K prize. He's a good sport, that Brian. The chefs present their dishes head to head and I can't help but wonder how much each judge actually eats of the dish. It's a lot of food and you have to have at least 2 or 3 bites to get a feel for the dish. And if you love the dish, maybe you even clear the plate. It's 12 dishes in total so I think I finally understand why Padma is wearing that South Beach meets muu muu navy blue number. If a hint of a bump started to show in her belly, rumors might spread that CJ impregnated her!

So here's a run down of the dishes, I'm going to go into explicit detail b/c a) I'm just a home chef foodie and not a professional so I cannot remember all the ingredients and b) you can just to BravoTV if you want more food specifics.

1st course
Hung-His take on fish and chips using himachi. It looked clean and delightful. The judges really liked it but felt it could use some acid in the form of lemon juice.
Dale-Foie gras with raddish salad and peaches. Apparently, Dale put so much foie gras on his plate that the geese population will never forgive him. Judges wanted some toast to cut the richness but it was well received besides that.
Casey-Cinnamon scented scallop and foie gras on an apple with some sort of yellow sauce. I like the way Casey says "Cinnamon". It's adorable. It's a lot better than my friend Kim's southern fried Texas accent. To say the judges did not care for the roe would be the understatement of the year. They were beyond sickened by the presence of salmon roe which Casey tossed on "for color". Oh Casey Casey Casey, fish roe with foie gras? I love both things but together they do sound unpleasant.

Advantage: Hung

2nd course
Hung-Giant prawn with palm sugar glaze served on ocean scented rice (which let's be honest probably just means salt right?). There was some foam on this one I believe? And he was using Tamarind and a variety of other hard to find in the average American grocery store items. This was tasty and refined but the judges thought it could use a dash of salt and maybe some acid yet again.
Dale-His surprise dish with CJ was a scallop dish with purslane (some weed that is similiar to aloe vera apparently) and grapes. This looked lovely and the judges went ape shit for it. They loved loved loved it. Best dish so far hands down they cried!
Casey-Giant prawn in a lobster mushroom yuzu broth with some caviar sprinkled on top. The judges were mystified by her use of roe. I think this was Howie's fault I am told by my friend Margaret but I can't recall who flung the roe. But in Howie's defense, he honestly was trying to make nice.

Advantage: Dale

3nd course
Hung-Sous-vide duck (you stick things in a vacuum sealed container and then you can poach it in water so it retains the flavor and juice and can come out perfectly if prepared well. This show is so educational!!!!) with crisped skin in broth with some kind of foam on top. There was mushrooms in this as well. This dish looked amazing. Even though foam can look a bit disgusting and many say "it's been done", this dish made me drool. I would have had a "When Harry Met Sally" moment if I ate this dish I felt. The judges loved this one. Todd English said it was worth three Michelin stars!! That's no joke! That's an amazing compliment. Rocco said the duck was cooked to perfection and all the other judges agreed. That is when little B-rok piped in that he found absolutely nothing wrong with the dish and also reminded us that he was still there. Michelle said she was a little jealous of this dish too. Or was that the scallop? Oh dear, maybe I should have wrote this blog this morning...
Dale-Lobster with mushrooms, corns, butter, bacon, gnocchi, curry sauce and the kitchen sink. There was a lot going on here but it sounded tasty. However, the judges felt the lobster was overcooked (doll's head texture perhaps) and the curry overpowered and ruined the dish. Bad Dale bad.
Casey-Pork belly, gingered pea shoots, perfectly cooked peach, and some creme fraiche. I love pea shoots. And I think I like pork belly. And I of course like peaches and creme fraiche. However, this one was no good for Casey either (who now it was clear was not going to win even tho she was arguably the fan favorite going in with her past victories and great personality). The pork was overcooked to the point of being burned (hey it's more like bacon that way right?) and Michelle and Tom just knew she left it in the oven too long. The sides were delish though.

Advantage: Hung no doubt

4nd course
Hung-Chocolate molten cake with some sauce blah blah boring. I hate dessert. Dessert is boring. I have a salty tooth and I love savory foods. I also don't like chocolate cake. But apparently, the cake was tasty and well done but boring and did not go with Hung's Vietnamese/French/modern meal progression.
Dale-Colorado lamb cooked in duck fat (yum! but oh wait, I don't eat lamb..) on a bed of something or other. This one was perfectly cooked and judges were impressed yet again.
Casey-Her extra dish. Basically it was steak and potatoes. You can stretch out the word fingerling and say ruby this and that but it was basically steak and potatoes. It was Casey's best dish declared the judges yet Howie basically made this. Ouch.

Advantage: Dale, the self-proclaimed big gay chef, who loves them cowboys

So judging commenced. 2 for Dale, 2 for Hung. It was a nail bitter. Tom hated Dale's lobster with a fiery passion matched only by the sun. Everyone else loved his scallop so much that they felt it made up for the lobster. Tom said he would rather eat unimaginative chocolate cake over doll head lobster any day and put on his angry face. Basically, Dale had two really superior dishes. However, he also had a really terrible dish. And he credited 50% of the scallop dish to CJ. WHY DID YOU DO THAT DALE? SO NOT SMART!! I feel like it was probably 75% Dale anyway so you should of said that. Now is not the time for Mr. Nice Chef. Hung's duck was a "triumph" and all his dishes overall were consistent, well thought out, and delicious. Tom would have eaten any of them again. I had no idea which way it would go. Dale had that wrenching story about how he got laid off from his dream job and didn't cook for a year after that until he landed on "Top Chef". That story was killer and I really felt for Dale. Dale has all that heart and a lot of creativity and really started to make some amazing dishes towards the end. However, he is really out there and combines a lot of different ingredients which either pays off big or is a huge disaster. He also says he can't smell well which is an odd thing for a chef to say. I wonder if that affects his taste buds? It's like having Helen Keller lead you across traffic. Hung is cocky and competitive yes. But it is a competition and he said before if it was a kitchen, he would help out but it's not so he has to play the game. Hung is an immigrant with a family full of cooks and he is so passionate about food and just loves it and is so knowledgeable about technique. Oh I like him too! The way he ripped apart those whole chickens was so amazing. He's been the one to beat since the beginning and especially after Tre kicked it (I still blame you CJ) but I just didn't know what would happen. Reality shows can be so unpredictable.

Cut to the live show that was very "Survivor"esque. Everyone wore the same clothing as in "Survivor" and "The Apprentice" even though obviously we knew that it was not all happening the same day. Seriously, where did Padma get that dress? Motherhood Maternity? I think I want one for bedtime. The finalists got to say their last words, tears were shining in their eyes and I clutched my heart. My sister came through the room to ask who won at 9:55 and I found myself yelling "SHUT UP" I was so keyed up with emotion. Finally, it was revealed that Hung was the winner. Hung's 6 people jumped up and cheered (including Marcel his BFF from Season 2 who was felled by too much foam and hair that looked like Wolverine) and then there was slow standing O from the rest of the crowd who just won't give Hung his effing due. I mean come on, he's not the evil villain everyone wanted to make him out to be. Yes, he was at times selfish and overused the phrase "it's so simple a monkey could do it". But he could back it up with talent and he obviously has a passion and talent for cooking and I think he's a good guy. I love a good immigrant success story sigh. A sad display of confetti fell down as Gail hugged both Hung and Dale a little bit too long. Padma swished in, shoved a mike in Hung's face and he mentioned something about the support of America. I felt a bit awkward for my man there b/c it was not a popularity contest where people vote like "Dancing with the Stars" but I'll chalk that comment up to too much excitement!

In conclusion, Hung fully deserves the $100K from the Gladd family of products, a vacation to the French Alps sponsored by Evian Natural Spring Water, a feature in Food and Wine magazine, and the title of "Top Chef". Casey and Dale will be okay. They are extremely talented and now beloved by America and they can certainly parlay their fame into bigger things. Maybe Bertolli needs a new spokesperson.

Note: This blog has been brought to you by Cold Stone Creamery. Fin!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Leapin Lizards-TV Watch

Heroes/ Shanghai Kiss Rant

I watched my tape of "Heroes" last night. It was the second episode of the season. I have to admit that while it entertained me, that show often makes odd choices. For example, Claire deciding to cut off her pinky toe in hopes of lizard regeneration. Sure, it's frustrating hiding your identity and you are an angsty teenager. And I would be curious about the boundaries to my abilities too. However, it's very erratic to just decide hey, I'm going to cut my toe off with a pair of scissors while Mr. Muggles stares at himself at the height of doggy narcism. I found myself rooting for her toe to not grow back and then having to watch the fallout of horn rimmed glasses having to explain to doctors why his daughter cut her toe off.

It doesn't help that I went to a movie screening in NYC for "Shanghai Kiss" earlier this week staring none other than Hayden Panettiere (which I hear means "baker" in French) and she was dreadful. This may have not been completely her fault. The writer/director may have told her "I want you to play a 16 year old with sunny smile, perky disposition, and say a lot of high pitched baby talk." In that case, she is in the clear. But if not, I abhor baby talk. I think a lot of people share my view. It's pointless, annoying, and when the high pitched sound is amped up in a movie theater, can probably be used as torture for prisoners of war one day. For those of you who aren't aware of the straight to DVD gem that is "Shanghai Kiss", the basic plot is that an Asian American actor (played by Ken Leung soon to be "Lost") is rather aimless and not finding a lot of luck in his life in LA. He strikes up a friendship with this cutesy blonde high schooler and while she calls him her boyfriend, he just drives her to school and eats her brownies and laments her age. He is 29 and this whole relationship is ridiculously creepy. It's even worse than the suspected real life romance between Hayden and Milo Ventimiglia (who is much better shape than I ever would have imagined-see episode 2 season 2). The two never kiss on the mouth once in the movie and even share a scene where he noticeably cringes when she leans towards his mouth. My take is that their relationship has not become physical beyond the hand holding, dancing, hugging stage. But back to the plot - the main guy's grandmother dies and she leaves him a house in Shanghai. He goes to Shanghai to sell the house thinking he will get $500,000 US for it but in fact it is 500,000 yuan which amounts to about $60,000 US. Oh the monetary conversion misunderstandings!! It's like "Three's Company" for world travellers! While in Shanghai, he suddenly discovers he has no problem bedding Asian women despite the fact it's hinted that he has an aversion to them in LA and tends to go for busty blondes. In Shanghai, he meets the very lovely Kelly Hu (who for some reason is starting look less Asian these days but I cannot put my finger on why. is it the hair? the eye makeup? plastic surgery? leaner face?) and decides to move to Shanghai and discover his roots. I won't go into any further detail about the movie because it's annoying me just to think about it. Kelly Hu has an accent in this movie that reminds of what people who aren't Asian feel like Asian people sound like and basically she sleeps with Liam (the main guy) even though she's a lot hotter than him and she has a sugar daddy boyfriend who she hopes will provide for her poor brothers and sisters. In the end, Liam decides to move back to LA. and ends up with Hayden who at this point may be legal. This movie was being touted as a great example of Asian cinema (at least to those presenting the movie at the Imagineasian Theater) and certainly the main character is humorous and charismatic and gets the women and is screwed up and somewhat interesting which is a different and unique portrayal of Asian men in the movies. However, I wonder what exactly is it supposed to mean that he ends up with the underage blonde who calls him "bunny"? I have really digressed now but if you want to read more about the movie, go here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0469184/.

Back to "Heroes", I am loving Hiro in Japan and David Anders as Kensei. Hiro always brings the humor to the show and he's just so darn cute. I have loved David Anders since he was evil Sark on "Alias" so I'm just happy to see him end up on a good show. As for Peter "I got a really great personal trainer this year along with amnesia" Pettrelli, I love his haircut. He's never looked better. He needs to get back together with Alexis Bledel b/c she is looking fantastic these days too and they were a great looking couple. Plus, while she is younger than Milo, it doesn't creep me out to think of them as a couple as it does with him and Hayden. Unless of course, those page six rumors are true and he is a girlfriend beater which I sincerely hope is not the case.

Rock of Love

I watched finale to this good/bad show last night as well. Bret Michaels actually seems fairly sincere and despite the fact that he never takes off his bandana and asked the final 2 women if they would consider both being his girlfriend (oh he kids he kids, it's just a final test! b/c he's just that clever and sneaky and wily. Axl Rose has nothing on this dude!), I want the dude to find a special lady. And he made the right decision. He chose Jes (one s please) over Heather the manly stripper with the self proclaimed "fuck me" hair. This was apparently a soul wrenching decision for Bret although it was pretty clear to me when Heather tattooed "Bret" on the back of her neck, that there was no way in hell she would end up winning his heart. Jes is cool, seems level-headed, and actually appears to be naturally pretty. That is which an accomplishment considering her hair is bleached blonde and hot pink. Good choice Bret. Rock on! May you and Jes spend many a day listening to your new music which pretty much sounds like 10 million variations of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." Kudos on the fact that your show is far more sincere than "Scott Baio is 40 and a Douche" er I mean "Single", far more classy than "I Love New York", and less uncomfortable than "Flava of Love".