Thursday, February 26, 2009

top chef 5, episode 14: the finale

so, before i start watching, i already decided i am not using a photo of the winner. because i can use this photo of me, jamie, leah and melissa last week in south beach. its a way better photo than the winner.

also, as we were driving through miami beach to leave last weekend, we drove through di lido. not dilido. di. lido. the space changes everything, don't you think?

also, i am watching on tivo. i just signed on to facebook and while i don't know who won, i do know who the winner is paired up with, so i will know who won when the sous chefs are assigned. but i don't really care. because, well, meh. let's say i'm glad this season is about over.

on with the show ...

it is worth poin
ting out that no one is going to be opening a restaurant on $100k.

ha! pam and i stood in that alley way. i think i have a photo of pam in there.

casey and richard should have won. marcel should not have. and he looks like even more of an idiot than when he was on. in the past they have gotten big name star chefs to help them. tho, i guess i would say richard and casey are big name chefs at this point.

ok, now i know who wins. i won't react to it tho. of course by the time you read this, you already know who won, too.

stefan is whinier than normal. you have to learn to pace yourself ... PRESSURE.

ok, there is a twist
coming. maybe i don't know who won yet.

nice bat impersonation. she is a total kook.

i guess stefan is getting gator. so hosea got to pick his sous AND dole out the surprise ingredients. big advantages.

sounds like stefan is going to spend a lot of time on desserts. bad idea.

cheese course is a good idea. instead of dessert. but sort of dessert.

the first thing we hear from marcel is second guessing the guy he is supposed to be helping. some things never change.

ok, i think i want to see "i love you, man."

profound hosea. one chance to make a first impression. except this is like your 14th impression.

big fan of susan spicer. i keep thinking that hubert keller's hair is a joke, but i've come to believe he means it.

hosea's trio seems busy.

interesting comment by marsalis that chefs talk like musicians.

what is a potato rod?

pain purdu. good idea.

uh-oh. casey's sous
vide hurts carla. that makes me sad.

gail likes the pain purdu.

"that's not very loverly"? oh, come on carla. just be happy. that will make them love it.

carla, don't tell them what's NOT on the plate.

hubert is angling for team euro. please. tom told them they didn't have to do dessert. they can't hold that against hosea.

mental note: braised cabbage is blais' thing. i'll remember that.

preview to the reunion: no, hosea and leah are not together. don't see it.

carla doesn't seem happy. they won't like her food as much because she isn't happy.

so, she is the pastry chef and she messed up ice cream twice and a souffle this season. why is she here?

why do you deserve it stefan? "because i deserve it." oh.

casey is getting thrown under the bus because carla didn't do her job. nice.

now toby votes for team euro. stupid euros.

toby downvoting hosea because hosea isn't a euro. we get it. a meal has a beginning, middle and end.

ok, yay hosea. but, according to tom, we should probably refer to this season as "very steady chef."

i'm not sure i understand what competing with love means, but whatevs. if it gives her a sense of accomplishment, hootie hoo.

whoa, big hug and a kiss from leah. maybe they are together.

of the three, hosea is who i wanted, but mostly because i couldn't stomach the other two. if i got to pick anyone from the season, i would've taken jamie or jeff. probably jamie. and not just because she is looking at me adoringly in the photo above.

so, the only season that i think the best chef won was harold in season one. in season two, sam was best, with cliff a close second. season three, casey and tre were the best. season four, stephanie won and i liked her, but richard was better, i thought. still do, actually.

ok, so what i saw on facebook was someone wrote on blais' wall that "you helped him win, chef." so i knew whoever he was paired with won. but then when they talked about a twist, i wondered if they had to change helpers. but no. it was all blais. tho it sounded like they didn't care for the blackberry and i thought hosea said that was richard's idea. all the sous get hosed tonight.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

sra. martinez, feb 19

when michelle bernstein opened michy's, i thought it took way too long for me to get there. when we finally went, i loved everything about it, with the possible exception of the location.

so when she opened her second restaurant, and i was planning to be in miami only a few weeks after it opened, i made it a priority to go there. we are in miami, staying on south beach, so there was a part of me that just wanted to go to dinner over here somewhere. leave the car in the garage and walk. but sra. martinez is already on the semifinal list for best new restaurant at the beard awards, and i don't get down here enough to take a pass, so we decided to venture out.

it's actually about three-quarters of a block away from michael's genuine food & drink, which became one of my favorite restaurants in the state last summer. they are in the miami design district, which is pretty cool. if i was ever going to do anymore home remodeling, this is where they sell the stuff i wouldn't be able to afford for it.

the building is a big box-y thing. apparently it used to be a post office. and i read that the restaurant that sra. martinez replaced in the spot was known for having a very large picture of a naked naomi campbell in the dining room. interesting.

it is a tapas joint, with a menu broken down into three headings: cold & crisp, platos grandes and warm & lush. we stayed away from the big plates. we weren't totally hungry after lunch yet. we split four of the tapas.

first we got the heriloom tomatoes with murcia al vino. another heirloom tomato based dish, even after the panzanella at lunch. like the panzanella, it was worth it. don't know if the tomatoes came from the same place or not, but they were good. murcia al vino is a firm goat cheese, and it was served with caperberries and cerignola olives. not lost on some will be the fact that the dressing was made with pedro ximinez sherry. luckily, there was bread on the table. that plate went back clean. we soaked up every drop.

we also went for the croquettas, there was manchego cheese in with the potatoes. the menu says chorizo, but that must've been pretty subtle because i forgot it said that until i was just looking again. then there was a fig marmalade. wow.

we got two meat dishes, first was the quail pinchos. the plate had two quail halves, boned but for the drumstick and the wing. it was rubbed with harissa and the plate was covered in pomegranate seed and syrup. i was trying to sop up all the syrup with each bite of quail, and the waiter took the serving plate before i was done with the quail i had moved to my plate. happened fast, i should've said something. or tripped him. anyway, it was still good.

last, we got the rabbit loin wrapped in pancetta. when we were ordering, i asked the waiter to rate a couple of things, and he said he liked this dish, "because it's wrapped in bacon. how can it be bad?" it was as if he KNEW who he was talking to. it came with a cumin-carrot emulsion, which i got halfway through finishing (carrots ... rabbit ...bahahahaha). just before we started eating it, the waiter rushed out with a small dish, and said "here's your panisse to go with the rabbit." i looked at the menu, and sure enough, the rabbit comes with panisse. i have no idea what panisse is tho. there were four little pieces of it, they were fried, and had a very delicate texture. i just looked it up, and apparently it is fried chickpea something or other. shrug. the rabbit was very good, tho.

we skipped dessert. nothing jumped out at me as must-have. tho there was a sherry-orange flan that sounded good, and a black forest cake. i decided nothing sounded as good as the chocolate cremosa across the street at michael's, so we left to go over there. but it was packed, inside and out, so we kept walking. we got heath bars at the gas station when we stopped to fill up. but there is a gelataria across the street from the hotel, and i'm tempted to walk over there now. tho i am sleepy. its a long drive getting down here.

no celeb chef sightings at dinner. tho possibly because i was constantly being distracted by a woman two tables over that was sporting significant ink on her significant cleavage. i'm all for ink. but not there. just sayin. i actually have a more specific opinion on this subject, but no one asked. so i'll keep it to myself. for now.

our hotel is kind of funny. it is kind of a dressed up beach flop house. there is a nice bar area in the lobby, but we get into the room and it looks like it was decorated by strawberry shortcake on a bender. and, i don't know how to say this, but it looks like it was recently renovated by someone of about my skill level. i make a number of tell-take mistakes in my renovation projects, and i am seeing them, all here. kind of funny. oh, and the smoke detector is hanging by its wires from the ceiling. well, its hanging by 2 of the 3 wires, anyway. and there is a backup in the closet. its not hooked up to anything. just sitting on the shelf. like its wireless or something. we got it pretty cheap on priceline. its not bad. just kind of funny.

tomorrow night is mario's party. i really have no idea what to expect, but i'm hoping for a heaping supply of awesome. we'll see.

michael's genuine food and drink, miami, feb. 19

quick post: we are in south beach. planned to go to an old haunt in boca for lunch, but decided it was too far out of the way and dropped back in to michael's genuine food and drink in miami. we came here for dinner last summer and loved it. figured we'd try for lunch.

first off, we had to have the crispy hominy with chile and lime because i was kind of chastised for not getting them last time. we asked if they were like corn nuts. "EXACTLY!" said the waiter. well, not exactly, but they were really good. they were crispy on the outside and chewy inside. worked really well, loved them. they were sort of LIKE corn nuts, but certainly not exactly.

we split a panzanella, which was really good. the chef, michael schwartz, is very big into farm-to-table, and the bar that faces the kitchen is lines with all sorts of tomatoes. panzanella is a salad of bread and tomatoes. ours included purple, yellow, green zebra and red tomatoes. the dressing was balsamic and basil. the bread retained chewy texture even though it was soaked in balsamic dressing and tomato juice. excellent stuff.

we each got a sandwich. both were ok, neither spectacular. pam got the curried mahi wrap. a house-made flatbread wrapping the fish, caramelized onions, couscous and raisins, with curry mayo on the side. she said it was good, but the fish was pretty small. she thought she got the bottom of the barrel on the fries.

i couldn't decide between the short rib and fontina panini or the steamed mussels. i asked the waiter, and with every ounce of conviction i like to see from a waiter, he suggested the panini. it was good, and i can see people loving it, but i was left wishing i had gotten the mussels (especially after i just saw a photo of the mussels dish on their website a minute ago, wow.) the panini was good. there was more fontina than short rib, and the short rib was braised and pulled to the point that it was almost like a meat pudding. it kept squeezing out of the sandwich. again, it was good, i wasn't disappointed, just wasn't great. it came with a tomato chutney that was very good. my fries were fine.

we skipped dessert because i suspect it will be a long weekend of eating. but i didn't want to, because i remember the chocolate cremosa i had the last time we were here. i really wanted to get it again.

we are going to dinner at a place just down the street from michael's, sra. martinez. if the desserts there don't impress me, i'm stopping in for a cremosa.

oh, and we had a celebrity chef sighting (i suspected that was possible): michael symon was in with an entourage. i felt like i recognized a couple of people with him, but could not place names.

top chef 5, episode 13

no fabio, you aren't going to win.

also, carla, you aren't going to win. i keep saying that. eventually i'll be right.

i like emeril. i still like him. i know some people don't. i do.

wow. WOW. i still think jamie was the best cook here. maybe she'll still win. i'd be totally ok with that.

jamie's sounds the best.

stefan talking up leah because she would be easiest to beat in his eyes. guaranteed.

suspense! a well-placed commercial.

chef jeff. cafe dildo is back in the game. i can root for him too.

i can name four very, verrrrrrry upset chefs right now. well, maybe not carla. she probably doesn't realize how much harder this just made it.

ahhh, sick mama. then we should all just let fabio win.

ahhh, bad car. then we should all just let fabio win.

oh yeah. they love hurricanes in new orleans. nice hosea.

jeff's crawfish pot de creme sounds like a good idea.

carla asking the oyster to help her shuck it. that should work.

good point about stefan not making his own sausage. i would make my own sausage if i was in a cooking contest. oh wait. i did. BAHAHAHAHAHA

i think carla and fabio are out. assuming jeff wins. which i think he can.

"it's a hurricane. i'm sure you've heard of that before." i shouldn't be able to believe he just said that.

YAY! TOBY'S GONE!!!!!!!!!!! and gail's back. that's nice too.

yes carla. please don't flash us.

fabio thinks he's in a porn movie. nice.

stefan's beignet doesn't look like it would be good. too small. hard to imagine it's very tender.

oh no, carla is counting on the fact that she's having fun again. that makes the food better. well, it worked before i guess. crap. you cut her head off and 15 more grow.

like hosea has had time to see everyone else's dish. that was cornbread?

good idea to save food for the judges.

i think it could be that team euro gets eliminated in one fell swoop.

well, if jeff doesn't win, they're messing with him.

stefan's sausage. trouble.

fabio: i like it sweet. did i tell you about my sicka mama?

wrong thing to say stefan.

hosea: your sucky cocktail was very authenticly sucky.

i think team euro is gone. unless they decide carla won.

they are saying the same thing about stefan as they said about hung a couple seasons ago. no soul. then hung came out and talked about his mama the whole finale and won. so watch out for tales of stefan's sick mama next week.

so they want to dump team euro, but they can only do it if jeff wins. i will be disappointed if that doesn't happen.

i am prepared to be disappointed.

shoot. crap. he is a close second best and gets eliminated. that sucks.

but fabio, his mama is sicka! didn't you hear?

ugh. that makes me mad.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

momofuku ssam and db bistro moderne, jan 10

so, it's been like six weeks since we got back from new york, and i started wondering why i never blogged about db bistro moderne and momofuku ssam bar. we went to db for lunch, then ssam for dinner the same day.

then, on the same day, two people asked me if i was ever going to post on it. then a couple days later,
pam said she went to look it up and couldn't believe i hadn't yet.

anyway, i figured out why i hadn't: because i had not watched the "food porn" episode of no reservations yet.

in this episode, anthony bourdain goes through some of his more prurient gastronomic endeavours. one of them: momofuku ssam bar. while most things on the episode got somewhere between a passing to 2-3 minute mention, they spent a whole segment at ssam bar. tony sat with chef david chang while they basically brought out the menu, dish after dish. and the weird thing was, i recognized almost everything.

first up: cured hamachi with edamame, horseradish, pea leaves. pam and i went with old-time boca news pal wayne lockwood, who is ranked among the coolest people i know for going on two decades ("send me kelly!"). it was cold that night, and this was wayne's call. i didn't argue, because i want to try everything, but raw fish didn't seem like a great idea on a cold night. it was. very tasty fish, and the edamame puree and horseradish were combined to be very wasabi-like. excellent work, wayne. (this was the first dish on no reservations.)

i think i picked everything else, which pretty much goes to the kind of authoritarian dining partner i can be sometimes. iron-fisted. but benevolent.

next we had the seasonal pickle plate. i don't remember what was on there, but i recall kimchi, possibly more than one kind, and mushrooms and, i'm going to say some daikon. but i don't really recall. we split them, and they were all good. (this dish was not shown on no reservations)

next we had the honeycrisp apple kimchi with burger's smoked jowl, maple labne (a soft cheese) and arugula. crisp, spicy apples. yes. (included on no rez).

next was the pork buns. you can't go to a chang place and NOT get the pork buns. dude made best new chefs list and won a james beard award based almost solely on the pork bun. we had them at noodle bar last year, but we had to have them again. and there was a problem: three of us, two pork buns per order. only rational solution: two orders of pork buns. potentially disastrous situation averted. the pork is decadently slow roasted belly (think: unsmoked bacon) on a pillow-y pancake, with cucumber and hoisin sauce. these were a little fattier than the ones i recall at noodle bar. but this was a night after buttering my bread at del posto with pork fat, so i wasn't in a position to get all high and mighty. (they had these on no rez, as well. because you HAVE to.)

we got the grilled long island monkfish, which, considering the fact that it was by far the most expensive thing we got, i wish i remembered better. we liked everything, so there was nothing wrong with it. the menu says it came with cabbage, kimchi and pistachio. i seem to remember something about the pistachio, like, i forgot they were there and they somehow blew me away. but i forget why. i should've written this a month ago. (tony no help on this one. he didn't have it. at least not on camera.)

our last dish was called spicy pork sausage & rice cakes with chinese broccoli, crispy shallots. this was probably the hit of the night. the shallots were crazy. at first, i thought they were bacon. then i realized they were a vegetable. it is a fine, fine vegetable that can not only make you forget it is a vegetable, but also make you think that it is bacon. also, the rice cakes were amazing. i might have guessed they were marrow. the shape and texture, in a million years, did not say rice to me. they were like eating really dense marshmallows. soaked with really good sausage. everyone was kind of being polite, but all three of us wanted to finish the bowl pretty much from the start. (they had this on no rez, and seeing the shot of it is actually what got me off my butt -- well, technically, ON my butt -- to write this. yum).

i didn't have wine with dinner. they had abita root beer on the menu. i heard about abita root beer YEARS ago and have been looking for it ever since. it is made by a brewery in louisiana and no one in florida gets it, even
places that carry abita beer. i couldn't even find it when we went to new orleans a couple years ago. i was starting to assume it was urban legend. but they had it. and if i ever see it again, i'll have it again. excellent root beer. very rich.

on the show, tony had the everest-like chocolate chip cake and cookies. the menu dessert options are pretty limited at ssam bar, but ssam bar is connected to momofuku milk bar, which is their bakery. so we paid the check and walked back to the bakery where dessert, like dinner, pretty much consisted of "one of each, unless we need two."

wayne and i each got a cup of soft serve. as cold as it was outside, the ice cream actually warmed us up. my opinion of ice cream was forever changed when we went to momofuku noodle bar and had the cracker jack ice cream. they didn't have that, but they had snickerdoodle. went with that. it was no cracker jack, but what is? it was good.

we each had a piece of pie. i had the "candy b
ar pie," which was pretty much a base of peanut butter pie with all kinds of crushed candy bars inside and pretzels on top. why i didn't think of this, i will never know. wayne had the "crack pie," which did not derive its name from a lack of structural integrity. no, i think the thinking is, it's addictive. it was kind of shoe-fly pie-ish. that brown sugar curd, like pecan pie without the pecans. pam, as best any of us can remember, had banana cream pie. but we're shaky on that. it has been six weeks.

they had cookies. a deal on six, and we figured, hey we're here for a couple more days? why not have some hulking cookies in the room? we got two blueberry cream cookies, two chocolate-chocolate cookies -- if those sound good, they were actually even better -- and two "compost" cookies. they were a chocolate batter cookie where they dump remnants of other cookies, apparently. chocolate, butterscotch, pretzels, potato chips and coffee grounds. shouldn't work. totally does. if you are going to new york, bring me back a half-dozen.

wow. i'm so glad i finally did this. i almost forgot what a great dinner that was. and the crazy thing is, i didn't like ssam NEARLY as much as i liked momofuku noodle bar. because, well, noodles. there weren't any at ssam bar. i like noodles. but it was still awesome.

earlier in the day, we had lunch at db bistro moderne. the reason we were going there was pretty simple: i wanted to have the famous $29 burger. but here's the thing: they don't have the $29 burger anymore. now it's the $32 burger. and in an effort to facilitate raising the price in the future, they renamed it the daniel burger, or something like that.

anyway, i wanted to have it because i want to make it. i have looked for the recipe, and daniel boulud doesn't share it. in his books, he tells long stories as to why he doesn't share it. but bottom line, he doesn't.

so here is what it is. there are three layers to the burger. in the middle is a piece of seared foie gras. seared on one side, i have it on good authority, not that i'm revealing any sources. that is encased in braised short ribs. then that is covered in ground sirloin and
seared. it is served on a parmesan brioche. there is a little frisee on it, and there is supposed to be a modicum of black truffle on the entry level burger, then you can upgrade the burger to include more truffle. this is not a cheap proposition to be sure. the $32 burger becomes $59 or $150 depending on how many truffles you want. i decided to go entry level. which meant getting enough truffle that they are mentioned on the menu. i didn't see any.

the burger was good. it didn't change my life. it will be fun to make, when i get to it. it came with fries. when a burger costs $32, its always nice that it is in a combo with fries. they were thin cut. i like that.

i started off with a lobster bisque. it was ok. its aroma was a little rough. that's a nice way to put it. i wasn't crazy about it. i didn't hate it.

pam had the orecchiette pasta with venison ragout, chestnuts and butternut squash. i liked the pasta a lot. very thick and chewy. i didn't ha
ve any of the chestnuts, but pam thought they were mushrooms at first.

i'll talk more about this when i do the story on making the burger.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

top chef 5, episode 12

ok, sorry kookoo fans, but if carla makes it to the final, i think i lose all faith in this show. let's watch what happens ...

wow! usually they just show chicken breasts. but those were leah's.

i don't really get wylie dufresne. but i like eggs.

no one told you you had to do molecular gastronomy. they said you had to make eggs.

stefan's dish sounds like a cadbury egg. cadbury eggs weird me out.

dufresne has a famous eggs benedict dish on his menu. so he's going to like stefan's. unless he screwed it up.

is "not as eggy" a good thing or bad?

oh no, carla. no. no. no.

how is green eggs and ham clever? please.

you know, in the book, the yolks were green and the whites were white. everyone always makes the whites green. amateurs.

leah: "i sucked ass in the last challenge." hmmmmmm,

hmmmm, "none of the above" doesn't seem to be an option. weird.

i still think stefan chokes at some point. if it is tonight and that puts carla in the final, i'm ok with that.

i'm smelling drama from fabio. not buying it.

ahhhhh. shoe pooping. appetizing.

this table and lighting is spooky. which one is judas? is dan brown looking for signs in the way they are sitting? who is holding the holy grail?

hi, you are from sweden, so you want dill. nice. that's like saying that since i'm from america, i want a hamburger. oh, wait. i do. and marcus wants dill. my god, stereotypes work!

ooooooo! told you! told you!!!!!! they hate the salmon!

don't talk about butt when you are serving dinner, hosea.

they seem to not love hosea, but not hate it.

welcome to new orleans, fabio.

squab under a heat lamp? uh-oh.

carla didn't pick squab as her last meal. what is she talking about?

on the flip side, carla could be a mardi gras float.

i think either leah or stefan.

"what did lidia say about it?" that was awesome.

carla gets to go to the final not because she cooked anything well, but because she bought good peas. (shakes head incredulously.) they must've flown those peas in from somewhere far away. big carbon footprint, i bet. she is single handedly responsible for global warming, but she is going to new orleans.

they're going to want to send home leah on body of work, but say that stefan had the worse day. which means it should be stefan. but i don't know.

toby is an idiot. talks out of both sides of his mouth. i hated it. it was technically perfect.

oh, they were ALL unanimous! its always good when everyone is unanimous.

stefan looks like he just pooped a shoe.

tom needs to learn what unanimous means.

crap. so close.

fabio got a ray hawk.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

top chef 5, episode 11

yes carla. you are underestimated. let there be no doubt. i will continue to grant you your proper level of underestimation to the end, if nec.

yes, padma, they all know eric ripert.

ohhhhhhhh. i love it when they don't know how to filet fish. and there is always someone who doesn't.

mmmmmmm. guts.

wow. looks like crap even by carla's standards. her words, laura.

shut up leah. either give up or stop saying you give up.

flesh on the bones and bones in the flesh. bad combination.

awesome. eel. awesome. here, filet this squiggly thing,

oh! private lunch at le bern. no other shoe will drop there, i'm sure.

i guess these little intra-commercial outtake scenes are supposed to trick us into watching the commercials. how sly.

hmmm. they have selected six dishes. i wonder why six. hmmm. aren't there six contestants left? what a crazy coincidence. pay attention, folks.

alan just started hating jamie. she's bored with le bern.

ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh! they will each have to reproduce one of the dishes. who saw that coming?

za'atar tip: not much. its crazy strong.

"the fish is ok." coming from eric ripert, that's a pretty big deal.

insight from hosea: "the fish is the crux of the dish." no kidding.

it's like a whole episode dedicated to constantly telling eric ripert what a genius he is.

well i guess this isn't the week that stefan falls on his face. i still think it will happen.

uh-oh. he's hosed-ea.

oh sheesh. it's going to be either jamie or hosea. i like them both.

ah, NOW leah has advice. thanks leah. now is real helpful.

well, that's a decent prize. hang out with eric ripert for a week? sign me up.

its like mea culpa chef. who can admit to the most screwups?

sounds like they hated jamie's the most. but it sounds like they want a reason to send leah home. but hosea screwed up the fish. i dunno.

i think it will be leah or jamie. so it will probably be hosea.

wow. i thought she was probably the best cook there. shame.

i forgot about team rainbow. i guess because i never really cared about team rainbow.

nice pause by jacques: "i could die ... happy."

bonus: richard blais' twitter just after watching the previews: "
Top chef preview next week looks exactly like a dream I had. Jacques Pepin, Jesus, and Phil Hartman as Frankenstein are at judges table."

Monday, February 2, 2009

super bowl 43!

i posted a bunch of photos from the game. check it out here.