Friday, May 30, 2008

Apparently You Don't Have to Know How to Cook Rice to Go to Puerto Rico: Top Chef Season 4 - Episode 12

(shout-out to MD for the title!)
Well, the debacle that was "Restaurant Wars" is over. It was clear who would win, it was more clear who would lose, and it was not so clear why one of the most talented chefs of the season was sent home (also my personal favorite), while, inexplicably, douche-hat and bitch-face remain. Who went home tonight? Who remains? The final four of this culinary smackdown were determined tonight, let's find out who they are...

Opener -
Nothing really exciting happened, except that Stephanie interviewed that she was excited there are so many girls left in the competition, which I thought indicated that a girl was going home. Apparently the Bravo editing team pulled one over on me.

Quickfire -
Go to Allen Brothers and cut meat. That's what she said. Alright, straight up, I LOVE this Quickfire. Not as much as the relay race, but butchering is such and important skill for a chef to have, so to actually MAKE the chefs fabricate their own product is brilliant. I was a little upset about the huge amount of waste some of the chefs produced, I mean, come on guys, a poor cow had to die, the least you can do is treat it with respect. That said, I will begrudgingly admit that Spike actually (pleasantly) surprised me with his mad butchering skills. As a bonus, we had a dual Quickfire, in which the chefs had to bring their meat (TWSS) with them to the Top Chef kitchen and cook it to a perfect medium rare. Again, awesome - a perfectly relevant test of the skills a chef should have. I was a little concerned at first that no one actually ate the steaks, but once the Quickfire was over, the chefs got to eat their delicious meat. Spike really owned the whole challenge and I'm glad he won, he deserved it, even if his attitude is crappy. Clearly he knows his way around a piece of meat (say it with me now).

Elimination Challenge -
I love this challenge. I think it's the best one yet. Seriously. They took all the skills a chef running a restaurant should have and melded them together into a delicious stew of mad-skillery. First, design two dishes based on the ingredients in the walk-in. Something chefs do everyday. Next, just cook their dishes and fire them when appropriate. Again, exactly what chefs do everyday. Perfect. Finally, make the dish taste good and make it appropriate for the restaurant's clientele. Steakhouse. Make steaks and rich side dishes. I think everyone did well, with the exception of Spike inexplicably poor choice to use frozen scallops. Even I know not to use them. or at least not sear them. What about a mousse? A soup? Something where texture's not that important. Come on now, Spike. Let's see what you're made of - change your game plan midway through.

Some favorite happenings:
1. Before they got to the restaurant, Richard cleaning up the Top Chef house with a giant garbage bag with a perfectly placed GLAD logo directed at the camera. Do Glad Bags actually have logos on them? Curses, Gladware, you've made me curious enough to go buy a box of bags to see if they do. Strong product placement.

2. Tom's face during the Sniff and Sneer when he found out Spike was using those awful scallops.

3. Tom's reaction to the peanut butter mashed potatoes. Interesting sidebar - when Lisa says she made them before, at another restaurant, does that mean she's just lifting other chef's ideas and foisting them upon the judges? Is she this season's Ilan?

4. Speaking of douchebags. Ilan showing up and acting more douchey than usual (the comment about head shaving made me throw up in my mouth a little, seriously, what the hell is his problem. Why would you voluntarily remind people of how awful you are?). And what the F was up with his glasses and gay-ass T-shirt? You're at a nice steakhouse, dude, try to dress appropriately. They even got Harold to dress up.

5. Speaking of Harold, here is a direct transcript of my notes when I saw him: "HAROLD!!!! Eeeeeek! SQUEEEE!" (could he be anymore adorable?)

6. When Tom announced he was expediting. Ha! He'll kick their asses!

As far as the individual food goes, Stephanie's looked and sounded the best to me. Come on, crispy sweetbreads and a giant steak with wild mushrooms and salsify puree? What's not to love? Antonia's salad sounded good, but isn't it kind of what she made before for Sam, the sexy salad man? I can't believe the judges didn't call her out about making the same thing twice. I mean, it's good, but show your range. That said, her steak also sounded delicious, as did the famed gratin. Richards appetizer was by FAR my favorite thing any of the chefs made, though. Hamachi? Crispy sweetbreads? Avocado? Yuzu? SOLD, mother F-er!! Sold! I can only imagine the taste and texture that came along with that dish. I kind of want to make it, but I'll most likely fail miserably and be sad I wasted 30K on cooking school.

The two losers - Spike and Lisa, honestly, I don't know what to say. Spike's steak looked really good, but I still don't know why he kept on with those scallops. I guess once you have your mind made up, it's hard to change, but this is for the final four and Puerto Rico, pull out all the stops. As for Lisa, I like the idea of a giant prawn appetizer, but why you would choose to chill something covered with fat is beyond me. I think even an 8-year old child would know the fat would congeal into an unappetizing and disgusting mass.

Judge's Table -
It was interesting, that's all I can say. I cannot believe Spike called out Tramonto like that. Bad move, dude. I always knew you were a douche-hat, but I didn't think you'd start insulting the judges, especially the one whose kitchen you just used and whose customer's you just served. I was really happy with the decision to give Stephanie the win, she definitely deserved it, as both her dishes were the best and she worked calmly, cleanly, and most importantly, didn't insult anyone along the way. Plus, her prize was pretty cool, although hopefully the appliances work better than they allegedly did last season. It was adorable when her, Antonia, and Richard started dancing around in the Stew Room after they knew they were going to Puerto Rico. That must have been one of the best feeling in the world. As far as Spike's knifing, he needed to go, but Lisa needs to go more. I don't even know if she's that great a cook. Everything she makes is underseasoned (even though she has an "amazing palate," Padma?) and she just looks pissed all the time. You can't have a top chef that refuses to accept criticism. How can you grow as a chef if you think everyone's opinion about your food is wrong?

Next week: Lisa cuts her hair to look more like Richard! Seriously, I thought they were just showing him excessively! Puerto Rico looks beautiful! Someone may severely injure themselves hacking apart hunks of meat!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Douche-hat is Gone!

Spike was knifed! The final four is complete! Praise the baby Jesus!

More coherent thoughts to come...

ETA: Ugh...I took copious notes last night during the show, so I could blog about them while at work today. Unfortunately, I seem to be unable to use the "Save as Draft" function in Blogger correctly, so I don't have my notes at work. I know you're all waiting on the edge of your seat for my brilliant recap of the episode, so I apologize. I'll write it up tonight and post it as soon as I can. In the meantime, know that this episode has somewhat restored my faith in "Top Chef" and reaffirmed my hatred of Ilan and, in fact, all of season 2. The only way this episode could have possibly been better is if Spike AND Lisa had both been booted and they brought Dale back.

Strong Work, KN!/Ed Helms Post of the Day

Today, a good friend of AbS is celebrating her birthday, so a big shout-out to KN! In honor of her birth, here is a new Lonesome Trio picture:

Courtesy of their Myspace Page, via the delightful Seriously, I love that site, you all should, too!

Also, this old, but good, segment from "The Daily Show" because it kind of has some shirtless Ed, you know, in honor of KN:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We May Have Been Banned from Daryl Wine Bar - And So Can You!

Well, as referenced here, it was MD's birthday last week, so, to celebrate her momentous birth, her, NC, BMG, and I (you may remember us from such posts as "I Am Dehydrated - and So Can You: The Story of "Clinical Depression" and Otto" and "DC - Day 2 (Subtitle: We are hungover - and so can you)") ventured to New Brunswick, NJ to dine at Daryl Wine Bar. The wine bar is relatively new, I think it opened around November of last year, and I had been there to have drinks before, but never dinner. Until now. And, now, I may never be able to go back. Well, actually, I think we should be OK, we just were kind of drunken and jackass-like by the end of the evening.

At any rate, the previous times I had been to Daryl, I had enjoyed myself. Their wine list is incredible, clearly beyond my realm of comprehension of wine (I tend to gravitate towards Rioja or a Malbec) and the desserts we tried during our second visit were actually quite delicious, if a little overpriced. My impression of the food, however, was pretty much nonexistent, with the exception of having leered at other people's food on the two occasions I had been there before our fateful Wednesday night dinner and the quick peeks at the online menu. I was a little concerned about the food, not because I thought it would be bad, but because MD and BMG are slightly picky when it comes to eating new foods, so I hoped we'd be able to find some things for everyone to eat.

Mini-rant Alert: Now, the restaurant bills itself as serving small-plates which is clearly fine by me. But, honestly, they don't have that large a selection of small plates, which I guess is fine, if the menu changes daily or weekly, but the same menu has been up online for a while now, and it didn't differ that much from the menu given to us when we sat down. Also, there are some "Chef's Signature Dishes" on the menu, as well, which I guess are supposed to be treated as entrees by people who don't like eating tapas-style. But, if you don't like to sample lots of small dishes, why would you go to a tapas-style restaurant? Even more inexplicably, there are two giant steaks at the end of the menu, which, in my opinion (which is clearly worth nothing), have no place at a small plates restaurant. I guess they're trying to appeal to a wide range of clientèle, being that it's a new restaurant, and maybe they're still trying to find their footing, which is clearly fine. I don't own a restaurant, so WTF do I know? Anyway, here's the food:

Mimi-Burgers with Bacon and House-made Ketchup:

Pizza With Caramelized Onions and Peppers:

*Important Note: this is NOT how the fideos was served to us. We clearly had imbibed too much rioja at this point and decided to make a sculpture using pieces of the prawn and the skewers from the mini burgers. I thought it was quite fancy.

It should also be noted that NC and I shared the Selection of Artisanal Cheeses as a starter, as well, however, I don't have a picture of the plate (because I forgot to take one). Regardless, we weren't such fans of the cheeses they selected, a little too heavy on the goat's milk and blue cheeses.

Here are the entrees.

Roasted Organic Chicken with Pepper-Thyme Jus (MD and BMG both got this, I told you they were picky - just kidding guys, you know I love you both!):

Seared Sea Scallops:

Salad of Duck Confit and Beets with Greens (my first entree/small-plate):

Sweet Long Pepper (yes, I just wanted to say "sweet, long" which is why I ordered it, shut it. That's what she said) Stuffed with Short Ribs:

OK, enough with the was it? Well, mixed. The cheese plate was kind of a bust, which I mentioned before, but the mini burgers were awesome. And cooked to a medium rare, which made them particularly flavorful and juicy. The pizza was just OK, passable, but not worth the $10, $15, or whatever we paid for it. The fideos was good, but it was an odd size for a "small-plate" (too big), and really hard to share, being that there was one giant prawn placed atop a bed of noodles, so we had to hack it apart using a butter knife and try to split it evenly amongst the three of us (MD won't eat shrimp). The chicken went over well and the waitress (and chef) graciously substituted asparagus for baby carrots, when we asked. NC's scallops were very delicious, perfectly cooked and so sweet and meaty, but, again, three giant scallops on their own, not so much of an entree. Why not just serve one or two with a salad (in the style of Fork) and make it a true small plate? My food was alright, the salad was good, well, the beets and greens were, the duck confit was inexplicably salty, like almost not edible, and considering how much I heart salt, that's an accomplishment. The stuffed pepper was actually pretty good and extremely long and giant (TWSS) - I couldn't finish it. The short ribs were very tender and the entire filling was really well seasoned and tasted great with the sweet pepper.

At this point I was pretty much finished, but the others wanted some dessert, so we ordered that and some more wine. MD and NC shared the Strawberry Shortcake (? - it's not on the online menu and my memory after the pepper is hazy, at best):

BMG ordered the Chocolate Napoleon (with glass of milk, and, even more disgustingly, a glass of grappa, as well):

Here he is toasting himself with his two beverages:

For my dessert, I polished off the rest of the second bottle of wine and had a glass of Prosecco in honor of MD's birth. Here we are toasting her arrival into the world:

So, how was the dessert? The Chocolate Napoleon was allegedly good, especially with the milk and grappa, as BMG polished it off with no problems. The Strawberry Shortcake was good, too, but I distinctly remember hearing the phrase, "It tastes like Frankenberry" uttered from the other side of the table.

So deliciously fruity!

Overall impressions: it was good, but not at all as good as I thought it would be, based on the reviews I had read. And far too expensive. I mean, I'm certainly not rich, but I have no issue with spending a good amount of money on wine and dinner. I just take issue with paying a lot of money for food that's just passable. Some of it was really good and some of it I would not ever order again. Maybe it was because it was a random Wednesday night or because we all look young and the chefs thought we wouldn't care whether the food was good or not or because we ordered relatively inexpensive bottle of wine. Maybe they were just having an off night or maybe my palate is effed from drinking too much wine, I don't know. It's just my opinion.

Bottom line, if you like wine go to Daryl to drink (they have an awesome selection of wines by the glass, too) and order the mini burgers if you're hungry. Otherwise, you're better off going to The Frog and the Peach or Stage Left or something.

As for the jackass behavior, after dessert I think we took about a million pictures and took forever to pay the bill. That said, we left a very generous tip and bought a ton of food and drinks. And, to be fair, not that many people were left eating by the time the extreme degeneracy began. So, we left, went home, and watched "Top Chef," otherwise known as the most horrible episode ever, in which Dale went home.

Up next: The Stanton Social.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Return of the Stephen Colbert Post of the Day

OK, I think I saw this on the delightful No Fact Zone first, or, maybe on TV Squad. Whatever, it doesn't matter - it's and oldie but so, so good and completely hysterical. Especially Jon Stewart cackling and giggling in the background, and, well, everything with Stephen. In particular, the complete inability to speak at the end - complete with tears!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's Baby Vomit with Wood Chips: Top Chef Season 4 - Episode 11

OK, so, I watched the episode yesterday, after about 4 glasses of wine and too much food, so I'm not really sure I can contribute anything of relevance to the "Top Chef" blog this morning. Most of the episode is a haze, but I'll do my best. And, just so you know, I'm extremely pissed about Dale. Like beyond words. I almost don't even want to watch anymore.

1. The Quickfire was actually pretty cool, making eggs is tough, especially quickly with 4,000 people yelling orders at you from various directions. I think Antonia and Dale were the best, as the owner determined (BTW, how pissy-looking was she? Seriously, she gave bitch-face Lisa a run for her money), but I feel like she picked Antonia because she's a girl. So, that's probably not so right.

2. The "Sniff and Sneer" with Anthony Bourdain (!!!) was made of awesome. I think Tom should give the sneer to Tony every episode, from now on, including future seasons. How can Tom ever sneer better than AB? He invented the sneer. And, of course, Tony's commentary was delightfully snarky and on point. When he imitated Lisa's bitchy, crossed-arm stance, I lost it. Brilliant. My love for Anthony Bourdain cannot properly be summed up in words, and, even if I tried, it would probably crash Blogger, as it would be the lengthiest blog in the history of blogs, so I'll stop gushing now.

3. BS. That's all I have to say about Judge's Table. Well, one other thing: How in the EFF did Lisa not get sent home? She couldn't make rice properly in not one, but two challenges. In a ROW. How do you even contemplate entering "Top Chef" if you lack the basic cooking skills to make rice? And you call yourself an Asian-foods chef? It's like when Tre got sent home last season - complete BULL. Let's keep the people who suck and eliminate the people who can actually cook, so Richard has no competition at the end and the judges have no choice but to select him, because, let's face it, there's no way Lisa or Spike is taking Richard down.

There's nothing left for me to do but root for Stephanie. At least she's good and not a cocky, douchebag or a bitchy, semi-cook that skates by while screwing other people over or being unable to cook rice properly. I'm going to try to watch the episode again and bring some more legitimate thoughts to the table at some point, but, honestly, knowing the outcome, I might just take the loss here and move on. Dale, I heart you. Keep cooking your bitchy, moody little heart out. I'll stalk you next time I'm in Chi-town.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, MD/DC!

Today is the day we celebrate the birth of MD/DC. You may remember her from such posts as, "I Am Dehydrated - and So Can You: The Story of "Clinical Depression" and Otto" and "The Gator is Good, the Martinis Are Better."

So, now, in honor of MD/DC's birthday, I will post this picture of one of her favorite things:

Also, this picture of Hank Azaria, because she loves him, too.

Also, a shout-out to my old friend, CH, whose birthday also happens to be today. In honor of her, I will post this picture:

because she loves condiments.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for you guys, this means my "Top Chef" blog will most likely be delayed, as I will be out partying with MD until the late hour of 10:30 and will probably not have the chance to watch the show until tomorrow.

P.S. Today is also the day that LB and KN graduate. So, congratulations go out to them from AbS. Here is a picture of John Krasinski to wish them well:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Poll Results Are In

Well, the people seem to be split between saving the George Bush money and buying a new TV, therefore, I will do both. I will save the money, then buy a new TV in the near future, when the fancy 37" Sharp Aquos Liquid Crystal Television is on sale. See what I did there? I nice segue into the Ed Helms Post of the Day:

You know, because Ed does the voiceovers for the Sharp Aquos commercials, as I have posted here and as he talked about on Conan. I can't find the clip due to the YouTube police swiffering it away, but you get the idea.

I will post about my new TV when I purchase it - probably not for a while as I just bought a new computer, for even faster blogging!

Edited to add: It was a tough call, between the TV and the Le Creuset. Even though the people had spoken, I thought about ignoring their wishes and just doing what I wanted. I mean, eff it, it's my blog, I can draw whatever conclusions from the poll I want, right? Then I realized I already have a 3 1/2 and a 5 1/2 round oven, so I probably don't need another. Plus, those bitches are HEAVY and I have an extremely small kitchen, filled with too much kitchen crap, anyway. So, TV it is. The Le Creuset will just have to wait until my birthday. In one month.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, BMG!

AbS birthday shout-out to BMG, the dessert superstar. In honor of his birth, I'm posting this American Flag, because BMG loves America. And the flag.

Also, this picture of Dave Winfield, because he loves Dave almost as much as America.

ETA: This is my 100th post. Strong work timing your birthday appropriately, BMG!

Friday, May 16, 2008

We Were Rejected by "The Daily Show" - And So Can You!

Well, we tried. I reserved tickets online ahead of time. We got into line around 3:45, well within the suggested 3:30pm - 4:30pm line-entering time listed in the email sent to me by "The Daily Show."
But, around 5:00pm, the line police told us we weren't getting in to see the show. So sad. However (bonus alert), the line police said we could get VIP tickets to another show, provided I emailed them to schedule a day! Score one for us. What were scores two and three? Seeing Rob Riggle and Aasif Mandvi leave the studio and come back, enabling me to take surreptitious, stalker-esque pictures of them from the line.

Rob Riggle talking to a writer (?) and drinking a large, iced coffee beverage:

A pissy-looking Aasif Mandvi:

Once we found out we weren't getting in and had given my name to the line police to ensure the VIP treatment next time, we decided to walk the two blocks to "The Colbert Report" and get on the standby line to see if we could see Stephen instead.
Photobucket We waited in line for a bit, then were called up to the front to put our names on the list (apparently we were supposed to do this to begin with, whatever, we had no clue what was going on). Then, the douche-y McDouchersons behind us tried to cut us and get their names on the list first. Douches. We ended up in the right order on the list, after I yelled at those bitches, no worries. I'm old, I have probably 10 less years on this earth than they did, I deserve to see the show more than they do.*

Unfortunately, all the arguing was for naught. We didn't get in Colbert, either. So, we wandered up the street, being left with three hours to kill before our dinner reservations at Blue Smoke. Once we hit 9th Ave., we saw a bunch of bars, and, clearly, since there's nothing else to do in NYC other than drink when you have to kill time, we settled on Valhalla. They had lots of beer and the Yankees game on multiple plasma screens. Why would you choose somewhere else?

Wall of Beer:

The Beer Flights:

MD and I settled on a cider, Doc's Draft Hard Apple Cider, to be more specific. It was delicious. The beer flights and the concoction of Jack Daniels and beer were very tasty, according to BMG and NC. I didn't try them. I'm not that bold. It was a great place to spend a few hours on a Thursday afternoon, killing time before dinner, being happy to not be at work. If you're in Hell's Kitchen, I highly recommend it.

After two flights of beer, three 22-oz ciders, a few more beers, and two of the Jack and beer debacles, it was time to cab it over to Blue Smoke for dinner. Luckily, our cab driver was not nearly as angry as the one who took us to Otto, so we arrived without incident.



Now, just to warn you, we were all extremely hungry, due to not eating since lunch and the excessive drinking that had stopped occurring not even twenty minutes before. So, please don't be shocked when you see the amount of food we ordered and subsequently ate. Here we go:

The Porch Swing

The Condiments and an Illinois Swing

My Pulled Pork Platter

MD's Chicken Fried Sirloin

NC's Rib Sampler Platter with the sides of Collard Greens and Sweet Potato Fries

The Mac and Cheese

The Hush Puppies and the Delicious Dipping Sauce

OK, now, let me tell you. This was all so, SO good. The pulled pork, well, you can see the pink smoke ring, so you KNOW that bitch is good. MD loved her chicken fried sirloin and NC devoured the ribs like there was no tomorrow. The mac and cheese was creamy and smooth and incredibly rich. The sweet potato fries were enormous (TWSS) and cooked perfectly. The collards were clearly cooked for hours and tasted of sweet, sweet, delicious ham hock. The hush puppies were made of awesome and not greasy at all, despite the fact that they were submerged in boiling oil for a healthy amount of time. I don't have a good picture of it, but we also ordered two sides of cornbread. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on your point of view, NC and I were the only two powering through most of the sides, so the two of us had more trouble than the others, me especially, as NC appears to have acquired a tapeworm. Thus, behold the aftermath:


Yeah, I know, kind of pathetic. We tried. Honestly, we did. Next time (oh, there will BE a next time), we'll do better. There was some talk of dessert, since one of the signature items is chocolate cake, served with a glass of milk. And we all know how BMG feels about dessert with milk. However, we decided against it, probably for the best.

Thus ended our adventure of non-Daily Showing, drinking, and the excessive stuffing of our faces. Back to Jersey City we went, to head home and watch the season finale of "The Office" on my TiVo.**

Next up at AbS - MD's Birthday celebration at Daryl Wine Bar.

*That, and while we were waiting on line, they treated us to such delicious sound bites as, "social conservatism is bigotry" and "McCain is pandering more than the other candidates." There were some other choice words spoken, but mostly we were trying to ignore the douche-y McDouchersons, which I apparently did a pretty good job of doing, since I have no recollection of any other word-vomit they uttered.

**And what an incredible disappointment it was. And NOT because of Jim and Pam, I could care less about those two at this point.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Play with Effing Honor - Top Chef Season 4 - Episode 10: "Serve and Protect"

*Note: I wrote this just before the episode started last night:
Let's see if "Top Chef" can redeem itself after the debacle that was last week's episode. Seriously, WTF were they thinking, "Wedding Wars" was horrible.

Well, apparently not. The producers follow up the worst episode of the season with the second worst episode of the season, complete with a boring Quickfire, a boring Elimination Challenge, a boring and useless guest judge, and horrible behavior at Judge's Table. Awesome.

The editors were apparently instructed to work in Andrew's "culinary boner" line during the recap of last week. Meanwhile, Stephanie plucks her eyebrows and pontificates about stepping up her game. Spike wears another hat - a skully, which actually is the least douche-y hat he's worn. I guess it was getting cold in Chi-Town at this point in the filming. I could have done without the shot of Dale's gut hanging out of his chefs coat while he was fixing his hair. Just saying. Dale, I do like you, despite your bitchiness, but the gut? Really? That's your choice for TV?? Andrew says he's going to stab someone - or make some amazing food, yeah, he's probably going home.*

The thing that really got me here was Richard saying they were up for 40 hours straight for the wedding challenge. Didn't Padma say the chefs would work for 14 hours, or overnight? I still can't believe the producers came up with that challenge and thought it was a good idea. Honestly, they're lucky none of the chefs hurt themselves. I can't even function enough to make myself coffee after being up for 12 hours straight. I can't believe they were expected to use large, dangerous pieces of kitchen equipment in that state. So ridiculous.

So, they bring back Sam Talbot as the guest chef. I guess it kind of makes sense for a "healthy" food challenge to bring back the chef-diabetic. Really, I think the producers just used it as a cover, they (erroneously) thought more people would watch if they brought back Hot!Sam. Unfortunately, the producers seem to have forgotten how much he fell out of favor after the Marcel-debacle that was Season 2. Jackass. Also, seriously, could he mumble anymore? Or be any more stoic? Between him and Padma, it was like watching a wax museum on TV. Nice to look at, but useless besides that.

So, the challenge was to make a salad, more specifically to "put the sexy back in the salad" in 45 minutes. Could the challenge be any more vague? Maybe have some kind of minor twist? Like, not being able to use lettuce? Honestly, if the chefs had watched season 2, they would know Sam likes his quick pickles and crudo, so - easy win for those in the know. The chefs get to work, all the while bitching about Dale (Lisa) and talking about how people will want to have sex after eating his salad (Spike). Not a shock on either side.

The Food:
Stephanie - a delicious sounding fall salad with mushrooms. Unfortunately, she runs out of time and leaves off her artichoke chip.
Antonia - poached egg and bacon? Sold!
Andrew - Thai fruit salad - meh.
Spike - Sensual Beef Salad - double meh. (what does the salad name even mean?)
Lisa - Sexy Banana Salad - again, what the...?
Richard - Fresh and Clean Salad, basically a ceviche. I don't know, it looked good. Apparently it didn't have enough acid.
Dale - an awesome sounding Poached Chicken Salad with some Asian ingredients.

Stoic Sam chooses Stephanie, Richard, and Lisa as the bottom three and Spike, Antonia, and Dale as the top three. Then, one douche bag chooses the other douche bag as the winner. I guess they have to stick together. It's probably written in the "Top Chef" douche bag code.** Of course, he no longer has immunity, but will receive an "advantage" in the Elimination challenge.

Elimination Challenge

Padma has the lackeys roll in a cart filled with delicious-looking fast food. The challenge is to create a gourmet boxed lunch for police academy cadets using healthy items, like whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and lean protein. Sam explains he has diabetes and Padma says the spread of obesity and diabetes is a problem in America. Thus necessitating the need for healthy, easily accessible alternatives to fast food. Sidebar, if I may, I like the idea of the challenge. A lot. I'll spare you the rant about the state of nutrition knowledge in the U.S., but I absolutely think it's necessary to show people how to make healthy food for themselves and educate people about what healthy choices they can make in their everyday lives. I also think it's important for policemen and women to eat healthy, how many times do you see cop cars going through the drive through at McDonalds? But, my issue with the challenge is this. There's no follow-up. They didn't teach the cadets how to make the food themselves. They didn't offer any nutritional guidance. They didn't make this food available everyday. Again, what's the point? I think that's the theme of this whole season. They found great chefs and give them challenges with no point. What a waste.

Anyway, off to the grocery store to shop. Spike's advantage is to select one item from each "healthy" food group that only he can use and he gets a 10 minute head start with his shopping. Instead of taking time to plan his dish and actually make something good and inventive, douche decides to "play the game" and try to screw the other contestants over as much as possible by taking bread, lettuce, tomato, and chicken as his ingredients, so no one else can use them. Honestly, this part made me kind of sick to my stomach. If you're on a show about cooking, shouldn't you cook good food? That speaks for itself. Making crappy food just to screw people over will only get you so far.

The chefs return to the kitchen and have two hours to cook their food, box it up in GladWare, transport it to the academy, then instruct the cadets how to eat/reheat the food on site. The cooking was kind of boring, aside from Lisa's Ricegate drama. Honestly, I think she just turned it up herself by accident. I do that all the time. I think if someone had sabotaged her, the cameras would have caught it, don't you?

Sniff and Sneer - Again, not very eventful. Lisa poisons Tom with some hot sauce and Tom calls Spike out for blocking the other chefs needlessly. Tom nicely sums up the sniff and sneer with, "The chefs seem OK with healthy food. I think we'll see some great dishes"

Serving the food to the cadets - The cadets get to go to the tables and choose the food they think sounds the best. Spike uses another inane strategy - pretending his food is going fast by hiding the extra. Richard acts like a tool and asks people if they like burritos. He interviews that he made the burrito because he thinks "normal people" like them and would be interested to try a healthy burrito. I think he's an idiot. Although, maybe he's still recovering from "Wedding Wars" so I'll give him a pass.

The Food:
Stephanie - mushroom and meatball soup with root vegetable puree. It sounds and looks delicious and the cadets and judges really seem to like it. I'm so glad. I was getting worried about Stephanie's focus over the past few episodes, looks like she's back, bitches!
Spike - chicken salad, raw vegetables***, grapes, with a side of useless bread, lettuce, and tomato. The judges secure a place in my heart by calling his food "pedestrian." Ted thinks Spike's an idiot for using all his time to make salad and screwing the other chefs over. Tom thinks Spike's an idiot for using the lettuce and tomato ONLY as garnish (I'm kind of projecting my own feelings, here).
Dale - lemongrass bison lettuce wrap, which also sounds delicious. The judges like it, too.
Antonia - curried beef, jasmine rice. Nothing more is said about it, which means she'll be in the middle.
Andrew - salmon maki roll, about which the judges say the "flavor isn't great." Also, he didn't use a whole grain in his lunch and it doesn't seem to be very filling.
Richard - tuna burrito. The judges say it tasted good, looked bad.
Lisa - shrimp stir fry with rice. The Judges say it's very spicy and rant about the undercooked rice. Aah, Ricegate continues.

Judge's Table

The judges choose Dale and Stephanie as the winners. Iko is inexplicably excited about her two favorites being in the top two! The judges go through both dishes, saying Dale's choice of lean bison was great and that Stephanie's soup was perfectly seasoned and very hearty and delicious. Sam chooses Dale as the winner and we actually get to see his prize! A giant bottle of Merlot and a trip to Napa Valley.

The judges ask Dale to send in the losers: Spike, Lisa, and Andrew. Yeah, not really surprising. Andrew's food was not substantial enough, but, he still rambles about how he studied nutrition (again) and argues about the rules.**** Tom ends Andrew's rant by saying his sushi just didn't taste good. The judges call Spike out about screwing the other chefs over and for his use of olives AND grapes in the chicken salad (blargh). Spike douchily counters by saying the "common person" said the food was amazing. Lisa's there because her food wasn't really a stir-fry and because just about everything was improperly cooked.

And then, the drama starts. I don't really want to get into it, because it makes me ill, so I won't. Sufficed to say, Lisa calls Andrew out on not following the rules and basically says she's afraid he might punch her in the face (if he doesn't I will). Spike acts like an asshat the entire time and Andrew arrogantly talks down to the judges about nutrition and basically says he didn't follow the rules intentionally because he knows better. If you want to know more, come by my apartment and you can watch Judges Table on my TiVo. Or find someone closer to you who has TiVo. Or just watch Bravo, I'm sure they'll replay the episode ad nauseum for the next week to amp up the drama.

In the end, Andrew goes home. I think it was a fair choice, his food was bad AND he didn't follow the rules. However, I really wanted it to be Spike, after his piss-poor attitude toward the other chefs and his inability to make a good lunch. Honestly, I was kind of hoping for the trifecta elimination, because, really, all three need to go. it can't happen soon enough. At least Andrew seemed pretty chipper as he left, none of that "being dragged out by security, this is my house" from early on. I'll almost miss him in his twitchy glory.

Next week - Restaurant wars! Dale yells!

*Totally wrote that before Judge's Table! Nailed it (/Andy Bernard)!!

**Rule IV.A.1.c.xi. "Thou shalt choose another douche as the Quickfire winner, if you shalt come back as a guest judge in a subsequent season."

***My favorite thing about Spike describing his dish to Padma was when he initially said 'crudite,' then changed to 'raw vegetables,' as if she didn't know what crudite was. Actually, she may not.

****Dont' the producers realize they need to spell the rules phonetically for him?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ed Helms Post of the Day: I Can't Believe I'm Going to Say This

What the heck happened here?

(taken at the NBC upfronts this week)

Ed, I love you - like more than a normal person should love a person whom she met once and was too afraid to talk to. Like more than a normal person should love a person she saw on a random street another time (perhaps not too random, as it was before a UCB show in NYC in which the second person was performing) and was too afraid to talk to.

So, I say this out of love: Seriously, get a haircut.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ed Helms Post of the Day

Just ignore Kristin, she's annoying as always and (also as always) contributes nothing to the interview. They should have just let Ed talk for 3:21.

Bonus points: Check out his socks!

Fork - Philadelphia, PA

So, AbS ventured down to Philadelphia, PA (the city of brotherly crunch) this past weekend to celebrate the birth of BW. You may remember BW from such posts as the Bar American adventure, among others.

Friday night was the surprise party, which was pulled off quite artfully by EdT, as BW had no idea and was quite surprised. A good, drunken time was had by all, especially me, as I didn't have to drive home on Friday night. After a strong Saturday afternoon of TiVoed shows, lunch, and a trip to the butcher, we were off to Philly to Fork, for dinner.

OK, actually, we went to Patou for a pre-dinner cocktail, as we arrived early for our reservation and, clearly, needed the liquor to help numb the pain of the night before. I chose a vodka martini, after contemplating the wine list, while BW chose...something purple. I think it was "the voltaire" after a quick consult with the online menu. Here they are:
BMG and PW opted for a gin and tonic and a glass of scotch, respectively, both poured with a heavy hand by our faux-hawked bar tender - not so good with the hair, but good with the pour. Here's a crappy shot of the bar:

We spent about an hour at Patou, then headed next door for our dinner at Fork.
And let me tell you, what and effing dinner it was. Seriously, made of awesome. It's honestly the best dinner I've had in a long time, including food I cook for myself, and I'm pretty biased toward my own cooking (and pretty arrogant about my culinary abilities - mostly kidding). Wow. Where to begin? With appetizers, of course!

BW, PW, and I are all pretty adventurous when it comes to trying food, so the three of us decided to get a bunch of appetizers and share them, then BW and I would share an entree and another appetizer for dinner, we didn't want to have THAT much food (although we did anyway). PW chose the Hamachi Sashimi, with chili oil, basil, and carrot-cucumber slaw, BW selected the roasted beet salad, with goat cheese and mache (also known as my favorite green ever), and I opted for the seared scallops with watercress, green mango, and curry-citrus vinaigrette. OK, sorry to invoke RayRay here, but YUM-O! All of it was so, so, good. The scallops were giant and cooked perfectly, the hamachi was so fresh and tender, the roasted beets paired fantastically with the goat cheese and pear (and the mache, of course). The salads were all dressed properly (a pet peeve of mine), not too much dressing and clearly dressed just before being sent out, not all wilted from wallowing a puddle of vinegar for 20 minutes.

The Hamachi:

The Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Pears:

The Scallops, oh, the scallops:


For the actual entrees, BW chose the Duck Confit with Frisee and Bacon, while I chose the Hangar Steak with Chimichurri, Yucca Fries, and Sauteed Chard, again, to share between the two of us. The duck confit was SO good. You know how sometimes you get crappy confit, when it's really chewy or super greasy? Yeah, this was the opposite of that, falling off the bone delicious and so tender.

My steak was really good, too, although, thinking back and looking at the picture, I don't think it had any chimichurri on it. Maybe it did, I was a martini and two glasses of wine in at this point, so it's definitely fair that the sauce was on there and I completely ignored it and promptly forgot about it. I will also say that I ordered this steak medium-rare and it totally arrived medium rare. Awesome. I heart their grill man.

BMG had the NY Strip Steak and substituted the Brussel sprouts for snap peas, since he's a baby and wouldn't try them. His steak was really good, too, a perfectly cooked medium and full of beefy-goodness.
Notice his smart-casual shirt in the background.

PW had Seared Duck Breast with Citrus Glaze and Lentil Salad:
Now, I love lentils, more than most normal people, but I will probably never like any lentils as much as I liked these. No joke. I wish I could go to Fork, steal their recipe, and make them for myself everyday. Luckily for me, PW isn't such a huge fan of lentils, so I got to power-through a whole lot of them.

Here's the aftermath:
Special thanks to PW's hand for properly indicating the aftermath.

So, you're probably thinking that's it, right? I mean, how could normal humans eat more food? Well, we did. I mean, it's BW's birthday weekend - we had to get dessert, right? (I'll also say here, I'm not sure these dessert descriptions are exactly correct, they've changed the dessert menu since this weekend, so it may not be exactly what we had. I'm sure BW and PW will correct me if I'm wrong, though).

BW's Strawberry-Rhubarb Spring Rolls with Basil Gelato:
The basil gelato was made of awesome. I'm not a huge dessert fan, but I would bathe in that stuff.

BMG had the Chocolate Mousse Cake with a side of Milk:
Bonus points to the restaurant for not even batting an eye at BMG ordering a glass of milk with dessert.

I had a cheese plate for dessert, which, by the way, is a giant mistake after gorging on food over the previous hour and a half. I didn't really think it would be a problem, but, unfortunately, I forgot that I normally have NC with me to help power-through the cheese. Nevertheless, I ventured onward, to my eventual stomach pangs due to extreme fullness. The cheese menu was actually fairly good sized and very varied. I selected three different cow's milk cheeses, as those are my favorites and also because I'm kind of lame. I think I would have been OK with just the cheese, but the selection came with a bunch of other stuff, too:
Oh fermented lactose, why can't I quit you?

That was pretty much it. I don't think it would have been possible to eat any more food after that showing, plus, we had to drive back to BW and PW's house, so no more alcohol (not that any liquid would have fit into our already distended stomachs). Thus, we returned home, just in time to watch Shia on SNL (MacGruber!) and go to sleep. All in all a fantastic evening.

And, seriously, if you find yourself in Philadelphia at any point in the near future, run, don't walk, to Fork. Well, maybe call ahead and make a reservation, then run there. It's totally worth it.