Monday, December 27, 2010

The Naked Quickfire

When we last left Top Chef, they were gearing up for a Quickfire to make stuffing. The twist to making the stuffing and winning immunity and $20,000 was to do it without any utensils. I feel this deserves a blog post in it will be reviewed with no words or photos, to match the stupidity of the challenge.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays

Karmic Kitchen Christmas Card 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Curious Case of Jamie Lauren

Here we are, we've just finished Episode 4 and I think we're seeing the revolution of the Top Chef Game Player. I'm beginning to think Jamie Lauren is brilliant.

Sure she cut herself and took the advice of the medic and went to the hospital to have her finger stitched up. Did she cut herself on purpose? Certainly no one can believe that but I also don't believe Jamie went to the hospital in order to duck her responsibilities of the team dish. Like it or not, they won't auff a chef because they hurt themselves. Would have others done differently, geez yeah, we had a whole parade of war stories but make no mistake about it, Jamie is her own woman and seems to know what's best for her. It's not like she's refused to cook every dish, she just missed out on helping with Jen's dish and she undercooked her chick peas for Match Play.

If you should be pissed anyone for the Yellow Team losing it should be at Asshat. They so depended on his so called strategy instead of calmly assessing out their best match ups head to head. Who is your best chef, match them with their best chef and down the line. Stupid thing was Asshat could have taken Blaise if his shrimp had even been halfway decent. Let's also not forget that Jamie is under no obligation to do what anyone says, it's still a competition and knowing her dish wasn't up to snuff and refusing to put it out there kept her in the game. Was she supposed to throw herself under the bus for Asshat?? That alone makes me like her. Even better?

Getting Richard Blaise all agitated. His little exchange with Jamie was telling. He asks her about what her "story" is which is a reference regarding how each chef gets a story line developed about them whether they like it or not. Villian, underdog, hero, one to beat, and so on. Blaise seems to think that Jamie's story is how Jamie's not cooking which is bullshit. She's cooking at this point it's just not in the top or bottom. Solidly in the middle. What about Blaise's story? He's not exactly blowing away the competition. Episode One he was one fourth of a Chicago Sausage Quickfire win. Episode Two he was one third of a win with Banana Parfait. Episode Three he is again a fourth of a win for the Quickfire with a Crispy Lambchop. That's it. When it comes down to just Blaise and his dish, no wins. If he's as good as he certainly thinks he is, shouldn't he have at least a single dish win? All I know is that Jamie seems to be the Teflon Chef, getting under Blaise's skin and helping Asshat out the door. Which means it's all good at Blogging Basement Central.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Asshat Goeth

Strategy. It only works to your advantage if you can get other people to do what you want. But really the best strategy is to make the best food possible. YOUR best food.

Cooking your shrimp twice and failing on the seasoning both times? Tell me again how Angelo sabotaged that? All I saw was two better chefs trying to save your dish in 30 seconds and failing at saving the shrimp. If you really thought it was a great dish you would have shoved them away and stood on your own.

Not surprising that you stayed true to your Asshat form, yet again blaming other people or things for your own failure instead of bowing out with dignity like Stephen and Dale before you. Not only that, you got beat by other players who played the game much better than you and that's not Angelo, that was Jamie and Tre. Our ultimate advice to you? Stick with the burgers and pizza, it seems to be what you do best but please leave the seafood to others and we'll all be much happier.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Could Not Resist

Write your own caption

Alright my little TC Crack Monkeys, time for you to write your own caption. Let's try and keep it fairly clean but let's face it, there's an avenue that's begging to be strolled down...

Monday, December 20, 2010

New York's Finest

I'm not sure just how much I enjoyed the Elimination Challenge. Could be that my ambivalence stems from my Big Gay Boyfriend getting auffed and my other all time favorite, Tiffani almost getting auffed. But I think it has more to do with what they were asking the chefs to do. They were basically asked to put on another chef's jacket and make a dish that fit on that particular chef's menu. I get the genesis of this challenge. It has everything to do with Marcel's little dust up over his making a cyber egg dish for an article in Wired Magazine back in 2007. Later a sous chef at wd-50 claimed that Marcel stole/copied/plagiarized the idea from Wylie Dufresne. It actually led to some very interesting discussions as to who owns the intellectual property of recipes. On the one side you've got Coca Cola and their high tech security set up to protect the recipe of Coke but then you've got every other chef out there looking for an edge at getting and keeping customers in their restaurants and if that means borrowing a great dish idea from a competitor, so be it. Here each team has to go to one of four restaurants, eat some of the dishes the menu features and then make a dish that would fit on menu, tastes good and still manages to represent the contestant. It's a pretty hairy challenge.

Knives are drawn to determine which team gets which restaurant and menu. The Green Team of Mike, Fabio, Angelo and Tiffany draws ...

...David Chang's French/Vietnamese arm of his Momofuku empire. The Red Team of Casey, Jamie, Dale L. and Antonia pull...

David Burke's interesting take on Modern American Cuisine. The Blue Team of Stephen, Tre, Richard and Asshat yank...

...Michael White's coastal Italian cuisine with a heavy emphasis on seafood. Last but not least, the White Team of Tiffani, Dale T., Marcel and Carla are left with...

...Wylie Dufresne's delicious laboratory of molecular gastronomy.

Right off the bat you know some of these chefs are going to struggle. Fabio would have been much happier if his team has pulled Marea but instead he's got to put aside his natural inclination towards Italian and pound out a French/Vietnamese dish. Tiffani, I'm sure, would gladly trade places with anyone on Townhouse's team since modern American is more in her wheelhouse.
A little sampling of what our chefs enjoyed.

Wylie's aerated foie gras.

While they never named this Marea dish I think it's roasted John Dory.

Angelo tries to snort the Pickled Watermelon at Má Pêche.

Two hours to cook a dish in that restaurant's kitchen. Double elimination. Why? Because they can. It goes rather smoothly which really means no one cut themselves and went to the hospital. Just going to hit the highs and lows but first I have show you this dish.

I don't know about you but I see plenty of radish, peach and cilantro (?) but what I don't see a lot of is flounder. This is Tiffany's Flounder crudo and I know I'd be pissed at how little fish is actually in this dish. I'm hoping she meant it to be an appetizer and not a main at Má Pêche.

The dishes that really nailed the challenge?

Dale T.'s Sunnyside Up Egg Dumpling with Braised Pork Belly and Milk Ramen that hits Wylie in his soft eggy spot and manages to make an awesome bacon and egg dish that would have been fun to serve to the museum kids of the last episode. I seriously want to slurp this up.

Tre's Swordfish with braised artichoke, mushroom panna cotta and basil oil for Marea. Not the biggest swordfish fan so I'll take the judges word on this dish.

Angelo's Turmeric marinated fish with dill, cilantro, salmon roe, chorizo and white chocolate for Má Pêche. This is where your adventurous foodie side has to kick in. Automatically I would never order fish with white chocolate. No, I'd have my most daring foodie friend with me and let her order it and I'd taste it. That is a heck of a lot going on. Think about these flavors separately: turmeric, salmon roe, chorizo. Just those three on the same plate is playing with fire not to mention what looks like a lot of dill but not so much cilantro. If Angelo can make all that work in a dish together with fish (only mentioned as river fish) and white chocolate, then yes, snort all the pickled watermelon you want because that's quite the trick.

Then there's Antonia's Seared Scallop with Pea Purée (oh geez, not pea purée again), carrot purée, pickled carrot and mint oil representing Townhouse's menu. Now her dish is interesting if only for the fact that it got the patented Tom Colicchio too salty comment. However and this is where many a former Top Chef contestant starts pulling their hair out, David Burke says it's not too salty for him. He likes aggressive salting of his food. So we're left to wonder, would Antonia been in the top if Burke hadn't spoken up about that particular issue? Not that it matters because Dale T. wins the challenge and gets a sweet trip to New Zealand.

The bottom four are fairly easy to pick out.

What can I say? Tiff was definitely out of her element in the wd~50 kitchen, Fabio went way too heavy for the lighter side of Má Pêche, Dale went too sweet (and remember that Burke said he liked where the dish was going) and Stephen just couldn't walk the tightrope with his aromatic spices. As I said earlier I thought for sure it was Tiff and Dale so I have no idea how the judges ended up with Dale and Stephen. All I know is that the fashion aspect and the entertainment quotient dropped considerably with these two wonderful competitor's elimination. They will both be missed.

Which means no more descriptions like Food with Jazz Hands. You bastids!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Have you noticed?

Remember back during Season Three and Casey's reputation as the Spider Woman? If Casey befriended you, suddenly you found yourself on the chopping block?

It appears that she's left the Black Widow moniker behind but picked up a new one. Cassandra. For those who slept through your Greek Mythology class, Cassandra was given the powers of prophecy but also cursed with the dilemma of no one ever believing her predictions. Casey has been incredibly accurate in her tasting of some dishes that end up causing the chefs to pack their knives. Episode One we can't really count since yes, she tasted Elia's dish but her comments never made it on camera. Episode Two she was the voice of disbelief when Jen proclaimed her dish tasted good. Wet bacon I believe was the term she used. Even more interesting was that she didn't taste Tre's sauce just before it hit the plate for their own dish, perhaps saving him from getting eliminated. Episode Three rolls along and there is Casey tasting Dale's dish, telling us how he's got too much going on and that she's very worried for him. So who goes home? Dale! Episode Four should be very interesting. Watch out for whose dish Casey tastes. If she doesn't like it, you better start saying your goodbyes.

Friday, December 17, 2010


We saw a lot of high in food in this past episode but I wondered in particular how David Burke's cuisine came across on TV?

Above is the Crisp and Angry Lobster dish from the show and below is a better photo of the dish.

I would try making this dish but I don't have a bandsaw to cut the lobster in half that precisely.

Roasted rack of lamb with roasted octopus from the show.

A promotional shot of the same dish.

Is this appealing to you, matching the curled tentacles of a large octopus with your rare lamb chop? Would you order it at Townhouse?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Quick Doesn't Always Mean Best

Because this is Top Chef All Stars, The Season of Redemption, it was only natural that there would be a Quickfire that featured team food preparation. You knew it, I knew and Casey especially knew it. I'm sure as soon as she signed up for this season she started chopping onions in anticipation. I think I even heard a rumor she was Meryl Streep's stunt onion chopping double in Julie/Julia.

I think we can safely assume she was more than ready for this particular Quickfire. A great Quickfire too. It takes the original Mise En Place Relay Race and ramps up the competitive nature and stress even more. Deceptively simple, four teams of four, prepping three ingredients, whole heads of garlic into four cups of chopped garlic, trim down fifteen artichokes, and french a whole lotta racks of lamb. But that's not the end and finally, they figured out how to keep all the teams in play. Once one team is done with all three ingredients and hits the red button, the countdown clock starts winding down from fifteen minutes. The quickest team off the ingredients now has the entire time to make a dish using the three ingredients. The remaining three teams will have whatever time is left once they finish their prep work. All four team members can participate on all the prep work to get it done. Best tasting dish wins the challenge and $5000 for each member of the team.

If I had to predict which team would have been the fastest off the prep just by team makeup I think I would have gone with the Blue Team. Asshat knows meat and is pretty quick on prep and Tre also looks like he wields a mean meat prepping knife. However Tre shares a little secret...

...which doesn't look good for the Blue Team. He could have taken some lessons from Marcel who is whipping through his lamb with his hammering technique.

Is he using a sharpening steel to do that? Whatever it is, he's right, it's cleaning the meat away from the bone much quicker and cleaner then the other methods we're seeing. Not that it matters right now because the first task that gets done is the garlic by the Fabio and the Green Team. This sends all the other teams into a panic. Except for Tiffani who for some reason decides to use a mandolin to slice her garlic. Slowly and methodically.

Definitely a wtf moment in Blogging Basement Central. It doesn't help that the Green Team just got done with their lamb followed closely by the Red Team completing their garlic task. That leaves the White Team and the Blue Team having yet completed anything. It gets worse for them because now the Green Team is having their last task checked and racing to hit the big red button.

Which means the fifteen minute countdown to dish completion has now begun. The knives start flying for the other three teams as they race to complete their prep work. Still it has to be good prep work as Asshat finds out the hard way...

...when guest judge David Chang rejects his garlic as not being cut small enough. Finally the Blue Team gets done with twelve minutes to go. Actually enough time to put some heat to the meat. Red Team clocks in at ten minutes. The White Team struggles to finally finish with eight minutes and thirty eight seconds. The last two teams realize that raw meat is their only choice and both choose to serve lamb carpaccio. The last eight minutes whip by in a frenzy of cooking and ideas. Now it's time to taste the dishes.

Green Team who had the most time comes up fried lamb with a bizarre colored sauce.

The Blue Team with a pan seared lamb and artichokes cooked three ways.

The Red Team's lamb carpaccio with large flakes of cheese.

The White Team and lamb carpaccio number two.

The low teams on the totem pole? Green and Red. This leaves Angelo confused.

How can this be, the Green Time had the most time but turns out their herb additions blew out the other flavors. Which is also what happened on the Red Team with their cheese addition. The White Team and the Blue Team turn out the be the top two, even though White slapped something together with less than nine minutes. Who wins the big wad of cash?

The Blue Team....except Richard can't wait to explain how he was the leader of the winning effort. (I see a big, sparkly necklace in Richard's future.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


bye Boyfriend

Humble Pie Award

Didn't really have any candidates for Crimes in Plating this week nor did we really have anyone who thought they were the shit, at least not enough to earn themselves a sparkly necklace. But we did have an excellent candidate for the Hot Slice o' Humble Pie Award and a prominent example of the healing powers of Redemption. Back in season one, Tiff endeared herself to no one with her "Kids aren't sophisticated enough to understand my cooking" attitude. Luck rode on her shoulder that day because Immunity saved her. So coming back and facing kids again was an opportunity to put right what was so wrong last time. She admitted it and then she backed it up with the best dish in the Quickfire that appealed to kids and winning immunity in a timely fashion. Again.

Tiff Humble Pie

So this week's award goes to Tiffani Faison who proves you can change and perhaps pull in some little future foodies who will want to see what else you can cook in your restaurant besides giant chocolate snowballs.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

All Nighter

When we last left our chefs, they had just survived the voracious hoard of demon children that had attempted to suck the very marrow from our heroes bones. It's 1:30 in the AM and collectively they had one thought, a little drinking and a lot of sleeping.

The sudden appearance of the man with the Shiny Head puts a kibosh on those plans. You see it's time for the Elimination Challenge. A 7:30 breakfast service for the kids and their parents. They can only use what's in the museum kitchen and Tiffani, as the winner of the Quickfire, gets to choose between the T-Rex diet of meat, eggs, dairy and meat by products or the Brontosaurus diet of fruit, vegetables and grain. Tiffani, takes all of a half a second and chooses meaty T-Rex making her teammates happy and the boys team sad. They then trundle off to their accommodations for the night.

What no mints??
They try and anticipate what they will find in a few short hours but let's face it, they can't do much until they see their choices. So the girls go to sleep, Tre longs to "sleep nekkid" (one k or two??)

and a bunch of boys go for a flashlight tour of the museum. Did they attempt to breach the kitchen security to get a leg up on challenge? WHY NOT!!

Instead they look for the familiar....

...and find it.

No time for sleeping, time for checking out the pantry. It is here that Tiffani discovers the twist in this particular challenge.

Yes, they have their meat but there's no acid, no herbs, no grains. Meat, dairy, eggs. That is IT, did you not listen to Chef Tom?

Yeah, you should have KNOWN better. It's Tom, you can't trust him. But here's my question. If you had known the limits of the pantries, would you have chosen veggies and fruit over meat and eggs for breakfast? Yes, no? Doesn't matter now, gotta cook. Well almost for everyone. It isn't long before Jamie slices her finger and decides, upon the advice of the on set medic, to go to the hospital and get stitches. This leaves Jen to pull off their dish alone and results in a sudden parade of kitchen war wounds and duct tape bandages with the general consensus being Jamie should have sucked it up. Yes, she's getting her cut stitched but really she might as well stay there for the eventual bus tracks she'll be wearing later.

Service starts promptly at 7:30 and here's what the two teams are serving,

Team Brontosaurus

Team T-Rex

Now I know what I'm thinking, frittatas, soft scrambled eggs, salmon and a slab of wet bacon is the plate I'd grab over gnocci, gazpacho, banana pudding parfait and polenta and most of the crowd did too but keep in mind, judging rules are very fluid when it comes to Top Chef. Just because a big group of people think one team's food is better than the other doesn't really mean that it is. Except that's how in the real world you sell food. Popularity. But this is Tom's world so that means Team Bronto wins. They get praised for serving gnocci for breakfast instead of recognizing it for being just another one trick Italian Pony from Fabio. But what really blows my mind are these three guys.

All three finalists in their seasons, two molecular gastronomists and Mr. Devious Perfection and the freaking best they can do is banana pudding parfait? They win the challenge with a pedestrian banana pudding parfait??? Which only makes it harder to hear the criticisms of the meat team for making steak and eggs well but really, if you can't make steak and eggs well, you shouldn't be here. It's just this sort of thinking that drives Jen over the edge of Judge's Table reason. Twitching with anger, she defends her dish like no one has ever defended a dish before. The rest of her team? Tre, who's sauce apparently ruined his and Casey's dish, says, oh well. Antonia and Tiffany sheepishly admit to being totally outwitted by an oven. J2-Stitch says nothing. All that's left is to tell Jen to pack her angry, angry knives and go, thus ending her way too short time on Top Chef All Stars. Sorry Jen, more of that passion is what is making this a great and interesting season.