Thursday, March 13, 2008

Top Chef 4... It Begins.

by Xani and Erin

Well, TC4 has started and its shaping up to be a great season! Last night's episode introduced all 16 chefs, and let them show off their culinary skill and style. The quickfire was a Chicago-themed challenge where the chefs put their own spin on Chicago style deep-dish pizza (judged by Padma and guest judge Rocco DiSpirito). The "winners" (did it bother anybody else that there was no clear winner? Just 8 chefs who were good and 8 who sucked? Maybe just us...) then drew knives to determine the order of the elimination challenge. Each winner challenged one of the remaining chefs in a head-to-head preparation of a classic dish like Eggs Benedict, lasagna, Duck a l'orange or souffle. The chef who cooked the superior version of the classic was in the running to win the challenge, the chef who cooked the weaker dish was up for elimination. In the end, judges Padma, Rocco, Tom Collichio and (our favorite!) Tony Bourdain sent Nimma home, and named Stephanie as the challenge winner!

Xani's Take:

I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode. As you all know, we're making this season a little more interesting with our Top Chef Fantasy game (Our catchphrase: "It's time for a SNACK DOWN!" It's not too late to sign up-- you can still create your own team here. And once you have a team, make sure you join the BCD group by following this link). My team for this week (you can change every week) was Nikki, Andrew, and Manuel.

Things were looking bleak when ALL THREE of my picks ended up in the bottom half during the quickfire-- crap! But Andrew's near-constant string of curse words had me racking up the points. Of course, then he "forgot" an ingredient needed for his crab cakes during the elimination round (minus one point, but seriously, the Top Chef kitchen doesn't have mayonnaise? I was surprised, too.) which sparked a passive-aggressive mayonnaise battle between Andrew and Richard (aka Haircut). Manuel was something of a non-starter with his steak au poivre, which the judges liked but didn't love. I had high hopes when Nikki ended up in the top four! Would she win the whole challenge and earn me four points?! Alas, it was not to be. In the end I earned a measly 10 points, all from Andrew! Eleven for cursing and minus one for forgetting the <BLEEP>ing mayo!

Dish I wished I were eating: Stephanie's duck a l'orange-- I think the judges got it right with this pick. That duck spring roll looked killer!

Favorite chef at the moment: Andrew. He's kindof a pain in the ass but he's funny, entertaining and might just know how to cook.

Erin's Take:

First, I have to comment that Richard (aka Haircut) used leg meat in his crab cakes, while Andrew did it the RIGHT way and used lump. He still lost, but it's the principle, right? All my Marylanders with me here?? Anyway, my team this week was Spike, Ryan, and Mark (aka The Hobbit).

While they all three "won" the quickfire with their deep-dish pizzas (by the way, I can't believe Mark used MARMITE (the Kiwi version of Vegemite) in his pizza!), two of my three were in the bottom four for their crappy versions of classics (Ryan for his Chicken Piccata and The Hobbit for his Duck a l'orange) and I was on the edge of my seat. Luckily, Nimma got the ax for her overly salty Shrimp Scampi and my team was spared. In the end I got 12 points for the three quickfire wins and a couple people cursing. The points for cursing is silly here - don't they know that chefs are potty-mouths??

Dish I wished I were eating: Like Xani, I'd have to say Stephanie's duck looked amazing (especially the egg roll), but so did Nikki's lasagna.

Favorite chef at the moment: Although I didn't really like him in the beginning (especially his overly manicured facial hair), I kinda like Erik. He's a badass like Howie of last season, without being as annoying (yet). I also really felt for him when he got picked to make souffle - that's gotta suck. I also am a fan of The Hobbit, but he looked pretty scared at the elimination last night...maybe I shouldn't get attached.

So, how did everyone do??
X & E

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Where do we watch the Terps play? Don't Know!

by Erin and Xani

This post is a little unusual since it combines two different experiences at the same place into one. So, don't be alarmed by the amount of food in this post - it was TWO MEALS, we swear!

As some of you may know, the BCD family follows Maryland Men's Basketball, which in recent years has been a labor of love. We long for the days of our NCAA Championship in 2002 and our ACC Championship in 2004, but these days we just watch and hope that they don't screw up too badly.

The two of us have recently started watching the Terps games at a bar right around the corner from EP's house in Federal Hill (technically South Baltimore) called "Don't Know." Yes, the name of the bar is Don't Know, which is cute until you try to tell someone via text message where to meet you. Very frustrating...

Anyway, we've watched two games recently at DK, both with the same results: the food was great and the Terps lost. So let's talk about the food and forget about the games, shall we?

Don't Know has a great selection of beer and wine, and we think they have a special on Friday nights for a $5 "bottomless wine glass" for ladies until a certain time - not too shabby! The last time we were there, our waiter brought EP a tasting of a few different wheat beers to help her decide which to get - very cool of them.

Tasting Menu

For appetizers, we've had the Wild Mushroom Bruschetta and the Capicola-Stuffed Mozzarella. The bruschetta was quite good, sort of do-it-yourself, where you take an herb crostino and put the mixture of tomatoes, basil, onions and wild mushrooms on top, then add a little goat cheese and balsamic reduction. Delicious!

The Capicola-Stuffed Mozzarella was also amazing. It was like the best, classiest version of mozzarella sticks we've ever had. They take fresh mozzarella, stuff it with capicola, and fry it, and then serve it with a great marinara sauce and lots of grated parmesan cheese. Except, when we got it last week, there was a distinct lack of capicola - we think they forgot it. But it was still great! It's probably even better with some added pork products. But hey, what isn't??

Where's the Pork??

One great thing about DK is that not only do they have sliders (one of Xani's most favorite things because they are tiny and delicious); they have a SELECTION of sliders! These include the "lamburger slider" with muenster cheese, kobe beef slider with portobello confit, tuna burger slider with wasabi mayo, duck breast slider with gorgonzola, venison slider with blueberries and boursin, and black bean slider with sprouts and cheddar. We've had the lamburger sliders and the kobe sliders, both of which were quite good (they had a nice charred, fresh-off-the-grill flavor) and properly cooked (which is hard to do with sliders since they are so small!).

Lamburger Sliders with Muenster

Kobe Sliders with Portobello Confit

In addition to the sliders, we've had the grilled cheese (made with four cheeses, fresh tomato, and bacon) and the meat pizza (with capicola ham, bacon, sausage, and filet mignon with goat cheese and parmesan). More pork products, anyone? Both of these were great and we recommend both of them. If we had to pick one to be the best, it would be the pizza - great crunchy crust, delicious toppings, and just the right size for a personal pizza piled high with meat. We'll also mention that our friend Sarah ordered the chicken fingers, which she said were some of the best in her LIFE, and if you know Sarah and her love of chicken fingers, that is really saying something.

Blurry 4-Cheese Grilled Cheese

Meaty Pizza

Last but not least, we must mention the fries at Don't Know. The last time we were there we noticed an addition to the menu: duck-fat fries! We were so excited to order them (and the order was HUGE). Unfortunately, they were quite disappointing. They weren't shoe-string fries, they were like potato slices, and they were completely bland. Boo! Thankfully, Sarah ordered their traditional garlic herb fries, which are delicious, garlicky fries (some of the best in Federal Hill, we'd say), so we all feasted on those. Whew! Crisis averted!

Duck Fat Fries...meh

Garlic herb fries - hooray!!

Don't Know is a great bar with good service and great food, and you can bet we'll be back, but maybe we'll wait until basketball season is over??

Happy eating (and GO TERPS!),

E & X

Sunday, March 9, 2008

BCD Presents... Top Chef Fantasy Game!

by Xani

Hey everyone! In case you didn't know from our previous posts, we are HUGE fans of Bravo's Top Chef. This season (season 4, in Chicago) is starting up in just a few days (season premiere Wednesday, March 12). In order to make this season a little more... interesting, EP and I have decided to sign up for the Top Chef Fantasy Game! Each week, each of us will choose three chefs for our team, and gain or lose points according to Fafarazzi's scoring system (actual rules not posted yet but based on the rules for the Project Runway Fantasy game, which of course we were obsessed with, there will be points given or taken away for things like: winning challenges, using catch phrases, cursing, crying, etc). Then, on Thursdays, we'll post our recaps of the show, our score breakdowns and talk some smack. Sounds fun, right?? Who will be triumphant?!?!

Also, we encourage all of our readers to sign up for their own Fafarazzi fantasy team, and join in on the fun... you can post your own scores and smack-talk in the comments. It's totally free to play and the day after the show they email you your score! HOW FUN IS THIS GOING TO BE???!!!

OK, got overexcited there... but seriously, I'm stoked. Make your Fafarazzi Top Chef Fantasy Team NOW!


ps. UPDATE: The rules are up! See them here!

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