Saturday, May 10, 2008

Coffee and Donuts in Paradise

by Erin

Hey folks! Tomorrow we are leaving for a week to go to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands! Xani is going for work (lucky gal) and I am tagging along for a post-exams vacation since I am now DONE with my second year of law school! Can you believe it?! I can't. Maybe a mojito or two on the beach will help it sink in ;).

Anyway, we just wanted to let all 5 of you loyal readers know that we may not be able to post this week, though we're hoping to have decent internet and therefore the ability to post about all of our island eats (and Top Chef, of course!). If not, we'll surely update you when we get back.

Our hotel, the Buccaneer (arrr)

Congrats to my fellow students on finishing yet another year! I'm off to hit the beach!

Happy travels,


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Top Chef 4: Wedding Wars

by Erin and Xani

Last night's episode featured two of the most popular quickfire and elimination challenges in the Top Chef arsenal, and definitely personal favorites of ours. First, for the Quickfire Challenge, it was the famous relay race challenge! The chefs drew knives to be divided into two teams. One team was Dale, Nikki, Lisa, and Spike; the other team had Richard, Andrew, Antonia, and Stephanie. For the race, one chef from each team had to do one of four tasks:

peel and supreme five oranges, clean two artichokes, clean and fillet a monkfish to produce two fillets, and make one quart of mayo.

Lisa pulled her team way in the lead by finishing her oranges way before Antonia, but then Spike got cocky (big shocker there) and messed up one of his artichokes. The monkfish filleting was pretty gruesome. (Did anybody catch when Andrew told Richard to "body slam" the fish??) Then last was the mayonnaise, which actually had some of the chefs stumped on how to make it by hand, not in a food processor. Wow. Anyway, it was a close race, but Stephanie pulled it out in the end and their team won! Dale was none too pleased, evidenced by his shouting and punching a locker. Is that a way to act in front of Chef Tom??

The winners of the challenge didn't get immunity but were given a slight advantage for the Elimination Challenge. In the past couple seasons, the chefs have participated in the "Restaurant Wars" challenge - always intense, always entertaining, usually mortifying for one team (anyone remember season 2, where Sam's watermelon with bleu cheese sauce made Gail almost lose her lunch?). This season, however, they changed it up a bit: they did Wedding Wars! The chefs had to cater the wedding of a couple (both restaurateurs, to be sure they'd be tough critics), and one team catered to the bride's taste, while the other team focused their menu on the groom's. The prize for the winners of the Quickfire? They get to pick whether they want to work for the bride or the groom. Richard's team chose to work for the bride, a choice seen as risky by Chef Tom and some others because brides are so picky. Richard's reasoning? "It's the bride's day." He's been trained well.

The teams met with either the bride or groom, and discussed menu ideas. The groom requested a full-fledged Italian menu, with antipasto, roasted vegetables, pasta, and a chocolate-hazelnut cake. The bride is from the midwest and south, and wanted a "meat and potatoes" kind of meal and an "interesting" cake for her big day. The chefs have $5,000 per team to buy what they need, and soon they are off shopping in extraordinarily large quantities. How do they know how much to buy??

Then the cooking began. The chefs had 14 hours to cook everything, then they had 2 hours to prep at the site of the wedding. They even set up cots for them! But they didn't sleep AT ALL. They just cooked and cooked until the next day for the wedding. They looked like crap by the end.

But then everyone rallied for service for the wedding, and it looked like a fun time. Did anyone else notice that the bride wore different dresses to the ceremony and reception?

The special guest judge for this challenge was Gale Gand, one of the country's best pastry chefs. Tom, Gale, Padma, and special guest Gale were at the wedding, trying the hors d'eourves, trying the buffet, and most certainly, trying the cake.

In the end, Richard's team won! The judges particularly liked the brisket and the horseradish sauce, and Stephanie got props for doing bride's beautiful the cake entirely by herself. The judges picked Richard as the winner since he was the team leader (of course), but then he gave the prize, a $2,000 gift certificate to Crate & Barrel, to Stephanie because she did the cake! Very sweet.

Then came the losers. There was so much tension and drama in this group it was almost too much to watch. Dale claimed that he was picking up all the slack, but the others responded by saying he did a crappy job at all the things he did. Nikki was UNBELIEVABLE when she didn't take a leadership role in the project - Italian food is her specialty, AND the groom loved her ideas! That was just so ridiculous. Lisa just sat there smugly as the other three proceded to self-destruct before the judges, since she made the (hideous but apparently delicious) groom's cake. In the end, it was Nikki who got the boot. FINALLY! As Dale said at the beginning of the episode: "why are you still here?"

Next time: It looks like they are cooking for someone very tall and very handsome - looked like TC season 2's Sam from the back! Also, looks like they are cooking for cops - this should be good.

EP's take: This week I had Richard, Andrew, and Stephanie on my Fafarazzi fantasy team, and I earned 25 points!! I was a little wary when all three were on one team (what if their team loses?, I thought), but then when they won the Quickfire, I got points for all of them, and when Richard won but then gave the prize to Stephanie, I got points for both of them winning! I am still in first place in the BCD group, but just by a hair.

I thought it was a very good, dramatic, and challenging episode. I LOVED the relay race - good knife skills and techniques are such a big part of being a good chef, and it's challenges like that that put me in my place because I SO cannot do what those guys did. I thought the catering challenge was good, though a little ridiculous that they had to stay up all night, but I guess that makes good TV. In any case, I'm very happy with all my POINTS!

What I wished I were eating: I wasn't that enthralled with either the bride's or the groom's menu, although the pork ragu that Dale made sounded interesting, and Antonia's pizzas and the mini pulled pork sandwiches looked awesome. I would have liked to try Stef's dark chocolate and lemon cake with cream cheese frosting too.

Favorite chef at the moment: I'm back on the Andrew train! I'm sad that he hasn't won in a long time, but it is clear that he knows what he's doing, even if he is a little crazy. Anybody catch what he said when he was making all that creamed spinach?? "I'm Popeye's wet f***ing dream right now." Oh, Andrew...

Xani's Take:

Well, I didn't clean up quite as much as EP, but I had a marked improvement from last week-- I scored 22 points!

My team of Andrew, Stephanie and Spike was not too shabby. I knew picking Spike was a risk, as he's going to be kicked off sooner or later (I mean, he has to be, right?), but it ended up being shrewd choice as he earned me three points for cursing and another 4 for his fight with Dale. Sweet!

I also really dug the relay challenge. I was sure someone was going to end up bleeding by the end-those knives were flying sooo fast- but turns out all the contestants have mad skillz. Also, I could not have whisked for that long. When I need to beat, like, two eggs, I think my arm is going to fall off! That's what electric mixers/food processors are for. The elimination challenge was pretty cool-- how do you think that couple ended up on TC? The bride's Dad is probably one of the producers or something, no? I thought it was interesting although the number of catering challenges this season is ridiculous. Having to make wedding cakes was certainly a curve ball... I would have made a cupcake-cake (of course!!)

What I wished I were eating: Well, in my experience wedding food is all about the hors d'oeuvres. I would have gone for the short rib phyllo bites.

Favorite chef at the moment: I still love crazy Andrew, but Richard is proving himself over and over again. He can cook normal, non-gimmicky food, lead a team, etc. And giving his win to Stephanie was gag-inducing but nice. I guess.

So what did everyone out there in Internetland think? Would you allow your wedding to be catered by Top Chef? Would you know how to make a mayonnaise from scratch? Do you think the BCD girls should have a relay race at the next BCD party? Approximately how many fingers would be lost in this process? Discuss.

EP & X

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Blog It Test and Spring Spectacular!

by Xani

A few weeks ago I heard about this new Facebook application, Blog It. Blog It allows you to simultaneously post to your numerous blogs (?!), Twitter, and other various social networking things I don't even know about, directly from Facebook, while also updating your feed. Fancy, no?

Well, not yet, as I haven't been able to get it to work! So I'm testing it again, and using it as an excuse to put up a few pictures and very little content. Maybe i will get lucky with this post (that's what she said?)... Enjoy!

Spring is:

Trading pantry-raid meals like Spaghetti Carbonara...

for fresh asparagus. Comin' at'cha!

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Beers with friends at Jack's Bistro in Canton

Mushroom money shot

A garden full of flowers going from this...

to this!

Happy spring everyone,


P.S. Yeah, couldn't get Blog It to work. Posting the old fashioned way. Any other bloggers out there using this application and getting it to work?! Please come to my rescue!

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