Episode 3, on paper, sounded offal swell, with chefs Wilo Benet (Puerto Rico's Piyako and Paya), Cindy Pawlcyn (Napa's Mustards Grill), Rick Bayless (Chitown's Frontera, dumb goatee!) and awesomely French Ludo Lefebrve (L.A.'s Ludo Bites) being assigned the dubious task of feeding the Universal Studios crowd animal odds and ends. In execution, however, 'twas a touch duller than the Nerd Valhalla glory of Episode 2, due both to the humorless Quickfire guest judges and the fact that no tourists from the Midwest were shown barfing up tripe on the Waterworld ride.
Quickfire: The chefs were tasked with recreating the color challenge from Top Chef Season 2 ï¿½ composing a dish based around a randomly selected hue. Benet drew orange and whipped up a tartare-style deal with smoked salmon, tomato paste and coconut milk. The betatted Lefebrve got red and created a visually shocking steak tartare coupled with watermelon, red onions and a poured-on beet gazpacho that was likened to blood by one member of the frowning all-lady judges' panel, which consisted of a food stylist, a cookbook author and a food photog. (Not even close to a fair criticism ï¿½ you asked this guy to make everything red! If he'd drawn blue this chick probably would've whined about the shit looking like Smurf semen.) Pawlcyn pieced together an all-yellow veggie curry with sweet corn grits and crispy fried tortillas. Ricky B. did some roasted mole verde vegetable thing on a banana leaf, talking the whole while about how "intuitive" his cooking was. Though the stupid judges whined about the ring mold around Benet's tartare, they gave him the QF win with 4.5 stars.
Elimination: Host Kelly Choi (who, apparently, isn't allowed to drop a "hands up, utensils down!" call, so she just yells "hands up!" in her impish little voice) tells the foursome that they're going to cook up offal ï¿½ you know, those "non-traditional" animal parts/organs ï¿½ in a street food setting for a bunch of people touring through Universal Studios. Benet gets beef hearts, which he's never messed with before. Lefebrve is assigned tough and unruly pig's ears, and promptly explains that he knows exactly how to cook them, in addition to knowing exactly how to cook all the other contestants' items. Pawlcyn receives tripe, a Meal Ticket favorite. And Rick ï¿½ RICK! ï¿½ Rick gets tongue, which, OF COURSE, Rick LOVES.
Perhaps I should expand on my slight disdain for Rick Bayless. I've never really dug him, ultra-manicured beard notwithstanding ï¿½ he's just smarmy, and the worst part about it is that he seems to believe that his self-congratulatory prattling about how much he knows about Mexican cuisine is serving some sort of lofty didactic purpose. I understand that he's an extremely accomplished and eloquent chef ï¿½ perfect for TV ï¿½ but everything he says is tainted by an off-putting self-satisfaction. Please understand that I've never eaten at his restaurants ï¿½ I base these grumbles solely on the many hours of Bayless-based programming I've taken in over the years. Also I just realized that Rick is Skip Bayless' brother, and I'm not sure whether or not this makes me like him less or more.
Watch the Rick video above and form your own opinion.
Back to organs: After dropping $300 on Whole Foods ingredients, the chefs return to prep their dishes for street service. Lefebrve decides to make a pig's ear quesadilla ï¿½ "Everybody love quesadilla," he states matter-of-factly ï¿½ prompting Bayless to hate him for being French and trying to do something Mexican. The pleasant Pawlcyn decides to do a hangover-erasing menudo (a Mexi stew) with her stomach. Benet stuffs his heart into a pita sandwich with ham and chicken ï¿½ a slick and meaty move.
Quickfire winner Benet comes very close to punching a ticket to the finals with a 19.5, but in the end, Rick edges him with 22.5. BAYLESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!
Next week tonight: Neil Patrick Harris.
... it's coming! Sorry. I missed the airing and its subsequent re-airing due to a Wednesday evening cocktail marathon 4K that included stops at the new Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., among other spots. I don't have DVR. I know this is not a very good excuse.
|Photo | Drew Lazor
Chef Peter Karapanagiotis of Old City's Privï¿½ (246 Market St., 215-923-8313, priveoldcity.com), tells Meal Ticket that he'll appear on Food Network's Chopped ï¿½ the excellent three-round battle-cooking show that's essentially a commitment-free Top Chef ï¿½ on Tuesday, August 25. He's got to remain mum on the outcome, of course, but in the meantime, here's a good opportunity to check out Pete's eats: Tuesday through Sunday, Privï¿½ offers half-price small plates (the "mezze" category) from 4 to 7, along with a complimentary hors d'oeuvres flight (think crab gallettes or tuna tartare). Drink specials during happy hour (they extend it till 9 if the weather sucks) include $3 domestic bottles, $3 house wines and half-price specialty cocktails.
After the jump, check out Privï¿½'s recently revamped menu.
Celery Salad Garnishedï¿½$7
Secret Spiced Feta with Roasted Red Piquillo ï¿½Peppersï¿½$5
Watermelon "village style"
Feta, House Made Lavender Honey, Candied Walnutsï¿½$6
Spiked Tomato Salata
Lemon Vodka & Pomegranate Dressing tossed with Roasted Habanero Peppersï¿½$10
Frozen Roasted Beet Marmalade
With Fried Goat Cheeseï¿½$6
Warm Pear & Taleggio
Whole Red Oak Lettuceï¿½$15
Red Tomato Gazpacho
Yellow Tomato Salad Garnishï¿½$5
Peach Martini Parfait
Crï¿½me Fraï¿½che, Mint, Almonds, Served Parfait Styleï¿½$5
Chopped Vegetable Salad
Tomatoes, Feta, Red Peppers, & Olives Tossed In A Dijon Emulsionï¿½$12
Figs & Prosciutto Salad
Gorgonzola, Rucola, White Balsamicï¿½$9
Flash Fried, Salt & Pepper, Spicy Aioliï¿½$9
Daily Cheese Selection
Locally Crafted Sausage
"Our Famous" Alsatian Choucrouteï¿½$13
Served with Greek Village Saladï¿½$14
Short Rib Stuffed Peppers
Orzo Pasta, Feta, San Marzano Tomato, Rosemary Jusï¿½$11
Baked Goat Cheese in Crispy Fillo Served With Red Pepper Eggplant Salad, Wild Berry Balsamicï¿½$11
Traditional Cypriot Cheese, Flash Fried, & Topped Spicy Pepper Relishï¿½$8
Rosemary Focaccia, Boursin Cream Sauce, Truffle Fragranceï¿½$12
Spices Feta & Olive Tapenade With Chips in Chipsï¿½$15
Lobster Tail Over Orzo In A Scallop Vermouth Sauceï¿½$25
Yellowfin Tuna "limited"
Over Rice, Topped With Honeydew-Mango Salsa, Spring Spicesï¿½$25
10 oz. Beef Tenderloin "Chicago Style"
With Fingerling-3 Onion Fondue And Sage Jusï¿½$31
Salmon Paillard "limited"
Caramel Olive Glaze, Tzatziki With A Truffle Essenceï¿½$16
Spicy Cavatelli "house made"
Tossed With A Ratatouille Of Vegetables In A Tomato Butterï¿½$14
Veal Short Ribs "Painted Hills"
House Made Risotto Cake, Popeye Spinach, Rosemary Incenseï¿½$21
Whole Branzino "limited"
Flash Fried, Served With Couscous And A Crispy Caper Beurre Noisette Sauceï¿½$29
Shrimp Orzo "Caliente"
Orzo Pasta, Spice Feta Cream Sauceï¿½$18
Lamb Rack "New Zealand"
Feta Potato Mash, Early Summer Vegetables, Whole Grain Mustard Demiï¿½$25
Whole Grain Mustard, Butternut Squash Puree, Haircot Vert, Natural Jusï¿½$17
Duck "10 hour braised"
Rice, Nappa Cabbage, Juniper Berry Natural Jusï¿½$19
Daily Risotto Preparation
Camaroli Rice, Summer Vegetables, Red Wine Reduction Sauce...$14
Pomme Pureeï¿½ï¿½ $5
Wild Riceï¿½ï¿½ $6
Fingerling-Leek Fondueï¿½ï¿½ $6
Chips in Chipsï¿½ï¿½ $3
Sautï¿½ed Spinachï¿½ï¿½ $5
Grilled Asparagusï¿½ï¿½ $5
Herbed Couscousï¿½ï¿½ $5
Last week, I addressed the whine flu outbreak that spread as a result of the slow-moving debut episode of Top Chef Masters. (Kelly Choi = a host in more ways than one.) While I didn't disagree with the criticisms (sticking Christopher Lee in a shitty dorm room to prep is slightly off-putting), I was confident they'd make it interesting sooner rather than later.
So how did last night's episode ï¿½ which involved four superstar chefs cooking a feast themed around ABC's Lost ï¿½ turn out? Let's throw that one to Aziz Ansari of Human Giant and the criminally slept-on Parks & Recreation, who discusses food stuffs regularly on his Twitter:
I am with that.
Last night's contestants ï¿½ Elizabeth Falkner (Citizen Cake/Orson in San Fran), Suzanne Tracht (L.A.'s Jar), Graham Elliott Bowles (of his eponoymous Chicago restaurant, and TCM's youngest cheftestant so far) and wd-50's Wylie Dufresne, a multi-appearance Top Chef guest judge who's been given more opportunities to talk about how much he likes eggs than I've been given to make love to a beautiful woman. Last week, I predicted that wily Wylie, he of the foodie-boner-inducing moleculargastronerd persuasion, would breeze through to the championship round of Masters based on the show's outward-bound obsession with him. Turns out ï¿½ bless my tapioca malodextrin-sprinkled stars! ï¿½ that I was really wrong.
Quickfire: Choi throws the four chefs a roll of quarters to recreate the infamous vending machine amuse bouche challenge from Top Chef Season 2. Judging: Former cheftestants Ilan, Betty and Michael, all of whom competed in the original. Dufresne found some time between coin feeds to explain his original life goals: "If I had my druthers, I'd be a professional athlete, but I'm not particularly fast or tall or strong," he says. (If I had my druthers, I'd ball-tap anyone who uses the word "druthers.") He earns a lackluster 3 stars out of 5 for a grilled cheese with beer nuts and a Dr. Pepper reduction. Falkner braises beef jerky for a 3.5. Though Bowles comes close to taking the challenge with his 4.5-star tuna salad with pickled shallots and orange soda froth flavored with lime leaf, lemongrass and ginger, Tracht ends up on top thanks to pitch-perfect fried shallot rings with a microgreen salad and Dr. Pepper aioli.
Elimination: Using a bunch of island-y ingredients, the foursome must cook up plates for a group of Lost staffers, including the writing team, co-creator Damon Lindelof and exec producer Carlton Cuse. Tracht is a big Lost fan, stating that she frequently sits down and watches the show for "three and a half hours" at a time. Since it's an hour-long program, that means she creates her own cliffhangers, which is masochistic. Dufresne's never seen Lost, which is probably a good thing for him because the island's mystical magnetic properties would probably prevent him from transmogrifying foie gras into a badminton racket or whatever the hell that guy likes to do.
In addition to the fresh stuff ï¿½ fish, wild boar (shoutout to Locke), and various veg ï¿½ the chefs are allowed to buy canned/pre-packaged products to emulate the long-shelf-life Dharma Initiative products from the show. The guests take much glee in the fact that the servers for the challenge are bedecked in Dharma jumpsuits. (This is probably the point in the program when Ansari laid his set down on his futon.)
Falkner braises and sous-vides some boar with ancho garlic rub and throws it together with a papaya yam pudding Gael Green curtly compares to baby food. Bowles, a Navy brat who grew up on the island nations of Hawaii and the Philippines (what up!), impresses with a multicultural tuna trio, including a coffee-crusted plancha-grilled loin that makes Saveur's James Oseland swoon. Dufresne does roast chicken with ï¿½ yes ï¿½ï¿½ his signature poached egg, along with a plaintain purï¿½e and some banana mustard. Lost's Lindelof likens Dufresne's offerings to "a piece of art in a museum that I don't understand," which is a totally fair criticism from a guy who's responsible for creating one of the most straightforward, easy-to-decipher shows in television history.
Tracht, who already had a big leg up from her Quickfire win, earns plaudits across the panel for her seafood risotto with uni, clams and prawns, wild boar strip with oyster beer sauce and mango corn salad. "If I was lost on an island, I'd want your instinct for flavor to get me through the dark nights," Britcrit Jay Rayner tells the Angeleno chef. Tracht ends up securing a slot in the finals alongside Episode 1 winner Hubert Keller, accruing a total of 22.5 stars. Rounding out the finish: Bowles (20.5), Dufresne (20) and Falkner (16.5), who I think got shafted a little bit.
Next week: Rick Bayless whines about quesadillas.
Tom Colicchio visited the Williams-Sonoma in the Bellevue yesterday to get his scribble on and grin at slews of blushing admirers. The line to chat it up with the chef, restaurateur and Top Chef judge snaked throughout the store, and people waited up to 45 minutes for a personalized version of his latest book, 'wichcraft (Clarkson Potter), full up with sandwich recipes from his multi-location concept of the same name. The eager throng was happy to wait, however, and like the patron foodie saint that he is, Colicchio was gracious, posing for pictures, answering recipe disaster questions and chit-chatting with starry-eyed foodies.
Here's a clip from this morning's Today, featuring chef Jose Garces whipping up fish tacos for an inquisitive Meredith Viera.
Local superstar and recent recipient of the James Beard Foundation's award for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic, Jose Garces will appear on the Today show tomorrow morning. Chef and owner of Amada, Tinto, Distrito and Chifa in Philadelphia, as well as Mercat a la Planxa in Chicago, Garces will talk about his award and prepare halibut tacos from his first cookbook, Latin Evolution.
Catch our guy on Tuesday, June 16 at 8:50 a.m. The Today show is broadcast by our local NBC affiliate, Comcast channel 10, in the greater Philadelphia area.
Keep your eyes peeled for Garces' upcoming Whiskey Village, adjacent to Tinto at 20th and Sansom, to open late this month.
Remember when Meal Ticket's own Felicia D. participated in Open ChefAMe, the "kitchen karaoke" event at the Dark Horse Pub? Well, 6ABC's FYI Philly program filmed a segment that evening, and it aired this weekend, in support of the next ChefAMe event, scheduled for June 22. Look at Flea go above, and check out all our previous Open ChefAMe coverage while you're at it.
From my perch in the alley behind atop the precipice of Food TV Mount Olympus, I can see some marked ambivalence toward Top Chef Masters, the Top Chef spin-off that debuted on Bravo last night. "Shit is boring!" I hear y'all say. Two thoughts on this. First: We're one episode in, relax. Second: I think Top Chef fans might've overestimated how compelling 24 all-stars competing for a $100K charity prize would be. Sure, these polished women and men will all bust their asses to earn cash for a cause (and save face too, of course), but since they're already so established, the hungry, competitive scramble that makes the original TC such an addictive watch is simply a non-factor. (There's also no Tom C. or Padma! There is Gael Greene, thankfully.) We're probably going to have to toe-tap till the six-chef championship round to witness the real craziness.
(Real quick, logistical crap: Each ep features four chefs competing in a Quickfire and an Elimination. All the QF challenges you see will be borrowed from previous Top Chef seasons. There's a star system: QFs are worth 5 and Eliminations are worth 20. At the end, the one chef with the highest star total earns a finalist slot, and the other three are sent home.)
Episode 1's four gladiators ï¿½ Christopher Lee (NY's Aureole and formerly of Striped Bass; check out Adam Erace's great Q&A), Hubert Keller (SF's Fleur de Lys; seems like a real nice guy, looks like Euro Gandalf), Michael Schlow (Boston's Radius) and Tim Love (Fort Worth's Lonesome Dove).
Quickfire: The cheftestants are told by host Kelly Choi (I think they posted a Craigslist like "Seeking Hot Ethnic Woman Who Claims to Be a 'Foodie' But is Clearly Too Skinny For That Shit") that they'll be whipping up a dessert for some Girl Scouts. First impressions: Lee and Keller seem happy to be there, Schlow does not, and the producers really enjoy playing up that Love is "just a punk from Texas" with no formal culinary training. Look at that guy, juggling eggs! How non-traditional!
The Scouts, as expected, are far tougher critics than little girls should be, and Lee expresses his desire to cap the redhead who keeps saying everything sucks. (Always the redheads.) Keller ends up winning the QF because he uses mousse and whipped cream to form adorable edible animals (right). He earns a perfect five stars for his efforts. "Cool, you can't higher than that," he exclaims.
Elimination: The four chefs are given $150 to cook three courses in a Pomona College dorm room using only a hot plate, a microwave and a toaster oven. "I don't even own a microwave oven," says Schlow with the same ennui-soaked inflection of someone who thinks they're cool because they don't have TV. You don't care about what they cooked (though Keller did rock pasta in a dorm shower ... mmm) so I'll gloss over that this time to share what I found most interesting about this round ï¿½ there was a huge gap in scoring between Love and Schlow and Keller and Lee. While neither the cowpokin' toque nor the Beantown Italian chef managed to break 15 stars, Keller and Lee earned scores of 20.5 and 19, respectively.
Could it be that two those simply outcooked their opponents on that day? Absolutely. But it's also worth pointing out that both Keller and Lee have a discernible leg up on the other two guys in terms of national presence. While it's too early to truly tell, I won't be all that surprised if the Masters season progresses in this manner, with lil' Epicurean Manchurian Candidates gently ushered through to the finals to ensure airtight ratings. So if wd-50's Wylie Dufresne takes next week's LOST-themed episode ...
Last thing: I need someone to figure out a way to superimpose this picture of Hubert Keller DJing onto tabs of acid so I can drop 90 of them.
Little preview from Lauren Fleming's latest What's Cooking column: This coming Sunday, June 14, at 9 p.m., drop by frequent Meal Ticket haunt The Sidecar to meet Katie Cavuto, the Philly girl who's doing us proud on the latest season of Next Food Network Star. (The first episode ï¿½ï¿½ source of the photo above ï¿½ just aired this Sunday.)
The fifth season of the Next Food Netï¿½work Star is underway, and if one of the contestants looks familiar, itï¿½s because Philaï¿½delphiaï¿½s got a representative: Katie Cavï¿½uto, a native and owner of Healthy Bites (a business that brings nutritional meals right to your door), is celebrating her appearance on the show with a little party at the Sidecar. Guests will get a chance to meet Cavuto, watch the second episode, swig some brews and root for our girl. Sidecar Bar & Grille, 2201 Christian St., 215-732-3429, thesidecarbar.com.
Cavuto was recently featured in Lauren F. Friedman's piece on Philly Kitchen Share.
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