Archive: December, 2009
|TwitPic | Campo's Deli
Campo's in Old City (214 Market St.) has put together quite the patriotic cheesesteak in honor of tomorrow's Army-Navy game at the Linc. The "Flying SUBmarine" ($8) is your choice of meat (chicken or steak), roasted tomatoes in blue cheese sauce, American cheese (USA! USA!) and crumbled blue corn tortilla freedom chips. It's too bad it's available this weekend only, as we wanted to eat this sandwich while blasting Van Halen's "Running with the Devil" on a hot pink boombox from inside a voting booth/riding in a tank wearing a sweet helmet and waving the stars and bars/gently petting an eagle on its majestic bald head.
Baker/chef Nick Bronson was profiled by CP back in 2007, and eventually started contributing to our food pages. He tells Meal Ticket that he left his post as chef at South Philly's Michael's Cafe (reviewed back in May) less than a month back to get back in the dough -- he's now kneading away for Northeast Philly's lauded Wild Flour Bakery.
Stephen Starr made his first appearance on Bravo's Top Chef during Season 5's Restaurant Wars episode. For Top Chef Las Vegas, he sat at the Final Table during last night's finale episode. Meal Ticket caught up with the restaurateur today to get his thoughts on the experience.
Some Top Chef fans here in the city are sore over the fact that they always identify you as the owner of Morimoto and Buddakan in New York, but gloss over all your restaurants in Philly. What's up with that?
The first time I was on [Top Chef New York], it was a totally new experience, and I had no idea what they would do. I had barely watched the show and I didn't know much about it. I don't know why they didn't say that. If I do it again, I would make sure they say that I'm the owner of restaurants in both Philly and New York. My guess is they're sort of not giving us the respect we deserve, just honing in on New York. And of course, that's ridiculous. Philly is our home, and most of what I do is here.
Did you feel as though the format for this final table ï¿½ï¿½ mandatory dessert, the "mystery box" ï¿½ damaged the finalists' ability to showcase their strengths?
It probably hurt them. It's like playing in the World Series in 60-degree temperatures or 40-degree temperatures. What's easier on the pitcher and batter? It's better when things are controlled. If they figure out how to do their best and plan it in their heads, I think it'd be much easier and better.
Now I don't know when Tom Colicchio actually told them [about the various twists]. It might have been 7 in the morning. So if they were told that at 7 a.m., it's not as much as a curveball, since we taped until the late afternoon. But generally speaking, my answer would be that those curveballs would only hurt the chefs.
How long did the taping for the Final Table actually last?
Five or six hours? I don't know. I have all these confidentality agreements so I can only give you the broad view.
Based on what you tasted, do you feel as though the right chef came out on top?
It was really close. And at the end of the day, I was not the judge who made those decisions. I really liked that dessert with the pumpkin seeds. It was really good. People said it was dried out, but it didn't matter ï¿½ the flavors and consistencies were really good. I think that dessert was from the guy that won [Michael Voltaggio]. Bryan [Voltaggio] did the venison ï¿½ that may have been the best [entrï¿½e]. But if memory serves me well, I think that the right guy won.
I don't watch these things very often. I'm really way too busy to watch them every week, but I read on the Internet when people are like, "So and so should've won." But there's no way you can know who should've won by watching TV. You gotta eat it! I think that people really develop a fondness for the characters, like that guy with the beard [Kevin Gillespie]. He was a very folksy, likeable guy.
With so many palates at one table, there was bound to be some disagreements about specific dishes, right? Any disputes or differences in opinion that didn't make it onto the show?
Not really ... there were no major disagreements on this one. Tom Colicchio is excellent, by the way ï¿½ he really is almost a professor with his analysis of food. My opinions are very basic ï¿½ which may be better ï¿½ but Tom's are so much astute and prolific. He's really good.
Taking their styles and cooking in consideration, which of the three chefs would you most like to hire for one of your restaurants?
If you really want me to be very honest with you, the conditions by which we eat this food, the number of dishes we have ï¿½ it's not even close to being enough for me to determine if I would do a restaurant with them. If I were a judge the whole time, sure, I could figure it out.
Funny you say that, because leading up to the Final Table, they had the contestants saying stuff like, "This could make or break our careers!"
It's a television show, you know? It's a very well-done and successful one. It's inspired a lot of people to not only watch, but to want to cook.
You said you didn't care for the inclusion of bacon in Kevin's dessert. Safe to say we'll never see a bacon-laden dessert at a Starr restaurant?
Chefs are experimenting with lots of stuff, and pork has become a very important ingredient in cooking. Of course, it's always been. [That type of dessert] is being done a lot now ... but putting pork in a dessert for me is just gross. I don't want pig ice cream.
So are you not into that vein of experimentation?
When you're a young chef and you just start doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff ... your foundation needs to be strong. Your knowledge of classic techniques needs to be awesome. Then I think you start to play. That's the danger in cooking shows and things like this. Maybe a lot of people are going too quickly to the experimental stage before they have the basics down pat.
What are the chances of seeing a Top Chef season set in Philly in the future?
I don't know. Of course I put my two cents in that they should do that. I've pushed the producers. I told them they need to come to Philly, it's a great culinary town. I think they are considering it.
Last night, Top Chef's sixth season wrapped up in fairly dramatic fashion. Dramatic chair-leaning was involved.
First off, it should be said that this final three ï¿½ brothers Bryan and Mike, and Kevin ï¿½ is, in my opinion, the strongest in the show's history. Unlike last season, when I (and some of the rest of y'all, i'm guessing) boo-hissed at my screen due to the groan-inducing nature of the conclusion, I knew that all the remaining finalists were worthy adversaries for one another. While it's easy to argue that these three were groomed from the outset by producers based on their manifold archetypal value ï¿½ tall good-looking blonde dudes! vicious sibling rivalries! jolly Southern gentlemen! pork fetishes! tattoos! beards! ï¿½ you can't knock the numbers: This threesome combined to win 12 of the 13 elimination challenges this season. No joke.
To be honest, I was surprised and a little disappointed that they decided to switch up the free-for-all format of the final challenge this year. While in previous seasons the judges had final cheftestants cook up whatever they pleased (the transcendently beautiful Padma would always say something melodramatic like "cook us the best meal of life," and then make a series of sensual gesticulations), this year's ultimate challenge carried a barrage of stipulations and limitations that I believe hampered the overall results for the worse. At first, Bryan, Mike and Kevin are told that of the three courses they're required to cook, they'll have free reign over only one. For the other two, one must feature ingredients out of a Chopped mystery box (above ï¿½ rockfish, kobacha squash, meyer lemon, etc.), and the other ï¿½ the other must be DESSERT. Nooooooo.
Before they get their prep started, the chefs draw knives to see which eliminated contestants will back them up in the kitchen. Kevin pulls Preeti (who was probably offended by this facepalm-worthy WaPo correction) and Ash. Mike adds Jessi ("She's a workhorse") and Eli to his team. Bryan gets Ashley as well as our girl Jen.
While the three finalists sit and stew in a really nice hotel room, they're thrown for yet another loop when their adorable mothers show up and immediately start crying and matting down their sons' cowlicks with spitty fingers. This, of course, translates into even more work for the guys ï¿½ now that mamadukes action is in the house, they have to tack on a fourth course, one inspired by a favorite childhood dish.
The cheftestants cook, Kev gets mad at Preeti for chopping veggies too slow, Bryan reveals that he hunts to "be more in tune with his ingredients," yeahyeahyeah. The final table, at Douglas Keane's Cyrus, features all the usual suspects, plus a murderers' row of big-deal restaurateurs, including Sam Nazarian, Donatella Arpaia and Philly's own Stephen Starr.
Kevin's mom dish, chicken skin over a complex squash casserole, is a huge hit. His mystery box dish features a wack matsutake mushroom, and his pork belly is also poorly received ï¿½ odd, since pig is his wheelhouse. His similarily kosher-unfriendly dessert, a banana/peanut/chocolate/bacon deal, moves Starr to declare that he doesnt't want pork in his sweets.
Bryan's mom-homage sardine starter wins praise, but his sous-vide rockfish mystery box dish is deemed too safe by Gail. His venison/sunchoke purï¿½e main, on the other hand, is a smash, as is his polished dulce de leche cheesecake to round it all out.
Finally ï¿½ Mike dehydrates broccoli for his childhood memory plate (he was a picky eater), but serves an iffy spot prawn with it. His dashi-glazed rockfish is generally well-received, and the same goes for his squab breast with pistachio cassoulet and 'shrooms. A chocolate/caramel/squash coulant/brulee combo for dessert doesn't quite come full circle.
At judges' table, Kevin's zapped at the outset (the unfortunate timing of some personal issues might've played a part), so it comes down ï¿½ much to Bravo's devious glee, I'm sure ï¿½ to the Voltaggio brothers (have I mentioned that they have a SIBLING RIVALRY?!). Bryan's food is "well-presented and beautifully constructed," says Tom C, while his brother "reached high, and often delivered." So who the hell is rightly supposed to take this thing?
Mike Voltaggio is your new Top Chef, winning $125,000, the title, and psychological dominance over his older brother for years to come.
Questions and thoughts for y'all (let's hear what you have to say in the comments):
- Hell of a close call between these two, based on both season-long success and finale performance. What, at the end of the day, do you think bumped Mike past Bryan?
- What went wrong for Kevin in this episode?
- What did you think of all these final-table curveballs ï¿½ the mystery box, the mandatory dessert, the mom course? Good to level the playing field? Or squelching for the competitors?
- How much of a role ï¿½ in any ï¿½ did the Voltaggio sibling rivalry play in both of them to the very end?
- Is Mike the father of Padma's baby?
Check back on Meal Ticket a little later, when we'll chat with Stephen Starr about the Final Table.
Tonight at 8, P.Y.T. in the Piazza is hosting It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Quizzo, which we believe is the first Quizzo of its kind in the city. The three-round competition, hosted by P.Y.T. bartendress L'oreal (she also wrote all the questions), will feature gift certificates to Tommy Up's burger joint ($75, $50 and $25) as prizes, plus pitchers of beer as a reward for bonus rounds. It's Always Sunny's season finale airs at 10 p.m., after which point they'll kick off a game of "Flipadelphia" (aka the flip cup tourney featured in tonight's ep) at the bar.
|Photo l Jessica Kourkounis|
|Octopus carpaccio with olives and citrus at Fish|
-- Can you guess the major difference between a big Fish and a Little Fish?ï¿½ Seems like the answer is chicken skin!ï¿½ And a liquor license. Trey Popp is lured by Mike Stollenwerk's Fish.
--ï¿½ David Snyder voyages north of Vine to CityView condos' newest restaurant tenant, NoVi.ï¿½ï¿½ Ingredients of suspicious origin, harassed service and "gnocchi heavy enough to bend space-time" make this one an unfortunate No Thanks.
-- Where can you go wild over radicchio, eat Christmas dinner like zee Parisians do, hobnob with the Slow Food Society and attempt to taste every fine holiday ale?ï¿½ Erin Mae Szrankowski reveals all in What's Cooking.
-- Tortilla Press Cantina gets a second shot at life and Zack's Cafï¿½ keeps it under $6 right now;ï¿½ WMD Hot Sauce and Green Eggs Cafï¿½ are still on the waiting list.ï¿½ Read all about it in Drew Lazor's Feeding Frenzy.
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
Got word that tomorrow's public hearing on the liquor license for Brew (1900 S. 15th St.), which was originally scheduled for 10 a.m., has been pushed back to 1 p.m. Location is the same ï¿½ the old Strawbridge's building at 801 Market, entrance at the Marshall's. Attendees ï¿½ meaning, those who have already submitted their names ï¿½ are asked to arrived early (12:30 p.m.) and bring government-issued ID.
For the full rundown on Brew's liquor license controversy and the overall purpose of this meeting, check out our Nov. 30 post.
On Monday, we shared a bit about chef Steven Cameron's October departure from Noble (2025 Sansom St.), as well as a statement from co-owner Todd Rodgers that Cameron's replacement would be announced this week. That deal's done: Brinn Sinnott, who's put in work at Lacroix, Supper, Amada and Pumpkin, will take over the post. We'll have more details on what Sinnott plans on doing with the menu soon.
Mï¿½mï¿½ (2201 Spruce St.) chef/owner David Katz announced today via Facebook that he will be cooking at NYC's famed James Beard House (167 W. 12th St., Manhattan) on March 23, 2010.
Passed hors d'oeuvres and sparkling wine will precede a five-course meal with wine pairings; the menu will go up on the James Beard House Web site some time after the New Year.ï¿½ Philadelphians interested in making a night of it out in New York can make reservations for the dinner at 212-627-2308.
UPDATE: Here's a little insider tip for ya ï¿½ to get a special "friends of the restaurant" rate of $125/head, use the secret password "THYME" when calling to make a reservation. you MUST utter the password to get access to the special price. How cloak and dagger!
Tomorrow night at Time (1315 Sansom St.), check out a whiskey dinner featuring a seven-course meal from chef Josh McCullough paired with seven different whiskeys hand-picked by master of whiskey Michael Parducci. Tix are $70 and include a cocktail in addition to the pairings. Monkfish in chicken skin with a Talisker 10 Year? OK! Full menu here (PDF).
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