Archive for the ‘Announcements’ Category

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Better Beers for the Party Season

December 12, 2008

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Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas tree…” or perhaps, “Santa Baby, slip a sable under the tree.
..” or hopefully not, “Grandma got run over by a reindeer…”

These are some of the lyrics that will invade our subconscious in the coming days as we navigate holiday parties. We’ll all try to drink, eat and be merry as we rub elbows with friends we’ve may have seen earlier in the day shopping at the supermarket, or that acquaintance, who turns out to be your best friend’s brand new flame, that you’ve not seen since last year’s party, or just a chance to get together with your aunts, uncles, siblings, and parents with the buffer of friends and without the formal requirements of carving a roasted beast.

Whatever the invite list, odds are you are going to be there a while. Someone is going to have the radio or the cable music channel set to “sounds of the season,” while you try to maneuver a drink, a fork, a napkin, and full plate with two hands and try to keep your Christmas sweater from needing a trip to the dry cleaner’s before Tuesday’s office Christmas party.

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Now I could make a suggestion about delicious hors d’oeuvres. We have plenty in our recipe index, but I’m actually going to speak to the bigger foul — the beer. Oh, I know some of you people don’t drink or think you don’t like beer. Heck, I didn’t like beer until a couple years ago, and the still wife looks at me funny sometimes. But, people, we can do better than Bud, Bud Light, et al.

One of the best things I learned about beer is that it is more like food then you might think. It’s got its seasons. In the spring, you drink the rich bochs developed by monks as “liquid bread” to sustain them through the fasting of lent. In the summer, you drink pilsners and lagers with their light crisp styles. In the fall, you drink harvest beers and sometimes delicious pumpkin ales. At this time of year, you drink Christmas beers. Now, some of them are bad, and tragically so. Yet there are a few really great ones, brewed with things like dried cherries, honey, cinnamon, thyme, and orange peel. The results are some delicious beers that stand up to cheese plates, fatty finger foods, and  even  some delicious sweets.

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So these are my recommendations to replace your big case of Rolling Rock. The one warning is that all of these are rather ‘high test.’ They have more in common with drinking a glass of white wine than your normal beers. So, warn folks who enjoy their beer, or you might find people frisky in the coat closet.

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Troeg’s Mad Elf (11% AbV)— This Pennsylvania brewer combines cherries and local honey to create this slightly sweet and medium-bodied beer. It’s got nice carbonation  that keeps it light enough to pair well with a lot of foods. But, in general, it’s a joy to drink.

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St. Bernadus’ Christmas Ale (11% AbV) & N’ice Chouffe (10% AbV) — Both are classic Belgium Christmas beers. Brewed with orange peel, they are dark brown, spicy and medium bodied. Lots of good dried fruit flavor in both beers.

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Brooklyn Brewery’s Dark Chocolate Stout (10% AbV) — This is on my short list of all-time favorite beers. This beer tastes so rich and full of chocolate, it’s amazing to realize this flavor is created only by the blend of roasted malts. It’s creamy and has good carbonation. This can be served across a chocolate dessert instead of coffee, or surprisingly, against a pungent cheese. I’m a huge fan and it is one of the few beers I’ve ever bought a case of.

Finally, just a reminder that we are giving away copies of my wife’s and grandmother’s book. Just participate in our holiday traditions event.

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Share your traditions… Win a book!

December 10, 2008

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Frequent readers and subscribers to our feed will notice we’ve taken a couple of sabbaticals since we began this blog. Occassionally people have mailed asking, “So, what are you up to?” Well, this post is an effort at both making excuses and shameless self-promotion.

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Well, during one of these breaks, the wife – the funny and talented one – wrote a book: Cole Family Christmas. The tale is based on a true story told by my 88-year-old grandmother, Hazel Cole Kendle, who was the youngest of the nine Cole children.

Cole Family Christmas tells the story of a very special Christmas my family experienced in 1920 when my great-grandfather was working as a coal miner in Kentucky. That year, he had received a promotion and had a little more money, and so the nine Cole children were able to write to Santa to ask for special gifts from the “Wish Book” (AKA the Sears catalogue). But when a freak snowstorm prevented the gifts from being delivered, my great-grandparents had to scramble to save Christmas. As the Cole children remembered it, though, the results of their efforts were even more inspiring – and more meaningful – than the store-bought gifts they had wished for.

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This story was passed down in the family for years, until at last my mother thought it should be memorialized in writing. Originally planned as a small pamphlet to be handed out at our annual family reunion, the project blossomed into a book geared toward families and younger readers. Cole Family Christmas is now a hardcover book, complete with beautiful illustrations, and has received broad distribution. We’ve been lucky not only to be picked up by online sources like Amazon, but also by brick and mortar places like Barnes and Noble.

It has been a thrill for us to see Cole Family Christmas sitting in the children section’s at bookstores. As I hope you can tell, I’m extremely proud of my wife. As a result, I’m going to try to capitalize on my wife’s talent even more than usual.

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We are going to have a contest.

As you might be able to tell, traditions around the holidays are a big deal for my family. The one I remember most as a child is the annual cookie decorating contest. Like many families, we’d make dozens of cookies, and then a major competition would begin. Typically, the winner would be picked by the first non-participant to walk in the door — a rule that resulted in a hilarious, and controversial, choice when a teenage girlfriend of my older brother made the choice one year.

What are your traditions? We’d love for you to share them, too! To sweeten the pot, we’ll award the top three favorites with a signed copy of the book. Below are the rules:

Rules:

1. Post on your blog about your family’s food traditions for the holidays. It doesn’t need to be about Christmas.

2. Only one submission per blog.

3. Send an email to myhusbandcooks@gmail.com that includes your name, your blog’s name, a link to the relevant photo, and to the post in which it appears.

4. The best three (3) posts will get an autographed copy of the book.

5. The deadline is December 20, 2008 at 11:59 PM EST.

6. Round up will be posted on December 23, 2008. 

My family will choose the winners as soon as all the posts are up, and we’ll be sending out the books ASAP in hopes of getting you the book before Christmas day — unless you live outside North America, then we’ll do our best to get it there before New Years. I hope you enjoy our little competition and have a Merry Christmas!

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Beer is good. Fathers are good. A post about excellent collaborations.

June 12, 2008

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Fathers don’t always want ties for Father’s Day. They don’t always want breakfast in bed. Dads don’t always want power tools for their birthday (unless of course they are cooking geeks and want a cold smoker — ahem, Jack, you get the message there, buddy. Notice the link.).

It is true, however, that dads like a good beer. OK, even that isn’t always true. But it is true of this father on his second Father’s Day. That is why I’ve decided to make a pair of recommendations to all you folks looking for something for dear old Dad.

So, a couple of years ago, Garret Oliver — brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, beer luminary, and Slow Food guru — had a moment of mutual admiration with Hans-Peter Drexler, brewmaster of G. Schneider & Son of Germany. The American loved the wheatbeers of the German. The German loved the hoppy beers of the American. And in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup moment of brilliance, they decided to combine efforts.  Their joint venture became these two bottles of beer.

 

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While using essentially the same recipe, they manufactured two distinct beers. Brooklyner-Schneider is brewed here in the States using American hops and Schnieder’s yeast; the Schnieder-Brooklyner is brewed in Germany using local hops and Brooklyn’s yeast. The result is some of the most delicous beer I’ve had. Both are snappy, with a myriad of flavors like banana, but with high acidity. These are perfect beers for lighter summer fare or even richer barbeque food. They are also spectacular for sitting and drinking on the back porch after the kids have left the house or gone to bed.

Either beer would make an excellent gift for a Dad. I tend to favor the Brooklyner, the wife seems to favor the Schneider. So, have fun and pour both to decide for yourself. This is the second year of this collaboration, and the beers are available only in limited quantities — so they may be difficult to find. Try your local beermonger.

Finally, in the last food post, I mentioned a pairing for the salad with some great craft beers. I also felt a little self conscious because I gave such light beers my first nod. So I feel the need to prove my manliness and my growing understanding of beer. Yes, real men only drink dark, monster hopped IPAs and Budweiser. Well, OK, I don’t drink like that. But I’m a man, dammit! I’ve a son to prove it to!

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As a result of this need to prove my manlihood, I’ll occasionally make suggestions for pairings of beer and food. I’ll also drop a post now and then about something exceptional I’m drinking. We aren’t going to become a beer blog; there are better and smarter guys doing that sort of writing. Instead, we like to think of ourselves as being about the food and the joyous event of sharing time with people. I hope you enjoy this new twist. Also, if you’ve got insights and suggestions on things that you are drinking, we’d love to incorporate them.

So, if you don’t have a chance to sit down and pour your Dad a beer, and/or sit down and share a meal with him, I hope you call him on Sunday.

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The big reveal…

May 23, 2007

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Sort of… Ever been curious about us? Apparently the folks over at Culinate were as well. Not long ago, Liz Crain, their intrepid blog watcher, wanted to know more about us. So we did our first ever interview. If you’d like to plumb our depths or discover our secrets, then you can visit Culinate’s great site you and find the interview here.

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A thank you from us in the form of a little sunshine: Fresh pineapple sorbet.

March 26, 2007

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First, let us begin by thanking you all for the wonderful comments last week. They were warm little rays of sunshine in the middle of the night as we began to adjust to the hours young Jack is keeping.

Second, the wife is doing great. She’s up and likely too mobile and too active for her own good. It was only after a dirty look I gave her and a remark about stitches that she slowed down. However, because she is a human vending machine, on demand at all hours, she is a bit fatigued and I wanted to keep up with demand for both baby photos and delicious food.

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Finally, since I’m a solo act again, I bring you a simple dessert that has turned out to be one of my favorites, Fresh Pineapple Sorbet. I’ve been on a tropical flavors kick over the past month, and this is perhaps one of the finest results. In addition to being refreshing, there is something pure in its flavor, texture and sweetness. It’s great as a palette cleanser, paired with other desserts such as coconut cheesecake, or as a stand alone.

In closing, the recipe includes rum. Unless you have an issue with serving alcohol, I would recommend its inclusion. Besides adding flavor, the alcohol reduces the sorbet’s freezing point. This allows the sorbet to maintain its smoothness after being frozen to harden. It will keep it easy to scoop, even after a few weeks in the freezer.

Once again, thanks for your congratulations. I’m glad to be back in the kitchen. Watching what my wife was served in the hospital was rather appalling, and made me itch to be home!

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What’s a birthday without cupcakes? Jack’s Blueberry and Meyer Lemon Cupcakes.

March 18, 2007

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I’m happy to write this solo as my wife is currently recovering from the birth of our son. This morning, my wife gave birth to our son, Jack. As he was breached and came to us two weeks early via cesarean, Jack weighs in at a peanut sized 6 lbs 6 oz. The wife is recovering and we will be back to our thing very soon, including the wife commenting on desserts. So to prevent this being self-absorbed, and bragging about how awesome my son is (I mean my son is awesome, just look at the little pink blob), I want to provide you with a recipe.

Before Jack was born all I could think about is the types of things I’ll need to do as dad. When cooking one day, I thought cupcakes. There is perhaps no more ‘hip food’ then cupcakes. Magnolia Bakery, Ina Gartnen (a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa), and many others have made their names on making cupcakes. Heck there are great cupcake blogs out there like Cupcake Bakeshop and 52 cupcakes. So, while I have no skill in this area like these folks, I know parenthood means birthdays, and childhood birthdays mean cupcakes.

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So I give you my first foray into this childhood delight in honor of this happy birthday for us—Jack’s Blueberry and Meyer Lemon Cupcakes. While I know he’s on a strictly liquid diet for the next several months, and therefore cannot comment, this was inspired by my wife’s insatiable appetite for blueberries. At one point, my wife was eating enough blueberries I felt like I may end up mimicking Violet Beauregard’s father from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, “I can’t have a blueberry for a daughter!!”

Luckily, fate spared me a little blueberry tinted son. But before he was even born, I was experimenting with combining my wife’s favorites with the fresh, delicious taste of meyer lemons. The topper, and apparently best feature when I was testing these on my wife’s coworkers, was the meyer lemon cream cheese icing. It is tangy, sweet, rich and smooth, perfect for the muffin-like yellow cake.

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Finally, we were terribly excited for his arrival. Jack is going to change everything. Knowing this, the recipe was prepared in advance so we have no comments from him. Hopefully, he’ll feel free to tell his old man soon enough what he thinks (or maybe I don’t want to know). We’ll be back later this week as we start our adjustments from a duo to a trio.

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Click here to download the recipe for Jack’s Blueberry & Meyer Lemon Cupcakes.

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Oh, how we are dreaming of summer… but until then there is Lobster and Beer Risotto.

February 8, 2007

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Risotto seems like it would be a humble food. It’s big, fat morsels of creamy rice stewed lovingly over some cooktop with a wooden spoon. But because it has a high-fallutin’ Italian name, it strikes me (and a lot of other diners) as a bit fancier than a mere side dish … This is why restaurants can get away with serving you a big bowl of risotto (um, that would be rice) as your entree.

Well, folks, if risotto is rice dressed up for a night on the town, my husband has just stuffed a wad of cash into its pockets and told it not to return before dawn.

Yes, those tell-tale red morsels of succelent sweet meat resting in the mounds of creamy risotto are indeed lobster. And that creamy and delicious sauce is made up of cheese, and yes, booze. Beer, to be precise. And then there’s a dollop of honey — just for sweetness.

Sound rich? Sound decadent? Sound delicious? Grab your fork… there’s no curfew tonight.

Click here to download the recipe for Lobster & Beer Risotto.

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What should Top Chef 3 look like?

February 2, 2007

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I think many of us agree that this second season was a bust for the most part. The quality of the food and creativity of the chefs were overshadowed all season by petty behavior, questionable ethics and melodrama. With that said, I’m fairly confident Bravo will bring us a third incarnation as I believe producers are already preparing to hold auditions for a new season.

Part of me was frustrated because the show wasn’t about the food, it was about the fake drama. I think producers believe that the show is more interesting than it is because of it. They are wrong.

I would love for them to revamp the show and correct this problem. They should really make it a competition about the food. I would love for them to remove some of the forced situations such as the beach cooking, and make it a cooking competition. I understand that conflict brews personalities, but this season was ridiculous. Instead,  truly find the best unknown chefs regardless of how much tension they might create, and focus on giving these guys good equipment and good ingredients. (A number of contestants have said the kitchen was not up to commercial standards and was stocked like a home kitchen. So all that Kenmore Pro line stuff is getting not so great reviews by the people they hired to push it.)

Let Top Chef be about who is really the best. Make it more like American Idol, even as much as that is forced and packaged. In the end, our focus as viewers shouldn’t have been on the ridiculous ludicrous behavior but on who was really the best cook. I would think if nothing else, it would make Top Chef as a show a more valuable asset.

Ilan is going to have good name recognition, but at what cost? I’m sure I’m not headed to his place soon. I think the show as-is would be more discouraging to talented chefs as they see it as a chance to have their personal lives butchered rather than a chance to further their careers. Also, you have to wonder if the big named chefs will want to associate with the show if they are being lumped into this morass of mischief.

I’d love to hear what you all think about this idea. Or even better, what would the show look like if you were producing Top Chef 3?

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Top Chef the Finale: Five courses, eight celebrity judges, and one Top Chef.

February 1, 2007

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Like that roast you’ve been cooking in the oven all day long, Top Chef is done at last. And like that roast, it didn’t come out quite like you’d hoped: It’s dry, unappetizing and quite frankly, you’re not that keen to eat it — it certainly wasn’t worth all that work.

Ah, Top Chef, why are you so like an overcooked roast?

But enough with the forced cooking metaphors, and on with the show. Our two unlikable final contestants, Marcel and Ilan, squared off for the title of Top Chef, tasked with cooking “the best meal of their lives” for eight judges over five courses. We think the opening of the show set the tone… It included such memorable lines as, “I would have loved to have peed on Marcel.”

‘Nuf said.

Similar to last year’s finale, our booted and long lost contestants also made a reappearance (packing their knives and returning), and like last year, they were asked which chef they’d most like to work with in the final cooking showdown. (Here Marcel waits for the Acme anvil to fall on him or the earth to swallow him up.) Surprisingly, about half the contestants — including our fallen hero Sam — give Marcel the nod. Does that say something about how there really was no favorite? Were the two really such a loathsome toss-up?

Both Marcel and Ilan wind up with at least one strong sous chef: Sam goes to Marcel and Elia to Ilan. Sam, clearly confusing Top Chef with some other reality show, attempts to give a reasonable explanation as to why he chose to work with Marcel, showing himself to be a class act. (Sorry, Sam, that does not count for much on Top Chef.) Then he displays those leadership qualities that made absolutely no difference in the competition: He tells Marcel to pick him; Marcel does. He tells Marcel to pick Mikey; Marcel does. (Later he tells Marcel not to freak about missing fish and substitute hearts of palm; Marcel does. But I’m skipping ahead.)

At any rate, the two teams had an hour to shop at a product-placement — er, farmers’ — market, and four hours to prepare their five courses. Both chose characteristic menus: Ilan took a Spanish cuisine approach, and Marcel a molecular gastronomic approach. (Ilan’s courses: Spanish baby eels on toast with caviar; pan seared moi with macadamia nut gazpacho; grilled squab and shrimp with fois gras; braised short ribs with romanesco sauce; cherry sorbet with fruit and fritter-fried bay leaf. Marcel’s courses: Uni in meyer lemon gelee; salad with yuzu isomalt tear drop; hearts of palm with seabeans; seared beef with taro balls; belini with mousse and kona coffee caviar.)

To their credit, both seemed to construct impressive and seemingly tasty meals. The judges table was packed with celebrity chef star power, and the praise from the heavyweights was regular, if not effusive. Guests included such folks as Wylie Dufresne, Scott Conant and Hubert Keller. Unfortunately, only one of these celebrity chefs, Hubert Keller, weighed in at the judges table, and frankly, he didn’t say very much. Before judgement, our intrepid sous chefs and defunct Top Chef wannabes also gave their two cents about how things went (despite not having tasted the opposing team’s food) … Naturally, Marcel’s abrasive personality and (lack of?) leadership skills were noted, though no one mentioned that Ilan can be kind of weasley, too.

In the end, the judges compared the menus course by course — bestowing praise on all but Ilan’s first dish of eels on toast and Marcel’s salad. It was difficult to determine who the judges would crown Top Chef — and even they hedged their bets saying something about how “one may eventually be better, but we’re picking the best chef at the moment.” La-ame. But with Padma’s slow talking delivery and the addition of suspenseful music, we dutifully waited in a state of mild anticipation for the winner to be announced.

It was Ilan.

Marcel — “unfortunately,” as he kept saying — had to stand awkwardly as his rival was congratulated and hugged. We, “fortunately,” got to turn the TV off.

After waiting all this time for our Top Chef roast to cook, we did feel obligated to eat it. We only wish that it had gone down easier — and tastier — in the end.

Did Sam prove he is the true Top Chef?
Husband: I think I’m gushing too much about this guy, my wife is going to worry I have a man crush on him if I don’t watch what I say. Nevertheless, I think this guy proved it. First, he showed again that he didn’t care as much about the reality TV ridiculousness. Offering to cook for Marcel I think was clearly a classy move. Second, he was obviously an excellent influence over Marcel with his hand in correcting for the missing fish. Sam shows why he’ll have no problem being the real deal when not surrounded by reality show foolishness.

Wife: It’s hard to say, since he was probably in half-hearted form tonight. But he did display class and leadership skills at the sous-chef selection. It’s disappointing that he wasn’t one of the finalists, but he clearly won the hearts of many fans. (And to think that Ilan started out as my favorite.)

Did Marcel steal from My Husband Cooks?
H
: I suspect that my wife is too embarrassed to even answer this. But he clearly reads our blog because we were doing olive oil bon bons back in November. I mean, I even explain the technique and go into a discussion about what isomalt is in the comments! Come on, Marcel, you need to own up and give some love to MHC. (Of course, I’m being a moron because I stole this idea from Jose Andres and Minibar. Clearly, both Marcel and I are dirty rotten scoundrels. And note to Marcel: If you are going to steal people’ s dishes, don’t steal there signature dish — or, at least throw a little credit out there.)

W: I hope he doesn’t read our blog. I only like being snarky if I think the people I’m talking about won’t actually read it.

Finally, do you agree with the outcome?
H: At this point, I don’t know. I like Marcel’s style of cooking better. I’ve said before that I’m not a huge fan of Spanish cuisine. I also like the idea of using science and new products to press the edge on certain ingredients. However, if you cook like Marcel and you don’t execute, the flavors aren’t there, and your ideas aren’t original, you go in the tank fast. So, I’m not shocked that Ilan won. I still feel the only winner in this whole show is Sam. He might have lost, and Ilan might have captured the big prizes, but Sam has got my vote. (NOTE: This does not mean I will be giving him a Kenmore Pro Kitchen, a ticket to the Food & Wine Classic, a feature on My Husband Cooks, or $100,000.)

W: It seemed to be truly a toss-up in the judges’ minds… and since they’re the only ones tasting the food, it’s hard to be certain if they’re uncertain. Ilan did have a way of charming his colleagues into working well with him. And certainly Marcel managed to turn just about everyone against him, and seemed to display poor leadership skills in the kitchen. All things taste being equal, then, the judges may have made the right call with Ilan. But, as we note repeatedly, the show would have been so much more enjoyable if the finalists weren’t so “ehh.” It’s a shame.

Finally, and most important to us, what are your thoughts on the finale? Did we get the Top Chef? Are you sick of Molecular Gastronomy? Is saffron the new pink?

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Top Chef Week Twelve: Welcome to Hawaii, come to a luau, and ‘aloha’ means hello and goodbye to two contestants.

January 25, 2007

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One episode down, one to go. Two contestants down, one to go. That’s right, kids. Top Chef is coming to its culinary conclusion at long last… and the cooking is good.

Our repeated complaints that too little of the actual food and cooking talents have been on display must have gotten through to the producers. That, or the fact that four contestants (and an hour and fifteen minute show!) means that you are forced to show more food whether you want to or not.

But before all that cooking took place, we viewers had to have at least a dose of the requisite reality show flashbacks and “profiles” — and, of course, some product placement ads. The show caught up with the contestants at the conclusion of the two month filming hiatus. So which of the four contestants had been practicing most in anticipation of this grand finale? The answer, it seems, was Marcel — who had formed some sort of “gastronic” mad scientist society with his friends. In his suitcase: Xantham gum and other chemicals to create 21st century culinary bliss. Sam also impressed by taking the two months to learn to bake at the foot of a former Tom Colicchio pastry chef. Elia had been working at her restaurant job and reading a few books, and Ilan, similarly, was back in the swing of Spanish cooking at the restaurant where he works, Cafe Mono in NYC, and reading a few books himself.

They all reunited, awkwardly, in first class on a plane bound for Hawaii and the grand finale. Had the two month hiatus doused the flames of Marcel hatred? Not to worry. Everyone still despised the kid. (Voiceover Ilan, smiling insincerely at Marcel and drinking champagne: “I find him as annoying as ever.” Or something like that.)

(Hold the drama for a quick tourist video for Hawaii. The four contestants take a helicopter ride over the big island’s blue waters and lush greenery. Really, Top Chef, you couldn’t find 15 minutes to cut to make the episode a mere hour?)

Upon touchdown, the four contestants greeted our three judges and Hawaiian guest judge Chef Wong. There they, and we viewers, were treated to an educational lunch (which we got to watch them eat) of traditional Hawaiian luau fare. But this was no mere product placement, folks — at the end of the meal Padma dropped the words “Elimination round,” and you could tell our intrepid cooks felt like ralphing up that Hawaiian poi. The next day, that casual lunch took on more significance when the chefs heard the challenge: They’d have to re-create two dishes of a traditional Hawaiian luau, but while putting their own twist on things. (In other words, “Hope you were listening to the lecture yesterday, kids.”) They had three hours to prepare to serve 30 guests at Chef Wong’s birthday celebration.

Cue dramatic Top Chef music (and the shots of the outdoor KENMORE PRO kitchen).

Aside from minor drama with Marcel (natch) making a stupid joke when Ilan’s pot caught fire (still don’t know what happened there) and moving Elia’s steamer off a burner, the prep work was interesting and uneventful. The menu? Sam made marscapone mousse with hawaiian salted coconut milk and citrus twirl; and opakapaka poke, acid cooked in uzu with seabeans. (Translation: Coconut dessert and ceviche.) Elia made snapper steamed in tea leaves with peas, peppers and carrots; and ahi poke (raw tuna) with olives, capers and lemon confit. Marcel made hamachi poke with pineapple poi (using xantham gum instead of traditional taro root); and salmon lomi lomi with tomato foam, scallion oil, chili oil and lotus root chip. And Ilan made morcilla (a homemade Spanish sausage) and squid lau lau in taro root leaf; and a saffron haupia fritter (coconut milk donut). It all sounds fancy, no? Well, if it’s it’s indecipherable here, it was pretty impressive on TV. Basically, Sam — a seeming generalist — went with more traditional flavors and techniques. Elia fell back on her Mediterranean know-how. Ilan, of course, put a Spanish twist on things. And Marcel deconstructed stuff and unleashed molecular gastronomy on traditional Hawaiian fare.

The results? The judges were duly impressed, and perhaps for the first time did not have to pretend to agonize over who would go home: It was actually a hard decision. Nonetheless, two would “pack their knives and go.”….

…. Wait. Hold it, hold it. First, Elia and Ilan would try to get one more shot in at Marcel with some lame and purposeless fingerpointing and muttering about him “cheating.” Examples? Well.. (Foot shuffle, foot shuffle.) He moved a steamer off a burner (which may or may not have been lit). Anything else? Well… (Awkward silence and muttering.) OK. Then we’re going to announce the losers, OK, if you’re finished. (Tom Colicchio rolls his eyes and tells Elia he doesn’t care about what goes on in the kitchen.) Only Sam looks like a class act here, as usual.

All this served only to delay the inevitable: Sam and Elia are sent packing. Apparently the judges thought Marcel was a lock for his beautiful dishes and Elia, who strayed too far from Hawaiian tastes, was finished for sure. They were only seesawing between sending Sam or Ilan home… in the end, the Samauri chef (who had — Samsom-like — chopped his bun), was sent home. Sniff. At least he may find the $10,000 prize for being the fan favorite some consolation.

Finally, we’re left with bizarre footage of our two finalists, Marcel and Ilan, “smack talking” to each other in hushed, girl-like tones while avoiding eye contact. Can’t wait for next week, can you?

What did you think of the three-hour luau elimination challenge?

Husband: At first, I was rather horrified by the whole idea. I was hoping to see all the contestants cooking without constraints. I wanted to see what it meant to eat what Elia made versus what Ilan made. However, after seeing how they uniquely stamped each dish with their own flavors, I think I was wrong. I think the biggest problem would have been design and execution in three hours for thirty diners. It required brutal efficiency by them, and I was really wowed by the variation in dishes and their performances. So in the end, I was wrong, the challenge seemed like a good one.

Wife: It was a good challenge because it drew out the chef’s cooking personalities and talents. The Hawaiian fare — while completely foreign to me — offered them a base where they could show off their particular areas of strength and expertise. The three hour time limit was also pretty impressive: Two dishes for 30 people in three hours seemed like a difficult challenge that they all mastered. And the primer on the Hawaiian food earlier in the show actually helped viewers understand what the contestants were making — sort of. At least they tried to explain what words like poke and poi and lomi lomi meant, even if addled viewers like me forgot anyway.

Are you surprised who went home?

H: Absolutely. While I have chosen a half dozen people over the weeks to win, I really thought Sam was going to be there winning the whole thing. I think if he went off for ‘not cooking’ as Tom Colicchio criticized, I’m not sure that is a great reason. Now because I didn’t taste any food, I couldn’t tell you if I agree or not. But if that was the deciding factor, then it means the world’s greatest sushi chef could never win this title. In the end, I think Sam impressed me with other qualities. The facts, that he’s now learning pastry, that even when he had personal beefs he helped out Marcel, and that he seems to get the idea of leading means focusing on the task at hand, have made me think he’s the only one of the group I’d actually trust to run my kitchen if I owned a restaurant. Unfortunately for Sam, all that matters is the food and he didn’t seem to carry the day.

As for Elia, I think her actions in regards to Marcel, her panic when her dessert wasn’t perfect last week, and her dishes over the last couple week prepared me for the result. It seemed on a number of occasions she stumbled into something and was just a bit off. I think more than anything it has to do with age and experience then pure talent. I would hardly be shocked to see her extremely successful down the road.

W: I’m mourning the loss of Sam. It seemed clear from the judge’s comments that Elia’s offerings were the weakest, although I had grown to like her spunk and confidence more. But Sam’s dishes seemed to be well executed and tasty; to be honest, I was hoping they’d axe Ilan instead. Why, you might ask? Of the personalities, Sam was the one I felt I could root for. He resisted (at least with more success than others) the childish lure of using Marcel as punching bag, and he seemed to be a nice guy and talented chef. Last season, I thought they made a bigger deal about who was a leader in the kitchen and who other contestants would want to work for. Had those been criteria this year, I think Sam would have been the champion. Judging from the final two contestants, Marcel and Ilan, both more odious and immature with each episode, leadership skills and likeability are no longer requirements to be Top Chef. And that’s a shame. Now, sigh, I have no idea who to root for.

Our final prognistication: Who is the next Top Chef?

H: I’m rooting for the villain. Call me a contrarians or just a man on a mission to see evil win one, but I’m thinking Marcel might spank Ilan. I suggested a few weeks back that the producers recasting of Marcel as sympathetic (and rightly so after the uncomfortable Cliff moment) might be a preparation to see him as ‘Top Chef.’ Also, it appeared that when Marcel was given a chance to do what he enjoys, molecular gastronomy, with his own tools that it pays off. Finally, Chris, from Insane Thoughts and Insane Ramblings dropped me this little link, which I very much appreciated. Apparently, Marcel had a rough week when attacked with a beer bottle in a club (It’s one line in the last paragraph). So, I’m having a tough time not rooting for him. With that said, I wouldn’t be shocked if rich and flavorful Spanish dishes by Ilan win the day, but part of me has never been a huge fan of the cuisine so I’m left a bit cold by it. So I’m predicting an unpopular champion, Marcel.

W: I feel I have no dog in this fight. I don’t like either of them that much, despite my initial prediction (see the first post about Top Chef!) that Ilan would win. But his immature rivalry with Marcel has soured me on him. I have a feeling from the track record of judge’s remarks that it will be a close battle, despite producers’ desire to stoke still more hatred of Marcel. If Marcel can impress the cavalcade of celebrity judges in next week’s preview, it won’t matter that he’s a squirrely, awkward kid that nobody liked. He just may win.

The only questions that matters: Who do you think will win Top Chef?