Monthly Archives: December 2008

Amuse the mouth

We are running a bit behind on the Top Chef recap/drink pairing, so we’re gonna keep things short and sweet.  Episode four brings us Rocco, the chef famous for being famous, and the NBC cross-promotion machine.

The Quickfire Challenge has the cheftestants making a breakfast amuse bouche.  Boy, do I love an amuse bouche.  Mostly because I love saying amuse bouche, but also because I love that small little bite that a chef sends out to get you excited for your meal.  Amuse bouche is a one-bite hors d’oeuvre, and Leah went to great lengths to make sure we, and the judges, understood that she, and not many of her cheftestants, knew that.  It worked; she won the Quickfire by cooking bread and an egg, and was granted immunity during the Elimination Challenge.

leah-amuse
The Elimination Challenge involved showcasing the cheftestants’ demonstration and presentation skills.  Yeah, I thought it was lame at first. I overheard a few of my friends mention that the challenge doesn’t really relate to being an actual chef.  While there’s no question that the level of difficulty and complexity of the food prepared was pretty low, my man Tom Colicchio had this to say on his blog:

“It’s amusing to me how so many of our cheftestants said, in response to this week’s Elimination Challenge, that they did not want to “do TV” in their careers as chefs … while they’re doing TV to advance their careers as chefs. As I recall, they were saying those words directly into the lens of a television camera. Let’s face it: The media has long been a critical factor in shaping high-level careers of all kinds, and today’s Top Chefs must be able not only to cook, but to generate heat about their cooking. On TV.”

You never know – maybe some of the cheftestants aspire to be Rocco – a chef that seems to only do presentations and hardly any real cooking.  Anyhoo, Alex was sent home, and your top three contestants, Jeff aka The Hair, Fabio, and Ariane, headed to the Today Show so NBC’s morning talking heads could choose the winning dish.  I honestly don’t remember off-hand what Jeff and Fabio prepared.  I know that Ariane won with an easy as poo lame watermelon, tomato, feta salad with basil oil.

ariane-dish

Because time is short, I think I would serve up S&C’s very own watermelon lemonade cocktail with Ariane’s salad.  It is light, refreshing, and the basil garnish would compliment nicely.  Clearly this episode was filmed in the summer, and that being the case, you can also pour me a glass of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

PS – I heart Fabio.

Birthday recovery

Ms. S&C’s birthday-cocktail-repeal-day party was a success.  But, it was also a reminder that Ms. S&C is now 32, not 23, and therefore she needs to take it easy next year.  Many thanks to all her friends who stopped by!  Here are a few highlights.

The Drinks:
The jalapeno margarita won the reader poll, so that’s what was served.  The jalapeno infused simple syrup was used in both a traditional and a pomegranate margarita.  While we fixed some fine margaritas, we need to perfect the recipes before we share.  We didn’t want to overdo the jalapeno flavor, but we were much too conservative when making the simple syrup.  Next time we’ll use more than two jalapenos and let the syrup sit overnight before straining.  Other margarita ingredients included: lemon, lime, orange and pomegranate juices, tequila and cointreau.

The Menu:
Our Southwestern-style appetizers included:

  • Zesty bean dip, recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook
  • Guacamole, also influenced by Moosewood Cookbook’s recipe
  • Bacon wrapped stuffed jalapenos 
  • Mini quesadillas
  • Grilled chicken and shrimp skewers
  • Tres Leches cake, from our neighborhood bakery, My Bakery & Café

The Conclusion:
The next day clean up looked a little something like this.  Love you guys.

birthday_cleanup

Light as a feather

feather-shoes

One likes a feather in a cap, why not on a shoe?  Feathers and other exotic embellishments are an emerging trend in footwear.  Tibi spread their wings and designed a couple of beauties.  Fashion Washington currently features the glorious plumage in their “Lush Life” section, which is where I found these make-me-weak-in-the-knees black pumps.  They scream, “Wear me with a little black dress!”  However, Mr. S&C would scream when he saw what it did to our bank account.  Details over at The Little Shoebox.

An equally gorgeous pair are these satin fuchsia sling-backs I saw at The Shoe Hive (although, The Little Shoebox has them in green — yes, please!).  If any of my craftier friends and readers would like to give it a try, this looks like a perfect do-it-yourself project.  And, Ms. S&C would gladly test them out on the town for you.  I think I could stop traffic.  Va va voom.tibi-shoes1posted by Ms. S&C

Recession fierce

The it-is-cool-to-be-cheap revolution continues!

Christian Siriano, winner of Project Runway Season Four, just announced a deal with Payless ShoeSource, reports the New York Post.

“I’m so excited to design and create with such an amazing brand that is all about fashion and trend but, most importantly, is also about affordability,” Christian said in a statement Monday.  He also went on to say, “I can’t wait to see how they will take the high-end shoes and bags I’m designing for the runway and turn them into pieces that everyone can buy.  I’m all about the runway and the sidewalks!”

His line of low-price shoes and handbags will debut at New York Fashion Week in February, and will be available in Payless stores and Payless.com in the Fall of 2009.  The designs are expected to range in price from $25-$45.

christian-siriano

S&C reader poll–vote on cocktails

Ms. S&C’s birthday is approaching.  In fact, it is on Repeal Day!  To celebrate the occasion, she and Mr. S&C will be hosting a cocktail party.  We’re having a difficult time deciding what cocktail we should serve.  Who better else to help us decide than readers?!?!?!  You’ll be hearing about it anyway:-)  Check out the drink descriptions below and vote on which cocktail you would like to see served at our upcoming cocktail party.

Pomegranate Gin Rickey – we’ll make our own simple syrup with pomegranate juice and seeds, mix with gin, lime and seltzer.   It will be our twist on a local fave.

Corpse Reviver, No. 2 – we first introduced the Corpse Reviver, No. 2, on Halloween, and we’re still not tired of it!  Love the combination of spirits and the tartness of lemon.

Champagne Cocktail – maybe a little raspberry liqueur, crème de cassis, or a French 75.  Who cares?  It goes with everything.

Jalapeno Margarita – we’ll infuse jalapeno in our simple syrup, combine it with lime and tequila. We may be serving contemporary Tex-Mex style appetizers, so this could be a perfect match.

Thanks for voting!

Food fighters

Episode three of Top Chef is filled with last minute surprises and twists, in addition to having the cheftestants cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the band Foo Fighters.

During the Quickfire Challenge, the cheftestants randomly choose a page from the Top Chef recipe book and have to get inspired by previous contestant’s dish.  After several minutes into the challenge, Padma tells them to S-T-O-P.  Surpise Twist #1 – the challenge is changed and the cheftestants must take their ingredients and make a soup.  The Quickfire is sponsored by Swanson after all.  Guest judge, and James Beard Foundation’s 2008 Best Chef, Grant Achatz, chooses Jamie’s chickpea soup, Danny’s ham and egg soup and Leah‘s white asparagus soup as the top three dishes.  Jamie’s over-confidence would annoy me, but it appears she’s very, very good.  Not good enough, because it is Leah, who doesn’t hide that she hates the flavor of white asparagus, wins the challenge.

leah_soup

As winner, Leah gets to pick her team for the Foo Fighters Thanksgiving Elimination Challenge.  The Elimination Challenge has Team Sexy Pants (Leah’s team) going up against Team Cougar.  Aside: there should have been more air time discussing how terrible these team names are.  Anyway, the teams arrive at the concert venue and Surprise Twist #2 – the Thanksgiving dinner is to be prepared using microwaves, toaster ovens and one burner.  Plus, they have to cook outside.  Surpise Twist #3 – it starts to rain.  My favorite line of the night comes from Fabio, of the “Euro Duo,” who says, ” I’m not going home because of rain in my tiramisu.”  It may have been the Italian accent that got me.

fabio_dessert

Team Cougar cooks the best turkey, and Team Sexy Pants fixes the best desserts.  It is a close one, but Team Cougar makes the most mistakes so they lose.  The Hair’s pumpkin parfait and Danny’s al dente potatoes are no good, but it is Richard who gets sent home because of his failed s’mores. The judges thought it looked liked someone spat on the s’mores.  Too bad for “Team Rainbow;” it looks like Jamie is on her own.

For the drink pairing – in a recent post, DC Foodies, suggested a few wines for Thanksgiving dinner.  Since a meal like Thanksgiving has so many different dishes, they think you should play towards the middle and keep bonny-doon-winethe reds light and the whites big.  I agree, which is also why I recommend a Rose.  It has all the refreshing qualities of a white wine mixed with some of the depth in a red.  One of my favorites is Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris de Cigare.  Bonny Doon has always been one of my favorite wineries.  It is a funky vineyard in California that uses esoteric techniques (one of the first to use synthesized corks, and then the screw cap).  It also happens to have cool, artistic labels.  Their wines are very affordable and available in many wine and grocery stores.  S&C recommends you give any of them a try.