The theme of last week’s Top Chef episode was dynamic duo-ing and deconstruction. Presumably the dynamic duo idea comes from Penn & Teller being there as guest judges. The deconstruction concept comes from the oft misunderstood culinary technique.
Here are a few highlights:
- The Quickfire was an “angels vs. demons” duo challenge. The chefs were asked to created two dishes of conflict, i.e. healthy vs. unhealthy, or new vs. old. Robin, who can’t be long for the show, won. Everyone was shocked. Eli, in poor taste, attributed the victory to her playing the cancer survivor card.
- Deconstruction was the focus of the Elimination Challenge. The chefs had to “deconstruct,” or separate out all the ingredients, of a classic dish — yet, the newly re-constructed dish should maintain the dish’s original flavor. I think this means that meat lasagna shouldn’t look like meat lasagna, but it should taste like it.
- At judges’ table: Michelle Berstein, and strong-opinioned Brit, Toby Young, rejoined the group.
- On the top: Jennifer (lasagna), Ashley (pot roast), Kevin (chicken mole), and Michael Voltaggio (caesar salad). Kevin won.
- On the bottom: Laurine (fish and chips), Ron (paella), Ash (shepherd’s pie). Ron was sent home.
Kevin Gillespie’s Deconstructed Baked Chicken and Chicken Croquetta,
Mexican Coffee, Chili Flake, Pumpkin and Fig Jam
For the drink pairing — Kevin’s fig jam recipe includes strong brewed coffee and hot chocolate. Having tried the most incredible bean-to-cup hot chocolate at Rick Bayless‘ restaurant, XOCO, that’s what I want alongside this dish. I don’t even care that it doesn’t have booze in it. The hot chocolate is that incredible. It is ground from Mexican cacao beans right in the restaurant, and was my surprise favorite on a menu with a lot of great food (try the ahadoga torta also). As you can see from the pic, I drank it with hot-from-the-fryer churros, but I think the bitter sweetness would complement many savory creations as well. Muy delicioso!
Bean-to-cup hot chocolate and hot-from-the-fryer churros at
Rick Bayless’ XOCO restaurant in Chicago.
posted by Ms. S&C
For months now, the date has been staring back at me from my Outlook calendar: November 14, the day that the collaboration between Jimmy Choo and H&M becomes retail reality. Choo shoes, handbags and clothing will grace select H&M stores across the country. It’s another in a string of partnerships between high-end designers and real-world retailers. For those of us who aren’t holding on to hope for a real pair of Jimmy Choos in our closets, these design partnerships are as close as we can get.
More and more designers are jumping on the real-world design bandwagon. And more and more frequently, shoe designers are getting in on the fun.
Vera Wang’s line for Kohl’s, Simply Vera, features some well-priced and beautifully designed shoes that I’m just itching to get my hands on. These motorcycle boots are perfect for fall.
Most recently, Project Runway alum Christian Siriano has been bringing designer shoe wear to the masses through a partnership with Payless. These Saunter flats, for example, are super chic with their snakeskin print and medallion, and ring it at a cool $29.99.
Miss Mojito can’t get enough of the mix of designer aesthetic and wallet-friendly pricetags!
Posted by Miss Mojito.
Project Runway contestants took a field trip to the L.A. Times during last week’s episode. Their challenge? To create a design using newspaper as fabric. I often enjoy these artsy-craftsy type-of challenges, and this one was no exception. Here’s a straight and to the point recap of this go round.
On the bottom: Nicolas and Johnny, who were so whiny and just effing miserable the whole.entire.episode. Johnny is a liar to boot (that spitting steamer story was ridiculous), so naturally and justifiably, he went home.
On the top: Althea (who had immunity) created a great structured architectural-inspired dress, Christopher designed a flowy feathery show-stopping gown, and Irina (who won) with an embellished trench coat.
Guest judges included: Tommy Hilfiger, Eva Longoria Parker, and Marie Claire editor, Zoe Glassner (Nina’s soon-to-be replacement?). Nina and Michael Kors were M.I.A., again.
For the shoe pairing, I found so many shoes that I loved with the newspaper designs. Shiny patent leather is my fave, and shoes with studs and rivets are kind-of industrial-chic and therefore an excellent complement to the paper fabric. Options: the ultra glossy London Fog patent leather boots (which I own and adore), Calvin Klein pumps with the metal rivet detail and rubber traction outsole, and Bandolino heels with platform stud accents. All fit the industrial-chic bill.
posted by Ms. S&C
Cactus, camping, and cowboys — that’s what last week’s Top Chef episode brought us. The chefs left the Vegas strip and headed to the desert. Tim Love, whose website describes him as a chef of urban Western cuisine, was guest judge.
The Quickfire challenged the chefs to cook with cactus, and Mike Isabella won. In addition to knowing that risotto is a way of cooking, he apparently knows how to make cactus less slimy. Good for him. For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs went camping and prepared an outdoor lunch for cowboys. I’m sure the desert heat was brutal, but I felt the chefs were a little too whiny about this challenge (Eli and Michael Voltaggio included). I don’t think it’s too much to ask professional chefs to cook something on a grill, which is why I was so baffled that two people prepared ceviche, (Mattin was sent home as a result), and no one cooked steak.
Bryan Voltaggio’s Roasted Pork Loin with Corn Polenta,
Dandelion Greens, and Glazed Rutabega
The Voltaggio brothers found themselves in their usual spot at judge’s table — at the top. For a second time in a row, Bryan won. His Roasted Pork Loin with Corn Polenta, Dandelion Greens, and Glazed Rutabega captured the spirit of the challenge. In addition to being a talented chef (obviously), he appears to be incredibly organized. If that isn’t enough, he’s totally likable.
For the drink pairing – when you’re outdoors, in the heat, and grilling — you want a cold beer. You’re not going to bother with simple syrups, crushing ice, and garnishes. And lord knows, you don’t want that coconut mojito that Ron made. Anchor Steam, the flagship beer of the Anchor Brewing Company, is my choice for Bryan’s pork loin and polenta. Steam beer, also referred to as California Common Beer, is an unique beer. The brewing technique is a combination of ale and lager methods (brewing lager yeasts at ale fermentation temperatures). This technique gives the beer the easy-drinking quality of a lager, but it has the noticeable hop flavor and amber color of an ale.
posted by Ms. S&C
Me again, one of your most loyal followers! … I am seeing suede pumps everywhere now that we’re all in the “fall” mindset. …
Can you help me find a good fall colored suede pump for this season? I need it to go with a LOT of outfits, considering my dehydrated and parched discretionary budget!
I’m loving suede shoes right now, including suede boots and booties. Really. I desperately want a pair (or pairs) for myself, and I’m finding too many options. I also need to be budget conscious (overspent at Anthropologie–and sadly, on too few items), so your question is a great one.
I don’t know about you, but I think I prefer suede shoes in warm neutral colors. Not sure why, but dark colored suede doesn’t work for me. Below are a few favorites I’ve come across. I think the tiered ruffled booties in nude ($69.95) are so adorable. They would look great with skirts and skinny jeans. I also really like the taupe rouched platforms ($69.95). They are both daytime and nighttime appropriate. I know they are open-toe too, but I’m not afraid to go open-toe year round these days. And, not to overdo it on the ruffles, but I like these suede boots in taupe ($79.95), and for one heck-of-a price.
If you are looking for a sexy statement shoe, how about these cut-out booties ($89.95)? They’re edgy, but not too extreme (except for the 4+ inch heel). If you’re looking for something more conservative, here are two other reliable brands with good options. The Ralph Lauren pumps ($98.00) are classic and come in a myriad of colors. The Nine West can’t-go-wrong peep-toe platforms ($89.00) are pretty great (I just wish they came in more colors–I want them in brown!).
Even if you do not choose any of the above, please report back when you make a decision on your fall suede shoes. I’d love to see them! Thanks so much for reading, and being one of our most loyal followers!
Happy shoe shopping,
posted by Ms. S&C
This season, the Project Runway folks decided to capitalize on their empire by adding another PR-related show as a companion to the original. “Models of the Runway,” the 30-minute follow-up show to PR, puts the models in a house together and films their feuds, trials and tribulations.
In the last episode, we got to know the models even better when they turn into the clients.
Here are a few highlights:
- Althea was this week’s winner, with her interpretation of a suit: a poofy mini skirt paired with a gunmetal, scoop-neck tank and a black blazer. I loved the concept, but the skirt had a bit too much poof for my taste.
- My favorite vote would go to first runner up Carol Hannah, whose color-block dress with a fantastically texturized black skirt and chic purple one-shoulder top was young and fun.
- We say goodbye to Qristyl (yes, that is really how her name is spelled) who went against her instincts to create a basic, black and boring dress.
- Elsewhere on the runway, dramatic necklines were the order of the day, from Louise’s dramatic ruffles to Ra’Mon’s electric blue oversized corsage.
The winning outfit is one that lends itself to myriad shoe picks. I must admit that I’m a fan of Althea’s selection for footwear: the patent gray mary jane pumps are killer. But, if left to my own devices, I think I’d choose something a bit edgier. I’m crazy about these gray platform ankle strap sandals with gold studs by Groove, and they’re priced right over at Piperlime.
Posted by Miss Mojito.
After watching le épisode quatre of Top Chef, it appears this recap will be a lot like the others — Jennifer still kicks ass, the Voltaggio brothers are still on fire, and Kevin Gillespie is pretty awesome too. Not sure any of the other contestants are even in the same league as these chefs.
Last week’s show highlighted le cuisine français. The Quickfire featured escargot, the guest judge was French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud, and the Elimination Challenge involved classic French sauces and proteins. There were a few twists and turns — the Quickfire was “high-stakes,” which meant the loser (Jessie) was sent home, and the winner (Kevin G.) received immunity and a coveted dinner invitation with the best French chefs in the world, including Joel Robuchon.
Bryan Voltaggio’s Warm Cured Trout with Deconstructed Bearnaise
Michael V. worked with Jennifer to create the second best dish of Rabbit Chasseur with Mustard Noodle and Shiso. Bryan V. worked with Mike Isabella (who is totally riding the coattails of the Voltaggio brthers) on the winning dish of Warmed Cured Trout with Deconstructed Bearnaise. The photo of the dish doesn’t do the trout justice. In Tom Colicchio’s blog, he described the far more complex preparation of the dish, where Bryan took the two top fillets of trout, placed a thin layer of prosciutto between them, “glued” them together, and sous-vide them. And since Isabella admitted to never having made bearnaise before this challenge, Bryan V. clearly deserved his second win. The loser was Hector. As with episode three, I’m not sure Hector was entirely responsible for the failure of his and Ash’s dish of Chateaubriand and Sauce a Poive. But the competition is tough this season.
What to drink with la truite avec bearnaise? Perhaps something from the Loire Valley. The Sancerre is beloved in France. Made of 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes, this wine is delicate, semi-dry, crisp and refreshing. And, with aromas of grapefruit and white flowers, it is an ultimate summer wine and a good pairing for the winning dish. Want a recommendation? Try the Château de Sancerre.
posted by Ms. S&C
Well, you win some and you lose some. Miss Mojito spent the long weekend with friends, with plenty of snacking and imbibing along the way. Of course, there were highs and lows in our drink and cocktail agenda for the weekend. Here’s a quick recap – maybe we can all learn from my failures (and successes)!
Starting to Wine at Keswick
Miss Mojito and pals brought some snacks to Keswick Vineyards, outside of Charlottesville, for a sunny afternoon of Viognier-sipping. The wine was sublime, the company delightful and the setting perfect.
Time for a Drunken Mule
Post-wine sipping, we gathered back at a friend’s house for even more good eats and cocktails. I was truly excited to prepare the Peach Donkey. Somehow, though, I convinced myself that the name of the drink was actually the Drunken Mule. Although neither makes much sense, I prefer the latter. It’s a mixture of peach purée, vodka, Domaine de Canton (a ginger liqueur) and ginger beer. I subbed club soda for the ginger beer and was less than pleased with the end result. Maybe the peaches weren’t peachy enough, or maybe the ginger beer is crucial to the success of this drink. I think it’s a recipe that’s worthy of some more experimentation, particularly now that I’m left with a practically full bottle of Canton (check back for more cocktail recipes inspired by this ginger liqueur).
- 1 ounce vodka
- 1/2 ounce Domaine de Canton (ginger liqueur)
- 3 ounces peach puree (Miss Menu peeled peaches and whizzed them about in a food processor with some lime juice to prevent discoloration)
- 1 ounce chilled ginger beer
Combine the vodka, Canton and puree in a glass. Stir. Top with ginger beer and serve.
Taking a Trip South
Miss Mojito was excited to hear about the Southside, billed as the gin-lover’s mojito. It combines mint, simple syrup, club soda, lime and gin. So on Sunday evening, we enjoyed a pre-dinner version of the cocktail, subbing agave nectar for simple syrup with delightful results.
- 1 1/2 ounces gin
- 1 ounce lime juice
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup or agave nectar
- 1 handful mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- Club soda
In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint with the simple syrup or agave. Add gin and lime juice and shake thoroughly. Pour over ice and top with club soda. Garnish with more mint leaves.
Posted by Miss Mojito.
The Project Runway designers head to the beach for episode three. They are in California, after all. Their challenge — to create a surf-inspired look, and to work in teams of two. One would think experienced designers shouldn’t have too much trouble designing a bikini top and a sarong, so halfway through the show, Tim surprises the teams by asking them to create an additional piece — an avant-garde look to complement their surf wear design. Working in teams, a surprise challenge, and Mitchell still in that workroom — naturally, conditions are perfect for drama.
The big kahuna, Tim Gunn, on the beach in sunglasses, flip flops and a blazer.
A few comments/highlights:
- Ra’mon is paired with Mitchell, and he looks like he is going to have a meltdown every three minutes. Mitchell, on-the-other-hand, is oddly carefree and seems to be amused that: (a) he has been in the bottom two each week, and (b) he can’t really sew.
- Ra’mon’s neoprene hand-dyed dress wins. I like Ra’mon, I really do. But, I can’t believe he won. Was it a sympathy win for pairing him with the worthless Mitchell? I guess he should be given some credit for creating it in an hour, but I thought there were better avant-garde looks on the runway (Althea and Johnny in particular).
- Epperson and Qristyl‘s collaboration was painful to watch, and even worse to listen to.
- Um, not sure what Rachel Bilson added as guest judge. She basically just restated everything Heidi said. Where’s Michael Kors? We need him back stat!
- Mitchell (“I picked Ra’mon to carry me in this challenge”) becomes the first winning team member to get kicked off. Aloha, dude.
Ra’mon’s surf-inspired, hand-dyed, avant-garde look was the winning design.
For the shoe pairing, I like these metallic sandals from Burberry. Ra’mon’s dress has some edge to it, and these extreme strappy sandals, with the cool spiked heel, should pair well with his tie-dyed look. Love the platform, the straps, the dark nickel color. Hate the price.
The Project Runway Shoe Pairing is a reoccurring feature on the S&C blog, where we recap the previous week’s episode, and pair spectacular shoes with the winning design.
posted by Ms. S&C
Michael Voltaggio is on fire. Every week he is vying for a win on Top Chef. In episode two, Michael’s Golden Delicious inspired dessert was second best, losing only to his brother. In the most recent episode, he wins the Air Force Challenge, convincingly.
Let’s hope Michael Voltaggio isn’t burning too bright after
a red hot start in the competition.
A few highlights from last week’s Air Force Challenge episode:
- The Quickfire competition challenges the cheftestants to create an “out of this world” potato dish. Guest judge is Mark Peel, who landed his first culinary job peeling vegetables for Wolfgang Puck. The challenge involves potatoes; his last name is peel — get the connection? I didn’t at first, but it’s clever all right.
- Jennifer, who is also on fire, kicks ass and wins the Quickfire (with steamed mussels with lemongrass potato sauce), giving her immunity — and more importantly, total respect in the kitchen.
- The Elimination Challenge has the cheftestants working as a team to prepare a meal for 300 airmen at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. The menu includes hearty classics such as clam chowder, braised pork shoulder and potato salad, and chocolate bread pudding with peanut butter sauce.
- Michael V stands out, making a more contemporary dish of braised pork belly with soy mustard, wrapped in lettuce and served with a peanut garnish.
- Preeti is the chef sent home, because she was inexplicable in her defense of her and Laurine’s hodgepodge, yet unflavorful, pasta salad. I felt bad for Preeti. The dish was as much Laurine’s fault as her own. But someone’s gotta go.
Michael Voltaggio’s pork belly lettuce wrap is on the right.
Ignore Michael Isabella’s greek salad on the left.
For the drink pairing — over the weekend, I made my own version of Michael V’s pork belly lettuce wraps and served the dish with sake, a rice wine from Japan. Whole Foods has a good selection of inexpensive sakes, so Mr. S&C picked us up a 375 ml bottle of Fudo Myoo, for less than $6.00. The Fudo Myoo brand is fairly sweet (hints of banana and anise), and is best served chilled. The chilled sweet beverage is a nice counter balance to the richness (and absolute deliciousness) of the pork belly. Kanpai!
The Top Chef Drink Pairing is a reoccurring feature on the S&C blog, where we recap the previous week’s episode, and pair the winning dish with a cocktail, or other suitable alcoholic beverage.
posted by Ms. S&C