Monthly Archives: July 2010

Powering Through

I have to say, this season of Top Chef isn’t packing the punch I hoped it would. It could be that, in its seventh season, Top Chef is starting to lose the novelty factor.

One new feature that I am enjoying about this season is the Washington Post’s fun coverage. Most weeks, they host a live Web chat with the week’s loser, plus a video chat with Food section writers and editors to break down the episode’s challenges. Check it out!

With Top Chef on location in DC, naturally, our own Washington Post gives it ample coverage with live Web chats and video chats.

This week’s Quickfire Challenge was basically a new spin on the amuse bouche challenge: create a delectable bite that can fit on a toothpick. The inspiration here is that, apparently, the only food that lobbyists can serve to members of congress must fit on a toothpick. Is that news to anyone else?

The Elimination Challenge wasn’t anything special – create a power lunch dish using “big” proteins provided by and served at The Palm – but the luncheon guests were an eclectic bunch. Sen. Mark Warner, Luke Russert, Savannah Guthrie and Art Smith (of Art and Soul) were just a few of the big names in the crowd.

The good news is that the high points in the meal were pretty high, resulting in some new chefs entering the winner’s circle. While Andrea’s vanilla-infused swordfish got her booted off, Tiffany, Alex and Ed received props for their creative and tasty power lunch dishes. Ed wins thanks to a superior applewood-smoked salmon with pea puree – but it’s not a win without controversy. Accusations quickly fly that Alex’s puree – perhaps the element that put him in first place – was stolen from Stephen’s cooler! Could it be?? A little thievery in the competition would certainly make for a more scintillating season.

Miss Mojito must admit that the Top Chef Drink Pairing for the salmon dish is a bit tricky, given that I don’t particularly have a predilection for its taste. Salmon seems to break the white wine/fish pairing tradition thanks to its bold flavor, so I’ll suggest a summery pinot noir rose: a full-bodied glass from the California Toad Hollow Vineyards might be just the ticket.

Posted by Miss Mojito.

Blood, sweat, and beers

A little over a year ago, Ms. S&C ran her first 5K. Since then, she’s run in ten 5Ks and one 5-miler. Her 11th race was this past weekend, when she ran the Crystal City Twilighter. It was sweltering, it was tough, but it was also so freakin’ gratifying. I don’t know if it was because of the cheering crowd, because other friends ran in the race, or because it was one of the hottest days of the year — this race was memorable.

What shoes was Ms. S&C wearing? A new pair of Brooks. What was Ms. S&C drinking? Well, a hell of a lot of water before and after the race. But, a little after 9 pm, she opened a beer — a Bud Light — and no beer has ever tasted better.

There was at least sweat and beers as Ms. S&C ran her 11th race on
one of the hottest days of the year.

Continuing with the S&C music momentum, Ms. S&C thought she’d share her current running playlist. While she doesn’t listen to music during races (she tries to make it on pure adrenaline), her iPod is a necessity for everyday runs.

The S&C running mix includes:

  • Bruises — Chairlift (the song made popular by the iPod Nano commercials)
  • Hey Ya! — Outkast
  • MMMBop — Hanson (a little embarrassing, but whatevs, it is fun)
  • Rill Rill — Sleigh Bells (love that it samples Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That”)
  • Drunk Girls — LCD Soundsystem
  • Party in the U.S.A — Miley Cyrus
  • Empire State of Mind — Jay-Z (and the Jay-Z song was on)
  • You Know I’m No Good — Amy Winehouse (remix, featuring Ghostface Killah)
  • Crazy — Gnarls Barkley
  • Here Comes Your Man — Pixies
  • My Place — The Adverts
  • No Woman, No Cry — The Fugees
  • Time to Pretend — MGMT
  • Cold War — The Morning Benders

And finally, our public service announcement: go for a run. Go for a walk. Get outside. Then, drink to your health!

posted by Ms. S&C

Top Chef DC: farm-to-table

Last week’s Top Chef episode featured local ingredients: Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and food from a local Virginia farm.

The Quickfire Challenge had the chefs cooking our popular local treasure: blue crabs. Ed won the challenge with his dish of jumbo lump crab, thai basil, mango and cucumber. Considering I’ve picked crabs for the past *three* weekends straight, I tend to agree with local boy Tim’s philosophy: you don’t need to add a lot of flavors to blue crabs — the crab can shine on its own. But, I also don’t think anyone was planning to throw a half dozen crabs, covered in Old Bay, in front of Padma with a beer, a mallet, and some hushpuppies (I’d be in heaven).

The Elimination Challenge took the chef’s to Virginia’s first totally certified farm,  Ayrshire Farm, — a farm of locally produced, humanely raised meats and organic produce — to prepare elegant rustic farm dishes. I love elegant, rustic farm dishes. I love eating outdoors. I love eating outdoors wearing a scarf. And, I would love eating outdoors, wearing a scarf, with Eric Ripert. A few other comments about the episode:

  • Speaking of elegant, rustic food, Patrick O’Connell, owner of The Inn at Little Washington, was guest judge (how about that plaid blazer, and his very interesting deliberate manner of speaking?)
  • Angelo is kinda grossing me out with his oversexualization of food. The whole “I made love to that duck” bit made me gag.
  • Remind me never to serve salad in a bowl, since it can be referred to as “a concrete truck pouring on silk.”
  • Hooray Kenny! His dish of curried eggplant won. (Tim was sent home, btw.)

The Top Chef challenge was family style fare, but turn your focus to Kenny’s Hot and Sour Curried Eggplant with Peppers & Carrot Tops

For the Top Chef Drink Pairing: Virginia is for Viognier, not lovers. In a Washington Post article last year, Dave McIntyre reported that Viognier is very popular among Virginia vintners because the grapes are suited to this climate, and can remain balanced because it tolerates the heat and humidity (apparently the thick skin and growing in loose clusters makes it resistant to rot in the humid climate).

The wine is described as nuanced: lush and opulent with exuberant fruit, but also “austere and subtle in the classic fashion of the wines of Condrieu, Viognier’s homeland in France’s Rhone Valley.”  The only Virginia Viognier I can recall buying was a bottle from the Tarara Winery in Loudoun County, Va. I think the richness and slight sweetness of the Viognier would be a good match for the spicy curry in Kenny’s eggplant dish.

posted by Ms. S&C

Making (music) references

You may or may not know this: Ms. S&C likes music. All kinds of music. She particularly likes listening to music with a cocktail in hand.

Over on Facebook — both on the S&C fan page and my personal page — I often make reference to what I’m eating, what I’m drinking, and what I’m listening to. (When it comes to status updates, they are like my holy trinity.) A friend suggested that I incorporate more music selections/recommendations in my S&C blog posts. You know she’s a good friend when (a) she reads my blog, and (b) says she likes my taste in music (thanks, AV!)

What you also may or may not know: I fancy using a song title as a blog post title. Some of the references are more subtle than others, but here are a few faves:

  • Femme Fatalesnakeskin Louboutins are a perfect match for this song from the Velvet Underground & Nico album. The shoes are wicked cool and so is the song, the band, and Nico.
  • Paint it Black — the patent leather boots post was inspired by the Rolling Stones song (which Rolling Stone magazine lists as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.)
  • Dancing Queen — easy reference for a Project Runway blog post about drag queens, but the ABBA song is deserving.
  • Dry the Rain — when writing about rain boots, I couldn’t help but think about all the movie scenes with John Cusack in the rain, and also the scene from High Fidelity,when he tries to get customers to buy the Beta Band album by playing this song.
  • Such Great Heights — I love the original Postal Service song, but the Iron & Wine version is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard (like so beautiful it hurts beautiful). And, high heels = great heights, right?
  • Killing the Blues — things that go well together: purses and shoes, and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

Then, there’s an occasion when a song inspires a drink selection. Who wouldn’t want a sloe gin fizz after hearing Portland, Oregon, from Loretta Lynn and Jack White? Loretta Lynn is amazing. Jack White is amazing. This song is amazing. Too bad a sloe gin fizz isn’t quite as amazing (but worth trying).

Sloe Gin Fizz
(recipe courtesy of Esquire)

  • 2 ounces sloe gin
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
  • club soda

Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar with cracked ice in a chilled cocktail shaker. Strain into a small, chilled Collins glass and fizz to an inch or so from the top — splash the club soda or seltzer in rather carelessly, so that it foams.

“Well Portland Oregon and sloe gin fizz / If that ain’t love then tell me what is uh huh, uh huh.”

“Well sloe gin fizz works mighty fast / When you drink it by the pitcher and not by the glass uh huh, uh huh.”

posted by Ms. S&C

All Things Espadrillian

We all know the difference between a trend and a classic. Classic: blue jeans. Trend: bell bottoms. Classic: pencil skirt. Trend: boho hippie skirt.

But there are some articles of clothing – and footwear – where the division between classic and trend isn’t so black and white. Today, I’d like to make the argument for the classic appeal of the espadrille.

First, this is a shoe rooted in history, making its debut in the Pyrenees in the 14th century. Moreover, the concept of the espadrille is highly customizable: the braided jute sole can go upscale with a metallic leather upper or classy casual with printed canvas. Finally, this is a shoe that you can invest in at a relatively affordable price. What more could you ask for in a classic?

Here, we offer a mini-sampling of my favorite espadrilles in the under-$100 price range.

espadrillesFashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

I’ve already added the fabulously-priced Old Navy pair to my wardrobe, and despite the steep heel and the lace-up styling, they’re a model of summer comfort. But even with this recent acquisition, I can’t resist lusting after the geometric Tory Burch pair, the work-appropriate option by Charles David Yell or the city-chic sandals by Free People.

To Miss Mojito’s mind, these staple sandals constitute a certified summer classic.

Posted by Miss Mojito.

Top Chef DC: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Last week’s episode of Top Chef DC was focused on hotel food. The episode itself was a lot like hotel food: somewhat boring, pretty ordinary, nothing too memorable.

Here are a few highlights, or lowlights as the case may be:

  • The Quickfire Challenge was sorta interesting: chefs were charged with cooking an adult meal that could be suitable for a baby (apropos with Padma being a new mom and all). Tamesha and Kenny were the favorites with their veggie chowder and bulgar wheat dishes, respectively.
  • The Elimination Challenge was sponsored by Hilton, so the chefs were cooking meals suitable for hotels and hotel guests.
  • There was a tournament-style element to the challenge in which chefs, working in teams of two, had three chances (hence breakfast, lunch, dinner) to avoid elimination. The chefs who have been having a rough time of it shined during the breakfast rounds: Tim and Tiffany were winners with their “Creole Style” Crab Cake Eggs Benedict, and so were Amanda and Stephen with their Poached Egg, Pancetta, Potato Rosti dish.
  • When it came to the dinner cook-off, it almost looked too close to call. I couldn’t believe Kenny was in the bottom! When it came to decision time, the judges offed Lynn and Arnold (who won last week!) because their pasta was overcooked and their Pineapple Red Curry Mussels dish was just too damn interesting for hotel dining.
  • One of my favorite lines of the show came when Andrea was cooking short ribs and said short ribs need the “bizness,” as in an au jus. She knew her and Kelly’s dish would beat Kenny’s because his didn’t have enough of the “bizness.”

Top Chef Breakfast: “Creole Style” Crab Cake Eggs Benedict with Asparagus & Bacon Potato Hash in Hollandaise

Top Chef Dinner: Braised Beef Short Rib, Polenta, Shiitake Mushrooms & Gremolata (aka the “bizness”)

There’s an article that I can’t stop talking about: Frank Bruni, former restaurant critic for The New York Times, wrote a piece on the bloody mary. When I shared the article on Facebook, a friend replied, “It’s hard to imagine a better breakfast. Or dinner. Or lunch. Or snack.” So true! Because it is a drink that is good any time of the day, and because it could be a meal on its own, the Bloody Mary is our pick for the Top Chef Drink Pairing.

I think a farm-to-table brunch is in my near future. With fresh, ripe tomatoes on the horizon and a bountiful herb garden, I’ve got the makings for my own “liquid salad.” And, wondering what to do with those leftover Maryland blue crabs you couldn’t polish off the night before? Yes, crab eggs benedict, please.

posted by Ms. S&C

Reading material

Remember me? I’m Ms. Shoes & Cocktails. I used to blog more frequently about topics near and dear to my heart. While blogging inspiration inevitably ebbs and flows, I promise you this is just a small drought. It is summer after all.

If you are looking for some S&C-related reading material, can I recommend the following?

No longer preppy, the J.Crew look is now “a European in the United States.”

Here’s a great article from The New York Times Magazine about J.Crew’s new and improved transformation. It is now a brand that “twinkles with references to France and haute couture.” I also particularly enjoyed the description of their copywriting style as “distinctive J.Crew haikus.” A good example: these Raffia Rose Printed Peep Toes are described as, “Both sweet and sultry, these blushworthy peep toes ensure that summer romance isn’t just in the air but also on your feet.”

The Bloody Mary: nutritious and naughty, packed with vitamins and vice. A farm-to-table drink; a liquid salad.

The New York Times is the source of another fantastic article. This article by Frank Bruni, former restaurant critic for The Times, takes a look at how the Bloody Mary is changing for the better. How is it changing for the better? One restaurant in the East Village has a version called the “Chicago Matchbox,” and includes pickled Brussels sprouts, caper berries, white turnips, green beans and radishes. Also: some bartenders aren’t afraid to replace vodka as go-to spirit. Bruni goes on to say, “Tequila is perhaps vodka’s best bloody surrogate: its smokiness plays nicely with the flavor of tomato.”

I just want to go back to Paris.

Lastly, you want something that isn’t S&C related? Check out my new favorite blog, littlebrownpen. The author is a copywriter and photographer, and has the most beautiful photos of Paris I’ve ever seen. Seriously, I melt every time I look at them. I am so awestruck that I forget about all the places I’ve never visited, and I just want to go back to Paris. Check out this glorious sequence of Red and Green, and isn’t Violette a pretty word?

Mmm. Just what I needed. Now I’m inspired.

posted by Ms. S&C

Summer picnic: Top Chef DC style

This week’s episode of Top Chef DC had the cheftestants baking pies and grilling picnic food for Capital Hill interns, while they played badminton, croquet, and lounged on George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. (I want to picnic and play lawn games at Mt. Vernon! Right now. It’s gorgeous outside!)

I also want to see more of pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini, who was guest judge for the Quickfire Pie-Baking Challenge. Not sure I was all that excited about the upcoming Top Chef: Just Desserts until this dark haired, tattooed chef (who has a book titled “Dessert Fourplay”) came into my life. Um, yeah, he is super hot. He was also a good judge. I particularly appreciated his comment to Amanda when she said she was not a pastry chef. He responded, “I think it’s kind of a cop-out to say you’re not a pastry chef. My grandmother’s not a pastry chef either, and she can make a pie.” (In the end, it was Kenny who finally came through with a win with his bananas foster pie. I like Kenny.)

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs prepared picnic food. It was interesting that most of their menus did not go in the direction of the Great American Picnic. A lot of the dishes were heavily Asian-influenced. And, the winning dish was Arnold‘s Lebanese-inspired lamb with lemongrass.

Arnold’s winning dish: Sesame Lamb Meatball, Tabouli Salad, Gazpacho

For the Top Chef Drink Pairing: given the picnic-y setting, lawn games and warm climate, it is hard to choose something other than beer. (Except that the distillery at Mount Vernon is now making a Rye Whiskey!) Considering the Mediterranean flavors of Arnold’s dish, Goldstar Beer from Israel could be an option (remember this funny advertisement?). Or, you could have the Great American Lager to go with the Great-but-not-so-American-Picnic.

posted by Ms. S&C

Daiquiris with Tom

Anyone who knows Miss Mojito is well aware of her particular obsession with a certain Washington Post food critic. My sister introduced me to Tom Sietsema about 10 years ago, and ever since then I just can’t get enough of his writing. His thoughtful critiques are backed up by a truly excellent and imaginative writing style. Most days at noon find me sitting at my desk with my lunch, reading Tom’s reviews, travel stories or online chats. Like I said, something of an obsession.

So when Tom (we’re on a first-name basis, he just doesn’t know it) started coming out with a series of short videos, my spirits soared. Topics range from “what’s in Tom’s fridge” to easy dessert recipes. But recently, his video series touched on a subject near and dear to our hearts: the cocktail.

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema has a series of videos on the WaPo website. Check out episode 9 where he shows how to make his favorite summer cocktail, a Hemingway Daiquiri.

Tom’s video about the Hemingway Daiquiri was certainly well timed. It’s a drink that I find irresistible when the weather turns hot and steamy. Check out how our fave food critic prepares his.

The history of the Hemingway Daiquiri has been debated every which way possible, but I’m not so much concerned with its origins as its flavor. Tart and a bit sweet, it’s the ultimate in refreshment.

The Hemingway Daiquiri
Serves one.

  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 3/4 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces white rum

Add ingredients to cocktail shaker and shake well. Serve in chilled cocktail glasses, straight up. Enjoy!

Bonus Tip: This is one cocktail that can stand up well to being prepared a couple of hours in advance, if need be. Moreover, if you prepare a humongous batch and have some leftovers (a highly unlikely scenario), it stores well in a jar in the fridge for a couple of days. I love love LOVE to come home from work to a cold Hemingway Daiquiri waiting for me! I highly recommend you do the same!

Posted by Miss Mojito.