Bravo

What I Watch – à La Carte

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I’ve recently cut ties with my cable provider.  We switched to a cheaper, faster internet provider and are exploring the world of à la carte TV!  It’s forced me to really take inventory of what channels I watch.  Here’s my list:

BBC America

It’s at the forefront of my mind that Orphan Black’s final season is coming!  I know I can’t live without seeing this show.  Also, is Broadchurch’s new season going to come to America?  I need that too.  Thankfully, BBC America was offered by both Sling Orange ($20/month) and Playstation Vue ($30/month), our two top options.

Bravo

Watching Top Chef live is of utmost importance to me.  There’s not a show out there that I like recapping more than Top Chef!  I feel like it’s imperative that I have access to this show and this channel… for important reality TV reasons…  We’d have had to bump up to Sling Blue ($5 more per month) to get Bravo, but it’s included in Playstation Vue!

Cartoon Network

We are the Crystal Gems!  Steven Universe is my favorite thing currently on TV.  I bought seasons on Amazon just to stay current.  It’s no surprise that we started our Playstation Vue 7-day free trial the day the new episode premiered.  Cartoon Network is also available on Sling Orange.

HBO

Since Girls is over, we are currently living without HBO.  When Game of Thrones comes back, we will not be living without HBO.  Thankfully, HBO Now is a thing so we can probably just do that independently of any package we have.

MTV

This one I had to sacrifice.  I may have a Catfish addiction and I might enjoy a guilty pleasure or two on this channel (ahem Teen Mom OG), but MTV was not available on Playstation Vue.  We could add MTV for an additional $5 to any Sling package, but…

TLC

Ugh, I can’t help it.  I watch so much TLC it’s pathetic.  I love Say Yes to the Dress which is thankfully always on.  I guess this whole channel is my guilty pleasure.  At the end of the day, I couldn’t live without this channel and it was only available on Playstation Vue, not in any Sling package.

So we’re testing out Playstation Vue!  It’s more expensive than the Sling options, but I wasn’t willing to compromise on TLC.  The best part is, we can cancel at any time if we decide to test something else out!  I guess the actual best part is that there’s a Roku app– we can stream it on both the PS4 in the living room and the Roku in the bedroom, so for the first time ever, we have cable in both rooms!

Who else has made the switch to à la carte TV?

i m a g e s

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Top Chef Charleston Finale

Another season of Top Chef has come to a close.  As much as I complained about this veteran v. rookie format, I loved some of my old favorites get a second (or third) chance to capture the title of Top Chef!

Shirley and Brooke face off for their final four course dinner for Top Chef.  All of the previous cheftestants come back to act as sous chefs.  They get to pick two each.  Shirley has the first pick and snatches up Brooke’s obvious first pick, Casey.  Brooke goes with who I thought the first pick would be, Sheldon.  Shirley picks Katsuji, pretty much because he’s Mexican.  Brooke picks Sam, which is kind of a surprise to me but okay.  The judges bring in Brooke & Shirley’s chefs de cuisine for their third sous.

They shop, but the proteins are provided for them and they make a little list for the requests… only, Brooke forgets to add pork belly, even though she has a dish that is built around pork belly.  Shirley orders it as back up, so Brooke ends up getting to use it anyway.

They make:

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To be honest, I could tell Brooke had this on lock down.  The reception to her first three dishes was just too good.  Even though Shirley cleaned up on dessert (even Brooke’s mom knew that) and held her own on most of the other dishes, I just knew this one was going to Brooke.

You know, Brooke got beat by Kristen Kish via Last Chance Kitchen and, although Kristen was completely deserving, being that it was the first season they did LCK, it always felt a little rough to me.  For Brooke to come back and win it all via LCK really felt like the redemption she deserved.

Of course it’s hard to see Shirley lose.  She is so endearing!  She truly puts her heart on a plate, and listening to her sister teach her mother say “I’m very proud,” I felt Shirley got a little redemption too– “…not a doctor, but a chef,” she says.

It was a great season, and I can’t wait for another!

Top Chef: I’m Not Crying

We’re down to the final four at the start of last week’s episode– Brooke, Shirley, and Sheldon I knew would be here, but I’m as surprised as John is to see him there!  But yeah, no; he’s not crying.

The chefs find the Quickfire set up to be a little different– 4 identical sets of 2 work stations divided by a wall.  The chefs are to instruct mystery guests and make a dish that tastes and looks the same!  Now, these mystery guests are their nearest & dearest– John’s wife, Sheldon’s wife, Shirley’s husband, and Brooke’s sister.  (Fans will remember; Brooke’s husband is a chef too, so he clearly wasn’t allowed to play.)  It cracks me up that no one seems to recognize their loved one’s voice!  Sheldon picks up on it right away, but he keeps the surprise for everyone.

All four dishes are successful, but Sheldon ends up taking home the win and a prize fo $10k for him & his wife!  The chefs all get to spend some time with their loved one that evening when Padma cooks for them in their home.

The elimination challenge for the week is equally as sentimental as the Quickfire ended up being.  The chefs are to create a dish to reflect on their time in Charleston; winner gets to cook at the James Beard house!

Here are the results:

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John worries his dish may be a little simple by comparison, but his oceanside point-of-view is clear.

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You know Shirley’s going to knock it out of the park when she says she’s not made this for the judges, but for her family who inspired her.  With a request to open up a Chinese soul food restaurant in Charleston heard, I think it’s safe to say she did just that.

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Brooke takes a literal interpretation of the challenge, as that’s how she works best.  She uses ingredients and elements from dishes that have brought her success in Charleston.  Though she’s not confident, the judges do enjoy what she presents.

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Sheldon works magic melding cultures– he takes Carolina gold rice and turns it into chow fun.  And with it, he wins!

Tom says there are no losers, just one person who’s not moving on.  Sadly, and honestly surprisingly, that person is Brooke.

Let’s not forget, Brooke was beat by Last Chance Kitchen’s champion, so she’s really still in this!  Maybe.  We’ll see tonight, right?!

Top Chef: Ah Spicy, Ah Ginger! Next!

It’s the episode I’ve been waiting for!  Michael Voltaggio guest judges for a very fun Quickfire– the blindfolded taste test!  This is one of my favorite challenges from the best of the Gordon Ramsay shows, so I always like seeing it.

When all is said and done, Emily, Silva, and Shirley named the fewest ingredients.  Brooke, Sheldon, and Casey did the best.  Sheldon got 10, Casey got 11, and Brooke crushed the competition with 16!  (John goes unmentioned in the middle of the pack.)

The challenge for the week is to create a meal that is reminiscent of your childhood. (more…)

Top Chef: Tastes Like Strawberries

It’s the moment all the chefs have been waiting for: Restaurant Wars!  There is no Quickfire this time.  The chefs find themselves face to face with Daniel Humm, Will Guidara, and of course, Padma Lakshmi.  The space they stand in will be their restaurant… both teams’ restaurant, as they will serve on separate nights to see how each team can transform the same space.  They draw knives to determine teams.

Shirley and Katsuji pull knives to make them team captains.  Katsuji, who’s pulled first pick, selects Sheldon who admits he’s “had some luck” on this challenge before.  Shirley pulls Brooke, another solid Restaurant Wars veteran.  Katsuji picks Casey and Shirley picks Sylva, leaving John and Emily who are both tough picks after the last elimination.  Katsuji goes for John having worked successfully with him before and leaving Emily to Shirley.

Shirley naturally takes the role of executive chef.  She gives Brooke front-of-house, where she excelled in her last Restaurant Wars.  Katsuji, for whatever reason, does not want executive chef.  He wants to make three dishes.  He assigns this role to John and gives Casey front-of-house.  Katsuji also got to choose which night his team serves, and he’s opted to go second.

So, Shirley’s Red Team serves first.  Their restaurant is called Latitude, inspired by the sea.

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Brooke’s salmon is well received, but Emily’s squid ink pasta lacks both texture and flavor.  Shirley’s snapper goes over pretty well, but Sylva’s halibut is a big hit!  Shirley’s panna cotta is a disaster, though she knew it would be.  Emily buttermilk cake is surprisingly well received, though!

Katsuji’s Blue Team goes the next night.  They merge their styles using the south as their inspiration, since it is Top Chef Charleston after all.  Southern Belle serves up family style, making Tom ask, “Why are we sharing small plates?”

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Katsuji’s tamale is a bit confusing, but his beef tongue is a restaurant favorite.  His dessert is undercooked, though.  Sheldon’s soup doesn’t really work.  Casey’s dessert is nice and “tastes like strawberries.”

The Red Team wins, putting the Blue Team on the chopping block.  John, as executive chef, is under fire.  Katsuji, as the ultimate decision maker, takes the brunt of it and ends up packing his knives.

This was a tough one for me, as I like Katsuji!  Who do you think is next to go?!

Top Chef: Cooking with Your Soul

With only 11 chefs left, the Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthymeets them to introduce the Quickfire Challenge.  Their challenge is to make classic comfort foods healthy.  And, since Padma thinks it’s a bit easy, these meals are going to have to be vegetarian.  To add a physical aspect, the chefs are only allowed to grab one ingredient at a time… that’s a lot of running back and forth!

After the tasting is done, Vivek calls out Sylva, Casey, and Katsuji as his least favorites.  Emily, Jamie, and Brooke get called out for the top spots, and Jamie takes the Quickfire win!

The elimination challenge is a tribute to Edna Lewis, a pioneer Southern chef.  Alexander Smalls and Toni Tipton-Martin come to educate the chefs about Edna Lewis, who Padma likens to Julia Child-level influence of Southern cuisine.  The chefs draw inspiration from her cookbook, too.

Here’s what they come up with:

At the top of the pack, we have Jim, Sylva, and Sheldon.  Sylva takes the win!

Amanda, Emily, and Brooke find themselves on the chopping block.  Tom says there was once fish that didn’t give them that feeling associated with Southern cooking… and it’s Amanda who packs her knives!

I can’t say I’m too surprised… but I’m so glad Brooke lives to fight another day!

Top Chef: If Snooki Served This

Well hello!  I hope everyone’s has a lovely Christmas/Hannukah/winter holiday of choice.  It’s time to get back into the blog groove with a Top Chef recap just in time for tonight’s new episode!  (We try.)

Hey, did you know there was a new editor at Food & Wine?  I hadn’t realized until Padma annouced Nilou Motamed, who brought the chefs Quickfire gifts.  The chefs have 30 minutes to create a dish using everything (and we mean everything) in the wrapped boxes before them.  The box holds a pressure cooker (which I actually just got for Christmas!), Patron Tequila, pomegranate, chocolate-covered pretzels, cloves, wasabi, squab, and a melon baller.  Ooookay!

Shirley basically has a bad time.  She sets fire to her squab.  Sheldon accidentally works on her station and steals her melon baller, so she doesn’t even know to use it.  Padma makes a comment about how it’s a good thing it’s not a sudden death Quickfire… (“or is it?  I don’t know yet.”  Cute, Padma.)  Shirley finds herself in the bottom with Emily and BJ.  The top of the pack is Brooke, John, and Casey, who takes the win and immunity for the elimination challenge.

Local chef Mike Lata joins Padma for the elimination challenge.  He once fired Emily, so it’s super awkward for her.  The elimination challenge is a take on a tradition that I just experienced, the Feast of the Seven Fishes… but, with trash fish.  The chefs draw knives to pair off and grab a less-than-ideal fish to work with.

They serve to Padma, Nilou, Mike, Tom Colicchio, Richard Blais, Hugh Acheson,and Graham Elliot.

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Having recovered from their Quickfire spat, Shirley & Sheldon come together to create a harmonious mullet dish– even the multitude of bones can’t detract.

img_2510Jamie and Sylva’s fish may taste a bit like blood, but they’re able to turn it into something that looks like tuna.  Impressive!

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Poor Brooke got no support from a frazzled Emily.  This dish needed editing.

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The broth and, what BJ calls, “Silvia’s Italian cracker than I can’t pronounce,” were the only things good on this dish.  The barrel fish ate like chicken.

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An unlikely duo, Katsuji & John, hit it out of the park with their triggerfish.  Okay, they served two different preparations of tomatoes… Katsuji’s sauce sealed the deal for this one and egos were pushed aside!

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Amanda was kind of a nutcase in the kitchen and undercooked her beans.  She and Jim’s dish came off a little pedestrian for the judges.  Tom calls it “South Jersey” cuisine.

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Since Casey won the Quickfire, she got to work alone.  She was grateful to have immunity this week, as she would’ve rather not served anything than this dish.

At judges’ table, Shirley and Sheldon, Jamie and Sylva, and John and Katsuji are the standouts.  Katsuji wins for his sauce, as he & John had the judges’ favorite dish!  The rest of the crew is the bottom, save for Casey with her immunity.  I was nervous for Brooke, but BJ is ultimately sent packing his knives.

I’m so looking forward to what seems like a very interesting Quickfire tonight.  Who’s ready?!  Who do you think is next to go?