wine

Top Chef: Kwame for President

Top Chef is taking their California road trip very seriously and takes the show from LA to Santa Barbara.  Amidst a vineyard, the 15 remaining chefs find themselves in a Sudden Death Quickfire.

If you’re new here, a Sudden Death Quickfire means the loser is in danger of being eliminated.  I’ll explain when we get there.  The Quickfire is a cool one– the chefs are to pair a wine with an uni (sea urchin) dish.  Guest judge Dana Cowan of Food & Wine magazine tastes with Padma.  The top dishes from the Quickfire are Grayson, Wesley, and Carl, with Grayson declared the ultimate winner and securing immunity.  The bottom dishes are Angelina, who kept it too simple, Karen, who’s uni ribbon idea didn’t pan out, and Giselle, who couldn’t find eggs to make the dish she wanted.  Giselle is the loser, thus she must pick a chef she thinks she can beat one-on-one and fight for her place in the competition.  If she wins, she stays.  If she loses, she goes.

Giselle picks Angelina and they cook again.  Giselle wins, meaning no one goes home this time.

The elimination challenge is supposedly about surf & turf.  The chefs pair up, pick proteins, and have to collaborate on a dish.  Grayson gets to work alone because she won.  After shopping, Tom drops a bomb on them– it’s not a surf & turf dish, it’s surf vs. turf and they’re not partners, they’re competitors.  Again, Grayson’s win gives her an advantage.  She can choose surf or turf and also the pair she’s competing against.

Here’s what the chefs make:

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Grayson chose to battle Amar and Wesley.  Her dish beat both of theirs!

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Jeremy faced off against Phillip and won.  Angelina and Giselle faced off again, and Giselle won again.  Kwame and Chad had a tight match, but Tom broke the tie with, “Kwame for president.”

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Isaac battled Carl, and Cambridge Carl won!  Karen and Marjorie faced off, and despite Karen forgetting to cook a piece of fish, (poor Padma got this sad dish,) she still won.  Jason and Frances were another tiebreaker situation, but for the opposite reason… Jason won.

The top three for the week are Jeremy, Kwame, and Karen.  Kwame takes the win!  The kid is on a roll!

The bottom three for the week are Frances, Angelina, and Wesley.  Sadly, Frances is eliminated.  She seemed so well liked by everyone– her presence will be missed!

Thoughts on who will be next to pack their knives?!

 

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Au Revoir, August

It’s so hard to believe that August– and with it, summer– has come to a close.  This month and this summer went by way too quickly, but I do have some fun instagram snaps and memories to share with you.

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[1] For good measure, here’s a picture of my face before I dyed my hair. To see me blonde, check instagram out now! [2] We took a Duck Tour and got this beautiful view of Boston from the Charles. What a pretty city! [3] That “we” I’m talking about is my family. My aunt, uncle, and cousins came for a visit and it was wonderful! [4] Sunset from Castle Island. Finally, I got to check a couple of summer bucket list items off my list. [5] Here’s another– beautiful Rockport, MA! I wound go back here in a heartbeat. [6] Pokémon Worlds was held in Boston and I attended to watch some Swiss rounds and buy a bunch of things. [7] I ate bananas foster crêpes which checked off two major cravings! Looks at these adorable succulents, too. [8] I started running and feeling skinny enough to wear this crop top that I’ve owned for 3+ years for the first time ever. [9] I had good days and bad days, and washed a bad one down with rosé!

HK14: Blame it on the Alcohol

This week’s episode offered a genuine surprise to me!  We start off with six men remaining on the blue team and five women on red.  As usual, we start with a team challenge.

Chef Ramsay speaks of how alcohol can enhance dishes and thus charges each team with creating at least one dish using each beer, wine, and liquor.  This is a fun challenge made even more fun by guest judge and bartender, JOHN RATZENBERGER!  My favorite former mailman (Cliff on Cheers!  Oh, also a voice in every Pixar movie.  He’s awesome!) and Marino serve up the alcohol to the chefs and get to taste the results.  Of course, each team will only present one of each so the chefs must chose which to drop.

Nick's donuts drizzled in caramel, Michelle's soufflé, and Meghan's picture-perfect duck.

Nick’s donuts drizzled in caramel, Michelle’s bittersweet soufflé, and Meghan’s picture-perfect duck.

  • Battle Beer is Michelle v. Nick | Michelle’s beer stout soufflé earns (out of 5) 3 from John, 4 from Marino and 4 from Gordon.  Nick’s sweet potato donuts with stout caramel sauce earns 4 from John, 4 from Marino, and 4 from Gordon.
  • Battle Wine is Alison v. Adam | Alison’s ribeye with plum port earns a 3, 4, 3.  Adam’s lamb with port earns the same.
  • Battle Liquor is Meghan v. Josh | Meghan’s pan-seared duck breast with calvados apple bacon gastrique earns 3’s across the board.  Josh’s pork with bourbon mushroom sauce gets a 3 from Marino, but 4’s from John & Gordon sealing a win for blue!

There’s a roller skating reward for the men and a grueling punishment for the women, and before you know it, it’s time for dinner service.  Someone’s not quite ready, as Bret takes a trip to the bathroom… and literally never comes back.  It’s a crass way to go out as we hear sounds of pain from a closed lavatory door.  Turns out Bret has a pre-existing slipped disc which is pinching a nerve.  Chef Ramsay finds him lying on the dorm floors, where he shakes his hand from above and tells him he’s done.  Bret withdraws.  The rest carry on.

Dinner service has some very exciting VIP guests at the chef’s tables– in red, Jaleel White (Urkel!) and in blue, Fred Willard!  Too bad the men have so much trouble with communication.  Between Josh, Randy on fish, and Adam on meat, the gastropub menu for the night gets butchered.  I’ve never seen so much wasted fish from the fish and chips entrée.  The meat and fish station cannot coordinate their times, but when Adam brings up undercooked lamb for the chef’s table… twice, he gets blue kicked out.

Red has a few problems too.  Alison undercooks lamb too, but recovers quickly.  Christine is good and vocal with Meghan in the dining room– she and Milly serving table-side for the night.  Red is able to finish service for blue too.  They win the night, obviously.

Adam and Randy are up for elimination.  Chef Ramsay wants to hear from Josh too.  Ultimately, Adam is eliminated.

I still think Randy had more problems, but I don’t think Adam was a bad choice by any means.  With a double elimination this week, I’m sure no one will be going home next week.  We’ll see, though!

Weekend Recap: Bites, Sips, & Splurges

I had such a fantastic weekend that I wanted to share it with all of you!  Yes, Saturday gave us an unwanted spring snowstorm, but Sunday made up for it with the sunshine.  Here’s what I did last weekend:

Saturday, I made plans with my friend Chelsea to meet at a new donut shop, Blackbird Doughnuts.  This place is insanely popular and we had to wait in line that wove around the shop while a new batch baked.

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I tried the cinnamon sugar stack of three mini-donuts while Chelsea went for the lemon coconut.  I was head over heels for mine, and Chelsea enjoyed hers as well!  I will definitely be making a return trip to Blackbird Doughnuts!

Sunday, since it was such a beautiful day, I made some last minute plans to walk around Boston’s North End with my cousin Amanda and her roommate Marisa.  We got sidetracked walking through Faneuil Hall when we stumbled upon Uno de 50.

Headquartered in Madrid, Uno de 50 has unique pieces hand-crafted by Spanish artists.  Each piece is slightly different because they are all made by hand!  The store only gets 6 pieces of each item, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see someone walking around with your jewelry on.  I was slightly disappointed to see that they have a website, but still, the hand-made differences make, for example, the ring I selected look nothing like the website’s version.

We had a great shopping experience with super friendly staff who wasn’t afraid to pull the store apart so we could try on anything and everything.  They poured us wine while we shopped– a sparkling, fruity blush.  There was also a promotion going on where we got a free bracelet, tote bag, and journal with our purchases.

I chose an adorable skull bracelet & cool key wrap ring!

I chose an adorable skull bracelet & cool key wrap ring!  Amanda snapped the wine while we shopped!

What we loved was that each piece has a two-year warranty and can be brought in for free cleaning once per month!  We each left with two pieces!

Off our wine and shopping buzz, we took to the waterfront and the North End enjoying the sun and warmth of the day.  We, of course, stopped by my favorite place, Mike’s Pastry, for a couple of canoli for the Cassaro girls and a zeppole for Marisa!  After enjoying our desserts in the park, we headed home.

more photo credit to Amanda for this shot of me in front of the water.  Nautical + Italian = perfection!  That's the North end.

more photo credit to Amanda for this shot of me in front of the water. Nautical + Italian = perfection! That’s the North end.

I can’t even explain how nice this weekend was!  It definitely felt like spring, even though it’s snowed twice in the last three days…  How was everyone else’s weekend?  And what do you think of my new jewelry?

Hell’s Kitchen Recap: 6 Chefs Compete

As I rewatched this episode to write my recap, I had to laugh at this line from last week on Hell’s Kitchen: “Chef Ramsay surprised everyone by giving the remaining 6 black jackets.” Really? Not me. And I’m guessing not any of you. On to last week’s episode!

This is the first time we got to see the chefs compete as individuals. No longer is is Red v. Blue; the chefs in black came out in full force.

The final six find themselves at the University of Southern California’s football stadium for a tailgate challenge! Each chef will prepare a dish for 50 hungry fans. Tailgaters vote for their favorite dish, and the most votes wins!

USC fans enjoying their sandwiches.

USC fans enjoying their sandwiches.

Jason’s pork belly sandwich is on the orange plate; Scott’s spicy mahi mahi panini is on the red; Joy’s Philly cheese steak lands on green; Melanie’s grilled mahi mahi is on the yellow plate; Rochelle’s chicken BLT is on purple; Kashia’s grilled chicken is on the blue.

Strangely, there is a tie for first place! Jason and Scott both win a trip to the Saddle Peak Lodge in Malibu where a tasting menu with wine pairing awaits. The ladies have to sort all the garbage from the tailgate area and Hell’s Kitchen, recycle, and compost. While the men wine and dine (emphasis on the wine), Melanie has a brief run-in with a zombie lobster and Kashia announces the smell is like “cow maneuver.” Someone please get the girl a dictionary.

Jason is hungover the next day, but the six remaining contestants are ready for face their first dinner service as one kitchen. Kashia stumbles off the bat, preparing one lobster tail for the risotto when two were on order. After that, appetizers go smoothly until Scott overcooks risotto. Chef Ramsay catches him, but he is able to recover well. Another problem arises when Kashia and Melanie cannot work together. It seems to me like Melanie offered to help, Kashia told her to get lost, then blamed it on her for “backing off.” I don’t know. Chef Ramsay yells at them in the walk-in. Since Melanie is on garnish, Kashia relents and lets her help.

After appetizers, Rochelle absolutely butchers chicken by using the wrong knife– as Jason notes, “every knife but the right knife.” It’s literally like shredded chicken. I’m embarrassed for her. Kashia is overly anxious to deliver her salmon and delivers it without letting her team know. What’s worse is that she delivers it completely raw. She drops another “flustrating” venting about the situation. Seriously, give her a dictionary. She and Scott also deliver raw halibut– Scott talks back. Rookie mistake, dude.

Chef Ramsay confesses it’s not what he expected from the final six and charges them to come up with a nomination for elimination. Melanie is right to say there’s some fat they need to trim. It’s obvious that the fish station bombed. Jason and Scott are putting Kashia up for that. Melanie and Joy are both torn between Kashia and Scott, and Rochelle seems to be as well. When it comes down to it, Chef Ramsay asks Jason who the nominee is, and it’s Kashia.

Gordon knows her station was a disaster, but he also wants to hear from Scott. He knows Scott can cook, but can Scott listen? “This is really hard,” he laments as he announces that Kashia will be going home.

I’m sure this was a huge learning experience for Kashia, and Chef notes her progress. However, this was obviously the right decision– she’s just not at the level as the other 5 chefs.

Who do you think will be the next to go?
We’ll find out tonight!