Saturday, February 27, 2010

Burger Bash

Big stars in the Foodie universe were out last week at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Top Chef season 4 winner Stephanie Izard and Top Chef Masters Two competitor Govind Armstrong were spotted at the Amstel Light Burger Bash at the Ritz Carlton.

Other competitors included Top Chef Masters 2's David Burke and past Top Chef guest judges Rocco DiSpirito and Daniel Boulud. TCM1 finalist Art Smith helped judge the competition. And last year's winner, season 4's Spike Mendelsohn, lost out to Iron Chef Michael Symon.

Read what Spike has to say about being the returning champion here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Monica Pope

Named 2009’s Best Chef at the Houston Culinary Awards, Monica Pope is a 2007 James Beard Award Nominee for Best Chef: Southwest and the owner of t’afia and Beaver’s in Houston. The only Texas woman to ever be named a Top 10 Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine, Pope first learned to cook from her Czech grandmother and went on to earn her Chef’s title from Prue Leith’s School of Food and Wine in London.

After working in Europe and San Francisco, Pope returned home to Houston to open her first restaurant, the critically acclaimed The Quilted Toque. Soon after opening her second Houston restaurant, Boulevard Bistrot, she garnered national praise from top critical publications including Travel & Leisure, which hailed her “one of the most ingenious restaurateurs around.” Her latest venture, t’afia, has been featured in Gourmet, O: The Oprah Magazine, Bon Appetit, and Fortune.

She recently published a digital cookbook, Eat Where Your Food Lives (available at and is currently working on a cooking memoir entitled Eating Hope (and Other Things I’ve Had to Stomach).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Susur Lee

Hailed by Zagat as “a culinary genius,” Susur Lee has emerged from his humble beginnings as a 15-year-old apprentice in Hong Kong to become a worldwide leader in Asian fusion cuisine, blending traditional Chinese dishes with classical French techniques. In 1987, Lee opened the doors to his 12-table Lotus restaurant in Toronto, earning rave reviews from The New York Times, Art Culinaire, Gourmet, and Food & Wine magazine.

Lotus ran successfully for a decade before Lee decamped for a "re-energizing" period to Singapore, where he served as head chef and consultant. Returning home to open Susur in 2000, Lee has since launched restaurants in Manhattan (Shang), Washington D.C. (Zentan), and a second restaurant, Lee, in Toronto.

Lee is a sought-after guest chef across the globe, and has been featured on numerous media outlets. A noted philanthropist, he contributes regularly to the James Beard Foundation, cancer research at Spinizolla in Boston and the Null Foundation, which provides scholarships for underprivileged students to attend culinary school.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

It's a Girl!

Congratulations to Padma Lakshmi on the birth of her daughter, Krishna Thea Lakshmi.

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Rick Tramonto

Rick Tramonto is executive chef/partner at the world-renowned four-star and Relais & Chateaux restaurant Tru, in Chicago. Tramonto is also culinary director of Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood, RT Sushi Bar, and Osteria. He has received a bevy of awards and honors including the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef: Midwest Award, the Robert Mondavi Award for Culinary Excellence, Food & Wine magazine's Top 10 Best New Chefs 1994, Outstanding Service Award from The James Beard Foundation, Four-star Mobil, and the Wine Spectator Grand Award.

Tramonto started his culinary career in Rochester N.Y., at Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers in 1977, and has gone on to work with some of the masters: Pierre Gagnaire, Michel Guerard, and Alfred Portale. An accomplished cookbook author with six titles to his credit, his seventh book is due to be released in Spring of 2010 called Rick Tramonto Steak with Friends. Tramonto has a number of television appearances that include Oprah, Today, Iron Chef America, and most recently as a judge on Top Chef.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Maria Hines

The 2009 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: Northwest, Maria Hines sharpened her culinary skills at reputable restaurants from coast-to-coast before becoming a sensation as executive chef of Earth & Ocean in Seattle in 2003.

Named one of Food & Wine magazine’s best chefs in 2005, the Ohio native truly established herself as a national dining force when she opened her certified organic restaurant Tilth, which features New American cuisine. Only the second restaurant in the country to receive the Oregon Tilth organic certification, The New York Times named Tilth one of the top 10 best new restaurants in the country in 2008.

Friday, February 19, 2010

TC News & Information 2.19.2009 has a profile on Canadian Gail Simmons.

Here's an interview with season 6's Eli Kirschtein. And of course no interview with the man can go by without some mention of Robin Leventhal. Robin - just consider it free publicity. :)

Tom Colicchio is hosting a fund-raiser at his restaurants Colicchio & Sons (NY) and Craft (LA) this coming Sunday, February 21st. Natalie Portman will co-host, and Rocco DiSpirito and Top Chef Masters 1 competitor Michael Schlow will be helping out with the food. More information can be found here.

James Beard Semi-Finalists Named

There are some familiar names among the James Beard semi-finalists this year. There were twenty names in each category - the pack will be thinned down yet again and finalists will be announced March 22 in New Orleans.

Tom Colicchio, Craft, NYC (Host, Top Chef)
Mark Peel, Campanile, Los Angeles (Top Chef Masters 1 & 2)
Jerry Traunfeld, Poppy, Seattle (Top Chef Masters 2)

Kevin Gillespie, Woodfire Grill, Atlanta (Finalist, Top Chef 6)

Bryan Voltaggio, Volt, Frederick, MD (Finalist, Top Chef 6)

Wylie Dufresne, WD-50 (Top Chef Masters 1 & 2)
Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto (Top Chef Masters 1 & 2)

Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Los Angeles (Top Chef Masters 1)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Jody Adams

Jody Adams is a James Beard award-winning chef with a national reputation for her imaginative use of New England ingredients in regional Italian cuisine. Her four-star Rialto restaurant in Cambridge has been named “One of the top 20 new restaurants in the country” by Esquire magazine and “One of the world’s best hotel restaurants” by Gourmet.

Beginning her culinary career as a line cook at Seasons restaurant, she went on to open Hamersley’s Bistro as sous-chef and then served as executive chef at Michela’s in Cambridge, where Food & Wine listed her as “one of America’s ten best new chefs.” Soon thereafter, Adams opened Rialto in Harvard Square, collecting many honors as a result, including being inducted into the Nation’s Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame. Adams has been featured in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Bon Appetit, among many others. She also has a strong commitment to hunger relief and is known for her loyal support of The Greater Boston Food Bank, Share Our Strength, and Partners in Health.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

TC News & Information 2.17.2010

Jennifer Carroll will be the honorary chair of this year's Share Our Strength Taste of the Nation culinary fund-raiser at Philadelphia's Loews Hotel on June 21.

Advance admission is $85 and it's $95 at the door -- or $40 more for a VIP admission that gets you an extra hour of feeding time. Tickets can be purchased here.

Access Atlanta spoke to Kevin Gillespie on life after Top Chef.

Not new news, but Eater LA reports that Stefan Richter has taken on a second LA-area restaurant. And Tom Colicchio has transformed his Manhattan outpost of Craft Steak into Colicchio and Sons.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Debbie Gold

A James Beard Award winner and four-time nominee, Debbie Gold has led Kansas City’s The American Restaurant to national recognition as its executive chef. Initially studying restaurant management at the University of Illinois, Gold received her professional culinary training at L’Ecole Hoteliere de Tain L’Hermitage in France.

After apprenticing for two years at Michelin-starred restaurants across that country, she returned to Chicago to hold positions at such reputable venues as Charlie Trotter’s, Everest, and Mirador. Although Gold took a hiatus to begin her successful restaurant venture 40 Sardines, she returned to The American Restaurant as the executive chef to once more lead the locale to a host of honors, including consistent AAA Four Diamond and Mobil Travel Guide Four Star ratings.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Preview

Here's a little preview of the upcoming season which starts on April 7th!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Additions and Changes to Top Chef Masters

Although Kelly Choi will be back, along with all of last season's regular judges, Season 2 of Top Chef Masters will also have Gail Simmons playing a judgmental role. Can't have Judges' Table without a little cleavage! Sounds like there will be some fun guest judges as well.

From the press release:
This season, Top Chef Masters will feature guest stars and judges Mekhi Phifer, "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening and star Hank Azaria, Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern), the cast of Modern Family, US Olympic Swimmer Jason Lezak , Bravo's "Real Housewives of OC" Lynne Curtin, Alexis Bellino, and Tamra Barney among others.
For the second season of "Top Chef Masters," is serving up a new behind-the-scenes treat: unprecedented access to the Judges Table with extended footage of the judging process, only available online. Viewers also will learn how to make each week's winning recipe step-by-step in the popular Top Recipe video series, which returns this season with a brand-new host: Atlanta chef and "Top Chef: Las Vegas" finalist Kevin Gillespie.
Hmm - wonder why Fabio is out as Top Recipe host/chef? Speculate here!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Top Chef Restaurant Experience - Solo

All Top Chef reader Debby Teicher paid a visit to Solo restaurant in Manhattan to experience the cooking of current guest chef, Top Chef Season 6 Cheftestant Eli Kirshstein. While the meal was good, it wasn't as good as she had anticipated.

We've eaten at Solo before - many times with their regular cadre of chefs, and once when Chef Hung (Season 3 champ) was in the kitchen. That experience was very special.

This time, we were seated immediately, and the waiter service was excellent. A wonderful freshly made sun-dried tomato chummus on the table with 2 warm pieces of crusty, light and airy bread per diner. YUM. Our waiter was able to answer any questions we had about the 2 menus; the regular and Chef Eli's. I almost always order the same things when I go to Solo; the sweetbreads and some variation of short ribs. I purposely didn't even look at the regular menu. I was determined to order solely from Chef Eli's menu. It was heavy on the fish. Being a strictly Kosher consumer, I generally do not order fish at Meat restaurants. I can have fish when I go out for dairy...when the rest of the family orders some sort of cheesy pasta. So fish was out for me.

I started with the Pho (Ming Tsai would cringe if he heard the waiter's pronunciation). As I've never had Pho before, I really have nothing to compare it to. I am not a lover of cilantro, but the chef was very light-handed with it, so I actually enjoyed the soup. The waiter poured the hot broth over the raw meat and explained that a few minutes in the broth would cook the meat. I am not that patient, and devoured it half-cooked. The meat was quite tender, the vegetables and noodles cooked al dente. All in all, quite tasty.

Next, I ordered the Lamb Tagine. I have had various tagines in Moroccan restaurants in both NY and Israel...and Chef Eli's version tasted exactly as expected...ridiculously, a disappointment. I was looking for something fresh and new...and I make an amazing Chicken Tagine (Mark Bittman's recipe) that I honestly like better.

My husband ordered a duet of lamb and beef as his appetizer. Looked pretty boring on the plate, but he said it was terrific. He didn't share. His entree was a rack of lamb ribs. I snatched a little taste and thought it was delicious, but I didn't get a big enough piece to discern any flavors.

Desserts were off the chef's menu, so I will not go into them (yum).

The wait staff was aware that I was "blogging" and taking pictures of all the food. I would get that the Chef was told. Unfortunately, the head chef of Prime Grill, Solo's sister restaurant, was dining in the private room and Chef Eli was too busy running in and out of there (well...waddling is more like it) to bother to visit with the masses. Disappointing. Chef Hung was much more welcoming - took pics with us and answered all our questions.

If you have a Top Chef Restaurant Experience that you'd like to share with our readers, please drop us a line at

Thursday, February 11, 2010

TC News & Information 2.11.10

The Voltaggio Brothers will be preparing a multi-course meal at the James Beard House on March 9th. Check out the menu here.

There are several Top Cheftestants who have cookbooks in the works, most notably Season 4's Spike Mendelsohn and Stephanie Izard. Read more about them here.

Bravo's Top Chef and Top Chef Masters are teaming up with Foursquare. Read more here.

Ever wonder how one would cook with liquid nitrogen? Richard Blais is happy to explain.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 Participants Revealed!

EW has apparently got the scoop on the 22 chefs who will be competing in season two of Top Chef Masters - including 6 chefs who competed in season 1.

The six returning chefs:

Graham Elliot Bowles – Graham Elliot Restaurant, Chicago, Ill.
Wylie Dufresne – wd~50, New York, N.Y.
Ludo Lefebvre – Ludo Bites, Los Angeles, Calif.
Rick Moonen – Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, Nev.
Mark Peel – Campanile, Los Angeles, Calif.
Jonathan Waxman – Barbuto, New York, N.Y.

And the newbies:

Jody Adams – Rialto Restaurant, Cambridge, Mass.
Govind Armstrong – 8 oz Burger Bar, Los Angeles, Calif.
Jimmy Bradley – The Red Cat, New York, N.Y.
David Burke – David Burke Townhouse, New York, N.Y.
Susan Feniger – Street, Los Angeles, Calif.
Debbie Gold – The American Restaurant, Kansas City, Mo.
Carmen Gonzalez – Chef Consultant, New York, N.Y.
Maria Hines – Tilth, Seattle, Wash.
Susur Lee – Madeline’s, Toronto, Canada
Tony Mantuano – Spiaggia, Chicago, Ill.
Monica Pope – t’afla, Houston, Texas
Thierry Rautureau – Rover’s, Seattle, Wash.
Marcus Samuelsson – The Red Rooster, New York, N.Y.
Ana Sortun – Oleana, Cambridge, Mass.
Rick Tramonto – TRU, Chicago, Ill.
Jerry Traunfeld – Poppy, Seattle, Wash.

Can't wait until the new season starts on April 7th!

Cooking With Top Chef 2.10.10

Jenn Murphy of Sweet Water keeps on trying out recipes from Season Six of Top Chef. Here are two more delectable dishes:

This is my first attempt at one of Brian V.'s dishes. It was also the elimination challenge winner from the fifth episode.

I had high hopes for it even though I'm not a super-huge pork chop fan (pork chop makes me think dry and lacking in flavour.)

I'm also not a big fan of dandelion greens (too bitter)....or rutabaga (a staple in Newfie boiled dinner and therefore forever tainted in my mind) for that matter.

I do love me some polenta though!

The fact that I am not enamored of the main ingredients in this dish is actually what drew me to it. I wanted to be challenged to open myself up to flavours that I typically wouldn't consider cooking or ordering on a menu.

The verdict?

Pork loin? It was moist, tender and yummy. Marinating the loin cut for an hour before hand definitely gave it a texture that I hadn't experienced before.

Dandelion greens? Still overwhelmingly bitter...until combined with the polenta and the pork. Then the bitterness was neutralized and I enjoyed the combination.

Rutabaga? Time to give the turnip a second chance, I say. Also, my love of braised veggies is once more re-affirmed.

Polenta? Always a winner. I'd never had it with mascarpone before. It certainly won't be the last time though.

As a whole dish I have to say this may have been my least favourite so far.

Don't get me wrong, it was good. It just didn't excite me or inspire me in any way. I am reminded of the judges suggesting a kind of safety on Brian's part. I can see it in this dish. It felt safe and standard - good but not special.

Roasted Pork Loin with Polenta, Dandelion and Rutabaga

3 5 oz. center portion pork loin steaks


1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tbsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp crushed cumin seeds
1 sprig rosemary
1 clove garlic sliced
6 sprigs thyme
1/2 shallot sliced
sea salt


2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup dry polenta
1/8 cup mascarpone
1 tbsp unsalted butter


1 bunch dandelion greens
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 cup red onion diced
1/2 cup oyster mushrooms


2 rutabaga cut into pieces 1/2 inch high and 1 inch diameter
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tbsp unsalted butter

Pork Marinade:
Mix together marinade. Pour over pork chops and marinate covered in fridge for 1 hour.

While pork is marinating heat chicken stock, vinegar, sherry and honey until forms glaze. Add in butter. Add in rutabaga and cook until tender (about 30 mins).

Remove pork from marinade and dry thoroughly with paper towel. Sear pork on stove top until medium to medium rare. Baste pork with butter, rosemary and garlic. Let rest. Roast oyster mushrooms in pan with pork fat until browned. Reserve for plating.

Heat whole milk to simmer and pour in polenta. Stir constantly for 10-15 mins until desired consistency is reached. Add in mascarpone and butter. Season with s&p.

In small saute pan heat butter to a froth. Add in red onion and cook until translucent. Add dandelion and lemon zest. Cook until braised.

To serve:
Spoon polenta on to plate. Dandelion greens and mushrooms on top. Sliced pork on top of that. Rutabaga on the side.

I love a good lettuce wrap. And this one was definitely not a disappointment. I loved every bite of it.

Once again I found myself questioning some of the individual components of the dish (specifically the glaze for the pork) but when everything came together it was perfection.

I should really just suck it up, admit that my palate is inferior and stop questioning the professionals!

Michael's recipe called for smoked slab bacon which, damn small town shopping, I could not find on that particular day, so I used a piece of smoked pork shoulder instead. Yummy!

The crushed peanuts with cayenne and ginger were a delicious topping. I'm not a big fan of ginger but paired with the cayenne it was created a beautiful boost to the roasted peanut flavour.

I ate so many of these wraps! I love a dish you can just put out and allow people to put together as they choose. It's definitely one I will be keeping in my reserves.

Without further ado I give you:

Braised Pork with Soy Mustard Sauce and Peanuts
(adapted from Michael Votaggio's Top Chef recipe on

1 1/2 lb. piece smoked pork shoulder
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 onion sliced
1 carrot diced
2 sticks celery chopped
3/4 gallon water
1/2 quart soy sauce
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1/8 cup yellow mustard
1/8 cup ginger powder
1/2 cup roasted peanuts crushed
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 head romaine lettuce
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup cornstarch mixed with 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup Indian style mango chutney

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Score the skin of the pork shoulder creating cross cuts along the surface. Heat sesame oil in large, deep oven safe dish or pot. Sear the pork skin side down in sesame oil until browned. Flip pork over and add vegetables to pot. Add water and 1/2 the amount of powdered ginger. Cover with foil and place in oven for 2 hours. While pork is cooking mix soy sauce, mustards, honey, mango chutney, remaining powdered ginger and 1/2 quart water. Bring to simmer and allow to reduce for 20 minutes. Add cornstarch and water mixture a little at a time to thicken liquid to a glaze. When pork has cooked, remove from braising liquid and brush with glaze. Slice pork into thin pieces. Mix crushed peanuts with cayenne and ginger powder to taste. Separate leaves of romaine.

To Eat
Place slices of pork in romaine leaf. Spoon more glaze over top. Sprinkle peanuts on top.

I served everything as pictured, with a bowl of the glaze on the side to add as wanted. Casual, delicious dining.

If you've been cooking up some delectable dishes with Top Chef recipes, we'd love if you shared them with us. If you're interested in doing so, please drop us a line at

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rumor Has It...

...that Top Chef 7 may be filmed in the Nation's Capital. When we polled our readers back in the first week of January, 28% thought D.C. would be the place.

Now we have to wait to see if we truly guessed correctly.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hung Huynh's Superbowl Wings

If I wasn't snowed in and could get to the store to buy chicken wings, I'd be making these to nibble while watching the Saints beat the Colts:

Lemongrass and Curry Chicken Wings

Prep: 15 minutes
Marinate: At least 2 hours
Cook: 30 minutes
Makes: 20 wings

5 lbs. chicken wings (about 20 wings)
1 cup lemongrass (chopped fine)
3 Tbsp. curry
½ cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. black pepper
3 Tbsp. hot sauce (any kind)
Garlic (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and marinade for 2 hours or overnight. Place wings on a sheet pan and roast in oven at 400ºF for about 30 minutes.

Comment: Spray the pan so the wings don't stick. You will need two rimmed baking sheets. Marinate the wings in a large plastic bag. The longer they marinate, the stronger the flavor

See the video here. Source:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

TC News & Information 2.3.2010

Stephanie Izard will be appearing at Taste Washington, March 27-28. For more information, click here.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore is hosting a third series of sustainable seafood dining featuring three Top Cheftestants. Jesse Sandlin kicks off the series on 3/23, followed by Bryan Voltggio on 5/18, and Jill Snyder on 6/22. More information can be found here.

More speculation as to who will be competing on the upcoming Top Chef Masters can be found here. But didn't Jonathan Waxman participate last time?

Scuttlebutt is that Padma's babydaddy is venture capitalist Adam Dell...who got only 6% of your votes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Top Chef Restaurant Experience - Volt

Baltimore-area blogger Trix had a great lunch at Bryan Voltaggio's restaurant Volt, in Frederick, MD, which she shares with us here.

Top Chef fans will recognize Volt as the restaurant of finalist and first runner-up Bryan Voltaggio, brother of winner Michael Voltaggio. If you don't watch the show, there's a good chance you've never heard of the place, unless you happen to live in Frederick or the Baltimore/DC metro area. That's too bad: The vibe at Volt is definitely more urban than the Western Maryland location would lead you to expect, and I'd happily drive double the hour-plus it takes me to get there to enjoy both the (mostly) spot-on food and the impeccable, knowledgeable service.

My party - Poppa Trix, mother-in-law Trix, brother-in-law Trix, and his wife - chose the three-course lunch with wine pairings. If you know of another fine dining restaurant where you can get a deal like this for $35 ($20 for lunch, plus $15 for the wine pairings), please let me know and I'll meet you there! Seriously, lunch at Volt is a steal: I've spent more money in one sitting for cruddy food, flat beer, and saucy service.

First things first: the bread. This is a make-or-break moment for me. No matter how nice a place is, if they skimp on the bread, you'll never convince me that they really care. Fortunately, I felt the love right off the bat with still-warm roll that was fragrant with rosemary and seasoned with flecks of salt:

Did the bread sticks really need that fennel pollen? Maybe not, but it was a fun touch:

Voltaggio has said that one reason he has stayed in his hometown of Frederick is because of its proximity to agriculture and fresh produce. Whenever possible, he sources his ingredients locally and/or sustainably. This philosophy was showcased in my first course, a salad of Tuscarora farm beets, Cherry Glen Farm goat cheese mousse, pea shoots, and balsamic vinegar:

This was a simple and fresh way to begin my meal. The pairing, a 2007 Graham Beck Rose from South Africa, balanced the earthiness of the beets without overpowering the delicate goat cheese mousse.

Bro-in-law Trix had a shiitake veloute with chili oil, basil, and a pinenut sabayon:

I confess that in general I am not the biggest mushroom fan - but this soup may just have converted me. The mushrooms were not at all overpowering or one-note; rather, combined with the sabayon, they were a subtle, woodsy, and mellow presence.

But Poppa ordered the stand-out starter, the yellowfin tuna tartare with avocado, yuzu vinaigarette, chili oil, red shiso, soy air, and sesame lavash:

A lot of ingredients? Oh yes, and in the hands of a lesser chef this dish could have been chaos. Instead, when tasted together, all of the flavors remained distinct, yet also came together to form a succession of lingering taste impressions, ending with a pleasant heat. I admit, that soy air may be a bit fussy ... but it worked.

Next up, Poppa Trix and I both had the striped bass with a farro risotto and a cardamom-spiced carrot broth, along with more of those pea shoots:

This was actually our least favorite course. There was nothing wrong with it at all - in fact, the fish was perfectly cooked and wonderfully moist in the inside, with that little bit of crunchy skin - but something was missing. Perhaps it was because I couldn't taste the cardamom in the carrot broth, or it may have been that the farro "risotto" was a tad under seasoned. Don't get me wrong: This was a really good dish, and it may just be that everything else was so perfectly seasoned and "wow," that it suffered by comparison. In any case, for this to be the weakest dish is really a testament to the strength of the other courses in the meal.

But it was dessert, which I usually find to be the least memeorable or exciting part of the meal, that has really stuck with me. The problem is that all too often, desserts are overly sweet, and obliterate the flavors of the savory part of the meal, when instead the last course should complement what has come before. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you ... textures of chocolate. Sorry Poppa Trix - I think I want to marry this dessert:

Ah, just look at that ... white chocolate mousse, crunchy, slightly-bitter dark chocolate tuiles, raw organic cocoa, chocolate caramel, and milk chocolate ice cream - and none of it was a cloying sugar bomb! Hooray! Perfectly paired with the 2008 Robertson Winery Gewurztraminer, this was a dessert to savor slowly, and enjoy the way the textures and flavors of bitter and sweet worked together.

As if all this wasn't enough, we were sent off with muffins to enjoy the next day for breakfast:

I'm looking forward to a return trip - if I can get a table, that is. We ate there just days after the Top Chef finale (I had made reservations many weeks in advance), and the place was just packed and buzzing with excitement. In fact, the chef's table is booked through November 2010. It's a good thing lunch is my favorite meal of the day!

If you have a Top Chef Restaurant Experience that you'd like to share with our readers, please drop us a line at

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hottest Men and Women in Food

Slashfood has compiled lists of the hottest men and women in food and it's really no surprise to find that there are several Top Cheftestants, guest judges, and hosts in the mix.

In the Top Ten Hottest Men, guest judge Todd English came in at 9, with former judge and rumored Top Chef Masters competitor Marcus Samuelsson at 7, Tyler Florence at 6, both Voltaggio brothers at 5, guest judges Johnny Iuzzini at 4 and Rocco DiSpirito at 3, with season 2 cheftestant Sam Talbot coming in at numero uno.

As for the women, former Top Chef hostess Katie Lee came in at #9, with Gail Simmons in the 7th spot, season 6 finalist Jennifer Carroll at 5, guest judge Nigella Lawson in 4th, and Padma Lakshmi in the number one position.

Video du Jour - Bryan Voltaggio makes Cheesecake