Friday, June 29, 2012

Meet the Chefs - Takashi Yagihashi

Owner, Takashi Restaurant and Slurping Turtle
Competing for: Japanese Tsunami Disaster Relief

Over his 25-year career, Takashi Yagihashi has been lauded by consumers and critics alike for his exquisite ways of melding contemporary French, Asian and American cuisine. A native of Mito, Japan, the self-taught Yagihashi was working in a local restaurant when the owner asked him to relocate to the States and work for him there; over the next several years, the young chef worked his way up the culinary ladder throughout Chicago. In 1993, he was named chef de cuisine and eventually partner at the four-star Ambria; in 1996, he was presented with an Executive Chef opportunity, and left Chicago to open Tribute in suburban Detroit. An instant classic, Tribute was on every “best of” list, including Gourmet’s list of America’s Top 50 Restaurants, Yagihashi was named one of America’s ten “Best New Chefs” by Food & Wine (2000), and the esteemed James Beard Foundation selected him as “Best Chef: Midwest” in 2003. Yagihashi next was Executive Chef at Okada at the Wynn hotel (Las Vegas) in 2005; under his lead, Bon Appetit named Okada “Best New Japanese Restaurant.” In late 2007, Yagihashi opened Takashi in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood; the restaurant was named “#1 Best New Restaurant” by Chicago Magazine and one of ten “Best New Restaurants of the Year” by Esquire. He then opened Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi, which was named one of the “Five Best Noodle Shops in America” by Bon Appetit; in 2009, he published his first cookbook, Takashi’s Noodles. In both 2010 and 2011, Takashi received a coveted Michelin star. In late 2011, Slurping Turtle opened to instantaneous success. Located downtown, Slurping Turtle offers Japanese comfort food, where delicate balance and respect for natural flavors continues to be a hallmark of his cooking style.

Posted on

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dine on Kevin Sbraga's Winning Top Chef Finale Menu!

I just received this press release, and it could be great fun for a Top Chef fan in the Philadelphia area:

(New York, NY; June 27, 2012) - On Monday, August 6, 2012, Owner and Chef Kevin Sbraga will unveil the "Chef's Counter" at his namesake restaurant Sbraga in Philadelphia. The interactive Chef's Counter will regularly feature a new six-course tasting menu for $75 with an optional $50 wine pairing. For his inaugural menu, Chef Sbraga will feature his winning dishes from the finale episode of Bravo's "Top Chef" season seven, available for three weeks only. Following this special menu, the Chef's Counter menu will change weekly beginning on August 27, 2012, showcasing Chef Sbraga's unique take on modern American cuisine without boundaries.

"People always ask about the dishes that helped me win season seven of 'Top Chef,'" says Sbraga. "Starting the Chef's Counter with this menu will be fun and nostalgic for me. My cooking has evolved since then, so the menu will continue to change and be more representative of what I'm doing now."

Chef Sbraga will personally prepare and serve the six-course dinner to guests seated at the Chef's Counter, which overlooks the open-format kitchen, giving diners a chance to interact with him as he cooks. Highlights from the first Chef's Counter menu include:

Eggplant Terrine
black garlic, pickled tomatoes, jalapeño, and shrimp puffs

Red Mullet
calamari noodles, black pork belly, and lemon grass oil

Duck Breast 
foie gras dumpling, orange-coriander sauce, and bok choy

Singapore Sling 2012
coconut milk panna cotta, tropical fruits, and Singapore Sling granita

Chef Sbraga opened Sbraga, his first restaurant, on Philadelphia's Avenue of the Arts in October of 2011 with his wife Jesmary Sbraga as Pastry Chef. Reimagining classic dishes like the wedge salad and meat loaf, Chef Sbraga has a no boundaries approach to modern American cuisine with a focus on quality ingredients to create bold and interesting flavor combinations. With reclaimed wood walls and Edison-style antique lighting, the interior of Sbraga is contemporary and clean, yet rustic and warm with an open kitchen, the new Chef's Counter, and a Bar. In addition to the Chef's Counter, Sbraga offers guests a $49 four-course prix-fixe menu in the main dining area, as well as an à la carte menu available only at the bar.

Reservations are strongly recommended for the Chef's Counter and will be available twice a night at 6pm and 8:30pm, with the Counter seating up to six individuals. Chef Sbraga's "Top Chef" tasting menu will be available Monday, August 6, 2012 - August 25, 2012. Following this special menu, the Chef's Counter menu will change weekly beginning on August 27, 2012.

Sbraga serves dinner Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.  Find Sbraga on Facebook and Twitter and for information on reservations, and more.

Posted on

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Meet the Chefs - Patricia Yeo

Om Restaurant & Lounge/Moksa Pan Asian Izakaya
Competing for: Heifer Project International

By melding elements of an international upbringing that took her from Malaysia to England to the United States with a precision that she honed as a trained scientist, Chef Patricia Yeo has created an innovative, elegant cuisine. Born in Oregon, she attended boarding school in England. She was on her way to completing a biochemistry degree at Princeton University when she enrolled in a cooking class at the New York Restaurant School to try something different. There she met Bobby Flay, and they worked together at the Miracle Grill, Mesa Grill, and Bolo. After working in restaurants on the east and west coasts, Yeo opened the eclectic Asian-inspired American restaurant, AZ, in New York City in 1999. In late 2007, Yeo moved to South East Asia to learn the food ways and culture of the region. While traveling in Asia she worked as a restaurant consultant for various hotels and boutique resorts. In 2009, Yeo moved from New York to Boston to open Ginger Park. Now in Cambridge at Om Restaurant & Lounge, Yeo brings innovative and inspirational cooking in theme with Om and its Asian-Fusion palate. And most recently, Chef Yeo became the chef of a brand new restaurant also in Cambridge, called Moksa which features Asian street food.

Posted on

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

TC News & Information 6.26.12

Top Chef Masters' champ Marcus Samuelsson talks about vacations in this new article in the Chicago Tribune.

California's foie gras ban begins on July 1st and CBS This Morning had a feature on area restaurants and chefs serving the delicacy for the last time. Included in the story are season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio. Click here for the article and to see the video.

Speaking of Voltaggio, his restaurant, ink, was recently reviewed by LA Weekly. If you can't be bothered to read the whole thing, here's an article outlining the review's salient points.

Posted on

Monday, June 25, 2012

Chef Dale Levitski at Space Camp!

Dale Levitski with one of only 12 men to ever walk
on the moon, Charlie Duke.
We got this lovely note in the ATC mailbox last week...

"Friday, June 15th, Season 3 runner-up Dale Levitski was our guest chef for Space Camp’s 30th Anniversary Celebration & Hall of Fame Induction Dinner. At this event, he served a delicious family-style meal that he had conceptualized for us from start to finish, to over 500 guests. His menu reflected his Midwest flair and the Southern flavors that most of our event guests were most accustomed to. And as nervous as Dale was to be serving a fried-green tomato to this crowd, he hit a grand slam and left them all wanting more. The entire dinner was SO well received and everyone was asking for seconds and licking their plates clean. Several of our Hall of Fame inductees, who attend our events year after year, had commented that this meal was one of the best they have ever had.

"The U.S. Space & Rocket Center was SO proud to have Dale Levitski here, and we would be happy to have him back at ANY time!"

You can follow Space Camp on Facebook or Twitter @SpaceCampUSA.
Go Chef Dale!

Posted on

Friday, June 22, 2012

Win Angelo Sosa's New Cookbook

Angelo Sosa from Top Chef seasons 7 and 8 has a new cookbook out, Flavor Exposed: 100 Global Recipes from Sweet to Salty, Earthy to Spicy. The book is full of Angelo's enticing Asian-influenced recipes like Sweet Tomato Soup with Curried Whipped Cream, Soy-Steeped Chicken with Tea Leaves, the Saigon Burger with Ginger Glaze and Thai Basil Mayo, and Sunny Side-Up Eggs with Chinese Sausage and “Takeout” Fried Rice.

If you'd like a copy of the book for your very own, you're in luck - All Top Chef has one copy to give away to one lucky winner! All you need to do is leave a comment on this post telling us why you'd like the book. We'll choose a winning comment by random drawing and get the book to you soon afterward.

The rules:
Please include a valid email address so we can contact you if you win.
Entrants must be over 18 years of age and reside in the continental US only.
Contest ends July 5th at midnight.

Posted on

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Video - Top Chefs in Aspen

Tim Love, Hugh Acheson, Johnny Iuzinni, and Marcus Samuelsson sure seem to be having a great time in Aspen, shilling for Hellman's/Best Foods Mayonnaise....

Posted on

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top Chef Season 10 Poll

Top Chef Season 10 is coming up sometime in the future, and we can't wait! Here's a little pre-season speculation for ya - where do you think they will film this time?

Posted on

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Video Thursday - Sam Talbot

Season 2 hunk Sam Talbot is diabetic and has always needed to be very careful about what he eats. He's recently penned a cookbook, The Sweet Life: Diabetes Without Boundaries, in which he shares his secrets to living well with the disease. He's also filmed a series of videos with registered dietitian and diabetes expert Diane Kress in which they share tips and recipes.

Posted on

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

TC News & Information 6.13.2012

Back on Memorial Day, several past Top Chef contestants - Blais, Fabio, Carla - participated in a friendly cook-off, which was aired on Good Morning America. If you missed it, here's a link to the clip.

Top Chef Texas winner Paul Qui will be appearing in the first episode of the new season of USA Network's Royal Pains. Let's hope the cameras don't lure him away from the kitchen!

Bethesda Magazine has a nice feature on Bryan Voltaggio and his latest restaurant concept. He's becoming quite the Maryland restaurant mogul.

Remember Stone, Chef Tyler Stone? No? Well, he was on Top Chef Texas for about ten minutes and suddenly he's "Chef Tyler Stone from Bravo's Top Chef." Really.

More "really" - Miami Chef Lorena Garcia, who appeared on "America's Next Great Restaurant" (giant fail) and will be on the upcoming season of Top Chef Masters, has helped Taco Bell design a new, upscale menu. Say goodbye to those nasty mystery meat tacos, America!

Posted on

Monday, June 11, 2012

Andrew's All-Star Pop-Up Jam

Chef Andrew D'Ambrosi is probably best known for being the wisecrackingest culinarian on Season Four of Top Chef. In fact, I'd wager that the term "Culinary Boner" is probably on his business card.

And for any of those who followed my (long neglected) Top Chef blog a few years back, you'd know that I had, er, let's say a little crush on the man. (I believe the restraining order has been lifted now, so I'm good.)

In any case, after the husband hacked my Facebook account and sent him a friend request, which he accepted, I was able to track his every step follow his career post-show. Operating out of New York for a while, I didn't really imagine I'd get to finally meet the man or try his food.

But after a while, I noticed that he was now working out of the Netherland Antilles, specifically St. Maarten. And, with my own move from Columbus, Ohio, to South Florida the odds were getting better that I'd be able to get a taste.

Suddenly, last week, something "popped up" in my feed. Andrew, it seemed, was going to be headed to South Florida (where he grew up, it seems) and taking over a restaurant in Surfside, Florida, a town conveniently located on the northernmost end of Miami Beach probably most famous as the locale of the '60s detective drama Surfside Six.

Well, before you can say "Yellow Love Vanilla", we were making plans to head from Jupiter down to Miami Beach (an hour and a half drive, in case you wanna know) for the opportunity.

So, we were on for Andrew's All-Star Pop-Up Jam experience as My Favorite Chef takes over Josh's Deli for a few days in June. Woo hoo!

We arrive at nine at the small restaurant (normally, or formally, the Chow Down Grill Restaurant) where we are two of six who will be dining on this, the first night of the endeavor. We sit alongside two great chefs, a married couple, who I gather are legendary in the area. I feel ashamed I was not aware of this.  (They are beyond lovely, by the way, and gave me excellent advice on getting over my "I totally can't cook" and "I don't even understand the basics" thing.)

We meet Andrew, who is as charming as ever. The soundtrack is a hysterical mix of heavy metal,  gangsta rap and REO Speedwagon. "It's all love songs," he quips as he continues his mise en place.

At this point, I'd like to offer a reminder about myself. I love food. I love fine food. And I am the farthest thing from a cook as one could get. (As mentioned above, I'm working to get over this.) And, as such, I really don't have the vocabulary to explain what I was tasting. In fact, I didn't really plan to blog on this, save for the fact that I knew The Webmistress would vivisect me should I not do so, something I spent a good amount of time considering on the drive down.

So, with all that as prologue, here's what we had.

We opted to go the simpler route of ordering the "tasting menu." I don't know how I would make the right choices and having a bit of everything sounded like a good idea. Pricey, yes, but you only go around once, right?

And it was all excellent. But when we were told the portion sizes would be the same any way we ordered, I really didn't imagine I'd be eating that much food. Great food, yes, but, I feel like one of those boa constrictors who eat an entire deer and are found in the Everglades bloated and the size of an earth-mover.

The Food

The first dish of the first course was a Quick Cured Hamachi with a Squid Ink Vinaigrette, Myoga, Soy Caviar, Shiso and Crystallized Ginger. Cheekily served in a Burger King "Whopper™" box, the dish (not pictured) was a delightful opening to the night. And the presence of the soy caviar (not caviar at all, I am told) is inspired.

Next, we have a Smoked White Tuna Tataki with Cucumber, Lime, Pickled Onion, Toasted Garlic and Roasted Jalapeño Vinaigrette. Brilliance. Chef Andrew explains how he created the roasted jalapeño vinaigrette and cracks a few more jokes. A few more sips of our paired beer, a craft beer appropriately named "Clown Shoes," we move on to ...

The Corina Ceviche served with Local Soy, Yuzu, Jalapeño, Sweet Potato and Melon. Phenomenal. Our host explains how he infused the melon with the jalapeño using ... using a device that looked to me to be whipped cream canister. I think that's what it was. There were jokes made about nitrous whippets, so that must be it. (Remember, I'm a guy who's still working on how a Chop-Slap works.)

Now, on to the second (?) course.

Up first (fourth?), Crispy Braised Bacon, served with Watermelon, Herbs and Pickle. Bacon, crispy. And I have officially fallen in love with basil and watermelon. I understand that's a somewhat common pairing, but it's rather new to me and I can't get enough.

This is followed by Roasted Gnudi with House Lardon, Cauliflower, Egg, Hen of the Woods and a Chicken Jus. I love it and the husband is over the moon. The texture of the gnudi (a gnocchi made from ricotta -- Thank you, Wikipedia!) and the runny poached egg was a delight. At this point, though, the fat content and cholesterol levels were starting to do a job on me, a factor of the volume, not the quality of the food. 

The second paired beer, another craft beer called Rogue Dead Guy Ale helped. The name, though, did  feel for how I'd feel the next day. Because, next we had the third course of the heaviest dishes of the night. 

First, Lamb, Lamb, served with Belly, Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Corn Polenta and a Mustard Jus. Again, delicious. The husband was overjoyed. And while the Brussels sprouts were wonderfully crispy and the polenta was perfection, I think the fat content of the belly and the lamb bacon had me reaching saturation levels pretty quickly.

The Duck, Duck, Duck, a Roasted Breast, served with Confit Presse, Roasted Cippolini Asparagus and a Duck Fat Mash. The chef rather lamented that the plate looked like "airplane food," but it was certainly delicious. The duck was prepared perfectly and his explanation of the creation of the confite pressé was fascinating, even if way over my head. Sadly, though, I wasn't able to have much of it at this stage. I really don't understand how it is the judges on these shows do it unless theres a vomitorium stage left which is to be used between courses.

Really, it's all my own fault for not pacing myself.

Still, you can't have a fine meal without ending it on a sweet note (or at least  not one such a fatty one), so it was time for my favorite Top Chef Drinking Game™! And, as is the custom, we polished off our beers at Andrew's exclamation of, "I am not a pastry chef." Chug! (Our neighbors seemed amused by our TV drinking game. Strangely, I thought it was something everyone did now, like jam on dubstep tunes and spend time futzing with something called Pinterest.)

To finish off, our dessert course was a cheesecake with a chocolate and peanut butter marscapone. It was just what I needed and had an interesting flavor that seemed almost flan-like. (Andrew and our celebrity chef neighbor suggested it was the crust I was tasting.)

 Once dinner was over, it was time to party! Andrew brought out the party hats, a Mexican wrestler  mask (for him) and assorted facial hair accessories and eye patches. Pictures!

In deference to the other diners who may not be keen on being on this blog, I'll leave the photo to your imagination. 

OK, here's a taste.

Andrew & Josh
So, after a few pictures and some more chatting with our host, I thanked him for making it all happen and I got to check another thing off that bucket list.

Now, I need be sure to run a good 12 miles to work that all off before the upcoming class reunion!

Posted on

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rick Bayless Receives High Recognition

Posted on
The winner of the first season of Top Chef Masters, the man who is helping Americans discover the beauty of authentic Mexican cooking, the amazing  Rick Bayless, received some major props from Mexico.

Today, Chef Bayless was inducted into the Order of the Aztec Eagle - the highest honor bestowed on foreigners by Mexican government. This award, created in 1933 by President Abelardo Rodríguez, is presented to foreign citizens in recognition of their service to Mexico or humanity.

The list of past honorees includes MA Senator Ted Kennedy, tenor extraordinaire Placido Domingo, Bill and Melinda Gates and 2010 Nobel Laureate writer Mario Vargas Llosa. This is what the breakfast club of the new millennium looks like, amigos.

Congratulations, Master Rick, we are thrilled for you and hope to see more of you in the upcoming seasons of Masters or Top Chef proper (as a guest judge, of course)!

In the meantime - it is time to flock to Chicago and enjoy the art of Chef Bayless' cooking first hand. Check out the restaurants here or reserve a table at Topolo here. If you are not in the vicinity, snag yourself one of Rick Bayless' books through this list.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Your video du jour - Edward Lee makes over potato pancakes from the Colonel

Chef Edward Lee has teamed up with KFC (whose parent company, YUM!, is based in Louisville, where his restaurant, 610 Magnolia, is located) for a series of videos. Glad to see Ed put his own spin on this recipe for potato pancakes. If I don't miss my guess, the soy sauce he pours over his shrimp-potato pancakes is from another great Louisville vendor, Bourbon Barrel Foods.

Posted on

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Visit to Spike Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery

You may remember Kate the Chef's Quickfire Rampage from earlier in the year. This time, she shares with us her experience at Spike Mendelsohn's DC restaurant, Good Stuff Eatery. And she does it as a brand new member of the All Top Chef team! She'll be posting as Basil of Love - please help us welcome her to our fold.
OK now, do you agree: if I make the rule, I have the power to break the rule? Not only I agree with myself on this, I strongly support, and even enforce this simple rule in my own routine living.

Don’t confuse this with a general lack of scruples. I am just a great believer in reinforcing exceptions that allow for additional joyful experiences that otherwise will be lost to the rule. After all, those obeying all the rules miss all the fun, right?

So, rule number 1: to not eat beef. I've been slowly cutting pig and cow out of my diet, for a variety of reasons from personal health to environmental sustainability, but occasionally, I choose to enjoy either of the meats. I just make sure that it is a worthy experience.

Rule number 2: to not eat at places that serve wedge salads. I just made that rule last night, and have already gone against it. Oh well, let it be my very own Behind the Looking Glass experience. I am pretty sure you'll understand my reasons, so I am completely unapologetic.

The confession: I went to Good Stuff eatery. Chef Spike's burger place on Capitol Hill. I just couldn't help it, I had to do it, if not out of love for a burger, than for pure, naked and blunt curiosity. And because I happened to pass by it on the way from The Sweet Lobby (where I took the rest of their caneles, madeleines and macarons, and, gracious kindness of Mistress Winnette, two delectable cupcakes for my editor). [a special note to Ms Ambrose, the goddess behind the SL: you are beautiful, you are amazing, you make this world a better place!]

Anyway, Good Stuff was bustling busy, the smack of lunch rush, but it was worth the madness and the wait. While you wait to order, you can read your very own little paper menu to make all the right choices and pass time.

While you wait for your food, you can get a whole battery of mayos to dip your fries in or pour on your food. I got me some sriracha mayo and cursed my modesty - one table spoon-worth is delish, but I could have had a cup.

I made my pick relatively fast – the Blazin’ Barn looked like a perfect combination for me, with pickled daikon and carrots, basil and mint, topped with spicy mayo, and – I couldn’t resist – Spike’s village fries, heaping with thyme, rosemary and sea-salt. The guy, packing my food, winked at the site of my camera: “Hey toots, I want five dollars! Honestly, though, you’re smart, everyone thinks chef Spike is a guy in a fedora, but in reality – it’s me!

Sweet man. I wanted to feed the illusion and ask him to get me a shake – I was trying my best to be disciplined and only gone for one of the two indulgences, the fires, as opposed to a shake. But let me tell you this:  Spike’s venue is not the one to watch your girlish figure, and once you’ve stood in line for fifteen minutes watching other people sipping these thick shakes, you know that err on the cautionary side is no option here. Shake it, baby, I mean it. And I will do what I mean next time I am there (and yes, there will be a next time, Spike, word!)

Now, despite some decent seating on the second floor, Good Stuff is a smaller place, so be prepared to have nowhere to land once your food is assembled.

I dealt with it in the way that might not be the most expected, but
turned out to be most pleasant, weather and time considered. I grabbed my bag and my mayo (and napkins, for you will surely need them), and trotted down toward the Capitol. That beautiful oak tree, off the left walk way, makes a perfect picnic spot.

So, there I was, sitting on the grass, leaning against the tree, savoring every bit of sunshine and food, feeling overwhelmed with happiness.

My unsolicited honest opinion? The cow could have used more salt, and, perhaps, there was even salt to take along, but with my poor attention to detail, I might have easily overlooked it. Regardless, with great appreciation, my hip-hip hooray to the Good Stuff and its crew.

PS I shoulda had that shake… 

Posted on

Friday, June 1, 2012

TC News & Information - 6.1.2012

Curtis Stone, currently seen on Bravo's "Around the World in 80 Plates," will be coming back to host Top Chef Masters season 4. Read what he has to say to the Village Voice about his shows here.

All Star Tiffany Derry is hosting a series of Top Chef dinners at her restaurant, Private Social. Guest chefs will include Angelo Sosa, Kevin Sbraga, and Carla Hall.

Two new Top Chef restaurant openings! Mike Isabella has just opened Bandolero, in Washington, DC., and Richard Blais' The Spence has also made it's culinary debut. If any of you dine at either or both restaurants, we at All Top Chef would love to hear from you. (That also goes for any attendees of Tiffany Derry's events.)

Posted on