Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: December 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Biggest Food Trends of 2013

As the year winds down, we’re looking back on some of the biggest food trends of the year. From foodies getting crazy for the cronut, to fried eggs flying all over the place, here are 7 trends that stood out to us in 2013.
Sriracha Hot Sauce
How many Sriracha memes did we see this year? With the rumors of a Sriracha shortage, foodies flocked to the supermarkets to get their hands on a bottle (or case, perhaps) of the garlicky hot sauce. While we’re not sure what the status is on the stuff, we know that in 2013 it was topped on everything— from sandwiches to bowls of pasta.
Oy. The Cronut, aka the cross between a croissant and a donut. Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City dreamed up the fluffy pastry, and lines formed the door to try one. Soon, other bakeries and cities began selling their take on it to start the 2013 Cronut Craze.
In 2013, suddenly every restaurant had a kale salad. Whether they topped it with shrimp, or made it a Kale Caesar with creamy dressing, the cruciferous veggie was a hit. Not only was kale praised for its health benefits, but also its ability to be baked into a crispy chip.
Artisanal Cocktail Syrups
This year was filled with intricate cocktails dreamed up by mixologists, and most of those cocktails were filled with artisanal syrups in flavors like ginger, cinnamon, and rhubarb. Many bars started making their own syrups, and companies like Morris Kitchen started appearing on fancy cocktail menus. 
Non-Dairy Milks
Cashew, almond, coconut, rice, hemp… take your pick. In 2013, regular cows milk (and even soy) seemed boring compared to the new non-dairy milks out there. Even cafes and coffee shops started supplying several milk options for your creamy coffee pleasure. 
Fried Egg on Everything
Want to make something taste better? Add a fried egg on top. That was the mentality in 2013, as we saw oozing fried eggs on top of pizza, enchiladas, short ribs, rice, and of course, burgers. We can’t argue with this one—a comforting fried egg adds some hearty flavor.
Ramen Burger
First the Cronut, then the Ramen Burger. It’s a burger, but instead of a bun, it’s on paddies of salty ramen noodles. Like many trends, it made its debut at a food festival in Brooklyn that had people waiting in line for hours to get their hands on one. Mashable even taught readers how to make their own at home.

[Written by Caitlin Heikkila]

Top Restaurant Apps You Must Try

We know you loved our top Wine Apps selection.  Move over Opentable, Yelp and Zagat! Here are some awesome Restaurant apps to make your next dining out adventure amazing.
This app allows users to recommend their favorite dishes with photos.  Users can search for a particular dish they are craving, find out the best dish in a restaurant or where to find their favorite foods. Often called the “Pandora of Food” Foodspotting has had over 4 million dishes spotted around the world. Navigating the app is simple and is designed for everyone, not just foodies. Enjoy the food porn!

Ever had one of those awkward silences after a meal at a restaurant where you are trying to calculate tip? Or how to split the check? Tipulator is a handy little app that makes calculating the tip easy. Users can choose various rounding options and easily split checks in group meals. No more percentages!

Travelling?Looking for Sushi/Mexican/Pho? You need LocalEats. Travel to any new place but eat like a local. An app that lists the best restaurants in each city. The best thing about the app; no chain restaurants. The app does a comprehensive search to include all major food reviews and ratings and gives you the best recommendations in your community. No more bland meals while travelling!

This is your personal guide to restaurants. A restaurant is given a percentage score based on  your profile on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. The app uses a sophisticated collaborative filtering algorithm to give users personal recommendations based on publicly available information.  It’s about time someone started using data to make food searches and recommendations simple and personal!

[Written by Seema Bhattiprolu]

Friday, December 20, 2013

Top Chef New Orleans Recap Episode 11: "Back to School."

8 Chefs left.

Top Chefs: Michael Voltaggio. Richard Blais. Stephanie Cmar.
Travis got the boot last week and the only person who cares is Nina. Frankly Captain "I only like Asians (food)" should have gone home when he made an Italian dish during the Vietnam challenge. 

Looking around the room, it’s going to be tough to predict who’s going home next. Each one is a good tough chef in their own right, well except for Brian and Stephanie. Can you imagine either one of them leading a band of cooks on the line into war? Yeah, me neither. 

Speaking of leading a band, this week’s Quickfire guest judge is non other than Amhir “Questlove” Thompson!

Questlove is the drummer and one of the founding members of The Roots. They’ve won multiple Grammys and are the house band for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
Me and the occasional Justin Timberlake is the
only reason to watch Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Before you ask, “Wait. Is this a Lea Michelle-type of celebrity nonsense mucking up yet another episode?” Nope. Ever the true Renaissance man, Questlove appreciates all things creative in life. Not only is he musically gifted, he has also published a book, produced Broadway plays, and got into a fried chicken battle with my daily inspiration and personal hero, David Chang.

In April of 2012 Questlove challenged David Chang to a fried chicken showdown on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” The long-term ripple effect resulted in Questlove opening his own fried chicken joint, Hybrid. Unfortunately, he also found out the hard way how tough the restaurant biz is. Hybrid was short-lived and closed in November of 2013. Still, the man knows a thing or two about food. You know the famous sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, from the movie “Jiro Dreams of Sushi?” Yeah dude’s been there three times in one calendar year. Now that’s a gourmand!
Spoiler alert. Chang wins.

Since fried chicken got Questlove into this, this week’s “Q” challenge is - drumsticks!

The chefs must choose between an array of different types of drumsticks ranging from duck, quail, turkey, squab, and of course chicken. 30 minutes. Winner gets immunity.

This is one of those “first come first serve” type a deal, so time for a good ole fashioned scrum. Everyone charges the table to grab their preferred protein. With 30 minutes, you kinda don’t want to end up with something like turkey, which takes forever to cook. 

During the melee Shirley kinda got knocked to the floor, and Nick being the nice guy that he is, decides to help her up instead of grabbing the duck legs. No good deed goes unpunished. Shirley ends up taking the duck and Nick ends up with quail. He is not happy about that. 

To improvise, Nick is using a frog legs recipe and making 'lollipops' with the little quail legs. Note to self: don’t ever cook quail legs because those things look impossible to prep. Dude busts out scissors to scrape what little meat there is to one side so it looks like a lollipop.

Cooking is a contact sport.
Surprise! Nina’s doing jerk flavoring. As much as she’s favored to win this thing, I wish she would do more than presenting “island” flavors. This is Top Chef, not Top Island Chef. Am I being too tough on her? #SorryNotSorry

Brian is making chicken soup. Look at that, some actual creativity from the man. He’s going to add some crispy crackling on top to give the dish some texture. I’m actually surprised and kinda impressed. Hey. I can give credit were credit’s due.

Here we go. Let’s see what they came up with.

Carrie - Squab Legs Marinated in Thyme, Juniper & Cocoa Powder with Fig Mostrada.

Questlove, “I’m not mad at this at all.”

Duck a l'orange.
See, Q’s another one of those “so cool he’s got his own language” peeps. We’re talking “hip-tang” territory here people! For you square kids out there, what Mr. Questlove is saying is that he liked this dish.

Brian - Chicken Soup, Chicken Skin Crackling with Parsley & Thai Basil.

Shirley - Crispy Duck Leg with Szechuan Chili Salt & Mint.

Nina - Jerked Guinea Hen Charred with Juniper Berries & Scotch Bonnet Peppers.

Stephanie - Fried & Grilled Turkey Leg with Sriracha & Sour Cream Buttermilk Dressing.

Can you spot the mistake?
Nick - Twice Fried Quail Legs with Sesame Sauce Rolled in Gomaiso.

The funny thing is, I kept typing quail EGGS because well, that’s what I usually think of when I say quail. Lo and behold, the graphics department was thinking the same thing. The chyron reads, “Twice Fried Quail Eggs.”

Justin - Chicken Drumettes with Smoked Aioli, Herb Salad & Sorghum Vinaigrette.

Carlos - Fried Goose Leg with Cranberries & Apple Salad.

What did Questlove think of their efforts?

On the bottom - Carlos, Justin, and Nick. Carlos’ had some shards of bone situation, which automatically landed him there. Nick’s was too salty, and Justin could have been more creative. Ironically during cooking Justin was trying to be creative and elevate simple drumettes. Guess smoked aioli is nothing more than burnt mayo.
Questlove's hair is THIS big!

Amongst the favorites are Nina, Carrie, and Brian’s. Questlove liked the spiciness of Nina’s jerked hen, the creativity of Brian’s soup, and Carrie’s perfectly cooked squab. However, if Questlove’s going to drop a cool phrase reacting to your dish? You’re probably going to win.

Carrie’s squabbies win the Quickfire. She gets the much coveted immunity. Much coveted because this week’s Elimination challenge is a doozy. 

This week, the chefs head to Louisiana State University to serve lunch for 500 freshmen during orientation week - cafeteria style.

Yup. That is a helluva challenge. I don’t care how talented a chef you are at your own restaurant doing a 100+ covers a night, cooking for 500 people in this setting is a different kind of beast. Everything from prepping, cooking, and even equipment will be different. So Carrie is super stoked to have immunity.
Cook for 500 People??

A challenge like this deserves a big prize. So the winner gets a new car! Series sponsor Toyota is kicking in a Rav 4 for the winner of this one. 

Tonight, the chefs get to relive their college days and stay overnight in the dorms. Hey, why wasn’t this episode titled “Dorm Daze?” 

Off to LSU we go!

During the car ride Brian tells us about his drunken college days and how he gruesomely cut open his arm during a party. Shirley doesn’t care, Nina doesn’t care, I found it mildly amusing because I had a similar experience in college but yeah, nobody cares. And LSU being about an hour away from New Orleans, poor peeps had to suffer through the car ride.

The gang finally arrives at LSU and is greeted by two of the peppiest freshmen guides ever. These two are straight out of central casting. They’re blonde, bubbly, and full of energy. They’re like Leslie Knope on Barbie crack.

They introduced the gang to LSU’s mascot, Mike the Tiger. LSU is the only school in the US that hosts a live tiger. You know what would have been a great twist on the elimination challenge? Loser gets in the cage with Mike. I’d bet we’d get more creative dishes!
Delta Delta Delta, can I help ya help ya help ya?

Aww. Justin never went to college so he doesn’t understand the “college experience.” Let me put it to you this way Justin. You work hard at the things you love (electives), half ass it on the things you don’t (requirements), and party hard afterwards. Rinse. Repeat. Sound familiar? 

Ok time to get down to business.

First thing is to figure out who’s doing what. There are eight different stations and everyone has gotta work together and decide who’s on what station.

This is no time to be meek. At this point of the competition you gotta step up and do your thing. The margin for error is nil. Everyone’s calling dibs on the ingredients and equipment they need. It’s funny how even at this level it’s the ole 3rd grade playground  “I called it” system that settles things.

I know it's a different context. Work with me here people!
However, what if there’s a playground bully in the midst? What if someone just plain out demand a certain thing regardless of who “called it” first?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Carlos the passive-aggressive bully.

 Early on Shirley called dibs for the “plancha,” or the big flat top grill. It’s basically what you see at diners where they cook everything from burgers to cheesesteaks. She wants to do something like a beef fried rice, which is smart because you can quickly and continuously make big batches to serve 500 people. 

But here comes Carlos who basically demands the plancha to grill his fish. He says there’s no other way he can properly prepare the fish so he deserves to use it. Mind you, he picked the fish, so it wasn’t like he didn’t have a choice. For some reason Shirley relents and gives in! For the record I would have told Carlos to go kick a can. Go find another protein to cook you SOB. 
Bad Carlos!

In a way, Carlos “Jedi mind tricked” Shirley. He did that arguing by remaining silent technique. Try it next time you need to persuade someone to do something. For example, “Hey can I have that last beer?” When the other person says no, just keep standing here and maintain eye contact like you’re still asking the question. But don’t say anything, just stare at them. More often enough the other person will be so uncomfortable they’ll eventually say yes just to end awkwardness of the silence. You're welcome. #ProTip.

Back to the kitchen. Shirley now ends up at the pizza oven station, which nobody wanted for some reason. You’re cooking for college kids people! Just bust out some flat bread pizza deal and you’ll coast through! Well, Shirley decides to use the pizza oven to make roast beef and pair it charred tomato relish. 
But I need it...waaaaah.

Justin doesn’t believe in cooking down to people. Instead of something hearty and fun, he decides to go with a high-end dish of gulf shrimp with chilled asparagus and garlic puree. Hm. I guess Justin was right all along. He really doesn’t understand the college experience. 

Grilled cheese and tomato soup. Now we’re talking. Stephanie’s got the right idea but she’s making pimento cheese by using shredded mozzarella and cottage cheese. Um, that’s disgusting. Plus, how the hell is cottage cheese going to melt? 

I like Carrie. I really do. And I know she’s only doing this because she’s got immunity. But in an “all time low” moment in Top Chef, Carrie is making (wait for it…) 

Apropos on so many levels this episode.

Yeah. That’s all I have to say about that. 

Time for service. Here comes a sea of impressionable young pallets. Luckily, their opinions don’t really matter. What, did you expect Bravo production team to sort through 500 opinion cards? 

Brian’s shrimp cakes looks like the most pedestrian of dishes. Basically a breaded and fried patty of shrimp and misc fillings held together by mayo. But you know what? The college kids love them. The line for his station is so long you’d think he’s serving beer with them cakes.

Can I use you oven now? Waaaah.
On the flipside, there’s Carrie’s station. #Tumbleweeds

Remember Carlos and his “Jedi mind trick?” Yeah, now he’s trying that schtick again only this time he ran into a buzz saw in the form of Nick. Carlos had planned to start his fish on the grill then finish the cooking in the oven. However, the oven belongs to Nick and Nick ain’t budging. 

“Well, I need the oven to warm my plates,” Nick says, coldly. 

Ha! Dude could care less about your fish because he wants warm plates. Now that’s how you tell someone to go pound sand. Now that’s someone who can lead his fellow cooks into battle. Kudos.

Here comes the judges. Joining Padma and Tom this week is Emeril and the ever vivacious Gail Simmons. Did you know Gail is actually Canadian and graduated from McGill University in Montreal? #Facts

The judges spilt up to sample the foods. Boys to one side, girls the other.

Here we go.

Shirley - Roast Beef with Potato Puree & Fire Roasted Tomato Relish.

Dude didn't bother to trip the stems. #FacePalm
Nina - Fried Chicken with Sweet Corn Puree & Pickled Onions.

Brian - Shrimp Cake & Spinach with Chipotle Aioli.

Everybody likes the shrimp cake. Gail like that there were actual big chunks of shrimps so it’s not like some mushy mystery “seafood” cake. Meanwhile, Shirley’s roast beef is also a crowd pleaser. One student actually said it was the best thing he’s ever put in his mouth. C’mon producers, we couldn’t get Padma to say that? 

Nick - Roasted Pork, Parmesan Grits & Bacon Brown Sugar Gravy.

Carrie - Broccoli Salad with Herbed Yogurt Sauce and Pita Bread.

Literally the saddest dish in the history of Top Chef.
Justin - Marinated Gulf Shrimp, Cauliflower, Asparagus & Garlic Puree.

Oh oh. Justin’s in trouble. As expected, college student could care less for high-end food. Not as expected, Gail found the dish bland and not flavorful. Could be trouble. And everybody pretty much thought Carrie phoned it in this week.

Stephanie - Spicy Tomato Soup with Pimento Cheese Sandwich.

Carlos - Seared Tilapia with Chile Ancho & Mexican Coleslaw.

Turncoat moment of the week. While Tom and Emeril heckled Carlos for having to wait too long for their food, Carlos had the nerve to tell them that Nick stole HIS oven! Nina overhears this and is appalled. Meanwhile the Tom and Emeril could care less. You know why? Because there are no excuses in the kitchen! 
This was a very close second. 

All the whiny nonsense aside, judges actually liked the fish. Emeril thought it had a good amount of heat from the chili, and Tom thought it was done well despite the oven business. And while Stephanie’s soup was good, the mistake came when she served the sandwich partially IN the soup, which resulted in soggy grilled cheese. Not good.

Overall, another bland showing up all the chefs. I understand this was more of a time management / volume challenge, but nothing these guys are putting out are inspiring. Watching Top Chef used to make me want to jump into the kitchen and create similar themed challenges for myself. Now it makes me want to drink. #Bored

Speaking of drinking, that’s what the chefs are doing in the stew room. There are a lot of empty bottle of wine on the table. It’s been a tough day for everyone. But it’s about to get tougher for Carlos. 

Nick brings up the whole Oven-Gate situation and Carlos starts scrambling for a retort. He has none. Meanwhile the room now turns on Carlos. See, there’s a code in the kitchen. You don’t lie, steal, or backstab a fellow cook. Carlos broke that code, and as much as he tried to weasel out of it with a haphazard apology, no one is buying it. 

Luckily for him, the Flat Screen of Doom flickers on and all the attention now turns toward the judges’ feedback.

“Considering the amount of portions the chefs have to make, I think some of them did a pretty good job,” says Tom. Talk about a lukewarm reaction to the challenge. Well, let’s see who the “some of them” are.

Brian’s croquettes, Shirley’s roast beef, and Carlos’ fish are the judges’ favorites. However, when the most exciting thing they can come during the discussion is the spinach salad on top of Brian’s shrimp cake, you know there’s a problem with everyone's performance overall. 

On the bottom, we’ve got Stephanie’s messy soup and sandwich, Justin’s bland shrimp, and (surprise!) Nina’s fried chicken. 
Pretty much sums it up.

Her chicken wasn’t properly fried and she ran out of corn puree during service. Judges don’t like in consistency. On top of that she plated her semi-crispy chicken with corn mush and pickled veggies, making the whole thing soggy. A rare misstep for her. But don’t worry, there’s no way they’re sending her home for this.

Slam on the evening was (deservedly) on Carrie. Tom said if it wasn’t for immunity she’s probably go home. It is wasn’t for immunity she definitely wouldn’t have put up that poor excuse of a dish.

When it’s all said and done, Shirley wins for being able to cook everything perfectly with a damn pizza oven. She goes home with a new Toyota Rav 4. Yup. At this point of the season the winning dish is basically steak and potatoes. 

But who gets the boot? It comes down to Stephanie’s soggy grilled cheese and Justin’s bland shrimp. Frankly my money was on Stephanie. She's just been on the bottom so many times and there’s no way anyone could mistake her for a Top anything let alone chef. 
I'm so ashamed to be a Top Chef fan that I've taken on a disguise

But alas, you just can’t serve a bland dish to Tom Colicchio. Boiled shrimp with asparagus and liquefied garlic just isn’t going to cut it. The last chef representing New Orleans goes home. All the accolades, the James Beard nominations, in the end Justin goes home for glorified shrimp salad. Sigh.

In a way this result personifies this season. There was so much anticipation and so much expectation from all things New Orleans and yet so far it’s been underwhelming and at times, bland. 

Cya Justin! No worries. La Petite Grocery is still on my list next time I’m in New Orleans!

Next week - the crack between Nick and Carlos becomes a canyon. Expect drama.

[Written by Mykl Wu]

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide for Food Enthusiasts

The good thing about gift-giving to food people is that they always know what they want - as long as it’s something delicious or things that can make said deliciousness! Here are a few can’t-miss gifts for your foodie peeps
Knives and Knife Sharpening Lessons
You know that saying, ‘teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for life?’ Same goes with your food buddy. A high quality chef’s knife is THE most important tool in the kitchen. But that tool needs constant upkeep.  No matter how expensive, with use knives go dull. Dull knives are not only useless, they also dangerous. So throw in some knife sharpening lessons and your friend will always think of you when he/she’s cooking.


In the world of kitchen tools, the Vitamix is a god. Sure you can use it to make smoothies or for the usual blender duties like chop or dice, the magic here is in the thermal component. With this baby you can make both hot soups or frozen desserts! Not to it’s one of the quickest ways to make sauces. Give someone this machine and be expected to get invited to dinner often!

Immersion Circulator

Wanna cook like a professional chef? Then grab one of these guys. Sous vide cooking has been around for a long time but now you too can cook meat and vegetables perfectly. Just seal whatever you’re cooking into a vacuum pouch, set the temperature and walk away! It doesn’t matter what you’re cooking, it will be done to the perfect temperature every time. Now you too can cook like a Top Chef!

Wine Preservation Systems

With the cooking done, it’s time to move on to wine. Even though most of you will opt to just “finish the bottle,” there will be times when you want to savor that special vintage for later consumption. So the best thing to do is find a way to preserve it. There are many different kinds of systems out there, some suck the air out of the bottle, some dump the whole thing into a special container, and some even pour the wine without opening the bottle! I recommend what the professionals use. The Corvina 1000. This device inserts a needle into the cork and taps the wine out without breaking the seal. This way your wine is never exposed to outside oxygen! It is a little on the expensive side, so save this present for someone special.


Tired of paying $15 for an “artisan” cocktail? Forget that! All it takes if a few box sets of bitter and you too can “mix” superior deliciousness! My favorites are from Fee Brothers. They have a wide range of sizes and flavors. Everything from cherry to chocolate to celery! Trust me, this was one of the best presents I’ve ever received. Your friend will have a great time mixing and matching different flavors to create the most unique drinks. Now all they need to be a “mixologist” is a mustache, a plaid shirt, and some suspenders!

Lucky Peach. The Mind of A Chef.

Hey you gotta feed the mind as well as the body right? Sure you can go out there and hunt for the latest and trendiest cookbooks, but you know they’ll never use it anyways. Instead, order them a subscription of David Chang’s culinary magazine, Lucky Peach. It’s a quarterly so 4 times a year your friend will get to enjoy recipes and essays from some of the biggest and most accomplished chefs/writer in the food world. To top it off, get them the DVD of The Mind of A Chef, where you get to (figuratively) find out what makes great chefs like David Chang, Sean Brock, and Amy Bloomfield tick! 

There you have it! From cooking to drinking, these 6 things will make any food enthusiast as happy as an Ipswitch Clam!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

4 Wine Apps for Wine Enthusiasts

Have you ever entered a wine shop and suddenly felt overwhelmed in a swirl of regions, varietals, tannins, acids, and residual sugars? Choosing the perfect bottle of wine can feel like a lot of pressure, but now in the wonderful world of smartphones, there’s an app for that.
We’ve picked out four of our favorite apps to download now, whether you’re in the wine store or just love finding new wine events.

 1. Hello Vino
Aside from having a fantastic name, Hello Vino is a great app for finding a wine based on the meal that you’re having or by occasion. We like that it always seems to know what to drink with everything from Spaghetti Carbonara to take-out Pad Thai, and can pick a wine based upon your taste preferences. It’s kind of like having your own personal sommelier… except it’s free.
Are you someone who likes to gallivant around to tasting events? (Who doesn’t  really?) Then you need to try the Local Wine Events app.  For $3.99, you’ll have all of the local wine tastings, fests and pairings events at your fingertips. They add over 1,500 new events to their database each week.
Snooth Wine Pro’s technology will wow you. You can take a photo of the wine label and they’ll pick it out from their giant database of over one million wine records. There, you can read ratings, critics scores, and can take your own notes about the bottle. It also syncs to, so you can access the info when you’re at your computer. The app also allows you to compare prices of wine merchants to get the best deal. Get it for $4.99.
Travelers, rejoice. Wine wherever is here to help you find wineries and vineyards wherever you go, within 13 regions. Just use the map to find wineries close by, and make sure to take advantage of the coupons offered in each region. It’s also a great tool to have while you wine taste. You can use it to remember the wines that you enjoy most, with an extensive journal feature. 

[Written by Caitlin Heikkila]

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pairing Wine and Vegetarian Cuisine with Jill Silverman Hough

Ever had one of those dinner parties where you discover one of the guests is vegetarian after they’ve arrived and your “grand plan” of wine pairing goes right out the door? Vegetarianism is becoming more common and it should not get in the way of selecting the perfect wines. For Veggie week, we decided to interview well-known cookbook author Jill Silverman Hough.
Jill is a noted food & wine writer and has been published in Bon Appétit, Cooking Light, Fine Cooking, Clean Eating, Napa Sonoma, and a number of other prominent magazines. Her cookbooks, “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love” and “100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love” make wine pairing easy and fun for just about anyone. “A recipe doesn’t have to be complicated to be indulgent,” she says. And it’s this mantra that she applies when pairing wine with her food.
Pairing wines with vegetarian dishes need not be intimidating or confusing. Selecting wines for vegetarian food is no different than selecting wines for any other food. While there is general agreement among wine experts on the phenomena of wine tasting, there is always room for interpretation. When pairing wine with Vegetarian or vegan food, always remember to base your selections on the “broad characteristics” of the wine: the sweetness, crispness, acidity and tannins. Jill suggests pairing “like with like” when it comes to selecting wine for a meal.
For example, an acidic Sauvignon Blanc is considered a perfect pairing for a salad with an acidic vinaigrette dressing. A hearty risotto with wild mushrooms and a rich cream sauce could easily be paired with almost any red wine. And a buttery Chardonnay would be perfect with a buttery, creamy cheese like Brie.
Vegetarian cuisine is quiet international and complex. Jill points out that it’s best to always look for the dominant characteristics or flavors of the dish. Whether the flavors originate from vegetables, herbs or sauce, the ingredients that stand out are the ones that you should focus on when selecting a wine.
We asked Jill to share her favorite vegetarian dish and wine pairing and she was gracious enough to share her recipe for Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Sandwiches, paired with a Rosé.
Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Sandwich Recipe
From the Rosé chapter of “100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love” by Jill Silverman Hough (Wiley, 2011)
This sandwich would be great for a picnic because you can prepare it in advance without worrying about the fillings making the bread soggy. Plus, the summery flavors are perfect for a warm afternoon, accompanied, of course, by ideal-for-warm-weather Rosé.
Serves 6 
  • 2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice (you should have about 9 cups)
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chèvre (spreadable goat cheese) (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram (see below)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 crusty seeded sandwich rolls, split horizontally
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, bell peppers, olive oil, salt, and black pepper, tossing to coat. Arrange the mixture in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets and roast until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the cheese, lemon juice, marjoram, and red pepper flakes. (You can prepare the eggplant and cheese mixtures up to 2 days in advance, storing them covered in the refrigerator. Return them to room temperature before proceeding.)
  4. Remove the soft bread from the bottom halves of the rolls, mak­ing a cavity in each half for the eggplant mixture. Fill the cavities with the eggplant mixture, dividing it evenly, pressing it in and mounding it over the cavities. Spread the cheese mixture on the bready side of the top halves of the rolls, dividing it evenly. Place the top halves of the rolls on the bottom halves. Serve warm or room temperature.
  5. NOTE Fresh marjoram is available in the produce section of many supermarkets. Be­sides using it in this recipe, you can use it in soups, stews, salad dressings, and almost any place that you’d use fresh oregano. If you can’t find fresh marjoram, substitute equal parts fresh oregano and fresh sage.
Copyright © 2013. Jill Silverman Hough. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Top Chef New Orleans Recap Episode 10: "Like Mama Made."

Now that you’ve brought mama into this. I guess this time it’s personal.

Um. There's something on my forehead.
Sara’s gone. Now there’s more room in the bathroom for everyone else to get ready. 

Justin’s super relieved. He knows he barely survived Restaurant Wars. Had Sara not been so unpleasant and annoyed Padma, we’d still have a crowded bathroom.

Travis is feeling pretty good about himself right now. After a really strong showing at the restaurant manager position, he feel like he’s finally part of the gang. Um, last time I checked this was called Top Chef and not Top Restaurant Manager. 

Ugh. If I have to listen to Travis talking about his sexuality I’m going to scream. Because you know what? It has nothing to do with anything! 

Bourdain once said, “Male, female, gay, straight, legal, illegal, country of origin—who cares? You can either cook an omelet or you can’t. You can either cook five hundred omelets in three hours—like you said you could, and like the job requires—or you can’t. There’s no lying in the kitchen.”

Shut up and cook. Oh wait. I don't even cook anymore.
Speaking of which. Time to get back to the kitchen.

Standing next to Padma is owner/chef of the French restaurant Fleur-De-Lys in San Francisco, Hubert Keller! Chef Keller is a James Beard Award winner and a Top Chef Masters Alum. I’m guessing culinary chops aside, he’s here because of the connection between the name of his restaurant and the iconic New Orleans symbol.

By the way, aside from being a bad ass chef, Hubert Keller can be seen spinning records and dropping needles from time to time. He’d been known to guest deejay at various food events in San Francisco and Las Vegas. Talk about the world’s most interesting man! 

You know what brand is always associated with New Orleans and Top Chef caliber food? Dunkin Donuts! Um..ok. Not really. But since we’ve already had Philadelphia Cream Cheese on, so what the hell. Let’s just do this.

The world's most interesting shirt.
At least coffee is widely used in cooking and it does provide a unique flavor profile so there are culinary elements to this challenge. Chefs will have 30 minutes to create a dish featuring Bostonians’ favorite coffee, Dunkin Donuts. (Really. I used to live there and they swear by this stuff. I can’t even...)

Since this is a sponsored challenge, winner gets immunity AND ten thousand dollars. See, selling out has its perks. 

Stephanie says that everything she owns is “old and kinda sad looking and broken.” You know what? I actually felt kinda bad for her. 

Mad scramble time.

Carrie is going to make dessert. I thought that sort of missed the point. Anyone can make a coffee-flavored dessert, the trick is to pair with something savory. Oh well, Carlos is making dessert too. At least he’s doing that “cooking a sponge cake via microwave” thingy so that’s pretty impressive. For some of you who haven’t seen that before check it out here.

Shirley’s using beef. Now that’s smart. Coffee always pairs well with red meat. Somehow it manages to bring out the beefy flavor of steaks. If she wins, Shirley’s going to buy an air conditioner because she claims it gets to be about 150 degrees in Las Vegas. For 10 grand, that air conditioner better come with a set of wheels and a small engine.

Brian is making risotto. Coffee risotto. Has the dude never watched the show before? Talk about pushing your luck. Guess he also like to walk under ladders, open umbrellas indoors, and watch nondescript old VHS videotapes with the word “copy” on it. Doesn’t he know risotto is cursed? Ah. Brian is confident because he’s won back-to-back Quickfires so he says he’s gotta “put his balls out there...let it swing.” Ew. Congrats. You’ve just replaced Travis as the creepy guy on the show.

Times up. Let’s see how they did.

Travis - Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, Coffee Ponzu, & Coffee Roasted Eringi Mushrooms.

Dude pretty much sliced up raw salmon and mixed some coffee with ponzu and called it a day. We get it! You only make Asian stuff! Oy.
That's just not right.

Carrie - Coffee Custard with Candied Coffee Beans & Cocoa Nibs.

This is how you play the game. Carrie didn’t have time to make crepes, so she changed it to a simple custard with NO mention of the omitted crepes. #Protip.

Brian - Coffee Risotto with Andouille Sausage & Sugar Snap Peas.

You don’t need to be a gourmand to realize this combination sounds disgusting. You know what’s even more disgusting? Having the person who just cooked your food show you how sweaty he is. #NoThanks

Carlos - Coffee & Macadamia Sponge Cake with Mascarpone Coffee Sauce.

Sounds like a winner here. But it is a dessert. It’s kinda like cheating.

Nick - Roasted Sockeye Salmon with Hazelnut Coffee Caramel & Hon-Shimeji Mushrooms.

This one's at least cooked.
Where are all these exotic mushrooms coming from?? As part of his ‘presentation’ Nick pours the foamy chocolate sauce on top of the salmon right in front of the judges. 

Shirley - Coffee Crusted Tenderloin with Garlic Puree & Coffee Brown Butter Sauce.

Just in case they forgot Shirley feels the need to remind everyone that she’s Asian and that apparently Asians drink coffee with a lot of cream? Speaking as an Asian person, I have no idea what she’s talking about.

Stephanie - Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Crepe with Ham & Bacon Coffee Jam.

Ham AND Bacon. Guess there’s no such thing as too much pork product in a dish. Sweet and salty, plus some coffee, it could be delicious. Also, she’s poor. #LetHerWin

You guys, I want a makeover!
The fails are Brian and Nick. No surprise on Brian’s dish. But Nick, who won Restaurant Wars last week, delivered a bomb. Chef Keller found his paste “unpleasant.” #Womp.

Carrie’s custard, Shirley’s tenderloin, and Stephanie’s Crepes are amongst the favorites. Alas, Stephanie will have to continue to look like a bum, as Shirley takes home the immunity and the 10 grand for her Asian influenced coffee rubbed tenderloin. I still have no idea what being Asian as anything to do with that dish. But hey, it’s gonna be ice cold at Casa Shirley this summer!

Elimination Challenge time.

Padma tells everyone that for this challenge, “Going home is a good thing.” 

In walks New Orleans native actor Anthony Mackie. Anthony is probably best known for his role on the Oscar winning film, The Hurt Locker. He also recently hung out with Tom Colicchio on Tom’s fishing show on the Reserve Channel via YouTube, 'On the Hook.' 
No need for a makeover here!

For Anthony, this is a homecoming. And the food he craves most when he returns to New Orleans is from Dooky Chase. For the cheftestants, this challenge will be a culinary homecoming as well. They will have to draw inspiration from home and create something they crave whenever they’re home. 

They will have $275 and 2 hours to cook in the Top Chef kitchen. The next day they make the pilgrimage to Dooky Chase, where they will cook for the judges and Leah Chase. Leah appeared earlier this season and judged the gumbo Quickfire. Cooking homey comforting food for Leah Chase? They’ll have their work cut out for them.

If any challenge is about cooking from your heart, this would be it. 

Because of the nature of the challenge, this is the perfect time to work in everyone’s back story. 

We learn that Justin used to hunt and eat squirrels. He’s making rice and gravy and substituting chicken thighs for squirrels. I don’t care what you really crave when you go home, because serving rice and gravy to Leah Chase is like serving blanquette de veau to Paul Bocuse. Go ahead and Google that. I’ll wait.
Hunting squirrels?! (I know he's a chipmonk, people)

Carrie’s reminiscing driving around and foraging wild asparagus with her mom. Her dish is creamed asparagus with egg on toast. Hey, no knocking the simplicity in this challenge. It’s all about simple, homey foods!

Speaking of simple dishes, Travis is going with straight biscuits and gravy. Yup, that’s it. Biscuits and gravy. Somehow I can’t help wonder what someone like Michael Voltaggio would come up with. You know no matter that would be it’d be some kinda amazing, “air quote,” biscuits and gravy dish. Sigh. I’d give all the gravy for a Voltaggio on this season.

In case you missed it, and I don’t know how you could have, Nina’s from an tropical island. And that means curry and spices. Thank you Nina. Wait, now where is Shirley from again? 

Right...she’s from that foreign exotic land in the Far East. Some call it the Central Kingdom, others call it Land of Our Creditors. For Shirley, it’s simply China. So for this challenge, she’s going to out of her comfort zone like she always has and making something called Jajanmyeon. It’s basically a Chinese version of pasta bolognese. Whatever it is, you can bet Tom wouldn’t known how to pronounce it.

Adorable alert! Nick is making his daughter’s favorite dish, “gnudie.” He’s actually making gnocchi, but his daughter calls them “gnudie” because it reminds her of bath time when she has to get nudie. Ok I don’t have kids and I don’t know the rules - so all this talk of nude babies is making me uncomfortable.
Put some clothe on kid!

Stephanie’s home craving is a big bowl of mussels? I’m calling foul right now because who the hell’s family’s go-to dish is a bowl of mussels? She says that since her family didn’t cook, that’s what she made for peeps and thus it’s what she associates with going home. Guess I’ll buy into that. Plus, mussels are cheap and we all know about her financial situation…

Carlos is making something called cochinita pibil. It’s a pork shank stew with black beans and homemade tortillas. Yeah it’s pretty much sounds like everything Carlos’ ever made. Whatever. 

Brian has previously told us he’s from a wealthy family. So naturally his home craving meal is freaking grilled New York Strip. Tom looked amused. While everyone else is making humble food like rice and beans and biscuits and gravy, dude over here grew up eating steak. Maybe he can buy Stephanie some new clothes.

Big pot of love right there!
First day of cooking is done. The gang returns home to a delicious smell from the kitchen. Surprise! The Grand Poobah of New Orleans, Emeril Lagasse, decides to share his homecoming comfort meal with the chefs. He made a big pot of caldo verde. A simple Portuguese soup of onion, celery, kale, and love. That’s right. Love!

There was no need for this scene. There’s no product tie-in, no forced back story, no scripted drama, just one mentor chef wanting to feed his fellow flock who’s been working all day something warm and comforting - just like what Emeril’s mom did for him back in the day. That my friends, is love. #Respect

You can tell the chefs appreciate it too. While Emeril’s chatting them up and asking about tomorrow’s dishes, everyone’s heads are down in their bowls, tucked in, feeling the love. 

After a long day’s cooking to come home to a simple and delicious bowl of soup with crusty baguettes and pats of butter, I’m telling you right now that is a lot of chefs’ dream of a last meal.
Can't talk. Too busy eating.

You know how when you’re little and got into a fight at school, you always manage to not cry and keep your brave face on until you get home. And the tears fly the moment you see mom? Yeah that’s what happening here. Everyone is tired, worn out, and now coming home to “Uncle” Emeril’s comforting soup, tears start to fly.

Brian tells us about his dad’s massive stroke and how he feels guilty for not having around been there enough for him. Since then his dad doesn’t talk much anymore, that opportunity might be lost. Somebody grab the tissue box. While you’re at it, pass me one too.

No doubt inspired by the soup and crusty bread experience, the gang talks about their hypothetical death row meals. Nic says bread and butter (see, he can die happy now) and Justin says caviar, champagne, and tacos. The atmosphere is loose and seems like for the evening, everyone forgets they’re in a competition.

The next morning, it’s Nick’s turn. He feels guilty missing a lot of his daughter’s first year. The first steps, first words, basically he missed everything because he was working so much. Eyes starts well up. Somebody pass him the tissue box.

I’d say there’s no crying in Top Chef again, for the umpteenth time, but apparently that doesn’t apply to this season. So let’s just get to the food while we can before people get emotional again.
Here you go Brian!

Dooky Chase.

This legendary restaurant has been visited by numerous presidents and dignitaries. What started out as merely a bathroom and sandwich shop became a meeting place of entertainment, music, and civil rights in New Orleans. One pays homage to Dooky Chase when one’s in town. That’s an order.

The chefs will have 1 hour to finish their dish. A lot can go wrong in an hour.

For example. Brian discovers that there are no grills of any kind at Dooky Chase. So his original plan of making Korean-style strip steak with a sugar marinade for the crust is out the window. Hard to get caramelization without a proper grill. He’s going to have pan grill the steaks. Outlook hazy.

Travis’ biscuits are not turning out the way his test biscuit did yesterday. See, the kitchen at Dooky Chase is just a little be warmer than the Top Chef kitchen. And if you ever made biscuits you’ll know that the success of a biscuit relies on the temperature of your butter. Warm, soft butter = terrible biscuits. So while the outside appears okay, the inside of the biscuit is raw. The only thing he can do is to slice them in half and cover the mistake with gravy. Trouble ahead.

The judges are here. Time to eat.
See. George Bush cares about Dooky Chase.
Just not the rest of New Orleans.

Leah tells the table about how she ended up in the kitchen. When she first married her husband, Edgar Dooky Chase, Jr., she came to be a waitress. But soon she stepped into the kitchen to show everyone a bit of her influences and background, and in the kitchen she stayed. Now she is known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine. 

Since we’re all in the sharing mood, Anthony Mackie tells us that growing up his family only had gumbo twice a year, a cheap one and a “good” one. See, the good gumbo can cost upwards to $250 a pot, so they only had that once a year. The other one had the little shrimps, no crabs, and chicken wings. That one only cost $50. I gotta say, Anthony Mackie is one charming and well-spoken man. #ManCrush

First up. Carlos, Brian, and Travis.

Looks like everything Carlos ever made.
Carlos - Cochinita Pibil with Black Beans, Orange Pico De Gallo & Corn Tortilla.

Brian - Korean BBQ New York Strip with Potato Salad.

Travis - Biscuits with Maple Sage Sausage Gravy & Sour Plum Jam.

Everyone loves the flavor of Travis’ gravy, but as suspected, the biscuit is raw. Not even the delicious gravy can hide that fact. Emeril puts it perfectly when he said, “If you’re gonna serve biscuit at this table, it better be spot on man.”

Little puglet! More tissues please!
As usual, Carlos’ made something rich, balanced, and super delicious. He just keeps bringing his style of elevated Mexican food every round. 

Brian’s lack of a charcoal grill, or any grill for that matter, is hurting him. It’s hard to sell the judges on a Korean BBQ flavor without the char that’s usually associated with it. That and it’s too sweet.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen Nick is still emotional. He’s missing his family. Ok, I know the whole “no crying in Top Chef” thingy is out the window, but who the hell cries in the middle of service? Wait. It doesn’t just stop there, Nick is actually getting choked up while explaining his dish to the judges!

If you're getting this look from Padma...#WIN
Nick - Ricotta Gnudi with Pancetta, Peas, Lemon & Parmesan.

Shirley - Beijing Noodles, Fermented Bean & Pork Sauce with Pickled Radish.

Stephanie - Mussels with Spicy Pickled Peppers & Tomatoes.

Well, tears or not, Nick’s love for his family shows through in this dish. Padma loves the soft and pillowy gnudi, and everyone loves the crispy pancetta that provides some texture.

Shirley's dish is also spot on. Usually this dish comes with julienned cucumber to provide some crunch and balance against the highly seasoned fermented bean paste, here she used pickled radishes. Smart move.

Stephanie’s mussels are perfectly cooked. The surprise here is the pickled peppers in broth. Tom says he’s never had that combination before. And if you can surprise Tom (in a good way,) then you’re looking pretty good.

Last round.
Say! I would eat them anywhere! Need ham though.

Justin - Louisiana Rice with Chicken Thigh Gravy, Pickled Mirliton & Jalapeño.

Carrie - Creamed Asparagus over Toast & Poached Egg.

Nina - Curried Chicken with Fried Bakes

You can never gone wrong putting an perfectly cooked egg on top of something. It’s almost like bacon. As long as the yolk’s still warm and running, it’ll make everything tastes good. That’s what Carrie’s done here. The yolk mixes with the asparagus cream and turns the toasted bread into that perfect consistency of soft and crunchiness. It was a table pleaser.

Nina’s Nina. It’s now a foregone conclusion that her dish is good. However, I get the feeling she’s starting to be strategic about her dishes and is now coasting. Don’t expect her to take many chances.

Oh oh. Mean Girl Padma's here.
How quickly she can turn on you!
Justin is serving a traditional southern Louisiana dish to a table of folks who grew up eating southern Louisiana food. If that chicken and gravy isn’t perfect, he’ll get dinged for it. Guess what? It’s good, but not perfect. He’s gonna get dinged.

Dinner’s over. I gotta say this was the one episode so far where the judges pretty much enjoyed every dish. There were no egregious mistakes. It’s going to be hard for the judges.

During the interlude Tom and Anthony brought up potted meat. Apparently during their fishing expedition Anthony tried to get Tom to eat the “delicacy” and Tom say NOPE. He refuses to eat something that the law says it must declare “mechanically separated meat.” C’mon Tom! It’s like industrial pate, almost like charcuterie! 

Freddie Kruger called.
Back in the stew room, everyone feels really confident about their performance today. Brian says it’s going to be hard getting sent home this week because the challenge was so personal. They really put a piece of themselves out there.

That’s why the Flat Screen of Doom has been replace by the Flat Screen of Love. The judges loved everything. Each dish was brought up and someone had something positive to say. I love episodes like this where Tom is proud of the chefs and their dishes. Too often when the dishes suck Tom is embarrassed and have to talk about how hard the challenge is. Not today. Kudos all around.

However, there can only be one winner. This week, the emotional gnudi prevails. One of the best compliments Emeril can give a dish is when he says he can feel the love. It’s so funny how my personal perception of Emeril has evolved. He’s gone from that showy television chef who yells “Bam!” while throwing raw spices over everything, to the gentle Gandalf-ian Master Chef he is today. So much love.

Oh why not. Everyone else is doing it.
Now for the bad news. Someone is going home for putting their fondest home food memory out there.

Travis, Brian, and Justin all get called to the bad side of judges’ table. Travis for his raw biscuits, Brian for his uncharred steaks, and Justin for dried out chicken. All three dishes were good, but this was the wrong week to not be perfect.

One last tissue for you.
In the end, Travis just can’t hide from raw biscuits. You know, all season long he declared his expertise in cooking Asian food. And every week he would manage to draw Asian influences into his dish. The one week where he made something as “American” as biscuits and gravy, he gets sent home. That’s what I call irony. Maybe he should have made Asian biscuits. *rimshot*

So long Travis! 

Next week, the gang takes a field trip to LSU. Geaux Tigers!

Written by Mykl Wu