Archive for the Food on TV Category

Congratulations! Padma Lakshmi Pregnant!

Posted in Food in the news, Food on TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2009 by restaurantouring

Padma, hostess of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, is pregnant with her first child, after battling endometriosis, a medical condition where the lining of her uterus grows in other areas of the body. The condition may cause bleeding and infertility in women, so this is a very special pregnancy for Padma, indeed! For more information, check out this article from CNN. Congratulations!

Updates

Posted in Food on TV, New Jersey Restaurants, New York restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2009 by restaurantouring

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[One of my photos has been published at a blog owned by NBC and written by chef Ariane Duarte. Check out the entry here!]

Hello, people of the interwebs! Sorry for the lack of updates in a while. I’ve been pretty busy lately, mostly with work, eating, and taking pictures.

I still need to blog about my trip to Taiwan (amazing), Hong Kong, and Macau.

I’ve eaten at Le Bernardin since I last blogged, as well:

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And this past Monday, I had a life-changing meal at Thomas Keller’s Per Se.

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Lately, I’ve been cruising the Montclair restaurant scene, collaborating with local restaurants to get some food photography done. I’m not making any money doing it — I’m just doing it out of a bit of boredom and a desire to collaborate and help grow some of these businesses. Thanks go out to David Hobby at the Strobist blog for getting me off of my lazy keister. I’ll let you know when some of these pictures make it up onto their websites. In the meantime, if you’re from around my area, definitely check out CulinARIANE restaurant and Mesob Ethiopian restaurant.

The photo of the Jonah crab at the top of this post was shot for Oceania Seafood company, in New York (check my Flickr photostream for more pictures). They’re building a website, and I’ve been working very closely with an awesome IT support company called “Blue Lion Solutions” to help Oceania Seafood company grow its online seafood shipping business.

So, if you need the freshest seafood around, contact Oceania Seafood at 917-662-8028 (website coming very soon!)

And if you need web hosting services, IT support, and boatloads more help from tech-savvy types, contact Blue Lion Solutions (or just click here).

Food TV

Posted in Food on TV with tags , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2009 by restaurantouring

I missed the premiere of Next Food Network star. From what I could see from the commercials leading up to this season, no one I met at the open call in Philly made the cut (yes, I went out for the open call. Not sure why, but I did). Hopefully, I’ll catch a rerun.

Gavin Kaysen just beat Michael Symon in Battle Octopus on Iron Chef America. I knew he was a great chef, but arg! I really wanted John Besh to win, back during Next Iron Chef a couple years ago. Oh well.

Speaking of John Besh, he’ll be competing in Top Chef Masters on Bravo TV. Season starts this Wednesday. Tune in!

P.S. Really digging the new way they’re shooting the beauty plates on Iron Chef America. Might steal that look for a couple shots in the near future.

Ratios and Photo Competitions

Posted in Books and gear, Food in the news, Food on TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2009 by restaurantouring

I’m excited. I just got my copy of Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking in the mail. As I told him in New York, at the book signing event for Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure, a few months ago, I can’t stop reading his books.

For those who know me, yes, I know I wasn’t a big Ruhlman fan at first (I was just holding a grudge against him for seeming a bit harder on John Besh than on Michael Symon on the Next Iron Chef competition on Food Network a couple years ago), but the man can write. I can’t wait to dive in.

I’ll let you know what I think once I’m done. In the meantime, any food photography enthusiasts should check out the national skill contest hosted by Honda CR-V. You can submit pictures of sweet or savory comfort foods, and the best entry wins $2,500. Other prizes go to 2nd and 3rd places, too. If you’re interested, hurry up! The deadline is this Monday, May 4th, 2009. Check out the official rules here. Good luck!

CulinAriane, part III

Posted in Food on TV, New Jersey Restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2009 by restaurantouring

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I love eating at CulinAriane. The food keeps getting markedly better and better every time I go back to eat there. And that’s exciting for me, especially since I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to keep somewhat up-to-speed with the food that Ariane produces since after the show ended. In a recession, it’d be easy for a restaurant to start cutting back on food quantity and quality, yet somehow, CulinAriane has only been on the rise. She may be a self-proclaimed “old lady,” but don’t let that fool you — the woman can COOK. And with an expansion to the restaurant happening as early as this summer, things are looking really bright for the CulinAriane crew.

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My meal kicked off with a small bite of something Ariane loves to start off with — a small slice of seared tuna loin. This amuse bouche was paired with a creamy guacamole.

The cool, refreshing, al dente white asparagus that you see at the top of this post were topped with a fantastic warm goat cheese bearnaise sauce and morel mushrooms — one of my favorite mushrooms. I ordered the dish mainly because I thought it would look great in a photograph (and because it was in season and I figured I needed more fresh veggies in my meatatarian diet), and I’d like to think that I was right. The dish was plated exactly as I hoped it would be plated, which made lugging some extra photo gear to dinner and enduring the funny looks from the [probably] annoyed patrons worth it [for me]. (I deeply apologize to the people I may have annoyed during dinner. I tried to make the reservation as late as possible to avoid this).

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Next came the pirogi I ordered. Here, you’re looking at a couple delectable bites’ worth of caramelized onion, potato, white cheddar cheese, braised rabbit, carrot ribbons, and carrot juice reduction. The pirogies I had at Sava Polish Diner (an earlier post) do not compare (Sorry, Sava!).

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Croissant in lieu of bread. Even this has gotten better than I remember. Softer, fluffier, richer, better.

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Hawaiian striped marlin. Dusted with fennel pollen. Fingerling potatoes, spring garlic, artichoke hearts, and a grilled ramps vinaigrette. If Ariane keeps cooking marlin this way, I swear I’m going to eat every damn marlin in the sea. I had to hold myself back from licking the plate clean.

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The chocolate truffle cake with chocolate twizzle was perfection. It was light, moist, not too sweet, and perfectly matched with that mascarpone cream on top and the raspberry coulis around it. I’m usually not a fan of sweets, but I could eat ten of these desserts if my meager budget would allow it. Sigh.

CulinAriane restaurant is located at 33 Walnut Street, Montclair, NJ 07042
Phone: 973-744-0533
Fax: 973-744-0733
Hours: Wed – Sat, 5:30 – 10:00
Reservations are highly suggested.

Dinner at CulinAriane part 2 – Montclair, NJ

Posted in Food on TV, New Jersey Restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2009 by restaurantouring
Outside CulinAriane, looking in

Outside CulinAriane, looking in

[For a more recent account of the food at CulinAriane, in Montclair, NJ please click here.]

I first ate at CulinAriane back in mid-November (read about it here). I went after seeing chef Ariane Duarte talk about her small Montclair restaurant on Bravo TV’s Top Chef. A quick search on Google told me that I lived a mere 15 minutes away, so I figured I had to go. It was for science!

And what a science it was! Dinner that night was nothing short of terrific — one of the best meals I’ve ever had in a New Jersey restaurant. I still salivate at the thought of the mushroom and goat cheese polenta and shed tears of grief when I realize that it is no longer on the menu. That’s serious grief, folks — onions hardly make me cry anymore (but that’s probably because I use a really sharp knife to cut onions).

Dinner was even better because I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Duarte. A CIA graduate himself, he is Ariane’s husband, co-owner of the restaurant, and pastry chef for CulinAriane. But enough recap and reminiscing. On with the blog!

I went back there for dinner with my room mate, one of my best friends, for his birthday back in mid-January. Meant to blog about it way sooner, but never got around to it. Here’s what we had:

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

Dinner started with an amuse bouche of sun-dried tomato with parmesan breadcrumbs — one large, tender, flavorful bite.

Wine

Wine

Next, my roommate decided we should have a bottle of wine. CulinAriane is a BYO type of place and we unfortunately did not B our O. Luckily, they work with a local wine merchant, who delivers for free. We chose a 2006 Boisson-Vadot Meursault Chevaliers from France.

Crab cakes

Crab cakes

Oysters

Oysters

Next, came our appetizers: My roommate got the jumbo lump crab cake with citrus caper remoulade, which was very tender, sweet, flavorful, and full of large chunks of crab meat. The tangy citrus caper remoulade worked beautifully with the sweetness of the crab. I only wished there was a bit more greenery on the plate, but that’s only because I like having a nice salad with my crab cakes. My friend, however, would never agree with that because he is morally opposed to eating vegetables.

I ordered the cornmeal-crusted oysters, with micro greens and horseradish cream. My only complaint is that I wanted three more platters of them, which isn’t really a complaint, I suppose. These oysters were simple, had a great, clean flavor, and had just enough horseradish in the sauce to elevate the dish from boring to wham bam thank you ma’am.

Rabbit Ragout with Gnocchi

Rabbit Ragout with Gnocchi

Ariane was then nice enough to give us this additional complimentary appetizer: a braised rabbit ragout, served with toasted gnocchi and shaved parmesan. The gnocchi were large, but nice and tender, flavorful, and offered a nice counterpoint to the gelatinous, unctuous, delicious braised rabbit.

Pekin duck breast

Pekin duck breast

Skate

Skate

We moved onto our entrees next: my friend got the Pekin duck breast with sweet potatoes, hash of duck confit and black garlic, duck jus, and fig balsamic drizzle. I ordered one of the specials of the night — a pan-seared skate wing with fried capers, new potatoes, and red chillis. This dish was very similar to the skate dish that Ariane made on Top Chef, and this was very well balanced in terms of buttery goodness, the sweetness of the fish, the heat from the chillis, and the acidity from the citrus.

Artisanal cheese plate

Artisanal cheese plate

Lemon Meringue Martini

Lemon Meringue Martini

Finally, we got our desserts: My roommate ordered a cup of Earl Grey and the artisanal cheese platter, while I had already decided that I would try the lemon meringue martini that caused Ariane so much grief on the show, early in the season.

The cheese plate came with toast and water crackers, with a candle stuck in what appeared to be cranberry sauce (because it was his birthday). The first cheese was a Sparkenhoe Red Leicester — a hard cow’s milk cheese. Next was the Prima Caciotta, a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese. Finally, there was the Humboldt Fog — a soft goat’s milk cheese.

I eagerly dug into the lemon meringue martini, with the cherry surprise and vanilla wafer on the bottom. Ironically (though, if you know me, not surprisingly), it was too sweet for me, but I’m not sure if that’s because of the fact that I dislike sweets or because it was actually too sweet. The birthday boy thought it was fine, so I defer to his judgment.

There you have it. Another meal at CulinAriane. I was supposed to eat there again (for my birthday this time) this past Saturday, but I had to cancel at the last minute. I rescheduled the reservation for this Thursday night, so I will let you know how things turn out!

Until next time, eat well and be happy!

– Conway

CulinAriane restaurant is located at 33 Walnut Street, Montclair, NJ 07042
Phone: 973-744-0533
Fax: 973-744-0733
Hours: Wed – Sat, 5:30 – 10:00
Reservations are highly suggested.

Placing bets on tonight’s results

Posted in Food on TV with tags , , on February 25, 2009 by restaurantouring

If Carla wins, you all owe me cookies. Oatmeal raisin, please!

Edit: (spoiler alert) Damnit!

Wow

Posted in Food on TV with tags , , , , on February 20, 2009 by restaurantouring

Dear Lord, it has been a while since my last [real] post. Apologies for that. I’ve been trying to sort out some personal matters while looking for a new job, since I intend on leaving my current one very soon. Damn this economic downturn for making things so difficult!  I just want to cook!  But alas, no one is hiring.

The first thing I want to talk about is Top Chef, of course. I’m obsessed with this show. And what a roller coaster ride it has been! With Ariane Duarte eliminated a few weeks ago, the show became a little less interesting for me. I was really cheering her on, not just because she’s a fellow New Jerseyan and her restaurant is 15 minutes away from my apartment, but she was super nice (not like Leah or Stefan) and she actually knew how to cook, unlike half of the untalented hacks that show up on these shows sometimes.

The following week, Radhika was eliminated for being a poor host and leader during restaurant wars. Not only was her restaurant seemingly unfriendly, the desserts failed. What a bummer.

Then, Jeff fell in the All Star episode due to a seemingly lackluster ceviche. I’m still scratching my head a little about that one, but it doesn’t matter. I also read an interview with him somewhere online. I’ll link to it when I find it, but in it, he basically said that he felt like he was being used as some sort of sex object on the show or something. This I find hilarious, if you remember the name of the place he works at (Dilido Club, for those of you who don’t).

The following week, Jamie (Shock! Surprise! She was one of my favorites!) was sent home because of oversalted braised celery ribs in her attempt to recreate one of Le Bernardin’s dishes, even though Hosea botched some fundamentals and Leah completely fuxxed up her dish. The only justification I’ve been able to muster up for this decision is that salt is the most important thing in the kitchen. At least, learning to control salt is the most important fundamental. Terrible to see her go, though.

Leah finally gets sent home after that. She botched poached eggs for her eggs Benedict. Not only were her eggs undercooked, she watered down her hollandaise when she should have left it alone. Fabio breaks a pinky finger but still manages to win the challenge, which was fantastic.

This brings us to this week’s episode:

The final four (Stefan, Hosea, Fabio, and Carla) meet back up in New Orleans for the end of the season. Emeril is the guest judge. In the spirit of the rebirth of New Orleans, the judges bring back the last three competitors eliminated for a chance to get back into the mix.

Quickfire: Jeff, Jamie, and Leah must prepare a dish using crawfish. Leah’s dish looks the least appealing — like a failed gumbo or stew, so she calls it a soup. Although Jamie’s dish looked tasty, Jeff pulled it off with his version of shrimp and grits, substituting the crawfish for the shrimp.

For the elimination challenge, Jeff needs to win in order to proceed to the finale. If he does win, the judges will eliminate two other chefs. Unfortunately, he ends up just missing the mark to Carla, who really shined with an oyster stew, freshly fried shrimp beignets, and a non-alcoholic (Gasp! In the middle of Mardi Gras???) mixed drink. Stefan and Fabio end up being the least favorite chefs, and Fabio is unfortunately sent home.

So, the final 3 are Stefan, Carla, and Hosea. This is very different from whom I imagined would be in the final 3: Jamie, Stefan, and either Jeff or Fabio.

If Stefan wins, he will probably deserve it, even though he’s an arrogant ass. Hosea, I think, doesn’t really know how to cook at a high level. Carla has been truly impressive in the last few episodes. She’s definitely the dark horse out of the bunch, and I hope she wins it all. We’ll see what happens.

I just hope these chefs remember what the formula for success seems to be on the show: good interpretations of familiar foods. Simplicity. Elegance. Austerity. Perfect execution. And bacon.

Top Chef, Season 5, Episode 8

Posted in Food on TV on January 16, 2009 by restaurantouring

Down on the Farm

As always, you should stop reading if you don’t want the ending of this episode spoiled for you.

Quickfire

Things kick off with Hung, the winner of season 3 of Top Chef, as the guest judge. Fabio knows that Hung loves fresh food, and he sees a tarp covering something rectangular, so he thinks that there is an “ah-kwah-rium” down there. Fabio’s expression, and the way he says “aquarium” is so funny, you have to see it for yourself. I’d buy this episode on iTunes just for that.

Hung was the fastest chef in Top Chef history, and in his honor, the chefs have to make the tastiest dish possible while not using any fresh ingredients. Padma removes the tarp, revealing pantry items — most of which are terrible products that self respecting chefs would not use. Though the labels have been editted out, you can see various items which include the follow: Vienna sausages, wheat germ, Velveeta, canned soups, vegetables, fruits, and clams, box-mix mashed potatoes, canned fish, canned chili with beans, canned crab, instant noodles, and more.

In honor of Hung, the contestants are only given 15 minutes to create their dish. Hilarious.

Hosea decides to make a split pea soup with ham/spam. Sounds disgusting to me, but Hung loved it. Jeff is doing fried conch with a pina colada and a coconut dipping sauce. Jamie is taking the easy way out and making a bruschetta with garbanzo beans, marinated artichokes, and bread. Stefan asks Hosea if he can take the rest of his Spam, then proceeds to talk about how he’s a genius and how his soup and grilled cheese/Velveeta sandwiches with Spam-infused baked beans is going to kick everyone’s ass. Leah fries up some waffles and cooks them so hard, they become rock hard. Radhika takes the same route as Jamie and mixes some beans with tahini and toasts some bread. Stefan ends up winning, since he did both a soup AND a sandwich, whereas Hosea only did a soup. Hosea proceeds to kick himself for letting Stefan take the Spam earlier.

Elimination Challenge

The chefs have to cook a seasonal, family-style lunch, including dessert, for 16 people per team. The chefs draw knives and break off into their teams, by protein: pork, chicken, and lamb. Ariane is uncomfortable about being on the same team as Leah and Hosea because she’s the odd one out. Jamie gets placed on the same team as Stefan and Carla, and Stefan causes problems again, as usual. Jeff, Radhika, and Fabio plan on doing some simple, but fresh and seasonal foods for lunch.

The next morning, all the chefs pile into the cars and drive off to somewhere in New York. The signs on the screen say Blue Hill at Stone Barns and I have to pause the video. WOW. Dan Barber is fantastic, and the chefs get to work with the food that’s grown on the farms there.

The menus have to be revised, since they will not be shopping at Whole Foods. Here’s what they’re making:

Team Pork:
– Seared pork loin
– Sausage ravioli with pesto
– Fried green tomatoes
– Grilled corn salad with bacon
– creme brulee

Team chicken:
– Chicken cutlet with grilled corn salad
– Lemon-herb roasted chicken
– Chicken ravioli soup
– Nectarine & Strawberry tartlet

Team lamb:
– Roasted duo of lamb
– Heirloom tomato salad
– Rosemary & garlic-roasted potatoes
– Swiss chard
– Summer berry trifle

Team chicken wins it — that is to say that each of the three chefs win.

Team pork and team lamb are on the bottom.

The bad things about team pork were that Radhika did almost no work, the creme brulee was too sweet, Fabio put too much pesto on the ravioli, and Jeff with the hair made the mistake of cutting the fat off of the pork and cutting the meat off of the bone.

The bad things about team lamb were that there was no teamwork. The lamb was butchered and tenderized when it should have been left on the bone, especially because it was baby lamb, which is already very tender. Then, the roulade was tied incorrectly. Ariane, who does not have as much experience butchering lamb as Hosea, got no help. And again, she had to tie the roasts herself, even though Leah has more experience tying roasts. As a result, the lamb dish turns out terribly, which is especially bad at a place where it is all about honoring your food and elevating it and making it taste as good as possible.

Ariane has to pack her knives and go home. Pretty much everyone is angry.

Top Chef, Episode 7, Season 5

Posted in Food on TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2009 by restaurantouring

Welcome back to Top Chef, everyone!  It’s been quite a while, since no new episodes aired over the holidays.  This is the first new episode in about 3 weeks!

As always, do not continue reading this post if you don’t want the episode spoiled for you.

This week, I’ll do a really quick update on the show.  Major props to Catie, “the editor,” for filling me in on the details live, since I won’t be able to download this episode until iTunes decides to stop sucking and make the episode available for me to download.

Quickfire

The guest judge is pastry chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, and the challenge is to make “the ultimate sweet treat” without using sugar.  Jeff thinks he’s got this challenge in the bag.  Jamie decides not to make a dessert.  Hosea is doing something with peaches and figs.  Arianne is using diet Dr. Pepper.  Carla gets angry at everyone constantly opening and closing the fridge, cuz her bananas aren’t freezing properly, so she finally has to saute them with walnut oil.  Stefan is being Stefan.

Top Chefs: Radhika, Leah, and Jeff

Bottom 3: Ariane, Jamie, and Carla

Winner: Radhika and her whole wheat challah bread pudding with sauteed white peach, honey roasted cashews, and ground ginger.

Double Elimination Challenge

This one is a free-for-all.  The judges wanted to see exactly what these chefs could do, since they desperately need to prove that they know how to cook if they want to succeed on the show.  So far, the food has been pretty disappointing, despite the first episode’s dishes being very strong.

The cheftestants are split into two teams.  The twist is that they will be judging each others’ food.  Radhika chooses to be on the team that Stefan is not because she thinks that Stefan causes too much unnecessary tension.

Fabio rolls pasta.  Jamie cooks scallops.  Again. Fabio comments: “This is Top Chef, not Top Scallops!”

There’s a new judge:  Toby Young.  He is filling in for Gail.

Judgement

They love Jamie’s scallops.  They don’t like Eugene’s whole red snapper at all — it’s bland.  Melissa’s dish tastes like cat food.  Leah screwed up because she attempted something she had never done before.  Carla’s scallops are far too garlicky because of the gremolata she made to go with them (I never liked the taste of raw garlic much either, and I would only use it sparingly with strongly flavored items, like beef or something).  Also, Carla’s risotto was called uninspired.  Stefan is ecstatic that Colicchio liked his dish.  Jeff’s collection of hors d’oeuvres seemed to be disliked by all but Toby.  Ariane sauteed a skate wing.  Melissa is worried about her fish tacos and who will be going home tonight.

Top Chefs:  Ariane, Jamie, Stefan

Bottom 3: Melissa, Eugene, Carla

Winner: Jamie (Thank God.  Finally!)

Losers:  Eugene and Melissa.  Pack your knives and go.