Archive for Bravo TV

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.

Advertisements

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.

Natasha Richardson Dies from Ski Accident

Posted in Food in the news with tags , , , , on March 19, 2009 by restaurantouring

Hi everyone,

Those of us who saw the Christmas episode (episode 6) of Top Chef  New York (season 5) may remember seeing the lovely Ms. Natasha Richardson on the show as host and representative of amfAR (the American Foundation for Aids Research).  If you’ve been keeping up with the news, Natasha was in a ski accident on Monday (March 16, 2009).  Tragically, she passed away yesterday at the young age of 45.  For more details, please read this article and keep her and her family in your thoughts and prayers.  Thank you.

Mournfully yours,

Conway

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.