January 31, 2011

Sprouts - I love them


I don't know how you all feel about them but I love them. Sprouts, that is. I love that green, fresh-tasting, crunchy bite when I eat them.

I, unfortunately, don't buy them often enough. My local grocery store doesn't stock them and I usually do a big shopping trip at the other store about once a month.

Sprouty Me: "Hi, why don't you carry sprouts?"
Grocery Produce Dude: "We do, right here." pointing to the bean sprouts.
Sprouty Me: "No, no, I interested in the deli, alfalfa or radish varieties of sprouts you use in sandwiches?"
Grocery Produce Dude: "You can't get them anywhere. They discontinued them for safety reasons".
Sprouty Me: "No, I buy them at the other grocery stores. It's just your store."
Grocery Produce Dude: "I'm new here."
Sprouty Me: devoid look, with intermittent blinking and a long silence.

I have been eating sprouts from the store for a very long time and have never, ever gotten ill from them. I also don't rinse them. I know, I know... but what's a little bit of tasty residue gonna do?

Sprouty Sandwiches

I even attempted growing my own. "It's really easy" is what sprout growers tell me. So, I did. I used mung beans and sprouted my own. Yes, it was easy, unfortunately, I didn't rinse them enough or maybe I didn't have quality mung beans because I was left with beautiful sprouts and lot of hard shells. Why I didn't just cut off the ends is a mystery to me but I just wanted to stuff it into my sandwich and not fuss over them. I ended throwing them out because every bite was just too crunchy. It was a learning process and I know better now. I really should try again.

On another note, what do you think of the pictures? My hubby things the background is just too much. I actually love the vibrant pink and he thinks I should have toned it down because it takes away from the subject. I believe the sprouts and sandwich hold their own and complement versus compete. We agreed to disagree. Feel free to disagree or give me your critiques as I appreciate any photo feedback.

January 26, 2011

Vine-Ripened Hydroponic Tomatoes

Hydroponically grown cherokee purple tomato

It's January and we're eating freshly picked tomatoes off our hydroponic setup in our basement. Lovely huh?

However, this will be the last time my hubby sets it up. It's more work than he likes. Making the nutrient-rich water and having to top it up frequently. Pruning of plants, adjusting the light fixtures for the growing plants and let us not forget the mopping. Yup, every once in a while, a hose goes astray and we are left with a mini flood in our basement. Fun times, fun times.

Hydroponically grown cherokee purple tomato_1

I can't say I'll miss the tomatoes that much as I'm not a huge tomato fan. But, it is nice to have fresh smelling and tasting vine-ripe tomatoes. The ones in the picture are called cherokee purple. Lovely coloring inside. We also have lots of cherry tomatoes that my daughter has been eating as soon as they are harvested.

Funny to say harvest in January. haha. Would this be classified as urban farming? Can't get more locally grown than this for us!

Once this crop of tomatoes is done, the hubby will be setting up my greens. Various lettuces, herbs and other greens. I'm craving Arugula actually. I can't wait!!!

What are you craving from summer produce? I really want some fresh blueberries or raspberries.

January 25, 2011

Top Chef Tuesdays: S08 E04

Join me on my blog for Top Chef Tuesdays, as I recap each episode. I'm aware that Top Chef All Stars has already been airing in the US and we Canadians are a couple (*ahem - maybe more than a couple) episodes behind. So please, all you folks who are ahead of the watching, please, no spoilers. I'm recaping in my own personal opinion and it is all in good fun. Please join me in the comments.


Imagine you are told to make a dish but are not able to use knives or any kitchen utensils in the prep. As Fabi'oh' stated, it's like a "surgeon without surgical tools". The chefs were given the challenge of making the best stuffing but the true test would be how resourceful they were and the prize of immunity and $20,000 just added more crazy to it. It was like watching an episode of MacGyver but it's all food focused.

Carla is cavewoman-esque, beating an onion with a pan, Jamie is butchering a quail with the top of a pepper grinder and Fabi'oh' is seen grating parmesan cheese on the shelf of the stainless steel rack. Casey states she feels like "Tom Hanks in Castaway" and I'm grateful there aren't any ice skates around.

Casey's dish didn't come together, Tiffany made her mom's stuffing too sweet and Carla, well, poor "what is meant to be, will be" Carla asked the judges if they needed floss for her al dente quinoa, which the judges thought was not a stuffing. Marcel's stuffing was a contender but it was Tre's spicy stuffing that won, without the aid of a swiss army knife or duct tape, may I add.

The Elimination Challenge is to create and present a healthy dish head-on-head at the US Open. The chefs are split into 2 teams and come up with different strategies. Casey, Carla and Tre tell us how they know what food is needed since they are into health and sports themselves and good ole Antonia, she never played sports but smoked a lot of pot. Guess that helps in some way, since she would know all about the munchies.

Fabi'oh' is making gnocci again. Jamie is worried about undercooked chickpeas, as she should be because I'm wondering why she isn't using a pressure cooker with her small allotment of cooking time, and Carla slices off half her fingernail and refuses to go to the hospital. The other teammates feel she was right in sucking it up unlike Jamie in last weeks episode.

This is where the fun really begins. Team Orange and Team Yellow compete against one another and it was so fun to see the team spirit. The high fives, the screaming and jumping. I too was jumping up and down in my living room, alongside each point won and I wasn't even rooting for a specific team. Though, even with the great camaraderie, wouldn't it have been a little fun to see some John McEnroe tantrums? Too bad Jen was eliminated in the second episode, I'm sure she would have fulfilled my wish for some good/bad tv.

Team orange wins with Carla, Antonia, Carla and Richard at the Judge's table. Carla, with cut finger, wins the challenge and a trip to Italy. She feels validated that her vegetable soup won since the other chefs didn't feel it was a worthy dish.

Team yellow is the losing team and Tre is lucky he has immunity as the judges felt he gave up since he had the pass card. Tiffani's tuna was unfavorable and her salad was overdressed while Casey's dish was too protein heavy though she disagreed with the judges calling it hearty.

Marcel pulls the whiny 3 year old act, crying that people touched his food and changed it. He was angry that Jamie didn't get to serve up her bad dish and that Angelo, who has a reputation of maybe sabotaging people, sunk him by adding sweet sauce to his dish. Ultimately, it was the under seasoned shrimp that sent him home and I'm not talking about Tom.

Catch u all next week!

January 23, 2011

Ice on Whyte 2011: Weekly Photos

Ice on Whyte 2011

We went to the Ice on Whyte Ice Carving Festival. We decided to hit the festival in the evening because we heard it was all lit up.

Ice on Whyte Carving

I was in total awe. Can you even begin to imagine how many hours was spent to carving all of the ice sculptures? Winter lumberjacks, they sure are.

ICe on Whyte Jack in the Box

As I've stated in many posts, I am not an outdoor winter gal.

Surprise, surprise.

If you attended the festival, you may have seen me, I was dressed in 300 pounds worth of layered clothes.

When I walked, I looked like a zombie, pretty stiff-legged due the clothing and big winter boots and my snowpants made a swish-swish with every stride.

Yup, I'm bringing sexy back.

Did anyone else go down the slide of doom?

ICe on Whyte Slide

My kids are braver than I. I like to be in control and there is none going down this slide. I screamed like a school girl the first half of the slide and the second half, where we were zooming down at bobsled speeds, I stopped screaming and squeezed my eyes shut with fear. It freaked my freak and I'm still drying out 300 pounds of clothing. Though, I have to admit, I'd probably go again if the lines weren't so long.


Hope you all had a great weekend!

January 20, 2011

Stuffed Conchiglioni Pasta Shells with Spinach, Ricotta and Parmesan

Stuffed Conchiglioni Pasta Shells with Ricotta and Spinach

We frequently entertain, whether it be family or friends, and my children are trained like Pavlovian Dogs to always ask "who's coming over?" when the weekend hits. Friends often comment or ask "How can you entertain so much? Isn't it a lot of work? You must be Martha Stewart!"

No, I'm not Martha Stewart. Trust me. I want to be the hostess with the mostess but I like to cut corners wherever I can. Don't you?

The challenge with frequent entertaining is coming up with something different AND easy. I do not want lots of prep work or complex dishes. I've spent one too many times in the kitchen, punching hours on the prepping and cooking time-clock, when I really need not be. I don't want to be chained to the stove or stuck away from guests. Get-togethers, for me, is always about people first and then the food second. When it's not, and people go home, I always feel like I missed out on everyone.

A short while ago, I made the "mistake" of walking down the dry pasta aisle at the Italian Center. I thought I could be tough this time and just look, since I usually avoid that aisle, but I ended up filling my home pantry with every different shape, size and color of pasta. It's an addiction, I'm sure. Pasta-shopa-holic. I'm like a kid in the candy store, my eyes get big and I want it. And I want it ALL!

The pasta shells I used are called conchiglioni pasta. (try saying that 3 times!) They are, as the name implies, conch-like pasta shells. They are large in size and fantastic for filling up with any mixture variation you can think of.

Everyone made comments on the dish. "Looks pretty". "Great idea". "Tastes really good". It is a very visually pleasing dish and not a lot of work. Spend time cleaning the kitchen up instead or fixing your hair before folks arrive! Go ahead, this will be our secret and you too can be called Martha :)


Looking to Simplify: I sauteed up my own fresh spinach but you may use frozen chopped spinach instead. Defrost, drain and use in place of sauteed spinach.

Even Simpler: All the prep time can be done well ahead of time. Prep the dish in the morning or even the night before. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Allow to warm up before baking and remove plastic wrap before baking.


Stuffed Conchiglioni Pasta Shells with Spinach, Ricotta and Parmesan
serves 6 as a main, about 10-12 as a side

about 30 large pasta shells, cooked as per bag instructions
1 bag (312g/11 oz) fresh spinach
2 tbsp butter
1 container (425g/15 oz) ricotta cheese
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
about 2 cups tomato or pasta sauce
shredded mozzarella cheese

Saute the fresh spinach with butter over medium heat. Stir frequently, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Work in batches, if needed. Place all the spinach into a bowl.

Mix in the ricotta and parmesan cheeses. Add enough salt and pepper to taste.

In a large oven proof dish, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce, about 1 cup worth.

Spoon the ricotta-spinach filling into each pasta shell. Arrange the filled pasta shells onto the tomato sauce. Either drizzle the remainder of the tomato sauce or place a spoonful atop of each shell. Add your desired amount of shredded cheese on top of the shells.

Cover with aluminum foil and place into the 375F oven to bake for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly and serve.

January 18, 2011

Top Chef Tuesdays: S08 E03

Join me on my blog for Top Chef Tuesdays, as I recap each episode. I'm aware that Top Chef All Stars has already been airing in the US and we Canadians are a couple (*ahem - maybe more than a couple) episodes behind. So please, all you folks who are ahead of the watching, please, no spoilers. I'm recaping in my own personal opinion and it is all in good fun. Please join me in the comments.


The room goes silent and the chef's eyes get large, star struck, by the appearance of Chef David Chang. Apparently, he's the bomb!, the hot diggity dang of the culinary world. My mind drifts back to my childhood, when I first laid my eyes on the actor River Phoenix, and bingo, I squee along with the all stars. I get it, I really, really get it.

No time is wasted and we are into the Quickfire Challenge. The chefs are put into 4 teams of 4 and will competing, relay style. Faced with racks of lamb, garlic and artichokes, the chefs are to "Mis-en-place" or prep the 3 ingredients to Chef Chang's standards and then create a dish.

This is where I watch awe, wondering if the food network hit fast forward. In my mind, O Fortuna is playing to the chaotic, yet beautiful symphony of slicing, chopping, mincing, cooking and plating without a cut finger to be seen. The chefs are like the roadrunner on speed. meep, meep!

This is where the tale of the tortoise and the hare comes in. Just because you are the first team to get all your prep done does not mean you will ultimately win. Oh no. The Blue (Stephen, Tre, Spike and Richard) team takes with crispy lamp chop and artichoke done 3 ways leaving the hare (Green team) in the dust.

Elimination challenge offers the chefs a moment of rest and eating instead of cooking. Each team will dine at some of New York's finest restaurants and then create a dish that would be worthy to be on the restaurant's menu.

We see chefs sniffing, gawking, critiquing and finally eating all the heavenly looking dishes. Stephen is confident that he will be able to pull off a dish since he frequently eats at the coastal italian Marea Restaurant. Fabi'oh' is worried about having to cook french and vietnamese food which is everything opposite of his style for Ma Peche restaurant. Marcel seems like a shoo-in for wd-50's avant garde and modern take on classic foods where Carla is afraid she won't pull it off. And the team of Jamie, Dale, Casey and Antonia feel that david burke townhouse's modern american food will be tough but doable.

It is pretty funny to see the judges getting in and out of taxi's to go the 4 different restaurants and eat a total of 16 dishes. They must all have notebooks they scribble in when the camera isn't on them, to keep track of everything.

At judges table, Dale T, Angelo, Antonia and Tre are called in to find out they are the Top 4. Antonia did a "good rift on peas and carrots" with the scallop, Angelo's dish was exciting and the white chocolate used on the marinated fish was "genius". Tre's swordfish "steak" was "the star" but Dale T's take on eggs won everyone over.

I don't know what it says about myself, but I get much more enjoyment trying to anticipate who will go home versus who will win. The bottom four consisted of Stephen, Tiffani, Fabi'oh' and Dale L. This time, not one, but two competitors will go home. Da da daaaaa!

The judges felt that Tiffani's melon with ham and cheese dish was watery and mushy and "a parody not homage" to wd-50's restaurant. Fabi'oh's roasted lamb was heavy handed and lacked confidence. But those two were safe. Stephen's overly perfumed salmon dish and Dale L's sickeningly sweet "circus" french toast sent them both home.

I was surprised that both left humbly and quietly, unlike Jen's dramatic swearing stomp last episode.

January 15, 2011

Things I liked this week - Weekly Photos

Winter Wonderland

It sure is beautiful but man, oh man, is it ever cold. I admit, I don't appreciate our beautiful winter scenery here in Edmonton enough but I'm such a weeny about being out in the cold. I did try to make myself go outdoors last year, see my river valley post and the acreage post, but the latter doesn't really count since it was at my in-laws home and I wasn't out long. I think that's the only outdoor winter activities I participated in. Does running from the car into the grocery store count?

When I was a child, come every spring, like clockwork, the neighbor next door would say "Wow, Maki has come out of hibernation". I have come to accept that I will never do winter. Forget skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing or whatever other asinine winter sport one wearing MEC clothing does. I'm an indoor gal. Bring me the remote and a glass of wine. And maybe something crunchy to snack on, please.



These are our goldfish from our outdoor pond and now they are "snowbirds", taking a vacay, in our aquarium, the winter months. These guys are totally like little puppy dogs. You can pet them and they follow you around.

There are about 13 of them and they live in a spacious 50 foot gallon aquarium in the front room of our house, just off the dining room. Every morning when we walk past the aquarium and they get a glimpse of us, they all swim right up to the corner part, pushing against the glass, happy to see us and silently begging for food.

I also talk to them in a high-pitched annoying voice when I feed them. Go ahead, call me the crazy cat fish lady. I love them and they put a smile on my face everyday.


New lamps

I'm loving my lamps!

I bought 2 of these vintage lamp bases a long time ago and have been searching for simple shades in the right proportion and color. They came with ugly, off-white, cone-shaped shades which I immediately rid of. (what where they thinking???)

Searched Ikea, Homesense, Winners, The Bay, Zellers and Walmart is where I finally found what I was looking for. Walmart? whowouldhavethunkit?

Glad the lamps are out of my basement and now in my family room for me to enjoy!


Have a good weekend. Don't forget to stretch before you do all that snow shoveling.

January 13, 2011

Breaducation at Luzzara Coffee Bar

Bread Talk

I've always said that baking is my equivalent for the lab bench work I used to do when I working years ago. With the mixing and measuring, baking (and cooking), I found, is relaxing and comforting. I'm always filled with a wonderful peaceful feeling when I'm working away at my kitchen counter as well it gives instant gratification with the outcome of delicious breads and cakes.

So, it only seemed fitting that I attended last night's "breaducation" at Luzzara Coffee Bar.

With great attendance, chairs were set up in the adjoining scooter shop for more room. I grabbed a cappuccino before I mingled amongst other fellow bread baking aficionados. Very good coffee, by the way.

Fellow food blogger Chris, from Eating is the Hard Part and Owen, owner of Prairie Mill Bread Co. spoke about their love for bread, bread making tips and answered all sorts of questions from the audience.

Let me tell you, these guys know their stuff and want to teach you all that you want to know. The two delivered a wealth of information in the most fun and friendly fashion. Who knew you could laugh so much about bread?

Luzzara Coffee Bar
Fresh yeast versus dry yeast, different types flour, types of bread (no knead, sandwich breads, sourdoughs, etc), use of moisture/steam in baking and pizza stones and cast iron pots to bake in/on. Nothing was left untouched.

Btw, the perk of being an Albertan, we have amazing flour here. Great wheat gives great flour gives great bread. Very proud of that.

Some of Chris' favorite bread baking books were passed around and, let us not forget about the samples. Chris and Owen had plenty to choose from. Wow! I think I filled up on half a loaf of bread just to myself and I was trying to limit myself.

Thanks to all for the great night! A fantastic way to enjoy a cold, frosty Wednesday night.

The lovely Sarah (above), owner of Luzzara Coffee Bar is hosting more Wednesday night lectures, find more details on the Events page.

January 11, 2011

Top Chef Tuesdays: S08 E02

Join me on my blog for Top Chef Tuesdays, as I recap each episode. I'm aware that Top Chef All Stars has already been airing in the US and we Canadians are a couple (*ahem - maybe more than a couple) episodes behind. So please, all you folks who are ahead of the watching, please, no spoilers. I'm recaping in my own personal opinion and it is all in good fun. Please join me in the comments.


Popcorn in hand, I'm ready to watch and we are taken to the American Museum of Natural History with Padma and Joe Jonas. Who? Who is Joe Jonas? Some of the chefs wonder while others, who have young children, unfortunately, know exactly who he is. The "perks" of being a parent.

The chef's challenge is to create a midnight snack for the kids sleeping over at the museum. This is where you grab your shot glass and join me in a drinking game where every time sugar is mentioned, you take a sip. Not even a minute in, you are feeling the buzz. From sugar-laden chocolate bars to sweet snickerdoodles and Dale L.'s "crack... that will jack up the children on sugar... like a 10 year old rave". Ahhh, that was completely awesome, especially watching headband-wearing Dale T. feeling the beats in the background.

This is where I wonder if the chefs get annoyed with guest judges. I'd be rolling my eyes at Joe Jonas if he was telling me that the chocolate or mint wasn't strong enough in my dish. Who the heck are you again, Mr. Teenage Heart-Throb???

It's a tie between Spike's Potato and Carrot Chips with marshmallow-marscapone dip and Tiffany's Rice Crispy Snowball with malted milk and graham crackers. The decision will be made by the children and the chefs will be split into 2 teams to prep the two dishes. As Dale L puts it "it's the Cool guys with babysitter Carla versus the Spice girls with their bodyguard".

The chefs take their turns complaining how they dislike children and that they are "screaming tazmanian devils". So true, especially when the clips of sugar-high kids are shown, and I think to myself this is why us parents drink.

"Sugar" Quick, take a shot.

No sooner is Tiffany's Rice crispy snowball chosen as the winner than Tom walks in giving the chef's their Elimination challenge, which is to make breakfast for the parents and children and it will have to be dino-inspired. T-Rex team (meat, eggs, dairy) versus Team Brontosaurus (fruit, vegies, grains).

While most of the chefs settle into their cots for the night, a few decide to go do a flashlight tour, a la Ben Stiller-style. Now this is my kind of silly fun, where the guys make jokes about seeing Fabi'oh' and "Casey in the morning" pointing out of the cavemen in the prehistoric section of the museum. Hahaha, I'm so immature.

Team T-Rex are disappointed to see that they literally only had meat, eggs and dairy which makes it harder to pull of better dishes versus Team Bronte which had "sunshine, puppies and rainbows" to work with as one chef mentions. hehe.

Jamie leaves the kitchen to receive stitches, I gag over the undelectable-looking egg pucks frittatas from Antonia and Tiffany D and I laugh as Fabi'oh' works the crowd like a politician, serving the children "pill'oh'ws made out of p'oh'tat'oh's" and smooching all the women. Man, I love my Fabi'oh'.

At judges table, Team Brontosaurus is chosen as the winning team with Angelo, Richard and Marcel's Banana Parfait being the winning dish. Team T-Rex are called in and Jen is the alpha T-Rex of the group, snorting and hungrily tearing a strip out of the judges, telling them that they "...are smart enough to ask for a different plates if they didn't like..." how it wasn't served individually. Jen continues to rage and defends her dish, fighting right to the end, where she is sent home for a bland, soft, and overall a dish that seemed lost.

Maybe Jen should have played the shot glass game with the other chefs while waiting in the broom closet waiting room, it might have mellowed her out. I've never seen that side of her and she even tells the other surprised chefs that "Welcome to Jen All-Stars". I'm sad to see her go as I quite liked her. But if your dish sucks, you go home and as Tom put it, defending it to the bitter end doesn't make the dish better.

January 10, 2011

Easy Chai Latte

Chai Tea Latte

If you live in the Edmonton area, you have dealt with the neverending insurmountable amount of falling snow this weekend. Add the wind, and your sidewalks don't ever look fully shoveled clean. My muscles decided on payback and I sit here typing, sore and knotted. Does anyone else get knots? I get them a LOT, it's painful and annoying.

Snowed in, between shoveling and nursing muscle knots, I drank a plenty of tea and it dawned on my that I could make chai latte with one of the teas. Any tea that has a spicy/cinnamon blend will work. It's very simple to make and it was really tasty.

Chai Tea Latte Diptych

And with all the snow, I decided to take pictures of my chai latte with a much more brighter and cheerier tone. I can at least pretend I'm in a tropical paradise with every sip. Where it's warm, free of snow, sunny and bright, oh Mr. Pool boy, why yes, you can slather some lotion on my back, why, yes, that is a painful muscle knot...



Back to snow shoveling.

Don't forget to watch Top Chef Allstars tonight and join me for my recap tomorrow.


Easy Chai Latte
makes 2 cups

1 tea bag (I used tetley's cinnamon spice tea but any spicy/cinnamon blend will do)
1 cup boiling water
1 cup of milk, frothed or just heated
sugar to sweeten, to your taste

Steep the tea bag in 1 cup of boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Heat and froth 1 cup of milk.

Combine the milk and tea. Add sugar to you preferred taste.

Serve in 2 mugs. Add a dash of cinnamon on top.

January 6, 2011

Apple Butter

Apple Butter Recipe

Guess what I have been enjoying? Apple Butter that I made from my own backyard apples! I prepped & canned them in the harvest season and carefully took my babies in the downstairs pantry and then forgot about it, until recently.

Sweet with the most satisfying hit of cinnamon. I LOVE cinnamon but even more so in the winter months as it's so very comforting to me.

Speaking of cinnamon, I was at my parent's home last week and my tastebuds did a double glance at the cinnamon in my mom's cake. The taste and aroma was so pronounced. I have never really thought about varieties of cinnamon, as I just buy the bulk variety that is labelled "cinnamon" but I asked my mom to bring me the bottle. It was labelled Saigon Cinnamon. You must pick some up next time you go shopping as it stood out enough to get my attention and consequently knock my socks off.

I followed Elise's Apple Butter recipe, though I added more cinnamon to my preferred taste. I wish I had some of the Saigon cinnamon at the time! Also, I used very fine seive to to strain everything since I do not have a food mill or a chinois sieve.

Feels like I typed cinnamon a lot! Ah, just checked. 10 times. Cinnamon, cinnamon, cinnamon!

January 4, 2011

Top Chef Tuesdays: S08 E01

Sorry had no internet today. Posting this a bit late.

Join me on my blog for Top Chef Tuesdays, as I recap each episode. I'm aware that Top Chef All Stars has already been airing in the US and we Canadians are a couple (*ahem - maybe more than a couple) episodes behind. So please, all you folks who are ahead of the watching, please, no spoilers. I'm recaping in my own personal opinion and it is all in good fun. Please join me in the comments.


I'm sitting in my kitchen, huddled over my little tv for the start of Top Chef All Stars. Where better to watch Padma say "Chef's. Unpack your knives, we're giving you a second chance."

woo hoo. Break out the truffle-oil infused popcorn.

I laugh out loud as we are treated to a reel of arrogant chefs claiming they are the best, the cream of the crop, and ironically they lost but that they came "this" or "that" close to winning it all. So pumped of confidence now but I foresee, we the audience, will see weeping like babies in due time, I'm sure of it.

Cue in the happy reunion music and in comes tough Tiffani who is here to "cook my nuts off". Then, snooty Stephen who has "standards unlike you" tells us he has a restaurant in his namesake, but of course. I'm sure his farts smell like Grey Poupon, not that he does that but if he did he'd refer to it as pooting or something like that since cutting the cheese would be so passe to say for a chef.

Elia strides in with a full head of hair and then Marcel, the guy whom everyone loves to hate except for "the beast" Tre, who admires him. In come Dale and Casey who were "neck to neck" but unfortunately both lost in their season. My favorite line was Richard's: that "everyone, of course, remembers his season because of his losing the season". Yeahhhhhh, that's it. I so appreciate his modesty.

Spike the "kitchen rat who bloomed" is told by Antonia that she's not interested in sharing her bathtub with a dirty Ratatouille. Explosive Dale T. meets Jamie, who's soft, wavy locks juxtapose her tough, tattooed exterior. She tells us that people come from all over the world so that they can be graced by her presence. I, in this moment, thank her for coming onto Top Chef again so I too can be graced by her refreshing effervescence. Is that grey poupon I smell? sniff sniff. No, blue cheese I believe.

One of my faves, Fabio (or Fabi'oh' as I like to call him)mumbles on about being a good Italian dog and that he is not looking forward to c'oh'cky, too loud Marcel and that he will not squ'oh"sh his balls on the top bunk bed this season. I hope he doesn't bunk with "cook my nuts off" Tiffani, that would be interesting to say the least. Carla, who is all about harmony and peace, is followed in by strong, competitive, massive pedigree Jen and "keeping it real" Mike. Doe-eyed "advil" Angelo is here to make it right and "Beaumont to New York" Tiffany rounds up the all star cast.

Quickfire Challenge. For immunity and bragging rights, create a dish that represents your season's city and prove that your season was the best. The scramble begins, as GE Monogram is flashed subtly and ingrained into our psyche, and Spike Ratatouille kitchen rat claims "this day the food will speak on it's own". Bravo. And here I thought it was supposed to do that for every challenge.

Mad-scientist Richard is futzing with liquid nitrogen, Angelo blames Stephen for causing him to drop his fish and Tre has 40 seconds to cook pork. UTENSILS DOWN, HANDS UP.

Bottom 4:

*Season 1 San Fransico- Tiffany & Stephan - Cioppino Gazpacho with Sourdough. Did you catch it? It almost looks as if Tom spits his food into the napkin. Not a good sign. Apparently, WAY too much raw garlic.

*Season 2 Los Angeles - Marcel & Elia - Shrimp Tacos with Guacomole in an apple wrapper. Tom asks why they used a wrapper. Questions people, not good. Shrimp needs seasoning and the apple is a "hair" too thin to pick up. Impossible!

*Season 5 New York - Jamie, Fabi'oh' & Carla - Curried App'oh'le soup, Pasta with caramelized app'oh'le, and rib eye with app'oh'le. Carla's eyes bug out as Padma mentions "interesting flavors" which means the kiss of death.

*Season 7 Washington DC - Angelo and Tiffany - Crabcake essence with rockfish lemongrass, jalapeno, old bay. Tiny bit too much salt rounds up the bottom 4.

Top 3:

*Season 3 Miami - "Neck in neck" Casey and Dale & Tre - Pork Tenderloin, Avocado lime puree, Tostones (which are spanish for twice-fried sliced plantains) and habanero sauce. Tom believes that the pork represented.

*Season 6 Las Vegas - Mike and Jen - Pasta Bucatini with Bacon Lobster Carbonara. Mike responds to Tom that he indeed made the Pasta Bucatini. Tom thinks the Pasta Bucatini is cooked perfectly and the flavors are great.

*Season 4 Chicago (WINNERS) - Dale T, Spike, Antonia, Richard - Pork & Black Pepper Sausage with Mustard Ice cream. Really inventive and Tom loved Richard's "avant garde" mustard ice cream.

Fabi'oh' is annoyed that a h'oh't dog with gelat'oh' mustard wins the competition.

Elimination Challenge. Turn the dish that sent you home into a success.

Cue the serious, competitive music. At the historic Russian Tea Room, where you too can sit in gaudy retro-red booths, Padma and Tom are joined with Gail Simmons and Tony "Rip you a new one" Bourdain. The chefs are split into 2 groups since the kitchen isn't large enough and each group gets to dine & critique with the judges when not cooking.

The camera spans past the Kitchenaid, taking turns with GE Monogram for expensive advertising air time. Chaos in the kitchen. The chefs learn they are able to watch and hear what the judges and their fellow competitors have to say about the dishes.

We are treated to a flashback to the season when Elia shaves her head. She says she's matured as a person and a chef since her head shaving 4 years ago. Elia refuses to watch the critiques... instead she's sitting in the back, wishing he could crawl into a nesting Matryoshka doll. Probably drinking some sous-chef's hidden stash of cheap russian vodka found in the back cupboard of the kitchen and slowly pulling out her luscious curly hair. Oh Elia, you haven't matured, you are going home.

The highlights:

"Rip you a new one" Bourdain thought Dale T. "unf*cked" his dish. He's amazed anyone can make scallops and butterscotch a success. Stephen's dish was swampy & muddled, Jamie didn't like the way it looked and "Rip you a new one" Bourdain didn't think he solved the problem.

Fabi'oh's dish received the most comments. Angelo didn't understand the fried basil or the paper it was served on, whereas, Tom thought you could roll up the paper and smoke it after the dish. "Rip you a new one" Bourdain was so appalled by the dish and hated it so much that he constantly poked the "inside out animal". Fabi'oh' later brings up to "Rip you a new one" Bourdain that he used the word hated at least 11 times. Moment of silence... I think "Rip you a new one" Bourdain actually blushed and was speechless! Can you say uncomfortable???

Elia's fish was raw, watered down with no personality and it seems as though she gave up on the dish. Spike's dish was so good and he did such a great job trying to hide the frozen scallop that "Rip you a new one" Bourdain called him the craftiest motherf*cker that has ever been on the show.

Judges Table.

Spike, Jamie, Richard and Angelo are called in. They are the top 4 but Richard couldn't freeze time with his liquid nitrogen and he was disqualified for plating after the buzzer. Spike pulled out his dish smartly, Jamie's dish was great but it was Angelo who won for "killing it with the watermelon tea".

This is where the fun begins. Fabi'oh', Stephen and Elia are the bottom three.

Stephen's food was so bad that "Rip you a new one" Bourdain actually drifted to thoughts of his last colonoscopy. Even grey poupon would not have helped snooty Stephen. I predict food writers and reviewers will use the words murky and muddled as the new "it" descriptions for sh*tacious foods.

Fabi'oh' became defensive, especially after "Rip you a new one" Bourdain asked him what he was thinking serving something brown, wet and horrifying. Apparently, the good italian dog doesn't mind being criticized but doesn't like being made fun of and in a mafioso tone, he tells "Rip you a new one" Bourdain that "if we were in a different situation, there would be a different problem."

Elia lies like a 5 year old, saying that the fish was not raw to her. Tom and her go back and forth, on whether she actually even looked at the fish as it was raw not just on the inside but on the outside too and she finally admits to not testing it. Instead, she threatens "don't eliminate me, I have a lot more to do".

And with that, a crying and humiliated immature Elia is sent packing. I think "Rip you a new one" Bourdain gave her a hair trimmer as a parting gift.
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