My friend B is a huge fan of Top Chef. While over at her house one night, we watched an episode from the previous season — and I just knew the show would be right up my alley. As soon as Season 5 started up, I set up my DVR to tape each show.
This season takes place in New York. Since I’ve never seen the show before this season, I can’t tell you how it compares to other seasons, though B insists that the food was much more exciting in previous shows. I have to say, nothing has really wowed me about the food yet. It all looks like stuff I could do here at home, if I just had the ingredients.
On last week’s episode, the chefs were asked to do a live, on-air cooking demonstration as though it were going to be broadcast on one of the networks. One of the chefs mentioned that everything that was used in her demonstration was purchased from a grocery store, and so everyone should be able to find such ingredients near their home. She was right about the food she used, but other chefs weren’t as mainstream. Sure, they got their food from a grocery store — but it was a Whole Foods in the middle of NYC. I can tell you that they would carry far more exotic items than the Piggly-Wiggly down in Arkansas (no offense, Yankee-Chick).
This morning, B texted me to see if I would come over for coffee and to watch last night’s episode. Like I’m going to say no! I was very happy with who was booted off last night; he definitely deserved to go, IHOP. Besides, I couldn’t understand a damn thing he said. His Long Island accent just grated on me. Usually Long Island accents don’t bother me; Kurt’s from Long Island, and his family still tawks like they’ah still on da Island, though they left twenty years ago. This guy just rubbed me the wrong way.
Watching Top Chef is bleeding over into other areas of my life now. I’m more aware of how things taste and what flavors go together. I never want to just throw dinner on the table; I try to think of how one dish will taste next to another dish. Last night’s dinner was pan-fried chicken breast with marsala sauce, served with roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli. Before this, I would have thrown just about any starch on the plate and called it good, but last night I decided the roasted potatoes would be the best choice with the marsala sauce.
Don’t worry — I didn’t make the marsala sauce from scratch, though I have been known to do it. This time I simply popped open a jar from Trader Joe’s, and let me tell you, it was damn good. There’s just something about a wine-based sauce that I adore. Maybe it’s how strong and savory they taste, maybe it’s how bold the flavors are. I don’t know. All I know is it seems like everything is better with wine.
And sometimes I even put it in the food! Ha ha!
I took Kurt out to lunch today. Initially I wanted to go to this one pub in Newport because its menu includes a delicious tuna burger. It’s not a burger patty made from tuna; it’s a tuna steak on a bun. It’s really delicious, and ever since I told Kurt about it, he’s wanted to go there and get one for himself. However, Yesterday’s doesn’t open until 11:30am. That just wasn’t going to work for us since Grace gets out of school at 12:30. They frown on us being late because that’s when they put the kids down for a nap, and the full-day children get distracted when the half-day kids are still there. So we went to another pub instead.
I guess my palate is becoming really sophisticated now because I ordered the Gourmet Burger, which features bacon and bleu cheese and portabella mushrooms with the beef patty and is served with a garlic-horseradish aioli. It’s only been recently that I have enjoyed bleu cheese, though I still won’t eat it straight like my dad and Kurt and Grace will.
My first memory of bleu cheese occurred when we lived in northern Virginia the first time, so I would have been something like eight years old, and Michele was 12. Dad was eating bleu cheese in the dining room as a snack, and he asked us if we wanted a bite. “Sure!” we exclaimed. He gave us each a piece to munch on, but as soon as we put it in our mouths, we were horrified by the taste. Michele and I raced each other to the bathroom to be the first to spit it out into the sink. It was that bad.
Apparently I have grown out of that.
But I started channeling Top Chef while we were at the pub. I had cut my burger in half to make it more manageable to eat, and I realized that my burger was in no way “medium,” as I had asked. It was maybe “medium rare,” though closer to “rare.” Good thing I don’t mind my beef rare! This had a cool, bright pink center, which is definitely not “medium.” There was one mark against the chefs. Also, the portabella mushrooms that were added to the burger were cold! To me, it makes no sense to put cold mushrooms on a hot burger. You’d think they would have sauteed the mushrooms in butter, then topped the burger with them.
I guess I also watch too many episodes of “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” on BBC America, since I kept remembering his advice that warm food never goes on cold plates. And maybe it was the chefs being lazy and using last night’s mushrooms on my burger this morning, since Kurt and I were one of the first customers for the day.
I swear, watching that show is almost enough to put you off eating out entirely!
Speaking of cooking, can you believe I haven’t done much of it lately? Kurt’s cooked more often than I have in the last week. He has this salmon recipe to die for, and we found an excellent price for salmon at Stop & Shop, of all places. I cooked yesterday and Tuesday, but that was it. I’ll make something for dinner tonight, and that’ll be the last time I cook for another few days. Tomorrow we have the command Christmas party, Saturday we have an open house at my friend Pamela’s home, and on Sunday we’re going to Connecticut to meet up with my sister.
They ain’t kidding when they say the Christmas season is the busiest of the year!