Posts Tagged ‘Top Chef’

Here, There and Everywhere…Fall Travels

Posted in travel, Uncategorized on November 17th, 2011 by Betsy – 3 Comments

Life has been busy. Good busy. David and I’ve been traveling a lot the last few weekends, enjoying the beauty of fall, all over the country. Our first weekend away took us to Charlottesville, Virginia, one of our favorite places in the world.

Fall in Charlottesville is pretty hard to beat

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

We spent the weekend reading, walking around grounds, and we even made a visit to Monticello, the home of Mr. Jefferson. I’m embarrassed to admit that neither of us had been to Monticello since our senior years of high school. It was definitely worth the trip!

The gardens at Monticello

The following weekend we headed to Vail, Colorado. This trip was a bit more work than play. We stayed at the Westin Beaver Creek and enjoyed the gluten-free pasta on their menu. Delicious! (They also have GF pizzas available too.) While in Vail I filmed a “sizzle reel’ for a potential travel show. This was quite an experience, as I’ve never been on camera before. I will say, it did help that I taught for five years, so am used to having an audience. I won’t have much more information on the show until spring but the hope is that Food Network or Travel Channel will pick it up. I’ve got to admit, it was pretty hysterical to be referred to as “The Talent” all weekend. Stay tuned…

Not many photos from the weekend, but here's one.

For the shoot, I did all kinds of fun fall activities (zip line, ice skating, shopping, etc.) and of course some delicious dining! The highlight for me was interviewing Kelly Liken, chef and owner of Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail. I tend to be star struck by chefs and I was particularly impressed by Kelly’s finesse on camera and ease with which she answered questions. (Perhaps Kelly’s comfort in front of the camera comes from being a finalist on Top Chef DC and competing in Iron Chef.) She also made me some delicious, gluten-free food to try. Restaurant Kelly Liken takes very seriously food allergies and special food needs. They don’t label items as “gluten free” on the menu because they are extremely accommodating to all diners and willing to tweak a dish so to fit the needs of the customer. It was truly a pleasure to interview Kelly and get to know her.

I’ve got more to share with you about our travels, dining and fall adventures, but wanted to give you the quick update! I can’t believe Thanksgiving’s exactly a week away. I’ve barely even begun to think about it.

Top Chef Texas Premieres

Posted in TV, Uncategorized on November 8th, 2011 by Betsy – Be the first to comment

I can only hide my love of reality TV for so long.  I know, it’s shameful but I just can’t help it.  Last week, Bravo started its new season of Top Chef, and this time they’re filming in Texas.  As you know, Top Chef is one of my favorite shows, but I just wasn’t into it last week.  Starting out with 29 chefs, and only giving our 16 chef jackets makes for quite an anti-climatic premier, especially when you don’t even see everyone cook on the first episode.

I’m not a quitter though, so I won’t give up on the season yet!  Read what the AJC’s talented and witty Jon Watson had to say about the first episode:“Top Chef Texas Recap: Trimming the fat, part umlaut”

Apples are Gluten-Free: Visiting the Big Apple

Posted in Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized on May 18th, 2011 by Betsy – 2 Comments

Recently, David and I made a trip to New York, and I must admit, I took advantage of every opportunity to enjoy this city that’s a gluten-free diner’s delight.  There were many places I wanted to try and sadly, I wasn’t able to get to all of them. Not for a lack of trying though!  We walked all over the city, exploring neighborhoods, checking out the sites and enjoying some delicious meals.  In fact, we did so much that I’ve got to split this trip into three different posts because I don’t want to overload you with information.  I don’t think I could ever live in NYC, but I plan on visiting more frequently than I have in the past, once every five years!

On Friday afternoon we arrived in NYC, checked into our hotel and immediately set out to explore, before meeting up for drinks at Extra Virgin Restaurant with our friend, CJ.  We wandered around the West Village, looking at shops and enjoying the people watching.  After a great visit with CJ, who mapped out the whole city for us, we set out for our first Big Apple dining experience.  We had reservations at Perilla, owned by Top Chef’s Season 1 winner, Harold Dieterle.  While I didn’t have any Harold sightings, I thoroughly enjoyed his restaurant.  Located in Greenwich Village, Perilla opened in 2007, and describes its cuisine as “Seasonal American.”  There are only eighteen tables in the entire restaurant and ten bar stools so you definitely want to make reservations.

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We sat at our cozy table and devoured every bite of our meals. For an appetizer, I ordered the slow poached chicken egg that came on a very springy bamboo rice with arugula.  The bright green of the rice looked beautiful with the fresh yolk on top.  (They served mine without the mustard crumble on top, as it contains gluten.)  For my entrée I chose the lamb chop that normally is served with orzo.  Instead, the chef substituted some of the meatiest, most flavorful mushrooms I’ve ever eaten.  Those veggies could have been a meal in themselves.  The lamb chop was huge, amazing and perfectly tasty.  I definitely “out ordered” David.  Luckily, there was plenty to share.  Even though Perilla’s service was not the best I’ve ever had, we still left Perilla happy that we’d made the selection because of the food and the atmosphere.  (I thought the sub par service might just be an NYC thing, but all of our other dining experiences in NYC were accompanied with great service.)

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On Saturday morning, David and I woke up with no plans until dinner that evening.  We decided to follow Elaney’s suggestion and head to Chelsea Market, in the Meatpacking District, which originally housed the National Biscuit Company in the late 19th century. This industrial building now houses many shops, eateries and other cool spots.  Being that “sleeping in” for David and me is 8:00, we were some of the first people on the street that morning.  When we arrived at Chelsea Market, we enjoyed having the place to ourselves, and wandering about, peeking in the windows of the not yet opened stores. We enjoyed some Ninth Street Espresso coffee and the rare opportunity to just be together, with nothing else going on.  (Our lives have been a tad bit busy recently!)

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market

We sipped our coffee and waited for Friedman’s Lunch to open at 10:00.  I had spotted this restaurant’s menu online and noticed that they star the items on their menu that can be made gluten free, and according to their menu, almost all items, including pancakes and cheddar waffles (wow!), can be created to accommodate a gluten-free diner.  So I had to check Friedman’s out for myself.  Of course we were some of the first customers in the door at 10:05.  (We’re obviously not trendy New York diners that eat brunch at 2:00 in the afternoon.  I was proud of myself for waiting until ten!)  Our server was very friendly, accommodating and willing to answer all of our questions.  She tries to eat gluten free too, so she had many recommendation and I felt comfortable that I was getting a carefully made gluten-free meal.

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I ordered the gluten-free pancakes and David sweetly ordered his pork flautas to be gluten free, so we could share.  We enjoyed more coffee and eagerly waited for our meal.  My pancakes were some of the most delicious pancakes I’ve eaten since going gluten free.  They were perfectly cakey and fluffy and they looked different enough from the gluten pancakes the diner next to me was enjoying, so I didn’t live in fear that I had eaten the wrong ones!  The berries on top were a fun touch that made me feel like I was dining out, and not eating pancakes in my house.

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David’s pork flautas, a Mexican dish, that’s basically shredded pork, wrapped in corn tortillas and fried (in a GF fryer, of course), were amazing.  They were accompanied with a beautiful egg on top and what seemed like an entire avocado.  A very hearty brunch dish that was perfectly savory while my pancakes were wonderfully sweet.

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Friedman’s is a definite recommendation, whether you’re gluten free or not.  They have gluten-free bread, so all of their sandwiches can be made gluten free.  It was so good, we really thought about going back to Friedman’s on Sunday but decided to try other spots instead.

View from the Highline

View from the Highline

After a truly indulgent brunch, and now completely wired on caffeine, we set out for a walk along the Highline, on Manhattan’s Westside.  Originally designed in the 1930s, to keep freight trains off the streets of New York, it’s now a public park.  This beautiful walk above the city, will ultimately be a mile and a half, upon completion.  The Highline truly is a breath of fresh air in the middle of the city.  I was amazed by the greenery planted between the railroad tracks, the beautiful benches, and that it was open to everyone.  You have to see the photos to understand this unique “park.”  This walk was the perfect way to get a different perspective of the city, and move around after our yummy breakfast.

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For the remainder of our Saturday, we walked endless miles around the city, going in and out of shops, checking out the neighborhoods and learning to navigate our way around the city.  We were just biding our time until our next meal…

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Wall Street Journal Gives Atlanta a Shout Out

Posted in Atlanta, local food, Restaurants on April 19th, 2011 by Betsy – 2 Comments

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Atlanta often gets a bad reputation because of its traffic, mediocre public transportation, and Tom Wolfe’s interpretation in A Man in Full, but I have been completely wooed by this city in the last 18 months.  The Wall Street Journal shares my love for ATL today in the article “The New New South.” From Piedmont Park to Bacchanalia, to Richard Blais, to Sid and Ann Mashburn to Peachtree Farmers’ Market, the article mentions many of our city’s highlights.

While some of my personal favorites didn’t make the list (Floataway Cafe, Iberian Pig, and Taqueria del Sol to name a few) the WSJ did a pretty good job. They neglected to mention Decatur at all, but I guess it’s not technically part of Atlanta.

What are your favorite ATL spots?

All Good Things Must Come to an End: Top Chef All-Stars Finale

Posted in Atlanta, TV on March 31st, 2011 by Betsy – 2 Comments

As you know, I love all things culinary and all things reality TV, so Bravo’s Top Chef is the perfect combination for me.  Last night’s finale of Top Chef All-Stars involved a show down between Washington D.C.’s Mike Isabella and Atlanta’s Richard Blais.  My adult life flashed before my eyes as my two cities battled it out!  Who was I rooting for?  Well, Mike Isabella hasn’t done himself any favors in the personality category (even once he and Antonia established their ‘cousin’ bond) and since Richard and I are basically BFF (ok, I’ve met him three times), I had to cheer for the home team.  ATL!

The final Judges' Table: so sad it's coming to an end

The final Judges' Table: so sad it's coming to an end

Both Mike and Richard produced amazing 4-course dinners with the help of their sous-chefs (former All-Star conestants).  I was particularly pleased by the ‘simplicity’ and elegance of this challenge, as I felt that most of this season involved buffet-style/too casual meals, involving crock pots, nachos, and comfort food, so I was happy to see these two really produce their most quality food.

Richard’s mind games almost got the best of him, but he made the right decision to re-work the foie gras ice cream (yuck) for round two of judging. (Thank you, Spike!)  I’m psyched to see how Richard will put his 200 G’s to work, and happy to be in Atlanta so I can experience it for myself.

The entire cast watches as the announcement is made.  Casey, what are you wearing????

The entire cast watches as the announcement is made. Casey, what are you wearing????

If you enjoy Top Chef, and all of its quirkiness, you must check out Jon Watson’s Top Chef Finale Recap.  He puts into words everything you’re thinking while watching the show.  After reading Watson’s recap, I’m just sorry I didn’t watch the after show.  (I’m sure it will be on Bravo ten times this weekend.)

What a week!  Top Chef finale AND the NCAA Final Four.  A-Mazing.

VCU

‘Top Chef’ All-Stars: Most Dramatic Eliminations Ever

Posted in Atlanta, TV on February 2nd, 2011 by Betsy – Be the first to comment

I’ve decided to take a week off from blogging about The Bachelor.  I know, I know…it’s taking every ounce of restraint not to post about this week’s show (I mean, really, the long distance call from Vegas to the therapist??), but at this point we all get the gist of these ladies, the dates, and the bikinis.  And I’m silently protesting Lisa getting kicked off this week.  It does look like things might heat up a little with Britt and Brad next week.

Brad & his therapist: Vegas came between them, but they'll always have the phone

Brad & his therapist: Vegas came between them, but they'll always have the phone

So, on the subject of reality TV, I’ve got to give major props to fellow-Atlanta blogger, Jon Watson of Live to Feast.  Jon also writes now for the AJC, and the highlight of my “e-week,” is waking up Thursday morning and reading his recaps on the current season of “Top Chef.”  Jon’s witty descriptions, annoyance at Marcel, and discussion of ‘bromances,’ are always a great start to my Thursday.

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Last week I couldn’t decide what made me sadder: that there wasn’t a new episode of “Top Chef” or that I didn’t get to read one of Jon’s clever posts since there was no show to write about.   Jon puts my Bachelor recaps to shame.

This season of ‘Top Chef’ is particularly exciting (and dramatic) because it’s ‘All-Stars.’  All of these chefs have been on a past series of ‘Top Chef,’ have established careers, and their egos reflect this.  I’m currently pulling for Atlantan, Richard Blais, but more so, I love the challenges, the personalities, and of course, Tom and Padma.

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If you’re planning on watching tonight’s episode or have watched any season of ‘Top Chef,’ click here to read about episode six or click here Jon’s most recent post on “Restaurant Wars.”  I promise, you will be thoroughly entertained.

I’m glad I’m not the only food blogger writing about reality TV, but then again, ‘Top Chef’ is at least related to food.  The Bachelor…not so much.

June = Reality TV at its best

Posted in TV on June 16th, 2010 by Betsy – 7 Comments

David and I love watching sports.  All kinds of sports.  A good weekend involves some type of athletic competition and at least one “S.I.N.” (a “sports induced nap”).  I prefer college basketball; David would probably say his favorite is college football.  We have an ongoing debate in our family as to what the greatest month of sports is.  You know, the best combination of athletic events found in a one month period.  David’s favorite month of sports is April because you have the NCAA Final Four Tournament, the Masters, NBA playoffs, and the start of baseball.  I tend to go with January because you gt the tail end of the college bowl games, NFL playoffs, and you can find college basketball on your TV almost every night.  (And really, I just want lots of college basketball…March is a close 2nd for me.)

strasburg The summer months tend to be a bit of a drag for me in the wide world of sports.  I really could care less about the NHL and baseball is such a long season.  Fortunately, Strasburg is now pitching for the Nationals and the World Cup will make this summer much more exciting.  In fact last Sunday I felt like it was football season again as I watched Germany handed it to Australia on my friend Chris’s flat screen, while David took a “S.I.N.” on the couch.  (Remember, we don’t have a TV this year so we mooch off of our friends.)  Weekends revolving around sports are the best.

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Since Wilbon and Tony don’t have a ton to talk about on “PTI” in June, besides the ever-changing Big 10, my media focus moves to the reality TV genre.  I’ve decided that while January is the best sports month, June wins the award for the best month of reality TV in 2010.  Why?  Good question.

The Bachelorette” is in full swing and Ali is finally down to just 10 men so I can actually tell the difference between each of them.  There’s not a whole lot of diversity in the group on first glance so you have to get to know them.  I now have my favorites and my least favorites.  I’ve chosen my predictions for Final 3: Chris L., Roberto and Frank.  You clearly know at this point who is crazy (can we say Kasey with a “K”?) but it’s not too far into the season that Ali has finally convinced the producers to get rid of the whackos.  (Well, the weatherman did leave this week.  It was time.)

I Heart Roberto.

I Heart Roberto.

“The Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Fresh Meat II” aired its final episodes this month.  For those of you that didn’t watch (and I’m sure that includes most of you), the exiles were insane and the final challenge involved climbing a mountain with ice picks.  Lots of whining and F-bombs were also present in the final episode.  Not as much drama as usual though.

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The final reason why June marks the greatest month for reality TV this year is the premier of “Top Chef: DC.”  Premiering tonight, I’m eager to see where they filmed, what they’re doing, and who are the next big stars in the culinary world.

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What are your thoughts on the reality TV world?  Is it a dying genre or do people like me keep it in business?  Am I the only one still watching?

Strawberries

Posted in Atlanta, local food, recipe on May 17th, 2010 by Betsy – 2 Comments

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There are many great things about living in Atlanta.  Being surrounded by Top Chef superstars and not sharing my residence with 65 teenage girls are both at the top of my list, but another benefit of being in the dirty south is that spring and summer vegetables are ready to be harvested a little bit earlier here than back up in Virginia.  I feel spoiled already having access to summer veggies, like asparagus and snow peas, so early in the season.  In the last couple of weeks I’ve even been the beneficiary of beautiful strawberries from Woodland Gardens in Winterville, Georgia.  After enjoying these bites of goodness, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to purchase strawberries in the grocery store ever again.  I had no idea that strawberries could be so fragrant.  My entire kitchen smells of this fruit when left on the counter for an afternoon.

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I could eat these strawberries by the pint.  It’s a shame they’re so pretty, only to be devoured by me.  I’ve been finding as many different ways as possible to use my strawberries. There have even been days where I’ve managed to consume them at each meal: on my cereal at breakfast, mixed with yogurt and granola at lunch, in my salad at dinner, finished off with strawberry cobbler for dessert.

Yes, I said strawberries in salad.  For people like my brother, who work hard to keep everything on their plate from touching, the following recipe might not make your mouth water at first glance, but I promise…If you haven’t tried this yet, you must.  A great side dish that will make your plate beautiful.  I’ve been using fresh arugula because the sweetness of the strawberries goes perfectly with the ‘bite’ from the arugula.  Of course the goat cheese, sunflower seeds and homemade dressing provide added flavor and texture to the salad.  The final combination creates a perfect mix of salty and sweet.

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Strawberry Arugula salad (Serves 4)

Dressing:

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Pepper

Salad:

  • Bunch of fresh arugula
  • Goat cheese
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Fresh strawberries, chopped or sliced

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Combine ingredients for dressing in a bowl and whisk.  Set aside.  On individual salad plates assemble your salad.  Use the arugula as your base and top with strawberries, clumps of goat cheese and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.  Drizzle with salad dressing.  If you want to toss all of ingredients in a large bowl, you can.  It doesn’t look as pretty but tastes just as delicious.

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‘Top Chef: The Tour’ in Atlanta

Posted in Atlanta on April 21st, 2010 by Betsy – 2 Comments

Forget all of the hype in Washington, D.C. about the filming of ‘Top Chef.’  Atlanta’s got ‘Top Chef’ too!  Well, ‘Top Chef:’ The Tour, that is.

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Yesterday I went to ‘Top Chef: The Tour,’ featuring Atlantans, Kevin Gillespie and Richard Blais. Under a tent in the Westside Provisions’ parking lot, Blais and Gillespie performed a cooking demo/improv comedy routine.  The rain could not keep me away from checking out the tour and getting a glimpse of two of my favorite local celebs.  Even though the closest I got to Padma and Tom were cardboard cutouts, I still thoroughly enjoyed my brush with fame and the opportunity to listen to Kevin and Richard’s banter, while watching Blais’ science tricks.

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So what happened during the show?  For the first half of the show Blais created a ‘quick fire’ dish that was his twist on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Of course he did not disappoint in his use of fancy gadgets.  Every seat had a great view of the demo stage, and they had mirrors above the stage so you could get a better view of what was being prepared.

IMG_0767 First, Blais created a Thai-inspired peanut butter adding lime, fish sauce and cilantro.

Fancy Thai-peanut butter

Fancy Thai-peanut butter

Blais then moved on to liquid nitrogen-created ‘grapes’ made from preserves in a sous vide.  He shamelessly plugged this new sous vide that can be purchased for a home.  (Perfect for a wedding gift, right?)  Giving Blais a hard time about his marketing, Kevin then asked if any of us were interested in GE appliances.

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Richard Blais' new marketing plug: the sous vide for the personal kitchen

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Liquid Nitrogen...

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Making 'grapes' with preserves

Blais served the Thai-peanut butter and ‘fruit caviar’ on a sponge cake made with CO2, using just three ingredients, and heated in the microwave.  (Apparently, Blais also made this sponge cake on his recent appearance on Iron Chef.)

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Showing off the sponge cake, fresh out of the microwave.

Sadly, the sponge cake was not gluten-free, so no sampling for this girl.  Blais even managed to incorporate truffle oil into this dish.  (He glazed the paper cups that he used for heating the sponge cake with a mixture of truffle oil, brown sugar, and something else.)

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After the cooking exhibition, Blais and Gillespie took questions from the audience.  A sampling of the questions included:

What’s your least favorite food?” Gillespie responded with hazelnuts.

What happens when you get kicked off the show?”  Contestants are sequestered in apartments, but they can go out to restaurants, hang out at the pool, and relax.  Unfortunately they still have to live with the fact that they got kicked off the show.

Was the show stressful?”  Of course it was!  Interestingly, they said that it was hard to be in empty bedrooms as the show got down to its final few contestants, a constant reminder that people were getting kicked off.

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Of course the teacher in me couldn’t resist asking a question.   I’m fascinated by what happens behind the scenes so I asked how long judges’ table takes.  They said as the show gets down to fewer contestants, judges’ table gets longer.  Kevin and Richard both said that their final judges’ table took over nine hours!!  I knew it was long but that’s crazy!

Richard and Kevin made quite the team.  While Richard was the center piece of the demonstration, the two made a clever, and funny, duo.  They were goofy, made jokes (some good, some bad) and actually seemed like they wanted to be there.  If ‘The Tour’ comes to your town, I highly recommend checking it out.  I didn’t get tickets in advance, just arrived 20 minutes before hand.  They had lots of extra tickets, which are free, and you get to sample the food, if you’re not gluten free.  Let the stalking continue…

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‘Top Chef DC’ Stalking Continues

Posted in Uncategorized on April 13th, 2010 by Betsy – Be the first to comment

2010-03 Top Chef DC

As a follow up to last week’s post about the filming of Top Chef in Washington, DC, my friend, Ellie, sent me the following link:

Top Chef DC: The Map:” This Washingtonian site posts and maps the sightings of Tom, Padma and other Top Chef folks.  Sightings include, Gail eating at Oyamel and filming at the Newseum. (Great museum but it needs all the press it can get with its steep price of admission!).  Most recent update: Crew spotted yesterday at 13th and K St, Northwest.  Oh, I wish I was there to do my own Top Chef hunting!  I’ll just have to keep a watch from a few states away.  Maybe it’s safer that way.