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“The Chew” Debut Brings More Food to Daytime TV

26 Sep

The Chew Crew: Clinton Kelly, Daphne Oz, Mario Batali, Michael Symon and Carla Hall (l-r)


Only a few hours after the ladies of The View gabbed around the table, ABC debuted The Chew. The name rhymes and the concept is similar, although food-centric: everyone brings something different to the table.

The mother hen that fills the Baba Wawa shoes at the table is Mario Batali. The rest of the crew is less impressive. Clinton Kelly, formerly of Queer Eye for The Straight Guy What Not to Wear, is the decorating and entertaining guru. Carla “Hootie” Hall, known for wooting and not winning Top Chef, sits beside pork know-it-all Michael Symon. The daughter of TV’s Dr. Oz, Daphne Oz, is there as the good health authority.

For the first episode, Batali didn’t bother to show up except via satellite. Kelly asked the question we were all thinking: “It’s the first day of the biggest food show launch in the history of daytime television and you’re playing golf. What’s up with that, yo?” Apparently, he was at a charity event.

Symon cooked the first dish ever on the show: pork and beans supreme. He threw in an ingredient to represent each of the co-hosts. (Kelly was the well-dressed dish, of course.) The meal was made in five minutes, allegedly, and for less than $4 a person.

The audience then got a chance to try the dish and were probed with this leading question, “Tell me why you think this is delicious?”

The responses were generally, “I love this whole thing, it’s just so delicious.” Eloquent.

Oz headed the next segment, things my dad taught me, with her superfood breakfast smoothie with blueberries, yogurt, psyllium husks and Ester-C. When she went to the pantry to grab the ingredients, she pulled out Dr. Oz, who had roses for his daughter. The embarrassing dad stories then came out: he grabbed a blueberry and said it was the color of Daphne’s cone head when she was born because her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. The mental picture we have belongs on Awkward Family Photos, not daytime television.

Hall, who had her southern mama in the audience, taught us how to make her favorite fried apple pancake rings. They actually looked incredible with apple cider syrup drizzled on top.

Another great-looking dish were the hors d’oeuvres made by Kelly. He had mini BLTs minus the bread on hearts of romaine, and one bite pork schnitzels to be dipped in applesauce mixed with whole grain mustard. Kelly is so right, one hand for one-bites and one hand for cocktails is always best. Don’t wanna sound too Folsomy, but we’re pro double-fisting!

The man of the hour finally made his second satellite cameo, making his classic pizza on the golf course. Batali explained that the ideal pizza crust has a crunch like biting into a light bulb and then a bagel pull to finish it. Clearly this man has the words we’ve been waiting for (mmm, light bulb.) He also gives his secret to perfect pizza. Right after it comes out of the oven, it gets more fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil and a crackling of black pepper from an enormous pepper mill.

The Chew is taking the place of All My Children and as far as daytime television goes, we’re not spitting it out just yet. We’ll continue to chew, marinate, stew and any other corny food pun we can think to do on this new show.

Original published on http://sfweekly.com/Original Post

Studio Gourmet: New Local Web TV Show Interviews 1300 on Fillmore Chef David Lawrence

1 Sep

David Lawrence shares a laugh with Studio Gourmet host Brad Lev

Inside the Actor’s Studio meets the Food Network is how we would describe the new web-based show called Studio Gourmet SF. The concept is that a local chef with a good story will do a cooking demo, an in-depth interview with the host Brad Lev, and then the live audience can eat the signature dish from the chef.

On Sunday, we arrived at Circolo for the live taping and the chef of the month was David Lawrence from 1300 on Fillmore.

For the cooking demo we got to see how Lawrence’s signature shrimp and grits are made. It was surprising to see a guy with a British accent cooking southern food; it turns out Lawrence is from the U.K., but his wife is from the U.S. south and when she first made grits he knew he could improve them. Grits with butter and water didn’t cut it for David and he has now perfected the grits with cream and mushroom stock. Upgrade!

Shrimp and grits 1300 style


Lev explained that he started the Studio Gourmet concept in Atlanta because in a time when chefs are rock stars, we really know little about them aside from their food. Well, we now know enough about David Lawrence that we can easily write his biography. We know that his father was a chef at a steakhouse in London. We know about all of the long hours he put in at the Roux brothers restaurants before ending up at the pinnacle, Le Gavroche, which is famous for serving the most expensive meal ever and getting hot with Hell’s Kitchen’s very own Gordon Ramsey as the chef. It is the place where David cooked for Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher.

One of our favorite stories happened after Lawrence came to the Bay Area and the Chronicle ran a big piece on black chefs in the area for Black History Month. Lawrence was asked to go to the James Beard House and make soul food. He wasn’t sure how to do that, but he wanted the trip so he agreed. He did a huckleberry foie gras dish and everyone, including himself, knew that he was on to something and this would be the direction for his career.

Lawrence has still never visited the south, so his version of the food has no blinders or tastebud blockers. He says he is delighted when guests visit from those areas and say, “This is just how grandma would make it.”

1300 is truly his dream restaurant: he actually dreams right above it. Yup, the Fillmore is his home, and it’s interesting how he found it. He was working at another address-named restaurant, 231 Ellsworth in San Mateo, and he found it difficult to find a black barber nearby. After someone did the unthinkable and wet his hair before cutting it, he was told that the Fillmore in the city was his haircutting destination.

Lawrence sees the kitchen as his stage and nothing thrills him more than sitting in the kitchen on a packed Saturday night and seeing his audience applaud with empty plates and full stomachs. He said he auditioned for Chopped and did great until the producers asked him to “really bring it,” when he laughed and reminded him that he is British.

The full video from the evening should be available shortly on Studio Gourmet as well as tickets to future events.

Lev says his goal is to interview a different chef each month. We can’t promise that other chefs will be as interesting as David, but that would be the shrimp on the grits.

Through hard pressing journalism (read: asking Lev directly) we learned that Lev is also the Special Events Director for 1300. He says that normally he will be unaffiliated with the chefs he interviews.

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Top Chef: Just Desserts Season Two — New Fairies and Vicious Tales

25 Aug

We have been so accustomed to the endless cycle of Top Chef that when the last finale night didn’t butt up against the premiere of a new season, we were taken aback. Despite being well versed on the fact that Chef Rocco is rumored to have “a perfect penis” we couldn’t endure even a second of Rocco’s Dinner Party.

Give us Top Chef on Wednesdays or give us death.

Thankfully, Top Chef: Just Desserts is back to sweeten up our hump day primetime. Last season brought us a new crush and a San Francisco winner, Yigit Pura, so our hopes are high.

The intro had this phrase, “It’s not just cupcakes and lollipops.” Trust us, we remember last season with the sugar highs and lows and the “Red Hots are for my mommy” freak-out.

Last night’s season two premiere began with a quick intro of the pastry chefs, and then host Gail Simmons explained the Quickfire: create a modern soda fountain treat.

We saw Cap’n Crunch shakes and learned our new favorite acronym, NFG: non-functional garnish. The winners were Amanda Rockman and her partner Nelson Paz, who both earned immunity. Amanda claimed that her last duty before she left her job for the show was pickling 10 pounds of cherries. She said no matter what her partner wanted, those cherries would be highlighted in their dish of chocolate sponge cake with pickled cherries and pistachios.

Nelson makes an edible flower

​For the Elimination Challenge, teams were chosen by picking a fairytale book and the two winners got to choose any team to be on: Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Little Red Riding Hood. Nelson stole our heart when he explained that he was originally from Argentina and had no idea what they were talking about or even what a fairytale is. Oh, honey, grab your warm milk and cookies and sit on our lap, we’ll explain.

The challenge was to create a fairytale showpiece and two plated desserts for a fantasy costume gala.

The Goldilocks team wanted to make rice pudding and call it porridge but Orlando Santos was mortified: “That is a dessert that you make old people, because they can’t chew.”

In the building of the showpieces the inevitable happened, and a cheftestant remarked that the sound of sugar breaking is the sound of all hopes and dreams being destroyed.

The winning entry

​The winning team was Little Red Riding Hood with its architectural showpiece, rose-scented bomboloni, coconut tapioca, and red berry gelee, and lastly blackout sponge cake, cocoa nib nougatine, poached cherries and micro basil. This team was so sophisticated that they went with the floral scent because apparently Little Red was picking flowers before she encountered the Big Bad Wolf.

For the losers there was a lot of throwing under the brioche at Judge’s Table and, in the end, it was Lina, who didn’t think to make a gingerbread house for Hansel and Gretel — come on, how obvious was that? — who was sent home. The old witch of the forest would have approved.

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

“Famous Food” on VH1: Guilty Pleasure

12 Jul

As we watched a real New Jersey housewife fight with a fictional New Jersey Big Pussy, we realized celebreality has officially taken over food TV.

VH1′s Famous Food is the latest food show to pop up on a previously nonfood channel, a trend the Los Angeles Times wrote about recently.

The concept of Famous Food is that seven “stars,” some of whom aren’t shining so brightly these days, will create a new restaurant from concept to operations, with one winner.

The contestants are as varied as they are vapid. Our favorites were DJ Paul and Juicy “J” from Three 6 Mafia, who once tried to pitch a cooking show called Cookin’ Ain’t Easy and had this great quote: “If you can run a rap group with guys from prison, then you can run a restaurant.”

The Mafia boys were very happy to meet one fellow contestant, because they had a picture of her in their recording studio. Who was it? Ashley Dupre, who leveraged her fame from being Eliot Spitzer’s favorite call girl into her current gig as an advice columnist for the New York Post.

Keeping up with that theme was Vincent Pastore, aka Big Pussy from The Sopranos. From reality whore fame was The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars contestant Jake Pavelka; Danielle Staub, who was booted off Real Housewives of New Jersey; and Heidi Montag, who had been on MTV’s The Hills before making the aptly titled album Superficial.

The celebtestants are responsible for taking over a restaurant on the Sunset Strip. They have 28 days to come up with a concept, name, menu, staff, floor plan design and just about everything else.

In week one, the concept becomes Italian-soul fusion after Big Pussy gives a long explanation about how “Italians and blacks have the same blood.” The biggest himbo on the show, Bachelor Jake, confesses that he doesn’t know what it means, but imagines a drumstick with a piece of spaghetti wrapped around it.

Heidi says that the name should be Fame, because they are all famous and half the concept is bling. Bada bling!

Everyone is amazed by how easy the decisions are at first, but inevitably heads butt and fake boobs bond. Bosom buddies Danielle and Heidi ditch the group for happy hour. Real tension builds between Danielle and Big Pussy: She calls him a big shot, and he is convinced that she is a Desperate Housewife (wrong show) and a complete and utter bitch. She so is.

What happens when they pitch their idea to the entrepreneurs who will actually have to fund the restaurant? A cold stare, finished off with an “It sucks, the idea.”

Shockingly, the girl we thought sucked, literally, for a living, saves the day. Ashley Dupre comes up with the name Picnic and has a concept of picnic tables. The investors love it and the show goes on.

Danielle’s hatred of the idea will have us tuning in next week. While Top Chef is on hiatus, this might become our new guilty pleasure.

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Top Chef Masters: Nostalgic Finale Edition

16 Jun

Host Curtis Stone checks in with San Francisco finalist Traci Des Jardins. - via Bravo TV

Last night brought the finale of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, and our SF-based Traci Des Jardins was in it to win it. On the line was $100,000 for the cheftestants’ charity of choice. For those of us rooting for the home team, we hoped La Cocina would be victorious.

The episode began with the remaining three chefs (Des Jardins, Mary Sue Milliken, and Floyd Cardoz) joining host Curtis Stone and critics James Oseland, Ruth Reichl, and Gael Greene in the kitchen. The final challenge was to create the three-course meal of their lives. The first course was to be inspired by their first food memory, the second course was about what made them want to be a chef, and the third was critic’s choice.

Des Jardins was paired with our favorite insatiable critic, Greene, who wanted French-inspired fried duck. Des Jardins is trained in classic French cookin, so she looked relieved and then overjoyed when Morgan Mueller, her executive chef at Jardinière, got to join her for the challenge. Greene to Des Jardins: “This is kismet.”

The dish that made Des Jardins want to be a chef? A quail salad from Zola in San Francisco during the ’70s. It was served at the exact moment when she was figuring out if she wanted to go to college and her life was forever changed.

When it came down to prepping and cooking, Los Angeles native Mary Sue Milliken knew it was a rainy day in LA. She kept all of her shopping to one stop and was the first in the kitchen. Unfamiliar with the local traffic, New Yorker Floyd Cardoz made several grocery stops that kept him out for far too long and left him to enter the kitchen with the shortest amount of time on the clock. The only twist for the finale was a sexy and sweet one: Host Stone made a surprise light lunch for the finalists.

Diners for the last supper of the series included OG Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio and Top Chef Masters alums such as Milliken’s other cooking half, Susan Feniger. Milliken explained that in this Laverne and Shirley of food relationships, she always has Feniger try things first. (We like to call it the canary in the coalmine method.) Case in point: Feniger did Top Chef Masters first and married Milliken’s husband first. Quick, Bravo, get these ladies a spinoff show!

Milliken prepared Asian tartare, shrimp two ways, and the lemon soufflé Reichl requested. Reichl noted that this dessert enhances and continues her love affair with lemons, and Alan Sytsma (who used to work with her at Gourmet) added that the dish tasted like Reichl.

Des Jardins made shrimp Creole, quail with sweetbreads, and duck two ways. Unfortunately, it was not fried, and Greene was happy with only one of the duck preparations. When asked whether she would still be a food critic if she was served this duck several years ago, her answer was no. We were heartbroken, but liked the idea of Green still writing “silly stories for Cosmopolitan about how not to get dumped by your husband on his way up.” Cardoz served the most subtly complex meal with a polenta upma with coconut milk and mushrooms similar to his afterschool snack, snapper in a tomato and fennel broth, and the rendang Oseland requested and loved.

The competition was as stiff as Stone’s overgelled hair, but Cardoz was crowned the Top Chef Master. His winnings support the Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund, selected in honor of his late father. We were bummed that Des Jardins didn’t win, but in her stint she raked in $30,000 for La Cocina — masterful work!

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Traci Des Jardins on Top Chef Masters, Duck Love, and Pop-Ups

16 Jun

Courtesy Traci Des Jardins

​Our local Top Chef Masters cheftestant Traci Des Jardins didn’t win the title last night, but she did take home more than $30,000 for La Cocina and made us very proud. We spoke with her this afternoon, just for the duck of it.

SFoodie: We have been so excited watching the dollars roll into La Cocina and hearing the nationally televised shoutouts. So, our first question: Why La Cocina?

Traci Des Jardins: I was on the board for many years, up until a year and half ago, and I love the organization. I wanted something food related and something that was unique to San Francisco. It’s just such a cool concept.

Any idea what they will do with their winnings?

Caleb [Zigas, director of La Cocina] and I are going to sit down and talk soon. It will definitely be a conversation. I am all too familiar with their financials so I know that $30,000 is a lot of money for them. It’s exciting.

When we learned in the finale that the dish that made your paired partner Gael Greene want to be a food critic was duck in France, we felt relieved for you. Gael said it was “kismet” — is that what how you felt?

Absolutely, it was a sigh of relief. Duck is one of my favorite foods in the whole world. I am the second-largest buyer in the Bay Area of duck, according to my purveyor. I always have duck confit and breast on my menu. It was totally perfect.

Gael wanted fried duck and you didn’t give it to her. Are any recipes coming your way?

[Laughs] Um, yeah, I can’t imagine any French person frying a duck. Gael has her memory and I knew going in that it was a tough translation. I had to translate something and the results were not resounding.

If you had to do it over again, would you still do duck the two ways?

I think I would. Product is really important and I wasn’t familiar with that particular product. I didn’t know that duck and that was my downfall.

What is your favorite place in S.F. that no one would ever guess?

I’m loving the pop-up thing and the spirit of that. I know it has been written about like crazy, but I really love Mission Chinese Food. It is a way to take an idea and passion without needing tons of money. For young chefs, they don’t have to deal with the financial aspect of running a restaurant.

Would you be interested in hosting a pop-up and/or working with any of those young chefs in the city?

Definitely, Mission Chinese Food or the Wise Sons guys. The Bay Area was missing that. It’s just fun to see young people and their passion.

 
Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Top Chef Masters: Family Ties

9 Jun

We were unsure of how we’d manage without Hugh(nibrow) on Top Chef Masters, and for the first episode without him, we were tweezed in two. Luckily, we still managed to stay tuned.

For the Quickfire, the cheftestants had to have their cooking station divided and work with a mystery teammate on the other side to create an identical dish with only verbal commands. In fact, these mystery people were the chefs’ family members. Classic twist! Here we go.

Traci yelled “Chiffonade” many times before she realized that her mystery man (her brother) didn’t know the term and had to settle for mince. She then knew this obviously wasn’t a culinary student.

But no one was more embarrassed than Naomi, who incessantly screamed at the man later revealed as her own father, “Who doesn’t know what a shallot looks like?” “I’m not getting disqualified because you can’t crack an egg.”

Traci and her younger brother, Mitch, made identical plates and Curtis admitted that he couldn’t decide which he liked more. The halibut with asparagus in a brown butter balsamic vinaigrette was a winner, and won yet another $5,000 for La Cocina.

The family theme stuck around for the Elimination, assigned to work with a relative of someone in the military. The challenge: create a homecoming meal for military servicemembers returning from overseas. Their relatives spilled the beans on their favorite foods — and some of the chefs were in for a heavy battle.

Traci remarked, “I can make some fancy French dish easier than I can make a meatloaf.” Mary Sue, of the Border Grill, was so glad that her guy was Guatemalan, meaning she could use spice and cook the food she loved. Floyd, on the other hand, got a guy who liked his food bland; beef, spinach salad, and clam chowder were the only approved foods. No problem, Floyd worked it. He was also charming as hell, saying that he served everyone that night because it was only right — after all, they served us. Floyd was the only one to receive a special military coin from his serviceman as a token of gratitude. He got teary and later brought it out when questioned for his bland tenderloin, reassuring himself that he cooked for the right person.

Mary Sue and her tomatillo barbecue ribs with avocado corn relish and potato and rajas were deemed the winner, and she was served with the first spot in the finale.

The other three chefs were sent to judges’ table and hairs were split on the biggest cooking mistake: Floyd’s tenderloin too plain, Traci’s meatloaf too salty, or if the shrimp in Naomi’s fried rice were underdone. In the end, Naomi, the youngest of the remaining chefs, was sent home. We didn’t mind; we wanted to send her home after she said poke was the “national” dish of Hawaii, which is, of course, a state. Screw your former independence, Hawaii! You belong to us now!

Which, of course, means that San Francisco’s very own Traci Des Jardins is in the finale. We hope that she will pull a Yigit and bring another Top Chef crown to the city! The finale will be next week, and of course we’ll be watching and reporting.

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Top Chef Masters Recap: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Microwave

2 Jun

Hugh and his magnificent unibrow.

After last week’s rerun, we were amped for last night’s all new Top Chef Masters. What we were not so amped about? The episode’s title, “Blinded Me with Science.” We didn’t go blind, but we came close pulling an optic nerve rolling our eyes at the lame Thomas Dolby reference.

The episode began with the best and/or worst thing to happen to cooking: the microwave. Each contestant had to create a breakfast dish using only the power of electromagnetic waves. Our second favorite cheftestant, Hugh(nibrow), revealed that he and his family were on the cutting edge, riding the microwave wave all the way back in 1976. He then diabolically laughed that he had one friend that wasn’t allowed over because the parents feared radiation. Charming!

The rest of the chefs had radiation fear: Naomi grew up in a microwave-free household and doesn’t have one in her home or restaurant, while Mary Sue claims to use it only to reheat her tea. Whatever, appliance snobs!

Like something out of a mad scientist’s wet dream, the guest judges were two comedians fused together in the form of Frangela (Francis and Angela). Even though everyone seemed to make the same dish — zapped chanterelles and eggs — longtime microwaver Hugh was deemed the winner.

For the elimination challenge, we got schooled. Chef, host, and hair gel lover Curtis went into a long lecture about how recipes are like formulas, There was also something about chemical reactions. Much as in science class, we forgot to take notes.

Shortly after, five scientists in lab coats arrived and did a little demo on Maillard reactions by torching raw beef. They followed this up with a explainer on emulsions, using a shaken vinaigrette to show how a bunch of stuff can get mixed up with a bunch of other stuff.

The cheftestants then had to pick one of the scientific principles and create a dish showcasing it for a children’s science fair. Luckily, they got one of the scientists as a laboratory assistant. They also learned that they’d be cooking exclusively with beakers, test tubes, and Bunsen and induction burners. The science went way over Hugh’s head and his scientist, Augustine, gave him the biggest liquid nitrogen burn: “You’re not a scientist. You have to be curious to be a scientist.” Ice-cold!

On the other end of the scientific spectrum, we learned that Floyd has a master’s in biochemistry. San Francisco’s very own Traci dodged a big Bunsen bullet when she chose acidity and demoed the most obvious difference between acid on tuna and acid penetrating and cooking tuna, as in a ceviche.

For the science fair, the grandes dames of non-Master Top Chef were back. Regular host Padma Lakshmi was a guest judge, and along for the ride was Ruth Reichl, who has been absent as top critic for far too long. Padma said this was the first time she ever ate out of a Petri dish, which we kinda doubt. You know Padma loves to eat out of scientific equipment. Don’t lie, girl!

Mary Sue took top prize with her dulce de leche stuffed churros that demonstrated viscosity. In her demo, we learned that dulce de leche is slower to drip than the spiced café de olla sauce. Then we fell asleep and dreamed we were watching something interesting.

Hugh had to pack his knives and go after squabbling with James Oseland over his weak emulsion demonstration and whether the mayonnaise particles broke. Hugh blamed tomato water, but James didn’t buy it. We’ll miss the best furrowed unibrow, pursed lips, and eyerolls ever to grace any cheftestant. We’re even contemplating a trip to his Georgia restaurant just to see him get annoyed in person.

Next week appears to be all about homecomings, including cheftestant family reunions and cooking for soldiers coming back from war. We’ll be watching and reporting.

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Oprah Winfrey-Approved: The Five Best Moscow Mules in San Francisco

24 May

On Wednesday, May 25, Oprah will no longer be seen in her 4 p.m. time slot. Our afternoon bestie for 25 years will exist no more, fled for her own cable network. Her 30-day countdown and goodbyes from famous friends has seen us shedding a few tears. The best thing to dry those tears? Booze! SFoodie has set forth on a countdown all our own: the top five places to get Oprah’s favorite cocktail, a Moscow Mule (vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer, traditionally served on the rocks in a brass cup).

We grabbed our best girlfriends (none as cool as Gayle) and did all five in one night. You get a Moscow Mule, you get a Moscow Mule, you all get a Moscow Mule! Our booze-soaked findings follow.

5. Elbo Room

Elbo Room easily has the biggest Mule for your moolah, coming in at just $7. Plus, the lighting is dark, so anyone can shed a tear on the sly. After all, Oprah taught you that it was okay to cry, but not to break into the “ugly cry.” (Oprah says she did it only once, when she met Mary Tyler Moore.) You may have thought the photobooth in the corner could only double as a makeout closet, but it can also be the private crying room for when the end comes.

UP NEXT: Battling our food addiction at the Tipsy Pig.

4. Tipsy Pig

Oprah introduced the world to the idea of food addiction, thanks to discussing her own battle on air. Which means she should stay far, far away from this place. If you do feel like eating your emotions, the Tipsy Pig serves up a fries with cheese sauce and bacon mac and cheese. It also has a very decent version of the Mule for $9. We’re not sure whether pigs and mules interact much in real life, but here they go together like Oprah and Gayle.

3. Hog & Rocks

Just ask Oprah, whose steady squeeze, Stedman, measures 6-foot-7: size does matter. Sometimes you just want a lot of booze, and thankfully Hog & Rocks allows you to purchase your Moscow Mule by the pitcher at $32 a pop. We thought this version was more puckery than the rest, perhaps due to the fact that it uses fresh lime juice that was squeezed that morning. Still, we’re bitter that Oprah is leaving us, so there’s some catharsis in sipping the sour.

2. Heaven’s Dog

 

We had heard that Heaven’s Dog serves up the best Mules in town. So imagine our surprise when they weren’t on the menu. Have no fear: Dion (easily the hottest bartender of the night) will whip one up for $10. This was the best Mule of the night — and the only one to provide a sprig of mint, which we are sure Oprah would appreciate.

1. Café des Amis

Was Café des Amis the best Mule of the night? No. But it was by far the best experience. First, we were bummed that we missed $5 Mule happy hour special between 3 and 6 p.m., but then everything else went our way. The Mule was a pricey $11, but when we checked in on Foursquare we got the most awesome special offer ever: a free glass of sparkling wine and a free brownie. We literally got brownie points! Our Mule arrived in the classic copper cup that we were hoping for, and we totally got the whole big O experience. In a day or so, we may no longer have Oprah — but at Café de Amis we had her favorite cocktail, champagne and brownie freebies, and even a celebrity guest. Elisa Donovan, (Amber from Clueless) showed up! It may just be the Mule talking, but she’s, like, so totally nota full-on Monet: “Seen from far away, it’s okay; but up close, it’s a big ol’ mess.”

Elbo Room: 647 Valencia (at 18th St.), 552-7788
The Tipsy Pig: 2231 Chestnut (at Pierce), 292-2300
Hog & Rocks: 3431 19th St. (at San Carlos), 550-8627
Heaven’s Dog: 1148 Mission (at Seventh St.), 863-6008
Café des Amis: 2000 Union (at Buchanan), 563-7700

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Top Chef Masters, Week 7: Of Love and Body Parts (Some Severed)

19 May

Gael Greene: Fan of the kama sutra.

Last night’s Top Chef Masters began with senses-blocking toys: blindfolds and earplugs and and nose plugs, oh my. For the Quickfire, the cheftestants could have only one orifice (or limb) open at a time, going from their mouths, to their noses, to their hands, to their ears.

Hugh(nibrow) proved victorious, from his gummi-sensitive hands to his keen ear for the sound of oysters being shucked and toast being buttered.

For the Elimination, we went from the standard senses to the biggest organ of all, the human heart. We were introduced to a guy who was ready to propose to his girlfriend, and the Masters were asked to create a six-course meal to document their love ― and to be tasted by the judges along with more than 20 other couples. Hugh summed it up most eloquently: “This is poignant … and makes me throw up in my mouth.” We learned that the dream girl in question introduced her guy to sushi, and tricked him into thinking that salmon was chicken. How dumb is he? The best moment was Mary Sue‘s shock that he’d never eaten shellfish, “You think you’re ready to get married, and you never had clams or mussels?”

Our very own Traci decided to take on desserts this time around, but it proved a challenge, especially since the kitchen scale was off. Sadly, she wasn’t the only one who had bad luck. Mary Sue chopped off the top of her thumb during this lovable challenge.

The insatiable Gael Greene was a guest judge. She remarked how sad she was to tear apart the spooning kama sutra shrimp on Floyd‘s dish. Best part of the episode was listening to our favorite story about Gael Greene’s hour with Elvis, involving a hotel room and later, a sandwich order. That’s always and forever so darn hot!

The dinner was nice, but pretty sweat-inducing since everyone was on proposal watch. Finally, when the dessert plates arrived scrawled with the magic words “je t’aime,” the girlfriend sort of got it. Then Curtis stole the show with an announcement, and passed it on to the gentleman to ask the all-important question. Relax, it wasn’t the most awkward moment in TV history: She said yes!

The winner was Naomi for her porcini-braised chicken thigh and sweet potatoes two ways. Tracy, Hugh, and Celina were at the bottom. The couple may have had a thing for pretzels and beer at sporting events, but Celina’s plain pretzel with salad on a plate didn’t woo the judges ― she was sent packing.

Next week’s episode promises to be less about love and more about chemistry … at an edible science fair. Sounds geeky. We’ll be watching.

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

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