Bravo has given their Top Chef franchise a bit of a spin with Top Chef Masters. Instead of a bunch of newbie chefs, culinary school students, and whatnot, the contestants are world reknowned chefs who don’t need to prove anything. They’re not competing for money for themselves; they’re competing for a charity of their choice. There’s no living together. No having their every move filmed.
It’s a better show for all of that.
Couple of things have been markedly interesting. First of all, a lot of the contestants have acted as judges on the show. All of them have commented on how much harder it is to compete in this format than they thought. There have been chefs who haven’t managed to plate in the allotted time. Chefs who have had their dishes turn out badly. Chefs who have experienced the fun of malfunctioning product placed appliances.
The judging seems less erratic also. Although the Food and Wine judge shows up now and then, it’s mostly been really good food critics who know their stuff.
All of this has provided for a really stellar program. The manufactured drama is so not missed–at least not by me. There’s a genuine pleasure to be had watching experts working at their craft.
Plus watching Hubert Keller cooking in a dorm room in and of itself was worth my time.
The Spiced Pear – butter poached Maine Lobster
Seriously good eats.
So I found out I will be hosting Thanksgiving again. Oddly enough, I’m kind of pleased. Last year I was panicked. Now that I’ve cooked a turkey and I know that there isn’t all that much to it, I think I’m going to enjoy stretching my culinary wings (pun intended).
Now it’s just a question of the menu. I’d like to do something a bit more challenging with the dressing.
To this end I’ve been going through all of my cooking magazines for ideas. I have way too many of them. Two were gift subscriptions. One I got because of air miles on an airline I refuse to fly. And the other two were choices.
Food & Wine (air miles) – not renewing and I’ll tell you why. Most of the recipes call for things like essence of violet and squab. The reviews are for restaurants in places like Bali and Gstaad, and their idea of an affordable wine starts at $50 a bottle.
Cooks Illustrated – I love this magazine. Great illustrations, very easy to follow recipes, and everything is tested extensively.
Penzey’s One – Another one I really love. They generally come from the readers so it’s considerably more folksy and homespun then say Gourmet, but all the recipes have been hits.
Gourmet & Bon Appetit – (gift subscriptions) They look like they should feature recipes with ingredients like essence of violet, but man, that isn’t the case. Excellent all around.
I can afford to subscribe to 2. So the question is which will make the cut.
I went into Wegman’s (awesome grocery chain) to buy some tomatoes and ended up spending $25 on expensive cheeses and fresh bread. I have to tell you it was worth it.
Their bakery is pretty decent. I took a baguette, toasted it with a little truffle oil, and added some sliced tomatoes and some really yummy St. Agur blue cheese.
Reader, it was heaven.