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Foodie Follies: Geography Fail


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So here I am, watching the Food Network Chopped All Stars and I find myself (not alone) irritated by Chef Penny, the self-described Persian Princess. But I’m not irritated with her because she’s a bitch (that would be hypocritical of me). I’m irritated with her because she’s either stupid or ignorant of the most basic geographic facts; these would be annoying enough, but she is also ostentatiously pretentious about mistakes these failings lead her to make.

No, Penny. You may not “bring Middle Eastern flavours” to the table with your Moroccan spice mix. You were born and raised in California; had you actually lived in the Middle East, you would perhaps be aware that it is about two thousand miles east of Morocco.

Now go tell half the menu writers in the world.

As “Thousands” Jeer

Sooo… Master Chef. Anybody out there watch the US version? I have to admit I haven’t. I haven’t seen the UK version, either. Just one of those things I haven’t gotten around to doing.

Still, a lot of people did tune in on monday night to hear Gordon Ramsay unleash his typical tirades of vitriol at unwitting contestants like this:

Ah yes, I can hear it now:

You stupid @#$@%ing @#%@er, get the @$&^&% out of my &(^$#* kitchen! *%%%^ me!

What? I’ve seen enough episodes of Kitchen Nightmares to have sussed out his entire vocabulary, and about 85% of it is in that one sentence. Maybe that’s why I don’t try Master Chef. No matter how talented the guy is, or how much he knows, he spends so much time screaming at people that they’re idiots, quickly followed by whines of “I’m just being ^$*%E$ing honest with you” when anyone gets up enough backbone to object to being treated so @$@^%ily, that I can’t really stand him.

Hence my not watching Master Chef. And hence my missing what one eagle-eyed viewer has brought to the attention of the media world:

I know it’s difficult to see at this size, but if you look carefully, you’ll see circles drawn over the picture, two each in red, yellow, and blue. The matching circles (well, and ovals, because a couple of them are more that shape) represent places where the film editing wizards have doubled the images of contestants to make the crowd look bigger than it actually was.

Seriously? You guys needed to do that?

No, I don’t hold Gordon personally responsible for this. I doubt he broke into the editing suite in the middle of the night to confuse and mislead America as to the popularity of his new-to-the-USA show. And it really doesn’t strike me as terribly important in the grand scheme of things. Certainly it’s no comparison to starving children or e coli breakouts.

So what is it? A reminder that even reality television isn’t very real. An amusing bit of trivia. Maybe even a way to fill space on a few blogs across the web.

Who knows? Maybe Gordon Ramsay’s television persona isn’t who he really is, either. Maybe there’s a kinder, gentler Gordon who knows how to moderate his tone and treat people with civility. Perhaps in real life – as opposed to reality shows – he’s as gentle as that lamb draped around his neck:

… but I wouldn’t count on it.

Paula Deen’s Stoner Burger

Paula Deen's Keyboard, y'all!

Paula Deen, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is a cook of exaggerated Southernosity, one whose veins run with clarified butter instead of icky old blood like regular people.

Since we featured Poutine, the Great Canadian Hangover Cure the other day, I thought we might as well feature the American equivalent, so here is Paula Deen and her guest making and consuming a donut bacon egg burger.

Seriously, how stoned are they?
paula deen reacts to the donut burger

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Party at Sandra Lee’s!

Open wide, New York State

Open wide, New York State

Congratulations and commiserations to the people of New York State, who now have this gibbering 70’s throwback as their common-law First Lady. At least the political news has a shot at being mildly amusing, in, say, the way laughing at a 39-year-old with a Scooby Doo birthday theme is mildly amusing.

Let’s check out one of the lady’s recipes, shall we? What about her infamous Kwanzaa Cake?

1 (10 to 12-ounce) purchased angel food cake
1 container (16 ounce) vanilla frosting
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (21-ounce) container apple filling or topping
1 (1.7-ounce) package corn nuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/2 cup popped popcorn

Special Equipment:
Kwanzaa candles

Using a serrated knife, cut cake horizontally into 2 layers. Place bottom cake layer, cut side up, on a serving platter. Mix frosting, cocoa powder, vanilla, and cinnamon in large bowl until combined. Spread about 1/4 of the frosting over top of cake layer on platter. Top with second cake layer, cut side down. Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake to coat completely. Spoon apple pie filling into hole in center of cake. Place candles atop cake. Sprinkle top of cake with some corn nuts, pumpkin seeds, and popcorn. Sprinkle remaining corn nuts and pumpkin seeds around base of cake.

And then, presumably, set it on fire and give heartfelt Kwanzaa thanks for the fact that nobody could expect you to put that in your mouth.

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And you thought Rachael Ray couldn’t get any cheesier!

A Colorado artist made Ms. Ray’s face out of Cheetos!

This image speaks for itself. What can I add?

Semi-celebrity chefs in trucks!

Last week’s Next Food Network Star saw the cheftestants competing for the affections of Miss Paula Deen by doing their best versions of gourmet food truck cuisine.

So it felt fitting that while attending the inaugural outing of the LA Flea Market, I stumbled upon last year’s also ran, Chef Debbie Lee, serving up her “mobile take on Korean pub grub” from way up high in her new lunch truck, Ahn-Joo.

She was among most excellent company at the event’s truck food court, which also included the mobile kitchens of other TV-made famous chefs, Susan Fenniger (Border Grill truck) and Ludo Lefebvre (LudoBites Fried Chicken Truck.)

While under normal circumstances, I probably would have opted for the food of Fenniger or Lefebvre (whose culinary renown came before TV fame as opposed to the path taken by Lee), it was about 10,000 degrees at Los Angeles’ Dodgers Stadium where the event was held, and the thought of eating anything warm made me want to cry.

After quick survey of the cold offerings on hand, I realized that my choices were sushi from the truck Fishlips (but a hot truck plus sushi does not equal love in my book), ice cream from Coolhaus (line too long) or the spicy soba salad from Ahn-Joo.

As there was no line to speak of Ahn-Joo, and I thought a little spice might be just what I needed to cool off, I went that way, not remembering that Ahn-Joo was the not quite Next Food Network Star’s new project. So imagine my surprise when who should take my order but no other than the somewhat cranky seeming (but it was hot so we forgive) Chef Debbie, herself.

Chef Debbie gets trucked


The menu is divided into “Small Grub”- a smattering of pickles, skewers, and kimchi; “Medium Grub”- salads, dumplings, and kimbap; and “Large Grub” – fried chicken, meatloaf, and nachos.

I went for the spicy chilled buckwheat noodles with fugi apples and Korean veggies and an order of spicy chicken and Korean peppers skewers.

I can’t say I was overly impressed with either dish.

The salad was basically an enormous wad of soba noodles, which though well cooked, majorly overwhelmed the crispy fuji apples and the Korean veggies (which ended up consisting merely of some julienned carrots, cucumbers, and red onions.) The dressing was cloying and not particularly spicy. But at least there was a hard boiled egg, as everything’s better with egg.

The skewers were better. The chicken was nicely fried and chewy and the peppers had a good crunchy char.

Overall, a general eh meal. But it came with a semi-celebrity sighting, which is always good for digestion.

Top Chef University

To mark the excitement that is tonight’s premier of Top Chef DC, I decided to enroll in Top Chef University, the new online “culinary school” in which the “chef-testants” from the show’s various seasons offer intensive training in everything from “Pantry Organization” to the art of molecular gastronomy (haven’t you been wanting to add potato foam to your repertoire?)  There are 200 hours of lessons, in a curriculum designed by Top Chef judge Gail Simmons (Gaiiiiil…..) and Anthony Hoy Fong.

Now to be honest, I’m not a fully enrolled student at Top Chef University. I’m on a temporary press membership, so I’m more like a pre-frosh, scoping out the school, trying to decide if there are enough cute boys, interesting professors, and if the food in the dining hall is edible.

So far, so good. While the system (at least on my computer) is a little glitchy, the videos that make up the lessons are clear and well shot, and best of all as your host you get to choose between two of my all time favorite contestants – Carla Hall and Kevin Gillespie.

Now a word to the wise, this is not Cooking for Poets, or whatever the title of a gut class in the culinary world would be (Cooking for Lumberjacks perhaps?) It’s pretty rigorous and the techniques they show take practice (after several attempts, I’m still trying to get my julienned carrots to look as pretty as Miss Carla’s), but I think if I stick with it I may graduate summa cum laude — unless of course I get too distracted watching Top Chef DC to actually study.

First Lady Sandra Lee?

Saturday’s New York Times article on Food Network star, Sandra Lee’s relationship with New York gubernatorial front runner, Andrew M. Cuomo has me thinking about what Albany might look like with Ms. Lee as First Lady of the Empire State.

Lee’s show Semi-Homemade Cooking is built on her 70/30 combination of 70% ready-made foodstuffs (such as season packets or rotisserie chicken)and 30% personal touches. The recipes are often incredibly composed aesthetically – a red, white, and blue trifle or rainbow chicken rolls. Meals are themed – a Bachelor Barbecue, Crossword Puzzle (apparently, brunch on a budget), and something called “Wisteria Land.” A rather high strung woman, Ms. Lee is always in need of a cocktail, and so each episode features a signature drink (often pink and frothy.)

But what has always made me a fan of Ms. Lee are what she calls “tablescapes“, heavily curated table settings, created around the central theme of the meal being served. Recent tablescapes included “Happy Harley Day”

And “Holiday Spirits”

Since the Times article ran, I’ve been thinking about themed tablescapes Ms. Lee might create in the New York State Executive Mansion if Cuomo is elected. Of course, his victory party would be a doozy, but once in office the possibilities would be endless.

Perhaps if teacher lay-offs continue in New York City, a reading, writing, and arithmetic theme in which words are misspelled and sums incorrect?

Since Albany is known for its intense in-fighting, a choreographed food fight might be in order – the meal would of course be constructed of a rainbow palate of foods so that the resulting mess would be artful. I’m thinking blueberries, beets, and maybe some wasabi paste.

If, God forbid, there were the sort of infidelity scandal that has been rocking the New York governor’s seat of late, I have no doubt that Ms. Lee would rise to the occasion, creating a well-appointed black table setting, befitting the severity of the situation, all the while maintaining her dignity. And of course, she would make a signature cocktail for the occasion — strong, but very, very pretty.

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