Thursday, July 31, 2008

Breaking News: Casey Thompson's Beaver Boots Are Hitting the Road

Season 3 finalist and all-around good sport Casey Thompson is leaving her position as executive chef at Dallas restaurant Shinsei. In what we promise will be the last time we use this excruciating pun, Casey was asked where she was going, but Shinsei. Good luck, bonne chance, and buena suerte, Beaver Boots. Vaya con Dios, or rather, con su cholo Jesus.

Food Stylings: Switzerland's Response to Anthony Bourdain

Fun with Semiotics: New York Post Provides Visual Key to “Top Chef” Season 2

Amuse-Biatch Presents Paola Guerrero and Sam Talbot

For Anthony Bourdain. Love, Amuse-Biatch

“Even Ricola commercials make me break into a cold sweat.”
—Anthony Bourdain

Food Stylings: Swiss Milk

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Amuse-Biatch Heterosexual Wednesday: Is This Sam Talbot’s Little Arepa?

Possums, our search for a photie of Sam Talbot’s Colombian fiancée--the mysterious Paola Guerro, or is it Paola Guerra, or is it Paola Guerrero?--had proved fruitless and exasperating, the hunt for the elusive arepa. But then we came across a find by a commenter on Eater, namely the photo above, which, in its original state on Flickr, is labeled Paola Guerrero - Wilhelmina New York (as you may know, possums, Wilhelmina is a renowned modeling agency).

We're inclined to believe this might be the one. The future Mrs. Talbot is a model, sayeth Sam, and this Paola is a model. As we noted earlier, the announcement on People's website, written by someone Latino-deficient, couldn't decide if the woman's surname is Guerro (never come across it before) or Guerra (much more plausible). But if Paola's last name is really Guerrero, that would explain "Guerro" as a typo by someone Latino-deficient. And if this is the future Mrs. Talbot, pues ¡ay Dios mío!

However, we could not help but notice that there are a number of commenters on the Eater post who have a female friend who thought she was due to get the thumb-ring any day now. But surely Sam couldn't be such a cad? Right, possums? Right? Besides, whether her last name is Guerra ("war") or Guerrero ("warrior"), the future Mrs. T looks like she's quite a contender.

Anthony Bourdain Follows Orson Welles' Footsteps in Declaring War on a Neutral Country, But Did He Get the Wrong One?

In what is quite possibly our favorite film of all time, Carol Reed's The Third Man, Orson Welles famously spoke these self-penned words about Switzerland:

"You know what the fellow said—in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace—and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Mind you, this was said while in Vienna, Austria.

And now, Anthony Bourdain seemingly wants to outdo Harry Lime himself. From Bourdain's blog:

And finally, this was the episode where I, at last, got to settle the score with Switzerland. Perhaps launching an ICBM at them was a bit much -- but my skin really and truly crawls at even the sight of an Alpine vista. I don't know why exactly. Maybe it has something to do with Helmut, the Swiss/German barber I had to go to as a child. He had one of those wall murals of Lake Geneva with snow capped alps in the background -- and I always associate those images with getting an ugly and humiliating haircut from a stern-looking old guy with a scary German accent. Followed by bullying at school. Even Ricola commercials make me break into a cold sweat.

Lederhosen, Alpine hats, cuckoo clocks, St Bernards, cross country skiers and the Sound of Music make me phsyically ill. They remind me of hair clippings itching my nose, a coiff that would make a middle Brady blush, and the feeling of many tiny little fists in my face as from behind, someone goes for the atomic wedgie . So it was with real joy that I initiated launch sequence. Hell, I ain't ever making a show there anyhow. And their cheese? It sucks.

Achtung, baby! We almost sensed a famous Austrian invitingly patting a leather couch in the great beyond and rubbing his hands at the prospect of such a field day.

We ought to know better, pace that famous Austrian, than to analyze a man's nightmares and jokes, but what the hell? So, Tony, possum, are you quite sure you have the right target in your sights? Because it seems to us that your story is, well, full of holes. (And Gruyère sucks? Really? Isn’t that what goes on the onion soup at your restaurant Les Halles?)

In your list, the only things that could be considered exclusively or prototypically Swiss are St. Bernards and possibly cuckoo clocks. Lederhosen are not exclusive to Switzerland; the Germans have them, and the Austrians have them. Ditto Alpine hats. Cross country skiing seems more Nordic than, say, Alpine skiing, and The Sound of Music, well, there you're just plain wrong. That's Austria, silly, and in the movie the Von Trapps were trying to escape to Switzerland. If we may go all Dr.-Drew-diagnosing-Tom-Cruise on you, we'd say you have a problem with Teutons.

And yet, what's this?

Why, it's you in the German capital. So, you'll go to Berlin but you won't set foot in der Schweiz? Tony, Tony, what gives? Show us on the doll where the bad barber touched you.

The Heterosexual Women of America Weep Blue-Cheese-and-Watermelon Tears as Sam Talbot Announces His Engagement

Yes, possums, it's true. Just as one fashion-world Colombian leaves the Bravo family, another comes in. In fact, as Miss XaXa points out, this might well be one of Newton's Laws. And so, as Nina Garcia leaves Bravo to follow Project Runway to Lifetime, People Magazine (yes, People!) has (exclusively!) received the announcement that inexplicable heterosexual heartthrob and diabetic elf Sam Talbot is marrying a Colombian named Paola Guerro. Or wait, is it Guerra? People seems (and people seem) to be confused.

At any rate, the not-for-much-longer señorita is, wait for it, a model and a teeshirt designer.

The groom and the bride are both 30, and met in Brazil. Though we have Google-imaged our little fingers to the bone, we've yet to come across a photo of the Talbot-described "stunning" bride.

The groom confides, "She takes care of me in many ways." Eeeew. Well, leave it to Sam Talbot to make love and Guerra.

Best of luck, kiddos.

Amuse-Biatch Guilty Pleasures: Better Than Grape Jelly on Saltines

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What's On? Elementary, My Dears

A reminder, possums, that Uncle Ted Allen's new show, Food Detectives, officially premieres tonight on Food Network at 9 p.m.

Report from the Trencher

On Saturday night, Miss XaXa, much like Marie Antoinette, girded her loins, stepped into her peep-toe Mary Janes, and headed for The Chopping Block. Fortunately, possums, she lived to tell us all about it.

The Chopping Block played host to a Top Chef cook-off between Season 3’s Dale Levitski and Season 2’s Josie Smith-Malave, with Ted Allen as a judge and Nick Verreos of Project Runway as master of ceremonies (Joel Grey has nothing on him). The cook-off was a fundraiser for a charity that is near and dear to our hearts, the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, an organization devoted to ensuring that classrooms and workplaces are safe for people who don’t conform to gender type—and so that middle school boys don’t get murdered by their classmates.

Uncle Ted was impossibly svelte—wait, this man is a food critic?—and looked as though he’d just come from the spa. Uncle Nick had flawless skin—in fact, as Miss XaXa put it, “Bitch [the highest compliment we can pay] had the best skin of any man I’ve seen.” She suspects it’s that unbeatable genetic combo of Greek and Venezuelan ancestry, but we’re convinced there has to be more and want to know the name of the brujo who does his limpias, or the location of the pool where he does laps in Crème de la Mer. Josie was, as Miss XaXa, related, “a blast! Television did not do that woman justice.” As for Dale, you know all too well, possums, that we campaigned and lobbied for Dale as fan favorite, and dammit, he wuz robbed. We’re looking forward to trying his restaurant when it opens in Chicago, and for the record, he’s even brawnier and hunkier in the very solid flesh. As you can see from the pictures, a very good time indeed was had by all, and the entire evening was GenderPACked with fun.

Miss XaXa Wuz Definitely Not Robbed

Ted Allen and Miss XaXa Do Their Best to Mock Lindsay Lohan and Vanessa Minnillo

Hair Wars and a Hair Peace: It's a Mothereffin' Cook-off!

Josie Smith-Malave Has a XaXa Lesson

Miss XaXa Marks Her Man

A special thanks from Miss XaXa to Mark (pictured above with Ted Allen) for his chivalry and solicitude at the GenderPAC cook-off. Like many another blossom of the South created in the hothouse imagination of gay men, Miss XaXa has been known to depend on the kindness of strangers. Mark proved very kind indeed, squiring Miss XaXa around the reception and serving as her paparazzo. Smooches, Mark!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Report from the Trencher: Is Spike Mendelsohn Being Sued?

We had no idea, possums, when we put out our Doug Llewellyn call, that none other than “Marcel P” himself would answer, and to tell us about a lawsuit, no less. Spike Mendelsohn being sued? And not in the People’s Court? C’est dingue! At any rate, possums, here is the entry from possum Marcel’s own Goncourt Journal of culinary sorties:

I live in the DC area and [a few nights ago] I took three of my friends to Good Stuff Eatery, Spike’s DC Burger restaurant. It is within viewing distance of the Library of Congress, on a stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue that includes many small, cute restaurants, cafes and shops. It is in a relatively affordable and residential area of DC. The restaurant is small, with two floors and a plasma TV on the second floor. When I got there at around seven PM, the restaurant was loud and crowded as people formed a long line for burgers. There is very little in the way of decoration at Good Stuff Eatery, but there is some outdoor seating.

Spike’s dad stands at the door and loves to make conversation. His enthusiasm is a little excessive; he constantly asks you if you have a menu and makes sure you know to stand in the line. He likes to talk to everyone and told me and my friends that the restaurant is being sued by DC chain Five Guys since the burger “Spike’s Five Napkin Burger” sounds too much like something they have. Spike’s dad didn’t go into details, but he said that he was delighted to be sued and hoped it would bring in publicity. He also expressed a healthy disdain for Bush and Cheney. He looked normal enough, wearing a checkered blue collar shirt tucked into navy blue pants, but his shoes were white canvas low tops with bright orange elastic across them and no laces. He said it was a new style. My friend, who does not watch reality TV, asked him if his son runs the restaurant. He proudly responded that it is his son’s restaurant and that he, his wife, Spike’s sister and Spike’s brother help too. He said that they love Washington, DC, and all of their friends live in the area, and added that they would like to open another outpost of the restaurant in the Adams Morgan area. (This is confirmed on Capital Spice.)

Spike was working at the restaurant that night. He had a team of men cooking burgers (there seemed to be one female employee), but he was not among them. He seemed to be handing out bags of food and putting marshmallows on shakes, but I don’t want to sound mean, I’m not entirely sure what he was doing, and he did seem to be hard at work there. He was wearing one of his “asshats” from the show, a plaid black and white hat with black fringe around it. He had his scruffy beard and looked exactly as he did on the show, except his nose seemed to be a bit bigger and resembled his father’s. There is a picture of him smiling on the wall of the restaurant by a quote about how he remembers his grandfather making burgers. He was moving to the loud rock music as he worked. The restaurant has almost no atmosphere and the food is served in bags with plastic plates given to you. There may be some seating outside and on the second floor, but it is more of a take-out place. The grease of the food seeps through the white bags.

I ordered the “Blazin’ Barn,” a burger that includes Asian ingredients like daikon and Thai basil. It also had carrots, mint, and a spicy mayonnaise on it. It tasted fine, but the burgers Spike and his crew are making there are really not gourmet. The burgers are small and flat, not especially juicy and rather greasy. They are not different from what you would get at another burger place, but they are not bad. They are average burgers. The “Village Fries” with rosemary, thyme and pepper are pleasant, and the ordinary fries are fine. The milkshakes are quite good because they are thick enough. The only stand-out items on the menu are the Vidalia Onion Rings. They are unusual and mild in flavor, and nicely fried, excellent and uncommon in my view. I also enjoyed the mayonnaise bar which included sriracha, chipotle, Old Bay and mango mayonnaise. It was all good, especially the Old Bay, oddly enough.

I enjoyed my meal at “Good Stuff Eatery,” but I came away a tad disappointed. I thought the menu looked promising and hoped that Spike would do a riff on burgers, using his knowledge gained from the Culinary Institute of America and from other restaurants where he worked to make a fancier burger accessible to DC residents. But there were not many twists here – it’s just a burger joint, but with a chef who has been on TV. The twists – a mayo bar, a burger with daikon and carrots, sriracha at your table – are minor and not really innovative. Good Stuff Eatery is like Spike’s pork taco in the Rick Bayless Quickfire challenge; it’s good street food, but it isn’t anything more.

Amuse-Biatch Heterosexual Monday: Monica Bellucci Demonstrates the Best Way to Serve Caviar

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ted Allen: “I’ll Cut You, Biatch!”

Our Miss XaXa cleaves to the ever-delightful Uncle Ted Allen at last night's Gender Public Advocacy Coalition event at the Chopping Block in Chicago. Details and loads more photographs to come.

Breaking News: Ryan Scott Gets Yet Another Chance to Stink

Oh fie, possums. It's not what you think. We were being quite literal. We meant only that, as we write, Ryan Scott is competing at the world-famous Gilroy Garlic Festival. We'll let you know whether he wins, or whether he, well, stinks.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hung Huyhn Comes Out... Asian-American.

(Hey, Antonia "Chinese Restaurant" Lofaso, you might want to watch this.)

Richard Blais: For Racist, Change-Averse Southerners, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “Not as Crazy as Bacon Ice Cream”

Oh dear, possums.

We hasten to add that, aside from his annoying overuse of the phrase and concept of things being “a play on” other things, we like and admire Richard Blais and his creativity and maturity. This makes it all the more wince-inducing to come across this passage in an interview he did with the Phoenix, Az., East Valley Tribune:

[I]s Atlanta the right city for you? Would your style be more accepted in a New York or San Francisco?

It’s a tough question to answer as I’m walking around the parking lot of my restaurant here. I’m a New Yorker originally. I’m into college football, and a lot of college football coaches will have that one clause in their contract that’s like, “Here’s my contract, but if this one school comes calling, all bets are off.” I lived in San Francisco and I’m a new Yorker, and I love those two cities. And I love Atlanta because it’s put me on the map and there are so many people here that are great. Is it a place I can see three or four really creative restaurants surviving over a long period of time? Probably not. Just in general, if you think about the South, it takes them a long time to embrace things not as crazy as bacon ice cream, you know? Historically, it took the South a long time to embrace the civil rights movement, for example. So we’ll see where it goes. The difference is that Atlanta is a big metropolitan city and the South is almost disconnected from that. You know what I mean? I live in Atlanta. I don’t feel like I live in Georgia.

For what it’s worth, possums, we don’t think that Blais, despite his unfortunate and poorly chosen words to that effect, actually believes civil rights are “crazy.” We get what he was trying to say, but oh what a way to say it. Is a touch of megalomania (comparing his signature bacon ice cream and the civil rights movement in the first place) a more forgivable sin? Does molecular gastronomy have a recipe for foot in mouth?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Amuse-Biatch Report from the Trencher: Spike “Asshat” Mendelsohn’s Establishment Beset by Asshattery

The Army of Possums is out there, possums, and not surprisingly, they have teeth. Possum "R." had the misfortune to happen upon the not so aptly named Good Stuff Eatery, the Washington, D.C., eatery recently opened by Spike Mendelsohn. This is R.'s account of the experience:

I work on Capitol Hill and decided to stop by…for a milkshake (I was NOT waiting in line to eat lunch at a joint owned by Spike) and…my experience [can be summed up with the verdict:] incredibly incompetent staff. I ordered what was advertised as a dulce-de-leche shake. I assumed this is what was meant by the "D-lechable leche" on the menu, which sounds a little bit too much like “lecher” and less like “delectable” than I’m sure Spike intended. The poor boy, bless his heart, is no Shakespeare. I ordered the lecher's shake because they didn’t have any malt left, and a malt was what I really wanted; they seemed to be out of EVERYTHING and it ended up tasting much more like butterscotch than dulce de leche.

Also, when we arrived (a colleague was with me) at approximately 3:15, a crudely hand-written sign on the door said they were closed from 3:30-5:30 to get ready for the dinner rush. I went to open the door and a group of employees sitting outside said they were closed. I pointed to the sign and noted that it was 3:15. They said they weren’t serving anything. When I noted that I only wanted a milkshake, they relented and let me in. But then the two very young (maybe even high-school-aged) girls behind the counter repeated the fact that they were closed, before someone appearing to be a manager walked by and said it was O.K. The service didn’t really improve much from there.

A colleague had gone by for a carry-out lunch the previous day – I think it was opening day – and had the patience to wait in line. Spike himself made her salad. All his salads are iceberg-wedge-based – which, besides being utterly unoriginal (it’s very 1999-chichi-Northeastern-steakhouse) also created a problem for takeout orders. My colleague said all her salad’s toppings had migrated to the bottom of the carry-out container by the time she got back to the office and actually ate the thing.

All we can say, possums, is that we’re not surprised by the asshattery. Our thanks to R. for sending in that report. At the risk of sounding a little Doug Llewellyn, we ask you, possums, to oblige us: if you happen to eat somewhere where a cheftestant has had a hand in the food, do like R. and send us a write-up of the experience.

Pink Navy Sets Sail for “Project Runway”

Yes, possums, it’s a tad off-topic, but we wanted to let you know that, with our freshly grown claws, we are turning our attention to Project Runway as well.

Yes, it’s the final season, and yes, our mothers did tell us not to kick a man when he’s down.

Unless you’re wearing stilettos.

And this time we have company—the incomparably catty Hughman will join the fray for the season.

Do come join us at Pink Navy, possums. It ain’t the Love Boat, but we know you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Amuse-Biatch Heterosexual Wednesday: Padma Lakshmi Inspires Us to Bare All

Well, possums, we have now returned from the customary hiatus that follows the end of a Top Chef season, a time during which we attend to what, if we remember correctly, James Mason in The Shooting Party referred to as “death, disease and dentistry.” Mind you, we also use the time off to grow new claws, and new brain cells when we can manage it. This time around, though, we did a little something different. Foodie networking site FoodCandy kindly and unexpectedly asked us to sit down for an interview, and we—inspired by Padma Lakshmi’s penchant for self-exposure—couldn’t help but say yes. We won’t take off our top, but we will reveal the innermost depth of our shallowest thoughts.

So if you’re interested, possums, do go and have a LOOK.

Our thanks to dB of FoodCandy for a wonderful experience.