Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Amuse-Biatch Photoessay: A Picture So Filthy, So Lubricious, So Suggestive That Only Gael Greene Could Do It Justice

Amuse-Biatch Photoessay: Ah, Lesbians and Their Power Tools!

‘Biatch-Slapped: Gael Greene v. Jimmy Bradley

Well, possums, there seem to be so many spats and meow moments that we figured we might as well gawk, and so we inaugurate a new feature, ‘Biatch-Slapped, wherein we’ll briefly examine and rate these catfights.

First up, it’s “Insatiable” Gael Greene v. Top Chef Masters contestant Jimmy “I have oldness” Bradley.

In the New York Times story on his wedding last year, Bradley said of himself that he is a “self-made chef and restaurateur.” And just last week, the Times restaurant critic, Sam Sifton, also referred to Bradley as a “chef.”

On her Bravo blog, however, Gael Greene begs to differ, saying that Jimmy Bradley “is popular and very successful as owner and creator of Red Cat and the Harrison in Tribeca, but is not really a chef” (emphasis added).

Jimmy Bradley, you've been Biatch-Slapped! We give it three meows out of a possible five. What say ye, possums?

(By the way, if, like us, you were bemused and crinkle-browed by Jimmy Bradley quoting Coco Chanel on last week’s episode, the Times wedding story will clear you right up. Bradley’s 11-years-younger bride is “the fashion merchandising director for Lucky, the Condé Nast magazine,” so he must have learnt the apocryphal Chanel quote at home. Interestingly enough, the first impression the future Mrs. Bradley had of the chef was of “this gray-haired man, smelling like a dirty hippie with his patchouli oil and kitchen grease.” Ah, l’amour, toujours l’amour!)

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Bravery of Synergy

First, possums, may we say just one thing?

When, on the premiere episode of this season of Top Chef Masters, Kelly Choi announced that the band The Bravery would be judging the Quickfire Challenge, and Tony Mantuano allowed as how he had some songs by them on his iPod, we heard but one voice in our head.

It was our heavily accented mother, gimlet eye coming through the accent as she said, “Bool cheet.” Miss XaXa’s response was a more measured, “Yeah, right,” in reaction to which we tamped down our inner mother and said, “Pull the other leg; it’s got bells on it.”

Were we like Jill Zarin, we would immediately have demanded that Mantuano pull out his iPod for inspection. Fortunately, we are not like Jill Zarin, or maybe not entirely, for we did smell a fiery-Cheeto rat.

Why, possums, why would this particular band be called upon? With the Foo Fighters on Top Chef there was at least the excuse that they were fans of the show. The excuse here was that one band member has a culinary degree, a connection that is, shall we say, tenuous at best. (In our research, we discovered, as per Wikipedia, that a couple of the band members went to Vassar, and our eyes widened. We remembered a couple of galpals in college who had boyfriends attending Vassar, and oh the stories we heard! The theory was that it had something to do with the pressure of attending a former women’s college, the first of the Seven Sisters; how else to explain the crying jags and the penchant for cucumbers in intimate situations? And The Bravery do have lesbian haircuts and a song called “Hate Fuck.” But we digress.)

Possums, the fact of the matter is that The Bravery’s record label is Island Def Jam, which is owned by Universal Music Group. “Wait,” said Miss XaXa, her voice quivering with rapidly dying innocence, “Universal, as in NBC Universal, which is the parent company of…”

Yes, possum, Bravo.

We were shocked, shocked, nay, even gobsmacked. Who knew you could buy synergy at the gas station?

It’s right next to the pork rinds, we were informed by the gas station attendant. When we asked him, “Well, wouldn’t some kind of disclosure about The Bravery have been nice?,” the attendant only laughed and asked if we wanted our car washed.

So, Chef Mantuano, politeness and go-along-to-get-along-ness and Countless LuAnn good manners are all well and good, but what would you have done if Justin Bieber were the guest judge? Hmmmm? Consider yourself pardoned but narrowly escaped.

Oh wait, never mind. Justin Bieber is also part of Island Def Jam. Carry on, Chef Mantuano, carry on.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Why Gael Greene Is Disqualified from Judging the First Episode of Top Chef Masters, or, Indeed, Anything Else Ever Again

Possums, fear not. We’ll get to our impressions of, and reactions to, the first episode of Season 2 of Top Chef Masters in two shakes of a lamb carpaccio’s tail, but we simply could not go on without getting this off our chest.

Well, more like getting this unstuck from our craw, where it has lain for a few weeks since we read this account of Judge Gael Greene’s date night, er, morning, on her Twitter feed.

Ah, yes, that renowned romantic masterpiece Precious…. You know, possums, the one that features—in no particular order of tribulation—incest-rape, teenage pregnancy, Down syndrome, illiteracy, morbid obesity, poverty, colorism, AIDS, and Mariah Carey.

Or, as Miss XaXa so pithily put it, “Gael, girl, that’s just naaasty.”

Mercifully, the tweet does not contain sufficient temporal clues to determine whether the necking took place during or after the watching of the film. Frankly, there’s not much of a choice between the two, for either you were inspired to neck by the film, or the film wasn’t repellent enough to put you off your necking. (As for the culinary accompaniment to a viewing of Precious, surely salad is a little unimaginative, given that pig’s feet, bacon, and fried chicken make memorable appearances in the film.)

Now, if that is the Insatiable Gourmet’s idea of a date night (or date morning), we submit that she is not the right person to judge a challenge designed around the proper meal to accompany a first date. Indeed, we would question her very aesthetic bona fides. Sure, we know from her autobiographical tales of the Elvis-bagging days of yore that she’s a freak bitch, baby, but is this a freak too far?

What say you, possums? Are we not giving a fair shake to the kooky, oversexed, milliner’s wet dream of a great-aunt?

Of Spring and Sprout--Dale Levitski Comes Into His Own

Possums, as you know only too well, we love nothing better than saying, “We told you so.” And possums, we told you so, and we’ll tell you again—Dale Levitski, of Top Chef: Miami, wuz robbed!

These aren’t just the ravings of a tottering-on-Louboutins fan. We have the evidence to prove it. Well, actually, we ate the evidence, but there is nothing we’d like better than to go in search of more at Sprout, the new Chicago restaurant headed by Dale. The meal we ate there was among the most delicious and stimulating we have had in years, and even though it’s been a couple of months since our visit, we think about that meal all the time.

From the fabulous, “crowdsourced” décor to the ultra-accommodating staff, I knew a mere six steps into Sprout, located in Lincoln Park, that we were in for an exceptional dining experience. The setting is relaxed luxury, and lives up to Sprout’s own philosophy of offering “upscale dining with a relax-your-shoulders vibe.”

The Executive Chef of Sprout is Amuse-Biatch favorite Dale Levitski, and while still in its infancy, Sprout has the feel of a well-honed, long-running operation. Sprout’s Sous Chef is the talented Sara Nguyen, also of Top Chef fame. Sara is as gracious and welcoming as she appeared on screen, and the best thing is that, together, she and Dale have the same culinary chemistry and rhythm they exhibited while dancing on the balcony in Miami during Top Chef.

While Sprout’s menu is geared toward an organic-focused $60 prix fixe tasting menu, including intermezzi, à la carte items are available as well. My dining companion and I both opted for the prix fixe menu. My first course was a cooked-to-perfection scallop, surrounded by freeze-dried corn, parsnip, and popcorn. This was a toothsome dish composed of a witty series of pairings, the texture and color of the caramelized scallop picked up by the parsnip, the sweetness of the scallop picked up by the corn, with crunch added by the popcorn. For her first course, my dining companion, a vegetarian, chose a pear salad featuring watercress, goat cheese, peppermint and shaved licorice root. It was an exquisitely composed plate of food, both visually and flavor-wise. (Indeed, the great thing was that my dining companion was able to find a superb vegetarian dish for every course.) In case we had any doubts, the first course announced loud and clear that we were in the hands of someone who is absolutely on his game.

For the main course, I selected the Wagyu beef. Set atop pillowy, rich brandade and haricots verts, with a garlic drizzle, the beef was luscious and vibrant. When presented with the opportunity, I could not resist sampling two additional courses. First there was chilled octopus served with white bean puree and arugula—the octopus perfectly cooked, and perfectly complemented by the richness of the puree and the slight bitterness of the arugula. Dale has a real talent for mixing not only flavors, but textures. There was also a course of veal cheek, which was richness and opulence distilled. We also had a tasting of gnocchi à la Parisienne, French-style gnocchi that are made with choux pastry rather than potatoes, which were new to me and which made me curse all the years I had gone without trying them.

In between the courses, the intermezzi included a shaved ice of passion fruit and Riesling, at once bracing and seductive. Speaking of which, the white bean butter served with the bread is nothing short of creamy crack.

My dessert course was called “lemon.” There are no words. The combination of the lemon curd, goat cheese mousse and sour cherry, while surprisingly new to me, rendered me speechless—a difficult thing—and is now one of my favorites. My dining companion opted for creamy melted chocolate with a dunk-worthy cookie.

The cheese course was witty and the ne plus ultra of comfort food, the cheese melted and sandwiched between two crêpe-like crisps, the perfect end to a truly memorable meal.

As reported elsewhere, Dale went through a great deal of difficulty and sorrow in his personal life in the period between Top Chef and the opening of Sprout, but you wouldn’t know it from the polished, effortless cooking. Or maybe you would. Perhaps food this joyous, this focused, this representative of earthly delight, could only come from a man who has emerged from a dark night of the soul. Sprout could not be more aptly named, and we are all the beneficiaries of those tender shoots. Speaking of which, the new spring menu should now be in place, so get thee to Lincoln Park, possums. Dale may have been robbed, but don’t rob yourselves of an extraordinary dining experience.


1417 West Fullerton Avenue

Chicago, IL 60614-2011

(773) 348-0706

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Sprout can also be found on Facebook and Twitter @SproutChi