A few weeks ago I was invited by a co-worker to cheer her and another colleague on in a Top Chef competition being put on by Shaw and the Food Network. In my mind I pictured something laid back with specific direction on what dishes to cook.
I was disabused of that notion once I saw the instructions – this was going to be a real deal Top Chef competition. Each team got a list of available pantry items and the two proteins they would need to create a dish from ahead of time. There was the need to strategize and think ahead, including what secret ingredient each team member would bring from home.
The cooking space was tight, even for someone who has cooked in a NYC kitchen so small my fridge was underneath the kitchen counter, and these guys did a much better job than any Top Chef contestant I have seen weaving in and out to get pantry items and hot pans from the oven.
That’s not to say there weren’t some curve balls thrown – with only a convection oven some well thought out dishes either needed to be reworked or in the case of our team improvised. And just like the real deal sometimes directions weren’t followed exactly and points were docked.
Now, just to be clear those of us who came to support our co-workers were keeping busy and not just on the sidelines watching the action. It was our duty to do some wine and beer tasting and see how they paired with the different hors d’oeuvres. I certainly wasn’t going to let my colleagues down and have them be the only ones doing the heavy lifting.
It was time for Judges’ Table. Given how much we talk about food at work and with partner agencies I was not suprised at the creativity and quality of dishes that came out of the kitchen. Led by Mark McEwan, the judges went team by team to taste the dishes and give feedback. Everyone stopped to pay attention – anything to get an edge for next year’s competition.
Although our team wasn’t in the top three, they did come up with some fabulous dishes and we’re scheduling regular status meetings to talk approach for next year.
Thank you Shaw and the Food Network for a fabulous night!
I have almost stopped using my fork entirely. There are a few exceptions like steak which should always be stabbed with a sharp utensil. But this summer I have been using a spoon to eat a lot of meals in order to relish the mixed flavors and scoop up the juice of each dish.
Tonight I sauteed some tomatoes, shrimp and basil in salt and olive oil (no leftovers!) and it created a sweet and savory suace. A few weeks ago it was Chicken with Apple, Onion and Cider Sauce – thank you Food Network’s “Great Easy Meals” cookbook. Using a spoon makes me eat slower and think about the different flavors I am putting in my mouth and truly enjoy the meal I created instead of just piling food on a fork and shoveling it in my stomach.
A caveat to keep the French side of my family from getting upset – I love to use a fresh baguette to sop up the au jus as much (if not a thousand times more) than the next gal. But in addition to a love of food and wine they gave me my mother’s thighs so baguette is a special occasion.
Every so often the same article gets published by a by some magazine or on a dating site – great places to meet people just doing your regular errands. The dog park (I have no dog), your morning coffee place (I don’t drink the stuff), Duane Reade (not with a box of Tampax in my hand), Home Depot (I call my super to change a light bulb), Barnes & Noble (they all closed). They also include the grocery store on that list. A place I happen to frequent on a regular basis, yet I have never even made eye contact while perusing the spice rack.
Tonight I realized my problem – it’s the iPod. While it’s awesome walking around with a permanent soundtrack to my life and very useful for creating an audio barrier between me and the crazy guy on the subway, it completely hinders any possibility of starting a conversation at the antipasti bar. And it’s my own damn fault because I have it cranked and I’m zoned out and only take out the ear buds to give my order to the butcher and pay. Even if I felt the need to keep the iPod on while shopping, there’s time while standing in the express line (non-express if for couples and families, not an opportunity area).
So sorry cute preppy guy that smiled at me when I almost ran you over, had I not had The Police blaring through my ear buds you could have shared the Chicken with Onion, Apple and Cider Sauce and Roasted Rutabagas (both from Great Easy Meals) that I made*. Instead you went home with a pre-made meal in a cardboard box, and I have to do the dishes myself.
*This meal sounds heavy for 90° weather but it’s not, especially with a chilled glass of white wine. Great Easy Meals is Food Network Magazine’s cookbook from Hyperion and most (if not all, I didn’t check every single page) recipes serve four. Although these are leftovers that I am looking forward to eating later this week.