Archive for December, 2009

Holidayzzzzz

Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas, and a….perfectly suitable Kwazaa to you and yours! Hungrypants is on a mini-vacation for a few days, but never fear. When I return, I shall have the first interview EVER in the HISTORY OF THE BLOG, and I’m very excited about it

So, sit tight, stuff your faces, and join me next week when I interview Jeff Cooper, sous chef at Branch 27.

Cheers!

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Thieves, all of you.

Yes, I’m looking at you, Padma. And you too, Tom. Wipe that smug smirk off your goddamn face. You found it appropriate to award Michael Voltaggio the honor of Top Chef. For the second year in a row, you guys have wrenched the possibility of celebrity chefdom from the most deserving contestant and granted this (somewhat dubious) honor to a complete and utter douchebag. I’m thisclose to boycotting the both a yas!

Needless to say, I was excruciatingly disappointed that cherubic Kevin (and his vunderbeard) was unceremoniously shuffled off to pack his knives and cry into his mother’s bosom. It seems to me that the whole point of having a season-length competition is to take into account each chef’s past successes and failures and judge the final dish based on, yes, the dish’s quality, but also whether or not the chef has been a strong contender the whole way through. HOWEVER. Kevin was consistent and strong in the kitchen, and won five elimination challenges and clearly was the darling of the fans. So how did weaselly little Voltaggio muscle his way in as the victor? I don’t remember a single dish Michael cooked over the entire season. Not one. And I can recall at least three of Kevin’s.

The final episode’s challenge was your average “cook what you want” rigamarole, with a few twists thrown in here and there in typical Top Chef fashion. For some reason the producers thought it might be cute and heartstring pull-y to bring the top three’s mothers on for the final challenge, but in reality it just made Bryan, Michael, and Kevin look like overgrown children as their mothers buttoned their chef coats, straightened their cuffs, and all but licked their fingers to wipe the shmutz off their sons’ faces. It was awkward, and it kinda felt like that episode of Real Housewives of the OC where Vicky shows up at her son’s college the day of a big football game and you can tell all the son wants to do is get shitfaced and bong beers in the kitchen but now he can’t because his mom crashed the party with a sixer of Raspberry Smirnoff Ices and wants him to hug her repeatedly. But I digress.

I’m beginning to think there’s some sort of pork belly curse on this show, as I recall a few seasons back when a more deserving chef cooked pork belly as his final dish, but lost out to someone else who had gone a safer route and made chicken or something. This season, the judges turned up their noses at Kevin’s pork belly; deeming it undercooked and poorly presented, and proclaimed that his mushroom side dish was “gimmicky.”  Michael’s dishes won out in the end, and I will admit that he knows his way around a kitchen. But something about him just gives me the heebie jeebies, and he gives off this weird air of being shy but a total dick at the same time. And you know Bryan’s Simpson character-lookin ass is just seething with envy that his baby brother won out and therefore probably got a bigger hug from mommy.

Congratulations, Voltaggio. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: use some of that $125k to fix your snaggly-ass teeth, then fade into obscurity like the rest of the Top Chef winners.

So! J., where should I take you for dinner?

Oh. Em. Gee.

I’ve been sitting here, writing and deleting and re-writing clever and witty opening sentences, trying to set the tone for this story I’m about to share. But I can’t really find the words to convey the strangeness of what happened to the FDL last night at Frontera Grill so just bear with me.

We’d had this reservation since the beginning of October. The wait to eat dinner at Frontera was two and a half months, and due to the craziness surrounding everyone’s Thanksgiving plans, we had to reschedule our 9th FDL outing for Thursday the 3rd instead of the traditional Tuesday dinner. We arrive, we get seated, we order our dishes. I’m sitting with my back to the door and I’m talking across the table to M., when she looks at something over my shoulder and says “Oh. My. God.” A. looks up and has the same reaction, as does J. They’re all staring over my shoulder at someone or someTHING behind me. I turn, ever so slowly, to catch a glimpse of whatever it was that had the whole table in such a tizzy. All I needed was a quick peek and I turn back around, stunned. It’s BRIAN CAMPBELL. AGAIN. Brian Campbell—the Chicago Blackhawks player we saw previously at Table 52—was once again an accidental guest of an FDL dinner. What are the odds! we kept asking each other, shaking our heads in disbelief. And truly, the odds of this happening twice are very very slim. We frantically sent exclamation point-laden texts to friends and significant others, filling them in on the Twilight Zone situation we had found ourselves in.

We thought about, once again, storming his table and asking for another picture, but he was in the company of a cute brunette so we satisfied ourselves by taking blurry camera photos instead. “Here, pretend you’re taking a picture of me and A.!” I said, handing my phone to J. A. and I leaned in, making sure to look nonchalant. “Ok, but I have to take a real picture first because his girl is hip to the game,” J. replied, leaning back and angling the camera towards their table. So, I give you doubtful readers proof that we did in fact, once again, dine in the company of one Brian Campbell:

Crazy, huh? I know. Anyway. Frontera was surprisingly laid back, but the food was outstanding. Flavorful and authentic without being overbearing, our dishes ran the gamut from traditional carne asada to Gulf shrimp tossed with a spicy green chimichurri sauce. We all agreed that M.’s dish was by far the best, and some of us even went so far as to declare Frontera the best outing yet.

In other news, I had the privilege of dining at Blackbird a few weeks ago, as a birthday present from my mom. They didn’t allow cell phones in the dining room (a rule which I found slightly unrealistic, affected, and kinda pretentious) so I couldn’t snap any good pictures, but I will say it was all very impressive. The service was finely tuned and unoppressive, and after finishing my three courses, I understood why the walls of the hallway leading the bathroom were plastered, floor to ceiling, with James Beard awards.

Oh yeah, and FUCKING ROBIN finally got the boot from Top Chef. The finale airs tomorrow, so keep your little fingies crossed that Kevin knocks it out of the park. I have faith in the power of that man’s incredible beard.