Sandra Lee’s Fake Tan

IMG_6625

This is not an April Fool’s Joke. The other day I was at my friends’ Jim and Jess’s place and Jess was like, “Oh my God, you guys have to see this.” She loaded up an episode of Sandra Lee’s new show (the one where she recreates fancy restaurant dishes at home, if you consider a $69 hot dog from Serendipity a fancy restaurant dish) and froze the screen on the shot you see above. What became immediately clear is that Sandra Lee either has the same DNA as a black-and-white cookie or the fake tan she paid for earlier that day had only been applied to the backs of her arms and hands. When she turned her arms the other way they were stark white. The lesson here is obvious: if you fake tan before you cook (and who doesn’t?) be sure they spray you on all sides.

In Praise of Chopped

With The Taste launching on ABC and Top Chef enjoying its 74th season, I’d like to offer up a radical idea: the best cooking competition show on TV is Chopped.

These other cooking shows, with their high-stakes drama and interpersonal conflicts, are 30% cooking, 70% fluff. Chopped is 90% cooking, 10% fluff. Iron Chef comes the closest to that ratio, but Iron Chef insists on a level of theatrics (see: The Chairman) that detracts from the show’s authenticity. Chopped has a format that couldn’t be more straightforward. Round one: four contestants make an appetizer from a mystery basket, one is eliminated. Round two: the remaining three make an entree from a mystery basket, one is eliminated. In the final round, the remaining two duke it out over dessert.

Continue Reading

Lentils with Bacon

IMG_1.JPG

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really like Anne Burrell’s show on Food Network. I Tivo it and watch it each week, and more than other current Food Network show it inspires me to cook. I’ve made her deviled eggs, I’ve made her chicken liver mousse (which didn’t come out too well, so I don’t think I posted about it) and–this weekend–after seeing her serve grilled salmon on a bed of stewed lentils, I decided to get off my couch and recreate the picture on the screen (minus the salmon). The best part is I didn’t even have to go food shopping to do it.

Continue Reading

Food Tech #4

Doesn’t he look a little familiar? And why does he smell so much like wood?

[Ok, I’ll explain: when I hosted The FN Dish, I interviewed Ted Allen on the set of his show “Food Detectives.” They asked if I wanted to be a “food tech” and there I am! Not sure if this clip is online legitimately, so watch it before it’s taken down.]

More on Bourdain

To answer some of your questions:

– We were at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival (see here) and, as stated in that post, we were on our last day of shooting, at the Mario Batali Jamie Oliver dinner at Danny Devito’s restaurant. My director and I, exhausted from all the interviews we’d done, decided we’d just enjoy this dinner and not make it a “work” event. But then, at the end of the meal, I said: “Let’s just go into the kitchen to make sure we’re not missing anyone” and so he obliged, pushing through the throngs of people (it was a madhouse in there) and once in the kitchen, who should we find but Mario, Jamie, Giada DiLaurentis, Dave Pasternack and, of course, Sir Anthony Bourdain. Earlier on the trip, I’d reached out to Bourdain for an interview and he’d kindly refused and so, respecting that, I kept him out of things when we shot this video with Mario and Jamie. After that, I said to him: “See, I respected your desire not to do this show” and he said, “I appreciate that.” It was my director Matthew, though, who said: “Just so you know, we wanted you to come on our show and bash the Food Network… we wanted you to say whatever it is you had to say.” At that Bourdain smiled and said, “All right, let’s go” putting his arm around me and assenting to the interview you saw linked to in the post below.

– As for the bleeped bits, I’m happy to share (and this is from the extended video, which you should watch to see the whole thing in its entirety):

* on Next Food Network star: “it’s sort of like watching German anal porn, I can’t turn away… it’s horrifying, but I’m learning something about Germany while I’m watching it.”

* on Sandra Lee: “She should be taken to Guantanamo and waterboarded.”

* any final words: “Watch Travel Channel…it’s so much better than Food Network.”

[The bleeping makes it seem worse than it is–well except for that Guantanamo bit–but those were the parts the higher-ups took exception to.]

As for my own take on Food Network (in case you’re interested), I think it’s important to keep things in perspective. I’m a perfect example of someone who knew nothing about food, who grew up eating processed foods–jarred tomato sauces, TGI Friday’s dinners, frozen pizzas–who only thought to care about cooking as Food Network became popular. Really, it was a confluence of being a miserable law student and finding Food Network shows calming and comforting. True, the shows that won me over were shows that Bourdain would champion–Mario’s and Sarah Moulton’s–but what those shows were, really, were gateways into the food world. It’s not like anyone watching endless cycles of Food TV will suddenly become cultured and cultivated–even watching Bourdain’s show, you won’t suddenly become worldly and wise–it’s just an impetus to go out and learn more. The only real way to learn how to cook is to start cooking. That’s it. Standing in your kitchen, burning your roast beef and scorching your sauce, you are acquiring more knowledge than a year’s worth of even the greatest cooking shows can provide. The key is to get people cooking. Does Food Network do that? Yes, I’m pretty sure it does. And when some of those people who make Rachael Ray 30 minute meals start to say, “You know what? This is getting boring. I want to make something more complex and rewarding, something intricate and historical and important that takes more than 30 minutes” they can crack open Julia Child and make a cassoulet (as I did here). Thought of as a gateway to bigger and better things, Food Network is fine. And sometimes, as Bourdain points out, it’s better than fine: Barefoot Contessa recipes are often the best of their kind and I think Ace of Cakes, Iron Chef America, Good Eats, Nigella Bites, Next Food Network Star, and Tyler’s Ultimate are all excellent shows. Those are my two cents, take them as you will.

Ninth Street Espresso

IMG_1.JPG

One of the best things about working at Food Network, which is located in the Chelsea Market, is that the elevators that get you up there are directly across from one of the best coffee bars in the city. That coffee bar is Ninth Street Espresso which many of my barista friends (including those that work at my favorite coffee shop, Joe) speak of with such great reverence there’s often a coffee glow in their cheeks.

Ninth Street Espresso takes its coffee seriously, as evidenced by its menu which does not allow for sticky, gloppy, blended coffee drinks but, instead, sticks to the classics: espresso, cappuccino, latte. They only come in one size, so no “super grande iced mocha latte with a twist of vanilla”–this is coffee as philosophy, as a spiritual exercise. And, correspondingly, patrons of Ninth Street Espresso gather around the bar like worshippers at temple: there’s a calmness in the air, a peacefulness and community cheer that’s unusual in this fast-paced city. It doesn’t hurt that the drinks are outstanding.

IMG_2.JPG

The cappuccino, as shown here, is an artful marriage of frothy milk and deep, dark espresso. Normally, I put a packet of sugar in my cappuccino but the balance is so right-on here that such an act would be criminal. It’s as if a cloud floated down to earth and landed in your cup–if you let go, the whole thing might float away.

Working at Food Network has been a very happy experience thus far, but Ninth Street has made it that much happier. If you plan to judge Iron Chef or guest on 30 Minute Meals any time soon, don’t miss Ninth Street on your way up. It’ll make your day.

The FN Dish Goes to Miami (The South Beach Wine & Food Festival)

At the end of the weekend and our trip to The South Beach Wine & Food Festival, my director, Matthew Horovitz, turned to me and said, “You’ve met everyone now. There’s no one left to meet!”

Watch the following video–the 2nd official episode of “The FN Dish”–and tell me if you disagree.

If that video left you dazzled and discombobulated, allow me to walk you through everything you just saw: a day-by-day breakdown of the festival with some big surprises thrown in too.

Continue Reading

Off To South Beach

What a chore this Food Network job is turning out to be… now I have to leave this 26 degree New York weather for the tropical beaches of Miami and a forecast of 83 degrees. Could life get any harder? Feel free to hate me. Full reports and videos on Monday! Until then, have a great rest of your week.