Everybody Hates Robin  »

[Note: I have been cross-posting my Top Chef recaps with my blog, BravoFan. So now you get to read these amazing masterpieces twice!]

On last night’s Top Chef, every one wore red scarves in honor of Mattin’s departure. I hope those were clean before he gave them away to everyone. Or was he like: “Here’s a parting gift, guys! My sweaty scarves! Au revoir!” The quickfire challenge was to make food that represented their “devil” side and their “angel” side.

All of the chefs essentially made non-fatty food and fatty food. Robin, the little cancer patient that could, ended up winning the challenge and winning immunity. All the other cheftestants were visibly annoyed, including Eli, who said it was her cancer story that made Michelle Bernstein pick her as the winner. I was annoyed. We were all annoyed. But hey, apple crisp is an easy way into anyone’s heart. And a sad story about cancer.

Penn & Teller then showed up as the episode’s celebrity guests. This makes me wonder, why wasn’t Carrot Top, who also has a long-standing show in Las Vegas, not invited as a celebrity judge? He gets no respect and he works so hard, you guys! There is no justice in this world. The challenge was to deconstruct a set of classic dishes, each assigned via knife. Cue all contestants complaining that this is “not the food they do.” Great, but not the point, chefs!

Mike Isabella didn’t know what eggs Florentine were; this isn’t surprising, they don’t serve that at Denny’s or IHOP. Ron totally struggled with his paella. I knew he was a goner when he said that they serve paella at his restaurant and he would know what to do, especially when it was apparent that he had no idea how to handle the assignment. Robin, with her handy little immunity, made a completely disgusting sounding “clam flan.” No one seems to like her presence in the kitchen and her habit of narrating everything she’s doing.

Toby Young returned to judges table and was actually not that bad. They tried to make it seem like the contestants were scared of him by calling him a “food critic” but I think everyone knows what role Toby truly fulfills on the show. It’s not like he’s Frank Bruni or Michael Bauer or any of the big name food critics. I totally loved Michelle Bernstein correcting him that she pronounced paella the correct way because she’s Latina.

Kevin won the challenge with his deconstructed mole, which looks like it was such an awesome combination of flavors, including something called PUMPKIN ROMESCO, YOU GUYS. We love romesco sauce here and that just sounds fantastic. Ashley also redeemed herself with her deconstructed pot roast. Her fetish for purees is annoying me. No more baby food! On the bottom: Laurine , Ron and Ash. None of those people surprises me, Ash has been sucking lately (he didn’t even complete the quickfire) and Laurine just couldn’t handle the deconstructed fish & chips. It was sad to see Ron go, but I think his cooking style just doesn’t fit in with the competition.

Only one truly vegan-friendly dish this week: underdog Robin’s raw salad of apple and fennel. There was also Ron’s yucca and corn mash, but Bravo’s editors aren’t evolved enough yet to figure out that the side dish could be labeled vegetarian.

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Top Chef Goes Camping   »

I have no excuse for the Top Chef recap being this late this week, except perfection takes sweet time. Besides, don’t you need a fresh reminder for tomorrow’s episode? So much has happened in the past week. There was the Emmys on Sunday, which unless you are an obsessive pop culture aficioniado (or someone posessing an actual life, which I most certainly don’t have) you probably didn’t watch. Top Chef was up for two awards, both of which they lost to two programs that have been on for a really long time and proved that the Academy voters don’t actually watch reality tv.

Anyway, whatever, who even watches Survivor anymore?  Moving on to last week’s episode, they had another “high-stakes” quickfire, this time involving cactus. Every one was very confused, which was surprising in this crowd of supposed food experts. Any one who’s ever been to El Balazo on Haight knows that cactus, or nopales, are a standard of Mexican cuisine. So Mattin, San Francisco resident, should have known what to create. Jon Gosselin wannabe Mike Isabella won this challenge with his cactus and tuna ceviche.

Ceviche, or Sa-veeeech as Jen Carroll calls it, is the unofficial recipe of this gang, much like scallops were the fall-back last season. These fools love to sa-veech everything. Bryan and Michael also made sa-veeeches; Michael’s red cactus coulis was vegan and looked interesting, especially with the side of veggie chips. But I’ll eat anything in “chip” form. The most confusing was Ashley Merriman’s cactus jelly donuts, which seems like the kind of item that you would only order as a dare.

Speaking of Ashley, she sure did get the loser edit this time! Whenever they pull out that product placed phone and they mention some illness or event they are missing in exchange for C-list reality stardom, you know they are headed for elmination. Fortunately, Megan Allison’s future girlfriend remains in the running.

Instead, it was Mattin, wearer of scarves and liar about asparagus who got sent home. He made a “ceviche" that was basically a Costco party tray. Actually, a Costco party tray probably would have been a better idea. The challenge was to make food for ranchers on an open grill, why so many of them picked fish was beyond understanding. As pathetic as Mattin’s dish was, Robin should have been sent home. The minute I heard her say grilled romaine salad, I knew she was doomed. If she makes it past tomorrow’s episode, I’m expecting to watch the chefs stage a mutiny.

The winner of the episode was Bryan, who made a bunch of meat with some vegetables on the side. He’s one of the brothers who’s sibling rivalry storyline gets shoved down our throats. I want them to keep all siblings contained to the Amazing Race or Biggest Loser.

The vegetarian report on this episode is that there was no vegetarian food. Nothing, except for Mike’s cactus dish during the quickfire. The rest is meat, meat, and more meat. What veg dish would you have made for an open fire grill challenge?


Top Chef Loses Two  »

Paris, Las Vegas! Just like the real thing!I tuned into this week’s Top Chef a little late, so I was delighted to find that Jessie had been put out of her misery and finally been eliminated after essentially living in the bottom three. Good riddance to those tacky face piercings.

The elimination challenge itself was to cook for and fellate Joël Robuchon. The latter may not have been an official part of the challenge, but it sure felt like it with the chefs freaking out in way that would make Rachel “I DIEEEEEE” Zoe proud. Kevin Gillespie, Season 6’s winner, er I mean, the James Beard award-winning front-runner who won this episode’s quickfire, was allowed to sit at the grownups table to taste his competitor’s wares. He wisely didn’t say much during the meal.

As you could probably guess, this episode had very little in the way of herbivore-friendly food. The Quickfire was all dead snails and the elimination challenge was a veritable meat orgy, which included foie gras and rabbit. Episodes like this always make me wonder how a vegan chef would fare if they had to compete amongst all that. Could a Top Chef contestant just refuse to use meat?

Anyway, there were a few things that could work, with a bit of tweaking, naturally: Robin’s avocado soup was one, minus the crab. Or maybe you could use fake crab from a Chinese fake meat emporium? Your best bet would be Mattin’s fava bean crostini from the quickfire, minus the snails. The recipe calls for Pernod, so then you can drink! Or, I can drink it.

Sadly, Hector, who created the tofu ceviche a few weeks back was sent home for a disastrous steak dish. I was kind of annoyed that Mattin wasn’t sent home, especially when he flat-out lied at judge’s table about Ashley wanting to use asparagus in the sauce. Also, Mattin’s specialty is Basque cooking, not French. His prattling on about how he was going to do so much better because he was from France was obnoxious and in the end, he couldn’t even deliver on a classic French dish.

Next week: Las Vegas is hot! Tom throws out food! Jen Caroll continues to freak me out!

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Bethenny Frankel Gets Naked for PETA  »

AHHH MY EYES!!!!!Bethenny Frankel, who you probably don’t know unless you spend your life tracking the lives of reality stars and then making pithy comments about it, has just become the latest woman to go naked for PETA. Bethenny is best known for being on the cast of Real Housewives of New York City, but her “real job” is as a natural foods chef and diet pimp.

She’s launching a line vomitously called “Skinnygirl.” In addition to the SkinnyGirl cocktails (substitute anything sugary with club soda and you get the gist), she’s also selling vegan cookies for a whopping $25 a package.

If the thought of spending that much makes you sick, here is a recipe for her vegan chocolate chip muffins, which she insists are Susan Sarandon’s favorites:

What you need:
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
3/4 cup oat flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup semisweet vegan choc chips
1 dash cinnamon

What you do:
Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit and use nonstick spray on regular sized nonstick muffin tin.

Using a 3 oz. ice cream scoop, evenly scoop into muffin tins and bake for 20 to 60 minutes, rotating the tin halfway through. Place toothpick in center. When toothpick comes out clean, muffins are done. Allow to fully cool, then pop out with a spoon.

Makes 8 muffins.


Vegetarian Option Leads to Downfall on This Week’s Top Chef  »

Someone get Jeremy Fox or the entire crew of Millennium up in this piece because this week’s veg options on Top Chef were SAD. Okay, not entirely, but the losing dish happened to be vegan and was created solely for the possibility of herbivores, which is nice, but at least make it interesting. We all know it is possible. We all know veg options can do so much better than (wait for it)…pasta salad.

Yes, pasta salad. Any teenage vegetarian knows the pain of going to a family function, watching everyone around you feast on hamburgers and hot dogs while you are relegated to this sad bowl of wet pasta with some canned artichokes thrown in. And that is when you vow to learn to cook. Or bring veggie burgers next time.

But, I digress. The pasta salad was a disaster. I don’t even want to link you to the recipe because I’m pretty sure everyone here knows how to boil water and open cans of food. Granted, the kitchen this week was military-style and limited, but in an upscale cooking competition where your competitors are coming up with things like bread pudding, three-bean chili, and chowder in that same kitchen, with the same limitations, it’s time to step up your game.

Sadly, the contestant that went home last week was also a San Francisco chef, which was a double-burn! And she worked at GOOGLE. So embarrassing on so many levels.

Other non-meaty dishes cooked this week included Laurine Wickett’s potato burger on portobello mushroom bun with fingerling chips. She made this for the Quickfire and I would eat about a million of all these things. This dish was almost vegan, except for heavy cream and an egg used to make the burgers. Easy to vegan-ize, right?! Jesse Sandlin’s sweet potato soup was another almost-vegan, just replace the heavy cream and go easy on the cayenne pepper (judges said it was too spicy). Finally, eliminated cheftetant Preeti made a vegetarian dish for the Quickfire: Russian banana fingerling potatoes with asparagus and tomatoes. Sub the butter with Earth Balance and you’re good to go!

What did you all think of last night’s episode?


Friday link-o-rama: Tomato cocktails, Michael Pollan has a sad, “dangerous” foods & more!   »

Top Chef's Richard Blais, who owns a fancy burger joint in Atlanta that'll likely horrify you with its menu, is looking for partners in a new vegetarian eatery. This follows a monthlong experiment in veganism.

Zooey Deschanel is vegan-ing up Top Chef Masters next week. Yes we talk a lot about Top Chef around here, but if they’re going to put veganism on TV, we’re going to tell you about it.

However, grumparella Michael Pollan thinks “food shows” are detrimental to Our Nation’s cultural heritage—if we’re all watching people mix up soup from cans and pre-cut vegetables, then how will we ever loose our own culinary imaginations? Perhaps a valid point, but then he goes on to criticize first-wave feminism for “thoughtlessly trampl[ing]” the notion that a lady can find satisfaction in her food work “in their rush to get women out of the kitchen,” which is just the most privileged-white-dude thing to say he might as well be crying over the Stars and Bars. Shut up, Michael Pollan.

Oh my god, a job: Santa Rosa needs an operations manager for a “new vegetarian fast-food franchise business.” Go on, “qualified” hopefuls, send an application already. DO IT.

Elle magazine is killing me with its “10 Most Dangerous Foods" list. Smartly, milk and beef are on it, but so are tomatoes, bagged spinach, alfalfa sprouts, cantaloupe, and "nuts" (illustrated with a photo of peanuts!). What these non-animal devil foods share is that they’ve all made people sick with salmonella and/or e. coli contamination; what Elle fails to mention is how produce comes to be contaminated with bacteria that can only come from inside animals.

You can get heirloom tomato cocktails at Range! Including the famous (and vegan!) Sungold Zinger, with Sungold cherry tomatoes, No. 209 gin, lemon, agave syrup, and salt. If you are a tomato-lover, you should probably try this; it sounds like the perfect summery respite from your bland-ola bloody mary.

According to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, after reviewing 50 years’ worth of scientific papers, “there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.” The full results were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, but having read what’s available I do not fully understand the conclusion.

Seoul on Wheels, the Korean food truck, returns to the streets in August! The menu has just one definite veg item, though possibly the chap chae, and—I hope and pray—perhaps the kimchee could be veg as well. My first solid food was Korean and I would do terrible things for some vegan Korean that went beyond bibimbap.


Lamb Cam, Vegan Spam, Penguin Divorce: it’s the Friday link-o-rama!  »

Lamb Cam blog, a.k.a., the Martha’s Vineyard/Hudson Valley Fiber Farm blog. This is a family farm that raises goats and sheep for their fleece, exclusively: they never sell any of their animals for meat! The work of shepherding, from the birth of a lamb to its shearing, and then from the newly sheared wool to the dyed and spun yarn, is documented in detail on the blog—there are no more mysteries.Still, the best part is all the pictures (and videos) of the lambs and kids adorabling it up, knowing they will never be anyone’s supper.

vegan spam: Why hasn’t anyone made this for me yet?!

Maybe you’re all too smart to watch NYC Prep, but some of us have to, and you may be interested to know that one of the characters is a vegan! She goes on a date with some asshole to a French restaurant where all she can order is a green salad (without dressing! Though that may be partly due to her being a teenage girl). In another episode, she goes to vegetarian/mostly vegan restaurant Zen Palate with a competing suitor. Who do you think she should go for?

At the Bitten blog, Emily Weinstein asks readers for their best squash recipes, specifically the ones with lots of delicious fats in them. Vegansaurus loves fats!

To support the community and its revenues during the recession, Cafe Gratitude has started asking customers to name their own prices. For certain dishes, at least, like I Am Grateful. While the menu price is $7, they report that the “average price” paid is $3.50. Cafe Gratitude at 50 percent off? You know who is grateful? Thepoors. Yes, please.
[link from Eater SF]

Tragedy! The introduction of lady penguin from San Diego has apparently broken up the gentlemen penguin couple at the Central Park Zoo in New York. While Vegansaurus does not support zoos, the idea that yesterday “Roy, all alone, sat disconsolately at the edge of the penguin area, staring at the wall,” is so fucking sad. Who will raise the baby?

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