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Posts Tagged ‘Man v. Food’

Last night was the season finale of Top Chef: Las Vegas. It was sad to see Jenn go last week, but I’m glad she made it to the final 4. The final 3 contestants– Kevin and Bryan and Michael Voltaggio– battled for the title of Top Chef. When presenting their dishes to the judges, each of the finalists had successful and faulty dishes. At the Judges Table, I honestly couldn’t figure out who would be pronounced Top Chef! For me, it was a complete tossup. Kevin, Bryan, and Michael have been the most consistent all season. They all deserved to be in the finals, and they are all great chefs. I particularly enjoyed the fact that each of them portray very different styles in their cuisine. Kevin: Flavorful simplicity. Bryan: Combining traditional and modern styles. Michael: Fearless innovation.

Kevin was eliminated first. Thus, like we suspected from the beginning, it was a battle between the Voltaggio brothers. The brothers have continuously proven their culinary proficiency by creating and successfully executing dishes with greater difficulty than any of the other contestants in the competition. So, though we may have foreseen this brotherly battle, which Voltaggio would take it all? The comments from the judges made it seem like Bryan had it; his venison dish and dessert were on point. Instead, to my personal astonishment, Padma proclaimed Michael Voltaggio as Top Chef. Yes, Michael Voltaggio one-upped his big brother with his passionate love for food, creativity, and his unwavering ability to take risks.

My reaction was: I can’t believe Michael won! I thought, sure enough, Kevin and Bryan both had a better chance than Michael. Then, once it came down to the brothers, I was still thinking Bryan.. Bryan.. It’s definitely Bryan. I was disappointed when I heard “Michael, you are Top Chef.” WHAT??!?! But after sleeping on it, I stopped being so bitter and started to understand why the judges chose Michael.

Both Bryan and Michael are very detail-oriented chefs with a great amount of skill and technique. However, Michael is willing to try something unique with the risk of failing. He doesn’t ever play it safe, and that’s the main reason why I believe he ended up winning the competition. The difference between a good chef and a great chef is the passion to create.. To do more than just produce tasty food.. To tell a story on the plate. When I think back to the previous challenges, Michael has always intrigued the judges in that sense. His odd pairings would always progressively come together with each bite. That. Is. Amazing.

Also last night, on Man v. Food, Adam Richman found himself in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He took on the Fat Sandwich Challenge at the R.U. Hungry Grease Truck. But before his challenge, Adam uncovered some massively delicious looking sandwiches at Harold’s Deli and Stuff Yer Face. Since the episode last night, I couldn’t stop thinking about the stromboli from Stuff Yer Face. I wanted one so badly, but NJ is so far away… Like over 3000 miles far. So, as I was up all night suffering from a serious stromboli craving, I came up with this idea to create my own stromboli! Oh, what I will do for food..

I have a tendency to make everything so much harder for myself in the kitchen. Though I could have bought a pre-made pizza dough at the grocery store, it wouldn’t have been as exciting to see the final stromboli product. My favorite part about cooking is the challenge– tackling recipes from all walks of food without really knowing how it will turn out. I want to know I can make anything! And since I started this blog– the encouragement I needed to expand from my normal repertoire– I’m slowly finding that I can.

I’ve only made pizza dough one other time and I don’t remember the recipe being that great. So, I looked for a new one that would be right for my stromboli. First, I look at the ingredients (to see if I have them all) and scan the directions. If it looks doable, I skim through comments or reviews about the recipe. Usually, I don’t risk using a recipe without any reviews.. that can’t be a good sign. Eventually, I came across Jay’s Signature Pizza Crust featured on AllRecipes. Very good ratings from almost 2,000 people. Sold. I began my mission with the dough.

Jay’s Signature Pizza Crust

INGREDIENTS

2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1-1/2 cups warm water (110 degreesF)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the water, and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Stir the salt and the oil into the yeast solution. Mix in 2-1/2 cups of the flour.

3. Turn dough out onto a clean, well floured surface, and knead in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise until double; this should take about 1 hour. Punch down the dough, and form a tight ball. Allow the dough to relax for a minute before rolling out. Use for your favorite pizza recipe.

4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. If you are baking the dough on a pizza stone, you may place your toppings on the dough, and bake immediately. If yu are baking your pizza in a pan, lightly oil the pan, and let the dough rise for 15-20 minutes before topping and baking it.

5. Bake pizza in preheated oven, until the cheese and crust are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Without a bread machine or even a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, my dough turned out wonderful! I tried to use only enough flour. So although in the INGREDIENTS section it says 3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour, this is just an estimate. If you read the directions, you start out with only 2-1/2 cups. From there, I kept the remaining flour nearby but gradually worked just enough flour into the dough. I didn’t end up using it all even after using some to flour my surface.

While my dough was rising for about an hour, I had time to make my filling. That’s the best part about making a stromboli; you can stuff it with whatever you want! I decided to go big.. spicy sausage, pepperoni slices, sauteed green pepper and onions, sliced tomato, and mozzarella cheese! Mmmmm. For the spicy sausage, I just removed the casing from the links and cooked the meat up in a saucepan. Threw the green peppers and onions into another saucepan. Then, after everything was to my liking, I let the ingredients cool for a little bit. Putting the hot ingredients directing on my dough might damage it! I intended to make a pretty large stromboli (I was incredibly hungry for it!), so I cut out 1/3 of the dough and rolled out a pretty good length. I made sure to give it some width, because I knew I had a lot of ingredients to get in there! Just do not roll your dough too thin– there is a good chance it will break while you are trying to seal it up or it won’t be able to carry the weight of the filling.

The dough is very elastic, so I was able to seal it up with a few pinches! Instead of 425 degrees F, I set my oven to 45o. I turned over my stromboli (pinch side down) and plopped it on a lightly greased baking sheet (just a little cooking spray). To ensure that I would get a nice crisp exterior, I drizzled a little less than a teaspoon of olive oil into my palm and rubbed it over the stromboli– a light coat. Then, I sprinkled a little Italian seasoning and shredded parmesano reggiano on top. About 15-20 minutes later..

Sure, it looks like just a piece of bread with a very nice golden crust.. But when you cut it open..

There are no words. It was heaven on a platter. This is the only way to eat a stromboli.. hot from the oven with everything oozing together! LOVE IT.. making more more more!

Thank you, Adam Richman.. After watching you eat that stromboli in last night’s episode, I got inspired (and hungry) and accomplished this homemade feat.

nom nom nom.

B

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Earlier this evening, I realized that tonight’s Man v. Food episode would be back in Brooklyn– home to Travel Channel’s food icon, Adam Richman. Immediately, I thought of Akeem. He is from BROOOOKLYNNN after all. Since his Blackberry is always on his hip, he got the alert just in time to watch the episode. Catching the premiere of the new episode can be somewhat challenging as Wednesday night is a busy night for excellent television programming. Man v. Food was competing with Nip/Tuck and the Cavs/Magic NBA game for Akeem. However, my Wednesday night lineup is pretty solid. Luckily for me, Direct TV allows me to watch most of my channels on EST. So, knowing that Top Chef Las Vegas and Man v. Food will replay a few times in the same night, I’m never worried about missing either. Most times, I’m able to catch the episodes twice because they replay around the same time my dad gets home from work. Between 7pm-10pm, I’m devoted to Top Chef, Man v. Food, and Glee. Food and humor. Great combination. What’s not to love about Wednesdays?

Once Glee was over, I realized that Man v. Food has gained another loving viewer: Akeem. I’m not sure if it’s his likable personality or being able to watch someone devour (and painfully stuff himself with) mouthwatering food from all around the country, but Adam Richman is making television history. Somehow, it’s just too difficult to look away. Akeem faced the same obstacle tonight. In my opinion, Adam Richman has the greatest job. He’s living the life. I might just say, an inspiration. Maybe.. yes, I will say it.. hero. In Brooklyn tonight, in the battle of Man v. Food in the Suicide 6 Wings Challenge Rematch, Man won.

Today, November 12, also marks a day of celebration in regards to the outcome of tonight’s Top Chef episode. Goodbye, Robin. Finally. So, Jenn is the only female left in the competition. Although, now that Robin is out, I can finally say that the remaining contestants are the best candidates for Top Chef. I’m actually very surprised that Robin made it this far! What has she made other than that same dessert?!? The apple cobbler turned pear cobbler. Over it. Everything else she makes fails!

Some may think that it’s going to be a battle between the Voltaggio brothers in the end. I beg to differ. I feel like the ongoing battle between the brothers in the kitchen will eventually cause them to lose focus. They seem too confident that they will be the final two competitors. It may happen and that would be entertaining television. But still.. the other three are just as qualified.

Kevin has been consistent since the beginning and has won a number of the Quickfire and Elimination Challenges. Jenn has been diverging onto a slippery slope, which is very sad to watch. However, Jenn has proven that she is capable of making great food. I’m rooting for her to get out of this 3-week rut! I want her to make it to the Top 3! And Eli, I’m still not quite sure how I feel about his chances as Top Chef. He obviously has a lot of talent and has performed well in some of the challenges. Tonight’s episode was a big upset from him, though. His Quickfire dish was very creative but then made that ugly mush-in-a-cup in the Elimination Challenge! Terrible. Going from best to one of the worst in one episode, in less than a day, is not a good look at this point in the competition! Jenn’s beef may have been too tough and “boring” but at least it wasn’t mush..

Oh, the life of a foodie– living vicariously through the Man and the Chefs on-screen. But I completely understand why food programming is gaining so much popularity. Whether we like watching someone eat or cook, there is something about food that is so fascinating… entertaining. Food truly does bring people together. Akeem agrees.

So, Congratulations, food– for bowing down to Adam and conquering Robin. Good day.

nom nom nom.

B

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After a week in Las Vegas, I am definitely in need of a major food detox. Las Vegas is home to oversized drinks, endless buffets, and a lot of really good eats. Beyond all the hype and sin of this city, there are a few memorable spots I wouldn’t mind revisiting in the future.

Frozen daiquiri at Paris. DRINK OF THE WEEK: Eiffel Tower (Paris).
One of my favorite drinks to get in Las Vegas is from Paris– a blender full of frozen strawberry daiquiri (pina colada also available) filling an “Eiffel Tower”. For $14.95, I would say it’s definitely worth getting at least once. Plus, walking around the strip with an oversized drink seems only appropriate on a hot day in Vegas.

The window for this drink is located next to the Le Village Buffet. My first experience with this frozen delight was last summer when I turned 21. I loved it then, and it was a refreshing memory sipping it again this summer.

WARNING: This drink can cause brain freeze. So sip responsibly!

BUFFET OF THE WEEK: Studio B (M Resort & Casino).
From my trips to Vegas, I’ve eaten at a buffet at pretty much every hotel & casino. Okay, may not that many, but I’ve had my fair share of food quest along The Strip. There are some pretty good deals for buffets like the $19.95 all-you-can-eat sushi at Ah Sin at Paris. But, this time around, I was really going for variety. This past week, I encountered not one, not two, but three dinner buffets. Yes, I said it. Three.

The best dinner buffet I’ve been to thus far is at Studio B at the M Resort & Casino. The M Resort & Casino, home to Top Chef: Las Vegas, is relatively new and located about 10 minutes (driving) from The Strip. Although, it seems somewhat out-of-the-way from the Las Vegas scene, it was nice to have a meal without getting caught up in the congestion of The Strip. When I first stepped inside the casino, I noticed a complimentary self-service beverage station– soda, water, and other non-alcoholic drinks. This was the first place I’ve ever seen that offers an amenity like this. It was wonderful! If you can believe it, some people will come and go just for a drink!

Studio B at the M Resort & Casino.

There are a few aspects I look for in a buffet: atmosphere, variety, and quality. Buffets always generate mass amounts of people trying to get their feet in the door. Studio B is no exception. However, surprisingly, the line diminished quickly with a only a short wait time. The atmosphere was perfect! The decor and the overall presentation of the buffet was very clean and enjoyable. It wasn’t difficult to grab food from any station and fresh food was constantly brought out. There was tons of variety, too. From Asian to Italian and comfort to light, there were definitely enough options to please any palette. I tasted a little bit of everything. The sushi was beyond the basic California Roll. The flat bread pizza was light and not greasy. The pastas were rich and flavorful. The salmon and prime rib were juicy and not dry. But there were two things I really enjoyed at this buffet that marked my ultimate satisfaction. Firstly, Studio B offers unlimited FREE drinks, including wine and beer on tap that can be retrieved from a station. The glasses are kept in a refrigerator until someone approaches the counter and is served. Secondly, the dessert bar was amazing! I have never been much of a dessert person, but I loved this dessert bar! Freshly made crepes, pies, soufflés that were already plated. Cookies and meringues. At least 20 flavors of gelato scooped to order in a cup or cone. And expresso, latte, and cappuccino also made to order!

As far as atmosphere, variety, and quality, Studio B did the best job at meeting my expectations. In the battle of Man v. Food at Studio B, food won that night as I left severely struggling to get back to the car.

MAN V. FOOD MOMENT OF THE WEEK: Nascar Cafe (Sahara).

Adam on the Wall of Shame.

Nascar Cafe Specials.

My Vegas trip wouldn’t have been complete without retracing the steps of my favorite food tv star, Adam Richman of Man v. Food. So, of course, I had to check out Nascar Cafe where Adam tackled the B3 Burrito. Once I got to Sahara, I noticed that Nascar Cafe is all about the specials. As represented by the signs, Nascar Cafe was offering a 180 oz. BREW TOWER. Only $20 for light beers like Miller Light and Bud Light. The prices increased with the quality of beer but not by too much. Or, for single drinkers, a 50 oz. football souvenir cup of beer choice starting at $9.

I approached Nascar Cafe and found a man dining in a small, roped-off area. He was looking sicker than ever and about halfway (possibly less) through the B3 burrito. Then minutes later, two guys from ESPN announced there would be a B3 burrito competition taking place. The two big guys entering the competition seemed to quickly outshine the failure sitting at his table for one.

The 6 lb. B3 burrito is only $19.95 if not for competition. But, honestly, it was way too much burrito for me to even consider at that moment. So, I evaluated the other choices on the menu. Burgers, sandwiches, sausages. And sides like curly fries, curly cheese fries, curly chili fries, curly chili cheese fries, chicken wings, boneless chicken wings– all priced by the 1/2 LB. or LB only!

2 x 4 Burger.

Eating my 2x4 burger!

mmm good.I decided on the featured 2-by-4 Burger, which came with a big helping of curly fries. I split the meal, knowing that I shouldn’t take a 1 lb. burger to the face– 1/2 a lb. made me feel a little less guilty. But wow, that first bite was absolutely delicious. I devoured that burger, loving every second I still had it in my hands. The mound of curly fries was so overwhelming and really did me over after the burger. Needless to say, I don’t think I could have finished it all alone.

Unfortunately, there were some other diners at Nascar Cafe who weren’t chowing down with as much liberty and pleasure. The competitors were up front and each attacking the B3 Burrito under a shorter, 40-minute time constraint while a number of people watched them stuff their faces.

men v. food

a B3 mess!

One of the guys grabbed the whole burrito by his hands and went for it. the fork and kniferThe other guy tried the fork and knife, slow and steady approach. Neither finished. Neither were half as close as Adam! The winner of the competition was determined simply by who had polished off the most of the B3. Competitor #1 on the left won. The lesson here is this: in food challenges table etiquette just doesn’t cut it. The more of a mess you make, the less you will have to actually eat and, thus, one step closer to victory. Kudos to anyone brave enough to attempt the 6 lb. B3 Burrito. I sure have thought about it.. maybe as a last hurrah before hating burritos forever. But really, I wouldn’t mind that free t-shirt for not finishing– even if it does say I’m a Certified Weenie.

Overall, Nascar Cafe had exactly what I was looking for that afternoon– good prices, hearty food portions and, unexpectedly, live entertainment! I wouldn’t mind going back. Thanks, Adam!

There is endless excitement, variety, and pleasure roaming Las Vegas. This city has so much to offer, it’s simply impossible to uncover everything in a single trip. But, I would mark this food mission as a success. I dined at the M where Top Chef: Las Vegas took place and Nascar Cafe featured in Man v. Food. Although the Top Chef season has already finished filming and I didn’t order the B3 like Adam, I am happy that my love for food television led me to some wonderful new experiences. And, with that said, next summer’s trip is already planned…

nom nom nom.

B

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I am an unpredictable eater, who has struggled with many intense Man v. Food moments. However, whether I am eating every last bite on my plate or surrendering way too early to a satisfied stomach, my love for food is unconditional. Inspired by the premises of the recently released film, Julie & Julia, I have decided to embark on my own personal food journey.

I like to eat. I like to cook. And I would consider myself to be a foodie– someone with a serious appreciation for food. No matter where I am, there is nothing better than enjoying a great meal. Dine-in, dine-out, take-out.. good food is good food. And if I am hungry, good food becomes great food by default.

For as long as I can remember, I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I pretty much baked my way through high school. Happy Monday cookies, Happy Wednesday brownies, Happy Friday cupcakes. Essentially, I found any excuse to bake. I liked to test out new recipes, hoping that the final product would turn out just as deliciously as it sounded on paper. They always did. And so, I went through this phase– finding some ease and relaxation in hand-mixing each element of the cookie batter or uniformly icing each cupcake.

As a college student, I diverged from my expertise in baked goods and tackled more savory munchies. I can thank George Foreman for his excellent grill. With only the basic model grill at my disposal, I somehow became the grill master of my dorm. My friends and floormates would stop by for hours at a time and, fortunately, took part in helping eat. Without any hesitation, they were the guinea pigs for whatever creations I would conjure up. Equipped with a grocery store down the street and an unlimited meal plan, I was able to gather up the ingredients I needed very easily. And so, it began. The ultimate barbecue cheeseburgers with the cheese strategically placed in the middle of the patty and finished off with some Sweet Baby Rays. Quesadillas with grilled barbecue steak/chicken, green and red peppers, and onions, and 2 kinds of cheese. Spicy sausages with grilled peppers and onions inside a bun. Most days, I would breathe in the smell of the grill–the smell of food–that filled my small dorm room but I never minded it. At the very least, I could say that I ate something really good.

Eventually, the Foreman’s time would be up, and that day came at the end of my sophomore year. However, my experience with that George Foreman grill, though only for a semester, led to many bigger and better meals. A few of my friends had houses, so every once in a while I would plan a dinner with them to catch up and test out some new creations, of course. With access to more than just a Foreman grill, I had the capacity to create 4 course meals.. and I did. Appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert. Especially after a tough exam week or a hangover lingering into the mid-afternoon, I would happily surrender my time to cook up a big meal. Baked brie. Mixed greens with feta, glazed walnuts, cranberries, and balsamic. Lasagna. Chicken Parm. etc, etc, etc. In 4 courses, I could still feel connected with my friends, while remembering that dorm food cannot compete with something home-cooked.

So, here I am now– curiously wondering when I will come across the next best thing I have ever eaten, and sometimes questioning whether I should have pursued a culinary arts education instead. You may not be seeing me as a contestant on Chopped or Top Chef anytime soon. However, I will be around– conquering the food world on my own terms.

nom nom nom.

B

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