Hola, Pantalones de Azucar! (After the past week’s natural disaster cavalcade here in New York, I am inspired by Mayor Bloomberg’s heartwarming attempts to speak Spanish.) Hope everyone is feeling sunnier this week, and that you enjoyed TCJD’s second episode.
As you may have noticed, this was one where the esteemed, beyond talented, lusciously maned, kindly genius and all-around fantastic fellow, Chef Hubert Keller held down the judging seat we often share, so watching the finished episode opened my eyes to a lot of behind-the-scenes undercurrents I’d missed. I thought the most fun way to share my discoveries with you would be via a list. Without further ado, here are my top 10 high notes:
10. Sticking with the competition and giving it your all after you’ve fractured your wrist is bad-ass. Whatever else happens, you have to give Rebecca credit for not skipping a beat and just charging right back into the thick of things without a second thought. That wasn’t a burn, it wasn’t a cut -- it was a break. I know chefs are made of steel, but broken bones are freaking painful. Not to mention how much more complicated every single task in the kitchen is when you only have one good hand.
9. Margaret Braun is one of the most intriguing people you’ll ever meet. She not only makes some of the most whimsical but technically brilliant and addictively delicious cakes you can imagine. She just has this really lovely and cool presence and spirit. She is pretty low-key yet hilarious, and really generous with her time and ideas. I remember a cake she made to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the South Beach Wine & Food festival, this past February. Gail and I attended the event together, which was held in this wild, edgy parking garage-turned-community space called 1111 Lincoln Road, and could not stop eating the succulent, rich chocolate cake that Margaret created. I had to be led away from the table.
8. Lemons can be the pits. Asking the chefs to create “the new lemon dessert” and to “reveal the secret of the lemon” was a smart Quickfire, because not only are lemons so strong in flavor and acidity that they are tricky to pair, but coming up with ways to present them that actually haven’t been around forever is doubly challenging. I will tell you that this summer my go-to dessert for home entertaining was a torta di limone from Top Chef Master, Obi Wan, and all-around great guy Jonathan Waxman’s new cookbook, Italian My Way, that never failed to make my guests drool. But I digress. I have never met or even heard of anyone allergic to lemons before Orlando, so I can only imagine how difficult it was for him to ensure his dish was good. Poor Nelson’s imagination got the better of him, and he tried to do too much and ended up with not much. I liked how inventive and kooky Katzie was with her “fettucine,” and Matthew’s cake looked perfect…just different enough and truly mouth-watering.
OK - My favorite dessert is lemon sorbet on top of rich, dark, chewy brownies. As the sorbet melts, it softens the brownies and provides just the right amount of tang to counteract the sugar and brings out the chocolate. I cannot believe anyone would say that lemon and chocolate don't go together. Try it!