I eat. I drink. I’ve been eating and drinking professionally for 42 years now so I always have an opinion. But maybe I wasn’t the best person to join the Orange County Housewives in judging this week’s Masters class reunion Quickfire, The chefs had to dream up a dish that went with a cocktail.
First of all I knew there were Orange County Housewives and their plots and spats were a big hit on Bravo, but I had never watched a single show. I’m a Top Chef fan and loyal to Jim Lipton at Actors Studio but never tempted by Housewives. Assigned to judge with them, I assumed they would be gorgeous, skinny, have lots of hair, and be covered with jewels. What I didn’t expect was how simpatico they would be, especially Lynne. In three minutes I felt I’d known her forever.
Maybe the real killer was that I rarely like cocktails with food, except for margaritas which I like straight up or on the rocks or frozen in classic form or fruity frou frou. Watching the show, I see Wylie anticipated that cocktails might not be my strength.
We judges don’t see the chefs of course when they’re cooking. And I didn’t know how enthusiastically they’d been sampling the mixologist’s blendings. From what I saw on the show itself, I imagine they were all really loose. For me, most of the drinks were just too sweet. And mulled cider with fish. Oh no. I don’t think so. The excessive sweetness made it even tougher to pair the fanciful drinks with food although the masters certainly tried.
The lemongrass mojito was the exception – really tart, pleasant to drink, and it worked with its dish: the perfectly cooked shrimp with twist of pork tenderloin.
I had no idea whose dish it was. Unlike the challenge where the judges talk to the chefs about their dish and give them the ratings eye to eye, in the Quickfire, the chefs can watch the judges tasting and commenting but almost always, the judges can’t see them. I thought yes, this is a delicate snack, perfect for an Orange County gabfest or lunch at the pool. What a surprise to discover later that it was Jonathan Waxman playing it cool. Seeing the kitchen action for the first time as I watched the show, I laughed at Jonathan playing the lazy grasshopper to everyone else’s scurrying ant.
Next day in the pub was fun, full of good vibes, being surrounded by locals chugging beer and calling out critiques. I gave Wylie credit for his straightforward and delicious sausage with smoked mashed potatoes and snow pea consommé. Rick’s aristocratic fish and chips with chicken-fried Alaskan black cod and lemon confit and tarter sauce won big points from me. Granted his twice-cooked fried potatoes could have been thinner but I liked them better than the usual too salty chips.