Tag Archive | Celebrity Chefs

Gail Meets Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio and Gail Worley

I’ve been saying it for years: Celebrity Chefs are the new Rock Stars! It is no secret that I love writing about Food and that Top Chef is my favorite food-centric reality TV show. So, it is always serious fun for me when I get to meet Cheftestants from various seasons of Top Chef as well as the celebrity chef judges that make the show so educational and entertaining. Top Chef!

You can imagine then that it was particularly thrilling to be invited to attend party at Colicchio and Sons Restaurant, owned by Top Chef judge and host, Tom Colicchio, at which I not only got to eat Tom’s delicious food but also got to meet him. The purpose of the event was to promote the  excellent workof Happy Family Organic Foods, and I will be writing a separate blog post about that. In the meantime, I needed an excuse to post this photo of Me and Tom taken at the event, because I’ve had a crush on him for about five years, and let me tell those of you who feel similarly that he is even hotter in person than he is on TV. Hotness! Plus, super nice and cool. I am also saving up my cash so I can eat at his restaurant again, because the food was just insane.

Advertisements

Fine Dining at Philippe: Haute Chinese Cuisine By Philippe Chow

Fine Dining in Manhattan isn’t always all about molecular gastronomy and tiny portions served on over-sized plates. While “Fine Dining Bargain” is not a phrase you are likely to hear at any time other than during restaurant week, there are upscale restaurants in town where you can get an exceptional value for your hard earned cash while also indulging your inner Foodie. One such destination is Philippe on East 60th Street, which has become a favorite of celebrity clientele from Lady Gaga to President Obama, and we think we know why: the location is discreet and food is off the hook.

Mango Ice Tea Cocktail: Potent & Refreshing (Photos By Anne Raso)

The creation of Chinese-born owner and executive chef Philippe Chow, Philippe takes traditional Chinese dishes that you might find on any storefront take out menu – from Shrimp Toast to Sweet & Sour Pork to Prawns in Black Bean Sauce – and elevates each to the realm of the gourmet. The dishes are uncomplicated; often featuring just few key ingredients, but prepared in a flavorful and creative manner that indicate you are in for some seriously exquisite food. Likewise, the tastefully minimalist interior decor allows diners to lend all of their sensory attention to the food. And while the prices may seem steep at first glance, be aware that all dishes are portioned for two, so you can easily compare an entree priced at $40 to two entrees at $20. Add a couple of appetizers and you will leave satisfied and smiling, without emptying your wallet.

Pork Dumplings: Super Yummy

Philippe’s menu is extensive and exciting. Perhaps being a bit overwhelmed with so many choices  is what prompted us to just go with familiar favorites with our appetizer selection, with mixed results. The Wok Fried Pork Dumplings ($12) were delicious and put their take-out kin to shame, but the Scallion Pancake ($12) was a bit doughy/undercooked and lacking in distinct scallion flavor. Better options would have been to go with Philippe’s acclaimed appetizer selections, such as the Chicken Satay ($18) – whose reddish color hinted at it having been cooked in a Tandoori oven – or the Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($18) – a very popular choice, served in what looked like main dish-sized portion, which was enjoyed by diners at tables on either side of us. “Next Time,” as they say!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps: Recommended

Beijing Chicken

For our entrees we were delighted with the tender Beijing Chicken with candied walnuts in a sweet brown sauce ($44/2), but we would recommend that meat lovers bypass the Crispy Beef ($56/2) which, though a house favorite, and admittedly lovely to look at, tasted predominately of its white flour coating and thus was very disappointing.

Crispy Beef: Looks Great, Yes. Tastes Great, Not So Much.

Instead, red meat fans should head directly for the melt-in-your mouth House Mignon ($75/2). Craving a green vegetable, we spotted this dish at a neighboring table and added a side order of Sauteed String Beans in a light Black Bean Sauce ($10), which were the best I’ve ever tasted.

String Beans: Delish

We were also distracted by an unidentified, deep fried prawn dish which the couple seated adjacent to us confessed is the pivotal reason they visit Philippe regularly. “We order it ever time we eat here, and we love it!” they exclaimed. (I just wish I could recall the name of the dish!).  Another specialty of Philippe is the whole Peking Duck served table side (allow 45 minute for this dish) which has been rated “Best Peking Duck in the City” by The NY Observer, New York Magazine and several other notable food critics. Prices for this special, crispy-skinned treat range from $55 to $75 depending on the weight of the duck.

Service at Philippe is top notch. Our waiter was very friendly, super attentive and offered suggestions as well as happily answering any questions we had about the ingredients of specific dishes. The food also arrived at our table with remarkable swiftness, yet you could tell each dish was made fresh to order. Between each course we were presented with steaming hot, lemongrass-scented hand towels, which added a touch of pampered luxury to the dining experience. Philippe’s polished attentiveness with regard to every facet of customer care allows the staff to turn over tables multiple times during dinner service, though we never felt rushed.

Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. Moo.

After rounding out the meal with coffees and a couple of decadent dessert selections, we were beyond full but couldn’t stop babbling about all of the delicious dishes we wished we could have tasted. Philippe is definitely a place where stage whispers of “I want what they’re having” are overheard a lot. But one can only eat so much in one sitting, which is why repeat visits are in order.

Philippe By Philippe Chow is located at 33 East 60th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues in New York City. Phone 212-644-8885 for Reservations.

Gail Meets Chef Jonathan Waxman!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2011 is to enjoy the company of good friends while dining in fine restaurants as often as possible. No one can accuse me of not sticking to my resolutions, because last night I had an amazing meal at chef Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto Restaurant on Washington Street near the Meatpacking District. My dining companions were my longtime friend Ivy, her charming husband Rick and their adorable daughter Violet, who is the best kid you could ever hope to have, let me tell you. We’re all huge fans of Bravo’s Top Chef, and having enjoyed the most recent season of Top Chef Masters we are also admirers of Waxman’s “keep it simple” philosophy/approach to gourmet cooking. Dining out is always so much more fun, and a much richer experience, when you are accompanied by true foodies like Ivy, Rick and Violet. We had an amazing meal and a really fantastic time catching up.

When we were seated, Violet asked our server if Chef Waxman was in the restaurant that evening. She replied that he had been there earlier that afternoon, but had left to run some errands, though he might be back later. Less than five minutes passed before she returned to our table saying that the chef had come back into the restaurant and would we like to meet him? Of course, we enthusiastically confirmed that we would. Because celebrity chefs are the new Rock Stars. After our meal, Chef Waxman came over to our table, dressed casually in his signature pink polo shirt and khakis and looking very adorable. He spoke to us for several minutes and answered some of our questions about the time he spent as a contestant on Top Chef Masters. He was super cool and friendly and also very, very cute! Jonathan Waxman!

Here are some of foods we enjoyed eating:

Appetizers:
Soft polenta with lamb ragu
Bruschetta with chickpeas and fresh mushrooms
Smoked trout salad with frise, black rice and orange (amazing!)

Main Courses:
Barbuto’s signature roast chicken with salsa Verde
Scallops, which were delicious but I’m not sure how they were cooked
Homemade Gnocchi with walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese

Sides:
Roasted Brussels sprouts with hazelnuts, to die for
Crispy fried potatoes with pecorino cheese

Alcohol:
Two bottles of amazing red wine, which by the time I was on my third glass I could not tell you what variety it was. (Rick would know.)

Desserts:
Lemon Crema with coconut crisps
Chocolate pudding with whipped creme and biscotti
Two kinds of Gelato: toasted pistachio and maple cinnamon

Barbuto’s menu changes seasonally, so you never know what delicious creations Chef Waxman will be serving up. You can only rest assured that whatever you put in your mouth will blow your mind. Be prepared to throw down some serious cash, but to feel that it was totally worth it.

Barbuto is located at 775 Washington Street New York, NY 10014 @ West 12th Street. Phone 212-924-9700 for Reservations.

Julie & Julia: A Very Good Movie About Cooking and Love

Julie and Julia
Amy Adams and Meryl Streep Star in Julie & Julia

If I were a wealthy woman, I would certainly be much more of a devoted Foodie than I already am. Because the availability of massive amounts of dispensable cash is really the only thing separating me from eating truffles and Kobe beef, followed by gold-leaf-flecked hot fudge sundaes several times a week. I am totally not kidding. The Food Network is to me what Porn is to Frat guys. Me gusta la comida! If you are also a fan of food, and you enjoy a good story about friendship and love, passion and cooking, then Julie & Julia needs to be added to your “Films I Must See” List. This movie is just so adorable! Meryl Streep’s portrayal of famous TV chef Julia Child is going to win her another Oscar, I would be willing to predict. And Amy Adams, who I generally find a bit twee, was quite excellent also as blogger/amateur chef Julie Powell. I am not going to say much more than that, because I doubt I could top this really great review of the movie from Examiner Dot Com. I recommend going to see Julie & Julia with a friend, at a showing that will let out just around dinner time. That way, you can head over to your favorite French Bistro and chow down, because you will definitely be starving. As Julia would say, “Bon Appetite!”

Julie & Julia Opens Nationwide on August 7th

Kitchen Nightmares: Coming to America

Hail Seitan

I missed most of this past season of Hell’s K itchen due to me being otherwise visually occupied with HBO’s Big Love — one of my very favorite shows. But thankfully my sister turned me on to Chef Gordon Ramsey’s BBC series Kitchen Nightmares (Thursdays at 8:00 PM on BBC America) , a show which masquearades as being more tasteful, but actually has just about as much swearing and back stabbing. And while it’s not likely to be as smashing as the original, Fox is set to debut an American version of Nightmares on September 19th. Unless that conflicts with the debut of Survivor: China! I’m making my reservations now.