I swear this is the last time I write about Dale’s departure from Top Chef. I wouldn’t have said another word about it, but I just read Anthony Bourdain’s blog on the subject. Bourdain filled in for Tom Colicchio during Restaurant Wars, and he offers a first-hand behind-the-scenes account of what when down.
Dale’s departure and Lisa’s continued presence (in the Final Four no less!) has been fodder for a lot of rage and anger in the blogosphere, but I think Bourdain’s objectivity and Dale’s own reflections (see here and here) on his departure should serve to calm folks down (for a second or two.)
On Dale’s butterscotch scallop dish:
…Supremely bad. Jaw droppingly bad. So bad that there was a long, awkward moment at the table when all the judges just sat there, silent, stunned with disbelief that anyone—especially Dale—could serve something so…disgusting. It’s the only time on Top Chef that I literally could not take another bite.
Dale was in deep, deep trouble from the judges’ first mouthful of this luminously wretched gunk.
Lisa’s laksa was screwed up. Unpleasantly smoky. But I could eat it. Her “sticky rice” dessert was awful. But not dig-a-hole-in-the-ground-stick-my-head-in-pour-in-Clorox bad. Like those scallops. They were distinguished by their sheer degree of awfulness, sucking everything around them down with it.
Shit Happens When You Don’t Win the Quickfire:
He had the misfortune to almost win the Quickfire. Had he lost, and not come in second, he would not have been team leader—and would not have had the additional burden of leadership.
(A burden he was ill suited to carry)
He was even more unfortunate in that he WON the coin toss, after which he made the regrettable and ultimately foolish decision to anoint himself Exec Chef. Looking around at who he had to work with, and knowing, one would hope, that he was unlikely to be able to either lead or inspire them, he could have put ego aside and stayed out of the line of fire and avoided the clusterf**k.
A friend sent me a link to another interview with Top Chef contestant Dale Talde, this time on BuddyTV.com. It covers some of the same ground as the Chow.com interview I discussed in my previous post, but he spent a good chunk of the interview defending himself amidst criticism that he only cooks Asian food.
Are you going to (ask) an Italian chef, “Why do you only do Italian food?” Are you going to (ask) Alain Ducasse, “Why do you only do French food?” My food is inspired by Asia…ALL of Asia…the Philippines, Japan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. You want to talk about Asia? Asia is enormous.
In Season 2, Ilan Hall won the title of Top Chef by relying on his background cooking Spanish food. At least Dale was drawing from an entire continent for influence, not just a single country.
If Dale was bothered by anything, it was the criticism of his vision.
Criticize my execution if you want to. If my dish wasn’t good, fine, I’ll take it back. Don’t you in your life ever criticize my vision. It’s MY vision, not your vision.
Dale also said he had no problem throwing down with anyone if they wanted to cook Italian food or French food, but he finds that food boring because the flavors don’t “pop out” to him.
My flavors are big and bold and bright and in your face, and sweet, sour, salty come all at you. I’m not going to sit there and roast a piece of rack of lamb, and cook some noodles, and deglaze with white wine and shallots and then put it on a plate. That’s not who I am. Chilis…vinegar…miso paste. That’s what I do.
My heart sank when Padma Lakshmi told Dale Talde to “pack his knives and go” on this week’s episode of Top Chef, but I knew it was inevitable after the disastrous opening of Mai Buddha with teammates Lisa Fernandes and Spike Mendelsohn during this week’s challenge, Restaurant Wars. Dale was the executive chef for the restaurant and when things go wrong, the guy at running the show gets the blame. Dale discussed his experiences in an interview with Chow.com.
Aside from some brilliant cooking and wins in both the Quickfire and main challenges, Dale’s time on Top Chef was also marked by his ongoing friction with Lisa. When asked about the rivalry, Dale said:
Dale: Come on, rivalry? Rivalry connotates that someone is at the same level you’re at. CHOW: So you’re saying that Lisa was nowhere near your level? Dale: Please. Scoreboard. C’mon.
Dale’s reference to the scoreboard is telling since he had more wins than Lisa and Spike combined and was in the bottom three only once before getting the boot (with his Wedding Wars teammates Lisa, Spike and Nikki). Lisa, on the other hand, had only one challenge win and was on the bottom four times, and I honestly thought she should have been eliminated last week instead of Andrew. Spike had one Quickfire win and was on the bottom five times.
So why was Dale given the boot? He knew it was coming when Antonia picked her team. Both Dale and Antonia were praised as the best contestants during this episode’s egg station Quickfire, but Antonia was declared the overall winner and got to pick her team for Restaurant Wars. She picked Richard and Stephanie, the two strongest contenders on the show aside from Dale.
“Did you see the team? It was like a junior varsity basketball team versus a professional basketball team. I got put on the short-bus all stars.”
While this recipe is still good, I have a different version that I like a lot better. I’ll leave this recipe up for archival purposes, but for better results (IMO), see the newer post.
Bistek Tagalog (Filipino Beefsteak) is one of my favorite dishes, and it’s so easy to make that I’m actually disappointed in myself for not making it before. Traditionally, it’s a simple marinade of soy sauce, kalamansi juice and garlic, and you can use almost any cut of steak. Kalamansi is a musk lime that’s native to the Philippines, but I only had lemons on hand, so I used those. Next time I make this, I’ll see if I can get my hands on some kalamansi. Otherwise I’ll use the regular supermarket limes or maybe mix lime and lemon juice.
Many recipes I saw called for chuck, flank, skirt or sirloin steaks, but I used some thinly sliced New York steaks that I found at Safeway. I also saw some recipes that used red onions, but I’m used to either yellow or white onions in this dish. Use whatever you prefer. You can also plate this however you like. I like to mix the onions and sauce up with the rice, so that’s why they’re separate on the plate.
I’m a big Top Chef fan, but I’ve been watching the Chicago incarnation with great interest because of Dale Talde, the ornery and talented Filipino American sous chef at Buddakan, an upscale Chinese restaurant in New York. During the first six episodes of the season, the Chicago native’s dishes have reflected a pan-Asian influence, but last week, Dale got to express his Filipino side during a dessert Quickfire Challenge and received praise and Top 3 finish from guest judge Johnny Iuzzini, the pastry chef at Jean Georges.
Dale chose to make halo halo, a classic Filipino treat of shaved ice, milk (usually condensed or evaporated) and any number of other tropical ingredients, such as sweet beans, tropical fruits, and ice cream. Because of the variety ingredients and personal preferences, there isn’t one set recipe for halo halo, and Dale’s is no exception—a combination of shaved ice, avocado, mango, kiwi and nuts. Sure it was a non-traditional, upscale interpretation, but this is Top Chef, and it was nice to see him bring Filipino culture to the table.
This season of Top Chef hasn’t been nearly as exciting or dramatic as previous seasons, but I still love the show. Dale got off to a slow start, but as the season has progressed, I think he’s found his groove and is now one of the favorites to win. He even showed his “gangsta” side when he grabbed his crotch and went off on Lisa Fernandes after she pandered to Ming Tsai’s “Asian-ness” and then won a trip to Italy despite being negative, whiny, bitch-ass teammate. (Can you tell I really don’t like Lisa?)
What? You say something?
Are you watching Top Chef? Who do you want to win? Should there be a faux-hawk ban next season?
I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but one thing I really wanted to do this year is cook more Filipino food. I’ve never really cooked Filipino food, aside from attempts at chicken adobo in college or simple breakfasts of eggs and garlic fried rice with whatever meat was lying around (hot dogs, corned beef, SPAM, etc.) that reminded me of waking up on Sunday mornings to my dad’s cooking. Since I left home, my main connection to Filipino food has been at family parties around Christmastime or some of the restaurants that are all over the Bay Area.
Adobo is the one Filipino food aside from lumpia and pancit that most non-Filipinos have heard of or tried, and it’s considered the national dish of the Philippines. There are so many variations on adobo and every Filipino’s experience with it is so personal that it’s impossible to have a definitive recipe. Sometimes the protein changes (chicken, pork, squid), the soy/sauce vinegar ratio is a matter of personal taste, and you can either cook off most of the braising liquid (like my dad) or leave plenty of sauce to spoon onto your rice (my preference).
A couple months ago, I picked up a copy of Memories of Philippine Kitchens, an excellent and beautiful cookbook written by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan of Cendrillon, a Filipino/Pan-Asian restaurant in New York City. While purists may be put off by Cendrillon’s fine dining and fusion pedigrees, the book is a comprehensive overview of Filipino cuisine and its diversity throughout the various regions in the Philippines.
I forgot that I had the day off today, so after driving all the way to work and back, I needed something to do. After talking to Alien J about the eggs we had at Ad Hoc’s Easter Brunch yesterday, I thought that I would do an egg experiment and use the results to top the Chicken Adobo Fried Rice I planned on making for lunch.
Ad Hoc egg porn
My wise idea? Cook the eggs in a 66.6/C water bath to make…Deviled Eggs! 66.6…devil…get it? :-)
The final results were interesting. Normally I like runny eggs on my fried rice, but these eggs were much different. The whites were very delicate since they hadn’t set up yet, but they weren’t too runny. The yolks were set enough that they maintained their shape, but when you put them in your mouth, they were creamy and delicious. Here’s some pictures.
Forget Belgian waffles, fluffy buttermilk pancakes, brioche french toast, omelettes, country sausage and whatever else most people eat for breakfast. In my book, there’s no better way to start the day than with a silog, a Filipino breakfast of garlic fried rice, topped with a couple over-easy eggs and your choice of sweet or salty meats.
Filipinos love to combine words and names (don’t you know someone somewhere named Marivic?). Silog is a suffix referring to the fried rice (sinangag) and the eggs (itlog), and the dishes are named accordingly: tapsilog (tapa, the original silog) tosilog (tocino), adobosilog (chicken adobo), longsilog (longanisa), SPAMsilog – (SPAM!), litsilog (lechon), friedchixsilog (fried chicken), etc. etc.
I normally go to Cherry Garden Filipino Chinese Restaurant when I get a craving. I always have a hard time deciding between the tocino (sweet cured pork) and the longanisa (sausage akin to chorizo or linguica). The first time we went, I found out they had two types of longanisa, sweet or garlic. I had never had garlic longanisa before, so I ordered that and fell in love with it. My wife likes the bangsilog, which features bangus, the Filipino milkfish. She’s also had the pusitsilog (dried fried squid), and the jefroxsilog (dried fried sole). As you can she, she’s much more adventurous than I am!
A couple months ago, Steph and I were discussing the idea of whether or not Filipino food could work as a fine dining (or at least mid-range dining) experience, which spawned a lengthy Yelp Talk thread called Filipino Fine(r) Dining. So it was apropos that Steph got to say farewell to her SF Yelp family with dinner at San Bruno’s Patio Filipino.
Patio Filipino is definitely fine(r) Filipino dining with prices to match. They do spruce up the presentation of a lot of the dishes and use more expensive ingredients, like ribeye steak for the excellent Bistek Tagalog. Grace took care of ordering and got us a wide variety of extremely satisfying dishes with nary a lumpia or pancit to be found.
Speaking of the Bistek Tagalog, which is sliced ribeye marinated in soy sauce and lemon that is sauteed with onions and served topped with French fries. This was easily my favorite dish of the night. I could have just ordered that with some steamed rice and been completely content. There was plenty of sauce to spoon on top of the rice, and when we got close to finishing it off, I told Steph to throw some rice in the serving dish to soak up all the sauce and then pass it back around the table. I think it was better the second time around.
We had a lot of food, so to break it down, aside from the Bistek, we ordered:
– Calamansi Juice
– Mango/Calamansi Juice
– San Miguel Beer – Ito ang beer!
– Paella Valenciana – chorizo, mussels, scallops, shrimps, and chicken in aromatic saffron rice (EXCELLENT. Must order in advance because of the cooking time.)
– Gambas al Ajillo – Shrimp sauteed in olive oil, garlic, paprika (good starter but wasn’t spectacular)
– Balut a la Pobre – Duck egg/fetus simmered in special gravy (only for the adventurous, i.e. not me)
– Sinigang na Bangus Belly – A prime cut of Bangus (milkfish) belly that’s boiled in tamarind broth (very sour, but I liked it)
– Beef Bulalo – Beef shank and bone marrow boiled to tenderness with mixed vegetables (pretty good, but I’ve had better)
– Adobong Kangkong – Kangkong leaves blanched in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic (good, but for some odd reason there was some fried pork on this veggie dish)
– Ginataang Sitaw at Kalabasa – String beans and squash sauteed in coconut milk (it was good, but my wife said Graceypoo’s version is much better)
– Bangus Belly – Deep fried Bangus belly served with tomato, salted eggs and mango salad (REALLY GOOD)
– Crispy Binagoongan – Crispy pork served on grilled eggplant and topped with bagoong (i.e. shrimp paste…love the tang from the bagoong with the pork)
– Crispy Fried Chicken – prepared in a special seasoning (ordered in honor of Steph. Good but not great.)
– Crispy Pata – Deep-fried pork leg (AWESOME…as expected)
– Sizzling Sisig – Pork parts chopped with onion and jalapeno pepper with egg (pretty good)
– Buko con Seta – Patio’s version of Halo-halo served in fresh young coconut and topped with ube ice cream (interesting and good…beautiful presentation…purple)
– Leche Flan – Filipino custard (the smoothest, creamiest leche flan I’ve ever had. Flavor-wise, not as good as my mom’s…but the texture was amazing and made up for it)
– Turon a la Mode – Crispy banana turon served with ice cream (I’m not big on turon, but it was pretty)
– Mango Supremo – Mango roll cake with mango ice cream and topped with puree of mango (this is like mango three ways…pretty good.)
Overall, it was a delicious well-rounded meal, and there was plenty of food for all 11 of us. Actually there was more than enough food for about 20 people, but 11 hungry-ass Yelpers cleaned house.
But it was also bittersweet because we had to say goodbye to Steph, who left the Bay Area for the home of Prince and SPAM to continue her post-graduate studies as a Golden Gopher. She’d been in SF for about a year, and I don’t think she expected to get so close to so many people in such a short of amount of time, but that’s the power and beauty of Yelp. Good luck, Steph. We’ll miss you here in Cali, but the door’s always open for you to return.
1770 El Camino Real
San Bruno, CA 94066 map
650.872.9888 Web site
I never thought I’d get permission to post this recipe, but here it is! My mom’s leche flan (literally milk custard) is famous in our hometown Filipino community. It’s the one thing people always expected or asked her to bring to parties. It’s thicker and denser than Mexican flan, which I always find bland and disappointing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
8 egg yolks
2 cups evaporated milk
1 tsp. lemon extract or lemon zest
1 cup sugar
Extra 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar to caramelize before adding the rest of the mixture
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place all ingredients in a bowl and use a hand or stand mixer to mix the custard together. To ensure the smoothness of the custard, you should strain the mixture while before pouring it into the baking dish or mold.
Place extra sugar in a small pan and heat it over medium heat until the sugar melts and browns.
Pour melted sugar into your baking pan or mold so it coats the bottom.
Add custard mixture to your baking pan or mold on top of the carmelized sugar.
Cover the baking pan or mold with foil and place it into a water bath (i.e. a bigger pan with about 1/2 inch of water in it). This is essential for cooking the leche flan properly.
Bake at 375 for approximately an hour.
Check with a toothpick or nudge the pan to see if the mixture is almost solid.
Remove the foil and cook uncovered for 20 more minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool on the counter. You can also refrigerate the leche flan after it reaches room temperature if you’re making this a day ahead of time.
When you are ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the flan.
Place a serving plate on top of the pan and invert it quickly. Be careful not to spill! When properly executed, the flan will be golden brown on top and yellowish on the bottom.