Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chicago, St. Paddy's style, and Top Chef!

St. Patrick's Day celebrations. My first year in Chicago, dad and I stumbled upon the river dyeing by accident, and now it's another yearly tradition for me, much like the Michigan Avenue tree lighting. Nothing says St. Patrick's Day like Starbucks, being up very early on Saturday morning and seeing a lot of green downtown.

It's also funny to see the "commercialization" of the event as well. When I first went to the river dyeing, Jameson was not a sponsor of it and the Jameson "brand ambassadors" were not walking around giving still flags for attendees with the company's logo. Who knows what will happen next year? Maybe Guinness will get in on the action and do sampling!

This is a 40-year plus tradition in the city and every year, I go and love it, just like a tourist. There's something about watching the crowds, which grow every year, file downtown to watch the murky green river turn the color of day-glo green. The people-watching is great too. Yesterday two people on milk crates were taking up a lot of space to "frame" up a shot of their Lord of the Rings books against the green river. Interesting. Fortunately, when they weren't paying attention, I kicked one of the milk crates out of the way so I could sneak up to the front. I had to shove a little kid a bit too, but he's fine, toughen up!

Top Chef Chicago!
Top Chef is one of my favorite shows. Ceviche, fennel and shallots, oh my! Before this show, I never knew about "layering" flavors and honestly I only know about 10 percent of the time what they're talking about, but damn does it sound good. And this time they're in Chicago!

Quickfire Challenge: Chicago deep-dish pizza
Not a bad first challenge, bit predictable though.

My faves for this challenge: Richard with the peaches on the pizza, genius, and Ryan with the butternut squash. Very interesting choices and both looked great.

I was surprised to see some chefs struggle with the dough and how much to put in their pans. Nikki's looked beyond awful and was about 95 percent dough, same with Andrew, but he's hilarious so I'll forgive him. Nimma also struggled, not only with being unable to mention all of the mushrooms in her dish, but her confidence and presentation were greatly lacking.

Even chefs who don't "make deep-dish" frequently, I'm sure they've worked with dough before and should have known better about how much it will rise.

Elimination Challenge: Dish-off
Genius first challenge, make chefs cook their interpretation of a classic dish against one another and the judges pick which is the best, in front of the chefs, and the winner is safe, while the other is up for elimination.

Tough guest judges too, Anthony Bourdain and Rocco DiSpirito (tool) , so the criticism is extra honest and harsh. To me, Stephanie's duck spring rolls for the reinvention of duck a l'orange looked beyond nummy while Nimma (again) failed in her overall presentation of shrimp scampi and Erik's cheese souffle with some awful brown sauce on the plate (which looked like scraped poop) did not look appetizing or get high marks at all. Ick.

In the end, Nimma was voted off because of her awful dishes. Honestly, she was kind of a whiner and a Debbie-Downer so no loss there. But my eye is on Andrew, who not only works at Le Cirque in New York, but also swears like a trucker. He's funny.


Jamie Lovely said...

I LOVE that Top Chef is in Chicago this season! It's one of my favorite shows.

I totally called Nimma going home because all she did was whine and they interviewed her a lot. It was kind of predictable.

Bayjb said...

Thanks Jamie. It was very predictible. My friend and I were bored by her, especially when she went to bed rather than meet other contestants. I also love the Whole Foods that they're shopping it. It's in my neighborhood so it's exciting to see it on national TV!

Jamie Lovely said...

Hey, we are totally having another meet up soon. Jenn is working out details but it's going to be a Cupcake Crawl! A better, more tasty take on a pub crawl! haha, we will definitely keep you updated :)

Bayjb said...

OMG please do. I L-O-V-E cupcakes. There is one cupcake place in my neighborhood but I never make it there to sample. We can discuss Macbooks too. I will likely still be in the learning curve of mine and could use your advice :)

Jenn said...

I'm still trying to pick a favorite for this season's Top Chef. I'm glad Nimma went home. I would have loved to try some of their pizzas!

I'm hoping to have the cupcake crawl during one of the first two weekends of April. It would be fantastical if you joined us! I'd also love to hear your thoughts on Macs as I'm hoping to get one in the near future. Jamie is converting me :)

Bayjb said...

Hi Jenn -
I can't wait for the cupcake crawl! For me, the second weekend in April would be best. My future sister-in-law's shower is April 5 so I'll be home for that (sneaking Jack Daniels in my cola to survive).

Keep me posted!