Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 7: War of the Roses Leads to Demise of Team Diva

As Eric creates roses, he can't decide which is more unnerving: Johnny's steady gaze or his sideburns.

As the herd thins on Top Chef Just Desserts, the action does not. Le Bernardin Executive Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis notes, “The show is becoming more about the food and techniques, which I love!” Chef Laiskonis offers up his expert insights into what went right and wrong in last night’s episode.

The QFC is based on three tenets of working in a pastry kitchen: organization, speed, and precision. Would you agree with these as the top requirements, and/or if you could add a fourth or fifth, what would it/they be?

Those are certainly three vital pillars upon which a pastry chef’s skills are built. Obviously, teamwork also comes into play. And, perhaps, I might add humility — something a few of our cheftestants could use a bit more of. I was excited to see this challenge, as they were already planning the logistics while I was on set taping my episode!

Continue reading…

San Francisco Restaurants Are Seeing Stars. Michelin Stars, That Is.

The Michelin Guide San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country Restaurants 2011 was released today, and while not everyone is happy about it, we’re here to herald the good news, starting with the fact that both The French Laundry and The Restaurant at Meadowood earned three stars.

Restaurants honored with a pair of stars are Coi, Cyrus, and Manresa.

One star has been awarded to restaurants including AcquerelloAmeAuberge de SoleilAzizaBouchonBoulevardChez TJCommisThe Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton, Domaine Chandon-étoile,  Farmhouse Inn & RestaurantFleur de LysLa FolieLa ToqueLuceMadrona ManorMasa’sMurray CircleOne Market, The Plumed HorseQuinceReddSantéSolbarTerraUbuntu, and The Village Pub, along with first-time one-star winners Alexander’s SteakhouseApplewood Inn,  Campton PlaceDio DekaFrancesSaison, and Spruce.

A single star from Michelin is impressive and indicates that a restaurant is very good, while three stars means that a restaurant is a destination in and of itself, worthy of a special culinary expedition.

Congratulations to the winners. Browse the full list and start making your reservations at San Francisco’s Michelin-starred restaurants today.

Delicious Deals on Meals: OpenTable Spotlight Offers for 10/27!

Can you guess which San Francisco restaurant serves up this delicious cioppino?

It’s the most wonderful time of the week! The OpenTable Spotlight offers are set to turn on in AtlantaBostonChicagoDenverLos AngelesNew YorkPhiladelphiaSan Francisco, and Washington, D.C. We’ll let you know where — but do you? Make your best guesses on the Spotlight message boards, Facebook, or Twitter with these helpful hints!

Atlanta: Nestled in a cozy inn in Decatur, this charming French restaurant serves classic bistro favorites. The Chef’s childhood in the south of France inspired the bistro’s French-Mediterranean influenced menu and bistro’s warm hospitality.

Boston: The Japanese chef and owner of this flavorful, South Boston spot learned the art of his inventive cuisine and stellar customer service from his father.

Chicago: Enjoy the tantalizing tastes of a Next Iron Chef contender at this restaurant in River North, where the menu benefits from both Latin and Indian culinary inspiration.

Denver: This LoDo District restaurant features the best of the bayou in the heart of Denver. Enjoy warm, southern hospitality and tasty dishes at this local favorite.

Los Angeles: Take a culinary trip to Rome or Milan with the authentic and delicious cuisine at this Santa Monica establishment, where both owner and chef hail from Italy.

New York: Enjoy the tantalizing tastes of a Next Iron Chef contender at this Midtown East restaurant, where the menu benefits from both Latin and Indian culinary inspiration.

Philadelphia: This historic restaurant has roots all over the world. Now a well established destination in Penn’s Landing, it has anchored itself to the hearts (and stomachs) of Philadelphia diners, and established a fine tradition of hospitality and entertaining.

San Francisco: According to authority Kat Rosa, this restaurant is set “on the oldest continually producing winery in the United States.” Just an hour east of San Francisco, this scenic restaurant serves fresh, seasonal fare, with many ingredients coming from the restaurant’s own gardens.

Washington, D.C.: A grand and signature presence is incorporated into the opulent décor at this restaurant in DC, and at its other locations in some of the finest cities throughout the world.

Be sure to get your offers before the Spotlight goes out on Wednesday night!

The Next Iron Chef Episode 4: Chef Marc Forgione Talks Transformation

The chefs, with journals in hand, listen to the challenge at hand. "I'm not a big fair guy. I come from Manhattan. I have no idea what's served at a fair. No clue." — Chef Forgione

Would-be Iron Chef Marc Forgione and his fellow contenders were tasked with transforming ingredients and dishes last night. Chef Forgione talks about how he fared at the San Diego County Fair.

First up, you had to transform a condiment. Is the danger of things like steak sauce/ketchup/bbq sauce the sugar content in them? Can they make something too cloying?

The hardest part about the condiment challenge was that condiments are used to make other things taste better, not really used on their own. We had to transform a condiment into something that was not only good to eat and flavorful, but the condiment had to be the star.

Continue reading…

Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 6: All Rise for Guest Judge Michael Laiskonis

Even tho' he's the man in black this ep, chef Michael Laiskonis is actually a good guy.

This week, Top Chef Just Desserts is a real treat because our own resident expert, Le Bernardin Executive Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis, acts as a guest judge.

ZOMG! There you are! You look very friendly and quite dashing in your suit, but…the competitors called you “VERY scary” and “intimidating.” What do you think of the cheftestants’ assessment of your reputation?

I’m kind of surprised, actually. I’m thinking it’s a compliment…? Now, I might expect that sort of rep from some of the people I work with, but it’s interesting coming from a bunch of chefs I’ve never met! I’m going to be wondering about this for a while.

You’ve been making savory desserts for years. I love me some savory meets sweet. Can you name a few of your fave savory desserts that you’ve served at Le Bernardin recently?

Fall is surely the time when a lot of those savory elements tend to appear. At the moment, we’re pairing figs with goat cheese and bacon ice cream, parsnip appears in the form of a crème brulée, and a sweet potato sorbet tops a dark Dominican chocolate crémeux. All of these deeper flavors work so well in a comforting way, especially as the air begins to chill.

Continue reading…

OpenTable Spotlight Turns on Tonight! Can You Guess Where?

You'll find this dish on the menu at this week's Spotlight restaurant in Atlanta.

Get ready to save 50% on your next meal with this week’s OpenTable Spotlight deals in AtlantaBostonChicagoDenverLos AngelesNew YorkPhiladelphiaSan Francisco, and Washington, D.C. We’ll let you know where the Spotlight will shine this evening, but, until then, use these clues and make your best guesses on our Spotlight message boards, Facebook, or Twitter.

Atlanta: Named after a Russian Emperor, this stunning restaurant looks over the Atlanta skyline from its lofty perch. Experience royal decadence and excellent cuisine at this downtown gem.

Boston: Tucked in Boston’s East End, this stylish fusion lounge/restaurant offers indulgent drinks and eclectic, delectable cuisine.

Chicago: This Riverwest dining destination is a stylish blend of old school style with contemporary preparation. A few bites of the classic American comfort cuisine and a couple sips of delicious cocktails will have you singing like a bird.

Denver: Situated in a historical manor dating back to the 19th century, this family-owned Italian restaurant specializes in serving delicious 4-course meals complete with warm garlic bread.

Los Angeles: This Culver City eatery offers sustainable new American cuisine with a wholesome, hearty flair. Treat yourself to a delicious meal in the innovative, eco-friendly constructed building.

New York: This Gramercy gem is a passageway to Italy. Enjoy sumptuous regional Roman dishes in an elegant yet cozy dining environment.

Philadelphia: This classic steakhouse is reminiscent of a 1940s supper club. Enjoy mouthwatering steaks and other classic steakhouse fare in an elegant, retro atmosphere.

San Francisco: Minutes away from San Francisco’s MoMA, Embarcadero, and Ballpark, this SOMA gem serves authentic Italian fare and features an excellent all-Italian wine list. With a focus on fresh, organic produce and natural and humanely raised meats and poultry, the rustic menu takes on a contemporary flair.

Washington, D.C.: This restaurant’s namesake and original location is nestled in a small, Tuscan town over four thousand miles from their Dupont Circle location. For the past 21 years, DC area diners have been savoring this traditional, rustic Italian dining experience.

Be sure to get your offers before the Spotlight goes out on Wednesday night!