10 Things You Need to Know About Top Chef Seattle Episode 7

“Since I’m the tallest and prettiest, you should serve me first,” laughs Padma Lakshmi.

Happy almost-holidays, Top Chef fans. This week’s episode lacks the star power and the outrage evident in the last two episodes, but, thanks to Stefan Richter and Bart Vandaele, things stayed pretty amusing. Today’s takeaways from last night include:

1. Padma Lakshmi is seriously tall. I know many of you already know this, but last night she really looked as though she might trample Chef Stepanie Izard’s village or worse, Girl & The Goat!

2. Toss your pots and pans, space savers. Apparently, you can do anything with Reynolds Wrap.

3. Just ask Bart Vandaele, who appears to have watched Signs one too many times. Or Airplane.

4. Micah has a seriously super-sized ego, but I’m not sure he’s got the culinary prowess to match. At least we’ve not seen it yet.Continue Reading

Cheers to 85 Years at The Russian Tea Room: Make Every Meal Extraordinary!

The Russian Tea Room’s main dining room looks like something out of a movie — and it is. Many movies, in fact.

The Russian Tea Room, one of New York City’s most storied restaurants, turned 85 this year. In a city that never sleeps and boasts an ever-changing landscape, this is no small feat, especially if you consider that during a brief period in the early 2000s, the restaurant was sold to the United States Golf Association (see Heck?, What the), destined to become a museum of sorts for the iron-swinging set. If you’ve ever been to the Russian Tea Room (and, really, if you have not, you must go. Now. That’s a direct order.), you can understand the monumental loss this would have been to foodies and vodka connoisseurs everywhere, not to mention the city itself.

I think we can all agree that Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf really looks like she needs one of the Russian Tea Room’s signature shots of chilled vodka from Igor.

A cultural and culinary salon for an array of artists since opening its doors in 1927, the Russian Tea Room, or RTR, is also a touchstone for New Yorkers and guests from around the globe alike. From its early heyday as a stomping ground for Russian ex-pats and the likes of George Balanchine and Ayn Rand to its place as a dining destination for high society and Hollywood royalty, it remains one of the most recognizable restaurants in the world. It’s been featured in films including ManhattanSweet Smell of Success, TootsieThe Turning PointBigSmurfs, and New York Stories, among others. It’s also influenced films: When Harry Met Sally was conceived at one of the restaurant’s posh booths. A favorite with television programs as well, you can see RTR’s signature dining room in episodes of Louie, Gossip Girl, Real Housewives of New York, and Real Housewives of New Jersey. The Russian Tea Room continues to attract celebrities and influencers, including Mariah Carey, Bill and Hilary Clinton, Anderson Cooper, Keira Knightly, Paul McCartney, Chris Noth, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Carlos Slim, to name a few. Some celebs got their start here; Madonna was a coat check girl just before she got her big break.

And yet, The Russian Tea Room isn’t resting on these lofty laurels. Beyond generously providing diners and tourists with a bottomless supply of the most coveted matchbooks in Manhattan, they offer a level of service and warmth that isn’t always typical of an establishment with such a notable reputation. Have you ever walked into a restaurant where it felt as though you were sort of inconveniencing the host with your mere presence? You can be certain you weren’t in the Russian Tea Room when that happened. The doting service provided at this fabled restaurant reminds you that the very best restaurants aren’t just about food — they’re about hospitality, too.

To wit, while hosting my in-laws for 11 (!) days, my nerves were wearing particularly thin after a long, cold day on the town. Fortunately, before they could fully fray, it was nearing cocktail hour — and we were nearing the Russian Tea Room. I dashed in a half a block ahead of my guests, flustered and breathing hard, hoping they could accommodate us, even though they were quite busy. “Of course!” I stood at the bar as the staff readied a grand table, catching my breath. Then, Igor the bartender asked me the most wonderful question: “Would you like a shot of vodka?” If I weren’t already married, I might have proposed to Igor then and there. Instead, I enthusiastically replied, “Yes, yes, I would!” One “Zа, Igor!” and a perfectly chilled shot of Jewel of Russia vodka laterI was, in the words of George Costanza, back, baby!

So, what’s new? A great deal, in fact. The Russian Tea Room revamps its menus seasonally. And, most recently, they have introduced several new services to delight diners of every age and appetite — at almost any time of day. Complete offerings include:

Breakfast: The new New York power breakfast is here! Served Monday-Friday, from 7AM to 10AM, breakfast at the Russian Tea Room has everything you need to start your business day, from the classic to the contemporary. And, if you’ve got a group of six or more, for just $20 per person, you can have your own breakfast buffet. Now, isn’t that much better than Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

Business Express Lunch: A favorite of midtown’s movers and shakers, the business express lunch is perfect for your next business lunch. Three courses for $40 include choices of RTR’s signature dishes as well as super-fresh salads.Continue Reading

Chef Mark Sullivan Invites You to Support Share Our Strength + No Kid Hungry at Spruce in San Francisco on 1/22/13: OpenTable Diners Save $50 on Tickets!

Spruce’s Mark Sullivan + John Madriaga will be joined by a cadre of chefs who share their passion for helping to end childhood hunger.

Bay Area foodies: You’re invited to dine out to do good in the new year! Join Chef Mark Sullivan and Chef John Madriaga at Spruce restaurant on January 22, 2013, for a one-of-a-kind, four-course dinner to benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. A cocktail reception kicks off at 6PM, featuring passed hors’ d’Oeuvres from Chef Amanda Freitag. At 7PM, a multi-course seated dinner, with wine pairings, begins, with Chefs Craig Stoll and Anthony Strong of Locanda preparing the first course and Chef Jason Berthold of RN74 the second. Spruce’s own Chef Mark Sullivan is creating a special entree, and a delicious dessert to remember will be prepared by Chef Belinda Leong of b. patisserie.

Tickets are normally $250, but OpenTable diners can save $50 when purchasing tickets with the code NKHSF200Buy tickets now!

Share Our Strength® is a national non-profit working to end childhood hunger in America by connecting kids with food where they live, learn and play. Through their No Kid Hungry® campaign, they create powerful coalitions of local hunger groups, government and corporate leaders, education leaders, chefs, parents and others. These partnerships ensure kids who are at risk of hunger have access to the healthy food they need every day.

Don’t miss your chance to support Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign while enjoying some of San Francisco’s most sumptuous cuisine at Spruce in the new year. Click here to learn more and purchase tickets.

10 Things You Need to Know about Top Chef Seattle Episode 6

To wife Anna Faris’s great chagrin, Chris Pratt requests a second serving of squirrel heart.

We’re about midway through this season of Top Chefand everything that the producers are doing to keep the show fresh is sort of showing, which probably wasn’t their initial intent. I will say that most of the food served at the very-staged welcome home soiree for actors Anna Faris and Chris Pratt made me come thisclose to breaking my cleanse. Brooke’s lamb-stuffed octopus and Tesar’s seafood chowder literally had my mouth watering. If only I could same the same for the rest of the ep. Now, on to the most pertinent points…

1. No offense to Marilyn Hagerty, but her turn as a guest judge really felt like stunt casting. It was painful to watch and unfair to the cheftestants.

2. Divine Swine’s name is bordering on the ironic, thanks to Josh’s failed forays with pork.Continue Reading