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

TCJD 6 Michael Laiskonis 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.

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OpenTable Spotlight Turns on Tonight! Can You Guess Where?

SS ATL 3 10202 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.

trans OpenTable Spotlight Turns on Tonight! Can You Guess Where?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.

trans OpenTable Spotlight Turns on Tonight! Can You Guess Where?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!

The Next Iron Chef Episode 3: In a Pickle with Chef Marc Forgione

Living to battle another week in Kitchen Stadium, chef Marc Forgione returns to dish on fish and fishing, hot cherry peppers, and resourcefulness, on season three of The Next Iron Chef.

Next Iron Chef Marc Forgione Ep3 B The Next Iron Chef Episode 3: In a Pickle with Chef Marc Forgione
Resourcefulness is the name of the game this week. "I decided to use as many of the pickles I was given in as many ways as I could."

You have your notebook with you all the time during the challenges. Can you talk about your planning process a little bit for these incredibly brief (in terms of time) challenges?

At least for me, my notebook was not recipes. It was more for ideas and ingredient  lists, so that, in the chaos, I could look at my notes and remember, ‘I need carrots.’ Food Network actually has a great feature where you can view the notebook of the contestant that was voted off.

At your restaurant, you make your own pickles. What’s your favorite kind of pickled item?

Right now at my restaurant, we are doing pickled Red Jacket Orchard apples, with braised almonds and candied bacon, in a duck dish. Pickling fruits is a new thing for me — we started pickling peaches and watermelons over the summer. I am quickly falling in love with these new flavors.

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Top 50 Italian Restaurants in the U.S.: OpenTable’s 2010 Diners’ Choice Winners

Best Italian Restaurants 2010 Top 50 Italian Restaurants in the U.S.: OpenTables 2010 Diners Choice Winners
Is pasta -- and not mashed potatoes -- the ultimate comfort food?

Are you always in the mood for Italian food? We are, too! That’s why we’re bursting to bring you the results of our second annual Diners’ Choice awards for the restaurants for best Italian.

Derived from more than 7 million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners of more than 12,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, this list includes winners from sea to shining sea — and almost everywhere in between. From Acqua in Minnesota and Bottega in Birmingham to Vetri in Philadelphia and South Carolina’s Wild Olive, there’s an honoree in almost half of the states in the union, good news because, from pasta to pizza and classic to contemporary, there’s nary an Italian dish that doesn’t make diners’ stomachs swoon!

Find out if your favorite Italian restaurant is among this year’s 50 winners, and let us know what dishes you crave when you’re eating Italian cuisine.

Seattle Restaurant Week Starts Sunday! Start Reserving Today

Seattle RW 20101 Seattle Restaurant Week Starts Sunday! Start Reserving Today
The food in Seattle is definitely better than that of Oz's Emerald City, that's for sure.

Everyone knows how cool Seattle is. But, as impossible as it might seem, the Emerald City is about to get even more so. And, no, it has nothing to do with Dorothy, her little dog, or even the Lollipop Guild. You see, dear diners, Sunday marks the kick off of Seattle Restaurant Week. Featuring three-course lunches for $15 and three-course dinners for $25, Seattle Restaurant Week includes more than 100 participating restaurants, such as Cafe Campagne, Dahlia Lounge, Spur Gastropub, and Tilth.

While the deals aren’t applicable for Friday and Saturdays, there’s still ample time to dine your way through town. Just remember, though, there’s no place like home — especially after a fine meal at one of these terrific restaurants.

Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 5: Let’s Get Some Shoes…

TCJD 5 Gail Simmons Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 5: Lets Get Some Shoes...
Gail Simmons's dress isn't edible, but she still looks delish.

We’re counting down the days until Le Bernardin’s Michael Laiskonis gets his turn at the judges’ table on Top Chef Just Desserts (next week!), but for now, he’s in the hot seat, dishing it out about all the sweet and not-so-sweet goings on in this week’s episode.

So, we’re seeing some alliances have formed in the competition. Are there mini-kitchen cliques in general?

Sure, there are, but a smart cook realizes it’s important to make friends with everyone, because when it really hits the fan, it’s nice knowing that you don’t have to worry that someone’s got your back. At its worst, the atmosphere in the kitchen can be like trench warfare. Best not to play favorites.

How do you do soufflés for a QFC so that they don’t fall? Also, any good soufflé war stories?

While I do soufflés rarely now, in the past, I’d do dozens in a night. The key is simply controlling all the variables — the recipe, proper whipping of the egg whites, and filling of the ramekin, and of course, time and temperature. In a restaurant situation, worst case scenario, you make another one and wait it out. My worst case: A cook once forgot to add the cornstarch to a chocolate soufflé base; the guests eventually got their dessert, along a few extras while they waited!

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