Recommended Food TV: BBQ With Franklin

by A.J. Coltrane

I recently “found” a new show — BBQ With Franklin. Hosted by Texas pitmaster Aaron Franklin, the show covers topics such as:

  1.  The different varieties of wood and selecting the appropriate piece for the application.
  2.  Making sausage.
  3.  Comparing different types of smokers, and how to build one from scratch.
  4.  Brisket. Chicken. Pork. Other cuts of cow.
  5.  “Cowboy” style (direct heat) cooking.
  6.  Sauces.
  7.  Competition BBQ.
  8.  Lots more.

As an example, here’s a piece focused on smoking sausage:

I think he has a nice, low-key presentation style. The information given is clear and concise, and he often includes nuances that aren’t all that obvious without experience in the subject. When watching I’ve had many “Oh.. That’s why it’s done that way!” moments.

It airs locally on CreateTV.  Episodes are available on the web here. YouTube channel is here.

Highly recommended viewing!


Dishwasher Lasagna

By Iron Chef Leftovers

You may remember that Culinary God Food Network Star Alton Brown appeared on Mythbusters. I had not realized there was actually a segment that did not make it into the show – I give you Dishwasher Lasagna.

Top Chef Duels

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Top Chef has apparently abandoned the all-star concept and is instead going with a head-to-head competition involving former contestants. From reading the description, it sounds like this is going to be Top Chef Chopped with a twist, that being:

Rivalries will be intensified as “Top Chef Duels” ups the ante and allows the competing chefs to each pick one mini-duel based on the other’s perceived weaknesses in the kitchen.

I like that they are getting both regular and all-star contestants, but I would have liked to have seen all the matchups as regular vs. masters.

Here are the matchups:

Episode 101: Richard Blais (Top Chef Chicago runner- up and Top Chef All-Stars winner) vs. Marcel Vigneron (Top Chef Season 2 runner up) – I like this matchup with two molecular gastronomy guys going at it. I would have loved to see either Blais or Vigneron against Wylie Dufresne, but this one is going to be good. I think Blais wins it in a close battle.

Episode 102: Shirley Chung (Top Chef New Orleans finalist) vs. Brooke Williamson (Top Chef Seattle runner up) – Chung didn’t impress me on TS-NOLA and I thought that Williamson was going to win TS-Seattle, so I think it is pretty clear how I think this is going to end up. I would have loved to see Williamson against Naomi Pomeroy or Anita Lo here.

Episode 103: Mike Isabella (Top Chef All-Stars runner up) vs. Antonia Lofaso (Top Chef Chicago finalist) – both of these two are very underrated cooks and I think this is going to end up being a fun matchup and I think Isabella is going to prevail. Would love to see one of them against someone like Jon Waxman.

Episode 104: CJ Jacobson (Top Chef Miami contestant) vs. Stefan Richter (Top Chef Season 5 runner up) – there is going to be a ton of trash talk in this competition and I think that CJ takes this one with Stefan complaining the whole time.  Would be cool if this one had Jacobson or Richter against Tom Colicchio.

Episode 105: David Burke (Top Chef Masters Season 5) vs. Takashi Yagihashi (Top Chef Masters Season 4) – master vs. master here, I think that Yagihashi takes it. Would have liked to see one of them square off with one of the Voltaggios or Sheldon Simeon.

Episode 106: Tiffani Faison (Top Chef Season 1 runner up) vs. Dale Talde (Top Chef Chicago and Top Chef All-Star contestant) – another tough call with two great chefs, but I think Talde will squeak out a victory. How about a battle against Chris Cosentino here?

Episode 107: Nyesha Arrington (Top Chef Texas contestant) vs. Jen Carroll (Top Chef Las Vegas finalist) – Nyesha annoyed the crap out of me and doesn’t strike me a great chef but Jen Carroll is, so I don’t think this one will be close. Fun would be Carroll against Rick Moonen. Really fun would be Carroll against Eric Ripert, her mentor.

Episode 108: Stephanie Izard (Top Chef Chicago winner) vs. Kristen Kish (Top Chef Seattle winner) – another really great battle, although I think that Kish got an easier road to winning TS-Seattle by plowing through last chance kitchen. Izard is the better cook and I think she wins, but I would love to see either of them square off against Mary Sue Milliken or Tracy Desjardins.

Episode 109: Kevin Gillespie (Top Chef Las Vegas fan favorite) vs. Art Smith (Top Chef Masters Season 1) – the battle of the beards and finally a master vs. regular battle, and they definitely got the matchup right. Both of these guys do home-style southern so it should be fun and probably involve a ton of pork products. I think Gillespie wins though.

Episode 110: Championship Finale – has me wondering how this is going to work. You have 9 winners from the previous episodes. If I had to guess who takes the competition overall not knowing how this is going to be presented, I am putting my money on Stephanie Izard.

The show premiers on August 6th.

Andrew Zimmern in Portland

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I have always like Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s, “Bizarre Foods.” The man has no fear about eating things that most people would find strange, although I do question his ability to actually taste anything since he actually likes lutefisk (one of about 4 things I will never eat again).

Zimmern was in Portland this summer filming and he is really hitting some of the best spots in the city. From

Thus far, Zimmern’s Portland itinerary has included stops to Olympic Provisions, Laurelhurst Market (where Zimmern touts a smoked balsamic-brined lamb as having “insane flavor”), Steven Smith Teamaker, and Beast (described as “just a jewel of an eatery”). As previously reported, he’s filming at Lincoln today (where he’s already Twatted a photo of tonight’s dinner), and it looks like a stop at Nicky USA is also on the calendar.

What other Portland stops should be considered sufficiently Bizarre? Holler in the comments.

UPDATE: Zimmern’s Tweeting major food porn — wild boar collar, fermented Thai sausage, Vietnamese wings — from Pok Pok.

Laurelhurst Market is a favorite of the Iron Chef Leftovers family and has been previously reviewed here. Hopefully he got the marrow bones, which were some of the best I have ever had. I went to Beast recently and it was outstanding. Olympic Provisions, also reviewed here, is home to an amazing eggs benedict, which Mrs. Iron Chef Leftovers calls one of the best things she has ever eaten. Pok Pok, Lincoln and Teamaker are all on my short list of Portland places I want to hit.

The one I am most jealous of – Nicky USA. If you are not familiar with them, they are the largest purveyor of game meat in the US, most of which is sourced locally in Oregon. I really can’t wait for the show to air just to see what sort of goodies he got to experience there.

Ooh! It’s so good!

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Back in my younger days when I still had my Iron Chef Training Wheels, there was no Food Network, no internet and cooking shows were primarily limited to PBS and starred such greats as Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet), Julia Child, Justin Wilson (or as he called himself, Justiiin Wil-son, my first exposure to Cajun cooking) and Martin Yan (one of the funniest and smartest people I have had the pleasure of meeting). There was one exception – a 90 second segment that appeared on the local news every day called Mr. Food hosted by a man named Art Ginsburg. Mr. Food was a big geek and ended every one of his segments with the line “Ooh! It’s so good!”

As much as I loved the PBS shows, as a kid, Mr. Food was much more approachable – everything was relatively simple and easy to produce and you could send an SASE to the station to get the recipe (I did that a number of times) that came with really well thought out instructions on how to make the dish. I remember making several of them, some turning out well, some not so much.

I hadn’t thought about Mr. Food for years until a few days ago when I saw this posted. It appears that Art Ginsburg passed away on November 19th at the age of 81 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. That made me realize he probably had more of an impact on my early cooking interest than anyone outside of my family. In reading the story, one thing stuck out that I had no idea about:

he published 52 Mr. Food-related cookbooks, selling more than 8 million copies

These days, I don’t imagine that I would get anything out of those cook books, but I wouldn’t mind leafing through them just for nostalgic value.

Rest in peace, Chef, and thank you from both my 39 year old Iron Chef self and my 10 year old just learning to cook self – Iron Chef Leftovers might not have existed if it weren’t for you.

If you have never seen his segments, here is a more recent one to give you an idea of what they were like (and the guy looks the same as he did in the early 1980’s)

Top Chef: Seattle

By Iron Chef Leftovers

The new season premier has officially been announced for November 7th. Bravo also announced the contestants. It is a somewhat underwhelming lineup, especially after the firepower they brought out last season, but the real kick in the groin; not a single Seattle chef in the lineup. I know that the 3 they had last season were complete busts, but really, not one home town (or even Portland or Vancouver) chef? Makes me want to not watch the show just on that principle.

Top Chef:Seattle

By Iron Chef Leftovers

If there was any question if Top Chef was filming in Seattle, there has been a Padma sighting at Mistral and the entire crew at Walrus and Carpenter.

Since it is official that they will start filming next week, some challenges I would love to see:

  • Geoduck – It’s a clam that looks like a large penis and is damn tasty. Would make a great quick fire.
  • Bring them out to a shellfish farm, have them dig the oysters/clams/mussels and then have them prepare them.
  • Bring them out to a farm like Skagit River Ranch and make one hell of a BBQ with sustainable produce.
  • Coffee!
  • They should do at least one challenge where they are pairing food with beer and or wine.
  • I am sure there will be some sort of tie-in with the folks at Modernist Cuisine.

To me, these are no brainers.

On a related note, there were some not so flattering comments on about Seattle being the location for the next Top Chef:

Too bad if true. There isn’t anything exciting happening in Seattle especially in food. Portland would’ve been a much better choice.

Great, the trendy hellhole known as the Pacific Northwest. Culinary graveyard.

Eh, Seattle shines in a few areas, but not many.

All of these posters were anonymous, and didn’t have the balls to actually post their real names, so no real surprise there. My guess is they are all from Boston and are unhappy that the culinary wasteland that is Boston didn’t get Top Chef (or Portlander who think they should have hosted). Are we NY, LA or Chicago, no, but we are only a city of about 600,000 and I think we are as good, if not better than SF and Austin, 2 previously featured cities on Top Chef.

Back In My Day, Minimalist Style

by A.J. Coltrane

Mark Bittman, on his show The Minimalist. While using a serrated knife to slice as steak, he had this to say:

I wonder if my mom is watching?

Mom, you watching? How am I doing?

(mom voice)  Why are you using that stupid knife?

(Bittman)  My father would come out with an electric knife. It’s this little power tool with these two reciprocating blades.  Rrrrhmmm..    and it would go (high pitch) rrrrrrrr!!!

It never quite worked very well, but it was cool, you know, it was the 60’s… Electric can openers, electric knives… Blenders…  very exiting time…  Rocketships.

Rocketships! What an anachronism! It reminded of this Simpsons line, as usual.

Check, Please! Northwest

by A.J. Coltrane

Check, Please! Northwest features three “local diners” visiting three restaurants, then comparing their experiences on the air with host Amy Pennington.

As might be expected from a show with non-professional reviews,  the quality and usefulness of the commentary can vary wildly. One episode featured a guy who clearly wasn’t comfortable anywhere besides TGIMcFunsters. Another featured a guy who went to the restaraunt, but then couldn’t remember the names of the dishes — and he knew he was going to have to talk about it on television! Take notes! There are also exchanges such as — Host:  “What is your summation of the restaurant?” Guest: “Mmm Mmm Good!”.    Really?

In the espisode that included Island Soul they somehow managed to talk about the drinks, but never once mention the rum flights, which to my mind is the high point of the restaurant.

I haven’t written anything “nice” yet, but it’s still on the Tivo “record” list. Pennington does a good job as the host. The local restaurant reviews can be useful. Hopefully the quality of the guests will improve going forward.

Where Should Top Chef Film Next?

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Seattle is on the short list of places for the next season of Top Chef. Seattle is really overshadowed by San Francisco and LA as a culinary mecca, but you have some really cutting edge stuff coming out of here (the Modernist Cuisine Crew) and some fantastic chef doing amazing stuff with local and seasonal ingredients. It would be a real boon to Seattle’s culinary reputation if they get Top Chef, although somehow I see an elimination challenge involving digging up a geoduck.

Marche Jean Talon in Montreal. Everything is local and seasonal here. There is a reason why most Montreal chefs shop here.

I bring this up because I read an article on that the Boston mayor is pushing for a twitter campaign to have Top Chef come to Boston. I lived in Boston for 12 years and I am back there a couple of times a year on business, so I am still pretty in tune with the Boston dining scene. Let me tell you, cutting edge and memorable are 2 words you won’t hear me use to describe it. Staid, stogy and mediocre are the ones I would use. Yes, there are some great restaurants in Boston (check out my review of what may be the best one here), but generally most places are generic and dated. Folks in Boston are not cutting edge when it comes to dining out nor is there the push for local/sustainable/organic that you would expect to see from a city with that many institutions of higher learning.
You want Italian in Boston, everyone will tell you to go to the North End. What you will find is 30 restaurants all serving “classic” Italian dishes like lasagna, chicken parm and veal piccatta. There are a few “trendy” places there, but their menus are equally as lackluster. You won’t find any place like Altura, or Assiaggio or even Swingside café there, and the North End is “the” Italian neighborhood in Boston.

If you want the best food in Boston, you have to go very high end, which in most cases excludes the bulk of the dining public (Zagat’s has the Legal Seafood restaurants ranked 1-10 and they aren’t at all cheap; everything in the top 25 is $30+ entrée type places). By contrast, the #2 and #3 rated food places in Seattle by Zagat’s are the sister locations of Paseo, where nothing is more than $15. The number 4 place? Mashiko, one of 2 sustainable sushi places in the US where you can easily fill up for less than $25 a person. Paseo and Mashiko are both amazing places to eat.

You want gastro pub, forget it in Boston. You won’t find a Quinn’s or a Tavern Law there. Great burger joint? None that I can think of in Boston (although there are a few pretty good ones around).
My favorite quote from the article:

But so far, Boston — a.k.a. the land of the bean and the cod and the home of the first gastronome to put cream in the chowder — has been terra incognita for “Top Chef.”

Right there to me is the reason to NOT shoot in Boston.

Top Chef has been to New York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco and Austin, all culinary hot spots. Seattle and/or Portland are due. Boston, meh, not so much. Heck, I would love to see them shoot in Montreal before they shoot in Boston. They could have an amazing challenge just by dropping the chefs in either Marche Jean Talon or Marche Atwater and letting them go to town.