Thursday, May 22, 2008


Dear Padma, Ted, and Tom Tony,

I love your show, but you sent the wrong chef packing last night. Lisa's gotta go.

Yours truly,
A Devoted Top Chef Fan

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hawthorne Lane: Take TWO

Last week, I took Karen out to celebrate her birthday. Since it was a "school night", I thought that it would be nice to go somewhere interesting, fun, and low key. So, I decided to take Karen to TWO. Located in the space once occupied by the restaurant Hawthorne Lane, TWO was born out of chef/owner David Gingrass' desire to reinvent his restaurant to have a hipper and more casual atmosphere. We had the opportunity to visit Hawthorne Lane twice before it closed, the last time for its final cooking class.

While Karen had already been to TWO once before for lunch, I had not visited since our cooking class. While there were some differences in the decor, notably the wall panels and the lighting fixtures, the place still seemed to be quite similar to its previous incarnation.

Soon after we were seated, we were pleased to be presented with their starter plate of flatbread and biscuits. The flatbread was deliciously cheesy with a hint of heat and the biscuits were flaky and wonderfully buttery.

After a round of drinks (Karen ordered a mojito and I got a glass of Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine), we were ready to order dinner. We started out with a decadent appetizer, slow-roasted marrow bones served with crusty bread and caramelized onions. There was the perfect amount of marrow in the order: one bone for each of us with enough marrow to spread over the toasted bread. Despite the richness of the marrow, there was just the right amount so that we didn't feel overly sated by the starter before our main courses.

Since we were both pretty hungry, we decided to order a couple of entrées which we split. The first main course was braised beef cheeks with gaufrette potatoes, maple glaze, and horseradish crème fraîche. The beef was really flavorful and fall-apart tender and went very well with the horseradish. The maple glaze was interesting, having a slight hint of port, but was perhaps a touch sweet for my taste. Nevertheless, this was an excellent dish.

Our second main dish was a pan-fried pork cutlet, which could be prepared in two different ways. We could have ordered it with broccoli rabe and lemon, but opted to have it with spicy marinara and aged provolone cheese. The huge cutlet was deliciously tender and not at all greasy. With the marinara and cheese, it was reminiscent of a veal parmesan. It was another fine dish, though given the heaviness of the marrow and beef cheeks, it would have been more prudent to go with the lemon and rabe option.

For our side, we continued with the rich food theme and ordered some truffled macaroni and cheese. I enjoyed the mac and cheese, though the truffled flavor was a bit too strong for Karen's liking. I am curious if they used real truffle oil or something that came out of a laboratory.

Though we were getting quite full, it was, after all, Karen's birthday, so we ended the meal by sharing a decadent dessert, their signature "TWO Chocolates" mousse cake. The dessert consisted of semisweet and milk chocolate mousses, devil’s food cake, and caramel rice krispies. It was wonderfully rich and delicious. Even though I'm not a dessert guy, I'd definitely order it the next time I'm there.

So, there you have it, a fabulous birthday meal. I was a bit disappointed that they didn't do anything special for Karen, as per my OpenTable request, but the food was great and the service was prompt and attentive, so we really can't complain too much.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Six Left Standing

After ten weeks of Top Chef: Chicago, six cheftestants remain going into the Restaurant Wars episode.

With a half-dozen chefs remaining, I'm going to make a prediction for the rest of the season. I predict that the chefs will be eliminated in the following order:

  1. Spike
  2. Lisa
  3. Antonia
  4. Stephanie
  5. Dale
This means I predict that Richard will be named "Top Chef".

Who do you think will be "Top Chef"? Let's hear your predictions!

The Interview

My friends are at it again... another Random Act of Cheetos.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Accidental Proposal

With the multitude of Web 2.0 and social networking tools available today, many companies are turning to viral marketing to help promote their brand awareness. One such campaign was the Orange Underground, a viral marketing effort put on by the makers of Cheetos. The campaign asked fans of the cheesy snack food to film "Random Acts of Cheetos" (RAoC) and upload their videos to an online video hosting site. From the submitted entries, four finalists would be selected, with the winner being chosen through an open vote. The grand prize winner, to be announced in June, will receive $5000 in cash and a year's supply of Cheetos.

A few of my friends got into the act and filmed a couple of RAoCs. Though they didn't make it to the final round, I think that their videos were quite funny. Check it out:

Cooking for Mom

My mom was in town for the past few weeks to help out with the wedding planning, so I had a rare opportunity to cook for her on Mother's Day. Since we were doing engagement photos on Mother's Day, we actually decided to cook dinner for my mom on Saturday. My mom didn't really have any preference as to what she wanted for dinner, so it was up to us to decide what to prepare and serve. We spent a good part of the morning deliberating various options but ultimately, Karen came up with the fabulous menu that follows.

We began our dinner with a simple fennel and orange salad. It was crisp and refreshing and a nice way to start off our meal. Plus, it was fun to suprême some oranges.

For the main course, Karen decided to go with surf and turf. The "surf" dish was roasted sockeye salmon with roasted plum tomatoes and caramelized lemon slices, courtesy of Dave Lieberman. Not only was it a fabulously colorful dish, it was quite delicious as well (even though I did overcook the salmon a little bit this time). We used Meyer lemons in the dish, which added a bright, citrusy flavor.

The "turf" component of our meal was a roast of the Bay Area-favorite Fred's Steak. Not the prettiest thing to look at, but in this case, looks are deceiving - it was wonderfully tender and flavorful as usual.

We didn't neglect our veggies. In fact, we had two sides of vegetables. The first was a side of roasted purple cauliflower:

We also enjoyed some tender asparagus tips, which we roasted with garlic and sesame oil.

Yes, it was a lot of food. Probably too much, but it was a lot of fun to cook for my mom. Of course, we didn't forget dessert. For the sweet ending of our meal, we had macerated strawberry and raspberry shortcake with a little bit (okay, a lot) of whipped cream and mint chiffonade.

It was a very hearty and satisfying meal. I have to give kudos to Karen for putting together such a fantastic menu. My mom loved the dinner and is looking forward to many more meals cooked by us in the future.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Engagement Photos!

I know, I know... Things have been pretty quiet around the FFT blog the past few months, but there's a good reason! As I mentioned earlier, Karen and I got engaged last summer and have been ridiculously busy working out the details for the wedding. After months of work, we are finally looking down the home stretch of wedding planning.

The past weekend, we had an engagement photo session with Laura, our fabulous photographer from Beautiful Day Photography. Accompanied by my mom (on Mother's Day!), we had a really fun time getting shots from multiple locations around San Francisco, including Alamo Square, the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Chinatown.

Yesterday, Laura gave us a sample of some of the shots that she took this weekend and they look fabulous! Below is one of our favorites. You can see more photos from our weekend shoot on her blog.

Photo courtesy of Laura Grier/Beautiful Day Photography.

We had a blast working with Laura and are really excited that she will be working with us to capture a special moment in our lives.