the end of an era.

a top chef era, that is.

last night was the finale of top chef, season 4, where stephanie captured an incredible victory, capturing the first ever female top chef title. you can read about it here.

with our final top chef challenge approaching, i think we all faced our toughest challenge yet: vegan raw food dish.

yikes. that just sounds bad.

sidenote: for those of you, like me, who are a little confused about how exactly vegan defines , it’s pretty simple: no animal byproducts of any kind. this means no eggs, no milk, no cheese, etc. (and obviously no meat.)

this was sort of a strange challenge, but was, however, inspired by one of our chefs who has just completed a 21 day cleanse, eating only vegetables and gluten-free bread. pretty awesome. this challenge was, in fact, so awesome, that i ended up not participating, but making a fierce bowl of gucamole for all to share.

chef red house had the strongest showing and, hands down, won this finale. she make 3, count them three, raw, vegan desserts. how did she do this without baking? well, lucky you, i’ve got the inside scoop: sorcery.

i guess the most obvious looking thing is sort of like apple pie. you can see the apples and crust kind of ended up mixing together. that was my favorite. the two smaller brown globbies are sort of like little donuts. the recipe was titled something like ‘tastes like hostess cupcakes’…they were pretty close. the other huge glob, is something i like to call ‘george’s dinner.’ and we’ll just leave it at that.

chef cp, showed strong with scallops.

but oh great plastic cupcake, i thought you said this was a vegan challenge?

you’re right. here they are in a little bed of avocados and tomatoes, deliciously marinated in magic sauce, which is made with something like unicorns and rainbow droppings.

chef cool beans, attempted a vegan dish, not so much on the raw side (hummus was an ingredient). it was pretty good, i feel like it’s what i would expect if i were to eat a raw vegan meal…not super flavorful, but a balanced, calm taste.

last but, most certainly not least, chef slovak brought his raw, vegan meal: pizza.

so now, this chapter of top chef, has come to an end. i have to say that overall i am very glad we decided to get together every week to compete in cooking competitions. sometimes they were super frustrating, after all i think you can really learn a lot about yourself from what comes out of your mouth in a stressful and timed situation. ha. but it’s those moments when you’re sitting around the table among friends, trying new foods and laughing that makes this community so strong.

i shall now hang up my chef’s hat until we decide what we will do next. i proposed, to chef cool beans, that we attempt craft projects for the upcoming start of project runway. (july!) i’m thinking popsicle stick birdhouses and whatnot.

moments away from top chef.

so this week in our top chef challenge, i have decided not to participate, but was soon given another task: the shopper. the challenge this week is for everyone to give me $15 (which they did) and then i will go shopping for a variety of ingredients, my choice (which i have).

each chef will draw knives to see who gets to pick the main ingredient first (i have purchased 1 chicken breast, 1 turkey burger patty, 1 package of tofu dogs, 1 pound of extra firm tofu and 2 cans of light tuna in water.) and then be alloted 45 minutes to prepare a dish.

here’s a list of ingredients i have purchased.

1 poppyseed bagel
1 artichoke (whole, with stem)
1/2 lb. of mixed greens
1 green bell pepper
1 diced purple onion
1 can of tomato sauce
1 can of jalapeƱo peppers
bag of pasta
8 oz. monterrey jack cheese
1 bag of cheese puffs
1 pkg of rice sticks (like chinese noodles)
1 round loaf of wheat bread
1 can of water chestnuts
1 can of mandarine slices in pear juice

pictures and possibly video, soon to follow.

***UPDATE***

okay, so here’s how it went down. amy drew the tofu, hank the chicken and palo the turkey burger. AWESOME!!! each dish came out beautifully and plated with pizazz. pictures soon! it was seriously fun.

a taco of a night.

last night we had our second top chef challenge: the ten dollar taco. i was able to capture some delicious pictures for you.

taco one: chef red house.

ingredients: cinnamon dusted flour tortilla, raspberries, blackberries, and whipped cream.

taco two: chef poopy pants

ingredients: corn tortilla, catfish, assorted veggies

taco three: chef plastic cupcake (hey, that’s me!)

ingredients: corn tortilla, black beans, tomato, yellow onion, lime, avacado

taco four: chef cool beans

ingredients: corn tortilla, fish, a home-made slaw

taco five: chef slovakia

ingedients: corn tortilla, swiss cheese, green onion, portabella mushroom

i think the winner of the night was amanda, all though everyone made an incredible showing. woo! our next weeks challenge is based on last night’s episode, and we all drew knives for different elements: fire, water, spirit, rainbow (that was amanda’s idea, haha), air and my draw: earth.

suggestions for earth dishes? please advise.

alas, i was not victorious.

i have SO much to learn, friends. i have not watched the previous seasons of top chef, and therefore, felt a little unprepared for this competition with avid top-chef watchers. i just did what i could.

as you know, my three ingredients were pork tenderloin (that i marinated and roasted the night before), honey mustard, and cheese. (did you notice that comma before the word ‘and’??? did you? thank you. it’s called a serial comma. necessary to meet the chicago manual of style guidelines. but you probably already knew that.) the tenderloin came out very tender and deeee-lish…but a tad on the peppery side, eek! the honey mustard was phenomenal and the cheese…well it was cheese. but awesome!

we drew knives at the beginning of the night; there were five of us competing and five knives to select. they were numbered 1-4, and then there was a joker knife (the wild card!). we drew numbers so we could go in order of who got to select bread first– two loaves of ciabatta, two baguettes and two loaves of mrs. baird’s white bread. the ciabatta went FAST. too fast. the baguette seemed really tough so i ended up sticking it out with mrs. baird.

when the 30 minutes were up, we each brought our ‘plated’ food to the table and began sampling each sandwich one at a time. here’s where my psycho-anxiety-social-awkwardness begins to set in. i had NO idea we were going to be critiquing each other’s food one by one IN FRONT OF EACH OTHER. yikes. let me just say this: the closest thing i’ve experienced to ‘hell on earth’ is a nursing chemistry class i took in college, where my teacher graded my test in front of me and the whole class. AHHH! death! death! i was so nervous and i’m SURE i was beet red the entire time.

i lived through it, though. and ended up not being the winning sandwich. sad! haha. the scores were a teensy bit thrown, however, because our actual winner scored everyone very low. you could get a possible 20 points (5-creativity, 5-taste, 5-presentation, 5-congeniality). four of us were scoring everyone in the 15’s, 16’s and 17’s, and our winner scored everyone in the 9’s and 10’s. so it was a little thrown.

anywho. i shall now list the contestants and their scores (their names, obviously, are protected for you know…chef stalkers?) and their respective three ingredients.

chef cool beans – shrimp, marinated artichokes, basil pesto. DELISH. i really enjoyed the limey-goodness-flavors. this chef scored a 60.5 (out of a total 80). this chef used the ciabatta.

chef slovakia- eggs, turkey, smoke gouda cheese. also using the ciabatta…this was probably my favourite. this chef scored a 60.5

chef red house- brie, sliced green apple, turkey. i LOVED the tartness of the green apple. this chef scored a 56. (so did i.)

chef poopy scorer – egg salad, pickles. the third ingredient didn’t make it out in time. it looked pretty but i am NOT a fan of egg salad. this chef used mrs. baird’s and scored a 65.5.

next week’s challenge is going to be making a $10 taco. for six people. that’s a lot of people for $10! i’m thinking of going veggie taco or breakfast taco because i feel like most people will be wanting to choose a meat.

i have lots of pictures to post from this event, and i’ll keep you posted on the progression of the taco challenge.

isaidgoodday!