November 17, 2010 at 5:26 pm , by Rachel Shippy
All season I have been an avid watcher of Top Chef: Just Desserts, currently in its first season on Bravo (and also currently filling the void Top Chef left on my DVR when the D.C. season wrapped). It’s been a fun new show featuring the obvious cuisine (JUST desserts!) and has also welcomed some esteemed guest judges and drop-ins including “Mr. Chocolate”, Jacques Torres and cake maven, Sylvia Weinstock to name a few. A happy viewer all season, I thought I had been having my cake and eating it too… until last Wednesday evening when I had a most unusual and exciting viewing experience that far out-shined my usual Wednesday night routine. I was lucky enough to attend an exclusive screening of last week’s episode hosted by none other than Godiva, the show’s sponsor, and I had to share with you all the fun that transpired as the night unfolded. I walked into the event and was handed a cocktail which I clutched while making my way to a long banquet table full of chocolate creations. I hovered there for a little while taking in all the smells and edible art. While hovering ( something that only ladies can do when they find themselves in front of a table o’ chocolate), someone tapped me on the shoulder and said they wanted to introduce me to Eric. I turned around and saw Eric Wolitzky who I had been rooting for until his elimination a few weeks ago. ”Personally, I really liked your cupcake flower bouquet!” I told him, and he of course agreed. He was as nice in person as he seems on the show. Then, I was seated in the back of the very glamorous room, facing the TV with several rows of people in front of me. Before I could even worry about seeing the confections onscreen from there, Head Judge Johnny Iuzzini walked in and was seated directly behind me. Sipping my chocolate cocktail, I tried not to turn around to gawk at Johnny’s shiny black signature pompadour, but it really was beckoning me. Before I was too entranced, the show’s host, Gail Simmons glided into the room with Dannielle Kyrillos, a judge on the show as well as Editor-at-Large for Daily Candy. Was it wrong that I wanted Johnny, Gail, and Dannielle to dive into a full-on judges’ table deliberation? I think not. As if this wasn’t enough stimulation for a celebrity chef nerd like myself, Food Network’s Claire Robinson then entered the screening and took a seat next to Johnny behind me. At this point, losing track of the episode I was there to see, I re-directed my focus up front to watch Morgan Wilson win the Godiva chocolate Quickfire challenge. Shortly after, I was presented with a tray full of Morgan’s 4 delectable creations to try out – WOW! TV does not do justice to the work these chefs put into their desserts. I don’t have a huge sweet tooth but I think I grew one that night. At the end of the night, I couldn’t tell you what else happened in the episode, but it didn’t matter because I felt like I was IN an episode while at this special screening. Of course I went home that night to resume my usual, not-so-exclusive couch screening of Top Chef: Just Desserts from the comfort of my own apartment, but it was certainly surreal eating Morgan’s winning chocolates as I watched them on my TV. Tune in tonight for the finale and write to me below about who you think should be the big winner!
November 15, 2010 at 9:30 am , by Sonia Harmon
Are you in holiday party planning mode yet? Don’t stress, Food Network’s Claire Robinson is here to help! In our December 2010/January 2011 issue she offers five easy-to-make appetizer recipes from her book, 5 Ingredient Fix—now she’s sharing her five tips for planning a successful holiday party.
Offer a variety of foods. “With most meals, you’ll never please everybody,” she says. “But the great thing about appetizers and hors d’oeuvres is that it’s your one chance to have little bites of food that please everybody.” Claire likes to offer meat and vegetarian options, as well as hot and cold food that you can either dip or pop into your mouth.
Keep the atmosphere relaxed and casual. “I find that the best holiday parties are the ones that are a little more low-key. You can let the food be fancy or let guests dress up if they want, but just let it be a casual event and everybody can have a good time.”
Have drinks and at least one appetizer ready for when guests arrive. “I always like to have a signature cocktail and one nibble ready ahead of time to greet people with, because even if you’re wrapping up in the kitchen, there’s still one thing that’s ready to go.”
Spread the appetizer plates around the room. “I like to place the appetizers in a few different spots, because there’s nothing worse than everybody hovering over one bowl of nuts. It also helps keep your guests moving around the room.”
Don’t be afraid to make your own centerpieces. “It could be as simple as filling a vase with a bunch of inexpensive candy canes instead of spending a fortune on flowers. I’ve done everything from putting extra baguettes in big vases to putting fresh herbs in small glasses on the center of the table.”