Tag Archives: tiramisu

A FRANK Tale: The Godfather

Photos in this blog appear courtesy of our friend Stephanie Casey at Real Fine Food.  Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, also!

With FRANK pulling in some crazy press recently (a Dallas Morning News article called us “The Best Restaurant in DFW” and Modern Luxury featured us with 3 other restaurants as “Best of the City”), the pressure has been on to do MORE of them.  “Why not try 8 seatings for the next one?” Jennie proposed.  We had never done that before.  7 was the max.  We’re never afraid of a challenge, so 8 it would be.

Yours, truly, as Don Vito Corleone, with an actual bottle of the Corleone family's "real" business: Genco olive oil. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Casey.

We’ve developed a tradition of hosting an Italian feast at FRANK every winter.  While Italian is great in any season, there’s just something about the gray, dreary winter that makes you crave pasta and spicy tomato sauce and crusty bread and good red wine.  Adrien, who has now become a FRANK fixture, and Jennie were sitting around tossing out menu ideas one night and The Godfather came on TV.  For both of them, NOTHING is more important than The Godfather, so menu planning stopped while they watched the film…until they got to the spaghetti and meatballs scene, and they both simultaneously screamed, “FRANK GODFATHER!!!”  We had long been tossing around the idea of menus inspired by our favorite films and bands, so it seemed to be a perfect fit.

The only problem was that I had never actually seen the Godfather, so as they were excitedly babbling to me about menu ideas, I was a bit lost.  Until the word “Sicily” was tossed out.  Because Sicily is a special place for me.  My partner’s sister and mother live there.  Some of my fondest travel memories are from Sicily.  I adore the food, the island, the people…

Yours, truly, below a crumbling fairy-tale castle perched on a rock crag in Erice, Sicily. Sicily is my favorite European travel destination. Castles, Greek temples, Norman ruins, beaches, volcanoes, wine, cheese...and almost no tourists.

So all that really remained was for me to watch The Godfather for the first time.

I know, I know…it’s pretty inexcusable that I had never seen it.  One of the greatest films of all time, by most standards.  So I saw it.  And it was great.  In fact, I felt like I had seen it before many times…it’s that good.  (Or just that omnipresent in pop culture.)

We wanted the menu to both be an accurate introduction to Sicilian cuisine, and also have direct inspiration from the film, and here’s what we came up with:

Image courtesy of Stephanie Casey

For the amuse bouche, we decided to start with a dish that’s so distinctly Sicilian and is so pervasive in their culture that there’s not really anything else MORE Sicilian that you could start with.  Arancini, pronounced “ah-ran-CHEE-nee.”  A crispy fried ball of cheesy rice that sometimes has a nugget of meat or peas in the center.  Arancini is the first thing I ever tasted in Sicily…we literally drove straight from the airport in Palermo to a gas station nearby, and I was told to go inside and get an arancini.  I had no idea what to expect.  The clerk pointed me to a case that looked not unlike a hot dog case, filled with giant crusty balls the size of softballs.  I shelled out my 2 euros (about $3 at that time) and sank my teeth into a food memory I’ll never forget.  Crunchy-crisp on the outside, sticky and gooey and rich on the inside.  So filling.  So fulfilling.  Arancini are the hot dog of Sicily.  Every gas station has them.  Street carts sell them on every block.  For our version, we made it considerably smaller and used wild mushrooms and white truffle to flavor the risotto on the inside, so technically it was arancini di funghi.  And while we’re talking technicalities…arancini is the plural, so if you’re only eating one, you’re eating an arancino.  (More on this later.)  And if you’re familiar with Sicily, you know they have their own distinct language that’s similar to Italian, but not quite.  So you may encounter the spelling and pronunciation “arancine” in some areas of Sicily.  This is one of the more popular amuse bouches we’ve ever served at FRANK.  When Jennie does her end-of-meal quiz about which course was the diners’ favorite, it’s rare for the amuse to get more than 1 vote per night, but the arancini got multiple votes every night for best dish.  It was pretty freakin good:

Wild Mushroom and White Truffle Arancini. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Casey.

To get things started, we served up a panzanella salad.  Panzanella (“pan-zuh-NELL-uh”) is popular across much of Italy and Sicily, though it originated in Tuscany.  It was a way to use up stale bread left over from the night before.  The bread would sit out all night and get dry, and the next day they would toss those crusty crumbs with tomatoes and let them get a little moist, and serve it up as a salad.  We made our own bread (of course) and then tore it into chunks and sauteed it in garlic olive oil until crisp.  Then we tossed the chunks with a citrus vinaigrette and heirloom tomatoes, and some lovely baby beet greens from Garden Harvests Farm in Waxahachie, which is co-run by Jessica Longoria, the sister of the awesome artist Sarah Jaffe, who’s a friend of Jennie’s.  Jessica delivered our beet greens in the rain the morning before our dinners began, and I’m not sure I’ve ever worked with a more lovely salad green.  (Find Garden Harvests produce at Green Grocer on Greenville Ave, or Urban Acres in Oak Cliff!  For those of you who seek out local produce, you know exactly how hard it is to find in the winter, so this is a gold mine!)  To complete the panzanella in true Sicilian fashion, we had to have seafood on the plate.  Sicily is an island, and seafood makes up the vast majority of the protein Sicilians consume.  And if there’s a quintessential Sicilian seafood…it’s octopus.  “Polpo.”  The waters of the Mediterranean and Tyrrhenian Sea teem with octopus, and every Sicilian grandmother has her own secret for transforming this normally tough, rubbery creature into a tender, mouth-watering masterpiece.  Adrien’s favorite meat is octopus.  He made it on MasterChef.  In fact, it’s the very first memory he has as a child…seeing and eating octopus for the first time.  Octopus makes a lot of Americans squeamish.  Those brave enough to try it typically have it at a sushi restaurant, where the traditional Japanese preparation leaves it quite rubbery and tough.  The Japanese appreciate this texture.  But Americans typically do not, so one taste of octopus, and most Americans wash their hands of it for life.  Which is a shame.  Because octopus is truly an extraordinary meat in the hands of an Italian cook.  I will never forget my first taste of Italian grilled octopus.  I actually wept, it was so delicious.  Fork tender, smokey, almost dissolving on my tongue.  So we serve octopus as often as we can at FRANK, to help change people’s minds about it.  And every night, people were tasting it either for the first time, or VERY reluctantly for the second time.  I don’t believe a single bit of octopus was left on any plate during all 8 dinners:

Octopus and beet green panzanella. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Casey.

Next up was something I knew had to be on the menu…caponata.  (Or capunata, depending on where in Sicily you are.)  The Sicilians invented this dish, and it’s served on virtually every menu at every restaurant on the island.  It’s a combination of vegetables, always with eggplant as the primary, stewed in vinegar and honey.  It is served both hot and cold, often as a salad or side dish, but occasionally as the main dish.  And I can’t get enough of it.  I’ve been perfecting my own version of caponata for years and have served it at dozens of dinner parties.  Mine has eggplant, celery, onion, shallot, garlic, and tomato, seared hard in olive oil until crusty, and then combined with capers and green olives.  Then the seasoning is made perfectly sweet-sour with homemade apple cider vinegar and honey, and I fold in lots of fresh basil.  It’s a flavor explosion.  We served it on top of a crispy polenta cake, with a 63.5 degree egg from our flock of hens.  On top of the egg was a pesto of basil and pistachio, a nut which made Sicily famous across the ancient world for producing the finest pistachios (or “pistacchios”).  It was a great course, lots of unique textures and flavors, and a big hit:

Crispy polenta cake, eggplant caponata, 63.5 degree egg, pistachio pesto. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Casey

Boozy sorbets have become de rigueur at FRANK as a palate cleanser before the main course.  And to this point, our food has been largely Sicilian, but not necessarily Godfather.  So when thinking about what type of boozy sorbet could accomplish both tasks, we immediately went to brandy, since so many scenes in the film involve the drinking of it.  We don’t drink enough brandy in this country.  Brandy is what you get when you distill wine, and for the majority of brandies, that means grape wine.  (Some classic American brandies are distilled from pear wine, cherry wine, etc.)  Somewhere along the way, brandy fell out of favor, but it’s really an amazing spirit.  Especially the ones that are carefully aged.  We decided to pair the brandy with blood orange, for several reasons.  First, because the most famous blood oranges in the world are grown in Sicily and have a protected geographic status within Europe.  And second, because oranges are a major symbol within the Godfather film series.  It started out as an accident.  During the early shots of the film, Coppola realized that the set and lighting was very stark, dim and monochromatic.  Scrambling around for a splash of color that wouldn’t interfere with the shot, oranges ended up getting placed in various scenes…and coincidentally, they seemed to appear in scenes that related to that particular character’s imminent demise or disaster.  When Vito Corleone gets ambushed and shot, oranges spill all over the road around his body.  Just before producer Jack Woltz’s horse gets beheaded and placed into bed with him, a large bowl of oranges sits in front of him as he converses with Tom Hagen.  At the meeting with the heads of the five families, bowls of oranges line the table.  (Weeks later, all the heads are murdered.)  On the day of his own death, Don Vito Corleone cuts up and eats an orange with his grandson just before plummeting to the ground.  Coppola mused that this was all an accident in the first film, but they loved the theme so much they continued in the subsequent films, and oranges are all over the place.  So we combined the orange and the brandy into a sorbet of such high proof that we had to freeze it with dry ice to get it to solidify…and folks devoured it:

Blood Orange Brandy Sorbet. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Casey.

And now…the main course.  In Italy, meals have a very specific structure.  First comes the antipasto, or appetizers, then comes the primo or first course, which is usually pasta (but can be soup, polenta, risotto, etc.), and then comes the secondo or primary course, which is the meat course.  Pasta is almost NEVER served as the main course in Italy.  But we did it, because of The Godfather.  There’s not much actual cooking in the Godfather, but there’s a famous scene where Clemenza is teaching Michael to make spaghetti and meatballs…because if he ends up in prison, he’ll need to know how to cook for the boys.  When Coppola was adapting Mario Puzo’s book, he really wanted to keep the spaghetti and meatballs scene intact, because he wasn’t entirely certain the film would be a success.  He mentioned, “If it’s a flop, at least the audience will know how to make a decent spaghetti sauce!”  We knew our main course HAD to be spaghetti and meatballs, and in true FRANK fashion, everything had to be from scratch.  Ever made homemade pasta for 160 people?  No easy task.  It took us an entire day, assisted by our lovely server Lindsay, who is also a brilliant chef herself.  By the time we were done, it looked like a cocaine deal gone terribly wrong…the loft was absolutely covered in flour!

Jennie and Linsday making homemade spaghetti

But there’s nothing lovelier than a nest of freshly-made pasta:

Housemade pasta. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Casey.

The sauce would have to be truly epic.  Chef Jennie chose the “arrabbiata” style, which is a bold, spicy sauce of tomato, garlic, and red chili flakes.  Making tomato sauce in Texas in December always necessitates turning to a can of tomatoes…it’s actually really hard to get tomatoes worthy of a sauce at ANY time of year, even when you have tomatoes in your garden and let them ripen on the vine.  The best sauce tomatoes are varieties with a high flesh/low moisture content, like Romas and other plum-shaped tomatoes.  You definitely don’t want a “juicy” tomato when making sauce.  The big beefsteak tomatoes have too much liquid and too many seeds to make a superior sauce, and that’s what most of us raise in our gardens.  Luckily, the best sauce tomatoes in the world are grown in the Campagnia region of southern Italy, near the town of San Marzano sul Sarno, and are widely available around the world…though definitely not inexpensive.  I get really annoyed when people turn up their noses at a sauce made from canned tomatoes.  Most canned tomatoes, in particular San Marzanos, are allowed to vine ripen and are canned immediately after picking.  On the other hand, ALL supermarket tomatoes, the vast majority of Farmer’s Market tomatoes, and even many home grown tomatoes, are picked from the vine before ripening, and allowed to ripen off the vine.  This results in a totally different texture, flavor, and sugar profile than if they were allowed to ripen on the vine.  I can make you a far better tomato sauce from the cheapest can of tomatoes than I can from the best-looking and most expensive tomatoes in the produce section of the grocery store.  Every single time.  So unless you have a source for vine-ripened, just-picked plum tomatoes grown in perfect soil in a perfect climate, don’t ever EVER think less of someone for using canned tomatoes in a sauce!  Incidentally, the omnipresent “Roma” tomato is a hybrid of the San Marzano variety, bred for a thicker skin (ie, easier transport from farm to market).  This may have been the best tomato sauce I’ve ever had, Jennie nailed it.

Then…the meatballs.  In The Godfather, when Michael Corleone has dinner with the police chief McClusky and the mafia family head Sollozzo (and ultimately murders them), as they walk into the restaurant, McClusky asks if the Italian food is good there, and Sollozzo says, “Try the veal, it’s the best in the city.”  Neither Jennie nor I are particularly mad for veal, and serving veal can be fraught with humanitarian concerns, just like foie gras.  But we were able to source pastured veal, which is becoming more common than the old-style way of raising veal (ie, keeping the calves tied up in a barn so they can’t move around and develop firm muscle structure).  Pastured veal is from calves that live their life as a normal calf does, grazing alongside its mother so it eats both grass and milk.  The texture and flavor is more similar to beef than old-style veal, but honestly…old-fashioned veal wasn’t really all that great to begin with.  What’s the point of going out of your way to produce a soft, bland meat?  Our meatballs were half veal and half pork, and chock full of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shallots and garlic, and homemade bread crumbs.  Rolled and seared rustically, and perched atop a mound of that fresh housemade pasta and tangy, spicy sauce with some fried garlic, fresh basil, and tons of cheese on top:

Housemade spaghetti, arrabbiata sauce, veal meatballs. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Casey.

One of our first-time diners later confessed to me, “I was expecting FRANK to be this super fancy thing from your reviews, and when you sent me the menu the night before and I saw that the main course was spaghetti and meatballs, I almost didn’t come.  But this is the BEST spaghetti and meatballs I’ve EVER had…can I have some more?!?”  I really loved that moment.  Jennie and I never set out to make FRANK this ultra-sophisticated restaurant serving only haute cuisine.  Our mission statement says, “Our recipes are inspired by classic, traditional preparations, enriched by our collective creativity from years of travel and kitchen adventures. FRANK is food…to the point.”  This cuts to the very heart of my own personal food philosophy.  Some creative chef can come up with a new flavor combination and preparation, and it may be extraordinary and inspiring and incredibly delicious.  But it will NEVER have the impact on another human as a recipe that comes from their family history, something they’ve eaten since they were a child, prepared by those in their life who loved them the most.  A plate of spaghetti and meatballs will have more meaning to more people in this country than anything Jennie or I could dream up out of our own originality.  So rather than take the route that many chefs take…forging their own unique culinary legacy…we tend to focus on taking the foods that already have a centuries-old legacy, and making them as perfect and delicious as they can possibly be.  This is what sets FRANK apart from other restaurants of its type and price range.  FRANK is less about FOOD and more about PEOPLE.  Yes, the food is delicious.  But when you read our reviews, you’ll find, time and again, that people leave the experience raving about the EXPERIENCE.  The people they met and shared the evening with.  And that is fostered through the food.  Jennie loves to refer to FRANK as a culinary sociological experiment, rather than a restaurant.  And I couldn’t agree more.

Dessert.  When I posted on Facebook that we were doing a Godfather theme, virtually every comment mentioned the famous cannoli scene.  Clemenza and his henchman Rocco are ordered to kill long-time friend and family chauffeur Paulie for betraying the Godfather.  After Rocco shoots Paulie, he asks Clemenza what to do next, and Clemenza carelessly says, “Leave the gun…take the cannoli.”  (Little known fact…the actor that played Clemenza improvised that line, it wasn’t in the script, and it became one of the most-quoted and iconic lines of the film.)  So we knew we HAD to have cannoli on the menu.  (Quick Italian lesson…”cannoli” is actually plural, so if you have only one, you have a “cannolo”…or, if you’re in Sicily which has its own distinct dialect, a “cannolu.”  There is no such thing as “a cannoli,” that’s akin to saying, “I’m going to eat a cupcakes.”)  Cannoli are an iconic Italian dessert made of a crispy shell of fried pasta dough, filled with lightly sweetened ricotta.  They are a ridiculous amount of work, which is why they are typically only sold at specialty bakeries.  The pasta dough is like any other pasta dough…primarily flour and eggs, but instead of adding water to hydrate the dough, you add Marsala…a sweet dessert wine from Sicily.  This gives the dough a hint of sweetness and complexity.  We let the dough rest for a day in the fridge to fully hydrate, then rolled it thin in the pasta machine before wrapping around specialized stainless steel cannoli molds, sealing together with egg white, and deep frying until crisp.  Then you have to immediately remove the shell from the mold or it will stick to it…not an easy task when you’re dealing with a 320 degree piece of metal!  Just before serving, we filled the shells with ricotta which we lightly sweetened and scented with orange zest and vanilla.  And each end was dipped in pistachios, the quintessential Sicilian nut.

We were slightly concerned that a single cannolo wouldn’t be a sufficient dessert, and worried that 2 cannoli might be too much or too one-note.  So we rounded out the dessert with some tiramisu, which is an often-bastardized mid afternoon snack in Italy…rarely dessert.  The name “tira mi su” literally means “pick me up” and is commonly taken with coffee in the afternoon to tide you over until a late dinner.  Traditionally it consists of a circle of sponge cake soaked with espresso, sandwiching layers of mascarpone cheese custard.  The recipe morphed into the use of ladyfingers (finger-shaped pastries, normally of sponge cake, but occasionally of cookie-like biscotti), and some pastry chefs added liquor to the espresso for soaking them.  Tiramisu has the distinction of containing a pair of ingredients that are the two most bastardized Italian words in America: espresso and mascarpone.  Even some TV chefs rampantly mispronounce espresso as “expresso.”  I can’t count the number of times Joe Bastianich, an Italian restaurateur whose mother is one of the most famous Italian chefs in the country, mispronounced it “expresso” while we were filming MasterChef.  That’s wrong.  Don’t do it.  Next we come to “mascarpone,” a rich Italian cream cheese that is so mispronounced that the mispronunciation has become more common than the correct one.  You often hear it bastardized as “MAR-ska-pone.”  That’s wrong.  Don’t do it.  The ONLY acceptable pronunciation of mascarpone is:

MAHS – car – PONE – eh

In fact, ANY time you see an “e” at the end of ANY Italian word, it MUST be pronounced.  Like “pappardellE” or “tagliatellE” or “provolonE” or “profiterolE.”  99.9999% of Italian words end in a vowel, which is always, without exception, pronounced.  This is why Italians learning English often insert a vowel at the end of every English word that ends in a consonant.  “I live-a in-a the town-a of-a Dallas-a.”  So even if it doesn’t feel right at first, take a risk and properly pronounce your Italian ingredients!  ESPECIALLY mascarpone.  But I digress…so tiramisu is an afternoon snack in Italy, and consequently, it’s not very sweet.  American pastry chefs have transformed it into the sickly-sweet dessert most of us are familiar with.  But tiramisu in Italy is only faintly sweet.  I make a LOT of tiramisu…it’s my partner’s favorite “dessert.”  (Click HERE for my dessert version with pumpkin custard and caramel-soaked ladyfingers!)  And for FRANK, we did it the old fashioned way, with circles of sponge cake (soaked in espresso and hazelnut liqueur), and delicate layers of mascarpone whipped with espresso and a hint of sweetness, dusted on top with cocoa and a touch of cinnamon.  “Best tiramisu ever” was uttered a number of times, and even written on the FRANK chalkboard.  A fitting duo to end Godfather FRANK:

Orange pistachio cannolo and amaretto tiramisu. Image courtesy of Stephanie Casey.

An epic menu to celebrate an epic film.  But wait…there’s a Godfather 2…and 3.  Will there be FRANK encores of this theme?  Only time will tell.  Thanks for reading, feel free to comment below, and subscribe to my blog in the upper right corner of your screen so you don’t miss any of my excessively wordy food blogs!

Pumpkin Caramel Tiramisu

MasterChef 3: Don’t Trifle with Walmart

Today’s blog entry is brought to you by Walmart, a proud sponsor of MasterChef.

(Just kidding!  Ha ha ha…  But please note that my blog is in no way endorsed or approved by either MasterChef OR Walmart, and my opinions expressed herein are ONLY OPINIONS.  I have no inside knowledge of the production of MasterChef, either this season or last.)

We’re down to 13 and Monti starts out the episode with another Montiism: “I’m in the top 13! Who’d have lost a bunch of money on that?  …  Everyone I know.”  I love that girl, everything that comes out of her mouth is a gem.

The Mystery Box is, of course, first.  Before lifting the box, Tanya quips: “Mystery Box, Mystery Box.  Give me anything!  I’ve made brains, I’ve killed crabs, I’m a warrior!”  The box gets lifted, and it’s a T-bone steak, plus corn, cabbage, watermelon, peach, sour cream, tarragon, and spices.  A couple of weeks ago I left a message for Cowboy Mike on his Facebook, to the effect of, “Let’s get you a steak challenge so you can have your moment to shine!”  And he’s incredibly pleased with this box.

As the camera pans over the mystery box, there’s one inedible component inside.  A little metal and plastic sign for Walmart.  Graham announces that all that stuff under the mystery box costs less than $15, collectively, at Walmart, but that the contestants’ job is to turn it into a restaurant dish that could be billed at $40.

Of course I’m immediately pulled out of the show as my mind races in a million directions.  First, and most practically…WALMART DOESN’T CARRY TARRAGON!!!  Certainly not fresh tarragon.  (And tarragon loses all its character once dried, like parsley, so there’s NEVER a need to buy dried tarragon.)  I know this for a fact because I DO shop at Walmart (more on that later, but I’ve been to Walmarts all over the WORLD, in fact, and never once seen fresh tarragon) and their fresh herb section is extremely limited and breathtakingly expensive.  (Today at WalMart, in fact, their fresh herb section consisted of mint, chive, basil, and thyme, all packaged in tiny plastic containers at $2.99 a piece.  Of course the cheap, popular herbs like cilantro and parsley were available loose in bunches for 50 cents each.  I get annoyed when herbs are packaged in plastic, it’s such a waste.  Bundle them with a rubber band or zip tie, people, and place them upright in a shallow pan of water.  I guarantee the plastic costs more than the actual herb.)

Secondly, ANY restaurant that has a $40 entree on the menu absolutely MUST source those ingredients for $15…probably less…in order to turn a profit.  So we’re not talking about a miracle here.

Thirdly, what’s up with all this Walmart stuff?  As I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries, I DO shop at Walmart.  It’s not the closest grocery store to me, but they DO, in fact, have the best produce, red meat, and poultry, of any grocery store near me.  (Their seafood selection, on the other hand, is dismal…however they USED to have a superb seafood section, including live lobster, but no one bought seafood at Walmart, so they got rid of their fresh seafood section.)  To get better meat and produce than I can get at Walmart, I have to trek to the gourmet stores, where everything is marked up so high that it actually PAINS me to look at price tags.  One of the reasons the standard grocery stores near me have sub-par ingredients, of course, is because they are struggling due to Walmart’s price competition, so I understand that it’s Walmart’s influence on the economy that has led to the decline of neighborhood grocery stores.  I harbor NO illusions about the impacts, both negative and positive, that Walmart has on the local, national, and global economy, as well as its impact on its workforce and the suppliers it buys from.

I grew up in a small town in West Texas where Walmart was really the ONLY place to get groceries, hardware, housewares, etc.  At that time, Walmart didn’t have the reputation it currently has, because it was still fairly small, and people in their communities loved Walmart.  The larger the company expanded, as I entered my 20s, activists started blaming it for the demise of the small independent business, the vaporization of “main street” shops, and for its AGGRESSIVE actions to prevent its workers from unionizing.  (All those cameras you see around the stores and in the parking lots were not installed to prevent theft…it is to allow surveillance of employees to help prevent unionization conversations between them.  Of course, anti-theft is an added benefit.  But the camera package is called the “anti-union package” and that’s its primary purpose.)  But none of this stuff was out in the open when I was a kid.  My family loved Walmart.  Everyone did.  So I have an ingrained affection for the brand left over from my childhood, even though I am well aware and outspoken against its darker side.

(A tiny rant about unions here…even though, politically, I’m on the far left side of the spectrum in most cases, I am NOT a fan of unions.  I worked in the airline industry for 3 years and got to experience unions first-hand.  Unions had their time and place…when employers were ACTUALLY slave drivers who treated their workers like commodities in coal mines and sweat shops, paid them pennies for a 12 hour workday in life-threatening conditions, and in many cases brought them to the US from foreign countries and required slave-like labor to “pay off” the expense of bringing them over.  In those days, workers would band together into a local union, so that they could more successfully pressure their company into providing a better workplace and compensation.  Today, unions are actually for-profit corporations.  The same union may represent tens of thousands employees at HUNDREDS of companies in different, unrelated industries, from baggage handlers at an airline, to office workers in the finance industry.  The union is in the business of making money.  That is its first priority.  NOT the livelihood of its workers.  Each month you pay mandatory union fees.  If a union is negotiating for a higher pay rate (because the more money YOU make, the more money THEY make) and the company extends an offer that’s acceptable to most employees, the union may reject the offer because IT wants more money for its bottom line, and may force the employees into a strike even though the employees were happy with the offer.  If the union calls for a strike, you are FORCED to participate without any option, or you may be denied your “strike pay.”  If a different workgroup at a different company is on strike, your own paycheck may be debited for extra expenses for that unrelated workgroup.  So if you’re a truck driver, and the steel workers go on strike, you may have to give up an extra, unforeseen $200 out of your paycheck each week so that the steel workers in another state get “strike pay.”  Union fees are direct debited from your paycheck each month, whether you like it or not.  And powerful union lobbies have created relationships with both lawmakers and companies, so that sometimes if you want to work for a company, you are FORCED to join the union, which means you’re FORCED to pay your monthly union dues if you want to work there.  Unions have lost their purpose and vision…and while they CAN assist workers in elevating their lifestyle and working conditions, I believe that any for-profit corporation will NEVER have its members’ best interest as its primary goal.  I’d LOVE to see a non-profit union out there somewhere…but it doesn’t exist.  Unions today are companies, just like Walmart, but they add an extra layer of costly bureaucracy to the already-inflated corporate structure, they are protected by century-old laws that provide far less regulation, they have a powerful lobby that woos lawmakers into staying out of their way, and they are every bit as corrupt as Walmart.  Rant ended.)

Now…back to Walmart.  I completely understand that MasterChef requires ridiculous amounts of money to produce.  They HAVE to have sponsors.  And certainly their target audience is middle- and suburban-America, where most viewers DO have a Walmart within a few miles of their home.  So, in terms of the audience they target, it’s probably an appropriate sponsorship.  But there is another audience to MasterChef.  Foodies.  (Believe it or not, foodies, you are NOT the people MasterChef is made for…if you were, you’d actually see more cooking, more technique.)  Middle and suburban America is the vast majority of the audience, but they are a silent majority.  They watch the show as part of their nightly 2- or 3-hour dose of television, when the episode is over they turn to their next show.  But they deliver ratings, and they buy the stuff the show promotes.  Foodies, however, are the HEART of the MasterChef audience.  They’re the ones who seek out and connect with the contestants.  They’re the ones who drive the anticipation for each upcoming season, and fuel the passion for the season as it airs.  They’re the ones who blog about MasterChef and talk about it on Facebook and Twitter.  So while you foodies may be a smaller audience, you’re a CRITICAL audience.  (But you don’t typically make your buying decisions based on what MasterChef tells you, which means you ultimately give less money to the brand, and are therefore “less important”…in a network’s eyes, at least.)  And I don’t think Fox was quite aware how surprised (and in many cases, disgusted) you’d all be to see Walmart so flagrantly associated with the show.  I guarantee you that NONE of the 3 judges has set foot in a Walmart in their adult lives…certainly not to buy groceries.  (I’m curious how they personally, privately feel about the sponsorship.)  I will be curious to see if they repeat this sponsorship next season.  But if there’s ONE THING that comes into EVERYONE’S mind when they think of Walmart, it’s “CHEAP.”  And “CHEAP” and “MasterChef” are not words that belong in the same sentence.

WalMart was actually a sponsor of the very first reality TV show I participated in: Rachael Ray’s “So You Think You Can Cook?”  (They now call it “Hey, Can You Cook?” because I think they got sued by “So You Think You Can Dance?”)  In our VERY first challenge, we had to rush through a Walmart to buy ingredients to cook for 60 tailgaters at a Rutgers game, with only a $40 budget.  The opening sequence was a “hero shot” of the 5 of us walking beneath a Walmart sign.  My coastal friends never forgave me for it.

But as I’ve previously mentioned…Walmart isn’t entirely evil.  As the single largest grocery entity on the planet, they have ENORMOUS influence over the market.  And Walmart will be the vehicle that eventually brings organic food into EVERY home in the country.  Walmart doesn’t force you to buy anything.  So the choices you make when you shop at Walmart send a very clear signal to the company.  If you reach for organic milk and organic eggs every time you make a purchase, they notice that.  Recently I’ve noticed that the organic eggs and milk I normally buy there are out of stock about half the time.  While that’s a bit annoying, it’s actually WONDERFUL.  Walmart sees this.  That means they have to pressure their organic suppliers into expanding, and their non-organic suppliers into branching into organics, so they can continue to supply the demand.  Walmart has the power to single-handedly FORCE agricultural producers in this country and abroad to switch to organic methods.  Thanks to capitalism, they have the kind of power the government will NEVER have.  And with their obsession over low prices that anyone can afford, they have the potential to change the landscape of agriculture and economy such that every household in the country has access to, and can afford, organic foods.  And each time you shop at Walmart, you vote.  So buy those organic eggs…they’re only $3.08 a dozen.  That’s the price of a latte at Starbucks, or a happy meal at McDonalds.  Buy the organic milk…it’s also $3 for half a gallon.  There’s really no excuse to NOT buy organic if you’re shopping at Walmart.  Granted, those $3/doz organic eggs are twice the price of the non-organic eggs.  But what’s an extra $1.50 to know that the eggs taste WAY better, are healthier for you with far less chance of disease and contamination, and that the chickens who laid them aren’t squished into a tiny cage their entire lives, being stuffed with antibiotics, eating the poop from the chickens in cages above them?  I’ll pay that $1.50 more ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.  And in terms of the health benefits of organic ingredients…you can pay an extra $1.50 now…or hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars later on in health care costs and negative environmental impacts.

If you haven’t yet watched the film Food, Inc., you absolutely must…for many reasons.  But something that really struck me in the film is that Walmart, a normally secretive and media-shy company, decided to participate in the film and talk about it’s vision in terms of organics.  It’s available streaming on-demand if you have Netflix at this link:  http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Food_Inc./70108783?trkid=2361637 It’s a fantastic movie, entertaining as well as informative, and I believe everyone in the country should watch it.

My goodness…this is a MasterChef blog, isn’t it?  I’d almost forgotten.  Back to the Mystery Box.  The only “exotic” ingredient in the box is tarragon.  (Foodies will tell me that tarragon isn’t exotic, but I’m willing to bet that most of you reading this blog haven’t cooked with it before.)  Tarragon is an herb with a licorice-like taste.  It was Julia Child’s favorite herb.  I’m growing it in my garden this year, but not finding myself using it all that often, because I’m not a huge fan of the licorice flavor.  However, tarragon isn’t overpowering in its flavor, and it can be used in both sweet and savory applications.  T-bone steak is one of the best steaks in existence, in my opinion.  Any time you can cook with the bone, you’ll get extra flavor and moisture, but cooking bone-in can be tricky.  Bone transmits heat at a different rate than meat fibers.  Depending on what kind of bone it is, your meat next to the bone can either cook more quickly, or more slowly…so it can be tricky to get a T-bone done properly and evenly.  A T-bone is cut from the center loin area of the cow, and it has 2 muscles separated by a bone.  The large muscle is a strip steak, and the smaller muscle is the tenderloin…so a T-bone is 2 steaks in one!

With fairly mundane ingredients, though, the contestants are having to really amp up their creativity to stand out.

Felix pounds out the meat from the T-bone and fills it with what appears to be a creamed corn mixture, and rolls the whole thing up.  This is called a roulade, and Bastianich is really intrigued by it.  Ramsay says that “The fibers of a T-bone don’t lend itself to being…” and doesn’t finish his sentence.  Beef roulades are typically made from steaks that are already mostly flat and have long fibers running laterally across the steak, like a flank steak or skirt steak.  However, even traditional steaks like tenderloin (which is actually the small part of the T-bone steak), and NY strip (the larger side of the T-bone), which have the meat fibers running vertically, make superior, exceptionally tender roulades provided extreme care is given in pounding them out, so that the delicate vertical fibers don’t separate and create holes that the filling can escape through.  If he was saying that T-bone doesn’t lend itself to pounding because it’s easy to tear, he’d have been right!  If he was saying that T-bone doesn’t lend itself to roulade, he’d have been dead wrong.

Frank chooses to separate the 2 steaks from the T-bone for separate presentations, which is clever.  He apparently utilized virtually every ingredient in the box except the watermelon, and his plate looks “Obnoxiously….perfect” according to Anna.  Frank is later told by Joe that it looks like he had the entire MasterChef pantry at his disposal for the dish, which is really a huge compliment, considering the tiny handful of ingredients under the Mystery Box.

Tanya marinates her steak in tarragon, cayenne, and olive oil.  She cooks it rare and slices it thinly, topping it with a creamed corn puree with sour cream and chili, and serves it with slow-braised cabbage.  Once time is called, she looks down at it and says: “I love how my meat looks.  I pulled it out of my a–, I don’t know how I did it.”

Becky again chooses to leave the protein behind and do dessert.  (She did this once before, earlier in the season.  I made the same decision a couple of times in Mystery Box challenges, but always got slammed for it, so I stopped.)  She’s making a tarragon-infused creme anglaise (which is basically a light pudding or custard of egg yolk, sugar, and cream, sometimes thickened with starch),

The time comes to choose the top 3, and Frank is first.  The only critique they have for him is that he needed a bit more acid in his dish.  (But there wasn’t much acid under the box, so I’m not sure that was his fault.)  The more I cook, and the more I talk to TRUE master chefs (there are only a handful on the planet), the more I realize that acidity is really the MOST important factor in a successful dish.  If you taste a dish and it’s missing “something,” it’s our habit to reach for salt.  And more salt CAN improve the flavor of the dish.  But at some point you get TOO much salt, and you’re still missing “something.”  That “something” is almost always acid.  So I always have a variety of vinegars and citrus around to boost the acidity.  It makes ALL the difference.

Tanya is called next, and she doesn’t even register it at first.  It takes her COMPLETELY by surprise.  And I’m elated.  Tanya is another one of my personal friends.  I met her at MasterChef auditions in Austin, and she stood out to me as a top-18 contender immediately.  We got to know each other for the next several months before she found out she had been cast.  She’s articulate and witty, with a big, bright personality…AND she can cook.  They’re just starting to feature her more on the show, and I’m so excited she’s in the top 3 on this mystery box!  Graham tells her she can win the competition if she keeps cooking like that.

And they choose Becky for the final slot!  The dessert move paid off.  But her presented dessert doesn’t look like what she was making in the beginning, so I’m confused.  Now she says she’s got a peaches and cream puree, which she might have converted the tarragon creme anglaise into.  She oven roasted a peach with caramel sauce, and it looks like pure perfection.  And she made a sugared tarragon leaf to present on top.  I’m not sure what her method was on that, but I’d like to know.  It doesn’t look like she CANDIED the tarragon leaf, because that would involve cooking it, which would wilt it.  And it looks fresh.  Her dessert was incredibly simple, but presented elegantly.  She’s probably got $1.50 worth of ingredients on that plate, and it’s presented in such a way that a high-end restaurant would charge $12 for it.  That’s an incredible transformation, and while other contestants may be frustrated that such a simple dish was in the top 3, what Becky has accomplished is actually masterful and valuable industry transformation.  If a restaurant can sell a $12 dessert that only includes a dollar and change worth of ingredients, and pull it off in an elegant and delicious way…they’ve got a brilliant chef.

And the winner is….TANYA!  And I did a little dance of joy.  Tanya’s got so much potential.  If you haven’t visited her website, check out CULTURALLY CONFUSED CUISINE!  Tanya grew up all over the world due to her father’s work, and her father is Persian and her mother is Indian and Australian, so her palate is all over the place.  This is one of the reasons I identify with her so closely…having spent half my life cooking and eating in home kitchens around the world, I completely understand.  Tanya, if you can pull something out of your a– and have it win a Mystery Box challenge, you’re going places!!!

Tanya is swept back into the pantry to learn about the next challenge, which is to cook the judge’s favorite desserts.  Joe’s is, of course, tiramisu.  Let’s chat about tiramisu for a second, because it’s one of my favorite desserts to cook.  (I actually cooked it during my season’s coffee challenge.)  Tiramisu is a quintessential Italian treat that is actually viewed more like a snack than a dessert in Italy.  It’s something you have in the afternoon after work, but before your 9pm dinner.  It literally means “pick-me-up”… “tira” to lift, “mi” me, “su” you.  Hey, you, lift me up!  This is because of the caffeine-laden espresso in the dish, and the filling aspect with the protein from the cheese and the carbs from the cake.  It consists of ladyfingers, which are small finger-shaped cakes that can either be made in the Italian way (crisp and more like biscotti) or in the French way (softer and more like sponge cake).  The ladyfingers are then soaked in espresso and sometimes liqueur.  Bastianich confidently pronounces espresso like “expresso” and that throws me for a second.  It’s actually the reason I took so long to post this blog.  Because Joe is of Italian descent, has wineries in Italy, and spends a lot of time there.  He speaks Italian well enough to actually be a JUDGE on MasterChef Italy.  His mother is one of the most famous Italian celebrity chefs in the world, Lidia Bastianich.  So I was dead certain that, of all the people on the planet, he’d be the last person to pronounce espresso “expresso.”  So I was calling and emailing friends in Italy, because I figured that maybe “expresso” is an accepted Italian pronunciation that I didn’t know about.  (I’ve been to Italy multiple times, though, and I’ve never heard it pronounced “expresso.”)  I wanted to be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that I wasn’t branding myself a cultural fool by erroneously attacking a mispronunciation.  But I just can’t find ANY information that “expresso” is an acceptable pronunciation anywhere on the globe, not in Italy, and especially not in the US, where “expresso” is akin to pronouncing library “liberry.”  A few minutes later in the show, he repeats the pronunciation as “expresso.”  So I’m just completely and utterly confused.  Fans have been thronging me with questions about it.  All I can say is…Joe gets a little camera shy at times.  He’s a shrewd, intelligent restauranteur who knows his food.  I guess he was having a double brain fart.

To continue with mispronunciations and tiramisu, the espresso-soaked ladyfingers are layered with sweetened mascarpone cheese.  The only acceptable pronunciation for mascarpone is “MOSS-car-PONE-eh.”  However, it is flagrantly mispronounced (even by contestants!) “MAR-sca-pone” and sometimes “MOSS-car-pone” leaving off the ending “eh.”  Please don’t ever mispronounce mascarpone again…go ahead and practice it out loud a few times.  The word is so often butchered that when I pronounce it properly to people, they stare at me funny.  I even had the head chef of an Italian restaurant in Dallas pronounce it “MAR-sca-pone” to me once, and my blood boiled.

Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts because it’s not too sweet, and I’m NOT a dessert person.  I have many variations…perhaps my favorite is my pumpkin caramel tiramisu.  (Recipe HERE!)  But I always make my ladyfingers from scratch.  I’ve never used store-bought ladyfingers.  I made my own ladyfingers on the show, too, but we had 90 minutes for the challenge.  They only have 60 minutes, which would be close.  Ladyfingers bake in only 8 minutes, but you’ve still got to cool them and soak them, and prepare your mascarpone.  You probably COULD do homemade ladyfingers in 60 minutes, but I’d have grabbed some packaged ones in the pantry just in case.

Graham’s favorite dessert is strawberry shortcake.  This is another dessert that gets butchered more often than done properly.  For some reason, it has become popular to use sponge cake or pound cake, rather than shortcake, for this dessert.  I don’t care what anyone says, if you’re eating strawberries on top of sponge cake, you’re eating Strawberries and Sponge Cake.  But I’d venture a guess than 95% of the “Strawberry Shortcake” served in this country is actually NOT being served on shortcake.  Shortcake is a biscuit.  Plain and simple.  Sometimes sugar and egg is added to the biscuit dough.  But it’s most certainly NOT a sponge cake or a pound cake.  You cut butter (or in the old days, shortening i.e. Crisco…thus “short” cake) into flour with a leavener like baking soda, then stir in liquid.  That’s it.  WAY faster and easier than an actual cake.  It results in a flaky, buttery pastry.  I often grind fresh nutmeg into my dough, and top it with raw sugar crystals to give it some extra flavor and texture.  You smother it with strawberries (traditionally they are macerated, which means they’re sprinkled with a bit of sugar and allowed to soak in their own juices for a few hours), and top it with whipped cream.  You can find my recipe for strawberry shortcake HERE.

Gordon’s favorite dessert is trifle.  I was a bit shocked.  I guess he developed an affection for it during childhood.  Trifle is the British version of the French “parfait” (which is fairly common here in the U.S.), or the standard US version of those layered jello and pudding desserts.  And they make me want to gag.  It’s sort of like a tiramisu gone all wrong.  Layers of sodden sponge cake, jello, pudding or custard, fruit, and whipped cream, with sprinkles on top.  *shudder*  And Tonya shudders, too.

Given the choice, I’d probably pick strawberry shortcake, because I make a damn good shortcake.  Tiramisu would be my second choice, only because I just can’t imagine having to use pre-packaged ladyfingers, and I think it would come down to that in a 60 minute challenge.  And trifle?  I’m not sure I could bring myself to ever make trifle.  *gag*

Tanya discovers that no only does she not have to cook, she has to assign one of the 3 desserts to each of her competitors.  And a further twist is that they’ll pick the worst from each of the 3 categories for the bottom 3.  So they’re not necessarily competing against the whole group.  They’re competing against only 3 other people for the possibility of elimination.  VERY tricky!  She picks tiramisu for Anna, Frank, David, and Felix.  Strawberry shortcake goes to Scott, Mike, Tali, and Christine.  Trifle goes to Stacey, Becky, Monti, and Josh.

Time starts and trouble begins.  Becky didn’t get enough gelatin sheets to solidify her strawberries.  Monti gets asked by Gordon where the sponge is for her trifle, and she says, “The sponge? I don’t even know what he means by that.  He talks in this language that I don’t entirely understand sometimes.”  I rolled on the floor for a bit after that.  Monti kills me, I can’t wait to meet her.  We see Tali cutting his shortcake dough, but he’s twisting the cutter back and forth, which seals the sides and doesn’t let the shortcake rise and separate into flaky layers.

Time is called and tasting begins with the tiramisu.  Felix is upset, probably because Joe chastised her at her bench for assembling the tiramisu free-form directly on the plate.  Most traditional tiramisu is made in a baking dish, allowed to set, and then cut out (like a brownie) for serving.  Here in the U.S. we’re seeing more and more tiramisu served in a cocktail glass.  (That’s the way I served mine last season…90 minutes isn’t enough time for the tiramisu to set up in the fridge before you serve it, if you’ve taken the time to bake your ladyfingers yourself!)  She also chose to put macadamia nuts (from her home state of Hawaii!) into her tiramisu, and Joe eats her soul for it.  (Nuts are NOT traditional in tiramisu.)  Gordon tells her it’s her worst performance thus far in MasterChef, and she’s a mess.  Anna chose to present her tiramisu in a clear glass bowl, and Joe loves it.  Frank dangerously gambled on his tiramisu setting up in the short allotted time, but since we was using packaged ladyfingers, he had some extra time.  It looks traditional (and DELICIOUS), and the judges love it.  David’s tiramisu is nontraditional…his mascarpone is mixed with marsala wine and brandy and he put hazelnuts on top.  Gordon tells him it’s a big let down, and we see clips of Frank and Tanya laughing.

It’s important to note here that when you see a contestant reacting to something, that reaction could have come from ANYTHING on the filming day.  Like when Ryan was wickedly rubbing his hands together right after Christine poked herself on the crab shell…he wasn’t doing that in response to Christine.  Gordon was probably saying something to the contestants like, “Ryan’s been a wicked little boy making assignments for each of you today!”  Ryan rubs his hands together while everyone is looking at him, camping up the experience.  Then that reaction gets cut and spliced in a completely different location, out of context, to make him look evil and stir up the audience.  That happens ALL the time in reality TV.  This is another reason you need to avoid making hasty judgements about someone’s character based on watching a TV show.  I’m willing to bet a LOT of money that Tanya and Frank’s laughing clips were taken from other moments that day.  I doubt either of them would publicly laugh at David being criticized.

Now it’s time for trifle, and Josh is first.  His first layer is strawberries and raspberries reduced with blood orange juice and amaretto, the other layer is banana cream.  He had loaned ladyfingers to Monti, so I assume there’s some sponge in there somewhere, too.  Joe says it tastes like a banana split, and Josh says “Thank you.”  Then Joe says, “It’s not supposed to be a banana split.”  Ouch.  Ultimately his trifle isn’t complex enough.  Not enough layers.  Monti’s trifle is raspberry jello with raspberries and raspberry liqueur, topped with a layer of cream.  Gordon says she needs more sponge, but that it’s delicious.  Stacey made “Italian trifle” with strawberries and balsamic vinegar (a classic combination, but not for trifle), then a layer of lemon curd with mascarpone, with toasted almonds on top.  Gordon is unsure of the balsamic before he tastes it, then he loves it.  Becky’s trifle is stunningly presented: the first layer is raspberry and orange liqueur jello with orange flower water…the FIRST time anyone has followed a truly traditional trifle element.  Blossom waters are almost always a component in trifles.  (I think blossom waters are nasty, personally, they remind me of ladies at church who wear too much perfume.)  Then she’s got a custard of lemongrass and vanilla bean, which sounds AMAZING to me.  Then she’s got a layer of Chantilly cream with star anise (which has a licorice flavor).  And it’s topped with a raspberry and candied orange peel.  Joe criticizes her for way too many flavors in bizarre combinations and ultimately he chooses to spit it out, declaring it inedible.  The judges tell her that she’s trying to show off with a dish that’s too complex.  Of course I didn’t taste it, but it sounds intriguing to me.  I don’t necessarily think that the flavors are dissonant, but it IS an excessively complex dish.  However, many of the world’s most expensive restaurants brand themselves on excessively complex dishes…some single bites at Alinea in Chicago have DOZENS of ingredients in a single spoon.  (Alinea is widely recognized as the best restaurant in the country.)

Cowboy Mike‘s strawberry shortcake is first up.  His presentation is grandiose for a dish that is legendary for being rustic.  Joe tells him it looks like a go-home plate, and GOSH I feel for him.  My presentation was always so terrible on the show, and the judges were always telling me it was my weakest point.  Christine’s strawberry shortcake is full of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, which puzzles Gordon, even though he says her shortcake is perfect.  (Incidentally, Christine and her husband spent the night at my home this week, and we had an amazing time.  Christine is SUCH an amazing person, we instantly bonded.  She’s a fellow writer, loves food, is incredibly intelligent, very witty…I’m so thrilled about my new friendship with her!)  Tali’s shortcake includes a nontraditional “strawberry air” or foam which is a light puree of strawberries, typically stabilized with an emulsifier like tapioca maltodextrin, and frothed up in a CO2-powered whipped cream dispenser.  I’m not a huge fan of foams…I think they look gross and the texture is unappealing to me.  But Tali’s foam really impressed Graham, who also uses Modernist techniques in his restaurants, and isn’t slow to criticize contestants for misuse of Modernist or “Molecular” techniques.  Scott’s shortcake is too dense, apparently.  This results from overkneading.  Like all butter-shortened pastries, you have to work the dough very gently, and only enough to bring it together into a cohesive mass and create layers.  Overworking biscuits or pie crust or shortcakes will make them tough and dense, and Scott tells us he’s accustomed to making pasta dough and probably worked it too much.  His strawberries are simply sliced on top (exactly like the example cake they presented) but Gordon tells him they need to be glazed, even though the sample they provided was not.

Stacey gets recognized as the BEST dish of the challenge: her standout moment on the show thus far, and she says it’s one of the top 3 of her life, along with meeting her husband, and sky diving.  YOU GO GIRL!!!

The bottom dish for each category gets pulled to the front: Felix’s tiramisu, Scott’s shortcake, and Becky’s trifle.  Becky is sent back to her station, safe, leaving Felix and Scott.  They ask Felix to step forward, and begin a typical goodbye speech, complete with sappy music.  Then they tell her to say goodbye…TO SCOTT!  A classic Ramsay twist, and they’re much more frequent this season.

Scott has a smile on his face as if he knew his time was up.  I always feel such respect for contestants when they have a smile on their face at elimination time.  It may have been Scott’s time, but I also think that he wasn’t a “big” enough character to last long in the show.  MasterChef is a competition not only between cooks, but between characters.  I’ve said a thousand times that, skill-wise, I didn’t belong in the top 18 in my season.  Cooks FAR more talented than I were sent home without aprons, or eliminated before me.  But I’m a character, and they want characters on the show.  From chatting with my friends on the show, I know that Scott was a favorite of everyone.  He’s funny, incredibly warm, very bright…  I’m sad that we won’t get to know more of him.

Scott has a really cool blog called The Comfortable Dish.  It’s one of the best-styled food blogs I’ve seen in a long time, and the photography is stunning.  Check him out!