Monday, May 19, 2008

Now this is a game I could get into

(photo from New York Magazine)

I just read in New York Magazine about the new Wii Competitive Eating Game called "Major League Eating: The Game," now downloadable as a WiiWare title in North America. And when I searched for an image for this post, I saw that A Cup of Jo's Joanna Goddard had written the article!

A few summers ago, while working for Antiques Roadshow, we were in Houston in an extra-terrestrial themed restaurant that served burgers and fries and such. There were these huge flat screen televisions in the dining room, which would have been really annoying except that the channel was set to ESPN and the Alka-Seltzer US Open of Competitive Eating was showing.

It was weird to watch so many people gorging themselves on food (spaghetti, chicken wings, hard-boiled eggs), especially since we were about to eat, but we were all mesmerized. We learned about the big players like Takeru Kobayashi (a small Japanese fellow who has won the Coney Island hot dog eating contest every year from 2001-2006 until he was dethroned by Joey Chestnut in 2007), Sonya Thomas (nicknamed "The Black Widow" and only 98 pounds!), Rich LeFevre ("The Locust") and his wife Carlene LeFevre, etc.

I was hooked. These people were amazing. How could they eat so much in so little time? Also, how is it possible that Kobayashi makes $300,000 a year from doing this?

Then came Wii. The first time I played Wii, I felt like a giddy kid whipping my arm into the air to get a power serve in tennis. So imagine my happiness that Major League Eating was coming to Wii. This is going to be awesome.

Below, an excerpt from New York Magazine on how to play the game:
“Our goal was to make a game that used the Wii controller in a new way,” says Bill Swartz, whose company makes the game. The basics of play are oddly intuitive: You use the wireless Wii controller, which has a motion sensor inside, to simulate eating food for a set time period. There are “cram” foods, like hamburgers and burritos, for which you move the remote to and from your mouth; “toss” foods, like sushi and meatballs, which you “eat” by flicking your wrist upward; and “typewriter” foods, like watermelon and corn on the cob, which require you to move the remote across your mouth. And you need to do it without a “reversal of fortune”: vomiting....The game has a “jiggle” function when their virtual stomachs fill up. Players must also press a “chew” button, and you can antagonize queasy opponents with burps and jalapeƱo flames.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Moules frites

I've been meaning to write about the first time I cooked mussels and french fries for awhile now, but I wanted to get the picture off of Tim's camera (when I finally got around to it, he had already accidentally deleted the ones with the mussels AND the french fries), so there's only a picture of the mussels above. Don't they look so lonely without the fries?

I always thought that cooking mussels was really hard, but in fact, it's pretty easy and doesn't take that much time to prepare at all. I used frozen french fries, and even then, that took the longest to cook.

After doing a bit of research on where to buy mussels, I settled on going to The Lobster Place in Chelsea market. Usually about 1 pound per person is sufficient, and the Prince Edward Island mussels there cost $3.25/pound.

The recipe asked for cultivated mussels. Cultivated mussels are collected from rocks or in production areas on posts. They are better than wild mussels because they contain less grit and sand. You can tell a cultivated mussel from a wild one by their valves (shells) - cultivated ones have two convex valves and wild ones have one convex and one concave valve.

As for the wine, the recipe called for dry white wine. After scrolling through some websites, it seemed like the best bet was to use wine that you liked drinking as well to cook with.
If you don't intend to drink the wine, then Julia Child recommended using dry white vermouth - it'll keep longer and you can use it for future recipes. I settled for a Sauvignon Blanc I tasted from Trader Joe's. Other dry white wines include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Chablis, and Riesling (though I like sweet Rieslings better). An interesting side fact: wines are dry if they have a residual sugar content well under 1%.

Below is the recipe (modified from the original Epicurious one since I thought that using regular mayonnaise for the fries was sufficient instead of making the mustard mayonnaise). Because the recipe was using such simple ingredients I wasn't sure if it would be tasty enough, but it was really flavorful. I'm also a huge fan of interactive eating and digging around and opening mussels. Just be careful not to eat the ones that haven't opened during cooking. That means they're dead. We didn't eat the ones that were even a little bit open just to be safe - risking food poisoning for a little bit of shellfish isn't worth it!

P.S. For all of those people out there who haven't eating french fries with mayonnaise, it's really the way to go. I was a skeptic like you once (until I studied abroad in Rome), but at least try it. Eating french fries with a bit of ketchup and mayonnaise is also really good - kind of like thousand island dressing without the tartness.

Moules frites!

1 (15- to 16-ounce) package frozen french fries

1 small onion
2 garlic cloves, forced through a press
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine
2 pounds cultivated mussels, scrubbed (and debearded if not already)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Cook french fries according to package instructions and keep warm in oven if necessary.

Meanwhile, cut onion into very thin slices, then cook with garlic and a pinch of salt in butter in a wide heavy medium pot over medium-high heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until pale golden.

Add wine to onion and briskly simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until onion is almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add mussels and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until mussels just open wide, 4 to 6 minutes, checking frequently after 4 minutes and transferring as cooked to a bowl. (Discard any mussels that remain unopened.) Stir parsley into cooking liquid and season with salt. Pour liquid over mussels, then serve with fries and mayonnaise.

UPDATE 5/20/08: So, Tim and I made mussels and fries again last night, this time with a coconut curry sauce (which wasn't as good the white wine butter sauce). However, he insisted that I take a picture of the mussels with the fries for posting purposes. So, here it is.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Free Falafel tomorrow in NYC

photo from

The newly named Kosher Village (formerly Chickpea) is giving out free falafel tomorrow from 2pm until 4pm. The award presentation of $3000 (!) for renaming the restaurant will take place at 2pm. Congratulations
Adi Libson!

23 3rd Avenue at St. Marks Place

(Via Gothamist)

*Please note that the above picture is not falafel from Kosher Village. I just thought it was a nice picture and made me want to eat falafel.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Meeting

Meeting Gordon Ramsey was the highlight of last week for sure. As we queued up one of the employees wrote our names on post-its and stuck it in the inside of the book. I asked her if he could sign the Kitchen Nightmares DVD that I had brought with me (I thought it would be nice to return an autographed copy since we borrowed it so long ago from friends), but she said that was against the rules. We were so far back in the line, and he would have signed so many copies already by the time he got to me, that I wasn't going to risk pissing him off. Imagine being the one person that Gordon Ramsay reams out at the book signing. Hell no I wasn't going to be that person (although I guess it would make for an interesting story.)

As we wound our way around the store, I could see people asking to take pictures with him. He seemed slightly agitated. He had a word with his publicist who then told us that Gordon wouldn't be able to stop and pose for pictures with us, but that we were allowed to take pictures while he talked to us and signed our books. I understood his time constraints. There were so many people.

When I got up to the table and handed my book to him, Gordon was having a side chat with some store employees, so I was caught off guard when he whipped open the book and said, "Hello Gigi, how are you doing?" (How did he know my name? Oh! It was on the post-it, duh).

To which I replied, "Good...I guess better now...." (ha ha ha...I am so corny.)

And then he asked me something which I wasn't prepared for. I was preparing for questions like "What do you do for a living?" or "Have you been to my restaurants before?" or "Why haven't you been to my restaurants before?" or "Do you want to come to work for me as a pastry chef?"

He asked me "So, what's for dinner tonight?"

I was so busy thinking of other things that I hadn't thought about what I was going to cook for dinner that night, so my quick reply was,

"Something from your cookbook?"

(I've gotten mixed responses on this answer from people I've told the story to. Jeff thought it was brilliant. Other people thought it was kind of stupid. What was I supposed to say? Mac and cheese?)

I quickly followed up my response with, "I cooked the pasta with anchovies dish last night." And this was true, I had bought the cookbook the night before, cooked that dish and thought it was very tasty.

And then he said, as he was scrawling his signature in my book, "I love anchovies. Lots of protein," and as he was handing me back my book, all I could do was stare and say "Yeah." and I might have muttered "Thank you," but I can't be sure since I was kind of in a daze.

And that was that. That was the extent of my conversation with Gordon Ramsay. I don't know what witty remark I could have said about the protein content of an anchovy. When I was in the supermarket, there was only one can of anchovies and tons of sardines, which prompted a Wikipedia search on the difference between anchovies and sardines (Anchovies are a family (Engraulidae) of small, common salt-water fish. Sardines or pilchards, are a group of several types of small, oily fish related to herrings, family Clupeidae.) I guess I could have told him that, but I'm sure he already knew that. At least he didn't yell at me.

Jeff didn't get a good picture of me with Gordon
(some stupid girl kept jumping in front of the camera), so I'm posting a picture of Gordon I took while I was in line (above), and of course, the signature (per Dirk's request.)

P.S. I did end up cooking the Shrimp Pilau dish from his cookbook that night (I didn't lie!) It was really delicious, although it took a lot longer to cook than was suggested but perhaps our oven wasn't up to temperature.