Saturday, May 8, 2010

Top Chef Masters, Season 2: My Date with Fellow TCM Judge, Gael Greene

"He didn’t seem to be listening. Silently, he took my hand—yes, still gloved—and led me to a bedroom. I was thinking, Oh my God . . . this is Elvis. . . . I am going to do it with Elvis. I am not going to be coy. I will not make him talk me into it. He didn’t ask. I didn’t answer. He closed the door, dropped his pants, and lay on the bed—very pale, soft, young—watching me take off my clothes and, yes, at last, my little white gloves. All the way up on the 24th floor, I could hear the girls chanting on the street below: “We want Elvis. We want Elvis.”

And look who has him, I was thinking. I think it was good. I don’t remember the essential details. It was certainly good enough. I know the reality of it was thrilling beyond anything I might have imagined.

“I need to sleep now,” he said when it was over.

I grabbed my clothes and fled into the bathroom to dress. As I picked up my purse, wondering if a good-bye kiss would be appropriate, Elvis opened his eyes, blinked, as if he wasn’t sure for a moment what I was doing there.

He twitched a shoulder toward the phone. “Would you mind calling room service and ordering me a fried-egg sandwich?”

The fried-egg sandwich—that part I remember. At that moment, it might have been clear I was born to be a restaurant critic. I just didn’t know it yet."

Excerpt from Gael Greene's,Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess (2006)

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On Wednesday, May 12, I will be appearing on Top Chef Masters, Season 2, Episode 6 titled Exotic Surf and Turf. In addition to the cast and crew of the Simpsons, the show features its host, Kelly Choi, with judges Gael Greene, James Oseland, and Jay Rayner, Bizarre Foods' Andrew Zimmern,Weird Foods Festival founder Marc Moss, and two LA Food Bloggers, the incomparable Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining, and yours truly.

While I won't reveal any details about the upcoming show, I can share my intimate and steamy dining experience with Gael Greene. I offered to take her out and show her a bit of Los Angeles, so at wrap time I hit her up and got those digits. A few e-mails and calls and our date was set, I would be picking her up at her LA digs. First date, and I'm picking her up at her place. Score! Gael is a New Yorker, but where she lays that famous hat is her home for this world traveler, in an upscale downtown abode. It's the perfect setting for some city views over a bottle of absinthe.

I mean, come on, Gael Greene, the food critic for the New Yorker from 1968 to 2002, who changed the way Americans thought about food, and so naughtily recounted her sexual exploits in 2006's Insatiable, Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess. She currently writes for her own website, Insatiable Critic.

It's safe to say.....Gael has been around, and you don't take a woman like Gael out unless you have an A game. She's heard it all, seen it all, tasted it all, DRANK it all, and done it ALL.

Armed with the confidence that I could show her something new, we were off, not to Restaurant Row or Beverly Hills, hah, amateur night, but to the "no ocean views" of Mar Vista, and the streets of Bell, CA. I have to say, I love taking women to gritty neighborhoods, where they might feel.....less than safe, but by my sheer nonchalance in the seemingly "dangerous" environs, give a man that air of bravery, making the woman feel safe. Works every time. Any fool can navigate Rodeo drive, but Gage Ave.?

We arrived at Mariscos Chente to see Sergio Penuelas, who recently left the Mar Vista restaurant, for a little taste of Sinaloa. I asked Sergio to send out an aguachile in a molcajete, an added touch of rustic charm. Sweet raw shrimp flash cooked in lime and jalapeno chiles , infused with the essence of volcanic rock.

Pescado Zarandeado, another dish Gael had never experienced, was a winner. It's also a sensual dish to enjoy, man and woman digging into splayed open whole fish. The much tauted dipping sauce Sergio adds to this dish is so pleasurable.

Angie, Sergio's wife, brought buy something I requested especially for Gael, shrimp three ways. Deviled shrimp, drunken shrimp, and peppered shrimp with a bit of fish chicharrones thrown in were delivered to our table.

Later the next day, I was immortalized in one of Gael's favorite tweets(11.15.09 Sweet raw shrimp + shrimp cooked three ways at Mariscos Chente 4532 S. Centinella Fri, a revelation with LA Street food guru Bill Esparza)

This was in addition to buttering me up all night. Being called a guru? I consider this a sanctification. I'd received a similar honor once in my music career, but now as a food blogger/writer/street sleuth from this legend? Priceless.

Yes, it turned out to be a crawl.....with Gael Greene!! We headed out to La Casita in Bell for a contrast. We tasted away, as Jaime and Ramiro sent out plate after plate as they excitedly got to work in the kitchen. Unlike Sergio, they knew who she was.

Gael enjoyed many tastes at La Casita, but was wiled by the three moles in their plating and flavors.

Gael's favorite dish of our tasting was the legendary dish of Puebla, Chiles en Nogada. A poblano chile, stuffed with a sweet and savory mixture of seasonal fruit and meat, bathed in a walnut sauce, and finished with pomegranate seeds. It's not easy to sate the insatiable, but this was a dish that got her a bit warm.

It safe to say that I impressed. The woman who makes Top Chef Masters nervous, and has dashed the hopes of so many contestants on the Bravo Network hit series had several oos and ahhs thoughout the evening.

Jaime and Ramiro were not about to get sent home, nor did they have to survive a Quickfire challenge, so they attended and delighted Gael in royal fashion. I couldn't have asked for a better pair of wing men. For your female food lover date, special attention from the chefs, and a few off menu items are likely to get your date a little hot and bothered.

By the way, the boys can throw down too, though, just ask Bobby Flay.

After much stimulating dining, we headed back to her place. Never keep a lady out too late, you want her to have a little left when you arrive at the final destination. Was it only a one night stand? We'll see if she blows up my phone the next time she's in town. Maybe next time we won't eat so much so she can get ME a fried-egg sandwich?

Top Chef Masters, Season 2, Episode 6 airs May 12th, 2010, on Bravo.


gourmetpigs said...

Haha good job Bill, you scored big time ;)
It's awesome that she went to Chente an La Casita with you - wonder what an exposure at Gael Greene's level could do for them. And she already tweeted about your "fabulous dinner date" so you might get a 2nd one after all~ what # date would it be when you take her to Baja?

peppermonkey said...

Really great and entertaining post. I'm glad you are getting so much credit for all the great work you do.

Gastronomer said...


e d b m said...

Ha, Bill that rocks. Although I think it would have been funnier to take her to Chipotle, Acapulco and El Torito. We know that New York is not renowned for Mexican food, and you certainly gave her something to tell everyone back home about. Congrats on Top Chef.

streetgourmetla said...

Hey Fiona, I have received word that a second date is in order.

Thanks, peppermonkey, that means a lot.

Thanks, Cathy.

Thanks Dylan, I don't think Chipotle would have sealed the deal, haha. I'll save Chipotle for another type of gal, wink wink.

rsoh2k4 said...

Sounds like fun! Great article 'Cuz! I'll have to look into downloading that episode so I can show you off to my Aussie Family! I'm proud of you! You've come along way since you were sleeping down the hall from me in Liverbore!

sku said...

Great show and glad you got some TV time. Now you'll have to spill the beans about everything.

I noticed that usually the diners rate higher than the judges, but in this case, you guys rated lower than the judges (in those they showed). I wonder if that was because you had a better understanding of the ingredients than the critics.

gill gill said...

although i've just followed your blog for few months, and love your blog :D

Congrats that you've shown on the screen! Bill, way to go.

I'm from Malaysia.

Darrell said...

Very entertaining and funny blog! Great article...

streetgourmetla said...

Sku-Thanks my borracho. What we felt I believe was that the chefs didn't know the ingredients, and showed a complete lack of creativity with some awesome products, all whcih are used in Asia, and Mexico. Susur, of course killed it, it was right up his alley, and Rick did something very cool too. That would explain our lower scores.

Haha, Thanks Ruben.

Gill Gill-All the way from Malaysia?Thanks,I'm honored. I hope to go there one day and have at all your amazing cuisine.

Darrell-Glad you enjoyed. It was a fun evening.