Daily Archive: November 19, 2012

Specialty Lunch

Posted by Lauren

Currently sitting at the kitchen table enjoying broccoli and brussels sprouts smothered in Sockarooni and hot sauce.

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I’ll grab an apple and frozen grapes soon… but I don’t want to talk about dinner, I want to talk about LUNCH!

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Thanksgiving is around the corner (as I’m sure all USA readers are aware of) and that means that people start to flock home. That’s good news for me since I’m living in the same area I grew up in. Today, one of my best high school friends, Vanessa, was in town for a little bit before jetting off to New York City. Both Sarah and I took advantage of the fact and met her for lunch at Specialty’s in Santa Clara.

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It wouldn’t be a Silicon Valley chain without iPads to order from, am I right?

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Specialty’s caters numerous work events, like… too many. Despite all the sandwiches and fabulous cookies I’ve tried since 2008, I have never had one of their salads! Nor have I looked into the history of the company (yes, I do that sort of thing.)

  • still family owned and operated
  • they’ve got 40 restaurants in California, Washington and Illinois
  • originally just a small, standing-room only street shop
  • acquired tech company Sandwich Direct in 2005 – allowed online ordering
  • super duper tech savvy now

Here are my lunch dates!

Vanessa and Sarah…

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And me with Vanessa…

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I ordered the Spicy Thai Peanut salad – honey-roasted peanuts, fresh cucumbers, wonton strips and red onion atop an asian salad mix (fresh cabbage, cilantro, green onion and grated carrots) with a spicy thai peanut dressing.

DELICIOUS!! Salty and crunchy salads are my favorite kind.

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Notice the square of focaccia? Their focaccia is the BEST. If they had it online I would buy a platter for Thanksgiving!

Here’s a picture of Sarah’s sandwich:

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Mostly I just want to point out their kickass cookies. We all shared this chocolate chip cookie, which is nearly the size of her cobb sandwich! I loved catching up with the two of them. Hopefully we’ll have more time together over the Christmas holiday…

I actually saw Sarah last night (Sunday) as well. She was involved in a car accident on Saturday night and I wanted to check in on her. Lucky for all of us, her car kept her safe. We chatted about the accident, work, life, etc over dinner and dessert:

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Question: How close to “home” do you live? Any plans to catch up with out-of-town friends over the holidays?

-Lauren

Drafting the Next Iron Chef

Posted by Lauren

Have you heard of The Food Network’s show Next Iron Chef: Redemption? Well, it’s one of my favorites. Last season, when Geoffrey Zakarian was crowned the next iron chef, my friend Andrew and I had a little wager going. Unfortunately, he bet Zakarian would win, so… basically I lost. We agreed to draft chefs after watching the first episode of this season. I can’t wait to have a winning chef this time around! Go Alex, go!

Andrew

  1. Amanda Freitag
  2. Elizabeth Faulkner
  3. Jehangir Mehta
  4. Spike Mendelsohn

Lauren

  1. Alex Guarnaschelli
  2. Nate Appleman
  3. Erik Greenspan
  4. Marcel Vigneron

So here’s the premise. First, all chefs complete in the Chairman’s Challenge.

There’s always a theme – episode 1 centered on Resourcefulness and episode 2 focused on Innovation. No shortage of twists during the Chairman’s Challenge!

After a winner and honorable mentions are selected, the bottom 2 or 3 battle it out in the Secret Ingredient Showdown.

Each chef gets 30 minutes to artfully prepare a dish highlighting a random ingredient. Meanwhile, all the other chefs look on and shout ‘encouraging’ words. Yeah, I’m sure the hot-seat chefs really want to hear what you think.

Episode 3 aired tonight! But first let’s chat about episode 1 and 2…

Challenge: be resourceful with the limited pantry, the matches, the aluminum foil, and the primitive fire pit that you A. need to start and B. need to share with another chef. Easy peasy.

Each chef got an ingredient that “took them out” on a previous competition. For my #1 Alex G-$, she had lobster! My #3, Greenspan, had to use grasshoppers, AGAIN.

We met the judges: Simon Majumdar (food and travel writer), Geoffrey Zakarian (last year’s winner and owner of multiple fireplaces), and Donatella Arpaia.. her advice came straight out of a cheerocracy flick: Bring it.

I have a hunch that Zakarian and G-$ are more than friends; his high acclaim of her lobster dish only adds weight to my argument.

I was equally proud of my #2, Nate Appleman, for his rendition of bananas. He prepared a banana curry with clams and roasted banana dish that blew the judges out of the water.

After all 10 chefs listened to the judges complain about too much salt, too little heat, bad bread, no texture, blah blah…. it was time to announce a winner!

I actually think Faulkner is a serious contender. She shut down her SF restaurant a year ago and I was almost positive it was because she would win last season. Alas, I was wrong. Season 1’s runner-up has even more reason for redemption!

But Faulkner didn’t win. Alex G-$ did.

By the way, who is Duskie?

Part two, Secret Ingredient Showdown for the bottom two chefs: Tim Love and Spike.

Both chefs spent 30 minutes preparing a savory dish with pineapple as the star. Texan restauranteur Tim Love decided he had enough time for a tequila shot.

Pineapples are one of my 3 least favorite foods. Icky!

In the end, the judges axed Chef Love and his pickled pineapple, quail, crispy kale, and juiced corn dish. Chef Spike made it through with a Vietnamese-style sweet and sour branzino.

As for episode 2, G-$ picked three groups of three to innovate on classic food concepts: taco, falafel, and the banh mi.

In the banh mi group: Faulkner, Appleman, and Greenspan. All solid contenders. (didn’t snap a screenshot)

15 TV-magic minutes later, the judges picked a winner in each group: Greenspan for the banh mi, G-$ for the taco, and Mehta for the falafel. Chef Mehta actually won the ‘best dish’ award and I agree that his was the most “innovative.” At least Greenspan knows a judge would marry him for his food.

Is that an unfair advantage?

Needless to say, Alex was a happy camper.

The bottom 3 proceeded to the Secret Ingredient Showdown: white bread.

Faulkner’s dish won high praises – she prepared a modern Monte Cristo stuffed with goat cheese and bacon along with a french toast ice cream. Alton implied that it should be Faulkner sitting at the judges table instead of Zakarian. He was not amused.

In the end, Duskie (pigtail lady) packed her bags. Neither of us drafted her so I’m 100% indifferent after episode 2. Can’t wait for the next one to hit Hulu!

Question: What’s your favorite cooking show?

-Lauren