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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, December 9

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Review Thu Mar 13 2008

Top Chef, Episode One: The Curse of the Fugly Headband

Recap by Andie Thomalla.

If you caught Wednesday night’s earlier reality offerings, the ousting of Amis (rhymes with “anus”) from America’s Next Top Model and Syesha’s dangerously close call with the displeasure of the cell-voting populace on American Idol would have been a strong portend of thing yet to come to the headband-clad in TV land. If only the fates had been more kind to poor Nimma and her 21st century take on shrimp scampi – but alas, the curse of the fugtastic headband held sway over all channels, and the sweet and slightly antisocial Southerner was the first contestant lopped off on the Top Chef chopping block this season. Her cauliflower flan-turned-puree did indeed look like baby food, though, and proved apparently even more unappetizing than carnival-barker-turned-gourmand Erik’s vomitous Mexi-Souflee. Maybe the headband wasn’t entirely to blame.

Ah, Top Chef. You beguiling, bedeviling, delicious jewel of the reality season. The bitchiness of Girlicious with the cutlery of Hell’s Kitchen. And porntastic food shots to boot. You’ve got your claws in me now. Truth be told, this is the first season I’ve watched with any consistency (well, it’s the first night, so let’s check back in another few weeks – but I’ve pledged commitment in my head), and yes the Chicago location is a draw. But it really is enjoyable television – only to be improved by the day in The Future where I can push a button and get whatever’s on the screen to pop up, fully formed and piping hot on my coffee table. Some day, my fellow Americans. Some day.

This season promises plenty of location shots in the intro, and teasers show off some classic Chicago flair (Bears game? Top Chef tailgating?). While the premier may have fed into some fears that basing the show in our Windy City would yield nothing but the gastro-stereotypes our local shooting stars have tried so valiantly to overcome (meet and greet in Pizzeria Uno, quickfire challenge to create a signature deep dish pie), it’s still nice to see shots of the Sears Tower in the segues. And if nothing else, to remind our own fellow citizens that yes, Virginia, there is fine dining in Chicago. And if tonight is any indication, with Stephanie Izard taking top marks for her damn delicious-looking take on duck l’orange, at least one of Chicago’s own stands to make that a perhaps better-known fact.

So of course I’ll be watching to drool over the food – and I thought adorable Vegemite fan Mark’s duck l’orange looked more fun than fussy! Like a Hot Chocolate dessert…with duck. (Not so sure about the Vegemite fixation though – if my seventh grade memory serves, that stuff tastes like salt-covered tar coated in MSG. Shudder.) And I’ll be watching to drool over Padma (real life quote from my viewing party this evening: “Where’s Padma from?” In unplanned unison: “Heaven.”). And maybe I’ll watch for just a little bit of inspiration. Someone’s got to actually make those coffee table meals in The Future after all and when Chef Tom calls, I want to be ready. Wednesday nights, consider yourselves booked.

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Erin / March 13, 2008 6:33 PM

Please, please stop putting spoilers for one show into the recap for another show. Especially in the first line of the paragraph, where I don't have time to realize you are about to spoil me. Thank you.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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