Buoyed by my new faith in tv chefs, but tired from standing on my tip-toes for two hours (take note . . if you’re a tall man with a big head, please don’t stand in the front row at any event, but especially one filled with short women,) I wandered down Penn Avenue in search of some rejuvenation. Two favorites always work wonders. First, the Bitter Combo at La Prima Espresso. An icy cold mixture of bright red San Pellegrino Bitters, some fizzy water and fresh squeezed oj. A minute ago, as I typed the words “bright red” in reference to the bitters, it occurred to me that maybe I should look into exactly why my favorite refresher is that freaky shade of red. I checked out the colorants on the label, E122 and E110, at www.harmfuladditives.com. What a mistake that was. Let’s just say the words coal tar and napthalene were used. Let’s move on to another subject.
I took my Bitters Combo “to go” and walked down 21st Street to get a taste of Peru at Chicken Latino before the Top Chef demo. Their poultry is marinated in red wine vinegar and spices before cooking. No disrespect to KFC, but this stuff is truly finger lickin’ good. My last bite was downed just in time for the start of Bravo’s Top Chef: The Tour, which stopped in the ‘Burgh as part of a 21 city trek around the USA.
Two contestants from past seasons (Eli Kirshtein, Season 6, and Richard Blais, Season 4) were part of this roadshow version of Top Chef and they spent the better part of an hour cooking and answering questions about their lives and the Bravo channel hit.
What’s it like in the Stew Room? “Six to 9 hours of hanging out with lots of beer and people who eventually become your buddies is like a mix of jury duty and college.” Where have you eaten in Pittsburgh? “Primanti’s, Lidia’s, Eleven.” What’s head judge Tom Colicchio really like? “A really nice guy.” The pair prepared a tender sous vide cooked Jamison lamb entree with pureed apples and caramel glaze and a salad of micro-cilantro, pea shoots, fennel and apples.
After this weekend, I’m officially over my distaste for the “star chef.” Next up on the culinary speaking circuit, No Reservations star Tony Bourdain, who’ll be at Heinz Hall of June 14. See you there!