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Friday, July 14, 2006

F&W Classic in Aspen: the Cook-off, José vs Ming

The final round of the Cook-off at F&W Classic in Aspen pitted the ever hilarious José Andrés, helped out by Jamie-Lynn Sigler, against Ming Tsai and an audience member who won the bid to cook with Ming.

For this round, I got over my reluctance to jump up and get close to take photos. Urged on by Jill, I was out there pushing my way in with the pack of real photographers. There was one photographer I willingly gave way to, though. She was from San Francisco’s 7x7 Magazine, and was there in the blue jeans, sneakers, and huge appareils pack with the others, but unlike them she was in miniskirt and a pair of high wedges. Now that got my respect!

As José was happily ensconced in his corner with the gorgeous Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Ming put the position of his sous chef up for auction to benefit charity. Ming at one point offered up the key to his room as well, in an effort to drive the bids up. At least I think it was to drive it up(!) Alas, the highest bidder was a man, Robert Hatoff the owner of the meat company Allen Brothers. Alan turned out to be a perfectly competent, if a lot less cute, than José’s.

This round was even more rebel rousing than the previous one. Ming’s bravado, José’s effusive-self, and their rapport combined had the audience in fits. I laughed so hard I had trouble stabilizing my camera.

The José corner began with a heavy hitter, with Jamie-Lynn honoring her Cuban heritage with an offer of whiskey-spiked Cuban coffee, so thick and sweet a spoon stood up in it, she said. Now that got everyone to sit up and notice. Not to be outdone by his own partner, José cut the top off a pineapple and stuck a bottle of Cointreau into it.

Ming, meanwhile, didn’t start out too well. His valiant effort to get Jamie-Lynn to switch side failed rather miserably. But he recovered pretty quickly with a yummy looking –if not exactly innovative- shrimp toasts.
José had a good work-out going over to do the up-close trash talk on Ming’s side and then running back over to help his lady luck, who admitted early on to her own inadequacy in the kitchen. José didn’t mind, trust me, nor would Ming had she been over on the other side.

The heat was certainly on. In fact, it was so on it exploded into flame at one point. Do I have to tell you which side this happened to? Not that it slowed him down one bit.

In the end, Ming’s side offered up some familiar dishes: shrimp toasts, tomato salad, lamb carpaccio, deep fried lamb with chow mien noodles, and a Cointreau flambee with exotic fruits.

José’s side made lamb with pepper and thyme, ‘no sweat’ fava beans served in the pods. José tossed one to the audience as a demonstration, and got a loud jeer from Ming. “You throw like a girl”, shouted the not-girly-at-all Ming. Not to be discouraged, José continued with his dishes, an egg and avocado ‘pancake’, garlic shrimp with Macallan whiskey, melted coffee ice cream with berries and raisins, Sangria made with Cointreau, and slices of the drunken pineapple he made in the beginning.

The audience voted, and the overwhelming winner was Ming. I don’t know, I was more on José’s camp on this one. Ming’s food actually looked really good, but he lost me at using leftover lamb as carpaccio!!

More photos on my Flickr.


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