Victorino Matus is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard. With the magazine since 1996, he writes on a variety of subjects, including politics, Germany, military history, pop culture, and food and drink. His work has also appeared in Policy Review, National Review, Armed Forces Journal, the New York Post, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. He is currently working on a book, Vodka: An Illustrated History (Lyons Press, 2014). Matus is a graduate of Georgetown University.
When the late Sidney Frank created Grey Goose vodka in 1997, he was clear that this spirit must stand above the rest. Not only would it be made in France (giving it that sophisticated European aura), it would also come in a tall, frosted glass bottle with a long neck—easy to spot on the shelf and easy for bartenders to handle. Little did Frank know it could also substitute for a billyclub as was the case when someone at a Manhattan nightclub struck another guest on the back with a Grey Goose bottle, leading to a brawl involving the prince of Monaco.Read more
Last week, food writer Michael Ruhlman had a glorious screed on his blog about the war against fat:
I know what it was that set me off today. A random article, out of the blue, I shouldn’t even have read it. It referred to great food cooked with rendered fat as “early-grave food heaven.” Why do people say stupid things like this?
Because the media bombards us with the simplistic message that Fat Is Bad For You, and it pisses me off.
It gets even better.Read more
Although viewers watch Top Chef in weekly segments, the actual filming is broken into two sections. The Texas episodes were filmed on a succession of days during the summer. After the final four chefs were selected, several months passed until they were reunited last month in British Columbia for an Olympic-themed episode that aired last night. It was this lag time, said Chicago chef Beverly Kim, that served to heal old wounds between her and rivals Lindsay Autry and Sarah Grueneberg. (Although you got to hand it to the show's editors who spliced two scenes together, in which Beverly is seen shooting a rifle and then Sarah appears to fall down as if she's been shot.)Read more
All throughout Top Chef: Texas, Ed Lee has never been rattled. He may have made a few mistakes along the way, but his focus remained unbroken. (He also had little patience for incompetence and was never soft on his fellow chefs. When Sarah Grueneberg needed 9-1-1, Ed was actually annoyed by the inconvenience.) But on last night's semifinal, Ed's focus on a dish with oysters got the better of him. "Every time I went to that Whole Foods, they always had fresh oysters," recalled the chef. So it figures the one time he actually needed fresh oysters, there were none on sale. But rather than switching to something else, Ed quickly resorted to canned smoked oysters. And when the judges found out, Ed knew he was done for.Read more
Grayson Schmitz is never at a loss for words. According to the New York-based catering chef, "Whatever is in my head I say." So I couldn't resist asking her what went through her mind during the last episode of Top Chef: Texas when the special guest judge turned out to be the one and only Pee-wee Herman (who entered the kitchen set riding his trademark red bicycle). Grayson, who trained under Fabio Trabocchi ("the man taught me how to make pasta") and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was first amused by the spectacle. "Okay, that's fun," she thought, "but he better not be one of our f—g judges." He was.Read more
As Military.com reported yesterday,
The venerable A-10 tank killer aircraft is taking a hit of its own as part of the Defense Department’s decision to eliminate six of the Air Force’s tactical air squadrons and one training squadron.... Three of the five A-10 squadrons going away will be Guard units. Air Force leaders plan to eliminate one Reserve and one active duty squadron.Read more
The front-page headline in yesterday's New York Post blared, "Wheely Rich: Tycoon wills $1M to driver." Not only that, but the late music mogul Alan Meltzer gave $500,000 to his doorman. At least when it comes to the doorman, it shouldn't be a surprise. In Steve Dublanica's book on tipping, Keep the Change, the author gives us an inside look at the doorman racket: "At some high-profile hotels a doorman can clear $80,000 to $100,000 a year. In fact, some front doors in big cities can be so lucrative that when they retire, doormen aren't above selling their positions."Read more
The question was, "We have many qualified, Hispanic leaders. Which of our Hispanic leaders would you consider to serve in your cabinet?" Santorum, by dint of his position on stage, got to speak first, picking the very obvious choice of up-and-coming Florida senator Marco Rubio. Gingrich came in second and it wouldn't have sufficed to say, "I agree." The former speaker hinted at Rubio as a future commander in chief and also mentioned New Mexico governor Susana Martinez and Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Poor Mitt Romney was third in line for questioning and knew he, too, had to top his rivals. His answer was lengthy but impressive:Read more
Chicago chef Chris Jones respects the judges' decision, he doesn't harbor any ill will towards his competitors, and as he said on the phone earlier today, "I don't make excuses." That said, when the contestants on Top Chef: Texas were told to create a healthy version of a meal to be served at a block party (sponsored by Healthy Choice), Jones went healthy—a chicken salad sandwich, he points out, that didn't use Hellmann's Mayonnaise. Instead he used tofu as a binding agent, which technically worked. His problem was deciding to premake the sandwiches, which dried up under the hot Texas sun. Looking back, Jones said he should have done it "Subway style," made to order. But there was another problem: A swarm of bees occupied his blender, and Jones is deathly allergic to bees.Read more
It shouldn't come as a surprise that a book on a handgun's history would come out now. After all, C.J. Chivers's The Gun, about the AK-47, not only sold well but also won the Pulitzer Prize. The story of the Glock is different. It came out in the early 1980s—not as a product of a Stalinist regime and not as a symbol of revolutions around the globe, but simply because the Austrian Army was looking to procure a new handgun made in-country. Mark A. Keefe IV, editor in chief of American Rifleman, reviews Glock: The Rise of America's Gun by Paul Barrett in the Washington Post.Read more
What a week for headlines: An oceanliner keels, Rick Perry quits the race, Newt Gingrich's ex-wife talks about open marriage, and Rick Santorum wins Iowa. But the biggest news of the week is without doubt Beverly Kim's elimination from Top Chef: Texas. Yes, I'm joking, but as Beverly said over the phone yesterday, when a group of mostly strangers are put together in living and cooking quarters, what matters to them isn't exactly what matters in reality. "It's unnatural" and "not real life," said Beverly, who is the chef at Aria, a modern Asian restaurant, in Chicago. "Every challenge felt like life and death." Thankfully, life does not actually hinge on how you sear a halibut.Read more
With much fanfare, this past episode of Top Chef: Texas featured Restaurant Wars, which seems to excite the chefs but strikes me as the most perilous of challenges—a competent chef who volunteers to be team leader can go down with the ship, taking responsibility for others' mistakes. The chefs were divided into two groups—the men versus the women. The men wasted no time in getting organized, agreeing on all the dishes, and working fairly well with each other. The women, meanwhile, turned on each other, talking behind each other's backs and sometimes to their faces. The censor at the Bravo control room must have a blistered finger from all the times he had to press the bleep button—the women sounded as if they were auditioning for Goodfellas.Read more
Yes, we can all eat better and get more exercise. No, the government shouldn't take on these challenges by restricting our choices of food and drink. This is where the new website Women for Food Freedom comes in—a creation of the Independent Women's Forum meant to counter various "one-size-fits-all" food policies.Read more
As a few of my colleagues are flying back and forth from New Hampshire, what better time to talk about airplane germs. Last month, the Wall Street Journal confirmed our suspicions that flying really can make you sick. "Air travelers suffer higher rates of disease infection, research has shown," writes the Journal's Scott McCartney. "One study pegged the increased risk for catching a cold as high as 20 percent.... One well-known study in 1979 found that when a plane sat three hours with its engines off and no air circulating, 72 percent of the 54 people on board got sick within two days. The flu strain they had was traced to one passenger." For those who start to itch and fidget when reading such stats, you should probably stop reading this.Read more
For Chris Crary, the most recent casualty of Top Chef: Texas, losing isn't always a bad thing. Two years ago, back when he weighed a hefty 245 pounds ("and not in muscle," he pointed out), he decided it was time to lose weight. "I wasn't sure how my body would react," he said on the phone earlier today, "so I just stopped drinking alcohol and soda." In two months, Chris lost 17 pounds. He then moved on to cardio and weight-lifting, "almost obsessively." Today he's around 175 pounds despite being surrounded by food all day (he intentionally has no food at his home). He is also a Top Chef "Fan Favorite." If he maintains the lead by the show's end, Chris will receive a $10,000 prize. So who cares if he oversalted the brisket and ribs?Read more
"This is, like, your third eye,” my massage therapist told me as she dripped a mango-based oil onto my forehead, letting it trickle back through my hair, before she worked her fingers firmly over my scalp. The lights were dimmed and a sensual native beat was emanating softly from the speakers. My hands and feet, meanwhile, were lathered in warm coconut milk and wrapped in towels bearing hot stones.
The Washington Post's "5 Myths" series continued this week with a holiday-themed "5 Myths about Christmas" as elaborated by James Martin, S.J. (a prolific fellow, though not to be confused with my late friend Father James Martin). For starters, Martin rightly reminds us that for Catholics, Christmas is not the most important holy day—that would be Easter. "Anyone can be born, but not everyone can rise from the dead," he explains. Second, there is no consensus on the details of Jesus' birth (hmm, this reminds me of another savior).Read more
He was an inspiration to us all—Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger was told he didn't have the grades to get a transfer into Notre Dame. And he was too little to make it onto Ara Parseghian's heralded football team. But as we all know from the movie, Rudy made it onto campus and then onto the field. Was there anything Rudy couldn't do? As it turns out, he couldn't escape the clutches of the Securities Exchange Commission, which had the now-defunct drink company Rudy Nutrition in its sights.Read more
For the fans of Top Chef: Texas who were hoping for a long, drawn-out struggle between outspoken chef Heather Terhune and Beverly Kim, last night's episode was disappointing. The Chicago chef's "braised" beef, a tribute to her mother, was judged the worst dish of the lot. Guest judge Patti LaBelle speculated that it came from Big Foot. On the other hand, fans who vilified Miss Terhune took great pleasure in seeing her pack her knives. Not that she cares what people on Facebook or Twitter are saying. But with regard to what her fellow chefs said behind her back, Heather calls the comments "hurtful" and "cowardly."Read more
You can't just say that the Great Leader died of a heart attack. Instead, here is how North Korea's official news agency originally explained it: "In the whole period of his protracted revolutionary guidance, he valued and loved the people very much and always shared weal and woe with them. He continued to make difficult forced march for field guidance, making unremitting efforts and working heart and soul to build a thriving country and improve the standard of people's living. He died from repeated mental and physical fatigue on a train in that course." You can read the entire bizarre statement here.Read more
Tuna salad or chicken salad? Why not ask your friends on Facebook? It's freezing outside. Shouldn't your friends know it's freezing, too? If you answered no to the above, you're not alone. A poll conducted by Real Simple magazine reveals the Facebook updates we find most annoying, all of which are spot on. And yes, Matt Labash, we know you told us so.Read more
On last night's episode of Top Chef Texas, the name of the game was game—namely, elk,venison, and quail. The contestants were divided into teams of two, but the combination of Beverly Kim and Heather Terhune was like oil and water (or in the words of judge Hugh Acheson, "ammonia and bleach"). Their final dish reflected the discord, which erupted at judges' table. So why did they survive the double elimination? Could it be that by adding a dab of Hell's Kitchen, ratings for next week would be guaranteed to sizzle? (These mixed metaphors are killing me.)Read more
Can't seem to find the right gift for your loved ones? Although there are only 11 days left before Christmas, there's no need to panic: Simply click over to the Obama 2012 store—a magical place where hope and change are alive and well. A place that sells $5 bumper stickers proclaiming "Veterans Can't Wait" (they really can't) and a $10 Joe Biden can holder (please note the holder does not prevent spills, verbal or otherwise).Read more
At his Chicago restaurant Chilam Balam, Chuy Valencia serves up a salmon-goat cheese dish that is popular with his customers. But on this week's episode of Top Chef Texas, it was anything but popular. "Smoked fish is paired with cream, which is why mild cream cheese works with lox," writes head judge Tom Colicchio on his blog. "But goat cheese is pungent, and I can’t figure out why Chuy would think it paired well with salmon. Think about it: In Italy, we do not put parmesan on fish dishes.... Chuy couldn’t execute the dish properly because his proportions were off: In order to warm the goat cheese inside, he had to overcook the salmon."Read more
Last Wednesday's episode of "Top Chef Texas" was all about chili. And Padma Lakshmi riding atop a stallion. But really it was about chili. During the Quickfire Challenge, chefs chose a chili pepper to cook with—each pepper had a monetary value depending on its heat according to the Scoville scale. Only Paul Qui dared to select the hottest pepper available, the ghost chili, with a Scoville rank well over a million heat units. (Hotter varieties are used for police pepper spray, whereas a poblano is normally under a thousand units. The hottest raw pepper I've ever eaten was a Scotch bonnet.) Qui incorporated it into a soup that won the judges over and earned him $20,000.Read more
I’d never gone to a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery until this morning. But through a friend I was invited to attend the interment of retired Captain John Cooper Jr. who served in the United States Navy during World War II and remained active in the reserves for the next several decades. During the service, the rabbi spoke of Cooper’s time in the Pacific and his dedication to the Navy over the years but left out (perhaps intentionally) what Cooper is most remembered for—his life in Hollywood as Jackie Cooper.Read more
Forty-seven-year-old gentle giant Keith Rhodes of Wilmington, North Carolina, was the first official casualty of Top Chef Texas. In last night's episode, much was made about Keith's buying precooked shrimp for a Quinceañera celebration, but in a phone interview, Keith explains it wasn't so much the shrimp but his choice of flour tortillas that proved his undoing—not to mention a few other chefs and a guest judge.Read more
While perusing CNN.com, a headline along the right margin caught my eye: "Vote for your CNN Hero!" The teaser explained, "You can help choose the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year. Just select the individual whose accomplishment, impact and personal story inspires you the most!"Read more
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