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I want to let the world know that I have made my pick for this season’s “Top Chef.”

My pick is Carla, otherwise known (by my “Top Chef”-watching party of myself and Chris) as the Human-Shaped Flightless Bird, and we label her as such with all the respect and affection we can muster.

She’s the underdog, for sure. I was surprised she made it through the first few episodes. For a while, it seemed all she could do was make dessert (and not always very well), and as we all know, it’s “Top Chef,” not “Top Pastry Chef.” She definitely has a shot to be this season’s Fan Favorite, but it’d pretty crazy-awesome if she won the Big Title, too.

Speaking of crazy, she’s also as quirky as they come. Here’s some videographic evidence to support this claim.

Recently, Carla won the Super Bowl challenge (and a couple of tickets to the Bowl, which she reportedly gave to her husband and stepson). If only I could find the clip of her reaction to the news, but suffice it to say that she was as surprised as the rest of us, and terribly, terribly excited.

Over the past few weeks, Carla has been full of surprises. She’s been cooking savory dishes instead of desserts, and she’s been cooking them well. And we learned just this week that Carla is classically trained in French cooking! Eric Ripert could tell immediately that she knew her stuff.

So why has she been painted as so clueless, or at least a bit of a goof, up to this point? I suspect that part of the surprise element has to do with the show’s production and editing (we all know from that little, tiny-print disclaimer at the end of episodes that the show isn’t as “real” as it claims to be). They’re setting us up to think she’s going to lose because, when she comes close to winning, it’ll be that much cooler!

You might have noticed, too, at the Le Bernardin table, that she displayed none of her human-shaped-flightless-bird eccentricities. I suspect this shows the hand of the producers and editors, too. Her hair was pulled back, and she sat there calmly and responded sanely to Eric Ripert, in contrast to pretty much every other scene she’s been in.

I think it’s going to come down to Fabio and Stefan, and Stefan’s going to win, but my hope is that Carla comes in third. I don’t care about Hosea, and Leah is obviously getting booted next episode because not only does she not cool as well as the others and cheat on her boyfriend, but she also just gives up whenever something’s a little bit hard, and we all know, this is “Top Chef,” not “Top Quitter”!

Also, who doesn’t love how gosh-darn nice Carla is? That’s so rare in competitive reality TV, and definitely a breath of fresh air. If I were still in DC, I’d hire Carla to cater a big party for me, at which we’d serve birds that, though not human-shaped, would definitely be flightless due to the fact of their being cooked.

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When I lived in DC, I worked near Dupont Circle, very close to a California Pizza Kitchen. In fact, here it is:

photo by Kevin L. at Yelp

photo by Kevin L. at Yelp

Late nights at the magazine (including one that ended with me sleeping on the floor till my co-workers arrived the next morning), the designer and I would order potato-leek soup and the most sublime pasta dish, called Chicken Tequila Fettuccine.

When I moved to New York and took my current job, I searched all over the Financial District (well, I looked it up on Google Maps) for a CPK and found none. There’s a TGI Friday’s down the street, but its pasta menu has nothing similar. The closest I’ve come is Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta, which I ate on one of the numerous trips to Chili’s Julie and I made at Amherst:

Finally, I gave in to my cravings, and last night I attempted to make the CPK dish on my own. The recipe is readily available online, and I picked up the ingredients on my way home from work, including a small bottle of Jose Cuervo.

I decided to double the recipe, since it calls for half each of red, yellow and green peppers.  I ended up with an enormous amount of pasta! It’s fairly delicious, though if I were to make it again, I’d at least double the garlic and jalapeno, and I’d add salt while I was cooking. Also, I made this with half-and-half, which worked just as well as heavy cream would have, for about half the fat and calories.

Perhaps I am unsophisticated, but I love chain-restaurant food, particularly creamy pasta. Nothing would make me happier than a trip to the Olive Garden for all-you-can-eat breadsticks and salad. And maybe a huge plate of Garlic-Herb Chicken con Broccoli:

I didn’t take a picture of my pasta last night, but the original should do the trick:

There’s enough for a dozen more servings in my fridge, so come and get it before I pack it into Ziploc bags and put it in my freezer.

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