Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Top Chef 3/19/08--"Zoo Food" summary

Previously on Top Chef: the season began, and there were approximately 8 million contestants. Well, maybe not quite that many, but it felt like there were people everywhere and I’m not sure I remember who everyone is, nor did I notice everyone, most likely. The big impressions: Andrew curses a lot, there are some lesbians, two fauxhawks (which is two fauxhawks too many), and some cute boys who don’t cook as well as they should. Stephanie won with duck a la orange. Nimma failed to season her food properly, which seems to always happen to someone, and she was the first to go home.(click for more)

The house apparently involves a workout room. Stephanie is lifting weights. Valeria says she and Stephanie worked together long ago. She was so glad to win because it means people know what she can do. Spike jokes with Mark. Oh, Mark is cute. He’s ready to go. Zoi and Jen are going to look at this like a job, keep some distance. Even though they’re trading shoes. They acknowledge it’s weird.

The Quickfire starts at a farmer’s market, which is an excellent place to start. I can’t wait for summer to go to ours here. We have one year round, but summertime is better. Valerie says that she‘s even shopped at this farmer‘s market before. They can only use 5 ingredients total. Salt, pepper, sugar, and oil do not count, so any spices do count. Winner gets immunity. Mad running! Don’t run over civilians! They have 30 minutes and $25. Everyone looks to be shopping, except Spike, who is sitting down listening to a busking musician and giving them money. Richard wants eucalyptus. Can you eat that? Mark wants lamb and he’s in a hurry and freaking out. Everyone’s hanging out, spending a nice leisurely Saturday morning at the market. He’s pissing off the sellers. Dale doesn’t want anything frozen because you can’t tell how old it is. Mark runs off and forgets his bag. Well, part of his bag with the lettuce in it. He seem pretty calm, compared to the freaking out he just did.

Padma greets them in the kitchen. Wylie Dufresne is there to judge. Cool! Also, it says something that I now recognize him on sight. Richard finally owns his molecular gastronomy. Padma reminds them they can only have 5 ingredients, and they even have a shot of the salt and the other things that don’t count, so someone must break the rules. They only have 30 minutes to cook. Richard is making “a classic dish with molecular gastronomy” which is using science to make things better. He says that he’s braising chicken legs, but I only see what look like wings, and they are so huge they must be turkey wings. I don’t see any feet. Mark is covering for not having lettuce. Spike is pissed because he didn’t get what he thought he was. He thought he was buying tenderloin but it’s just chopped up meat. Valerie is mellow in the kitchen, so she knows that here she has to jump in. I think it’s Valerie. Oh my God, Bravo, these people need name chyrons at all times. I can’t even tell the boys apart and usually those are the first names I learn. And Valerie and Antonia are like, the same person.

Richard says you can eat eucalyptus in small doses. Mostly he’s using it for aroma for his “chicken soup“ with chicken, apples, apple cider, eucalyptus, and butter. You can tell he wants more praise from Wylie, who just kind of nods and moves on. Ryan does well with lettuce (he calls it “lettuce greens“ which is…pretty redundant), radishes, potatoes, sirloin steak, and mustard. Dale’s mushrooms, shallots, radishes, eggs, & butter are good. Valerie has steak with peaches and tomatoes in a marmalade, sweet potatoes, and arugula. Spike: complains about the tenderloin tips, which he‘s set with apples, bread, apple cider, and rosemary. The judges want a sandwich. Erik: lamp chop, baby carrots, potatoes, mint, garlic. Mark: steak and turnips, with peach cream, and mushrooms. Somehow he used butter instead of the lettuce? I’m not sure. Wylie praises him for his sideburns. Andrew: lamb chops, peach chutney, onions, mint, potatoes, and he used balsamic vinegar because he thought he was able to use it and it didn’t count. He kind of shrugs about it and blames his ADD.

This week we actually get to hear more specific comments about the Quickfire. Spike could have used his beef differently. Erik’s plate wasn’t composed; all the ingredients were separated and not touching. Richard made an oily dish that could have been refined and he’s like, in tears. Ryan’s dish was moist and juicy (snicker), Valerie had lots of flavor, Mark‘s flavors played off each other. Mark wins immunity.

Now it is time to draw knives. Manuel pulls “vulture”. Vulture? Those taste nasty. (I assume, don’t email me). Dale pulls bear. Ryan and Richard pull lion. Andrew babbles that he is a lion and he even kind of roars which is adorkable. He pulls penguin which is still dope. Antonia? I don’t know who these people are! We’re picking teams so we’ll figure it out. Valeria and Antonia both are glad to be on Stephanie‘s team. Padma reassures everyone that they are not cooking weird animals, but they are catering a party at the zoo. They have base the dish around the diet of the animal. I laugh and laugh at the vulture team. Everyone goes to plan menus and read about their animals’ diets. Apparently vultures eat small fish, rabbit, and lamb, so Mark is all set. He even goes so far as to claim this is close to his own diet. Antonia and Stephanie are brainstorming but Valerie doesn’t really participate very much. They insist that putting meat in is OK even though gorillas don’t eat meat. Valerie just goes along. Ryan says that lions eat beets, apparently, along with bison, eggs, and chicken. Richard wants to use his immersion circulator. Lisa, Andrew, and Jen make a seafood menu for penguins. Done. Dale, Spike, and Nikki are planning honeycomb with some cheese. Nikki gives us the standard “as a woman I have to work twice as hard” spiel. Dale is freaking out because he has to work with people. He wants to do his own thing.

Zoi and Jen snuggle. Everyone talks about the animals and which animals they‘d be and whatnot. The best is Mark telling Dale that vultures are better than bears because while the bear is hibernating the vulture can peck his eyes out. Dale scoffs and Mark says vultures can do things without looking, as he turns his head from the pool table and sinks his shot. “Oh, did that go in?“ Hee. Team Gorilla discusses their menu: lamb and edamame lettuce cups, banana bread, crab salad on a celery root chip, and black olive blinis with mascarpone. Even though gorillas don’t eat meat. Stephanie is pretty confident, although she does admit she doesn’t know how to cater for 200 people. Antonia doesn’t know if Valerie can pull off cooking and plating blinis at the zoo.

They have $500 and 30 minutes to shop. Spike is “molesting” the produce section. (Kmanpat: “There are so many things I could say that I can’t pick one!“) Someone trips on fallen produce. Team Lion has: foam. Sigh. Bison tartare, beet salad with goat cheese foam, chicken sate, and prime rib with horseradish foam. Psshh, goat cheese foam. Nikki has her group put some food back so she can get decorations.

3 hours of cooking at the Top Chef kitchens. Dale doesn’t know about his teammates’ abilities because he hasn’t seen them cook. Nikki lets us in on the menu for Team Bear: venison loin with squash, seared salmon, stuffed mushrooms, and cheese and honeycomb on bread. Nikki is making the mushrooms and also the honey cheese bread, or whatever. Team Penguin has also divided up the dishes. Lisa is doing Thai shrimp and crab salad, Jen is making roasted zucchini, and Andrew is making squid ceviche and also some kind of a gelee/Jell-o type “glacier” thing with yuzu and mint. Richard busts out the immersion circulator to play with. Erik has no idea what Richard is doing. His interview he’s wearing his hat backwards and he has some bling so it really fits. Stephanie says they need bananas if they are Team Gorilla because no one will know what team they are otherwise. Maybe that’s because there’s meat in everything. Valerie is worried about transporting her blinis. She overcrowds the pan and she may be starting over. Tom comes through to investigate. He doesn’t do a lot except to try to stir up trouble because Mark has immunity and his teammates don’t. Their menu doesn’t sound too bad: braised chicken on a tostado chip (wouldn’t that be a tortilla chip?), Moroccan lamb meatballs, and anchovy on quinoa croquette. Andrew is “sexy” about his glacier. Spike thinks he might score points with Wylie. Dale is unhappy because the stuffed mushrooms shrunk and burnt and literally look like crap. Nikki wants to top them with chives or something, but they’re going to wait and see what happens when they get there. Stephanie is making chips for crab salad but they‘re soggy, so she wants to recook them? And somehow they have to pack for transport so she hopes they stay crispy.

I had been hoping that the stations would be around the zoo, like the lion team next to the lion enclosure and stuff. But sadly no. They have an hour to set up. Spike, like Dale, doesn’t like the mushrooms. Antonia feels “removed” from Valerie’s dish. Valerie knows they suck, but she says they didn’t think it would be such a problem and it’s too late now anyways. Stephanie’s celery chips are still soggy. They make a quick salad instead, to serve the crab on. I’m not sure how that will work.

Judges for today are Wylie, Gail and Tom. The Bear team has to pull the mushrooms off the table because they’re not hot. Team Lion seems to have made a couple of their bites in spoons. Like, a spoon with one bite in it, and for the food shots they‘ve put them into clear plastic bowls. The beet salad has yuzu and ras al hanout, and there’s tarragon coulis for the bison tartare. Mark tries to sell the anchovies but it doesn’t work a lot. Gail and Padma like them though. His headband is distracting. Team Vulture also has lamb meatballs with ricotta, pomegranate syrup and pistachio. Yum. Team Gorilla is sure to label whose dishes are whose. Tom asks about the chips and doesn’t seem to mind that they didn‘t turn out. They aren’t impressed with the crab and roasted pear salad. Stephanie freaks out. Valerie’s description of black olive blinis with fennel mascarpone, rutabaga, and beets sounds awesome but is disappointing. Wylie observes that they sound great, and then Tom pipes up with, “Sounds.“ Ouch. The lamb and edamame was great, though, and the banana bread with salted caramel and meringue. Back to the Bear table for cranberry pecan bread and honey and cheese. Cheese and honey! Yum! And salmon a la plancha with pickled vegetables. It’s a huge bite. The judges ask about the mushrooms, and Nikki tells them the mushrooms aren’t as hot as they’d like so they took them off the table, but she gets them some mushrooms anyways. Uh…why are you giving the judges the mushrooms that you don’t think are worth serving? Blueberries and mushrooms, meh. With cheese on top. Andrew gets a chance to serve his yuzu mint gelee. Interesting. Tom’s opinion? “OK, let’s have food now.” The squid ceviche has soy-balsamic tapioca pearls. Andrew is fanboying and spazzing out about Wylie. The Thai shrimp watercress salad doesn’t get mentioned. The zoo people liked that many people stayed true to their animals. The judges didn’t like the mushrooms, they liked the beets and also the squid with tapioca, and the Vulture team did well. Gorilla team sucked. Dale and Valerie think they’re in trouble.

Is Tom a gorilla, a bear, or a penguin? Oh, Bravo. Do you think we weren’t paying attention last season when we learned that the bear community idolizes Tom?

Padma calls up the Vulture team and the Penguin team as the best teams. The vulture team decided to let each team member do what they were interested in. Both the anchovies (Mark) and the meatballs (Zoi) were the best there. The penguin team’s dishes all tied together. All the judges liked the squid dish, and the “glacier” was fun, so Andrew wins this week. He’s so thrilled that he doesn’t even curse about it.

The Gorilla team and the Bear team get called out. Mushrooms, blini, and crab salad were the worst dishes that evening. The bear team tries to explain about the mushrooms, that they looked bad and then they pulled them, and the cheese overwhelmed everything. Dale says the cheese was to make them look better, but no one tasted them after the cheese got put on. Huh? How do you not taste them? Nikki says the mushrooms were a group decision. He says he wasn’t trying to blame Nikki, but she won’t own up to the dish. She did make them, but none of them tasted them. Stephanie owns up to her crab salad getting pre-mixed and pre-salted so it got watery. Valerie didn’t realize the blinis would get soggy, I guess, and she knows she should have made them onsite. There was supposed to be a cream there? Or something? Gail wanted something to tie everything together and she didn’t taste it at all. Antonia gets put on the spot: these two are competing for a job. Which one do you hire? Antonia picks Stephanie. Oo. The look Valerie gives her could kill. She says Antonia didn’t even taste her dish.

Everyone should know blinis have to be made and served right away, but even if Valerie had done that, she would have had crunchy rutabaga. And the crab salad shouldn‘t have been salted hours before. But Stephanie also made the banana bread so that may save her. Nikki made terrible mushrooms, but Dale made them worse and then no one on their team tasted anything. The whole team didn’t like the mushrooms but they all served it anyway.

Mmm, all-star water polo team.

I guess that no one cared that Team Gorilla made meat. So all that “base your menu on the diet of your animal” was just so they would have some kind of guideline. Dale, Nikki, Valerie, and Stephanie all get yelled at, but in the end Valerie is sent home. She knows she’s better than this, but she made a bad decision.

Next week: field trip to residential neighborhood? Huh? Tell me it’s stone soup! Some people fight about the challenge. Andrew says he’s not going anywhere.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice recap -- and may I say, just happening upon your work here, the blog's name cracked me up to no end. I'm still aftershock-chuckling thinking about Hung saying that.