Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Top Chef 3/26/08--"Block Party" summary

Previously on Top Chef: In the grand tradition of “Project Runway”, the contestants were taken on a field trip to the farmers market. Mark won the Quickfire challenge, but then everyone had a team challenge at the zoo. It looked like the contestants would have to make menus based on the foods of various animals, but no one ever held them to it. In the end Valerie made blinis ahead of time, which makes them terrible, so she went home. But apparently not enough happened last week, because the previouslies include Zoi and Jen talking about how they are dating, and also Richard wanting to make a statement. Are we starting the foreshadowing edit already?(click for more)

Oo, Spike shirtless! And Ryan! And Dale! Spike and Andrew roughhouse. (Kmanpat: “I want to play!”) Richard gets up and his hair is already in fauxhawk. Hilarious. Stephanie wants a woman to make it to the end. Zoi starts talking about female chefs and lesbians…I’ve heard this before. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m a misogynist, but I get it already. Andrew relates to being an entertainer. He entertains me, that‘s for sure.

Guest judge is Rick Bayless. Apparently he has introduced all of us to fine dining Mexican. Stephanie thinks, crap, Mexican food. Padma wants them to reinvent tacos for fine dining. Hee. Erik says tacos are about the street and family and to make them upscale is stupid. They have 30 minutes.

There seems to be a lot of people working together, at least being helpful. Manuel feels extra pressure, being Mexican. He’s using cactus. Spike is keeping it real with street food and ground pork. Andrew is making duck and plantains. He thinks he can win the whole thing because he has crazy ideas. Richard is using jicima as the taco shell. Ryan talks about fresh ingredients. Mark makes some comment about fine dining, since he‘s seeing a lot of street food. His eyes are all red. I don’t know what happened, but I feel the need to point out that if he was one of my students I’d send him to the principal on suspicion of being high.

Manuel has chorizo and a bunch of stuff that he pronounces with a perfect accent: picante verde, cilantro, goat cheese. Lisa: grilled skirt steak with pineapple, caramelized onions, and cabbage slaw. Rick can’t bite through the meat. (Kmanpat: *laughes his laugh which is a combination of Pee-Wee Herman and Horshack from “Welcome Back, Kotter”*) Andrew: duck breast with chili powder, plantain jam and cojita cheese. Rick loves duck tacos. Erik: chipotle braised chicken, avocado, pomegranate salsa, and guacamole. Rick tells him he has “traditional flavors”. Spike: ground pork and tomatillo sauce. He has achieved street style. Ryan has grilled squash and chickpeas instead of beans. Richard used shaved jicama for tortillas, and filled them with avocado, papaya, and cilantro. He’s made himself one, to eat with them, which is cool. Everyone else is boring, apparently.

Rick got a lot of street tacos. He didn’t like Erik’s, because his plating sucked. It actually looks odd, almost deconstructed. Erik doesn’t care and basically says that Rick is a moron. Lisa’s also isn’t very good, because the skirt steak was rare and he can’t eat it. Ryan for some reason had paper to wrap the taco in, which is not fine dining. Andrew had good refined flavors. He’s about to explode, he‘s so thrilled. Either that or he has to pee. Richard’s was simple: tasted like street food but the package was fine dining. Spike had a soul-satisfying flavor. Manuel looks pissed that he wasn‘t included in the top 3. Richard wins. Spike is insulted, even though he admitted that he kept it street food. In addition, Rick is going to steal Richard’s recipe for one of his restaurants. Congratulations! We’re taking your recipe and you get no credit!

Padma won’t tell them what the elimination challenge is, but she makes them divide themselves up into two teams, to go on a field trip. Spike doesn’t want to be on Richard’s team, because he has immunity. So if that team loses, that’s one fewer person up for elimination. The red team is Jen, Zoi, Erik, Dale, Andrew, Spike, and Ryan. Blue team is Stephanie, Nikki, Mark, Richard, Antonia, Manuel, and Lisa. Richard thinks they have similar personalities.

Commercials. Shut up, editors, and your “bromance” between Ben and Ronnie on “Make Me a Supermodel.” You know what happened? Al Lowe on TWoP has laid it out for us. Ronnie fell for Ben, then figured out it was a bad idea so he backed off, and then Ben decided he secretly wanted Ronnie or some nonsense and “pretended” to flirt with him because he liked the attention. Plus “bromance” is the stupidest word.

As they drive, they are brainstorming what their challenge might be, as they drive past different districts. They end up at some random residential neighborhood. Padma tells them this neighborhood is having their annual block party tomorrow, so they have to make it “their most memorable yet”. So…if it totally sucked, then it would still be memorable, right? In this [product placement] elimination challenge they aren’t going shopping, though. They have to go door to door, collecting from what people have bought for the party, or whatever else they have lying around. Richard is glad to have immunity because he isn’t social. Tomorrow they’ll have 3 hours to cook.

Andrew says his team sent Ryan and Jen. Mostly because Ryan’s hot. I know I’d give him food. And as much as I like Andrew if he showed up at my door and I’d never seen him before his flailing might be frightening. (Kmanpat: “Speak for yourself, I’d let him in.“) Ryan agrees that Erik might freak people out. They get some squash, vegetables, marshmallows…it looks like they’ve got gladware and they’re just taking whatever they can. They have a ton of food lying around, these people. Ryan says they got 7 bags out of the deal. I’m not sure anyone has a plan, they’re just grabbing whatever they can and they’ll sort it out later. I hope they remember that they have 70 kids coming tomorrow. Both teams grab pasta. Spike tells the other team he already went to a house, even though that house has a ton more food. Seriously, the woman’s pantry is larger than my closet. OK, OK, my old closet. A non-walk in closet. Richard says their team is going more upscale. The blue team wants to make hotdogs, and corndogs, and sliders. They’ll make upscale toppings. So…upscale vs. time-honored favorites. I think at one point Spike says “That’s what they like here.” Ryan says they’re cooking for the neighborhood, ultimately.

Day of elimination: blue team has individual dishes: paella, “slaw“ (I don‘t know what kind), BBQ pulled pork, bean salad, inside-out cookie, sexy drink, fruit cobbler, mac & cheese. Lots of stuff, but it looks pretty good. Nikki’s using Velveeta. Bleh. She doesn’t know if she can make a good sauce out of it that won’t set up or turn nasty. Velveeta isn’t that great to begin with. In the past when I’ve melted American cheese it gets gritty. Richard is making paella. He says if the food is good enough for the judges, then the other people should love it too. Everyone is so cocky today. Stephanie is frying gyoza wrappers with cinnamon and sugar for dessert. Red team: sliders, corn dogs, pork skewers, sangria, Waldorf salad, pasta salad, taco salad, and s‘mores. Andrew amuses me. “You guys smell that?” “What?” “Success!” Hee. Erik is making the corn dogs, he makes them at the restaurant. Zoi kind of got stuck with making the pasta salad, even though it‘s not her idea. She seems to be insulted, like she doesn’t wan tot win with pasta salad? I’m not sure what her objection is. Dale wants to push and not play it safe, and he‘s nervous they‘re not elegant enough. Tom comes in to investigate. The “sexy drink” has lavender and citrus and is carbonated. Tom is dubious. He does not feel lavender is sexy. Erik thinks they will do well because everyone is tasting everything and no one will object to criticisms. Ryan is making his Waldorf salad with vinegar so it’s not heavy, but Tom points out is that the mayo is what makes the salad fresh. Ryan looks confused until Jen jumps in to save his butt and explain that they roasted apples for the creamy element. Doesn’t he know anything about these dishes? He went to culinary school. That being said, creamy = fresh? Because to me, mayonnaise on a 90 degree day = bleh. Nikki and Erik worry about what transport will do to their food.

They only have 40 minutes to get ready back in the neighborhood. There’s a crowd of random people cheering and stuff. Andrew loves the cheering. Erik says the corndogs are soggy but not so soggy they can’t serve them and he wants to serve the food they took from people’s houses. The mac and cheese dried out (usually mine sets up into a blob) so she’s pouring milk and cream and stuff on it. Padma shows up with Rick, Ted, and Tom.

The blue team is serving people, while the red team is using a blowtorch to roast marshmallows. Andrew tells some kid that the sliders are full of awesomeness. Blue team: The paella has clams, oysters, sausages, and shrimp. Pulled pork and chicken with chipotle sauce, ribs with Mexican chocolate BBQ sauce. Fruit crumble with whipped cream and the fried wontons. Mac n cheese with bacon and breadcrumbs. “Cookie in a cookie”/inside out cookies: chocolate chip cookies rolled in crushed Oreos, with smiley faces made out of the cream filling. Sexy drink with the lavender. The judges take the food and leave so no one will know what they think. Red team: taco salad in a shell, with chorizo, shrimp, avocado, jalapeno, cabbage, and lime dressing. Mini sliders with bacon and provolone cheese sauce. Ted makes a point of asking if the sliders are steamed. Grilled pork skewers with pineapple and smoked red curry BBQ sauce. Dale is confident in his team‘s food. S’mores are rolled in graham crackers and chocolate. Padma drops it on Ted’s shoe. Hee. Spike says his team shmoozes better. Chicken Waldorf salad with blue cheese. Corn dog with pomegranate mustard (Erik is being referred to as “Papa Soufflé“). Dipping bar with chips and stuff, but it‘s not clear what exactly is there. Pasta salad, which is not described. Various neighbors talk about their food. The contestants hang out and goof off. Well, really, the red team is playing basketball and having beers, so for some reason Richard thinks the blue team is screwed. There’s a dunk tank. It looks like Spike is up for being dunked. Hee. Andrew trash talks but cannot connect so he says it doesn‘t matter because he did it with his mind.

Commercials. I do enjoy Macy’s commercials, but somehow the thought of Martha Stewart flirting and checking out a male model’s ass…eww eww eww! I need a shower. *shudder*

Padma summons the blue team. The red team flips out, because they can’t see how they could have lost. But they did, somehow. Apparently it was pretty close, and Tom is disappointed in everyone. No one was in charge. Nikki didn’t know how to use the Velveeta, since I guess there‘s so many chemicals it shouldn‘t have set up. The paella wasn’t really paella because paella has a crust on it. Richard knows you need that part, but he seems satisfied that it tasted OK. Tom, I think, just wanted to call him out on not knowing how to make paella, only it backfired. Stephanie made the dessert, and the drink, which the judges loved. They squeak out a win. And since the dessert was the reason they won (because the wonton was “genius”) Stephanie wins this week. Tom tells them not to get too happy because he expected a lot more from them.

Backstage Stephanie says she won, but no one really says anything to her or anything. The blue team celebrates. The red team is labeled the “weaker” team, and Ryan and Spike can’t figure out why. The corndog was soggy, but they all knew that already. Erik says that at his restaurant his corndogs are good. When he serves them 3 minutes out of the fryer. Zoi says they decided that since it was “ middle America ” they should still serve the corn dogs? She has to defend them from Tom, who jumps on her statement and asks if they dumbed down the menu because they were in “middle America“. The Waldorf salad had too much chicken, so it was soggy even though they kept everything on ice and made it in small batches. Spike talks back and says that the table has very good palates and they cooked for the neighborhood. He says he speaks for everyone in saying that they all tasted everything and they made the block party, I guess with their schmoozing. Tom shuts them down by saying that Zoi’s pasta salad was bland and oily so they must all have really poor palates. Oo. Erik tries to save her by telling the judges the pasta salad isn’t even hers. Rick thinks that their flavor suffered because when no one is in charge, no one wants to offend anyone so the overall quality of everything goes down. Andrew says they have so much camaraderie they shouldn’t get penalized? Sometimes I don’t know what he’s talking about. He smacks himself in the back of the head, for some reason. Tom reminds them that someone will go home, and Andrew says they‘d need security guards to make him leave. “This is my house.” Yeah.

So, the judges think that no one should condescend to the crowd, that everyone appreciates good food. As a person who moved to “middle America” from the West coast, who has parents who appreciate good food and wine and now has friends who only like to eat at the same 5 national chain restaurants? Sometimes the stereotypes about middle America have a basis in reality. Plus, you can’t get super weird when kids are involved. Back to the specifics. The chicken in Ryan’s dish watered everything down. Erik’s corndog was soggy and he should have known that. The pasta salad was worse than something they could have bought in a store. Backstage Zoi is pissed that she could have said to scrap the salad. Ryan tries to tell her she’s not going home, but she won’t believe him and she clarifies that she’s mad at herself because she didn’t say anything. Jen kind of freaks out that Zoi might go home. I find it interesting that the pasta salad was so unimportant that they edited out the description and yet apparently it was horrid.

In the end soggy corndogs are the kiss of death and Erik is eliminated. Sad. I think he would have been super fun. Everyone is sad to see him go. Zoi is glad to not have gone home for pasta salad, but on a personal level she’s sad about it. Erik says he still is an executive chef and he’s still good, but “it is what it is.”

Next week: Padma says if they don’t know who the guest judge is they should just leave now. I don’t know who he is. Burning plastic wrap? Soggy? Some guy disagrees with the judges and says the food is good. Aisha Tyler! Andrew for some reason is walking on his knees pretending to be a midget. I have no idea what’s going on.

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