Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Top Chef 10/14/09--"Pigs and Pinot" summary

Previously on Top Chef: we had a Quickfire that pimped a website that should help you decide what to make for dinner. Kevin won and took the money instead of immunity. Happily it did not come back to bite him in the ass. The Elimination challenge was to cook for a dinner party back at the house. There’s some discussion about “saving money” or something, but it doesn’t really have resonance on a show that gives its chefs Kobe beef ribs to cook with. Jen won, but Ashley lost. Michael was in the bottom too, which was weird but he was safe of course. (click for more)

Michael still is upset about almost going home. He compares himself to Babe Ruth and says he’s still going to kick ass. Eli lives with his parents and is close to his mom. At least he can see how that’s kind of sad. He’s also upset about being in the bottom yesterday. And he thinks that if he does poorly, it will follow him forever. I…kind of doubt that. Robin does Pilates out in the backyard and interviews about her cancer which is some heavy editing right there. Winning would make her feel invincible.

Padma…dear Lord, she has knee-high white boots and black tights and a black outfit. Maybe it’s dark navy. Are we back to Crazy Padma with the outfits? The green jumpsuit last week? It certainly is more interesting. The guest judge today is restaurateur Charlie Palmer. Also she has a big wide white leather belt with a gold circular buckle. Hee. Charlie reveals that the brothers have both worked for him in the past. This Quickfire will be about the art of pairing. At first I thought he said “paring” so I was like, knife skills? But that’s not what it’s about. They have to make a dish with a snack food. A [product placement] brand snack food. And of course the house has been well-stocked with those snacks. They look good--crunchy salty snacks. I guess they’re high end chips or whatever. 45 minutes.

The brothers talk about whether or not Charlie likes them. Jen’s cursing up a storm and freaking out. Eli is making soup, and he’s talking about how his palate is superior and he can look around and see people who don’t understand what pairs with what. Ash feels that he was in the bottom because he didn’t look around and see what other people were doing, for influence. I’m not sure that’s what happened. I think you were so in awe of Michael that you let him do whatever he wanted. Jen thinks she pulled her pork chops too early, so she‘s hoping the judges come to her station first. Otherwise she’s probably screwed.

Eli: potato clam salad with fennel, celery and white truffle sauce. It goes with onion strings, which…are crushed up in the salad maybe? There‘s a random shot of onion strings in a bowl by themselves. There is also a shot of Jen looking pissed. Kevin: warm bean confit tomato salad with fresh herbs and creamed corn. He used the onion strings too, I think crushed on top. Bryan: seared rib eye with pickled onion, sautéed mushrooms, and chive puree. More crushed onion straws. Charlie asks if everyone used onion straws because it was safe. Heh. Robin: sweet corn panna cotta with avocado mousseline. Yum. There are jalapeno snacks alongside. Mike: chilaquiles. Oo, those are good. It’s tortillas and chicken and beans, I think. That’s what’s in the recipe I make. You cook it in a casserole and the top gets crunchy. Mike put the waffle fries in it. It’s spicy. Michael: tuna tartare with avocado, pickled onions, and jalapenos. There is no mention of what snack he used. Ash: chilled cucumber avocado soup with crème fraiche, crab, and red pepper. He paired them with BBQ chips but they are overpowering. Laurine: swordfish crusted in onion straws, with spinach, asparagus, and fava bean puree. Jen: sautéed pork chop with tomato sauce and feta cheese. Again, no mention of snack foods.

Robin’s dish was creamy but it didn’t go with the chip. Ash’s dish didn’t work well together either. And Jen’s pork was overdone, but we knew that. Eli’s dish went with his chips, Bryan’s dish was safe but perfectly done, and Kevin’s dish was put together well. Eli wins. I would be more excited if he wasn’t so smug about how everyone else sucked. Ash is surprised, but he says that Eli is deserving of a win because he’s a great chef. “Not that I don’t deserve to fucking win.” Hee.

Now is time for Elimination challenge and the knife block. Jen pulls a knife with a pig and the word “Wild”. Interesting. Michael says he knew it would be pork because Charlie loves pork. Once he shot a wild boar outside his house and took it to the restaurant to be served. Cool. Everyone else draws knives, but they all seem to have body parts on them: ribs, tenderloin, belly, etc. Kevin tells us he has a big tattoo of a pig. So Jen’s “wild” is a wild card, and she can pick what she wants. So she picks belly, which is what Eli has. Mm, pork belly. So the challenge is this (if you know the episode title you already know): pair up a pork dish with a pinot noir. Charlie does a charity event every year, and so now the contestants will be serving that event. Eli thinks he can nail the pairing and be the first person this season to win both the Quickfire and Elimination challenges. There will be 150 people, tasting portions. I think the event is called “Pigs and Pinot”.

They go to Mandalay Bay, which is the place with that wine tower where the servers put on harnesses to get the wine down from 3 stories up. Charlie brings his sommelier so they can taste 9 different pinot noirs. Laurine says that pinot has a natural attraction to pork. Each chef picks out a specific bottle. Eli brags about how his restaurant has 110 wines by the glass and every dish is paired with a wine, and I’m tired of listening to him. He says some people didn’t pick “the real dogs”. Whatever. I want him to fail. Fiery crash failure.

45 minutes and $300 to shop. Kevin buys a ton of bacon because the leg tends to be lean. He will be embarrassed if he loses, because he is the pig guy. Laurine is making rillette, which is like pate. Ash is using cherries. Mm, cherries and pork. They pack up the cars and go home.

Kevin tries to get along with everyone. It looks like they’re all just hanging around the kitchen. Robin talks a lot and Kevin says she probably has the best intentions but is driving everyone insane. Mike doesn’t talk to her because he doesn’t want to get her started. They find several shots of her just talking about nothing while other people roll their eyes. Later she says she won’t touch Eli’s scallops because he’ll get mad. I think he’s making dinner for people. She tries to find him a serving plate but he’s like, I got it. She knows that people think she shouldn’t still be there. Robin tries to get someone to ask her about her dish, but no one will, and she doesn’t get the hint that she should be quiet about it. Then I think Eli uses her cutting board? She bitches that she cleaned it so she could use it, but it’s fine, she’ll clean up after him, and there’s some profanity. And then Eli calls her a martyr and claims she has an attitude and she’s not his mom. Um…clean up after yourself. He pretends that if she had asked him he would have cleaned up the cutting board. She says she would have raised him better if she was his mother, although he is not in the room at the time. Later she comes downstairs where there are still scallops left over and someone tries to tell her they’re rotten, which is pretty idiotic. She eats one anyway, and Mike says “They’re not rotten, they’re Robin.” Hilarious. As much as I might have sympathy for people who have to listen to non-stop chatter, you lose points because 1. That was pretty lame, and 2. You and your friends just set the frying pan on the table and stuck your forks in. Kind of sad. Robin takes it in stride and says that she IS rotten. To the core.

Four hours to cook. Ash is worried, but he says that last night Mike suggested he do a chilled dish. So he’s throwing out the polenta idea and he thinks this will keep it moist. Kevin is making a pork leg pate, and he’s worried because it’s the simplest dish with the fewest components. Bryan only has 4 hours to do ribs. Michael feels that he is riskier and also more well rounded than his brother. Robin interviews that she wants to do well after everyone was jerks to her yesterday. She didn’t come here to make friends. Just once I want someone to say that’s why they’re here. Jen is doing a take on pork and beans. Interesting. Eli of course thinks he is better.

Tom time! Ash tells Tom he is finally cooking his own style of food. Michael seems recovered from the bottom. Mike has a ton of work to do. Well, that was fun.

Mike thinks he has done 7 or 8 different cuisines, and he says that he brings something no one else does. Then he says that he wants to win, as if no one else does. Bryan and Michael fight over the saran wrap. Kevin thinks that Michael is messing with his brother on purpose to break him.
Out at the event the chefs will have one hour to prep. And it’s outside. For some reason Michael feels like this is the first event. They keep everyone outside the venue, somehow, because when the event starts there is just a huge line. Eli says no one cares what you’re doing, they just want food.

Padma brings over Tom, Gail Cowan (editor of Food and Wine magazine), Toby, and Charlie. Michael: root beer braised pork cheeks, with a cherry sauce. Yum. And truffle butter. It works very well with the wine. Ash: chilled pork tenderloin with cherry and corn salad. The pork is clammy and overcooked. The wine is too big for it. Eli: braised pork belly with a mirepoix and fennel. Sadly they love it, although Charlie thinks it doesn’t pair that well with the wine. Kevin: pork leg pate, mushroom salad and pickled cherries. And a dressing? He also used some hazelnut, because he’s been to the winery that made the wine he is serving, and they have hazelnut trees. That is a cool detail. The judges love all of it as it is well thought out. Mike: stuffed pork shoulder, ground up with bulgur wheat and stuffed with proscuitto, dates, and pine nuts, over orange blossom yogurt. There is a lot of orange. Bryan: braised pork spare ribs over a parsnip puree. It seems very good. Jen: braised pork belly, with a tomato, apple, black olive, and celery salad. The pork belly was braised in soy sauce. It’s delicious, but I‘m not sure how it‘s pork and beans. Laurine: pork butt rillettes on an arugula salad, with a golden raisin and pearl onion chutney. Dana doesn’t like the texture. The chutney is good but the rillette is poor. Robin: brined center cut pork chop, stuffed with a sweet potato, apple, and fennel roulade (that’s what she said) and a sour cherry coffee demi-glace. Holy crap that sounds fantastic. Toby says it’s slimy and it looks like she cut the pork chops too thin so you don’t get a sense of “pork”. Sad. I would order that from the description.

Winners today are Michael, Bryan, Kevin, and Jen. They must tell the contestants to look concerned when they come in. either that or they call the losers first sometimes to change things up. Because everyone always looks serious. Michael took some daring risks but everything came together. Jen served the lightest pork belly that Charlie says he’s had. Toby says she had an extra challenge because she was serving the first European pinot that they’d had that evening (as opposed to American pinot). Toby likens it to a hairy armpit vs. a shaved armpit, as Tom puts his head on the table in shame. Kevin hit all the right flavors in his wine so it was a successful pairing. Bryan’s dishes tasted of pork and the wine was perfect. The winner is Kevin. Props for winning with such a simple dish. He also wins a spot to cook for Pigs and Pinot next year. He shows everyone his pig tattoo. Oh calm down, it’s on his arm.

There’s lackluster clapping for Kevin when he returns, and then Michael calls Ash, Laurine, and Robin. Eli and Mike talk about how the judges should make the “right” decision, which in my opinion would be a double elimination of the two of them but obviously that isn’t going to happen. Someone calls him on that, making him name names, and Michael at least tries to relate it to how her food wasn’t up to par. Mike doesn’t care about her food. Robin stands by her dish. Toby thinks there wasn’t enough of it, and Robin finds something luscious about a thin piece of meat. Huh? Tom says it was supposed to be about the pork. The sauce was gummy, and she needs to be honest about how that dish was not great. Ash is a little bit surprised, but after learning what everyone else made, he started thinking he might be too simple. There were no developed flavors and the wine needed more than was in the dish. He explains how he was going to do something else, but he’s an idiot. This is not new for Ash. Tom calls him on it. Laurine was confident when she started, but she ran out of time. Charlie asks her how she made her rillette, and she starts talking about braising in chicken stock, but Charlie interrupts her to say that’s not how you make a rillette. Ooo. You’re supposed to poach it in fat.

Back in the Stew Room Ash says “Oh! I forgot flavor!” Hee. Robin’s dish didn’t have any pork flavor and didn’t pair with the wine at all. Her sauce was like coffee dregs, according to Toby, but not just coffee dregs. Instant coffee dregs. Ash’s dish was amateurish and boring. And the flavors weren’t developed. Tom tells the other judges that Ash told him this was his food now. Laurine’s idea would never have worked and ended up terrible.

Commercial interlude: Eli pretends to be the only one in the house with balls because he stood up to Robin, and Michael tells him that was flirting. Michael says he’s a little kid. Eli tells Jen the story about how he was so awesome by telling Robin she wasn’t his mother, and Michael pipes up “Then they had sex.” Hee. Bryan is like, really? Seriously? Michael continues to needle him and it’s awesome.

I see 61% of viewers find Robin more annoying than Eli. I disagree.

Tom reminds the bottom 3 why their dishes were horrid, and then Padma sends Ash home. Aww, he was cool, but he’s kind of failed the past couple weeks. He knows he should have done his original dish, which he will be serving at his restaurant as soon as he gets back. And he’ll invite everyone, but maybe not Padma. Heh.

Next week: Restaurant Wars! Somehow Michael and Bryan get on the same team. Robin tells someone to leave her dish alone, Jen is behind, etc.

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