Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Top Chef 8/4/10--"Foreign Affairs"

Previously on “Top Chef”: a Quickfire revealed that Congresspeople cannot be served meals by lobbyists but must be served food on toothpicks. You can still use expensive food, just cut up into bite size portions. Angelo won…I guess his food was good but Angelo is getting old. Then came Pea-gate, where Stephen made a pea puree and then Alex suddenly had one the day of the challenge when Stephen couldn’t find his. As for the random shot of peas in water? Ed had peas too, and Stephen made some more to replace his missing stuff. Alex was mostly smug (to be fair, he’s smug all the time) and not particularly sorry that Stephen couldn’t find his stuff. He’s not even indignant that they would dare accuse him. He wins, which sucks. Andrea’s flavors didn’t really work and her fish sat under heat lamps for a long time so she went home. (click for more)

Kelly knows she oversalted her food and she vows to start paying attention. Alex LIES about how he didn’t even know Ed had a pea puree, but the producers neglect to cut in the shot of Kenny and Andrea telling him that very fact. He says he doesn’t care what anyone thinks and he’s feeling good because he won. There are some weird jumps in his sentences so I feel that’s been edited from somewhere else. Ed claims not to be angry but confused instead. He also won’t name names. I have to give him points for not calling Alex out in front of the judges. He may not have been able to prove it, so he took the high road. Tom points out in his blog that if the producers had actual footage of Alex taking the pea puree out of the cooler, they sure as shit would have put that on the air. I have to agree; they totally would. Sorry but it’s very hot here and I’ve turned off the AC to try to save some money with a fan, so I’m hot and the cursing is rampant. Tiffany talks about how she’s newly married and how she needs to win something.

Padma is waiting with Marcus Samuelsson, who is awesome. On the latest season of “Top Chef: Masters”, which I watched but did not recap because it was not that exciting, he won the whole thing. Kevin claims he is known not only for Ethiopian but Southeast Asian. Um…OK. Padma claims that D.C. has a lot of global cuisine, but Ethiopian dominates. Really? Ethiopian? I mean…obviously if Marcus is here it makes sense for them to have to make Ethiopian. But has Ethiopian food suddenly become super popular and trendy? Because I don’t feel it has. However Stephen says Ethiopian restaurants are everywhere in D.C. The Quickfire is to make an “Ethiopian inspired” dish. Marcus tells them Ethiopian cuisine is known for berbere, which is a spice, the bread (the spongy flatbread), spicy stews (wats). Winner gets immunity. Tiffany says she wants to win.

90 minutes. Amanda goes straight for the goat. Alex has beef and lamb tongue. He says since he grew up “lower middle class” he is used to cheap meat. He goes to claim the pressure cooker, kind of diving in front of Kelly so she can’t have it. First of all, why aren’t there enough pressure cookers for everyone? And second, he gloats that he beat her which is just lame. Kevin says it’s bullshit that Alex won the last challenge because the way he cooks is to throw darts at the wall and hope it works. Alex kind of fails at setting up the pressure cooker. Angelo schools us in how to make Ethiopian food because he used to work at a restaurant with an “Ethiopian concept”. Of course he did. Kenny claims that he, Angelo, and Ed are the only ones who are comfortable with this challenge because they’re the only ones who have made this cuisine before. He confirms that Angelo had that restaurant experience (so he at least believed him), as we see Angelo using a bamboo steamer as a template to cut the bread into perfect circles. For some reason this really irritates me. I mean, just leave it alone. It’s already circular. Kenny is confident. Kevin is rolling wedges of the bread into rolls. Like when you buy crescent rolls in the tube, and you have to roll them up to bake them? Like that. Kevin is winging it. Kelly asks the room if there are nuts in Ethiopian cuisine, and Ed says there are, probably. She’s never even eaten it. Amanda is also winging it because she has no idea. Tiffany says Dallas does not have many Ethiopian restaurants. She’s making a stew with random spices.

Kevin: braised chicken with chickpeas, cucumber mint salad, and yogurt. The crescent rolls are missing, but I feel he took triangles of the bread and toasted them, then put the food on those. Marcus says it’s spicy. Stephen: stew with lamb meatballs and yogurt sauce. On the side he appears to have both Ethiopian bread and biscuits. It looks like good stew, though. Alex: beef and lamb tongue stew with cabbage and potatoes. He says he doesn’t eat spicy food so he doesn’t know how spicy it is. Padma is like, oh it’s not spicy at all. Hee. Kelly: leg of lamb wat with cauliflower, yogurt, and mint puree. Amanda: stewed goat on grilled Ethiopian bread. She is obviously very proud of the fact she cooked goat. Marcus says it’s modern. Kenny: duo of lamb, meat loaf and rib eye with curry and dukkah spice. It does look like a good curry. Angelo: berbere-spiced chicken wat with egg, mango yogurt and mint on steamed bread. Marcus thinks he might have been born Ethiopian. Sigh. Ed: stewed lamb and beef tripe with cauliflower, chickpeas, and braised greens. Tiffany: beef goulash with poached egg, currants, peppers, and yogurt. Marcus can’t stop eating it.

Kevin’s dish wasn’t bold enough. Kevin tells us he’s been on the bottom three times but on the top four times. Weird. Stephen’s dish was interesting but the lamb meatballs were dried out. Alex’s stew was dry. How do you have dry stew? Time for the good dishes. Amanda’s combination of flavors was fantastic, Angelo obviously knows a lot about Ethiopian cooking. Also Tiffany’s goulash was bold and delicious, and she is the winner. She’s very pleased with herself. And her immunity. Ed says the best part is that she beat Angelo. True that.

Padma and Marcus roll in a giant chalkboard for the Elimination challenge. This chalkboard has a map of the world with various countries on it. Amanda interviews that she’s spent her entire career studying French food so she wants France. I can’t decide if I want her to have France, on the hope that she fails, or to not have France, to watch her freak out. Obviously they have to make dishes inspired by the countries on the map. 100 portions, served at the Meridian International Center. Heh. The 100 portions will serve diplomats and ambassadors, so they had better be authentic. Once there, only Sterno cans for cooking. Not even a hotplate? That sucks. They draw knives for the choosing order. Angelo brags that his parents exposed him to many cuisines. Well, so did mine, but that doesn’t mean I can cook any of them. He does admit he is not looking forward to Brazil so I hope the editors are with me in making that his country. Tiffany picks Mexico. Kelly = Italy, Amanda = France (well…maybe she‘ll fail), Kenny = Thailand, Alex = Spain (he brags that he totally knows what he’s doing), Angelo = Japan, Kevin = India, Ed = China, Stephen = Brazil (he makes a show of thinking about what he wants which is funny). He says he can totally do Brazil.

30 minutes and $200 for shopping. Kenny complains about being in the middle and reveals that he’s battled cancer. Stephen thinks he should go for steak. Angelo gives Kevin crap for buying Asian ingredients, to which Kevin responds, “I have no choice. India is in Asia, right?” I really hope he’s trying to point that out to Angelo and he does know that’s true. Kevin interviews that he has no idea what he’s doing. He’s going to make his own curry. That’s probably not the best idea when you don’t know much about Indian food. Someone asks Stephen if he bought Brazil nuts. Hee.

2 hours to cook. People start cooking and yelling about stuff. Kelly says she needs to figure out how to stick it out. She’s making a cold dish since they can’t cook at the location. Not a bad idea. She’s making carpaccio. Ed is making tea smoked duck breast. He has bought two boxes of tea bags. Yeah. Stephen is making it work. Kenny doesn’t think Stephen can keep his dish hot. Tiffany is making tamales. Angelo for some reason is making candied wasabi, which, I don’t even know how that works. Amanda’s dish seems ambitious, or at least it is full of French words. Alex does admit he has a difficult menu. He trips over some non-slip mats and takes a header into a stove. He seems to be OK. Kevin knows the key to his Indian food will be to balance the spices.

Tom time! Alex is confident, Tiffany is “kind of deconstructed”, Kevin knows Padma will kick his ass in judging. That’s all for Tom time!

Kenny says he has a Thai/Pan Asian restaurant. Lots of running around. Alex needs room in someone else’s hot box. There is a lot of flailing.

Back at the house Kevin gets his family phone call. He says he has a temper. Kelly gets a care package from her husband. They’re allowed to get care packages? With booze?

The Meridian International Center is gorgeous. They only have 30 minutes to set up. Amanda’s beef is dry, so she’s going to cut it into smaller pieces and work on her sauce. Alex loves his tortas. Stephen overcooks his rice. Apparently, when you use chafing dishes, you can adjust the amount of water you put in the bottom to adjust how moist your heat is. I’m not sure how to do it, just that it’s possible. Tiffany is chopping like a fiend. She’s way behind.

People show up and start eating. Kevin admits to someone that he has never made Indian food before. He is being careful to say he has made “stewed chicken with the flavors of India” and not “curried chicken”. Good call; people are always getting nailed for stuff like that. Like “minestrone”. Padma enters with Jose Andres, as well as Gail, Tom, and Marcus. Ed: tea-smoked duck breast with pot stickers in Szechuan jus. Alex: braised veal cheeks, jamon (ham) torta with olive and tomato salad. Which is great except for the part where he told Tom he couldn’t find veal cheeks and has shank instead. Stephen: flank steak in chimichurri sauce with black beans and rice. The steak is marinated in coffee. He also says he does have Brazil nuts…which cause more food allergies than peanuts. Kelly: beef carpaccio, spring vegetable salad and parmigiano-reggiano. She tells the judges she changed her plan when she found out they wouldn’t have electricity. Kevin: stewed chicken with leek and parsnip puree, cucumber-mango salad, and lentils. Kelly’s Italian goes over very well. Ed’s Chinese food sort of annoys Jose but someone from China says it’s good. I wonder if a diplomat would go on TV saying something bad about someone. Kevin lucked out in that Padma likes his dish. Stephen’s rice is not cooked properly and he didn’t really get Brazilian. Someone from Sweden says he’s pay $5 at a food stand for it. I can’t tell if that’s an endorsement or not. Jose is not impressed with Alex’s Spanish food, and he would know. Everything was muted. I had been hoping that Tom would call him out on the veal cheeks but sadly we do not see that.

Round two! Amanda: beef bourguignon with pommes fourchette and horseradish mousse. Pommes fourchette = mashed potatoes. Angelo: sashimi of tuna ribbons with candied wasabi and soy infusion. Tiffany: chicken tamales with queso fresco and tomatillo sauce. Kenny: tamarind braised pork with rice noodle salad and Thai green curry. Gail hates that Amanda’s beef is cut so small. Jose thinks she should have just used the sauce for flavor. Someone says the meat is dry, so cutting it up didn’t help any. Tom feels that Angelo’s dish is nice, but there are too many flavors covering up the fish. Yes, that would be a problem. Tiffany’s dish is fantastic and authentic. Kenny’s curry is fantastic and not too spicy. Amanda is convinced she is going home. Kelly reassures Stephen he won’t go home for his beef.

Commercial interlude: Angelo decides to play a prank on Stephen by putting plastic wrap over the toilet. He warns Alex against falling for it which is too bad. Stephen laughs it off, I guess because he’s drunk. Yes, I know Angelo is shirtless and he looks good, but that will only work if he stops talking and that’s not going to happen. (Kmanpat: “I don’t care if he talks!”)

In the Stew Room Alex talks about how awesome he is. Padma collects Kelly, Kevin, and Tiffany. Stephen mutters something but I don’t know what he said. These three are the top. Tiffany says she loved the challenge. Gail says her tamales were a perfect combination. Kevin never made Indian cuisine before, but managed to perfectly braise the chicken, and do a good twist on a raita. Tom tells him that you don’t have to do authentic food for it to be good. Jose says he had good layers. Kelly’s local beef for her carpaccio was a great quality. Jose brings up his recent trip to Venice, in a good way. Jose tells Tiffany she is the winner. As a surprise, she gets $10,000. Damn. She says now her wedding is paid for. That is pretty sweet. They are also matching that with a donation in her name to D.C. Central Kitchen, an organization that Jose works with, which recycles leftover food from restaurants and also provides job training and homeless outreach. I like that they obviously didn’t tell Jose about either $10,000.

Alex, Stephen, and Ed are called out to the Loser gong. Stephen’s idea was a good idea, but the rice was mealy and overcooked. He also called his sauce “chimichurri” when chimichurri sauce makes Gail think of Argentina. Tom says that had he made good rice and juicy steak, he wouldn’t be there. Alex disappointed Jose. He tries to apologize without saying anything specific about how he screwed up. He starts to say how Tom told him he could make something “Spanish-inspired” and Tom interrupts him to be like “oh so it’s my fault?” Ooo. Alex backpedals. The meat was dry and the sauce was thin. No one says anything about the veal cheek/shank but they might have cut that part. Ed’s sauce was good, but he over promised. At some point he said “sweet and sour” but the dish did not deliver those flavors. Tom wishes he had rendered some fat from the duck before serving. He says he hates when there is still fat on the duck? But crispy duck skin is so good! Maybe he means when there is too much fat and it’s not crispy enough. Gail says they hate it too.

“Chimichurri” is not Brazilian and the rice was horrible. Ed’s dish had a delicious description, but then he didn’t render the fat from the duck breast. Tom wanted smoke, since it was called “tea-smoked duck”. Alex was not good enough to make his flavors work together. In the Stew Room Ed curses about being on the bottom with Alex.

Tom nails everyone for poor cooking techniques. Stephen goes home. Damn, I had hoped Alex would go. He’s embarrassed to go home for cooking technique. He says people don’t know how hard the show is.

Next week: Restaurant Wars! People say shit about Alex. Mostly Angelo. He totally freaks out. Someone send food back. Kevin yells about throwing people under the bus?


MoHub said...

As a resident of the Washington metropolitan area, I can tell you that it abounds with Ethiopian restaurants, especially, in suburban Silver Spring, MD, where you almost can't find a block without an Ethiopian restaurant on it.

There is a substantial Ethiopian population in the area, as well as many non-Ethiopians who have learned the joys of the cuisine.

Anonymous said...

I'm didn't think Stephen was involved in PeaGate? Just Ed & Alex. LOVE your BLOG.