Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Top Chef:All Stars 2/23/11--"For the Gulf" summary

Previously on “Top Chef: All Stars”: Muppets showed up and ate cookies. They liked Dale’s cookie, which, while technically just junk food mashed together and covered in chocolate, still sounded delicious. Then everyone had to go to Target in the middle of the night to pretend you can create gourmet meals from Target. I mean, Target’s cool and all, but no one thinks you can cook like a chef with anything you can buy there, food or equipment. Dale won again, because he has discovered how to please the judges: when it is the middle of the night, or really any time, cook some stoner food that might not be fancy or crazy, but IS what a group of jaded foodies wants to eat at 3am. Tony seems especially vulnerable to this. Angelo made really salty soup and seemed to be flailing just like last season, only this time, he wasn’t given the chance to recover and went home. (click for more)

Mike is shocked, Tiffany thinks she was the only possibility, Dale says he plates wonderfully. Eh. Angelo was going slowly crazy, just like last season. Dale reminds us he’s on a roll.

Richard has two little notebooks with detailed plans. Including pictures. Why? Is he trying to predict what crazy challenges he’ll have? Does he have time to look through them? I’m not sure what advantage that gives him. He and Mike look at the notebooks. Shredded coconut is mentioned. I note this for later. Suddenly everyone starts giving Tiffany shit because she’s wearing makeup. She just says that she looks better and feels better and is therefore more confident. In confessional she admits we’ve reached about the same point where she got eliminated last season, so she’s feeling it.

It’s Paula Deen, y’all! I love her. Her food looks like it would be so horrible for you, but she seems like fun. Carla and Tiffany are especially pleased. Antonia knows she will be frying things. Padma says today will be about Southern cooking. Paula talks about how Southern cooking is about showing love. You must create a deep-fried dish. Hee. Paula specifically says not to make fried calamari on a salad. Winner gets $5000. Tiffany will fry anything for $5000.

30 minutes to cook. Dale is kind of worried, because he works in a Chinese restaurant, but he is frying oysters wrapped in beef. He already has won $30,000, but says he is “a greedy American” and wants more. Hee. Antonia has shrimp. Mike starts talking about part of the chicken, between the leg and the body, I think. It’s called the oyster, and he’s highly amused with his chicken oyster. He says he and Richard talked about a similar dish that morning, which was in Richard’s book, with a picture. Mike admits it’s still stuck in his head. Richard wants to fry mayonnaise. Flavored with coffee and lime, then frozen in liquid nitrogen to make a solid ball to fry. Sigh. Carla does not expect to fail, but she gets flustered during Quickfires and leaves her fish in the batter too long. Now it is bland and thickly breaded. Tiffany is making wings and pickles. Mike sneers at everyone else’s food, as he plates a dish that he didn’t even come up with himself. When time is called, Antonia realizes she’s only made one plate instead of two. Oops.

Antonia: fried avocado, shrimp, and jalapeno, grilled corn, tomato, fried herbs. It seems strong. Dale: fried steak wrapped oyster with egg yolk omelet, parsley tips and chives. Richard: fried bacon with fried mayonnaise, tomato and cucumber. When he’s done describing his dish, Paula says she hasn’t heard a word he’s said because his hair looks just like hers does when she wakes up. Ha! Tiffany: fried chicken and pickles, honey mustard sauce, with cilantro and cumin salad. Carla: catfish with Dijon mustard, hush puppies, coleslaw with mayo, hot sauce, and mint. Mike: fried chicken oysters with mustard gravy and oyster liquor. Served in an oyster shell. Richard is shown shaking his head, because of course he’s recognized this dish as coming from one of his notebooks. Mike won’t look at Richard, which to Richard is just proof of his guilt. Finally after Paula and Padma leave Mike looks over and tries to wink and laugh. His excuse is that he’s seen the dish done before, and Richard should have done his own dish? What kind of stupid ass excuse is that?

Dale’s dish didn’t wow her, and Carla’s food was too heavy. But she knew that. However, she liked Antonia’s food the best! Paula continues that she could “come over there, put you over [her] knee, and whip your cute little ass”. Because Antonia forgot to make two plates, she can’t win. Poor Antonia. Richard’s fried mayo was delicious, but you knew she would like it. And of course Mike is the other person who was on top. Richard is pissed, but unless he’s going to say something right now, he’s kind of approaching the end of the sympathy period. Mike wins, OF COURSE, because the universe thinks it’s hilarious for asshats to win things and thwart me. And Richard. In his interview he says he’d like to thank Richard for “inspiration” but then he says it’s not Richard’s dish, it’s his own dish because he won. Asshole. He’s just an unpleasant person, with his homophobic jokes and his racial slurs and his plagiarism.

Paula is going to be a guest judge, along with John Besh who is pretty cool. The Elimination challenge has to do with Deepwater Horizon and helping fisherman from the Gulf. John and Paula are hosting a benefit, and everyone must make Gulf seafood, Southern style, for 300 people. Mike immediately gets an interview where he says it’s about helping out and giving back and he’s “inspired” by the challenge. Did it come with a diagram? It’s going to take a lot more than that to make up for 2 minutes ago. 300 people is a lot, so they are getting some “friends” to help out. Cue eliminated contestants. I’m going to hate this episode. Spike, Tiffani, Tre, Fabio, Angelo, and Marcel are back. Sigh. They all have trays of seafood, and when you pick your protein you pick your helper. Richard, being smart, says he’ll cook anything, so he’s going to pick a helper and then figure out what he’s going to cook after that. Mike gets to pick first, and he gets Tiffani and brown shrimp. Mike magnanimously lets Richard go next, and admits Richard was his “inspiration” for his dish today, and I want to smack the smirk off his face but I’m sure not as much as Richard does. Richard picks snapper and Fabio. Carla gets Tre and red grouper. Tiffany picks Marcel and white shrimp, mostly because she wants the shrimp so badly. There is some joking about how Marcel is the afterthought of the decision (because he is) but he deserves it. Possibly she was calling Marcel a white shrimp, which is also funny. Antonia picks out Spike and his crabs. Hee. Dale gets stuck with Angelo and amberjack. He’s not worried.

15 minutes to plan. Spike has ideas. Tiffani tells Mike to make shrimp and grits, which is not is his comfort zone, but Tiffani has lived in New Orleans so he’s going with it. Angelo tells Dale he’s gotten into Richard’s head and he should just keep it together to beat him. Richard is making fish and grits and pulled pork. I don’t know. He claims he only makes new dishes on Top Chef, which then segues into a claim that he doesn’t make other people’s recipes. Tiffany is feeling the pressure. She hasn’t cooked a lot of Southern food, but she’s eaten a lot. Marcel whispers to her that they should steal all the good equipment. Shut up, Marcel. Tiffany is not interested in his ideas. Carla was depending on Tre to help her out with Southern food. Doesn’t Carla already know about Southern food? Anyway, Tre grew up in the city and is unhelpful. I probably know more about Southern food and I grew up in California. She wants to take Tre’s NAACP card. Who is asking other people about Southern food? Right.

30 minutes and $200 at Restaurant Depot. Fabio and Richard have fun shopping. Fabio once told Richard that he (Richard) reminds Fabio of his ex-wife. Hee. They also get $500 at Whole Foods. Carla wants some redemption for the Quickfire so she’s making the fish again. She’s making her same dish? OK.

Back at the house (eliminated contestants I guess sleep elsewhere) Carla realizes there is no middle. Everyone is either top three or bottom three. Antonia mentions her forgetfulness, and Carla says she feels so bad. Mike says he feels bad also and then thanks Antonia for the $5000 and then laughs. Asshole. Antonia says it’s not cool that Mike won by default and then on top of that it wasn’t his dish. Richard I guess won’t look at Mike and is basically ignoring him. For some reason Mike feels he can be offended by this, because it’s childish. You have no room to talk, seriously. He doesn’t want to talk to your stupid ass, so he’s ignoring you. Seems pretty grownup to me. The girls gossip about it in one of the bedrooms, where Antonia tells Tiffany and Carla the story. Carla says that is Chef Law (like Man Law) and that is not OK.

2 ½ hours to cook. Suddenly there are twice as many people in the kitchen as usual and Dale can’t find a burner. The fish is the size of Dale. Hee. Antonia is making crab cakes. Carla has to teach Tre how to cut up collard greens because he buys his greens in a can. Mike hollers at Richard across the kitchen. Something about the CIA. Dude, did you really think he was just going to forgive you and be your friend again? What planet are you on? Richard ignores him. Antonia notices that Mike is more obnoxious than usual, because Tiffani is making his sauce for him so he‘s got time. Marcel continues to tell Tiffany to use the shrimp heads in her sauce. Apparently he’s made this suggestion several times. Finally she tells him that she’s more concerned with having enough dishes, and she’ll worry about using the heads later. Seriously, I don’t see anyone else pushing their ideas on an indifferent contestant. Dale feels Tiffany can put Marcel in his place better than anyone else there. Richard tells Fabio that when they get to the site, they’re going to pull a “Fabio Viviani” which is where you do a million things at the last second. Hee. Lots of running around packing food. Someone hooked up the liquid nitrogen and forgot about it so it’s spilling on the floor. Who do we think that was? Marcel snatches plastic wrap out of Fabio’s hands. I think everyone makes it.

30 minutes on site. Dale says this is his hardest challenge, and he’s behind. Richard hopes the judges get his dish. Carla is not using her grits? I think they’re not up to par. So they showed them arriving during the day, and then suddenly it’s nighttime and everyone’s getting there. Everyone’s behind on plating and running around.

The judges (Padma, Tom, Paula, and John) show up, and for some reason Jonathan Waxman is here too. But I guess he’s not judging. They talk about the charity which is the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Mike: grit-crusted Gulf shrimp, sour cream and chive potato, with pork and lobster sauce. They like it, sadly. Fabio and Richard freak out and snap at each other while the judges approach. Richard: crispy Gulf snapper with pulled pork and citrus grits. It all comes together somehow and is light. Dale and Angelo are also freaking out, because Dale is trying to make things taste different. Angelo insists that it’s fine, but we all know Angelo got sent home for over seasoning. Tiffany tells us that in the middle of service, Marcel told her they were out of glaze, so she told him how to do it and then didn’t have time to taste it. Nooo! Don’t let Marcel drag you down with him! Carla is getting tired. Carla: fried grouper with collard greens and chow-chow pico. The fish has too much hot sauce and something is too salty. Apparently people are returning to tell her they didn’t like her food. Sad. She hopes someone has screwed up more than her.

Tiffany: honey glazed shrimp, grits with jalapeno and cheese, shellfish sauce. She seems to have left the heads on. The glaze is good but John can’t taste the shrimp. The glaze seems to be the problem. Marcel has ruined it. Dale: amberjack stew with andouille sausage and potatoes, Creole mustard crouton. He’s babbling and very nervous. The potatoes are undercooked and the crouton is very strong. Oops. Antonia: blue crab cake, corn, jalapeno and andouille relish with crab broth. It goes over very well. She’s pretty confident that she at least hasn’t gone down in flames. Mike thinks he left his season too early. Richard worries about his dish but Fabio tells him to shut the fuck up and it was fine. Carla says she put her pride into the dish and not her heart.

Commercial interlude: Antonia tries to send Spike to spy on the judges for her, but he just spills wine on the floor and flirts with girls. Figures.

Padma calls Antonia, Richard, and Mike up first. It’s so entertaining to watch Richard freak out because he always worries he’s done poorly. He showed restraint in his dish, and had a great combination. Mike’s shrimp coated in grits was “genius” according to Paula, and she loved the potatoes. Antonia’s smokiness and the flavor from the sausage was what put it over. And the winner is Richard. Mike claps in a half-assed manner and I’m not ashamed to admit it makes me pleased. Richard also wins a trip to Barbados and money for airfare. Nice. He says he’s inviting Fabio to go with him. And his family, don’t get excited. Although…the trip is only for 2 so I’m not sure how that’s going to work.

When the top three get back to the Stew Room, Antonia asks Mike if he’s going to burp, because if so, she’s moving seats. Then she asks him not to burp, fart, or flick boogers on her, and it’s just sad that you have to ask a grown man not to do those things. Tiffany tells the judges she didn’t cook any of the shrimp, which ended up overcooked. She admits she knows it’s still her dish. Paula tells her it was too sweet. Dale’s potatoes were raw, and he knew it, and Tom says that he should have made all of them wait for them to cook, as if they wouldn’t have nailed him for that too. The mustard was way too strong, and no one could taste the fish. Carla had beautiful fish, which she then doused in hot sauce and mustard. Nothing else on the plate made any sense.
Richard says Marcel was telling him how Tiffany’s dish was bland and he had a better idea. Everyone laughs because they know Marcel. Tiffany knows Marcel screwed her with the sauce, but she’s not going to stand in front of the judges and blame him. Dale’s fish got lost behind everything else. Carla also hid her fish behind other things. Tiffany’s shrimp was too sweet. The theme today seems to be “drowning the seafood in other flavors is bad.”

In the end Dale is sent home. Holy shit. And MIKE is still there? This is worse than Jamie. He’s really upset. I feel you, dude. He says the first time he was on Top Chef he didn’t like himself so he took it out on everyone else. Now he’s a better person and a better chef. Totally. He knows now he can handle anything.

Next week: Padma shows up to the house, cooking on a ferry, family visits.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Top Chef:All Stars 2/16/11--"Lock Down" summary

Previously on “Top Chef: All Stars”: the contestants had to make fondue, and then judge each other. Richard did not win, which he immediately blamed on everyone being jealous. They could have done a blind judging, where no one knew whose food was whose, but I’m pretty sure when they had bananas and chili chocolate frozen with liquid nitrogen they would have figured it out. Also Mike made a homophobic comment, which I noticed. But then later I missed him calling Dale a monkey (mainly because I don’t usually associate that slur with any group Dale’s a part of) but it’s not like it changes my opinion of Mike. See, you all forgot while Marcel was around. Then all were asked to make lunch for Jimmy Fallon’s birthday, with random assignments of dishes. Carla got chicken pot pie, which she freaked out about, and then she realized she had to make it in two hours, and freaked out again, and then won, and did NOT freak out because of that time she won and Marcel was a dick about it. Dale made salty cheesesteak, but in the end Fabio went home because his burger was too much like meatloaf. Even though a meatloaf sandwich is delicious. Bye, Fabio. (click for more)

Richard will miss Fabio. I think in general everyone is sad to see him go. Richard then says that if Fabio had only asked his opinion, because he runs a burger restaurant! See, when Richard says it, I’m irritated, but then Carla says pretty much the same thing and it’s less irritating. Then Carla jinxes herself by saying she might win the whole thing.

Back in the “bar”. Oh, you know it’s not a real bar. It’s completely deserted and half of them are drinking coffee from paper cups. The group toasts the final 7. Dale is ready to redeem himself. He also says that he is not like “these new school parents” who always say everyone is a winner. Fuck that! Hee.

Padma greets the contestants with a weird smile and small words. Dale thinks she’s possessed, and they edit in a shot of him looking around, like he’s going to discover a hypnotist or something. Of course, when you say the magic words of “Can you tell me how to get…” then one must finish the words with “To Sesame Street!” If you can’t then I feel badly for your childhood. Who finishes the words? Cookie Monster, Elmo, and…another one. Telly. Tiffany jumps. Hee. Everyone’s kids watch Sesame Street. Today you must make cookies. Cookie Monster flips out like a drug addict. Elmo asks for cookies with zucchini and carrots, and Cookie makes noises of disgust. Mike’s never made cookies from scratch, so he knows he’s screwed. $5000 for the winner.

45 minutes. Christ, Richard’s got the liquid nitrogen. I think there are mostly traditional cookies from everyone else. Dale says it’s so shocking that someone like Mike who eats so many cookies could have so much trouble making them. Ha! Carla makes cookies all the time. Dale’s got potato chips. The Muppets heckle him. With five minutes to go Cookie starts eating the table cloth. It just occurred to me that based on where Padma is standing, relative to the table, it’s possible that Elmo’s puppeteer has an excellent view right now. The Muppets go crazy for cookies.

Antonia: dark chocolate cookie, white chocolate chips, fresh caramel glaze, and sprinkles. “Elmo can definitely taste the white chocolate.” Hee. Carla: chocolate chip cookies with cinnamon. Telly: “cinnamon, I thought it was cardamom.” Padma: “Actually, cinnamon and cardamom grow in the same part of the world.” *pause* Elmo: “TMI.” This is hysterical. Dale: pretzel and potato chip shortbread cookie with salted caramel chocolate ganache. Richard: ice cream cookie with chocolate chips, zucchini, and mint. It’s ice cream in the shape of cookies. Don’t try to fool the Muppets, Richard. They call him out quickly. Mike: almond and dried cherry cookie with rose petal powdered sugar. They marvel that he did all that in 45 minutes, and Mike says “I’m a little fast sometimes”. That’s what she said. Oh, EW, I grossed myself out. Tiffany: shortbread cookie with lemon zest, rosemary, thyme, and coconut milk. Angelo: chocolate chip, Belgian hazelnut cookie, and chocolate and banana milkshake. Cookie Monster sprays Angelo with crumbs.

Richard did not make a cookie. Angelo’s cookies were dry. Dale’s cookies, however, were delicious and sweet and salty. Antonia’s cookies were chewy but did look like cow chips. The winner is Dale. Kick ass.

Padma claims that now they will be turned loose “like kids in a candy store”. This isn’t Top Chef: Desserts, Padma. Nor is it Project Runway. This Elimination challenge is worth $25,000 to the winner. Damn. They’re headed to Target. Carla loves Target, of course, like we couldn’t believe that. They will go to a Target in the middle of the night, to find things to cook dishes for 100 Target employees. And it’s an “expanded” Target, so it has a grocery section. Ooo, then Padma says they can’t even bring their knives. They have to find food and build their own stations too? Crazy.

It’s midnight and the store is empty, not that they wouldn’t close the store down anyway. They have 3 hours until service. That means 3 hours to shop, set up stations, and cook. It’s pretty insane. But Tiffany is loving running around grabbing whatever she wants. Dale is annoyed by Tiffany. He then claims he used to work at a grocery store, and crazy shit goes on after hours. He’s picking up…irons? Antonia is getting her stuff but not food. Angelo and Mike are sort of helping each other. Mike is out of shape.

So I guess they were told to just set up wherever, because people are just claiming an aisle space wherever and putting up tables. Tiffany has borrowed a hat. Carla is busy thinking about what she wants her tables to look like, and realizes she’s wasted an hour, and still doesn’t have food. 2 hours left, and she still isn’t cooking. Richard is making “blue collar” food. Antonia doesn’t know if she can find her groove. Tiffany has some jambalaya stuff, and seems excited. Carla? Still freaking out and not cooking. This doesn’t look good. Dale used to make grilled cheese with his iron and tomato soup in the rice cooker. That is unsurprising, somehow. Especially since it involved alcohol, he says. Carla is finally cooking and is making curried apple soup. She wants to go look for a protein, but doesn’t want to leave her station. Lots of people are making soup. Angelo adds salt to his soup on Mike’s suggestion. Antonia says that for $25,000, she’s not making soup. Carla’s not happy with her soup but she thinks her presentation is fantastic. Angelo’s soup is now too salty. Dale is seriously, using an electric griddle, and an iron.

The employees come to eat, and seem to be entertained to be at work at 3am eating food. The judges appear, and there is Padma, and Tom, and Tony, and Ming Tsai, who is awesome even though he tried to be the Next Iron Chef and lost. And some Target guy. Tony claims to be going from Judges’ Table tonight straight to parent teacher conferences. Can you imagine having Tony Bourdain for a dad?

Richard: pork tenderloin with green chilies, apples, braised pork ribs and corn pancakes. Tony says it was ugly but delicious. Dale: rib eye grilled cheese sandwich and spicy tomato soup. He tells the judges he ironed them. Tony asks if Tom’s given Dale a urine test, as he seems to be the master of late night stoner food. Hee. Then Ming makes a horrible pun about being an iron chef. Carla: curry apple soup with tomato ginger jam and cucumber apple slaw. It sounds good. It needs protein. Antonia: parmesan eggs on garlic crostini with almond, tomato, and apple salad. It’s delicious and ballsy. Mike: spicy coconut soup with mushrooms, scallions, and lime. He tries to tell the judges it has fresh coconut milk, but Padma calls him out on that. Padma and the Target guy find it too spicy, but Tom and Ming like it. Tiffany: jambalaya with chicken, sausage, and shrimp with a summer salad. It’s just OK. Angelo: baked potato soup with bacon, sour cream, potato skins, scallions, and cheddar cheese. Too heavy and too salty. Tiffany is very nervous for some reason, partly because she hasn’t won anything yet. Tony is only worried that Tom is driving.

Incidentally, there have been some hilarious Target commercials with Kevin. I love Kevin.
Commercial interlude: The girls play with some stuffed Target branded dogs and make them talk to each other. Sleep deprivation.

The Stew Room is a discussion of the weird challenge and how the sun’s come up by now. Padma collects Dale, Antonia, and Richard. These are the winners. Ming liked that Richard both braised and cooked his pork in a pan. Antonia’s eggs could have failed but were a total success. They very much enjoyed Dale’s food, and his ironing. The winner is Dale. Wow, he’s cleaning up this season.

Carla, Tiffany, and Angelo. Not Mike? Fine. Carla knows her soup flavors didn’t meld, and needed protein, and then she also ran out of garnish. Angelo’s soup was too salty. He seems surprised somehow. The scallions tasted weird, too, says Tony. Tiffany knows she didn’t really make jambalaya, and admits she used a prepackaged spice mix. But the mix was bad? Tom says she should have just used cayenne. Padma asks if anyone has anything to say before they deliberate and send someone home. Tiffany says she’s from a small town, and it’s hard to dream big, and it’s been an honor to work with all of them.

Carla’s soup was weak and didn’t come together, and protein would have helped. Tiffany’s “jambalaya” had dried herbs and the judges seem violently opposed. She put too much in. However, no one could eat Angelo’s soup. Let me just remind everyone that they kicked Jen out over Jamie because Jen’s food was inedible, while Jamie’s was just bad.

And in the end I’m right, I’m proven right and Angelo is sent home. He thinks he’s just mentally fried. They’re all shocked, especially Mike, and Angelo is choked up as he says they’ve all pushed him and made him a better person.

Next week: Paula Deen! The eliminated contestants, for some reason. And I thought we were rid of Marcel. Boo.
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Top Chef:All Stars 2/9/11--"Feeding Fallon" summary

Previously on “Top Chef: All Stars”: apparently when you want the contestants to make pretty things, the best way to do that is to tell them no one is going to eat them. Richard won that Quickfire, by making weird black ice cream nuggets. Then everyone made Italian food, and there was a minimum of stupid mob jokes, which was good. However, all the pasta dishes were terrible. Antonia won, by making mussels that were simple but delicious. Several people were jealous. Mike failed at cooking fresh pasta correctly, but Tre’s thick risotto with too many vegetables was deemed the worst and he was sent home. (click for more)

Everyone goes to that random bar and drinks, but I did notice some people are drinking coffee, or at least drinks out of coffee cups. Fabio complains again about how he thinks Antonia’s dish was French, and Mike joins in for no other reason but because he’s a sore loser. At least he admits it.

It looks like fondue pots. Oo, fondue is fun. However, it makes Richard think of being naked for some reason. No, really. He is convinced his parents once went to a nude fondue party. That sounds dangerous. Padma demands creativity. Then she asks if they want to meet the guest judge, so she says to look around. Hilariously, Fabio looks up at the ceiling, like someone might drop from a skylight. No, they’re judging each other. This should be loud and bitchy. They must vote for their favorite and least favorite. No voting for yourself, no immunity, the winner will get a 3 day trip to Napa. Antonia says she hasn’t won anything yet.

30 minutes. Mike says that since he was born in the 70’s, he doesn’t know too many people who’ve gone to “these gay fondue parties”. Asshole. Antonia is making smoked salmon? Who knows? Richard decides that listening to Padma is stupid, and goes to make chocolate fondue with bananas, which she specifically mentioned as something not to make. I think Fabio is making blinis. Dale is making pho, which I think is going to turn out like shabu-shabu. Angelo is deconstructing something…who knows what he does anymore. I think he doesn’t finish.

Everyone gets wine to drink and they gather ‘round the fondue pots. Richard: bananas with amaretto, ras el hanout, chili chocolate, liquid nitrogen. You dip the banana in chocolate and then in the nitrogen to freeze it. That’s not a bad spin, actually. Except Padma says her tongue stuck to the banana a little bit. Tiffany is sad she can’t just eat and have fun. Tiffany: apple fritter with hazelnut chocolate. Delicious. Richard calls it “pedestrian”. Angelo: walnuts, endive with goat cheese fondue, beet juice shooter. Oh, it’s a deconstructed beet and goat cheese salad. Still, beet juice shooters are weird. Carla: beef tenderloin and shrimp with coconut curry lime sauce. Oo. Dale: pho with beef, bread, charred ginger, lime, sriracha, and broth. Mike: spiced limb kabobs with mint and chili, goat cheese fondue. Interesting. Antonia: smoked salmon on toast, fromage blanc and crème fraiche fondue. Fabio: blini (billini?) with caviar, crème fraiche, fromage blanc, and bourdain wine.

Richard complains that his competitors are intimidated by him, and that he would win if there was a guest judge. Fabio, Tiffany, and Mike end up in the bottom. Then Padma calls Dale out because he put Mike on the bottom. He didn’t like the spice and the cheese together. Tiffany thinks there were dishes worse than hers. Isn’t anyone else going to get called out? Fine. Top 3 are Antonia, Dale, and Angelo, who claims surprise. Richard complains again. The winner is Dale. Nice.

Now Padma tells them to go to Rockefeller Center to learn about the Elimination challenge. Field trip! When they get there, they manage to direct them around without anyone figuring out what’s going on. Until they get to the set of the Jimmy Fallon show. Fabio freaks out, as does Carla. Antonia looks around for pots and pans. They have to play some game called “Cellphone Shootout” which involves taking pictures of random things with their phones. Whatever you take a picture of, that’s what you have to make. Is this a thing? I don’t watch Jimmy Fallon. They’ll cook for his birthday lunch. Antonia and Fabio are up first. I think…it looks like there’s a screen, and the images flash quickly, and when Jimmy says “shoot” then you take a picture and hope it’s something good. So it’s not something you have control over. Antonia ends up taking a picture of beef tongue, and Fabio gets a burger and fries. Fabio can’t even pronounce “burger”. Angelo gets pulled pork, Richard has to make instant ramen (you know he’ll do some weird thing), Dale shoots Philly cheesesteak, Tiffany is making chicken and dumplings, Mike gets sausage and pepper sandwiches, Carla jumps up and down for chicken pot pie (which she said she wanted). They will have 2 hours to cook tomorrow. Jimmy hates mushrooms, mayonnaise, and eggplant.

45 minutes to shop. Carla very much wants to win. Dale worries he won’t make authentic enough cheesesteaks, but he finds pretzel bread which probably will be delicious. Fabio is going to treat his burger like a meatball. Tasty.

Back home, apparently chefs are willing to eat frozen Butoni ravioli. Damn product placement. However I don’t see jarred sauce so that’s something. Richard talks, again, about how he has to win. This really isn’t looking good for him.

In the morning Dale says Angelo is pretty and discusses his tight pants. He does look excellent in his tight pants and no shirt.

Angelo says his strength is flavor. How’s he going to make pulled pork in two hours? Antonia is freaking out because normally tongue takes 4-5 hours to cook. Richard explains to her how to work the pressure cooker, and Mike thinks he shares too much. Whatever. However, Mike doesn’t hesitate to ask Angelo’s opinion of his food. Dale’s never made cheesesteaks before. Tiffany feels she’s “a good mess”, on the top and the bottom and everywhere. Carla is starting to feel the pressure, because while she was overexcited about the pot pie, she’s never made it in 2 hours. She shrieks a lot.

Gail is here today, which should be good. Jimmy seems to be a fan of the show. Fabio has short rib meat in his burger, and melted cheese sauce on the side. Mike sneers at it, and while I’ve never seen melted cheese sauce either, 1. it’s probably delicious, and 2. I’m still pissed about the gay comment, so Mike can cram it with walnuts. Antonia’s tongue tastes good. Heh.

Antonia: beef tongue, pumpernickel rye, caramelized onions, dill slaw. Fabio: hamburger (chuck, brisket, and short ribs meat), melted cheese sauce, fries. The burger is almost like a meatloaf. Sadly Tom is grossed out by the cheese. The tongue surprisingly goes over very well. Richard: ramen noodles with seared pork belly, duck legs, and a duck leg. Oo, proper ramen noodles, which I am ashamed to admit I’ve never had. Must remedy that. Tiffany: chicken, dumplings with poblano chilies, red peppers, cilantro and lime. Jimmy expected crazy time from Richard. I think it was good. Tiffany’s food is spicy, and I think they are indifferent about it. Carla: chicken pot pie with carrots, celery, pea salt and herbs. Dale: Philly cheesesteak on a pretzel roll, hot sauce, onions and cheddar cheese sauce. That sounds so good. However it’s too salty. Carla’s pot pie is so delicious Tom can’t be interrupted to voice an opinion. Angelo: pulled pork with coffee, dill, allspice, and chipotle rub, and coleslaw. Mike: sausage, peppers, onions, garlic, fennel, and paprika. Mike stuffed his own sausage. *snort* Angelo’s pork goes over very well, as does Mike’s. in the end everyone comes out with a cake. Jimmy says the winner of the challenge will get to have a cooking segment on his show.

Commercial interlude: Jimmy tells a story about how Food and Wine magazine asked him for a recipe, and he gave them one from his mom, which she originally got from…Food and Wine magazine. Eh…that was like, mildly amusing at best.

Everyone laughs at Carla’s freaking out, including Carla. Padma calls Carla, Angelo, and Antonia. These are the winners. Angelo put coffee, dill, cilantro, all together, and magically it worked. Jimmy and Carla have a nearly incoherent conversation about making sure the pot pie has a crust on the bottom as well as the top. Antonia did really well with her curveball. Then she reveals there is a song about the beef tongue, which they demand the three chefs sing. It’s weird. Anyway, the winner is Carla! Not only does she get to be on Jimmy’s show, but she gets a 6 night trip to Tokyo and $5000. She’s won three trips. She’s won three trips? Wow.

Tiffany, Fabio, and Dale. Oo, I really thought Richard was getting the loser edit. However, he does get to complain that you don’t have to win until the end. He and Mike say they’ll take not being in the bottom. Tiffany’s dumplings were too thin, so it wasn’t as comforting and it wasn’t the same. Padma knows Fabio was making meatballs and not burgers. It was too much like meatloaf and the cheese got grainy. Dale thinks maybe he was spooked from the last challenge, where they said he had bland food. Too salty.

Dale forgot that pretzel bread has salt on it. Everyone seems to accept the mistakes. Tiffany masked the chicken with all the other stuff, and moved too far from most people’s idea of “chicken and dumplings”. Fabio had the same problem, in that he didn’t make a burger. Dale didn’t taste his food, or realize how all the components would taste together.

We didn’t spend very much time berating people today, did we? I kind of like it. But then Padma sends Fabio home. No! I love Fabio. Suck. Fabio says one day he’ll cook Jimmy a burger “and you will go on your knee and beg for forgiveness”. Hee. He says you should go for what you want, if he can make it in America anyone can.

Next week: holy shit it’s Muppets. OK, OK…Elmo, Cookie Monster, and…I don’t know who the other one is. Crazy running through Target. I think they’re cooking in Target. Ming Tsai! Tony says Dale (I’m pretty sure that’s who he’s talking about) is always making good stoner food and has Tom given him a urine test? Hee.
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Top Chef:All Stars 2/2/11--"An Offer They Can't Refuse"

Previously on “Top Chef: All Stars”: the chefs had to break down fish, which was only moderately entertaining, and then some of them had to make dishes with fish offal, and Dale won. Yay Dale! Then it was Restaurant Wars time, and Dale got to be one leader, and got to pick the other leader. Not being stupid, he picked Marcel, and got to watch Marcel completely fail. It’s not like the usual set-up for Restaurant Wars where the one team that looks like rock stars bites it, and the misfit team will prevail. Dale had rock stars, and his team won handily. Richard won the challenge. Marcel went home, still insisting on his awesomeness on his way out the door, even though only 17 out of 76 diners preferred his restaurant. (click for more)

Mike complains about Marcel while Antonia reveals that Mike is on her list of people who need to go home. Mike thinks he stepped up when Marcel started blaming everyone else for their loss.
Isaac Mizrahi? Huh? Angelo gives us some insight into his life by knowing who Isaac is and also loving fashion. Fabio thinks they will have to make dishes and wear them. It’s Fashion Week and Padma has some jewelry to show. And Isaac has things to show too. He says food and clothes are related. Yeah. Today for the Quickfire, they will NOT taste the dishes, but judge the contestants on presentation only. Interesting.

30 minutes to cook. Carla came to food via modeling. Fabio doesn’t like to cook without flavor. He’s talking about women and the rain. Richard thinks people are having a problem not making things that taste good. Antonia is making trees or something. Dale is inspired by street graffiti. Angelo wishes he was a food stylist. He…seems to have plastic bags of vomit. Fabio is right.

Carla: borscht and sandwich with lattice of cucumber. It’s a section of cucumber, hollowed out, with soup in it, a little tiny round layered sandwich, and woven strips of cucumber. Tre: smoked salmon, beets, curry noodles, food coloring. It’s just a lot of dots and stripes on the plate, in different colors. Fabio: tuna with a sidewalk of caramel, mushroom umbrellas, and lemon juice. The idea is that Fabio loves to see women caught in the rain. Isaac looks confused. Dale: beet puree, cantaloupe, maple syrup meringue, avocado, mango. It’s like…piles of chopped up stuff. Isaac thinks it looks like the remnants of a real dish, like the stuff left after you plate the food. This is the fun part of having someone like Isaac judge. He knows what to say. Dale is like, who does this jerk think he is anyway? I don’t care what a fashion designer thinks. Mike: carrot puree, roasted eggplant, and egg yolk. It’s all one color, but it actually isn’t that bad looking. Richard: “Black Sundae”; black chocolate ice cream, menthol crystals, herbal salad, mint ice cream dots. It’s all very dark. Isaac loves it, of course. Antonia: yucca potato, lentils, nuts and seeds. It’s a tree made out of the potato and eucalyptus leaves, with the rest of the stuff sprinkled like dirt. Isaac says the seeds are too big, proportionally, and Antonia can’t believe Fabio got away with his crap but she gets “the seeds are too big”. Tiffany: almond gazpacho, grapes, dirt made of rye bread. It’s pretty and it looks like real food. Angelo: has written “crocodile” on his workbench. Yeah. Then he tells Isaac one of his favorite designers is Cavalli, and Isaac just rolls his eyes. Duh, flatter the guest judge! Anyway: pineapple skin, curry salted egg, and dill. It’s all in a plastic vacuum bag. Eh.

Isaac had fun, but he didn’t like Dale, Tre, or Angelo. Fabio’s plate looked good, Carla was like a perfectly made simple dress, and Richard’s plate was “just incredibly beautiful”. The winner, based on which plate Isaac sort of wanted to eat, is Richard. He gets immunity.

For the Elimination challenge, Padma says they’ll be cooking at a restaurant so exclusive, tables are not reserved but “owned” by families who pass them down through the generations. The knife block comes out: “Frankie No“, “Junior“, “Dino the Chef“. Three groups of three. In walks three old Italian men, whom Fabio thinks belong in the Godfather, which they totally do. Fabio is dying from joy. He knows all of them, as they are restaurant owners of Rao’s. They must cook an Italian feast for this restaurant family, with dishes “inspired” by the family. They have to use the family history for inspiration. The dinner has three courses: antipasti, primi (pasta), and secondi (meat). The teams are to assign what course you are making.

30 minutes to plan. Tre is going to make risotto. Mike, smartly, asks if they stay traditional or if they ever try to evolve the dishes. No, they need to be traditional. Tre says people call him “The Black Italian” but that nickname sounds like it has nothing to do with food and everything to do with things you can’t talk about on a family show. Carla is thrilled to make antipasti, she says she makes comfort food. Fabio talks up the guy, while Angelo and Richard just kind of stand there. Eventually they get the advice to keep it simple. Yeah, Angelo is going to keep it simple.

Fabio is making polenta and chicken. Mike is thinking of his grandma. That’s about it for the shopping.

2 hours to cook. Antonia (who is also Italian) says her dad would not get over it if she didn’t do well. Dale has never made Italian food, not professionally anyway. Mike is trying to make fresh rigatoni, which he claims has never been made on Top Chef. That’s entirely possible. Tiffany is tired of hearing about how the Italians are going to win. Tre has won challenges with his risotto. Antonia thinks he’s screwing it up. Mike is nervous and claims he doesn’t like being a favorite.

1 hour to cook at the restaurant. Carla, Antonia, and Tiffany have the antipasti. Antonia and Clara are calmer while cooking. Antonia hopes her mussels taste OK. Tiffany burns her polenta. Like, flames. Tony is here. Kick ass. And the other guest judge is Lorraine Bracco from the Sopranos. Everyone plates up family style. Carla: minestrone soup with basil oil, tomatoes, and homemade focaccia. Antonia: mussels with fennel, white wine, garlic, and parsley ciabatta. Tiffany: polenta terrine with Italian sausage, roasted peppers, and kale. Everyone likes the family style. Someone thinks Carla’s soup could be found in Wisconsin. They love Tiffany’s dish, although Tom seems to have some rant about the sausage. They enjoy the fennel in Antonia’s mussels.

Dale, Tre, and Mike are up for the pasta course. Tre is emphasizing his vegetables in his risotto. Mike has to cook the pasta last minute, but it’s not cooked enough so he has to hope it cooks in the sauce. Mike: spicy calamari, fresh rigatoni, and tomato sauce. Dale: fresh pasta, pancetta, Brussels sprouts, chanterelle mushrooms, and pecorino Romano. Tre: grilled vegetable risotto, marinated tomatoes and fresh basil. Dale’s dish has no sauce, and all the ingredients were cooked separately and didn‘t meld. Dale had said he made it for his girlfriend, but Lorraine says if that had happened to her, he wouldn’t get laid. Hee. Tre shot himself in the foot, because the dish is not about the rice anymore. Mike’s pasta is not cooked. And he was told he could use dried pasta just in case he screwed up like this. Tony is flabbergasted that three professional chefs could fuck up a pasta course. “This is something you would find in a steam table at your worst enemy’s wedding.” Nice.

Angelo, Fabio, and Richard cook the last meat course. Richard says Fabio always looks like he won’t make it. He’s waited until the last half hour to cook his chicken. Angelo is trying to get advice from Fabio, who has miraculously produced delicious food. Fabio: polla alla cacciatore, polenta al pecorino. Angelo: sautéed pork chop, cherry peppers, green olives, tomatoes, pancetta. Richard: fresh pancetta cutlet, broccolini, pickled cherry tomatoes. You can make cutlets out of pancetta? But Fabio’s food sounds absolutely delicious. Angelo’s dish is busy and has a lot of sauce. Richard’s cutlet goes over well. Fabio’s polenta has redeemed Tony’s faith in humanity. Or something.

Commercial interlude: Mike schools everyone on making gnocchi. I guess that’s his “Top Chef University” class. Whatever. At the end of the lesson Angelo wanders into the kitchen and asks if something’s burning. Hee.

In the Stew Room Mike tells Tiffany he didn’t think her dish sounded like antipasti. Padma asks for Antonia, Carla, Fabio, and Tiffany. Mike of course doesn’t think he couldn’t possibly be in the bottom because Tiffany and Antonia didn’t do enough work. Richard wisely points out they wouldn’t call the bottom group 1st two episodes in a row. Of course Richard is right. Tiffany is tearing up. Her dish was wonderful. Antonia left her mussels largely alone. Carla’s soup had the cheese inside, which Lorraine loved. Fabio’s chicken was perfect, and his polenta was perfect too. The winner is Antonia. She knows his dad will be proud. Fabio says steamed mussels and fennel is French.

When Antonia gets back and says she won, Mike just stares at her with his mouth open like he’s stopped understanding English. It’s pretty great. There is a serious pause before they clap for her. Mike, Dale, and Tre are called out. Mike knows his pasta was bad, and claims to not be surprised to be in the bottom. Tony says if he’d used dried pasta, he wouldn’t be there. Tom thinks his pasta had too much egg. Dale’s pasta was also crumbly, or something, and Tom complains about not having sauce. Or it being cooked with the sauce. It was bland too. Tre’s risotto was too thick, to the point that Tom says it’s no longer risotto. Tre tries to come back with “if I had chosen a different dish, it would have spread out”. Really? Tom just said you should be able to scoop it out and it will spread out on the plate. Do you think he didn’t try that? On top of that the rice is buried in garnish.

The judges think Tre’s never eaten good risotto, and they discuss how most people make it too thick. Dale’s dish had potential, but it was so bland. Mike understood what he should do, but didn’t cook his pasta properly even though his sauce was fine.

I think Mike is standing in front of the judges with his eyes closed thinking “Please don’t pick me please don’t pick me please don’t pick me”. So they pick Tre. He says he represented his family, and he’s made new friends.

Next week: Jimmy Fallon, Carla is crazy, Antonia raps or something.
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