Thursday, November 20, 2014

Top Chef 11/19/14--"The First Thanksgiving" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: some head-to-head battles with product placement. Gregory wins, even though his battle was with Mei which is clearly the best battle. Then there were “battles” where everyone served head-to-head but didn’t have to match their food to anything in particular except for not having a lot of money. It was fun to watch but not particularly exciting to talk about. Aaron’s dashi fell on the ground, which was terribly sad. Adam, Katsuji, Gregory (beating Mei again), Stacy, and Katie won. Katie beat Aaron, who tried to be a dick about her choice of cake and was shot down. Then Aaron was sent home for making terrible scallop noodles. Plus currently he’s out on bail for assaulting his girlfriend, so way to go. (click for more)

Katsuji pours out more beer for eliminated contestants. I think. My cable signal is all screwy but you know this section of the show isn’t that interesting anyway. Adam hates that his team lost but he won so that’s cool. He also calls Katsuji “a mess in a dress” which is obnoxious. Now everyone mostly gets along with each other so it’s going to be hard when people get eliminated.

Melissa’s girlfriend left her a bunch of notes for support. Aww. My cable is still fucked up so if her confessional had anything important in it I missed it. I think it’s the standard “I really want this” interview. Tiffani rolls into the apartments. Woo! I like Tiffani. I did not like her on her season, but then later I thought she was a pretty good villain. Plus she watched herself and made a big effort not to be a terrible person so I respect her for that.

Tiffani takes the chefs on a surprise field trip to a cranberry bog which really looks cool. Doug also gets an extended confessional about his life. Weird. Product placement! I mean it’s cranberries. You can figure it out. Cranberries don’t grow in a giant pond, they grow in like a field and then they flood the bog at harvest since they float. The Quickfire (?) is to wade out into the bog and harvest cranberries. First four people to fill their crates get an advantage in the next challenge. Why is Tiffani introducing this? Is Padma busy? Mei is legitimately worried about being short and unable to swim, while Katsuji asks a dumb question about if it’s warm.

Adam totally wins the race because he’s tallest. So everyone has to run out with a scoop, get some cranberries, then run back to shore to your crate. Katie brags about how she’s an athlete and will be awesome. Yeah, it seems to be about knee-deep on most people and that’s hard to run through. Katie, Adam, Doug, and Gregory win. I guess this is not actually the Quickfire which is too bad.

Back in the kitchen Padma has deigned to arrive. So I guess she didn’t want to get up that early? Be outside? Anyway, make a dish that highlights cranberries. Winners have access to high-end ingredients. Everyone else gets bullshit ingredients. OK not bullshit ingredients. But the “good” pantry is lots of vegetables and nice proteins and stuff, while the “bad” pantry is ground beef and carrots and ketchup. I think this distinction is stupid but whatever. They’ve had worse gimmicks. I mean, like “chicken livers” are terrible? They’re fresh. Whatever. Tiffani says to make a dish you can have “year round” which means don’t make Thanksgiving food yet. Winner gets immunity.

30 minutes. Katie is making borscht. Mei has sweet and sour pork. Stacy wanted some cream for something, but she has to use pureed cauliflower instead. Katsuji wants to make steak tartare with skirt steak, which I don’t think you can do. I mean, you can, but skirt steak is not tender. Someone’s pan is on fire. Oops, it’s Adam’s “cranberry dirty water” or something which is now fully on fire and ruined.

Adam: bourbon cranberry barbeque sauce-glazed New York strip with mushroom fricassee. He admits that this is his plan B. Gregory: arctic char with sweet and sour cranberry sauce, royal trumpet mushrooms and pear. Keriann: carrot soup with cranberry and crab. Doug: bourbon and cranberry-glazed pork tenderloin with Brussels sprouts and cranberry mustard. Melissa: fried turkey with apple butter, cranberry compote, pecans and fried sage. It’s a little tiny bite, like an amuse bouche. Why is it so small? Katie: cranberry borscht with crème fraiche, charred Brussels sprout and pancetta. Katsuji: steak tartare with chile de arbol mayonnaise, fresh cranberries and cranberry hot sauce. Stacy: curried cauliflower soup with smoky pepper-cranberry relish. Mei: sweet and sour pork with pickled mustard seeds and apple salad. That sounds good.

Katsuji’s skirt steak failed, not cut small enough. Adam pretty much begged them to hate his dish, because it wasn’t that great. Stacy’s soup needed some seasoning and was clunky. Tiffani loved Doug’s dish, even though it wasn’t super clever. Also Katie, because she used the cranberries instead of vinegar which was creative. Mei’s was craveable. The winner is Katie! Nice. She has immunity. Everyone looks irritated, or at least they got shots of people looking irritated and put them there.

Elimination challenge: Thanksgiving theme time. Padma talks about the first Thanksgiving. They will work as one group to make a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal. And by “traditional” we mean “as close to traditional as you can get in a tourist location”. You only get native ingredients and what the colonists brought with them, plus cook over cookfires and whatever. No stoves. They will serve in two groups, which they get to decide on. I guess that’s just so they won’t have to judge 9 dishes at once? Plus some actual pilgrim descendants and some Native American peoples will be there too.

Everyone goes back to the apartment to talk about their Thanksgiving experiences. Mei says she eats duck stuffed with sticky rice. Yum. Stacy sits in the window and sulks, and then walks off by herself to Skype her boyfriend who is deployed overseas. She’s really torn up about losing the cranberry thing. She cries and then points at her face and says she’s being a girl and it’s his fault. Don’t do that. Adam at least has noticed she’s not on her game.

Gregory loves to hang out with Doug. I think Doug might be doomed. Gregory interviews about how he likes Doug and he’s been doing great. Stacy is in a better mood. Everyone goes down to Plimoth. Plymoth? The sign has an I. The “pantry” is just outside in the yard. 2.5 hours to cook. The house has a fire, and one pot, and that’s it. Firepits and cast iron Dutch ovens and wooden spoons. I think people agree on who is going first and who is second, and Doug, Melissa, Stacy, and Katsuji are first. Greg gets a goose, which is not a turkey but they maybe don’t have turkey? He knows it’s a risk. Stacy piles clams on some leaves and a pitchfork and puts them in the coals. She says they’ll smoke. Doug is smartly assuming the diners may not have forks. Katie makes stuffing with lobster and lemons and blueberries and stuff. She says since she has immunity she can go risky. Melissa isn’t using a protein because everyone else seems to have one. Mei wants to win so she’s making duck fat roasted cabbage. Nice. Katsuji tells her not to put salt in. Keriann’s pie crust fails because she can’t get it to stick without ice water, so she goes to venison. There must be a way to do it, because clearly the pilgrims didn’t have ice water, but I’m not sure what it is. Adam is making succotash.

Tom Time! He brings guest judge Ken Oringer. Gregory kind of freaks out because he wants to impress. Keriann admits that her pie crust failed, and she repurposed the pie filling for a compote. Katsuji can’t stay out of the smoke. He is really having a hard time seeing. Tom bails. That was quick.

Gregory is the only one inside the house. Hot in there. The diners arrive at the table. People talk about how they are descended from pilgrims or whatever. The guy who is from the Native American tribe is more choked up about it. Stacy plates on the ground. Literally the plate is on the ground and she’s sitting in the dirt.

I think Gail is here, but not Hugh or Blais. Also Doug was right, they are using wooden spoons and knives to eat. Doug: spit-roasted rabbit with garlic, ramps, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and radish. I love rabbit. Katsuji: roasted butternut squash with poached lobster, chestnuts, and ancho chile butter. Please explain how he got ancho chiles. Do they grow in New England? Stacy: ramp-smoked clams with butternut squash, lobster, and ramps. Ramp-smoked clams with ramps. Apparently Tom told Stacy to “dirty up” her food and this is what he wanted. Melissa: roasted parsnips, green beans and zucchini with ramp and onion vinaigrette. Everyone gets good feedback on their food, barring Tom saying Melissa’s zucchini could have been cooked a little more. But he liked the flavors.

Commercial interlude: Gail has Canadian Thanksgiving which is earlier in the year and isn’t as big of a deal. Tom is Italian so of course he had lasagna as well as everything else. Padma asks if he wasn’t full and everyone has to explain to her that that is the point of Thanksgiving.

Gregory’s goose isn’t cooked enough and he’s freaking out. But he wanted to serve a bird for Thanksgiving. Adam: succotash with beans, corn, summer squash, wilted spinach and spiced goat milk. Katie: blueberry stuffing with blue cornmeal cornbread and sautéed lobster. So weird but she has immunity. Mei: duck fat roasted cabbage with trout vinaigrette. Gregory: roasted goose, goose confit with green beans and gingered onions. Keriann: seared venison loin with blueberry compote and buttered hazelnuts. The goose is indeed too rare and chewy, but Tom says the flavors are good and Gregory took a risk. The first three got really good reviews, as did Keriann. Tom says there was not a bad dish on the table. He thinks maybe they do better with limitations. They talk about how they loved everything. Melissa’s dish was maybe underseasoned, and over-ambitious. Gregory didn’t cook the goose as well as he could have. Keriann claimed she hadn’t sweetened the pie filling before making it a sauce but Gail thinks she did. Stacy’s clams had a weird flavor, plus her stuffing overshadowed her clams.

Judges’ Table. Doug, Katsuji, and Mei are the top three. Katsuji had intense flavor and it was appropriate. Doug’s rabbit was delicious. Mei made something unusual. The winner is Katsuji. He claims this is the most important challenge because he won where the original immigrants were.

Stacy, Melissa, and Gregory are the bottom. Would they get rid of Gregory? Hmm. Each of them had some flaws. Gregory wanted a bird on the table, but maybe it was too much of a risk. Melissa was happy with her dish, and didn’t want to incorporate a protein. They blended into the background. Stacy had some weird flavor and Gail thinks it was dirt. Tom thanks them for working hard and then Stacy is quickly sent home. It was good, but it was their least favorite. She’s upset but also relieved, because there was so much pressure on her being the hometown representative. She claims she is proud and doesn’t have to beat herself up anymore.

“Still to come”: Restaurant Wars, some fight of course, a bunch of people including fucking Andy Cohen. It doesn’t seem to be on the schedule next week so I will see you in two weeks!

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