Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Top Chef: New York, Episode 5

Gail's Bridal Shower

I'm just going to jump right in here, because my favorite part of this episode was the Quick Fire Challenge, and I am dying to talk about it. Rather than just do the usual cooking challenge, this week we had a tasting challenge in the form of a tournament-style pallate test. The chefs would have to taste an un-named dish and identify as many ingredients as possible. In the first round, this meant that the chefs had to go head-to-head against each other, and in the style of Name That Tune, they had to place wagers as to how many ingredients they could name, and whoever was gutsy enough to guess the highest would be asked to "Name Those Ingredients".

I found this challenge absolutely fascinating. The first round they were all asked to taste a shrimp/lobster bouillabaisse. Apparently, it had pretty much every vegetable under the sun included, so basically anyone who took a crack at naming the ingredients won this round. Other than poor Eugene, who inexplicably guessed "fish sauce". Not so much, buddy.

The next dish was Thai Green Curry, and once again, those who dared guess generally won their rounds. In the final round, the three remaining contestants - Hosea, Carla and Stefan - were asked to fight it out spelling-bee style. The dish? Mexican mole sauce! I loved it, because there are like a zillion ingredients in mole, but it doesn't particularly taste like any of them. Carla was out on her first guess, peanut butter. Wow. I'll bet she was cringing when she watched that at home. Stefan and Hosea didn't embarrass themselves, however, and got through several rounds. Finally, though, Stefan incorrectly guessed "tomato paste" and Hosea was crowned the winner.

After the fun of the pallate tournament, the teams were broken up into four teams, "old, new, borrowed and blue." They were then told that their challenge would be to cater a bridal shower lunch for host Gail, which Padma was throwing. Of course, their dishes would have to somehow tie into the theme of their teams. Yawn.

Team Old: Jeff, Stefan and Hosea (pretty dang strong)
Team New: Eugene, Daniel and Carla (I smell trouble)
Team Borrowed: Jamie, Radhika and Ariane (definitely has potential)
Team Blue: Fabio, Leah and Melissa (has Fabio, so I must root for them)

The guest judge for the round was revealed to be Dana Cowin, the editor of Food & Wine magazine. Pretty intimidating, although she was so cute in her little bridal outfit that it was difficult to think of her as some kind of food hard-ass.

Behold Team Borrowed's dish, an Indian-spiced rack of lamb with carrot puree. They shoe-horned the "borrowed" in there by mentioning that they borrowed their inspiration from Radhika's culture. Side note - is Radhika Indian? I hadn't noticed, and they certainly haven't harped on that in every episode so far. Anyhoo, apparently this dish tasted as good as it looked, because all of the ladies clearly LOVED it.

The other hilarious part of this round was team old. They chose to do a trio of heirloom tomato dishes, one of which was Jeff's tomato sorbet. Stefan thought this was a terrible idea, and very cockily (not sure if that's actually a word, but it's perfect here) told everyone as much. Jeff did it anyway, and this ended up being the most popular part of their plate. Ha! Take that, you bald Euro.

So those were clearly the top two teams, and it never really seemed in doubt that the winner would come from Team Borrowed. Sounded like their dish was beloved by everyone at the table. They named Ariane (who made the lamb part of the dish) the winner. This was no surprise to the viewer, but apparently a huge surprise to Jamie, who thought she was a shoo-in to win. Why? Because you made a carrot puree? Ariane actually apologized to her (gag), but she proceeded to pout anyway. I'm liking her less and less each week, although I did enjoy her totally rebuffing Stefan's advances earlier in the episode.

Team New, or Team Total Disaster, was screwed from the get-go. Eugene and Daniel started off with the idea of using pickled ingredients, saying "pickling is very new." Is it? As my husband pointed out, pickling was invented before refrigerators to make vegetables last longer. Not exactly "new". Carla (in her one act of courage) pointed this out to the gentlemen, who then settled on sushi. Again, new? Pretty sure they've been eating that over there in Japan for quite awhile, but at least it's fresh, which is kind of like new. Oh, but wait - the sushi will be cooked and will contain beef. What? And they will serve it "deconstructed" so that the ladies can assemble it themselves. What? It was so clear that this would be the losing dish that it wasn't even funny. I haven't even mentioned the over-cooked rice, always a death-blow for Top Chef.

When they got in the room, it was very clear that although Team Blue was also in the bottom two, none of them were ever in danger of going home. Their dish was basically just called boring a bunch of times. Team New, on the other hand, got an earful from pretty much all of the judges. Eugene and Carla didn't seem surprised, and voiced the things they would have done differently, but for some reason beyond all logic, Daniel proceeded to argue with the judges that he still thought their dish was great. Sigh.

In all honesty, based on the dish alone, Eugene probably deserved to be the one to go home. It was his idea, he made a bunch of the elements and he didn't properly explain the dish when it was served to the ladies. However, due to Daniel's insane decision to stand by the dish at Judge's Table, he was sent packing. Goodbye, Daniel. We will miss your enthusiasm for stupid ideas and crazy beard. But that's pretty much it.


HeatherBakes said...

Hosea has kind of rallied the last couple of episodes.

I was dying for Carla at the judges table. She just refused to throw Daniel under the bus about those mushrooms. I'm just glad he went home and not her.

Ann Martin Photography BLOG said...

You know, I could like Ariane, but wasn't she the same person who was doing that ridiculous "hootie-hoo" call in the market? She sounded so backwoods and silly with that bit.
And then there was the lemon desert that was too too sweet? It seems like every time I get to rooting for her she does something that makes me cringe. I'm just sayin.......