Sunday, November 30, 2008

"I hate, hate, hate white asparagus."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My recap this week is shamefully late, as I well know. Yes, I can imagine my 4 or so loyal readers have been fraught with anxiety, wondering when they were going to hear of the latest goings-on in Bravo’s culinary world. I must use the holiday weekend as my excuse-I just didn’t feel it was the proper time to be blogging, when there is so little time usually to be spent with my family.

I was excited about this episode, even though I haven’t listened to much of the “Foos”, as everyone on the show kept referring to the band. Is that really what the hardcore fans call them, by the way? I just always enjoy celebrity guests-seeing normal, non-celebrity reactions to famous people is usually quite entertaining.

For the quickfire challenge, the chefs learned that the guest judge of the week would be Grant Achatz, yet another “superstar of the culinary world.” Grant’s specialty is apparently molecular gastronomy. I’m not quite clear why a molecular gastronomist is usually selected every season to be a guest judge-it’s not as though the chefs are ever expected to make foams. Marcel and Richard erroneously believed it would get them ahead. Another thing I’m curious about is how the cheftestants always seem to know every obscure guest judge. I mean, it would be ridiculous for them to be unaware of the big shots, like Anthony Bourdain, Daniel Bouloud, or even Ming Tsai. But are people like Grant Achatz and Maria Frumkin (Season 3) really that commonly spoken of in chef’s social circles?

On to the challenge-the chefs were told to draw knives, which is always slightly terrifying in a quickfire. One never knows what that might mean, and I myself was a little nervous when I saw that each knife was plastered with a number. Would the chefs have to use 125 ingredients? Would they have to design a meal in the shape of 63?

As it turns out, the numbers corresponded to pages in the Top Chef Cookbook-each chef would have 1 hour to put their own spin on a recipe created by a previous contestant. The chefs were remarkably calm about this, although I was having nightmares of Sam’s (Season 2) sweetbreads and Hung’s geoduck. The inevitable twist? Padma cheerfully announced, a mere fifteen minutes into the challenge, that she and Grant were “in the mood for soup.” The chefs would have to use the recipes and ingredients to create a soup. Leah, whose dish was a tuna tartare, was panicked, and I shared her feelings. Tartare, by definition, is raw. How could she pull this off? Jamie was blissfully confident, sure that the deconstructed falafel recipe the drew would easily translate into a soup. Richard rightfully panicked that he neglected the “acid”, in the form of lime juice, in his disgusting looking black bean soup. In the end, Leah scored a big win. Padma and Grant really liked her soup, and she was complimented on her ability to use that loathed ingredient, white asparagus. Now I am left to wonder what white asparagus tastes like-how can it be so different from the traditional and delectable green? I would have had to dip my spoon into Jamie’s chickpea soup with crispy shallots and pickled chiles, although she is revealing a mean edge this week, stating that the “world revolves around Stefan” and giving Daniel a hard time later in the episode.

The chefs then learned, much to their delight and shock, that they would be preparing (in the middle of the summer) Thanksgiving dinner for the Foo Fighters and their 60+, vegan and vegetarian-speckled entourage. They all seemed thrilled. Interestingly, as an additional bonus for winning the quickfire, Leah was able to select the chefs for her team, setting up a painfully obvious “have” and “have-nots”, “popular kids vs. social outcasts” dynamic. Her team was comprised of Hosea, Jamie, Stefan, Melissa, Fabio, and Radhika, who, with the exception of Melissa, have proved their exceptional prowess in the kitchen thus far in the season. This winning team dubbed themselves Team Sexy Pants upon arriving at the grocery story-who knows where that ridiculous moniker came from- while the “last picked in the schoolyard” team decided to honor Ariane by calling themselves Team Cougar.

Right away we were treated to a slew of potential problems with Team Sexy Pants, which should have been a huge indication that everything that the eventually made would turn out perfectly. They did not handle the news that they’d be cooking with microwaves and toaster ovens well at all, while over at Team Cougar Eugene devised his own homemade grill. They panicked over having to use only one burner, while Dr. Chase determined that organizing the dishes was the best plan. Leah looked on sternly as her team argued, while Ariane assured the camera that her catering experience would make the turkey a sure hit. It looked like Team Cougar might have it in the bag.

Alas, it all comes down to the food, so both teams anxiously awaited their judges. This was the most hilarious/enjoyable part of the episode, for we were treated to a fabulous, VERY Hollywood slow-mo entrance of Tom and Dave Grohl. If I had been at home with the comfort of my trusty DVR, I would have definitely rewound it several times. Hilarious. The judges would pile up the requisite turkey, sides, and desserts and then proclaim a favorite team, who would, incidentally, attend the concert which took place that evening. The losing team? They would clean up Thanksgiving dinner, all while hearing the revelry going on above them. Definitely a cruel move by the producers.

Unfortunately, dessert decided the winner. It didn’t matter that Ariane finally scored with a moist, delicious turkey, or that Eugene made a delicious maple-smoked pork loin (homemade grill, remember?). Dr. Chase and Richard absolutely choked on dessert, while Fabio’s pumpkin tiramisu, while potentially rain-spattered (“It start to rain on my tiramisu!”) was a big favorite, and Hosea’s fruit crumble got a huge thumbs-up.

This is when I got irritated with the show. It shouldn’t come down to dessert, particularly in a Thanksgiving challenge. I’m not saying that lackluster or even bad desserts shouldn’t affect a team, because the chefs absolutely need to be able to make a decent dessert. It just seems shameful for that to be what the final decision is based on. I guess I’m a bit of a softie, but I felt bad for Ariane, after finally making a good meal, and I was more than a little upset that Eugene wasn’t recognized for his ingenuity. Team Cougar was a team of misfits and underdogs, but that’s exactly why I was hoping they would pull out a win, and the wicked producers edited the episode in such a way as to let the viewers think they had a chance. The absolute worst part of it all was that Team Sexy Pants were the furthest thing from gracious-they trooped into the deliberation room full of enthusiasm from the concert, and Jamie immediately started trading barbs with disgraced-potatoes Daniel. I think it’s possible that Melissa was a tad inebriated or possibly high, based on what we saw of her crazy dancing at the concert, so I might give her a pass for her insensitive behavior.

Of course, Dr. Chase was smacked face down on the proverbial chopping block, which we could have all predicted considering he made a critical Top Chef error-taking on too many dishes. I was desperately fearful that he’d be eliminated, not because he’s a favorite of mine, but because he really had tried so hard throughout the episode to make things go well for his team. Thankfully, the judges recognized that, and Richard was sent home for bad s’mores with a vanilla cream that looked like “spit.” It was a truly sad moment-he’d tried out three times for Top Chef, and it’s just such a bad way to go. His tears tugged at my heart strings! I’m really hoping we can stay away from dessert eliminations after this.

I’ve got a busy week coming up, and I’m a little worried I’ll miss Wednesday’s episode-what a terrible thought! I’ll just have to purchase it on I-Tunes if that’s the case.

1 comment:

J & Co. said...

I had to read the 'foam' part about five times to understand THAT'S what molecular gastronomy is. All the while, I was thinking 'asparagus causes gas, no? WHITE asparagus must be the worst!' HAHA, yes, the FOOOOS is what weee call them :)