Thursday, December 3, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas – Finale Part One – Best Lines Of The Night:

“It’s up to the egg at this point,” says Michael V. as he wonders how his 150 poached eggs will turn out.

“It’s very ducky,” says Tom Colicchio, complimenting Jen’s duck dish.

The four remaining chefs meet up at a lonely train station. BUT - this being Top Chef - this isn’t just ANY train station. The Napa Valley Wine Train stops here. Jen and Michael are the first to arrive. Kevin arrives with longer (and less) hair. Bryan is the last. He says he’s doing this for his son. How come he never mentions a wife? Maybe his sibling issues have gotten in the way.

The train pulls up (I think it’s Bryan who says not to push him in front of it) and a visibly pregnant Padma AND (this is sooo great) my one and only Michael Chiarello come down the train’s steps. They give the chefs their latest and last Quickfire. Ooh, I’m so happy to see Michael. They four have to cook a dish ON the train “that features Napa’s signature crop, the grape.”

That’s so smart to involve my Michael. He’s a winemaker (that is sooo HOT!) AND runs Bottega, a Napa restaurant.

I LOVE that Padma says, “You’ll serve your dish to Michael and ME.” She doesn’t throw around the word “I” indiscriminately AND incorrectly.

There’s one little problem for Kevin. He gets motion sickness. I know just what he means and the idea of rushing around cooking something is the last thing you want to do when you get that sick feeling. At least it’s not a bus. He’d be a goner then.

The winner of the Quickfire wins a Prius. Jen REALLY wants it.

They have tons of grapes to choose from. Kevin is not happy with the sway of the train. Plus it’s so narrow, someone could get stabbed.

They all bring their dishes in to the dining room to be tested by Padma and Michael.


Honey & Fromage Blanc Mousse, Glazed Grapes, Olive Oil And Sea Salt

I LOVE fromage blanc. It’s a French cottage cheese and completely smooth. It’s rich, but light at the same time. With a good honey, it could be awesome.

Michael C.: “I like the olive oil.”

Michael V.

Grape Leaf Stuffed With Couscous, Vinegar Glazed Grape & Scallop Kabob

I think his dish looks a little sad on the plate. He says he used Minus 8 Vinegar, which I’ve never heard of, but it sounds really special. Plus, it must be good because it’s THIRTY THREE DOLLARS for 100 mls! That’s not even half a cup! But I guess this IS the penultimate episode of Top Chef. C’est la vie, ces sont les ingrédients.

Michael C. seems to like it.


Roasted Hen, Bacon, Brussels Sprouts, Concord Grapes, Ruby Quinoa & Arugula

How in the world did he do all of that in 30 minutes?!! THAT’S what I’m in awe of. Amazing. I would still be picking my grapes out after 30 minutes.

Michael C.: “It was a Concord Grape?” Bryan says yes.


Sautéed Chicken Livers, Clams, Cabernet Grapes, Wild Mushrooms & Tendrils

Michael C.: “Thank you, Chef.”

Michael thinks each chef did an “extraordinary job”.

MC thinks that Kevin’s dish was tasty, but he was looking for a little more “grape love”. Michael C. liked that Michael V. used the leaf, the vine and the wine along with the grapes.

While Michael C. considers Bryan’s dish, he notes that there are not a lot of Concord Grapes out here (looking out the window at the Napa Vineyards) and that “the smokiness of the bacon came in over the grape.” MC says that “here in the valley”, they try to do that the other way around.

Michael thinks Jen’s combination of rich meat with clams is very interesting. He says he may steal the dish for Bottega. She says to go right ahead.

Good! Obviously, Jen is going to win. I’m happy.

Before announcing the winner, (my) Michael says that in the Napa Valley, they use food to celebrate what they see each and every day and that he wants the food to tell a story…or words to that effect. (Jen looks ready to get her car.) MC says, “Michael, Chef, you did an extraordinary job in telling that story from the ground up.” RATS! I guess it was the fancy vinegar that put Michael V’s dish over the top.

Jen says (to us),”Michael won. Screw him!” You tell ‘em, girl!

BTW, those Erica Glad Bag commercials are SOOO annoying, that I am sooo NOT buying them. I am definitely getting Zip-loc bags the next time.

They’re staying in the fancy Meritage Resort and Spa. Jen mentions that her 10 Arts boss, Chef Eric Ripert is very proud of her.

They arrive at the Rutherford Hills Winery. Padma says the winery is hosting its season’s end “crush” party that celebrates the end of the harvest.

They each have to prepare 2 dishes (one vegetarian, one using a local protein) for 150 people. They must use only local ingredients. Salt and pepper are the only exceptions.

Kevin thinks this challenge is made for him, since this is what he does at his Atlanta restaurant. Bryan says the same thing.

They shop at a farmer’s market at Long Meadow Ranch. Jen decides to go with duck. Michael is buying 9 dozen eggs. Kevin says he wants to beat Michael to show him that simple cooking can win over more complex dishes.

They’re cooking in the kitchen of the Brix Restaurant. Surprise, surprise! Michael is sous-viding one of his dishes. (I THINK that’s what he was blabbing about.)

Michael V. says there’s definitely a sibling rivalry between him and his brother and that he wants to beat him and he may not play nice.

Tom waltzes in and chats with each chef. Jen sees that the wood grill isn’t hot enough and decides to confit her duck instead.

Michael V. is wondering how his dish will turn out. Here comes his great line - “It’s up to the egg at this point.”

The chefs set up their stations prior to service. Michael V. cracks open an egg and he’s happy with it.

The judges arrive at Bryan’s station. Padma introduces them AGAIN. If we don’t know who Tom Colicchio is at this point, we have no business watching Top Chef.


Vegetarian Dish – Goat Cheese Ravioli, Delicate Squash Purée & Bronze Fennel

Protein Dish – Fig-Glazed Short Ribs, Celeriac Purée, Wax Beans & Wild Arugula

Gail, talking about the ravioli dish, “The flavor of the squash is beautiful.” Michael C.: “He nailed the texture on that.” Tom: “The sauce itself is slightly bland.”

The short ribs - Padma thinks the dish needs salt. Tom agrees. Michael C. says he got a grain of salt, which “really brought the whole dish up”.

Michael V.

Vegetarian Dish – Vegetable Pistou, Heirloom Tomato Coulis, 63 Degree Egg & Fennel

Protein Dish – Turnip Soup With Foie Gras Terrine, Poached Pear & Glazed Turnip

Michael V. makes a big deal of how the pear looks like a turnip and the turnip looks like a pear. I don’t quite see it, but it looks beautiful, even served in a plastic (Glad?) bowl.

Tony Terlato, Chairman of the Terlato Wine Group tastes the soup and says it’s a wonderful dish.

Tom says the flavors of the egg dish are nice, but the egg overwhelms the vegetables. Michael says the vegetables were cut too small. Padma is very unhappy with the way the egg was cooked. She says the white is not at all appetizing.

Tom loves the turnip soup dish and the combination of all the elements. Michael C. says there should have been less soup, which would have left the foie gras “as the hero of this dish”.

Kevin says he doesn’t care about pleasing ONLY the judges, he wants to please the other people as well, who are tasting his food today.

That’s great, but it’s not those people who are going to give him keister-loads of Glad bags.


Vegetarian Dish – Roasted Beets & Carrots With Carrot Top Purée & San Andreas Cheese

Protein Dish – Grass-Fed Brisket With Pumpkin Polenta & Marinated Root Vegetables

Gail says the colors of his beet dish are “strikingly beautiful”. Michael C.: It’s a brilliant use of local ingredients. It’s perfectly seasonal.”

They all like the polenta, but think the beef didn’t cook long enough and is a bit tough. That can’t be good.


Vegetarian Dish – Chèvre Mousse With Honey Mushrooms, Braised Radishes & Basil

Protein Dish – Braised Duck Legs, Confit Of Duck Breast, Squash Puree & Foie Gras Vinaigrette

Some random guy says that Jen’s duck hit it out of the park.

Padma thinks her chèvre mousse has too much salt. Michael C. really likes the basil in it though and Tom likes its composition. MC loves that this dish has “a foot in each season, which is what harvest is all about.” Jen definitely shouldn’t have any trouble moving on to the last round.

Michael C. says her duck dish has a lot of nice elements to it. Tom agrees and likes that it wasn’t masked with a lot of sweet flavors. Tom says, with a smile, “It’s very duck-y.” – great line number two! And Michael “appreciates the use of the entire duck.” I’m feeling good about Jen.

Okay, let’s cut to the chase. Oh, first we see the chefs go into the wine caves at Rutherford Hill for a wine tasting with Tony Terlato. That’s exciting. Jen tries not to get too drunk.

Back at Judges’ Table. Michael C. looks so handsome, with his cute face perched on his fist, as he tries to look intense. Sorry, I didn’t mean for you to hear that.

Padma and Tom say they were really impressed by all the remaining chefs’ performances this season.

Michael C. says Kevin’s vegetarian dish was stellar, top to bottom. Tom says it was a study in simplicity and sometimes restraint goes a long way. (Closeup on Michael V., totally not buying it.)

The judges think the brisket was tough. Kevin defends it by saying it was “toothsome”. Yeah, like you needed A LOT of teeth to chew it.

Bryan says he wanted to showcase fall flavors which would require a little bit of simplicity. Gail almost yells as she says, “I didn’t think it was simple AT ALL. I think there was a lot of subtlety to the dish.” See Bryan! That’s what happens when you try to say what you think they want to hear.

They all loved the ravioli, but Padma says she could have used more seasoning in the mushroom sauce. Bryan bites his lip.

Michael C. was “surprised at the level at flavor” that Bryan got into the short ribs in such a short time, but the judges didn’t think enough of the fig flavor came through in the dish. Gosh, this could go any way.

Michael V., in describing his vegetable dish, mispronounces BRUNOISE. He says Broon-Wah. NO! Pronounce the final S, you buffoon. He should go home just for that. It’s Broon-WAHZZZZZZ.

I digress. Gail says the texture suffered by making the vegetables so small. Padma complains about the white of her egg. She doesn’t use the word snotty, but she should have. Tom is unhappy that he didn’t pay more attention to the final plating of the dish.

Oh my! Could a mucous-y egg be Michael V’s downfall? Maybe only one brother will make it to the finale…

They all liked the foie gras dish, but there was too much soup, which Gail really complained about. Okay, time for little brother Mikey to go home.

Moving on to Jen’s dish. Tom says the goat cheese dish was an interesting combination…“in a good way”. Michael C. was really struck by the basil in the dish and says he had never had goat cheese and basil together before. (Could he really have meant that?)

Party pooper Padma says there was too much salt, but MY Mikie gets to the bottom of that. He finds out that Jennifer was using “flake salt”, which he says is tricky. You add it and then taste the dish, but it takes a moment for it to melt into the dish. Yeah, that’s right! Jen should definitely go on to the final week. Thank you Michael.

Tom asks why Jen was planning to grill the duck and then confited it. She says the grill got cold and she decided to go the other way. Tom asks which way she would have preferred it. The duck came out beautifully. Just say it came out exactly the way I wanted it to!!!

OY! Jen says she would have liked to have grilled it.

The chefs leave. And the judges discuss. Michael C. says every dish was right, they just have to decide who made the biggest mistake. Michael C. LOVES Jen’s goat cheese dish and says, “It just a little salty.” You tell ‘em. Then they kind of give her dish a hard time for not being grilled. I’m getting a bad feeling, a REALLY bad feeling that Jennifer is going home. Darn!!!

Gail goes on about how Michael ‘s dish had too much bitter soup left at the end and Tom hated the egg. Okay, hopefully I’m wrong, MICHAEL is going home. I know it will be shocking, but that’s what I think.

Gail fell in love with Bryan’s ravioli. Tom says it needed seasoning. Michael C. notes that both of his dishes had a high degree of difficulty and he delivered. He’s definitely safe.

They loved the simplicity and delicousness of Kevin’s vegetable dish, but his meat dish was “stringy”. Okay, Bryan and Jen will be safe, I think.

And the winner is…Bryan. He actually mentions his wife.

Okay, great, but who’s going home?

WHAT?!! Jen is leaving?!! That stinks. I’m bummed. She was my early pick.

At the beginning she showed herself to be every bit as chefly as Michael and Bryan. But she did flounder a bit some weeks. And one criticism I’ve always had of previous eliminations (Dale’s) was that the judges didn’t take into account the ENTIRE season and that a chef could be sent home for ONE mistake.

Well, I guess it’s true that Jennifer, much to her fans’ chagrin, did have a few missteps. I guess taken in the totality of all the weeks of cooking and comparing her to the other three, maybe she WAS the one who should have gone home this week. BUT, I still think she’s fabulous and I love her spirit AND the dishes she comes up with. Having Eric Ripert as a mentor isn’t too shabby either.

I’m not happy, though. Jen’s goat cheese was a little salty, compared to Michael’s dish being inedible. Really bad decision. NO ONE would have been sorry to see Michael go.

Bye Jen! You were great.

Drat! Now, I kind of want Kevin to win, but I think Bryan will. The previews show at least a couple of loser dishes. Hmm, we’ll see.


Anonymous said...

I love the Erica commercials! Okay, not really, but as we see them more and more, it's kind of become a joke. We yell 'Fresh!' and whatnot along with her.

Now, *I* didn't have morning sickness or food aversions when I was pregnant, but perhaps a pregnant Padma shouldn't be judging the food competition. Who knows if Michael's egg was unappetizing because she was pregnant-pukey or it was just gross. Or if something *really* needed more salt, or if her palate is just off.

Nandini Vishwanath said...

I want Michael to go. I don't care. I loved Jen

Kevin is a huge local fave for me! And Bryan, how hot is he? :D Its okay if he doensn't mention his wife. I like the restraint :P Seriously!

Sue said...

Hi Amy,
That's a really good way to deal with those insane commercials. I hadn't seen one for awhile, so I hoped they had gone to commercial heaven, but no such luck.

I totally believe in discriminating against pregnant women. ;-) After the third time my son lost a teacher because of pregnancy, I really began to believe that women of child-bearing age should be banned from the classroom.

Hi Nandini,
I agree. I really wanted to see Jen in the finale. Michael is sooo unlikeable, but I just thought of something. We may not LIKE him, but, boy, can he cook! So at least if he won, there would be a Top Chef with chops, unlike last season.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I have to frineds named Erica (actually, one is Erica and one is Erika) and I love to tease them by sining those commericals at them.

It seems around the 'net everyone is wondering why Padma would even consider eating that egg.

Jen's departure is sad, but I guess it's not surprising. She really wasn't keeping up. I am still calling it for Kevin, but I wouldn't mind seeing Bryan win either. Maybe he'll use his victory to do something completely wild and out-of-character for him like start whooping and stripping naked and running around the kitchen and...

I had better stop before my imagination goes too far.

Mary Sue said...

Boy, I am so glad I didn't get a chance to watch this live (no cable) because I would have probably laughed out loud and turned it off. The WINE TRAIN?! Seriously?! It has TWO stops, and the second one only came after a decade of wrangling.

As a fifth-generation Napan, I really, really, REALLY hate it when these type of shows go to my town and try to make it seem like the valley's all frou frou and fancy. THIS is what real, traditional Napa Valley Cuisine looks like.

Sue said...

It's funny how a commercial can be said to succeed even when it's loathed and mocked. That horrible obnoxious Progressive insurance babe is another one I'd like to send to outer space.

Okay, I'll be watching closely to see what Bryan does if he wins. I predict another tight-lipped smile and a look with daggers from his brother.

Ooh, Mary Sue,
You're so lucky to have that heritage in your bones. But isn't Napa really a combination of the longtime settlers and the newer, fancified foodies? At least, they bring a lot money into the area, right? I'm curious what you think about Thomas Keller. Do you appreciate his unbelievable commitment to excellence or do you think it's all too much?

PS Your father IS cute! And more importantly, HOW did you get that link in your comment? I didn't think blogger allowed clickable links in comments. HOW DID YOU DO THAT?!!

DebCarol said...

I really had a hard time getting beyond the hair in this episode. Kevin's got darker and flat. Jen's got frizzy and Padma devoted the entire front of her head to bangs. I'll miss Jen alot ~ felt we got to know her better than anyone who was ever on Top Chef.