Sunday, August 1, 2010

Great Food On A Toothpick And Is A Possible Pea Purée Food Heist The Biggest Scandal In Top Chef History?

Top Chef DC - Power Lunch

We’re reminded that Kevin won last week. Yay! And I’m thinking how much I liked Andrea after last week’s episode, especially when I think she was a bit mistreated by the guest judge.

This week the chefs come into the kitchen and they’re greeted by Padma and a squeaky clean (looking, anyway) Republican Congressperson, Aaron Schock from Illinois. (Do you think he’ll make an appearance on Bravo’s other DC franchise?)

When Padma reveals him to be the youngest Congressperson serving (he’s 28), Amanda looks ready to pounce.

Aaron says when you first enter Congress you spend a lot of time on ethics. CLOSEUP ON ANGELO! As if he were the furthest thing from anything ethical. (I'm not saying I disagree, but he CAN cook!)

The Congressman continues that much of the ethics instruction is focused on food and what can and can’t be accepted from the paid lobbyists.

Padma continues with this explanation, “To make sure our elected representatives aren’t swayed by lavish meals, any food served to a member of congress must be served on a toothpick. Gourmet dishes have been whittled down to bite size.” This week’s Quickfire Challenge is to create a dish that fits on a toothpick.

Finally, something great, something that shows their chops as chefs and not foragers of the wild or kiddie day-care providers. This should be excellent.

The winner will receive…Angelo sticks his head out to better hear the prize…immunity…(SWEET, Angelo is thinking) AND $20,000. (Even sweeter.)

Andrea says she could really use that money to help pay the bills from her restaurant.

They RUN to the fridge to grab the proteins. Everything sounds so good. Why are they showing Stephen so much? Is he outta there? Ew, there’s a lot of Alex too. I do not like him.

I LOVE Tiffany’s idea of a pork roulade, Wensleydale cheese, prosciutto and an almond for good measure. If the idea is to pack as much yummy food on one toothpick, THAT’S a hearty bite.

I also think Andrea’s waffle with fried chicken and gravy sounds amazing! WOW! But if that’s not served hot, it could be a sad mushy bite.


Grilled Pork & Mushroom Kabob With Sherry Vinegar

Congressman Schock: “Wow!”


Cheddar Pecan Waffle With Buttermilk Fried Chicken And Maple White Gravy

No reaction.


Duo Of Tuna, Tuna Confit, Grilled Tuna With Avocado, Sweet And Sour Watermelon

Ed, with his hangdog look, says to us that he’s really trying to sell them on his dish. “Let’s see if it happens.” I actually appreciate that kind of self-deprecation.

Schock: “I do like Asia without the long plane flight...though.” WHY did he say “though”? Does he NOT like the dish?


Crispy Pork Roulade With Prosciutto, Dates And Red Pepper Coulis

Oh, I thought she was going to leave it as a big hunk of meat with a lot of stuff inside. (That’s a good thing.) Instead, she cuts it up into little rounds and skewers it on a toothpick. I might have liked it the other way better.

Schock: Thank you.


Lamb Kebab With Heirloom Tomatoes & Salsa Verde

This little ballish thing is not attractive and it looks like something from the lamb, but not the kebab.

“Truth be told, lamb is one of my favorites. “ Girlish giggle from Amanda.


Tandoori Spiced Sockeye Salmon & Shrimp With Mango Mojito Relish

THAT sounds sooooooooo good.

Schock: “Getting your liquor and your meat all in one toothpick is pretty clever. Congratulations.


Cucumber Cup With Spiced Shrimp & Cashews

Angelo says he went old school and brought back the cucumber cup. (We saw him having problems with pineapple slices, so I guess at the last minute, he sculpted a cucumber cup.) I have a special place in my heart for cucumbers cut in interesting ways.

No reaction from the Congressman.


Scallop & Beef With Crispy Potato, Béarnaise Sauce

That does look good.

The Congressman agrees: “Very good. Very meaty. That’s nice.” Stephen is thrilled his food got called meaty.


Scallops With Crispy Bacon, Strawberries & Basil Essence

EW to the dish and to Alex.

Both Schock and Padma look confused as they taste the dish.


Scallops With Watermelon & Watermelon Vinaigrette.

I would have liked one more element in there, something crunchy. Jicama?

Great, says Schock. I’m not sure he really means it, though.

The losers:

Alex (Good! The Congressperson has some taste.) Ed. He liked the look more than the taste. Kelly’s lacked flavor. See? I KNEW his "Great" was halfhearted.

The winners and the Congressman’s comments:

Kevin. “You were the first item I tasted and I thought about it all the way through.” About Angelo’s dish: “WOW!” Kenny looks disgusted. Stephen – He liked that he got so much on the stick.

The winner is….Angelo

Kevin is miffed and says (to us) that Angelo keeps winning with “Chinese” food and if the judges are stuck on that, that’s their problem. Yeah, except that it’s HIS problem too.

On to the Elimination Challenge. They have to create a power lunch for regulars at the Palm restaurant. They draw knives to select their proteins. Two chefs get each protein, but they’re not competing head to head.

Alright now, let’s follow the beginning of the possible food heist carefully.

Oh wait, first I love it when Andrea says she doesn’t like the way swordfish eats, but that there’s no crying in the kitchen.

The lobsters are HUGE. BTW, so is the salmon.

Back to the food heist:

Alex says he has no idea what to do with his salmon. Ed is spending all his time breaking down the lobsters. They finish for the night.

Back at the house, Alex admits again he has NO idea what to do. The other chefs seem slightly incredulous. Alex says he “has these English peas, but they’re BLEEP” whatever that means. Andrea says, “You mean the same ones Ed got?” Alex says he doesn’t know what Ed got. Kenny says before Ed puréed them, they looked good.

Next we see Ed and Tiffany having a tête-à-tête. About what? About Ed’s peas. Hold on a second! I’m getting a funny feeling here. It’s a funny feeling like watching all those set-up situations on Cake Boss. Is that possible? Is this perhaps getting a bit too calculated like the Cake Boss? Maybe not scripted, but…suggested?

The chefs arrive at the Palm the next day to start cooking in their kitchen. The Executive VP of the Palm Restaurant Group, Bruce Bozzi greets them and tells them that Tom will be back in the kitchen tasting and the winner will get his or her face on the wall of the restaurant with all the other muckety-mucks. (My word, not his.)

Kelly says Amanda needs to go home, because she’s kind of a mess and disorganized. Amanda asks Kelly if she has any salt and Kelly says she only has enough for herself.

Alex says he’s making a pea purée first thing and if it works, he’s using it. We see him carrying a pot around stirring an already made pea purée. They’re all running around cooking.

Ed is hunting for his pea purée. He asks everyone. He asks Alex and Alex actually says he never used any peas. Tiffany chimes in (to us) that the only one with pea purée on his dish is Alex. Ed is mightily mad, but he has to come up with a substitute.

THAT is all we see in the kitchen. We don’t SEE Alex making or puréeing the pea purée. We also don’t see him STEALING the purée.

The diners arrive in the dining room. Art Smith, a really skinny Art Smith, is one of the judges.

Padma introduces the diners. They are tons of notables, Senator Mark Warner, Mika Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough, John Podesta, Bruce Bozzi, and from NBC - Kelly O’Donnell, Luke Russert and Savannah Guthrie.

Kelly and Amanda present their steak dishes first. If they’re not judging proteins against proteins, why are they being served together? The dishes are here.

They like Amanda’s meat off the bone. Kelly’s has too much salt, but Joe likes it better.

Tiffany and Amanda present their swordfish. Oh, the diners don’t like Andrea’s Vanilla Mustard Beurre Blanc. Padma actually doesn’t mind it. They seem to prefer Tiffany’s, except that her fish is overcooked.

Stephen and Alex are up next. When Alex tells them what’s in his dish, he says English Pea Purée particularly clearly, as if he’s emphasizing it. This has to be a setup. Then Art specifically says he loves the sweetness of the pea purée next to the salmon. They all like Alex’s. Stephen’s dish they find messy and heavy.

See? How can they NOT compare the dishes, when they’re tasting them at the same time?

Ed is rushing to finish serving his plates.

He and Angelo go next. They don’t like Angelo’s lobster froth, which doesn’t matter because he has immunity. They also think his lobster is overcooked. They like Ed’s presentation and the taste of his lobster and eggplant.

Kenny and Kevin go last with their lamb. I think they’re at a tremendous disadvantage, because there is no way the diners can appreciate those rich lamb dishes after tasting all that other stuff first. I always think the dishes at the beginning have a better chance, because the judges’ palates are fresher.

They like Kenny’s, but some wish there were some greens on the plate. They think Kevin’s meat is overcooked and his dish is very strong and VERY spicy. I actually love Kelly O’Donnell’s remark that the flavors are so strong and there was nowhere on the plate to go for a break. Really smart observation.

Okay, back to the scandal. Naturally (because the drama is greater), both Alex and Ed are in the top along with Tiffany.

Tiffany is sooo relieved when they tell her she’s in the top that she actually starts crying. She was soooo sure she was going to be on the bottom. Tom says the fish wasn’t dried out AT ALL. She is sooo thrilled.

Ed describes his huge lobsters as Volkswagens on the plate. Funny. Art says Ed didn’t show it on the plate that he felt challenged.

Alex says he was surprised to be in the top, because he couldn’t decide what to do. Then Art goes on and on and ON about the beautiful pea purée and how he could have eaten an entire bowl of it. Ed and Tiffany glare.

Art announces the winner. It’s ALEX. Ed is horrified. Tiffany is alarmed. This is looking more and more deliberate.

When Kenny learns who the winner is, he’s appalled that Alex won because of his pea purée. Kenny certainly thinks he pinched it and that there was no way Alex could have made it in the time he had.

They call in Kevin, Kelly and Andrea and tell them they're on the bottom.

Kevin’s dish was way too spicy. Art doesn’t think he put enough love on the plate.

Art thinks the same thing about Andrea, because she actually admitted not liking sword fish. Andrea does say that she has made this sauce in her restaurant a lot. Gail is kind of witchy and says if we wanted to taste your restaurant food, we could go to your restaurant. And her point is…?

Kelly’s was way too salty, which Amanda thinks is karma, because Kelly wouldn’t share her salt with her (Amanda).

And going home is…Kelly, I think it should be. And it’s…Andrea. What??? Puleez. I was just starting to like her. Drat. I like it when Andrea says I don’t need four people behind a table to tell me I can cook, because I already know I can. I like her and I would definitely go to her restaurant. The bad news? Amanda (and, of course, Alex) make it another week.

But this was a really great episode overall from a culinary point of view. There were no dirty tricks by the producers - like throwing a wrench in the works at the last minute. It was pretty straightforward, if you don’t count a possible food forgery by Alex. There were just a lot of great food combinations, techniques and flavors. It seems like it took 400 weeks to get here, but I liked the emphasis on the FOOD this week.

Note: I had to see what good ole Tom thought about the pea controversy. His thoughts are not totally satisfying and if he really was fed-up with the producers not alerting him to a possible culinary crime, he should have said it louder and longer.


Pam said...

I've got to stop reading your updates before I watch the dvr'd show!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I refuse to watch TV while I'm in Chincoteague, so I obviously missed this one. I'm starting to forget who the contestants are. I need to see next week's episode. Thanks for the recap!

Anonymous said...

Kevin's complaint about Angelo's continued winning making Chinese food - well, this was a totally different judge who has no idea that Angelo's a Chinese food fiend. Also reminded me of the Italian chef and his "This is Top Chef, not Top Scallop" comment.

It really bugs me that somewhere the producers have video of Alex either making a pea puree or taking it out of a cooler (i.e., taking Ed's out of the cooler, since Alex 100% hadn't made it the day before). So they can either totally exonerate him, or show that he's a filcher. To make it seem that he stole it when they know the truth is really kind of awful.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I also didn't like Gail's "we can eat your restaurant" comment. Because if they do go out on a limb and make something that doesn't work, the judges say "well why would you make something you've never tried before?"

Emily said...

Yay for DC Housewives! :)

Amy always has really good points.

Even though I don't like him, I don't think Alex stole the puree. There would be footage of him doing it if he did. I think.

I think Angelo is going to win this thing. I'm liking Tiffany lately. She's fun.

Also, have you noticed Ed has had a lot of girlfriends?

Sue said...

Now you don't HAVE to watch!

Hi Rach,
It sounds like you had a great time. I know what you mean about forgetting the chefs in between episodes.

Emily is right. You do make some good points. That IS true, that if the producers DO know that Alex made the puree and DIDN'T show it, that does really stink...for Alex.

And Gail's comment was soooo obnoxious AND nonsensical.

I am not at all sure that Alex DIDN'T steal the puree. Angelo definitely has the momentum to win and, Tiffany, now that we're getting to know her more, does seem like a lot of fun.

Tracy said...

I'm with Emily. There's no way Alex stole the puree. SOMEONE would have noticed him doing it. And what chef would risk being shown to be a thief on national TV? He did seem to steal the idea, though.