Monday, September 6, 2010

Top Chef DC – Buzzing About Space

Top Chef DC - Gastro-nauts

We learn that Kelly misses her husband and that Angelo was divorced last year. And he already has a fiancée?

There are all kinds of wines in the Top Chef kitchen when the chefs arrive. Dana Cowin is there. She says that 10 percent of food and wine pairings are awful and 10 percent are magical. The chefs have to choose one of the wines to make a magical dish and this is the final high stakes Quickfire Challenge. The winner will go to London for 6 nights.

Why is Padma wearing a skinny tie and a 50’s style tuxedo jacket? She looks like a Four Season.

They have one hour.

I’m having a bad feeling about Kevin. His pork belly isn’t ready after pressure cooking, so he grabs some quail and has a hard time getting it together.

The Quickfire comments:

Padma: “Your meat was cooked beautifully.”

Dana: “Quail is quite delicate.” Did she mean HIS was, or that the bird is so delicate and the wine he chose didn’t go well with it?

Dana: “Interesting dish.”

I can’t tell what she thought about Ed’s and Kelly’s dishes.

The losers:
Kevin, but she DID say his quail was beautifully cooked. Kelly - Dana didn’t like the bleu cheese foam with the wine.

The best dishes:
Angelo’s and Tiffany’s. She loved Tiffany’s seasoning. The winner is… Angelo. He looked so sure he wasn’t going to win. He looks happy.

Padma says that for the first time ever the final challenges will take place internationally in Singapore. Hey! I knew that! Back here, I said that Singapore was the finale location. That was the word that was going around and it turned out to be true! That’s cool, and they're told only 4 of them will be competing there.

Angelo says he feels tingly all over thinking about going to Singapore because he feels Asian inside. Ew.

Padma says they’re sending them to MASSAGE to find out about their last challenge in DC!!! What?!! I don’t want to see that, I really don’t.

Wait, let me listen to that again. She says they’re sending them to MASA. Is that some Asian sage in DC where people go to learn deep things?

One more time…with the closed captioning this time. WHAT did she say? Oh, NASA! Just spit it out, Padma!!!

Kelly says she went to space camp when she was 13 and that she’s a space nerd.

They arrive at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Tiffany says it looks like the movies. Tom (where did he come from?) introduces them to NASA’s head food scientist, Vickie Kloeris.

She says she manages the “food system” for the space station. I guess in space it’s not real food, it’s a “system”. Is that because it’s all in pellets?

Okay, this is scary. In the flight center, suddenly two astronauts - on the actual International Space Station - are beamed in on the big television screen to talk to the chefs. Surely, they must have better things to do than to appear on Top Chef.

Was this part of their training? In their thousand page flight training manual, did they cover how to appear on reality food television? I’m not sure I feel comfortable with this. The CIA was bad enough, but NASA?

If the chefs go to the floor of the Congress in the next episode and start handing out funnel cakes, I’m going to write to my representative.

The space travelers show the chefs their packets of coffee with cream and sugar, scrambled eggs and chicken fajitas. Kevin says this is surreal! And how!

Their challenge is to design a dish that is truly out of this world. It has to follow their guidelines for dining in zero gravity. (What? No olive pits?)

The winning dish will be recreated in NASA’s laboratory (note it’s a laboratory, not a kitchen) and be flown to the space station on a future mission.

They’ll be serving 8 people including Buzz Aldrin. Kelly is psyched. Vickie says the dish, which will be freeze dried, shouldn’t have a high concentration of sugar or particularly large pieces of things, which don’t freeze dry well. Also she says that the astronauts like spicy food. Kevin is nervous about the dish. I’m getting that bad feeling again…that he’s going home.

They go shopping. Tiffany is buying fish. I’m thinking that’s not a great idea. Kevin says he wants his dish to be homey and “down to earth”. Good one.

Based on the editing, it seems 100% that Kevin will bounce.

Tom comes in and gives Angelo a look when he tells him he’s doing braised short ribs. Angelo asks, “Why the look?” Tom says no reason.

Then he quizzes Angelo and asks which of Vickie’s suggestions he’s trying to incorporate. (I’m thinking that Tom is thinking of the no-big-pieces rule.) Angelo is being a dunce and says he’s trying to cut down on the sugar.

Is he really going to serve a hunk of short ribs, when they were specifically told to keep the stuff in little pieces?

Kelly is also doing fish. Tom chats amiably with her and doesn’t try to spook her the way he did with Angelo.

When Ed tells Tom about his Moroccan dish, Tom says he didn’t see too many Middle Eastern astronauts up there. Ed says they want it to be spicy.

Tiffany is doing halibut too. Interesting. Hers sounds soooo good. She’s making it with a red curry. Forget what I said about fish being a bad idea, although I would never FREEZE fish, much less FREEZE DRY it.

Tom seems to like Kevin’s idea of New York strip steak, bacon jalapeño marmalade and corn purée – kind of comfort foods.

Tiffany has a problem. Her mussels, which she was keeping cold in the fridge, froze and now she can’t use them.

More Kevin face time. Uh-oh.

There’s a note on the table at their house that says their ride to the final challenge – a Toyota Avalon - will be given to the winner of the challenge.

Kevin says there are only 4 seats to Singapore and the fifth chef who goes home tonight will be devastated. Oh gosh, it is SO him. They arrive at the place they’re cooking and they have one hour. Kelly says she thinks it will be Ed to go home.

Tiffany tells us she started working at IHOP in 10th grade and she wanted to work in the kitchen. They told her no ladies and she decided to work harder than anyone and get there. (I’m a little unsure if she meant she made to the IHOP kitchen or a professional kitchen in general. I kind of hope it was the latter.)

Angelo is worried his dish is too sweet. The NASA folks arrive. Buzz Aldrin holds Padma’s chair. SHE should hold HIS chair. Padma welcomes them all to the Ronald Reagan Building and the International Trade Center. Tom asks Buzz how it felt to walk on the moon. Buzz says magnificent. He’s a cutie.

Kelly’s dish is up first. Anthony Bourdain is there. Oh, this’ll be good.

Pan Roasted Halibut With Artichoke And Fennel Barigoule, Salsa Verde Salad
Buzz has such a sweet smile.

Tom: “This is really well done. The fish is nicely cooked.” Buzz: “That’s very nice.”
Padma asks Buzz what the first thing he ate in space was. He says, “You don’t want me to say Tang, do you?”

Buzz asks Vickie how she would freeze dry Kelly’s dish. She said there was a lot of extraneous fluid which wouldn’t work well. (Was that one of the criteria they were supposed to know?) One of the astronauts says that in space you miss crunchy things (she liked Kelly’s artichokes), so that would be great if something could be kept crunchy.

Yogurt Marinated Rack Of Lamb With Eggplant Purée And Couscous Croquette

Eric asks what you do with the bone. The lady astronaut says one of the things people forget about is the trash. You can’t just throw it away.

Tom: “It’s really flavorful, everything is well cooked, well seasoned.” Eric: “Eet’s too complicated for me. It’s too many different textures and flavors.”

Tony: I just want to express my disappointment with the Ripper over here. I’ve been to Morocco. I think Ed NAILED it.” Ooh, goodie, chef-fight! Darn! Nothing happens. Buzz: “I’m glad you all don’t agree totally all of the time.”

Kevin tells us that he wants this more than the other chefs. He says they’ve cooked for celebrities or they have their own place. He says he doesn’t have that and he’s trying to get there. That sounded kind of plaintive, actually.

NY Strip Steak With Bacon Jalapeño Marmalade, Corn Purée

Tony asks about cutlery in space. Lady Astronaut says spoons are very important and Buzz says he still has his from Apollo 11.

Tom: “Kevin did a nice job cooking the meat. I think it’s well-seasoned. The sauce works pretty good.”

Debbie Downer Vickie says it would be pretty impossible to maintain the crispy texture of his sweet onion garnish in space.

But I’d love to eat it in space, Crunch-loving Lady Astronaut says. She tells the table that she was up in space for 4½ months. She says that there was a cosmonaut with her who was in space for a year. He went up from the Soviet Union and came down to Russia. Tony: "Sounds like a sitcom to me."

Pan Seared Alaskan Halibut With Coconut Curry, Snow Pea Shoots And Jasmine Rice
That looks really good.

Eric: “I’m not excited about the shitake mixed with the rice and the coconut sauce.” How come? He also doesn’t like the pea shoots. He doesn’t think it all comes together “to elevate the halibut”. Well, if there’s one thing I know first hand now about Eric’s cooking, it’s that his combinations of ingredients are REALLY carefully thought out.

Hey, food aside, if you look carefully (really carefully) you will see on Chef Ripert’s jacket lapel a tiny ribbon, which is, I believe, a decoration from the French government. How do I know? Because I know
someone else very distinguished who has one, although Eric Ripert’s is the Legion d’Honneur and you can’t get better than that! I’m actually very proud of myself for noticing.

Tony says the one ingredient that’s really “singing to him” is the fish sauce in Tiffany’s dish.

Ginger-Lacquered Short Ribs & Horseradish Crème Fraiche
Oh, good for him…the meat IS in small pieces.

Buzz: “Very tasty and then when I got the pickled mushroom…What a surprise!” He’s so dear. Tom didn’t care for the candied ginger, which he said was too sweet. Other than that, he thought it was “a successful dish…flavorful and very, very elegant”.

Eric says the pickled mushrooms bring contrast, but it’s a tiny bit too acidic for him. Tony says he’s shocked by Eric’s “dark, cynical, snarky and negative world view. He says he’s all lightness and love now. And he thought Angelo’s dish was very sophisticated.

Padma thanks the diners.

More moments of Kevin talking. Is he going to be the one?

Back at Judges’ Table. Oh good, Tony is there too.

Tom says they all did an amazing job.

They start with Ed. Tony says he pulled it the dish off. Eric says it was too complicated, but he recognizes his talent. Tom says he got away with having so many ingredients because everything was done well.

Tom says Tiffany could have done without the tomatoes, plus the skin on the pepper was bitter. Eric says it needed lime juice. Tony says he wished the fish were stronger tasting against her excellent sauce. Hmmm, this is sounding a little dicey. They’re all being a lot more critical than when they were actually eating her dish. Tiffany admits the mussels got frozen and she couldn’t use them. Should she have said that? We’ll have to see.

Tom tells Kelly she NAILED those artichokes. Eric wonders if she’s been to Provence. She says she has and she adores the food and that it’s close to her heart. Eric says, “EET shows.” She is sooooo safe.

Tom tells Angelo the crystallized ginger was too sugary for him. Angelo says he took a very submissive role in creating this dish. Oh my, listen to this from Angelo:
“I really wanted to focus on precision. The short ribs…I felt like I made love to them.” Eric’s eyebrows go up. Ed tilts his head and looks from Angelo to the judges and back to Angelo. I’m waiting for Tiffany to snort.
Tony: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Oh c’mon, Bourdain, during your wild days in the kitchen, are you telling me you never had your way with a particularly succulent… Actually, I’m not going there.

Tony continues, “I just know that I loved it.” Eric says (totally ignoring Angelo’s off the wall remarks) says that he liked the topping on the short rib.

About Kevin, Tom says, “The steak was PERFECTLY cooked.” And he liked all the garnishes. The only bad thing Tom could come up with - and it seemed like a stretch as he was saying it - is that he prefers his steak cut thicker.

Okay, now I’m thinking it may be Tiffany who is going home. Tony says his only complaint is that he thinks Kevin may have played it a little safe. Didn’t Kevin cop to that earlier actually? He wanted to give them something homey and comforting. Oh, he just said that in explanation to Tony.

They go to the stew room. It’s got to be Tiffany based on their comments. Eric doesn’t like Ed’s dish. He likes Kelly’s dish the best, although Tony doesn’t think it was all that original. Tom doesn’t understand a jar of candied ginger in Angelo’s dish, but he appreciates the way Kevin really listened to the instructions for the dish. Tony doesn’t think Kevin’s sirloin is “Top Chef” enough. He repeats, “It’s Top Chef and he cooks sirloin?”

Eric did not like the pea shoots cooked in fish sauce in Tiffany’s dish. Tom didn’t like her peppers. Tom admits all the dishes were good and that they’re splitting hairs.

Alright, my final guess of who’s going home? Tiffany…unless they decide to let Kevin have it for being boring. No, it’ll be Tiffany.

Now who do I think wins? Kelly. Oh, I don’t know. No, I still say Kelly. Plus they’re told that the winner will be invited to watch one of the two remaining space shuttle launches at Cape Canaveral. Kelly is absolutely thrilled by the idea. (She looks like she’s the only one.)

And the winner is…Angelo. Two wins in one day. AND he wins Tony’s new book…a new car AND his food will be in outer space. I am sooo bad at this. He goes back to the stew room.

Tom says it is such a difficult decision to pick the one going home. And it’s…Tiffany. Ed looks stunned. Kevin says, “Thank you, sweet Jesus.”

Back in the stew room, Angelo is shocked. The three left hug each other and leave the room. Ed hugs Tiffany as if he won’t let go. I SO liked her. She was great. Aww, shucks…

We see a preview where Padma yells at Kevin, “What’s wrong with you?” Who made her the boss? Is she getting kind of high and mighty? Then Tom yells at all of them, “You only have 4 dishes. Do you think that’s enough?” Listen, as long as they remember NOT to chew gum, they should be fine. (And anyway, they can chew gum medicinally, if they must.)

Who’s my pick now? Angelo…unless he screws up, then Ed.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

It has finally come to the point where the chefs truly are only as good as their last dish. Now they don't feel so obligated to eliminate someone who has been underperforming.

Had dinner at my beloved Iron Fore Inn this weekend and SPP and I joked with the server about the chef going on Top Chef. The server said everyone in the restaurant tries to get him to apply for the show, but he won't do it. Of course he wont'. He'd kick everyone's ass and it wouldn't be fair.

Anonymous said...

I said the same thing when the astronauts were talking from space. THIS is what my tax dollars are going for?!?

They totally edited this episode to make it seem like Kevin was going home. Up until the end I did think it was him, because of the "boring" aspect. I really don't like him. . .he is not as good as the other chefs, but he totally acts like he is (which I suppose is good, but still). And I don't know what Kelly is smoking to think that Ed was the worst. . .has she not been paying attention?

Emily said...

Yeah, that was a weird outfit. What was that??

Please don't let Angelo win. Please. Is there anyone that's better? Probably not. I kinda thought Tiffany was going to be the dark horse.

I miss the other seasons of Top Chef.

Did you watch No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert the other night? They dined in Paris. Love!

Anonymous said...

I thin that in this season the ones that were considered "those to beat" have a tendency to be AWESOME when they're on, and then just ho-hum or bottom 3 material when they're not. Whereas in past seasons - especially last season, with the brothers, Kevin and Jenn - their "bad" days still had them outcooking everybody. And I think that Kenny & Angelo talked such a good game, that they made it seem to us that they were the front runners the entire time, when if you read Tom's blog, he called Kenny out on his "one man PR campaign" a long time ago.

DebCarol said...

I have to say I was truly shocked (i even gasped) when Padma told Tiffany to pack her knives and go. I mean T has been in the top in both quickfire and elimination challenges in every show. I did not suspect for a second it would be her. Guess I have been watching Chopped & NextFNStar too much where the dishes build and you are not simply thrown out on your last effort. Somewhere Carla and Tiffany are cooking up the most AMAZING food together . . .

Sue said...

Hiya Rach,
Yeah, they love to say that, but I’m so not a fan of that approach. I really think the chef’s total skill level should be taken into account.

I think it’s good that your favorite chef doesn’t want to pimp himself out and go on Top Chef. I’m happy for you that he’s staying put.

Great minds…

I’m glad it wasn’t only me that was convinced my local boy was going bye-bye. What I like about Kevin is that he isn’t this flashy, obnoxious, full-of-himself guy. (You may disagree with that.) He seems to be a great family man and he’s the chef at a really exceptional restaurant in these here parts. And I’m happy to think that no matter what the outcome, because I definitely think it will be Angelo or Ed – and Ed seems to have the momentum – Kevin will move up in the world as a result of his appearance on Top Chef.

Thank you! Padma’s outfit WAS really strange.

Just because Angelo is bit of a player and has a mail-order fiancée, he’s still got game in the kitchen. And you have to taste his Asian Lobster Roll before you can dismiss him entirely! Remember, it’s the best CHEF that’s supposed to win. If he (or she) is a bit of a dolt, at least the food is good.

I missed that show! I’m hoping for a rerun.

I think you’re right that last season’s cooking has not been surpassed this time around. But I still think Kenny was the real thing. HOW could anyone not be impressed by his prodigious skills? And I’m talking about with a knife.

Hi DC,
I was so liking Tiffany too. I think she’s great. I will definitely keep an eye on her and I’d love to sample her cooking first hand.

I really appreciate that about Chopped – that if they make it to the final course, the totality of their cooking (that day) is looked at and not just a single dish. On Top Chef, when we’ve gotten to know the chefs somewhat over a period of time, it’s hard to see someone go home because one element went wrong.