Saturday, April 19, 2008

Top Chef Chicago, episode 6

Hey, you didn't think that a little thing like the Pillsbury Bake-off contest would keep me from Top Chef, did you? I was kind of bummed that I didn't find another fellow Top Chef fan at the Pillsbury contest, or even people familiar with the show. I wonder what that means in terms of the demographics of the show and the contest.

Anyway, the tailgating episode didn't disappoint. In fact, I wanted to crawl right through the TV into the episode -- from the beer Quick Fire challenge to the great looking tailgating food to the Bears legends to the Bears game.

First, the beer pairing Quick Fire challenge. That would have been tough for me because I think that everything goes well with beer. OK, maybe not breakfast, but anything served after noon or so. Actually, strike that -- beer with Huevos Rancheros rocks. (Bear in mind that one of the people at the Bake-off called my dish "beer food." He had me pegged!)

So how about that guest judge on the Quickfire challenge? She was not exactly telegenic -- she actually seemed bored. We want Charlie Trotter! We want Richard Melman! We want the Hearty Boys! Oh, wrong channel ... but for the record, I went to my cousin's wedding catered by them and the food rocked. I still dream about the mushroom lasagna. Anyhoo, random thoughts about the Quickfire:
- Richard was smart to put away the bells and whistles for the Quickfire, as well as the entire episode.
- Dale's pork dish with the pretzels and miso caramel sauce sounded great in concept. I guess the execution didn't work.
- Spike gets on the chopping block last week for a carpaccio, and now he comes up with a charcuterie plate? Does he only cut meat, or is he ever going to actually cook it?
- Jennifer's beignet looked good. I've never had a savory beignet but I sure do like sweet ones.
- Stephanie finally landed toward the top of a Quick Fire! I can take or leave mussels but good for her.

On to the Elimination Challenge -- now this is my kind of food! I want to try it all!
- My initial reaction to Richard's "pate melt" was ... oh, come on... PATE melt in Chicago? That's going to go over like a lead balloon. Guess I was wrong. But why did he whack the patties on the hotel tray before he shaped them? Wouldn't that overwork them, or is there a burger technique I don't know about?
- Ryan annoyed me throughout the show. Poached grilled pears -- for tailgating? How are you going to make poached pears be something you'd eat standing up, and putting poached pears on the grill? They looked charred in the TV shot. Ugh. The only thing that he seemed to have going for him was the chili-spiked cocoa.
- Jennifer's dish struck me as smart, whether or not it was for the girlfriend -- it had a Greek twist, and Chicago has lots of good Greek food.
- So Dale is from Chicago and a die-hard Bears fan! And fawning over Gale Sayers, Richard Dent, and the Fridge ... awwww ... I kinda like him now.
This exchange with the Fridge cracked me up:
Dale: I am a die-hard Bears fan, born and raised in Chicago. This is an honor ... this is an honor...
The Fridge: Let me get the ribs. Come on...
And in the end, both Gale Sayers and the Fridge liked the ribs, so good for Dale. It was interesting to do what sounded like an Indian take on the ribs and potato salad -- I like that he didn't dumb down his flavors for the Bears fans.
- How about Spike: "So when's the last time the Bears won a Super Bowl?" What a dumb ass. If he was cooking last season, the Bears had just come off of a painful Super Bowl loss the year before. Did I say dumb ass? Yes, dumb ass.
- About Mark ... so a couple of guys hung out in the tub fully clothed? Who cares? It was a little weird but took up too much time in the show. I did find it surprising that Mark was the only one who had the "testicular fortitude" (his words) to cook with charcoal. I would think more people would have used charcoal.
- Andrew still strikes me as someone who's strange and frenetic, like he's on some kind of a stimulant. And cooking in a helmet? He reminded me of Gazoo on the Flintstones.
- The dung award for the week goes to .... Nikki! "I realize the judges had not tasted my food yet and I'm nearly out of food and I'm just sh*tting my pants. Talk about a dumb ass.
- Stephanie is in the top three again! Hooray! Go Stephanie!
- Dale was the winner! Good for him! So he gets a Bears jersey, which I'm sure he thought was cool, and a great new grill. Weirdly uneven prizes from challenge to challenge ... wouldn't you think they'd increase as the competition went along?
- As for the bottom three, Nikki doesn't seem to have the skills of the others. I can't see her lasting long. Ryan wanted to do a dessert to make it a "dining experience." Then make some kind of a really good bar cookie thing, not a poached pear! And Tom called out Mark for double dipping his tasting spoon -- how many times have we seen that on the show?
- While they are waiting, Ryan gripes that he didn't run out of anything, like that's a good thing. Ummm ... wouldn't running out of food mean it was popular? In the end, the chef that worked "for a short time" for two of the previous guest judges gets the boot. As he leaves, he says he realized he wasn't "the sh*t." No kidding. Buh-bye.

So next week they go to Second City. They are doing a good job showing Chicago. If they are going to Second City, I hope they go to the House of Blues as well.


Julie said...

Hi Tracy!

I just started reading your blog, thanks to CCC info, and I absolutely love it. I put a link on my site so others can enjoy your great writing.
I am a huge Top Chef fan, and I am right on board with your comments. Really enjoyed the tailgating episode, and I was equally baffled by the whole poached pear/creme fraiche fiasco.

Thanks for a great recap on the bake-off too!

Jenny said...

Oh how I look forward to your Top Chef run down every week. I just love this show. The tailgating elimination challenge was totally entertaining. I would have died to be the girl who ran out of peppers for the judges, yikes! She's lucky she didn't get the boot!

Topher said...

Huge Top chef fan here too. I agree with most of what you said and am glad Ryan is gone. Poached pears as a tailgaiting food? think not.

Anna said...

Hooray! Top Chef Recap!

I agree with everything you said except for one thing – guest judge. I think she was trying really hard to not show emotion. As a contestant, I would appreciate that because I would be trying to read the judge’s facial movements etc. to see what they thought of the dish. She kind of got in and got out. She did smile at the end. She seemed happy for Stephanie.

Veronica said...

Loooove Top Chef! Great analysis. I was diggin the sausage and pepper idea, too bad she wasted money on the shrimp and didn't buy enough onions and peppers.

Amy said...

Nikki apparently didn't watch last season where that girl Lea got reamed for not making her own sausage in the "beans and franks reinvented" recipe.

Tracy said...

Julie, thanks on all counts!

Jenny, glad you like them. I know what you mean about Nikki running out of onions -- I would think you'd put aside the servings for the judges right off the bat -- but it's easy to be an armchair quarterback!

Topher, agreed

Anna, Point taken about the judge. My first reaction to that judge was her "look" -- it seemed like she could have dressed a little nicer for TV -- but then I found myself wondering whether I would have had the same reaction if a male chef had shown up dressed that way. I wasn't sure so I left it out. She actually did make some comments to some people, which made it seem like her demeanor varied from person to person -- but that could have been a result of editing.

Veronica, I absolutely love Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions but I can see why they didn't think the dish was challenging enough.

Amy, I'm very impressed that you remember that. I have watched every episode of every season but my memory isn't nearly as good as yours!

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