Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Top Chef Chicago, episode 7

The "improvisation" episode struck me as having a different mood from the previous ones. The chefs seemed more mellow, more professional, and less abrasive. Everyone seemed to chip in and help each other. Less profanity. It was almost like someone else directed it or edited it.

On to the Quick Fire. The judge is the supposedly sexy Johnny Iuzzini. In Chicago, I think it should have been Gale Gand, but maybe Bravo doesn't like to use people who have been on the Food Network. Still, I'm not sure about Johnny because of the name of his upcoming cookbook, Four Play. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't think of a cookbook with a sexual title that's a mainstay on most people's shelves. If you have to lean on sexual innuendo to sell your cookbook, my suspicion is that the recipes aren't that great.

Anyway, the Quickfire challenge - to make a dessert - was pretty straightforward, and I would have eaten any one of them.

Even though Spike is kind kooky, you have to give him some credit for his bravery at attempting the souffle.

Lisa's won tons and strawberries looked like a mess. (It also reminded me that I made fried won tons on New Year's and never posted about it.) I was surprised that it landed in the top three.

Dale's Halo-Halo looked interesting and complex. He said it's shaved ice, like it's a simple thing that you get at a fair. Since he finished in the top three I checked out the recipe. Holy cow -- there are a ton of elements. The liquid that's mixed with the ice is lemongrass, ginger, sugar, and coconut. That shaved ice concoction is topped with mango that's braised with chiles and coconut, another preparation of mango that's bruleed, an avocado "shake" that's made with condensed milk, kiwi caviar (which I think is just finely diced kiwi), fried five-spice cashews, coconut meat, Rice Krispies (of all things), cilantro leaves and chile rings. That isn't anything like a shaved ice I've ever had! I would love to taste it. Dale is emerging as one of the front runners to me.

So what beats it? The dish that immediately caught my attention as the sure-fire winner of tonight's Turd Award -- Richard's Banana Scallops with Banana Guacamole. Nothing about that plate looks appetizing to me. There's a nice smooth bowel movement dominating the plate -- I had to read the recipe to see that it was chocolate ice cream. (Granted, the deep color of the ice cream leads me to think it was chocolatey and scrumptious, but still.) The banana guacamole looks lumpy and it's oozing liquid -- I could further the BM references but I'll spare you. And those scallops? They don't look like scallops to me. But were seared in sugar, so they must have tasted pretty good. I'll guess that the flavors rocked. That recipe will be in the Top Chef cookbook -- so you, too, could make this turd-like dessert for your next dinner party!

Speaking of Top Chef: The Cookbook, have you looked at the recipes on the Bravo site? A cursory glance shows that the recipes are not accurate or useful. Another chef might be able to use them as a guideline, but they are not written for a home cook. I love the show and would love to look through the book, but I can't imagine that the cookbook would be useful for cooking.

Back to the show ... the chefs are told they are going to Second City, which is fun. Lots of famous comics came out of there (they failed to mention the late great Chris Farley, who graduated from Marquette University a year after I did). But first, we get to see gratuitous shots of the chefs getting ready to go out. I could understand if Sam from a couple of years back was around, but there's no one from this bunch I care to see in undies and towels. No more of that, please. And what was Mark's remark about Blaise's pink shirt? "Goes with the skin tone, doesn't it?" I didn't get it. Mark is an odd duck.

But you knew the trip to Second City wouldn't be just for fun. I thought it was a fun way to set up a challenge. Yeah, some teams had it harder than others but that's part of the game, isn't it?

Then they pair up for their courses. You've got to give a little credit to Dale for pairing up with Richard. Yes, Richard is a front runner, but if they wind up on the bottom, Dale is out. Their tofu dish -- making the tofu taste like meat to be "perplexed" -- was brilliant in conception.

Mark and Nikki strike me as an odd pairing -- maybe they were stuck with each other, since they've both been on the bottom in the past. People loved their glazed pancetta. That's the second time people ooh and aah over glazed bacon this season. I've got to make me some glazed bacon.

"I'm feeling pretty good about having a menage a trois in my future," says a smirking Jennifer about the concept of their "turned-on" dish. Uhhhh ... uhhhhh .... words fail me. Now if I had asparagus and "turned on" I would totally go phallic. But did anyone catch the irony of Jennifer coming up with that concept?

Spike and Andrew seemed to feed off of each other as a team. The combo of their personalities was weird and hyper. But I liked the idea of the vanilla creme fraiche garnishing the butternut squash soup. I'll bet it was tasty.

Lisa and Antonia didn't like their ingredient, Polish sausage. (There is such a thing as fresh Polish sausage that's different from the smoked shrink wrapped stuff. I'll bet they could have found some amazing sausage to work with in Chicago, but not at Whole Foods. Too bad.) They came up with a fish dish, and garnished it with chorizo instead of Polish sausage. I just knew they were going to get nailed for this, even though Ryan and Mark were given a pass for using quail instead of duck in their "Christmas Story" meal a couple of episodes back. And doing a shot in front of the guests? Stupid.

So Dale and Richard win some Calphalon pans. After the previous winner got an amazing grill, and the winner before that got a trip to Italy. The prizes ... well, they make me perplexed. I wanted to see Dale and Richard lugging their great big boxes of pans back to the room. At least the product placement would have seemed a little less awkward.

The elimination came down to Stephanie and Jen and Lisa and Antonia. Stephanie and Jen didn't do a good job toasting bread and used too much cheese. Lisa and Antonia and didn't fulfill the rules of the challenge. Boo! I disagree with the decision to send Jennifer home. But I'm soooo glad that Stephanie didn't go home. Whew! Time for a Stephanie rebound!

8 comments:

Deborah said...

I wasn't that upset that Jennifer got sent home. I got tired of hearing "I'm doing it for Zoi". I think she said it at least 10 times in that one episode alone!

Amy said...

As soon as Padma said "dessert" in the quick fire challenge I said "Gale Gand" to my husband. She's not on FN anymore, so wouldn't she fall into the same category as Anthony Bourdain?

I also thought it was funny with Jenn going all phallic. What does she know about that!

Emiline said...

-I really liked this episode.

-I thought Lisa's won tons looked sloppy, too.

-Richard's quickfire dish really did look like crap on a plate. I guess he won because the name of the dish. It was very witty...like Richard. I wonder if that tofu tasted good? I'm not convinced.

There was another turd reference in this episode, and I laughed about it. Now I can't remember what it was! I'll have to watch it again and get back to you.

I didn't think that Jennifer deserved to go home. I would have preferred Antonia or Lisa.

Tracy said...

Deborah, I wasn't that upset about Jennifer either

Amy, I agree! What's up with not including Gale?

Emiline, I agree Richard's name was witty. He definitely is a clever guy. I'm pretty sure the other turd reference was made by Spike about Lisa & Antonia's fish dish. I think the dish had its weaknesses but I didn't see how it looked like a turd.

Amy said...

Yes, Spike said that the piles of chorizo looked like turds. Lisa should've gone home for being so stupid as to think that polish sausage only comes in the shrink-wrapped horseshoe shape. Everybody knows that's not real sausage.

Anna said...

This was your best Top Chef re-cap ever.

Tracy said...

Amy, oh, it was the piles of chorizo. I couldn't figure out how fish looked like turds!

Anna, gee, thanks. It's funny that it started as random thoughts and now it's more of a recap.

HoneyB said...

I agree! Stephanie needs to bounce back this week!

Yeah, there is NO eye candy on this show this year. Sam was about the best eye candy they have had on the show all together!

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