Trouble With Toast

TCAS – No fish for Fabi

January 18, 2011
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I don’t know what I liked more about last week’s TCAS – the fact that Jamie got the boot (awesome), the fact that the whole fishing field trip was rife with humor (awesomer), OR the fact that I got to watch it in San Francisco with my husband, my sister, and my brother-in-law (awesomest).  The only bad part was that I watched it immediately after arriving in California, so I was a wee bit tired and not so much paying attention to details.  Oh, well.  I suppose no one comes here for detailed recaps anyway, seeing as how others are so much better at them.

Clearly, no one was sorry to see Jamie go (maybe not even Jamie herself, given her lackluster performance throughout), but I was bummed to say goodbye to Tiffani F.  Yes, mostly because she’s on my Fantasy team, but also because I have really enjoyed watching her this go-round.  Frankly, I’ve enjoyed everything she’s done BESIDES her original turn on Top Chef, when she was a raging bitch and just seemed like she was compensating for her insecurities by taking her competitors’ heads off one by one.  I like a good redemption story, what can I say.

Anywho, in addition to the Blais-Fabio bromance and some weird pseudo-sexual comments about holding rods, Carla’s win was a highlight of the episode.  The challenge seemed like it was right up her alley, and I’m really happy that she won.  Marcel, not so much – he was a total dickwad when Carla came back into the stew room and (enthusiastically, I’ll admit, but rightfully so) announced her victory.  He may very well be getting the evil edit, but ya know, if you don’t act like a selfish ass clown, the producers won’t have much of that material to work with, now will they?  Grumble.

Next up…RESTAURANT WARS!!!  Ah, always an epic train wreck.  Can’t wait!


TCAS – Sum Dim Chefs

January 10, 2011
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So, I started following Fabio (from TC, not the creepy aging model who is now hawking Toyotas in order to afford hair product) on Twitter, and based on his ridiculous, only partially comprehensible Tweets, I seriously thought he was getting the boot this past week.  But, it turns out that everyone’s favorite Italian can cook more than just gnocchi – who knew?  It also turns out that he has a thing for turtles, but hey, I’m not gonna judge.

There was some false advertising going on in terms of the quickfire challenge – all of the teaser ads said something about cooking head-to-head with Tom, when in reality, the two-phase challenge involved Chef Colicchio cooking a dish as fast as possible, and then the cheftestants attempting to cook theirs in the same amount of time (which turned out to be 8 minutes and 37 seconds).  The chefs who screwed the pooch included Dale and Jamie, who couldn’t even pull a full plate together, and Angelo, who did a crudo when the chefs were basically instructed NOT to attempt any raw preparations.  Top honors went to Richard (who wisely chose to present foie, since it cooks quickly), Marcel (who avoided the fridge melee by grabbing and cooking Tom’s leftover fish), and Mike.  Mike’s pan-roasted branzino won him immunity AND a new car.  Marcel wasted no time making fun of Mike and his Jersey accent.

The dim sum elimination challenge was an absolute clusterfuck.  Sometimes I get really frustrated with the “brains” behind TC – I mean, yeah, it was moderately amusing to watch the chaos in the kitchen, but I feel like this particular challenge was basically impossible.  Then again, the chefs didn’t really approach it from an intelligent standpoint.  For example, Jamie – who hasn’t managed to cook ONE good dish, decided to attempt TWO.  Carla decided to make a Vietnamese dish for a Chinese challenge.  Tre opted for dessert (always the kiss of death).  And Casey not only decided to make chicken feet (a Chinese favorite, and incredibly difficult to make delicious), but then she volunteered to work FOH and entrusted her food to someone else.  On the plus side, Susur Lee was the guest judge, and I just love him.  It’s the simple pleasures in life, kids.

Fabio, Tiffany, Angelo, and Dale were deemed the favorites, and Dale’s sicky rice won the day.  He acknowledged that the win was like robbing a bank, since the challenge overall went so terribly.  I agree, but Dale is on my Fantasy TC team, so I’ll take it.

Not surprisingly, Carla, Antonia, Jamie, Casey, and Tre wound up on the bottom.  It seemed like everyone – including Jamie – thought Jamie was going to be eliminated, but Casey was sent home due to her inedible chicken feet.  Despite the fact that Jamie is also on my Fantasy team, I was pretty disappointed that she wasn’t heading out the door.  Those chicken feet must really have been terrible – but, then again, I think they’re pretty terrible even when they’re made by Chinese people, so what do I know?

Next week, the chefs go to Long Island – my homeland!  Some of them will fit right in…

TCAS – Game, Set, Match

December 24, 2010
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You know I’m into a television show when I stay up till 11 PM on a school night to watch it a la minute (in the parlance of our times), instead of on DVR the next day.  I think the Fantasy Top Chef game I’m playing helps my late-night motivation – and, for those of you who are keeping score, I am currently beating my husband 11 to -5.  Yes, that’s negative five.  Tee.

I shouldn’t give him too hard of a time – this week, it could have easily gone the other way, since one elimination challenge team had TONS of my players, and the other team had tons of Jason’s.  Thankfully, the team with tons of my players ended up winning.

I’m not going to do a recap, since it’s Christmas Eve and I’m much more interested in snuggling on the couch with my pup while my delicious prime rib roasts away in the oven.  However, I will say two things:

1) As always, if you want a really good recap, go visit my girl Jordan Baker.  You won’t regret it.

2) This whole “Jamie doesn’t participate in the challenge for whatever lame-ass reason and therefore gets a pass” game is straight up bullshit.  As Fabio might say, “Ees Top Chef, not top spectator.”

Some level of normalcy should return to my life next week, so regular posting (recipes, woo hoo!) and TCAS recapping should resume.  In the meantime, happy holidays to all – I hope everyone is eating well this season!

TCAS – Double Elimination Fun

December 17, 2010
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Even though I have Ad Hoc at Home dishes that I am DYING to write about, I feel like I should comment on this week’s TCAS first – not because the episode was super awesome or anything, but because it gives me the opportunity to brag about beating my husband in Fantasy Top Chef All-Stars.  Yes, there is a Fantasy game for foodie nerds.  Deal with it.

Despite being interested for Fantasty purposes, I felt like the episode was kind of…off.  I don’t know if it was the hour-long format (when the previous two episodes had been 75 minutes), or the fact that half the time was spent watching the contestants eat at their assigned restaurants, but it seemed like one minute I was watching the quickfire challenge and the next minute I was watching judges’ table.  There wasn’t a whole lot of actual COOKING that made the final cut.

Anywho, the quickfire was a modified version of the mise en place challenge.  The chefs were randomly assigned to four teams of four.  There were three ingredients (lamb, artichokes, and garlic) to break down simultaneously, and the first team to finish to guest judge David Chang’s standards got to hit the button to start the 15 minute clock for preparing a dish with the ingredients.  The other three teams then had to complete their mise en place as quickly as possible, as they would only have whatever time was remaining to finish their dish.  Right as I was saying to Jason, “I bet half of these chefs haven’t done their own mise en place in YEARS,” Tre laughed nervously about how he works in a restaurant with its own butchers.  Conversely, Casey was shown butchering the hell out of some lamb, and Dale commented that she had to redeem herself for Oniongate in Season 3.  That WAS pretty embarassing.

The Green Team of Angelo, Straight Tiffany, Mike, and Fabio finished their mise en place first, and they were all kinds of confident (ahem, cocky) about their dish being the best because they had the most time.  Two teams wound up with lamb carpaccio because they didn’t finish with enough time left to actually cook a piece of meat.  The Blue Team of Blais, Spike, Tre, and Stephen pulled out the win, and they each got to take home $5,000 for the honor.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs (in the same teams) visited four of Manhattan’s best restaurants.  Then, they each had to create a dish that could appear on the menu of whatever restaurant they visited.  The only one I was familiar with was wd~50, and I kept obnoxiously shouting to my husband, “I’ve eaten there!  I’ve been in that kitchen!”  Like I mentioned before, it seemed like we didn’t get to see a lot of the prepping/cooking (and “shopping” consisted of an exterior shot of the Whole Foods), but we saw enough to know that Stephen couldn’t work a blender, Carla was still talking about her sous vide finale disaster, and Straight Dale was trying to capitalize on Wylie Dufresne’s well-documented love of eggs.  I love them, too, Wylie!  Let’s have brunch sometime.

Oh, and by the way, on the subject of Stephen – he was yammering on about how fashion has become an obsession of his, and apparently he said, “Could be worse; could be cocaine.”  But, what I heard was, “Could be worse; could be cooking.”  Which, duh, sounded really weird, considering he was saying this on a COOKING competition.  Guess I need to get the wax out of my ears.  Moving on…

The judges’ visited all of the restaurants, and it was pretty tame commentary, even from Bourdain.  So, the top four ended up being Straight Dale (egg dumpling with pork belly and broth that “tasted like breakfast”), Angelo (fish with white chocolate), Tre (grilled swordfish), and Antonia (riff on peas and carrots).  Straight Dale won, scoring himself a trip to New Zealand and me some major Fantasty points.  Woot!

The bottom four were Gay Dale (veal with peanuts, popcorn, and french toast – eek), Gay Tiffani (frozen melons – giggle), Fabio (wannabe Asian train wreck on a plate), and Stephen (salmon with fennel pollen that Bourdain said “tasted like a head shop,” whatever that means).  Since two of the bottom four were on my Fantasy team and two were on my husband’s, I was pretty much planning on splitting this one – but alas, the TC gods were smiling upon me, and Stephen and Dale (both on my husband’s squad) were sent home.  I will miss Dale’s funny commentary – hell, he actually talked about and demonstrated jazz hands in this episode – and Stephen’s well-tied ties, but that’s about it.

Looking forward to the U.S. Open challenge next week…will my winning streak continue???

Top Chef All-Stars!!!

December 10, 2010
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You know life is crazy when it takes this long to write about TEH GREATEST TOP CHEF SEASON EVAR!!!  Seriously, I was really looking forward to last week’s Top Chef All-Stars (which I will now refer to as TCAS, because I am supremely lazy) premiere – I was definitely ready for Bravo to redeem itself for the horrible, very bad, no-good Season 7.  For the most part, I was pleased with the cast and the episode, and I am very glad we have a sweet, brand new, 50-inch plasma TV all set up, so I can watch the events unfold in beautiful HD.  Then, last night, I finished watching the anger management lesson otherwise known as the second episode, so I figure I’ll just throw some thoughts together and then resume regular recapping next week.  This is optimistic, as I do not yet have internet access at the new house, but I’m a glass half full kind of girl.

First, the cast…

Season 1 – Stephen and Gay Tiffani

Season 2 – Elia and Marcel

Season 3 – Tre, Gay Dale, and Casey

Season 4 – Richard, Spike, Antonia, and Straight Dale

Season 5 – Jamie, Fabio, and Carla

Season 6 – Jen and Mike

Season 7 – Angelo and Straight Tiffany

Generally speaking, I was most excited to see Tre (because he is HOT), Richard (because he represents Team ATL), Carla (Hootie Hoo!!!), and Fabio (duh).  I was least excited to see the Season 7 kids – after all, we just spent many miserable weeks with them, and even though they are probably the two most talented chefs from that season, I just don’t think I”m ready to hang out with them again.  Oh, well – just like any TC season, there are too many cooks in the kitchen to start with, and it will take a few more episodes before I can truly commit to my favorites.

I loved the challenges in the first episode.  The quickfire challenge of teaming up by season and making a dish that represented that season’s TC city was pretty fun – though I do think that some of the teams (Chicago and Miami specifically) had a distinct advantage in that there are obvious foods that represent the area.  I was simultaneously laughing and banging my head against the wall when Blais busted out the liquid nitrogen from the get-go.  I also dug the elimination challenge, where the chefs had to recreate the dish that got them booted from their respective seasons.  Genius!  It was pretty clear from the start that Elia’s heart wasn’t in it, so I wasn’t surprised that she got the first heave-ho.  It was fun to watch Fabio square off against Bourdain – I imagine that, with the enormous egos involved in an all-star cast, we’ll see a lot of defensiveness and temper tantrums at judges’ table (FORESHADOWING!!!).

Episode 2 was less awesome, if only because watching a bunch of screaming kids get hopped up on sugar isn’t really my idea of good TV.  And WTF was up with Joe Jonas?  Bravo couldn’t find anyone with a background in, ya know, FOOD???  Sheesh.  In any case, Gay Tiffani got immunity and then screwed the rest of her team over while trying to screw the other team over (given the choice between T. Rex and Brontosaurus, she chose the former because she didn’t want the other team to have any meat to cook with – but little did she realize that HER team wouldn’t have any veg).  Katie Lee (Joel) was the guest judge, and she was as monotone and dull as I remember her from season one (though Tiffani and Stephen do their best to suck up anyway).  The Brontosaurus team pulled out the win, and Marcel/Richard/Angelo won the challenge with their banana parfait.

Then the fireworks began…Jen was PISSED that her team lost, and she proceeded to go all bitchtastic on the judges’ asses, basically giving a big “Nuh-uh!” anytime Tom or Gail gave her any criticism.  Tiffani whined about how a T. Rex is an omnivore, and she thought they’d be able to cook with everything.  Antonia threw Jamie under the bus and basically called her a pussy for going to get stitches instead of duct taping her knife wound.  At the end of the day, though, Jen’s “wet bacon” and bland eggs sent her packing, and she left in an expetive-laced huff.

I think TCAS has gotten off to an exciting start.  What say you?

Top Chef D.C. – Episode 12

September 5, 2010
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Remember when I said I’d be back later this week with better posts?  Yeah, I lied.  Sue me.  I’m back, at least, though all you’re gonna get during a holiday weekend is a weak-ass recap of TC.  Again, sue me.

I can’t believe this episode was the last one filmed in DC.  On the one hand, it seems like they could have (and SHOULD have) done a lot more with the city and its wonderful food options.  On the other hand, I will be super glad to be finished with the lame, punny humor that has seemed to accompany every challenge.

The quickfire challenge was a tough one, where the chefs had to pick a wine and then create a dish to pair with it.  The contestants are told at the outset that the winner will be rewarded with a trip to London, and that this will be the last “high stakes” quickfire of the season.  They only have an hour, and yet Kevin inexplicably decides to do a braised pork belly (to pair with a merlot).  Not shockingly (to me, anyway), there isn’t enough time for a braised pork belly, so he has to switch gears and cook quail instead.  He does his usual “act pissy in the kitchen” routine, which hasn’t gotten any more charming.  Kelly goes for a zinfandel and a boar and blue cheese combo (icky), and Angelo picks a white wine to pair with foie gras.  Ed and Tiffany both opt for ribeye.  Angelo ends up winning the challenge, and the chefs are told that the final four will be heading to Singapore.

For the elimination challenge, the contestants head to the Goddard Space Center, where they are given their instructions by a NASA food scientist.  They are to create a delicious dish that can also be reproduced for space eatin’.  The scientist tells them to avoid too much sugar and large pieces of food, and that spicier foods work well when freeze-dried.  Off to Whole Foods!

Prep seems pretty standard, minus Tiffany realizing that she can’t use some mussels she was planning on.  The next morning, the chefs get a note from Tom stating that their ride was outside and that the winner of the challenge would be taking it home.  I was kinda hoping it would be a spaceship, but no, it’s just a dumb old Toyota Avalon.  Angelo gets in the drivers’ seat – good luck navigating the District, buddy.

Time for dinner – and Bourdain is back!!!  Buzz Aldrin is also one of the guests, along with the usual government drones.  Kelly goes first, with her halibut and artichoke number, and everyone seems to enjoy it.  The sauce would not fly (so to speak) in space, though, says the scientist.  Ed presents his Moroccan rack of lamb, and Bourdain thinks he nailed it.  Eric Ripert thinks it is too complicated, and Bourdain gives him a hard time (and calls him “the Ripper” – awesomesauce).  Kevin’s steak with fried onions (seriously, that’s all it boiled down to) is well-received, though the scientist wonders how they would keep the onions crispy in space.  Tiffany also did halibut, and again Bourdain and Ripert argue about the dish.  Finally, Angelo’s shortribs make quite the impression on Bourdain, and when Ripert starts nitpicking, Bourdain accuses him of being cynical and snarky and having a negative world view.  Oh, how the tables have turned!

At judges table, the chefs are told that they all did well and that the difference between winning and losing was very small.  The biggest complaints seem to be that Kelly’s dish was unoriginal (though perfectly executed), Kevin chose to serve sirloin, and Tiffany didn’t take the skin off her peppers.  Tiny little errors, but I suppose that’s how it works when the season is nearing its end.  Sadly, Tiffany’s errors send her packin’, which makes her sad because she was so darn close.  I am sad that she is gone, and since she was the only remotely likable contestant in the bunch, I am now perplexed as to who I want to win.

Singapore should be interesting…

Top Chef D.C. – Episode 11

August 30, 2010
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Okay, instead of typing up a five-days-late recap of last Wednesday’s Top Chef, I think I’m gonna leave the baseball episode to the professionals.  Well, professional, singular, that is – you should all go read Jordan Baker’s recap.  Click here!  She is teh awesomesauce.

Back with some better posts later this week – happy Monday!

Top Chef D.C. – Episode 10

August 23, 2010
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Much like I do not have the energy to stay up until 11 PM to watch Top Chef, I do not have the energy to keep recapping this beyond-mediocre season.  It takes a lot of awesomeness on my part to make these episodes sound interesting, people, and I’m just not sure that the likes of Kevin “I’m sad that my hetero life mate, Kenny, got the boot for his craptastic food, and I’m going to take it out on Alex” are worth the trouble.

So, instead of the usual narrative, I present you with the Top 10 Least Annoying Things About Episode 10.

10. Wylie Dufresne and his sideburns.

9. Alex getting the boot.

8. Learning that Ed’s spy name is “Muffin Winthrop.”  Tee.

7. The adorable new-to-DC way that the chefs get excited over being frisked at the entrance to a government building.  Trust me, kiddos, it’s not so fun when it happens EVERY DAY, and when you have to send your precious triple venti sugar free vanilla soy latte through the X-ray machine.

6. Wylie Dufresne playfully teasing Leon Panetta about not guessing that Kelly’s dish was king pao shrimp.  His exact words: “For once, I know something you don’t know.”  Adorable.

5. A rare moment of honesty and humility from Angelo, who says openly that he SHOULD go home based on his performance in the challenges.

4.  Tiffany’s SECOND double-win.  In my mind, she is one of the only likeable contestants, and I’m glad she is doing well while managing not to be a psycho hose beast.

3. Eric Ripert!

2. Eric Ripert!!

1. Eric Ripert!!!

Everything else, from the bad CIA/spy puns, to the awkward table full of government drones, to the fact that Kelly can’t cook rice properly, to Angelo’s self-doubt, was pretty damn irritating.  I guess the bottom line is, when I am more excited about the judges than about ANY of the contestants, it’s time for the show to either put up or shut up.

Top Chef D.C. – Episode 9

August 16, 2010
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Ah, Restaurant Wars.  The highlight of the middle of every Top Chef season.  Well, highlight may be overshooting it a bit, especially this season, but it was one of the more interesting episodes thus far.

The quickfire challenge is the tag-team cook-off, and though there is no immunity, the winning team will split $10,000.  Kevin, Kenny, Kelly, and Amanda are the blue team, and Ed, Angelo, Tiffany, and Alex are the red team.  There is a lot of action, but I don’t remember anything about the dishes and the challenge basically boils down to the blue team looking cool and collected and together, and the red team unraveling the second that Alex gets involved.  Nancy Pelosi and her Botoxed face show up to judge the challenge, and she says it’s a tough decision, but she ultimately gives the win to the blue team.

Padma announces that the chefs will be taking over a Bethesda restaurant for the elimination challenge, and that each “restaurant” has to prepare a three-course menu with two options per course.  She also says that each chef must be responsible for at least one dish, and that Frank Bruni will be the guest judge, which causes some of the chefs to shake in their Crocs (though I’m not sure why, because I always thought Bruni was a fair critic).  With that, half of the contestants go to Whole Foods, and the other half go to Restaurant Depot.  Hey, we have a Restaurant Depot in Atlanta (I pass it every day on the way to work, actually), let’s have the next season of Top Chef here!!!

The blue team, again, looks pretty organized and calm.  The red team, on the other hand, doesn’t have any shopping lists on account of their trying to figure out how to involve Alex in the challenge as little as possible.  To that end, they decide that he will be the front-of-house representative.  Look, I know y’all didn’t want him in the kitchen any more than was absolutely necessary, but I cannot think of a WORSE choice for FOH.  He is creepy and nervous and twitchy and just not charming in the least – not exactly the best qualities for a customer service position.  Kelly is going to be FOH for the blue team, so she works on a dish that can be prepared in advance.

When the teams get to the restaurant, the theme of “red team bad, blue team good” continues – Kelly is nice to the restaurant staff while conducting a detailed tasting of the menu items, and Alex is the biggest dick imaginable, demonstrating cleaning techniques to the servers and generally berating them.  He all but admits on camera that his restaurant staff hates him.  Gee, Sherlock, I wonder why?

The restaurants open, and EVOO (the name of the red team’s concept – and I don’t think I need to discuss how terrible it is, especially since it is pronounced “Eee-voo,” as in, rhymes with emu) is the first place the judges visit.  They stand at the front, wondering if anyone will greet them; Alex is already apologizing to another table, so a server takes the judges to their seats.  The first course is Angelo’s tomato confit soup and Tiffany’s crudo.  The judges praise the soup, and Bruni says it makes him want to taste more of Angelo’s cooking.  They feel that the crudo is overseasoned.  There is apparently a long gap between the first and second courses (and Padma acts like a huge bitch about it), but when Tiffany’s black bass and Ed’s turbot arrive, everyone seems happy.  The third course is Alex’s lamb chop with pea puree (seriously???) and a ribeye steak that I can’t remember who is responsible for.  The judges like the lamb but seem to be a little puzzled by the steak, which doesn’t have a Mediterranean feel (frankly, neither did any of the other dishes).  The judges get up and leave, and Alex is nowhere to be found.

Next up is 2121 (named for the address of the TC house), and Kelly greets the judges and tells them about their restaurant’s theme (which I didn’t really understand – something about being progressive).  The first course is Kelly’s chilled corn and crab soup and Kenny’s beet salad.  The judges don’t like how thin the soup is, and they feel that the corn has no flavor because it is out of season (which is in direct contradiction to Kelly’s intro, which mentioned the use of seasonal ingredients).  There seems to be a lot going on with the beet salad, and the judges make a Chanel reference about taking off accessories.  The second course is Amanda’s steak and Kevin’s halibut; the judges don’t like the former (though the compliment the sauce), but they think the fish is both beautiful and tasty.  The last course is dessert, which is Kelly’s chocolate ganache tart and Kenny’s “cheese course” (which boils down to a hunk of fried goat cheese over a strawberry-rhubarb salad).  Gail the dessert queen loves the tart, but everyone seems universally put off by the fried goat cheese.  Bruni calls it a horror show.  It must have been poorly executed, because the IDEA of fried goat cheese over strawberries and rhubarbs sounds really tasty to me.

In the stew room, Kevin says that his mind will be blown if the blue team doesn’t win.  Which, duh, means that the blue team doesn’t win.  EVOO is the winning restaurant, despite Alex’s poor service.  Ed’s turbot is declared the winning dish, so he wins some wine and a trip to Napa.

When the blue team goes in front of the judges, Kenny starts out by saying how surprised he is to be the loser because of all of the communication problems he witnessed amongst the members of the red team.  Gail reminds him that they don’t see (or care about) any of that, and that the blue team is on the bottom because of their food.  The judges compliment Kelly on her “clumsy charisma,” but they slam her soup.  They praise Kevin’s halibut, but they tell Amanda that her steak was overcooked and unappetizing.  They tell Kenny that they didn’t like either of his dishes, and he decides that he’ll go ahead and continue to trash the red team.  Specifically, he says that Alex didn’t conceive or cook a dish (which was part of the rules) and that he should be up for elimination.  Kevin joins the anti-Alex bandwagon as well (which is the dumbest move EVER, since Kevin’s dish was the best of that bunch).  This whole bit makes Kenny and Kevin look like ridiculous, whiny bitches.

The blue team goes back to the stew room, and the bitchiness continues with Kevin yelling at Alex.  Ugh.  In the end, Kenny is sent home, and he says he is in awe.  Dude, get over yourself.  You started strong, but you wound up in the middle and in the bottom because YOUR FOOD WASN’T THAT GOOD.  As slimy as Alex seems, I am happy that Kenny is gone, and I look forward to further narrowing the field over the next couple of weeks.

Oh, and by the way, Tom’s blog is definitely worth a read this week, in light of the “controversy.”

Top Chef D.C. – Episode 8

August 6, 2010

Okay, I know I have been saying for weeks that this season is boring, but the dullness reached new heights last night, as I actually FELL ASLEEP in the middle of the episode.  I have never fallen asleep during Top Chef before.

The quickfire challenge was judged by Marcus Samuelsson, and it charged the chefs to create a dish inspired by Ethiopian cuisine (and Chef Samuelsson gives the contestants a quick-and-dirty lesson in the flavors of the region).  As he explains injera, I can’t help but gag a little – I just hate the texture of that stuff (but I will spare you my gross nickname for it).  It seems like about half the chefs have some experience with Ethiopian food, while the other half have never even eaten it.  Kevin, Stephen, and Alex wind up in the bottom for various sins, and Amanda, Angelo, and Tiffany come out on top.  In the end, Tiffany – who had zero experience with Ethiopian food – wins the challenge and scores immunity.

Padma and Chef Samuelsson roll out a big map, and they tell the chefs that they will be cooking a dish inspired by the country they choose (and they draw knives to make their selections).  They will serve their food for various ambassadors at the Meridian House (I’ve been there!), and they won’t have any cooking equipment besides sternos.  Alex takes Spain, and I just know in my heart that he is going to butcher my very favorite food culture ever.  Stephen picks last and ends up with Brazil, which I think is all kinds of awesome, but he doesn’t really seem to know what to do with it.  The chefs all go shopping, and Kenny grumbles about being in the middle.  It must be because the judges think you’re a threat, Kenny.  Stephen remembers that he’s been to a Brazilian steakhouse, so that’s the direction he’s going.  Tom walks through as the contestants are prepping and cooking, and Kevin says he’s worried about the Indian ambassador eating his food.  Tom responds that Kevin SHOULD be worried about what Padma thinks.  Tee.

This is about the point I fell asleep, so I’ll skip ahead to judgment.  The top dogs are Kevin, Kelly, and Tiffany.  Tiffany wins for her tamales, and she gets $10,000.  DC Central Kitchen also gets a $10,000 donation, and Jose Andres gets all sappy and adorable.  I heart him so much – anyone who is not following him on Twitter needs to get on the stick, because he is hilarious.

The bottom three are Stephen, Alex, and Ed.  Ed’s duck was apparently too fatty and not tea-infused enough, and Jose Andres says that Alex’s Spanish-inspired dish was “a little nightmare” (only he says it in his awesome accent and it is fabulous).  Nothing about Stephen’s dish was done well, but his rice especially was mealy and overcooked.  Stephen goes home, and he is incredibly gracious and calm about it, which is awesome.

Next week…RESTAURANT WARS!!!  It looks like Angelo bugs out quite a bit, so it should be interesting.  Here’s hoping, anyway.

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