Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Party Like a Food Critic

With their horrible experience of having to just look at (they didn't even have to touch the stuff) all that junk food behind them the chefs prepare for the Elimination challenge.Already I'm digging this challenge because all these guys run their own little culinary kingdoms. They are used to ordering someone else around to prep and cook large quantities of food for 100 guests. I would think it's been a long time since they've had to hustle all by themselves. They get an hour and $1000 to shop. It's the same obligatory Whole Foods shopping trip we've seen over and over again. Maybe to change things up they should have a Shopping with Tom Colicchio segment. (We've switched Tom's regular Whole Foods store with a Piggly Wiggly, let's see if he notices the difference...)Back in the kitchen, some fun stuff is starting to happen. Nils starts his Swedish cure on his salmon and Michael takes a big chance with his menu. I can count on one hand how many people I know who truly enjoy Brussels Sprouts. Shaving them down into a salad to try and get one hundred people to eat is definitely not playing it safe. I like it. Here's the other thing I like.No bitching and whining about decorating the space where you're serving. It's all part of the process, efficiently done. Although Nils looks like he's stashed some backup ingredients just in case he runs out of food.This shot has nothing to do with anything, I just like that the camera man (or woman) caught the hors d'oeuvres cups in the reflection.

Now you know these guys are resourceful. You knew that if they could find a way to complete their task by whatever means they have at hand, they are going to do it.I guess not because all the wait staff was drafted to run, fetch, and fill.Appetizers up first:Michael's Shaved Asparagus & Brussels Sprouts Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette and Toasted Marcona Almonds. The judges like but seem uncomfortable with the "salad as appetizer" aspect of the dish.Rick's Opakapaka & Barramundi Cerviche with Yuzu Avocado and Grapefruit. A winner by both the judges and the guests. I think this is the appetizer I'd head back around for seconds if I had been there.
Nils's very beautiful and simple Scallop with Smoked Potato Cream, Apple and Curry Oil. This also gets raves from the judges but I thought he was a little stingy on the portion size. It's almost an amuse bouche.
Lachlan's Fritta Esotica, which I discussed in an earlier post. Not exactly a winner by the judges or the Foodie Diners.

Next up, the Main Course:Michael's Pissed Off Prawns with Aborio Rice Flour, Chili & Garlic Oil and Crispy Basil. I have no idea what's underneath the prawn, the screen shot doesn't say, the photo at Bravo's website doesn't help and even the recipe of this dish at Bravo's show recipe collection mentions nothing about the pale yellow bed of mystery material. I'm going to guess and say grits since shrimp and grits is the new black. It's also here that we get a mere whiff of judging conflict.
(click the photo to see full size)

But just like that, POOF, it's over and they all go on to agree that the shrimp is greasy and oily.
Rick's Brandade of Scallop & Shrimp, Fennel Salad with Truffle Vinaigrette. The judges like his Brandade. I was kinda hoping he had done the seafood corndogs he failed to do in the Quickfire but miniaturized.
Lachlan's Grilled Beef Short Ribs with Anchovy Parmesan Vinaigrette & Horseradish. The judges snarf it up and don't even mind the whole leaf salad.
Nils's Salmon with Napa Cabbage, Chorizo, Broccoli Puree & Madeira Sauce. Nils wins much praise with his salmon and presentation which again is simple and beautiful.

Time to bring it home with Desserts:Lachlan's Strawberry Frangipane Tart with Yogurt Semifreddo and White Chocolate Dust. Lachlan gets a sort of a bizarre comment from Oseland about the strawberries tasting like steak tartare? That can't be good.Michael's Balsamic Marinated Strawberries with Basil Gelato & Chocolate Crème Fraîche. Michael decides to make his dessert interactive by drafting the hungry waiting hordes to help finish his work intensive dish.
What? What the hell have you been eating that you think basil tastes like lawn cuttings? Maybe that hat's on a little tighter than it should be? Everyone else without a tight fitting hat loves the dessert.
Rick's Lemon Panna Cotta with Ginger, Macadamia, Coconut and Pineapple. The judges like it but get sidetracked by Raynor's description of the stability of a good panna cotta.

(I think I need to party with Jay Raynor.)

Nils's Chocolate Goat Cheese Ganache, Cara Cara Orange Gel & Lapsang Smoked Tea Whipped Cream. The smoke of the tea seems a little much for both judges and guests despite Nils love of Swedish smoke.
Back in the Stew Room, these chefs get an upgrade from just wine......to wine, bread and cheese (and Stoli). At this point I'm thinking Nils has won considering how much they liked his two courses. But I was wrong, they forgave Michael the oil on his shrimp and I'm betting that he charmed quite a few points out of the cocktail party guests as well. It was also good to see Rick not only recover but beat Lachlan and tie Nils after his no stars Quickfire disaster.

Next? Find out whose head fills the last spot.

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