Thursday, October 29, 2009

TV Tray Quickfire

You know as great as the last Quickfire Challenge was (Tag Team Relay Race) is how pathetic this week's Quickfire turned out trying to reinvent a classic TV dinner. Time to review the classic TV dinner.I don't know what the carrots were glazed in but it was not of the culinary world, I think the glaze was more an industrial world product. How easy would it be to reinvent this into something better? Oh wait, not only do they have 60 minutes to reinvent but they get inspirational prompts.
What? Which is it? Reinvent or use TV shows as inspiration for your dish? I see crap on a plate coming. Which 7 shows did they pick to "inspire" our chefs? Sopranos, Flintstones, Gilligan's Island, MASH, Sesame Street, Seinfeld, and Cheers. Right off the bat there's an issue. Some of these youngsters have never seen these shows. Eli is even too young to have watched Gilligan's Island on Nick at Night. Mike I. has never watched Seinfeld at all? I seriously doubt the brothers have seen too many episodes of MASH or Cheers. Jennifer actually sounds like she has a working knowledge of the Flintstones. Even if all these chefs were some sort of TV freaks (what? Why are you looking at me like that?) and knew that there were iconic foodie elements to be mined, they are still limited to what's in the pantry.
Of course beef ribs would be perfect to work with for this inspiration yet there was nothing beef like or bone like for Jen to use. I guess she's left to reinvent the classic fried chicken with mashed potato dinner.Sesame Street?? Cookies? You know Robin was screwed. Was she supposed to punt on the Sesame Street aspect? Good Grief.Eli has the double whammy of having never seen Gilligan's Island nor having never eaten a TV dinner. I'm guessing he's also never had to decide between Ginger or Mary Ann. (Hint - one makes a mean coconut pie).Mike I. has pulled one of the best sources of iconic foodie TV, Seinfeld. The show is a veritable smörgåsbord of choices. The Big Salad, bobka, black and white cookie, Chinese food, risotto, hell, half the scenes were in a diner. Easy right? Except if you've never watched the show.


Bryan also had a good source. MASH had the classic Rib Delivery episode, the fresh egg episode or he even could have gone with Korean food. He made roulade which was more of a reinvention of the TV dinner's mystery meat aspects.
Cheers, while set in a bar, was light on food. Michael V. says he's reinventing bar food as a TV dinner.
JACKPOT! Kevin picked the Sopranos and he could have nailed this challenge with one hand tied behind his back and blindfolded.Which he did and takes the win again. Dude is seriously looking like a juggernaut.

More Lesbian Fashion Confusion

(photo courtesy of Dorothy Snarker)

Is it my imagination or is Gail wearing the same dress as Jessica Simpson? 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sweet Satisfaction

Poorly cooked Leeks +

Tom's Icky Face =
This little piggy crying Wee, Wee, Wee, all the way home.


My big Gay Boyfriend, Dale. With Hair??
Next Wednesday on Bravo.

Restaurant Wars - The Blue Team

Coming out of the Quickfire, seeing who made up the Blue Team I thought they were a lock to easily win this thing. I thought at the very least they would make it close. Not even close. So what went wrong? They immediately start their 30 minute planning allotment by playing it safe. They jettison the dessert course. Their logic is that since most desserts fail during Restaurant Wars, they weren't even going to try. Hmmmm, half of me agrees, most of the time I've filled up on such great food I'm too full for dessert. The other half realizes that it's still America and America loves her sugar. Plus there's Tom who is sure to point out how risky it is to not do dessert. That settles it, if it pisses off Tom, I'm all for it. Next decision has Laurine volunteering to take the Front of House responsibility.
Hmmmmm....could be problematic.....because Laurine is not exactly...dynamic. But here's the problem. Mike I. would probably work great out in the front of house but can Laurine handle being on the line? We all know the service comes very quickly and the weeds have never seemed so thick. It seems a safer bet to put her out front.
Shopping for the Blue Team, aside from getting pushed from Faux Momma, is boring. Back at the condo?The back of the house decides on a name, Mission. Without Laurine. DUN DUN DUUUUNNNN (unless she's there and I just don't see her?). They also revisit the dessert gamble and continue to play it safe. The next day's three hour prep seems to start uneventfully.Why shouldn't it? Kevin and Jen have been rock solid in the kitchen, Mike I. does better when paired up with someone with better instincts and Laurine, while not in the top four, seems dependable.Anyone else blown away by the menu or is it just me who thinks it' Boring and safe for a team that has Kevin and Jen on it. Not only that, they are slow. So slow that they are way behind. Laurine breaks away to prep for service. It's here, with Tom's walkabout, that she makes a fatal mistake.People! You don't have to talk that much to the man. Is it so worth the face time to say something you might regret later?
Jen, on the other hand, totally knows how to deal with him. Which is as little as possible.
Suddenly all of Restaurant Mission's time is up and these people are hungry.Bet they'd like a nice glass of Pellegrino. No time for that now, it's time for the Judges and our First Courses.

Asparagus and Six-Minute Egg

Arctic Char Tartare

Normally when dishes are presented, the hostess describes what's in the dish. Laurine didn't feel this was necessary so if my dish descriptions are a little light, blame Laurine.Great! Now she's gone and pissed off Padma. It doesn't get better with a bland tartare and boring asparagus. Do these restaurants not have salt and pepper on the tables? Or was this the Judges passive aggressive way of pinging Mike for under seasoning his dish? Not that it matters because they waited so long for their next course they forgot all about the first courses.No wonder Laurine stayed away from their table. Back in the kitchen......looks like there's a bit of equipment malfunction going on in Mission's kitchen. It can't help Jen's cause nor is Laurine able to pacify the hungry masses. Finally the main courses arrive but even Padma realizes that she's going to have to drag the dish information out of Laurine.

Trout with Brown Butter Emulsion, Hazelnuts & Braised Endive

Alaskan Halibut with Mussels, Clams & Saffron Aioli in Consommé

Both of Jennifer's dishes fail to impress the judges. Considering how long they took to get to the table and the weakness of the dishes, I start sweating that my early season pick to win the whole thing was going the way of Tre Wilcox. But it's not like Kevin or Micheal are taking up any slack. Kevin can't seem to find a happy medium to cook the Laurine's lamb dish.

Lamb with Carrot Jam, Green Bean Salad and a Morel Mushroom Sauce

Pork Three Ways, Glazed Pork Belly, Pork Sausage, Cornmeal Mousseline & Red-Eye Gravy

The lamb dish is blasted for it's rare state. Kevin's pork is the only dish that is granted a grain of faint praise. Toby mourns the loss of his dessert but considering some of past Restaurant Wars desserts, perhaps Toby should quit while he's ahead (no, really, quit).
Disaster. For chefs so talented, a complete disaster. Planning, execution, , menu selection. The real question is who goes home?
Do you get rid of the leader of the team and who's two dishes failed? Who perhaps overestimated her own ability to clear the weeds? Do you get rid of Kevin who couldn't execute Laurine's dish, fell back on his strength, pork dishes? He was also in on the decision to punt on dessert. How about Michael? If you can't season a simple tartare and can't come up with something better than roasted asparagus with a six minute egg dish for Restaurant Wars, do you deserve to stay? As for Laurine, what ever experience she's had running front of house left her woefully unprepared for this episode.

In the end it's Laurine who is takes an auffing for the Blue Team. She takes it well, much better than Kevin who shows a little bit of unresolved anger but we're left to wonder exactly why. Maybe he'll explain why in the beginning of the next episode. So put another Restaurant Wars in the books folks. It was a good one.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Right or Wrong?

You be Padma and tell us which chef should have packed their knives and go.

Who from the Losing Team of Restaurant Wars should have packed their knives?
Mike I.
Laurine free polls

Restaurant Wars - The Red Team

So. Restaurant Wars. This is what I love about this challenge. Sometimes what you get is not ever what you expected. Coming out of the Quickfire, the Blue Team so confident that they let a sure $10,000 in cash go in the hopes of rolling it into $40,000. Sometimes that's the price you pay for overconfidence. We'll get to them soon enough. I want to talk about the Red Team or Revolt (with the E backwards) because without even stepping into the kitchen by all rights this team should have been called Dysfunction.
Here's your team, the Battling Brothers Voltaggio, Whiny Baby Eli and Faux Momma, Robin. Does it not have disaster written all over it? First let's review the parameters: 30 minutes to plan a three course meal, then $3000 and one hour to shop at Whole Foods and Restaurant Depot. A change this season, no one has to decorate their restaurant (thank goodness) because either A) there are no Pier One stores in Vegas or B) no one expected Pier One to still be in business once they got to this challenge or C) No gay guys left to slough off the flower arranging duties. They are also responsible for Front of House and Service and whomever does FOH still has to come up with and execute one dish. So the Red Team starts their planning and not five minutes in it starts.Best line of Red Team planning: Can you make your ganache not grainy...? The brothers may have each other's back but they still reserve the right to poke each other with a sharp stick, this sharp stick being Robin's Apple Crisp to Bryan's Grainy Chocolate Ganache. Done with the pokery, they move onto Shopping.Faux Momma has apparently given Baby Eli tasks that hopefully he can handle, like driving the cart and sending age appropriate (for him) product pimpage text messages.Guess Sprint's still in business enough to buy the big Top Chef Pimp. Meanwhile Faux Momma loses her mind over having her Pellegrino strategy copied by the Blue Team.Little did she know that all the Pellegrino in the world would not be able to save some people. Shopping done, it's back to the house for Project Top Chef Runway.
Dang, I'm guessing the Cocktail Dress didn't come with a matching set of diapers so it was nixed. Thanks anyway Tim Gunn.Three hours to prep before service is about the right time for Michael's Mr. Control Freak Hyde to emerge. Robin takes the brunt of his heavy hand but not even Bryan is immune.Revolt's menu is looking spectacular. Wide range of proteins and preparations and a fun dessert. Can they pull it off without killing each other?Service starts and already the restaurant's name is causing some confusion. Maybe it's a puzzle game to work on while your food is coming? While the diners try and suss it out, the Big Guns arrive. I think Padma stole Eli's cocktail dress and added some fringy shoes?Still, I'll have to admit she looks mighty fine in it. After more nit picking the restaurant name, Revolt's first course hits the table.

Smoked Arctic Char with Beet Sauce, Horseradish Cream and Potato Chip

Chicken and Calamari 'Pasta', Tomato Confit and Fennel Salad

Beautiful First Course servings of Char prepared by Eli and an interesting chicken preparation by Michael. The chicken gets raves especially from Tom who wants to eat all the serving instead of saving some for Padma. You know Padma's not having any of that noise. OK maybe Tom's a wee bit smarter than I generally give him credit for. Still, he did think Padma might give some back after he passed it her way? Snort! The Char, while beautiful, gets pinged for being one dimensional. Time for Main Courses. Well, maybe not time yet. While they never say, apparently there was too much time waiting between the first and the main course.

Duo of Beef, Braised Short Rib and Prime NY Strip Steak with Sunchoke Puree

Cod with Parsley Sauce with Mussel Billi-Bi Croquette and Zucchini Tenderloin

The cod gets the nod from Rick Moonen but no one talks about the Billi-Bi Croquette. So I will. Because I easily confess my ignorance I googled Billi-Bi and discovered that while there is a Danish boot designer named Billi Bi......Billi-bi in culinary terms is a French soup made from mussel stock, white wine, shallots, butter and cream. This dish caused a bit of tussle between the brothers when Bryan exploded a serving of croquettes and Michael had (really, demanded) to re-do the serving. I point this out not only because not serving a poorly executed dish is sometimes more important than getting to the diner quickly but because Michael gets a little heated and we hear the beep machine covering some of his juicier complaints. He may be a control freak but it was his dish and having that little croquette of creamy mussel goodness melt at the table is worth the extra effort. However it looks like Bryan's duo of beef is not as hot as it could be and Toby finds the sauces bland.Back in the kitchen, Michael apparently does not have enough to do so he micromanages the appearance of Robin's dessert. Robin, finally pushed to her limit, pushes back and gets her own beep machine montage. Michael, thinking cursing is restricted to just himself, warns her not to curse at him again. Bryan jumps in to break it up but Robin and Michael continue sparring until Michael decides the best way to get Robin to now relax is to yell Relax over and over again at her. Has he any problems with how her dessert tastes?

Pear Pithivier with Frangipane, Vanilla Ice Cream and Elderflower Syrup

Chocolate Ganache with Spearmint Ice Cream and Chocolate Tuiles

Must taste good because the judges eat them both up, giving Robin props for making her best dish yet and loving Bryan's Ganache.

What did the judges think of Eli's Front of House duties? He seems to have handled it quite well, apologetic when necessary, clear and concise with his dish descriptions and showed just the right amount of badgering to the back of the house to get those plates moving.

Back in the Stew Room, the Red Team works on their Under Bus Strategy.

They needn't have worried. They get the first call to Judge's Table and we all know what that means.Hugs instead of bus wheels. Now, for me, it gets a little stupid. You see Tom had to ruin it all with his Best Restaurant Wars restaurant ever comment and here's why. It may well have been the best food prepared for Restaurant Wars but to compare it against the five other seasons of Restaurant Wars is pure bullshit. This was absolutely the easiest, non-twist, no raw space challenge ever. You better hope you get better food but if you want to let all those chefs from past seasons come back and compete in Rick Moonen's sweet Las Vegas set up, with the well placed kitchen, beautiful decor and no bloggers planted in the dining section to throw nasty snark at the efforts of your chefs, fantastic, do it. Until then you sure as shit don't sound like you know what you're talking about because it sounds like a huge insult to those past chefs who helped make Restaurant Wars such a great challenge. Don't get me wrong, I'm as happy as a clam not having chefs attempt to be interior designers or have some crazy twist thrown at them. It's enough to start up their own restaurant and develop a cohesive menu in basically one day. To reward these four chefs with that kind of compliment is just more of lazy, sound bite pronouncements from Tom. Gee, what's new?

So Michael is named the over all winner of Restaurant Wars. But wait, there was one little twist......the Blue Team's $10,000 prize now goes to Michael. Happily he decides to share his winnings with his teammates which is pretty generous. Happily for me, his brother Bryan can't contain his anger at Michael's unprofessional behavior and tells him to keep his share of the money. I love family dynamics mixed with high tension stress. I feel like there's a wedgie right around the corner, just waiting for one of them.

Next up: Self Inflicted Wedgies.