Thursday, January 03, 2013
Top Chef Seattle makes some memories,Downton Abbey's eminent arrival and a taste of Rachael Vs. Guy
Top Chef Seattle started off the new year with quite a bang,as the first of many twists to come was announced during the Quickfire. A bladesmith was brought out to judge the first ever Knife Skills Relay Race.
I find the amazing dexterity that chefs have with that particular piece of kitchen equipment to be appealing,so this challenge was a welcome change-up from the usual.
The nine contenders formed three teams for the first two challenges,with the last group standing to compete against one another. Task One was to sharpen their knives to the point where they could easily slice through paper.
Next,they had to "tourne" potatoes,which meant slicing fifty spuds into small football style shapes. For the win,the remaining team(Sheldon,Micah and Josh)had to break down a pair of rabbits. For some strange reason,Josh kept saying that it was no different than carving up a cat-so not funny,dude,especially to cat owners,okay?
Anyway,Micah finished first and his work was good enough that he won the challenge. His rewards were immunity and a $500 dollar knife. Those knives must be as sharp as a Hanzu sword to be worth that much or at least I hope so.
Plenty of product placement went into the Elimination Challenge,as the chefs were handed Kindle Fires to see a memorable moment from Top Chef past in order to make a healthier version of the dish connected to that particular clip and season.
The winner would have their revamped dish become a Healthy Choice entree,plus get fifteen grand to boot. Padma also waved around a tenth Kindle,saying there was one extra TC moment to be revealed later on.
The meal was served to a pack of TC super fans and some special guest judges such as Wolfgang Puck and Jonathan Waxman. Judge Tom was also on board,along with Wylie Dufresne and recent Top Chef Master's champion Chris Cosentino.
Another twist came when the dinner was over and the chefs were waiting to hear their fate. Five people were called in to see the judges all at the same time,which threw everyone's game off for a minute there.
Three of the five were up for the win,one of them being Brooke. She got the infamous pea puree incident from Season 7 and made that edible item accompanied by smoked salmon and forbidden black rice.
The judges and the super fans both loved it,finding the flavors to be spot on and her adding some parsnip to the puree a nice touch.
Josh has been having trouble with pork this season,so his placement in the Top Three here had a sweet redemption ring to it. He was given the Air Force return dinner moment from Season 6 and made a soy glazed pork tenderloin with peaches and smoked cashew puree.
He also felt the need to add his two cents during John's portion of the presentation at the judge's table,which I will overlook this time due to John being extra jerky this round(more on that later). I still don't like this trend of underhanded comments during the judging and hope it will stop soon.
On to pleasanter things,Kristen won the challenge for a creatively healthy approach to chicken pot pie. She had to make a more calorie conscious version of Carla's chicken pot pie for Jimmy Fallon during the All Star season and that's not an easy thing to do.
What Kristen did was focus on the insides of the pie and do away with the crust completely. Her poached chicken breast and carrot puree with a garlic and tofu emulsion was both home style delicious as well as nutritious. Good going,Kristen!
On the bottom was Lizzie,who had to whip up some scallops in honor of Jamie from Season 5. Unfortunately,those suckers weren't fresh enough to be cooked and despite the orange and olive salad along side it,the whole plate was a fest of funk.
I personally thought she was going to go straight home,since serving bad fish is a major faux pas there. To her credit,Lizzie made no excuses about the poor quality of her food,unlike her partner in bad cooking standing next to her there.
John was tasked with risotto(from Season 3's bad batch served to Anthony Bourdain,who John happens to know and only mentioned several thousand times there)and kept griping about the "risotto curse" of Top Chef. If you knew that this was a tricky dish to pull off,John,maybe you should have taken more care with it.
He also whined a lot about not finding the right pan to cook the rice in,which inspired Josh to mention how he had no trouble in finding a proper pan to cook with in the same kitchen. John's risotto was both over and undercooked,bringing to mind that saying about what it means when a musician blames his instrument for a bad concert.
Padma then brought out that tenth Kindle(serious product placement alert!)and showed both Lizzie and John the memorable moment of the current season. It was CJ and his pathetic pork burger with pickle. The two of them had to make a better burger in order to stay in the game.
Lizzie chose to prepare a chicken burger that turned out very moist and juicy,which isn't as simple as it seems. Poultry burgers can come out drier than bone,so kudos to her,plus the goat cheese ricotta and roasted red pepper salad with dill pickle on the plate accented it well.
John gave her a hard time in the kitchen,being quick to grab the pickles first and then act like he was doing her a favor by "sharing" them. He also hogged the fresh dill and bitched in the aside section about he shouldn't have to cook again,since her fish was bad. Hey,buddy,if you didn't know a last minute cook-off was coming when Padma mentioned that tenth Kindle early on,you are too unaware to be in a competition like this.
Plus,this was supposed to be a healthy burger and even one of the judges asked him why he thought placing a fried egg on top of his lamb burger would qualify for that requirement of the dish.
John tried to do a little side step on that,but his burger was dry despite the spicy pickle sauce poured over it. He was sent off to pack his knives and good riddance,in my opinion. John loved bragging about being so hated,which is an achievement that gets really old real fast and tends to stink worse than those scallops that Lizzie served.
Hopefully,he won't last long in Last Chance Kitchen,where he ironically has to defend himself against CJ(who is on a winning streak there). See ya,John,so don't want to be ya!
After what felt like forever,Downton Abbey will return for it's third and sadly final season this Sunday. In addition to the Matthew and Mary romance along with the fate of unjustly imprisoned Bates,we are being presented with a number of new and interesting characters to the series.
Haughty ladies' maid O'Brien has managed to get a very tall nephew of hers hired on as the new footman,which should stir up some trouble between her and Thomas. Also,Cora's mother arrives from America to give her opinion on everything,whether it's asked for or not. So looking forward to seeing her spar with Dowager Countess Violet there!
Other earth shaking changes involve the possible financial ruin of the estate due to the stock market crash and Sybil bringing her former chauffeur husband into the family fold. This chilling winter will be much warmer with all of this Downton discussion to come in the weeks ahead:
Also starting on Sunday is Season Two of Rachael Vs. Guy:Celebrity Cook-Off,which is pretty self explanatory in the title there. Guy's team had Chili from the girl group TLC,Dean McDermott aka Mr. Tori Spelling,Cornelia Guest and ice skating superstar Johnny Weir.
I totally adore Johnny Weir and love to see what he does on this show. Cornelia Guest plans to cook vegetarian style only,something that tends to do a lot of professional chefs in on shows like this,so we'll see how far she gets with that.
Team Rachael has a bit of double trouble with two comedians on board,Kathy Najimy and Gilbert Gottfried. Rounding out that side is singer Carnie Wilson and sports star Hines Ward.
Kathy is also planning to go vegan with her cooking, for her daughter's sake,which is nice but could also trip her up there. Oh well,this is all for charity to begin with,so best of luck to all:
THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: New episodes start to appear on January 17 and so will returning Original sister Rebekah,out to stir up more sinister shenanigans.
Then again,Rebekah's return isn't as troublesome as the continuing love triangle between Stefan,Damon and Elena,plus Jeremy and his Hunter's Mark issues and what ever evil scheme Professor Shane is up to. *Sigh* Can't help loving those crazy vampire blues:
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