Is the first sentence, or this second sentence, better?
Is the first sentence, or this second sentence, better?
It is not called Top Meal, Top Food, or Top Refrigerator-Pilfered Pseudo-Paella. But boy, has there ever been an episode of Top Chef that was less about the food than last night's episode? This episode so completely gave up on the usual dish focus that I'm still not entirely sure who made what
I'll tell you where I am sure. I’m sure that Spike and Andrew are going to be an ever-lovin’ irritant for as long as they don’t get themselves booted. To open the episode, the dynamic doofuses inducted the viewing audience into Antisocial Personality Disorder Tickle Fight Club. And as you might know, the first rule of Antisocial Personality Disorder Tickle Fight Club is "Don’t talk about Antisocial Personality Disorder Tickle Fight Club, unless you do so in an obnoxious, kinda French, vaguely Borat-ish voice." From downstairs, Stephanie bore a look that said, "Haven’t they already done a Real World: Chicago?"
With that absurdity behind us, we followed the chefs to a big ol’ Mexican two-by-four upside the head in the form of an over-decorated ingredient table and Frontera Grill head man Rick Bayless. Padma introduced him as the man who, more than any American chef, brought Mexican cooking into the lives of non-Mexican diners. Take that, Bobby Flay.
Bayless and his Sesame Street voice welcomed the chefs to the Quickfire Challenge, and we learned that they would be responsible for taking the humble taco and transforming it into fine dining. I know that nothing says "fine dining" to me like "street food," and I am apparently not alone. Multiple chefs went a distinctly gritty route in crafting their dish. Spike specifically said he was going for a street vibe. Ryan did too, and we should know by now that when he starts free-associating (see: chicken piccata), run.
Mark the Kiwi called it right away. Confused by the unpolished approach in this fine dining challenge, he attempted to class it up. Andrew, of all people, went for the combination of duck and plantain—a mouthful and a half if I say so myself. Fortunately, no one used a flour tortilla (that I could see); I'm beginning to sense my expectations lowering for this group of contestants, and wouldn’t have been shocked to see a ready-for-Applebees mess.
I did see a mess, though. Freud would have a field day with Erik's continual call-backs to the Anal Stage of Development. That’s three for three, buddy. He continues to tread a fine line, and his development as a chef isn’t looking promising. More worrisome was his complaint that he didn't think Mexican food was compatible with fine dining. Ahem. We'll let that stinker sit where he laid it. Erik, along with Lisa’s unchewable rare skirt steak taco and Ryan’s paper-wrapped taco, made up the bottom three.
Richard, ever the innovator, used thin jicama slices instead of tortillas. Call me crazy, but that looked more like a spring roll than a taco. No matter. Rick liked it. He also, strangely, liked Spike’s vendedore offering. And while Andrew stumbled upon Bayless’ most favoritest taco filling (duck), Richard’s pale cave taco took the prize. And it was an actual prize! Bayless’ Topolobampo restaurant will serve Richard’s dish, and of course Richard got immunity.
You don’t always get what you want
At the end of this challenge, the judges would bemoan the cooking-by-committee approach of both teams. But really, what did they expect when they began the Elimination Challenge by telling the chefs to divide themselves arbitrarily into two teams and follow the lead in their Highlanders (I said, HIGHLANDERS...Toyota, have I fulfilled my obligation?) to some anonymous residential neighborhood? I mean, give ‘em a little structure.
The headless scamper continued, though, when Padma unloaded the Red and Blue teams onto a public thoroughfare and had them stand there for a while. (I wonder if she was waiting for traffic to come and do her dirty work for her.) They were then told that they’d be doing the cooking for the neighborhood block party, but that their ingredients were to be pilfered from the houses surrounding them.
Thus began a sequence that was obviously edited to seem frantic and harried, but c’mon. I wasn’t buying it. Did you? Spike and Zoi came away from one house with no fewer than five paper grocery bags full of raw materials. This wasn’t tough. Send ‘em to a lower-class neighborhood if they want it to be a challenge. We did get to see more of Spike’s not-so-latent misogyny, though, as he shooed some of the Blue team’s ladies from the Whole Food-stocked wonderland he had previously visited. Tee hee hee, he snickered. He’s officially the Season 4 insufferable prick.
Did I mention that this challenge was sponsored by mealstogether.com? Did you know that website is owned and operated by Clorox Brands? Would it help if I told you that Clorox owns KC Masterpiece, Hidden Valley, and Kingsford charcoal? This was some top notch product pimping, if completely transparent (hold that bottle of barbecue sauce closer to the camera, please).
Groceries loaded back into the Warthog (or is it Puma?), teams Red and Blue moseyed back to the kitchen to concoct their street fair fare. Blue Team (Stephanie, Nikki, Manuel, Lisa, Richard, Mark, and Antonia) decided to go upscale; good food is good food, they though, even if it’s not batter-dipped and deep-fried. Red Team (Spike, Dale, Ryan, Erik, Andrew, Jennifer, and Zoi) went with batter-dipped and deep-fried. I sense an outcome making itself obvious.
The food had to feed 40 adults and 70 kids, and Nikki’s two huge blocks of Velveeta might have done the trick all by themselves. Blue’s menu, which included Richard’s paella, Stephanie’s sugared wonton dessert, Nikki’s mac and cheese, plus pulled barbecue, slaw, bean salad, cookies, and ribs, also featured a "sexy drink." That’s what they called it. Weren’t there going to be more kids than adults here? Red Team’s "gotta please the hoi polloi" menu started out reading like a state fair: sliders, corn dogs, pasta salad, taco salad, pork skewers, Waldorf salad, s’mores, and sangria.
The editing in this episode was not as obvious in showing us early who would exit. Richard had a little bit of the Edit of Doom going on, but the real red herring was Zoi. Zoi was disappointed at having to do a pasta salad; it wasn’t her idea, and she didn’t want to go home on [expletive, natch] pasta salad. Jennifer put just as fine a point on it. Not only did she not want to go home, but she didn’t want Zoi to go home either. Those sounds you hear are drums...drums in the deep.
The food was a mixed bag. Nikki’s mac and cheese looked great….for granola. It had dried to a mealy brick in the warming boxes, and I’m sorry, but no amount of cold heavy cream poured straight into the pan was going to fix it. She’s got no sense of improvisation when things go bad. Just slather dairy on it! Quick! On top of that, she had to defend the naming of the lavender-infused "sexy drink" to Tom, to whom she said that it was the lavender that made it sexy. Tom: "Oh? Lavender is sexy now! Okay..." Ouch.
Red Team seemed to think that the only reason Dale and Spike got hammered for Nikki’s mushrooms last week was that they didn’t taste them before serving them. Red’s mantra, to a person, was that they were a team, they were tasting everyone’s food, and that’s what made their product good. Erik said that no one was afraid to tell someone else to add salt, or pepper, or… Jeez, guys, you’re chefs. I would hope no one’s afraid of salt or pepper. Erik should have been less concerned about hurt feelings and more concerned about his corn dogs continuing to cook in the hotboxes and getting soggy. Because boy, did they.
At the end of the party, Red went to play basketball and dunk tank. Blue got, well, blue. Wracked with self-doubt, the Blues could only sit and wait as the judges withheld all commentary until the Judges’ Table. That was a nice addition of drama for the chefs, but boring as hell for us. The most exciting part of the tasting was when Padma dropped her s’more on Ted’s shoe. I half-expected Carson Kressley to come flying in to clean it off.
The vote was close. The judges were not impressed much with either team. As Blue was led out to the table by a very slinky Padma, Red immediately got paranoid and defensive. Strange. Blue’s commentary was not entirely glowing. Bayless scolded Nikki, saying that she didn’t know how to use Velveeta. Who thought we’d ever hear that on Top Chef? Richard’s paella, Tom admonished, was not a paella. But they liked everything that Stephanie did, including her "genius" dessert, and with that, Steph took her second win of the young season.
So while Mark played a little digeridoo on some PVC tube in the stew room, Red met their fate. Or not. There was an awful lot of sass for the third episode, including Andrew’s psychokiller wild-horses determination to not leave until security escorted him out. Spike: "I thought we kicked their ass." Pause. Padma: "You didn’t." Hello, Padma! Ryan’s Waldorf was a soggy mess, the pasta salad was terrible, and would definitely have sent Zoi home...had it not been for Erik’s ill-advised corn dogs. Rick Bayless wisely intoned, "Good food sells to everybody." In other words, don’t condescend to your patrons (are you listening, Top Chef producers?). Good bye, poop-smear Erik.
After a Padma-as-Kali promo sequence, we got to see a veritable all-star panel of tasters for next week. Let’s hope that the food comes back in Episode 4.
Is it wrong that I debated getting either something from He'Brew, or Rogue's Dead Guy Ale?
Greetings, readers, and welcome to the unsanctioned TV Watch-ish column for Top Chef: Chicago’s second episode. I take no cruel shots at previous writers for this column; I just want you decide if I bring something worthwhile to the discussion.
As I sat down to watch the newest challenge with my fiancee, I reflected on Howie Kleinberg’s First Sweaty Rule of Top Chef Catering Challenges: MUSHROOMS LOOK LIKE POOP. But let’s get there first. We saw Stephanie channeling Rocky Balboa, basking in the afterglow of her Week One win. Turns out she and Valerie worked together once upon a time; Val wants to relive the experience. Stay tuned! Zoi and Jennifer determined to show just how separate and professional they could be by swapping shoes before heading out for the Quickfire Challenge. At least they didn’t skip hand-in-hand. Something tells me this won’t end well.
The Green City Farmers’ Market in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood was the meeting point for tonight’s Quickfire. Our contestants learned that they would need to create a dish (fill in whichever glowing adjective you’d like: fabulous, wonderful, delicious, dynamic) out of only five ingredients, not including a couple staples. In addition to the warm fuzzies, the winner would earn immunity in the forthcoming Elimination Challenge. And with that, they were off to the market! Watch out for innocent toddler bystanders!
Richard and his crazy-ass molecular gastronomy went straight for the eucalyptus. Spike sat and grooved on some music. Mark left one of his bags behind in a panicked and irritated rush to get things done. And at the end of the shopping, we found that mad scientist/general goofball Wylie Dufresne waiting to judge the product. I swear I could hear harps and swelling strings as Richard shared a tender glance with his culinary idol.
What’s the deal with peaches this season? In two Quickfires this season, we’ve seen three dishes utilize them. Meanwhile, in the 30 minutes given to cook, Erik managed to create a very small, very segregated buffet line of potatoes, carrots and lamb. He’s gonna have to step it up in a big way if he doesn’t want to make an early exit. The same appeared to be true of Andrew; the Dice Clay-ish twitcher used an extra ingredient (balsamic vinegar—who knew it wasn’t a necessary staple for everyone?) and thus was DQ’ed. Mark the Kiwi received a vaguely patronizing "nice sideburns" from Dufresne. His facial expression in response said, subtly, "Bite me." And yet, it was Mark’s handicapped effort that won the challenge, and the immunity. When knives were finally drawn for the Elimination Challenge order, Manuel drew first. The knife read…"vulture"??
AT LEAST THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO USE THE BOTTOM OF A MONKEY CAGE
Leaving aside that we knew the challenge would have something to do with a zoo, I was temporarily bewildered by the knives that came out following Manuel's "vulture": "lion," "gorilla," "bear," and (pleaseletAndrewdrawit) "penguin." Three knives per animal, and yes! Andrew got the penguin! You'd think he'd be crestfallen, but as he so eloquently put it, "F---in' game on, penguin!" Cat could get fired up about drywall.
So what do we have here? Base your fabulously wonderful and delicious dish on a character of the Egyptian hieroglyphic language? What's next, stork? Eye? Guy doing the Bangles dance? Or maybe it's a LOST-inspired challenge, but Bravo couldn't use Swan, Hydra, Arrow, Flame and Tempest as themes due to network copyright issues. No, nothing that crazy. Instead, the chefs would be teaming up to cater to a group of 200 people at the Lincoln Park Zoo. (Aside: it's a free zoo, and whatever you think about zoos, they do better things if they have more money. Consider a donation if you're in the area.)
As it turns out, the menus were to be based on the diets of the previously-mentioned animals. Some were great (Bears: honey! red meat!), others were somewhat frightening (Team Penguin gets anchovies and squid? Yeeee...). The all-girl Team Gorilla decided that gorillas need meat, dammit! A vegetarian menu just won't do. The one abstainer from that approach was Valerie, who thought that--strangely--the idea of a gorilla eating crabs and lamb was incongruous with the jungle-dweller's normal cuisine of fruits and leafy plants. But she gave up of herself and went along with the team, which of course comprises her Chicago BFF Stephanie. Anyone who watches Magical Elves' reality shows for Bravo should know that when you openly sacrifice your vision for that of others, it's like running up the stairs in a horror movie. You're done.
During the planning and preparation, we got to hear well-worn Top Chef terms like "sous vide" and "foam" (Marcel and Hung's Top Chef-watching party just passed high-fives all around), and met new ones like Andrew's yuzu and mint "glacier," which turned out to be a foggy Jell-O mold of hifalutin Kool-Aid and weird chemical stabilizers. Andrew's estimation of the effort? "Got the mothaf---in' glacier!!" in glam-rock falsetto. What a card.
The temperature rises. Anxieties reveal themselves. And Nikki's blueberry-stuffed mushrooms look like dog turds. Someone call Howie and that douchebag guest judge from Season 3's party yacht challenge to duke it out over poop-looking mushroom hors d'oeuvres! The answer, which doesn't ring as a bad idea even to Dale, who acknowledges that he's just trying to hide an ugly dish (as opposed to making something genuinely tasty), is to slap some cheese on top! ::Shudder:: I'm not sure even a bear would eat this, even if it was the first thing she saw coming out of the den in spring.
I am convinced that by the end of the tasting portion of the Elimination (whew, what a horribly appropriate term for this particular episode!) Challenge, Padma was absolutely wasted. Her exhortation to retire to the judges' table might just as well have been a call to boot and rally! But before that, we saw some twisted expressions and genuine praise. Team Vulture's Moroccan lamb meatballs went over very well, and I will definitely be printing out that recipe for future use. Andrew's charred squid ceviche, an odd combination of cooking methods to be sure, was apparently made with the quivering hope that Wylie would bless it with his appoval. While Mr. WD-50's praise was middling at the tasting (and wasn't that just enough to make Andrew shudder with restrained glee), he voted it the best dish of the night at the judges' table, and Andrew was given the win.
The Gorillas and the Bears (heh) were the bottom teams in this challenge, and rightfully so. Aside from the aforementioned mushroom "passings"--which Gail pegged perfectly--Tom and Co. had a problem with Dale and Spike's inability to diagnose and repair the team's broken dishes. Stephanie's crab-spiked lawn trimmings and Valerie's past-date blinis (and please, people, it's BLINIs, not BELLINIs. DICTION!) were equally awful in the judges' eyes, but at least Stephanie's banana bread with yummy salted caramel was a saving grace in her favor. And thus, Valerie, teamed up with her old pal from the Windy, was shown the (knife) drawer. Seems to me that their team was an all-around meh affair, while Nikki's mushrooms made her entire group's menu collapse in on itself. But hey, I'm not a judge.
And this is something I'd like to address, and hope that it lands in the ears of the Top Chef producers. Please, for the love of Rocco's Italian grandmother, stop making the chefs throw each other under the bus with these "who would you hire/fire, Antonia?" interrogatives! They'll get catty enough without your prompting, and these morale-killing Sophie's Choices are just plain uncomfortable to watch.
Speaking of uncomfortable to watch, next week we get the mostly insufferable (but not as bad as his sports journalist brother) Rick Bayless. Can Paul Prudhomme or the apparently free agent Emeril be far behind?
::ADDED:: I'm really sorry, folks. In the rush to get the dogs set up and make it to work on time, I left my notes at home. The second section was knocked out from memory, with a little assist from fansoftvreality.com's recap for the particulars of certain dishes. Sorry!
Okay, so the axe embedded into the exterior wall of the Kahana (see Dark UFO screencaps page) is freaky as hell. That, combined with the "problems" in the kitchen and the seemingly-fresh suicide spatter in Sayid and Desmond's room, seems to point to a very disturbed cook.
Two references pop up there.
1) The Hunt for Red October. The spy on the Red October, who tries to subvert the Soviet captain's defection to the US, was posing as a cook. Submarines are very important in LOST, as is the theme of defection. Plus, in the film Below, ghosts pound on the hull of the submarine, causing eerie banging noises. Familiar? To top if off, Gault has a book on U-boats and the Soviet Navy on his shelf.
2) The 1914 murders at Taliesin, the home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Perpetrated by a cook, using an axe. His motives have gone unexplained, even through his incarceration. He died of starvation. Freaky, no?
If you enjoy the article, please consider clicking the "Recommend this article" link. I promise, I won't beg for props any more.
youth_pastor on Flickr wrote:
When I judge what [Barack Obama] will do in the future by his past, I see a man who favors a socialist government (to everyone according to his need; from everyone according to his ability to pay), higher taxes, universal health care, abortion on demand (even after birth in some cases), negotiations with terrorist regimes without preconditions, support for the likes of Louis Farrakhan and others, and the list goes on. This to me is quite disturbing.
So I responded:
Can you describe Obama's alleged intent for "socialist government" in new terms, or only in soundbite rehashings?
Can you provide a citation for any time when Obama has advocated for killing children post-birth (realizing, of course, that after a child has been born, the process cannot be called "abortion")?
Can you, for that matter, provide a citation for any time at which Obama has stated a position in favor of abortion? Has he ever stated or written a position to the effect of "I support abortion"?
Can you specifically cite what kind of "support" Obama offers or will offer to Louis Farrakhan?
Can you specify the individuals to whom you refer by "others"?
Can you say what, exactly, is negative about a system of health care where no one has to go without?
Can you tell us, specifically, which terrorist regimes with which Obama would "negotiate," and the demands about which these "negotations" would revolve?
To which youth_pastor responded:
Kyle: Thanks for the questions. I will do my best to address each as I don't want to be accused of spouting unfounded "talking points."
"What difference does two or three minutes inside or outside the womb really make? One's 'late-term' and the other's 'postpartum.' Who's to say if the postpartum fetus is truly viable? Postpartum fetuses die all the time for all manner of reasons..." -Barak Obama
on July 17, 2007 Barack Obama told Planned Parenthood that sex education for kindergarteners, as long as it is "age-appropriate," is "the right thing to do."
Re: Louis Farrahan:
William Ayers for starters (remember the Weather Underground group that declared war on the US?)
Re: Health Care
I don't believe our health care system is everything it could be. I do, however, believe it is the best in the world. In Britian, Canada, Frace, et al, government controlled healthcare has crippled the system. Wait times increase while services decrease. Let the markets work. I'm not a fan of letting the same government that promised its citizens retirement to provide its citizens health care coverage.
Re: Negotiating w/ terrorists:
Achmadinejad and Castro for starters
I hope this answers your questions. I want to clear up (for the record) that I am NOT a registered Republican. Conservatives should not be forced into that mold. I do not support Bush's spending policies. I did not see the war w/ Iraq as fitting into the "Just War Theory." I believe in smaller government (especially at the Fed level), lower taxes, no legislating from the bench, etc.
Okay. A guy who might subscribe, under the right conditions, to a "Just War" (which, by the way, kids, ain't free) cannot accept a similar expenditure to help bring about an end to global poverty.
The bit about post-partum "abortion" is a fake. Even right wingers acknowledge it to be so. And only a preacher would argue that the human body should not be explained, in all its guts and glory, to the minds that inhabit those bodies. "You are filthy in all that you do!"
Talking about Farrakhan should just be embarrassing to you, youth_pastor. Whether you're Catholic or not, do you insist that members of the Catholic church endorse pedophilia because some Catholic dioceses went to great effort to cover up and diminish the bad acts of some of its clergy? It's the same thing as holding Obama responsible for something a member of his church believed.
youth_pastor still doesn't address how he thinks Obama actually supports Farrakhan, nor does he make any affirmative claims about Obama's relationship with William Ayers. This guilt-by-association accusatory crap should have died with McCarthy. Sadly, it has not.
No reputable source will back up what youth_pastor writes about European and Canadian health care. As such, he cites none. Worried about talking points? The answer is, obviously, to spout some more!
Misspelling aside, I don't know of any citation for youth_pastor's claims that Obama intends to negotiate with Ahmadinejad or Castro. I believe he stated at one point that he would be willing to speak with leaders of nations like Iran or Syria. But of course it is common knowledge that to engage in any policy other than The Silent Treatment is immature and dangerous.
That last paragraph is a gem. "I'm not a registered Republican" is such a tell. It means "this way, I can appear to be nonpartisan, while with the other side of my mouth I barf up every tired claim and aspersion the Right has incubated for decades."
Smaller federal government is a hoot; I'd like one cogent opinion from youth_pastor on No Child Left Behind.
Not legislating from the bench is equally humorous, or would be if there weren't so much riding on the issue. As of the 2005 iteration of the Supreme Court, the most "activist" judges (meaning most likely to overturn standing law passed by Congress) went like so:
Thomas 65.63 %
Kennedy 64.06 %
Scalia 56.25 %
Rehnquist 46.88 %
O’Connor 46.77 %
Souter 42.19 %
Stevens 39.34 %
Ginsburg 39.06 %
Breyer 28.13 %
The bottom four are considered "liberal." The top five (most debatable is Kennedy, who is often viewed as a swing vote by today's standards, but was at the time a clear conservative) are all "conservative." No legislating from the bench, indeed.
youth_pastor, you've brought some weak sauce to this argument.