Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Top Chef Quickie - Episode 6 - Banannaise

This was a fun episode. For the Quickfire, I liked the idea of fish tacos made on a San Diego pier, and a lot of the food looked delicious. My main takeaways from the Quickfire were that 1) Angelina needs to concentrate (she plated her dish on the cutting board instead of the plates); and 2) Wesley needs to clean up his act. First he misplaced his lobster (I seriously thought it had crawled away until I realized what had happened), and then, during the sudden death elimination, he almost put the spoon from his mouth back in the food again. Remind me never to eat in a restaurant where he's cooking, because that's obviously a habit with him.

In any event, poor Angelina went home after not plating her food, then failing to beat Wesley in the Sudden Death challenge. She did well in that head-to-head challenge, which was to use the classic ingredients of a Caesar salad in a new way, but I stand by what I've said in earlier posts. Angelina wasn't quite ready for this. I do think that given a few more years of experience, she'll be a force to be reckoned with.

Oh, and as far as I'm concerned? Phillip can just go home any minute now. I was happy for him when his tacos were so well received, and I understand that he was disappointed not to be in the top three. But the proper response is to say "I'm disappointed," not to say "What, am I not supposed to be making yummy food?" That demonstrated that he is egotistical and self-centered in the extreme, because he literally can't conceive of the possibility that his food might have been delicious, but the food of three other highly trained chefs was just as or even more delicious. Get over yourself, Phillip.

The elimination challenge was also surprisingly fun. I'm not a beer drinker myself, but I enjoyed hearing about the various flavors that Padma, Tom, and guest judges Emeril and Richard Blais incorporated into "their" beers. And I'm always happy when the chefs draw knives, or in this case beer bottles, to make things as fair as possible. Padma's beer was a golden ale flavored with ginger, jalapeño, and tamarind; Richard's stout incorporated ras el hanout (a North African spice blend), beets, and chocolate; Tom's wheat beer featured lemon, coriander, and banana; and Emeril's beer took on a New Orleans tone with coffee, cayenne, and tangerine.

So I didn't really get the title of this week's episode until Isaac mentioned his banannaise, a banana mayonnaise. Because trending is everything, Top Chef wasted no time: they named the episode after it, and even flashed a hashtag on the screen to make sure we all got it. I was surprised then, when Isaac's dish wasn't a particular hit.

In any case, there were a lot of stand-out dishes and a few disappointments. I won't go into the play-by-play, except to say that I'm continually impressed with Kwame. I was also happy for Karen's confident win; she clearly didn't need Richard's explanation as to what the ras el hanout was. I, on the other hand, needed that and many other definitions after this episode. More new words learned tonight:

-- Opah: "a large deep-bodied fish with a deep blue back, silvery belly, and crimson fins, living in deep oceanic waters" (according to Google's "define" function). Good to know, I guess?

-- Cracklin: OK, this I've heard of, but I never really paid attention. It's "a fried piece of pork fat with a small amount of attached skin." Yeah, I don't think I'd like that as much, but foodies do really like pork.

-- Mojo: Kwame's street food that he turned into something that impressed Tom, and that the judges said could compete anywhere (for that reason, it surprised me a bit that he didn't win). In any case, from Wikipedia: "In Cuban cooking, mojo applies to any sauce that is made with garlic, olive oil, and a citrus juice, traditionally bitter orange juice. It is commonly used to flavor the cassava tuber and is also used to marinate roast pork."

-- Velouté: from Google, "a rich white sauce made with chicken, veal, pork, or fish stock, thickened with cream and egg yolks." I might be odd, but that doesn't sound all that good to me. And Isaac's dish didn't look all that appetizing, I have to say.

[/vocab lesson] When it came down to the weakest dishes, the judges singled out Jason's pork and squid meatball with grilled tentacles (which Richard Blais said might be the weirdest thing he's ever eaten), Isaac's velouté, and Wesley's badly cooked lamb. Padma told Wesley to pack his knives and away he went. I wasn't happy to see him go because I think he's a decent guy, but as I said before, I'm really not sure I'd want to eat in his restaurant. He's like the Tasmanian Devil Chef.

An unrelated aside: hey Bravo, I think it's cute that your ads keep calling A Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce a "scripted series." In the old days we used to call that a "television show."

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