Funky Cold Medina

Anyone else miss Cheven?

 

Hello my little tanginess! This week we headed to Marrackech, Morocco, and would you believe it? Cat and Curtis are there! Hey, guys! I'm still jet-lagged from my trip to London, where I too, made a point to visit Borough Market. There, I had a memorable bacon butty (one of my goals for the trip), and a tender salted beef sandwich. But, we're here to talk about Marakech, aren't we?

Cat and Curtis issue the group's Courses. First, they determine their teams by hopping into pedi-cab-like carriages. The chefs throw out a lot of criticisms of each other. Chaz says Avery takes credit for other people's work. Pot, meet kettle. Nookie and Avery work well together, so they team up. Nookie has also been to Marrakech. Gary speaks French, so he'll once again be an asset in Morocco. I hate saying this because I like Gary and I know it's irrational, but his grandiose French drives me nuts, much like I guess Jenna's Italian will bother John's next week as we see in the "next on" portion of the show. He and Jenna yelling, "Vite! Vite!" to their drivers almost drove me to the edge. Like I said, irrational.The first course is to head to Ben Boubker Spice Shop within the Medina. I've seen Sex and the City 2, so this all looked very familiar (she says with complete and utter sarcasm.) The teams have varying success finding this one vendor among all the vendors. Nookie's team gets there first. Too bad they don't know their spices very well. In fact, i almost died when they had trouble with cinnamon and coriander, seemingly two of the more common spices used. Although the last to get to Ben Boubker, Chaz, Nick, and Gary won that Course. Chaz was actualy really helpful in this part of the challenge, claming his West INdian roots make him very familiar with spices. 

Next Course? Find the El Waha Restaurant. Once there, the chefs have to fill all the mint tea cups presented to them using the proper technique, which is apparently making a giant mess. I kid, I kid. Gary reveals that he plays a game with his friends where they do the exact same thing with alcohol and see how high they can go. A high-pouring game of pouring alcohol. Anyone missing Cheven at this point? No? Just me? Anyway, Nookie has an idea to start from the back of the rows of glasses so that the leaking liquid falls into other cups, cutting time. Not sure if it was the method or not, but it works, and the Black Team wins. On to the Takeover, which is to take over the Palais Soleiman restaurant, create one of Morocco's signature dishes, a tagine, and two side dishes. The Black Team has the benefit of the Exceptional Ingredient, which this time around is in the form of local guide, Ahmed. The key to winning this challenge? Good spices. So true. Let's all take a moment to head to our cupboards and throw out our old spices, shall we? Just cause they're dried, doesn't mean they don't go bad. Gail Simmons actually has a really appropriate passage in her book, Talking with My Mouth Full about wanting to throw out the old spices in her mom's cupboard in Canada. I know that was a shameless plug, but I love Gail, and her book is very entertaining, so get it, will ya?

Before the cooking begins, the chefs head to their accommodations, which are the Four Seasons Marrakech. Just beautiful. Only thing that would make this better were if they had a butler. And he was Raza Jaffrey. (Another SATC2 reference for those playing at home. Sorry, guys.) Jenna gets encouragement from her fiance, a fellow chef via a Skype conversation. Avery reveals that she wears her father's ashes around her neck, and that she's doing this for him -- they had planned a trip around the world together. OK, back to the cooking. The chefs are cooking at Palais Soleiman, and things seem to be moving along fairly swimmingly until Avery's beets for her salad side dish go missing. And the shiz hits the fan. She obviously assumes the worst -- that one of her competitors has stolen the beets. Gary rightly assumes that one of the servers took them because they were sitting in the plating area. Sure enough, the servers return the beets. Chaz obviously gets angry because time was taken from his team's prep to find the beets and then Gary continued to talk about it after they were found, so he and Avery get into it a little bit. While I agree with Chaz that an apology from Avery was deserved for assuming the worst, Chaz's reaction was completely out of proportion, and frankly just plain odd. It seems that he finds these little vendettas and sticks with them. First Cheven, now Avery.

After many different tagines and side dishes, the ladies' team prevails. In fact, Liz wins for her fabulous front-of-house service. So the other chefs must decide who goes home. Chaz's team all agrees to send Avery home and Nookie's team all agrees on Chaz, so Curtis says it's up to this week's MVP to decide. Ultimately, Liz sends Chaz home. It'll be interesting to see th dynamics created next week without Chaz there.
Next week, we're in Florence, so get excited! Until then, Have a Nosh. And tell me if you think Liz made the right decision.
P.S. Totally random thought, but did anyone else think the diner who told Liz the dessert was "great" was adorable? Just me? OK.

 

Homeward Bound

Avery finally outplayed Nookie.

 

Well, everyone, we made it. And I for one am exhausted. I'm not saying I'm as tired as our chefs, but, y'know, I might be. We see the chefs heading to Uruguay (No, Uruguay!) on a ferry. I love a ferry ride, so this seemed fun to me. At some point, Avery says "Nookie could change his mind at any point." You know who can also change her mind at any point? Avery! But I will stop asking why no one has kicked Nookie off until this point, but it's moot. 

The chefs are issued their Course: they have two hours to shop and prepare a traditional Uruguayan dish, and they are only allowed to obtain their ingredients from three markets. Not only that, but their diners are Cat and Curtis! Liz doesn't seem to have too much trouble shopping, but she does forget to ask the butcher for salt. I was actualy surprised Nookie and Avery thought to ask for salt, knowing it wouldn't be provided. Avery bought her wine before she bought her protein, so she was surprised by the fact that she couldn't get fish. White wine? Chicken it is! Nookie has a seemingly nice idea behind his dish saying, "If I learned anything, it's to talk to the locals." Well, one local led him to a jar of onion jam. But she also said to make a traditional tart. That didn't happen. Nookie made -- and I mean "made" in the most generic way possible -- chorizo (my fave) with the onions. Cat and Curtis weren't too happy that Nookie didn't really cook anything. Even Avery said, "This is a cooking competition, not a reheating competition." Ouch. Also, the jam was too sweet. Liz made a successful steak salad, but it was missing salt. Curtis could tell the addition of sausage was made in an attempt to add some salt, but it wasn't enough. I really do wonder why LIz asked Nookie for salt and not Avery. Any thoughts?!

So, Avery won the Course. Some of the chefs seemed to be confused about whether this was the final challenge -- it wasn't. By winning the Course, Avery won the exceptional ingredient, and definitely the most exceptional of them all -- the ability to choose her finale competitor.And she did it. Finally. She voted Nookie off. Hallelujah. Since i finally met Nookie this past week at our amazing Sneak Peek Finale Party, I feel compelled to say here that I'm not writing "hallelujah" because I don't not like Nookie -- I've just never understood why everyone was OK with him holding all the cards. 

around-the-world-in-80-plates-blog.jpg Me with Nookie and Avery at the 80 Plates Sneak Peek Finale Party

So, Avery and Liz head to... Los Angeles -- their home turf. In L.A., the chefs are met with their Takeover: first they have to choose one chef from each store to act as their sous chef for the Takeover. The chefs are their fallen comrades from countries past. Avery ends up with Jenna (did you see her give Liz the side-eye after her team was done cooking?) and Nick, and Liz ends up with John and Chaz! And all the sous-chefs seem genuinely interested in helping their respective chefs win. Whileeveryone's in the kitchen, Avery and Liz get a very welcome surprise -- their family members! Avery's kids and aunt come to say hello and we meet Liz's boyfriend, Ryan. I always wonder if these little surprises are helpful or hurtful. While Avery obviously wants to see her children, I'd have to assume a little surprise like that would break anyone's focus. And how funny was Nookie with her kids? Ha. 

The other surprise was who the chefs were cooking for. Although they knew they'd be serving Wolfgang Puck since they were cooking in his kitchen at red seven, they had no idea the caliber of their diners -- James Beard winners, nominees, etc. And despite all these pressures and curveballs, they both kind of killed their menus… for the most part. Avery started her meal with her and Jenna's winning papaya salad; then moved on to an apparently perfectly-cooked beef dish with chimichurri. She finished it with tea and a pannacotta. I thought serving tea with dessert was ballsy because if that gets cold, it's ruined. Did anyone else notice that her kids seemed to eat all her food? I was very impressed.

LIz's starter was the majority's favorite dish of the night. She then served a dish that was criticized by someone (forgive me I can't remember who) for not seeming Italian. Mmm it was a simple dish served with dino kale -- seemed Italian to me! She then finished with a play on an empanadas, but her custard didn't set up.

From where I was sitting, it seemd to come down to the best dish vs. the best meal. And Avery was just more consistent, so… she won! Congratulations, Avery! And congratulations to Liz on doing such a fantastic job. 

I'll be recapping Masters which premieres next Wedneday, so hope to see you all over at that site then. If I may say so, I've peeped some of the episodes already, and I swear they're amazing. Until then, Have a Nosh!

 

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