First things first. I certainly do not claim to be a die-hard football fan. In fact, in the spirit of full disclosure, this was my very first football game, ever. I am from Canada and although I spent many years of my youth cheering from the bleachers at various hockey arenas, I never had the chance to participate in the full American experience that is the pre-game tailgate party. Regardless of my lack of football knowledge, I was still totally psyched to meet William "The Refrigerator" Perry (yes, we did have TV in Canada), and had no problem separating the good game food from the bad. Let me assure you, in this week's episode there were plenty of both!
The challenge was fairly straightforward: Cook a great tailgating dish for up to 80 Chicago Bears fans before the game. Now, I know what you are all going to say: that being a messy chef, like our friend Mark was this week, is a far worse offense than anything Ryan may have prepared. True, Mark's station was a bit of a mess and he seemed especially disorganized at the game site, but his food was appropriate and he worked within the confines of what the challenge required. After Tom's last word on the subject, I can only assume that Mark will be forced to clean up his act. His Corn Chowder was not the best I ever tasted, but it was not the worst thing we ate that day. After all, while we held our cup of chowder in one hand, we could still eat a chicken skewer with the other.
Ryan's Bread Salad with Marinated Chicken, Poached Pear & Brandy Cocoa was a little absurd for the scenario. A plate of bread salad with a chicken thigh on top, when all we had was a plastic fork to cut it, made for some tricky maneuvering. On top of that, the poached pear in its own separate bowl was too large to be eaten in one bite and also could not be cut easily. Then there was the fact that none of it actually tasted good. The chicken was flavorless, the bread salad was dry, and the hot cocoa was watery. It had been raining since early that morning when we arrived at Soldier Field and as we reached Ryan's station I was thrilled with the prospect of enjoying a rich cup of steaming hot chocolate spiked with brandy, hoping it would warm me up. We were all disappointed with the meek offering we received instead.