Gail Simmons

Gail reflects on the neck-and-neck competition between Nina and Nick and why after an arduous Judges Table, Nick came out on top.

on Feb 5 Let’s talk about the successful dishes Nina had that night
GS: Nina and Nick’s first courses were a very direct comparison. They both did a raw tuna, crudo course. Both were very good for that matter. Nina’s was a little bit brighter, a little more exciting. Nina’s crudo had heat. It had great seasoning so you really got the full flavor of that fresh fish. So hers was a little stronger than Nick’s, although I really liked them both. And then her second course was this orecchiette with goat ragu that was once again an incredible pasta dish from Nina. Her pasta is really flawless. And the goat ragu was tender and had tons of seasoning and spice. She had fresh cherry tomatoes in there that sort of burst in your mouth. The actual pasta was absolutely delicious. I can’t say enough about it. It was such a beautiful course, such a delicate pasta. I was so happy to hear that Paul Bartolotta liked it as much as we all did. He is sort of my pasta guru, and he was totally blown away by it.

Her swordfish was not only sort of unexciting from a presentation standpoint, but it really didn’t have much flavor. It didn’t feel very cohesive. It felt like a departure from her meal because the first two courses were so exciting, so Nina, so what we’ve come to expect from her. This swordfish just feel flat. It really wasn’t as the main course of a meal what we expected from her.

And then her dessert, I think we all said it many times, didn’t really feel like a dessert. It was small. It was just a finger food, a few bites. It didn’t have a ton of flavor. She sprinkled dried coconut and macadamia nuts over the zeppole, but they don’t stick to the zeppole, so when you pick it up -- if you’re eating it with your fingers like we were -- you don’t get the macadamia nuts and the coconut with it. Then you have to pick them up separately and shove them in your mouth. It all just wasn’t a completely bite. You couldn’t get what you wanted out of that dish when you went to eat it. That’s where it really fell short. I know that she can better. I know dessert isn’t her forte, and she didn’t have to cook one. I know why she did -- she wanted the meal to feel well rounded and I appreciate that. Sadly, after those two highlights at the beginning of her meal, this dessert did not really do anything at all.