A Vegas Tradition
Lee Anne Wong is all too familiar with Tom's comment about Kevin's not-so-cold soup.
Yes, so here we are again, starting it off with the dice game, which reminds me so much of my favorite game: craps. What you roll equals how many ingredients you can use; simple, fun, challenging.
Which dishes stood out in my mind? Kevin’s 10-ingredient asparagus, celery, and egg salad was simple but tasty. Mike Voltaggio’s interpretation of gazpacho was sophisticated and worked well, but was full of unexpected textures and temperatures. Jesse’s scallops were mushy on mushy. Not appealing at all.
As far as the bachelor/bachelorette party, yes a classic Vegas tradition. Ashley needs to calm down. Lest we forget our first wedding challenge ever, the marriage of the Scotts.
Weezy and I developed the shots for the challenge. We wanted to create shots with sweet and savory elements that would be food-friendly. While it’s still thought to be notoriously difficult to pair spirits with food, chefs and mixologists all over the world are trying to dispel that notion with breakthrough flavor combinations and food pairings. We came up with three to pair dishes with; The Vodka Shot: Moscow Mule (Vodka muddled with Lime Zest, Ginger, shaken with Lime Juice, Ginger Beer, and Cranberry Syrup); The Tequila Shot: Chilled Patron with Citrus Chili Salt and Orange Wedge; The Rum Shot: The Golden Delicious (Goldschlager and White Rum with Apple Juice, Dry Cider, and Lemon Juice).
The first shot, The Moscow Mule, had clear flavors that I felt would be very easy to pair with food: ginger, lime, and the slight sweetness of cranberry. The chilled Patron was smooth, smoky, and was finished by the acidic and salty-sweet bite of the orange wedge dredge in citrus chili salt I had made the day before. The Golden Delicious was meant to be sweet and cinnamon-laced. We thought it would give the opportunity to make some desserts, as we see from Mike V. and Ashley. I also thought it had the ability to pair with some meats, such as pork and duck.
2 hours to prep in the TC Kitchen and an hour on site for set-up. They only each had to make 50 pieces each. Poolside, I set them up with three toaster ovens each and seven burners per team, in addition to cutting boards, garbage cans, a limited pantry, water, bus tubs and towels.
As far as the guys went, there were a lot of winners in my opinion. Kevin’s chilled almond soup was refreshing, though should have been colder, the exact same comment Tom had made about the same soup I did in Restaurant Wars. Michael’s nitrogen frozen version of the Golden Delicious was perfect with the delicate goat cheese cookie. Eli’s ginger-laced tartare was also well matched. Bryan’s guacamole filled meringue was a genius play on guac and chips, with a corn flavored meringue and cumin laced tart guacamole. Shatteringly crisp on the outside, soft surprise on the inside; a well deserved win.
The girls did not fare as well. Highlights included the octopus ceviche, the watermelon carpaccio, and the lamb chops. Dishes such as the rare seared tuna, chicken stir-fry cups, and Eve’s shrimp ceviche were not only pedestrian, but ill-conceived. Hors d’oeuvres are really great because you have to nail it in one bite. It has to be a balanced combination of textures, temperatures, and layers of flavor. Eve’s shrimp ceviche was just bland. The shrimp were undercooked and fishy and there was no punch of lime juice or acid, nor any salt. It is always a hard decision on whether to serve something you know is not good or take the risk to go back to the drawing board with little time on the clock. Eve runs a very successful restaurant in Ann Arbor. Competition isn’t for everyone but I am sure she’s continuing to delight her clientele’s palates. Best of luck to you, Eve.