Buy Me Some Peanuts and Tuna Tartare ... NOT!
Tom Colicchio was pretty pleased with this week's offerings. But where were the beer and peanuts?
I didn’t have much time to research this, but from what I could glean it seems that ballpark concessions have been in place as long as the ballparks themselves and the teams playing in them. In fact my wife’s grandpa, a Bronx native, sold peanuts at the Yankees' Polo Grounds as a young teen in the late 1920s to help out his immigrant parents (and gain him viewing access to the games, thus killing two birds with one stone). But concessions have come a long way since their original hot dogs, peanuts, cracker jacks and beer. As stadiums have “fancified,” so has the fare offered, and it’s not unusual to find more diverse –- and often regional –- offerings, such as crab cakes, lobster rolls, baby-back ribs, jerk chicken, salmon sandwiches, knishes (in both New York and Florida, where the Mets winter), light and healthy vegan selections, and, yes, even sushi. Recently I was in the Legends Box at Yankee Stadium, where the food was great: King Crab legs, sliced prime rib... What’s nice to see generally, though, is a trend towards better quality and healthier offerings than your standard hot dog.
I’ve been thrilled with the opportunities this season has presented us. Last week, Langley. This week, Nationals Park! When the challenge was originally set up, I was actually slated to throw out the opening pitch, but our shooting schedule changed, and someone else was already scheduled to do so on the day we wound up shooting the episode. Still, we were able to be on the field, and I was able to play catch in the bullpen, which was great. It was a thrill for us all to be there. The chefs largely did very well. They did a good job with their dishes and with getting the food out. While I was surprised not to see dishes made with peanuts or beer, everyone met the criteria of the challenge. The fans who sampled the six dishes loved them. Ed’s dish was the clear home run –- it was a nuanced dish, difficult to execute, and he pulled it off with great skill. It was an unequivocal success, and perfect for a stadium, where you don’t want to have to think hard or work hard to manage your meal. Tiffany’s was a bit more unwieldy, but in a way that was consistent with what the meal was, and one could still juggle it with one’s beer.
Kevin’s error of putting the fries atop the skewers was not enough to get him sent home, as his dish was still essentially solid. Angelo’s sandwich had the wrong ratio of bread to filler, but the components of the dish itself were strong enough to withstand both that and the slight oversweetness –- it was still a very good dish. Kelly’s crab was terrific, even if her BLT was not.
Which leaves Amanda. When Eric Ripert goes so far as to use the word “offensive” in connection with fish, what more is there to say? As you’ve no doubt noted in the episodes thus far, he is encouraging of the chefs and seems truly to be rooting for them. Amanda’s permitting her tuna to oxidize was hands down the most egregious of the errors made by the chefs in this challenge. People are frightened of eating fish that has spoiled. Even the appearance of spoilage will engender an aversion to a dish, whether the fish has actually begun to turn or not. Anyone eating Amanda’s tuna tartare first had to overcome our reflexive impulse to turn away from the fish because of its off-putting color. And this is an utterly unacceptable obstacle. To be honest, Eric was a bit afraid to eat the dish. He actually said, “it’s dangerous — it could kill me.” Not only does tuna oxidize quickly once it’s been cut up, it also dries out quickly. When we serve tuna tartare in my restaurants, we cut it up as close to service as possible for both of those reasons, doing so a couple of times per night, and, on a slow night, even to order. Amanda’s instinct that it might be warm in the kitchen so she didn’t want to keep the tuna out was a good one, but there was a better solution than the one she settled on. She could have kept the tuna refrigerated and used smaller pieces as she went along. Had she kept her tuna intact until the day of the challenge, we might have had a tougher job determining our bottom dish. But since she didn’t, once she saw that her tuna was oxidizing she could have switched over to something like a tuna burger, where the oxidation would no longer have been apparent.
Amanda is young; she has lots to learn but I’ve no doubt she has an illustrious career ahead of her. Meanwhile, can you believe Buzz Aldrin appears in our next challenge? I thought it would be hard to top the CIA…