Hello my little conch shells! Was I right about this week's episode or what?! It was impossible! But before we get to the ridiculously hard Elimination Challenge, let's dish on the Quickfire Challenge with guest judge of NBC's America's Next Great Restaurant, Lorena Garcia. Yay corporate synergy! The show is not only on NBC but is produced by the fabulous Magical Elves and features our Masters host, Curtis Stone (who I had the pleasure of meeting the other week, and he's a tall drink of water.) The chefs divide into male chefs vs. females and have to create identical plates for their guests. This challenge is all about consistency. While the women seemingly take the "easy way out," the men make pasta. The women win. And the men were bitter. I have to say I think the women were just smart. Just becuase something is simpler to make doesn't make it any less flavorful, and I was actually surprised at Mike and Richard for making something that could have gone so horribly wrong, since they're usually so strategic. Their bitterness felt more like "Damn, we shoulda done that." Are we sure they shouldn't have made equal portions of crow and not pasta? Oh! Zing!
For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs schlepped to an island, close to Gilligan's in fact, and frantically chose their proteins from crates. But, they were told they'd be making a conch-centric dish. I will say that the only time I've ever eaten conch was at the Brooklyn Diner, and it was in fritter form, and they were delicious. Sooo, where's the chefs' conch?! Oh, it's still in the water. So we watch these poor, poor chefs "fish" for their own conch. I felt so bad for them, and as I've never snorkled either, I'd probably have been the one flailing around like Richard. (Although I'm an excellent swimmer.) Fortunately, though, they are all successful to varying degrees. Then the actual cooking begins. Cooking on a beach ain't easy -- and if I may say so, neither is eating. I always end up with sand in my turkey wraps! Let's break down each dish, shall we?
Mike Isabella wins with his banana-wrapped grouper with braised pineapple and warm conch vinaigrette. Unlike Elia's banana-wrapped debacle from Episode 1, Mike's fish was successful. I agree with Gail that the braised pineapple did sound good, but I will say that I have seen it before. You've actually all seen it before, albeit in sweet form. Yigit made braised pineapple in his own on Top Chef: Just Desserts finale, which meanwhile I should make because I'm just re-remembering how awesome it sounded. Mike is just killing it in the Bahamas. We'll see if he can ride the momentum.Richard made, what he considered, a boring dish. Thank G-d for Antonia who gave him some perspective saying that "sweet potato pasta" is anything but ordinary. Can we all just agree that Richard is "Piggie" in this week's little Lord of the Flies scenario? All he was missing was the glasses. Richard's "pasta" was apparently so well-executed that Gail had to tell Tom it wasn't really pasta! Although Richard was worried the dish was inappropriate for the venue, I thought it was fairly genius. Like Gail said, he took the ingredients and inspiration of the Bahamian location but married it with his Long Island roots. I actually forgot that Richard is from Long Island -- he's actually from a nearby town.
Antonia produced a solid dish -- the only criticism being that her dish was the same thing they always see from her -- four ingredients, simple food. I think Antonia's defense, turning around what was a valid point about playing it safe into a positive about her signature style of cooking, was sort of brilliant. I've always loved Antonia, but I think this season really showcases just what a smart competitor she is.
And finally we have Tiffany, who went home. Judging from many of your comments over the season, I don't think anyone's too sad to see her leave. Cold chowder -- that was meant to be hot -- doesn't sound like something I'd want to eat. And unfortunately it sent her packing. Tiffany's an absolute doll in real life, so I wish her all the success in the world. And, as she said, she has a lot to be proud of.
Next week's episode is also insane and difficult, but in a less physical way.
I've been eating out a lot the past couple weeks, and went to Dos Caminos Third Avenue twice in a week! Season 4's Lisa Fernandes heads up the kitchen there, and is doing great. I eat there fairly often anyway, but having her in the kitchen is an added bonus. My one tip would be to go there for brunch. I don't know if most people think to go there for brunch, but it's fantastic. Specifically, I recommend the Smoked Salmon and Avocado Benedict. It's served on cornbread, a delicious twist on the classic preparation. I'm so in a seafood state of mind with this Spring-like weather rolling through the city. It's getting so warm that I'm already thinking about my August birthday, and whether or not I should make my friends shlep to Maryland to eat at VOLT. What do you guys think?!
Anywaaay, as always tell me where you've been eating, and until next week, Have a Nosh!