Hello, my little wolverines! That was of course an ode to Marcel's Season 2 sideburned look. But before we get to my great loss, let's start with this week's exhilerating Quickfire. The chefs arrive at Le Bernardin, the restaurant I have the good fortune of schlepping a whole one block to every week to film Eric Ripert's amazing video blog. Tony Bourdain, Eric Ripert's dear frenemy (seriously, you have to read their Twitter banter; it's genius), was there to meet the chefs and introduce them to Justo, a man he says he devotes an entire chapter to in Medium Raw. I'd like to take this moment to interject and say that we're starting a bit of a foodie book club, and our first selection is Bourdain's Medium Raw, so go get the book, read it by February 14th, and follow @Bravotv for more details! We will do something fun and informative with Bourdain after we're all done reading.
Watching Justo butcher that fish literally gave me the chills. What a man, with such skill. I asked Chef Ripert where he found Justo and he said he stole him from the restaurant next door after it closed! What luck! I was actually nervous for our chefs fileting for Justo. While quite a few of the chefs did a good job, only four emerged on top. They went on to cook a Quickfire dish using the scraps, what most people might throw away from the fish, but this included the collar, which I've heard/read is considered by many chefs as the tastiest part of a fish. Dale feels very confident in this challenge because he grew up cooking this stuff, and sure enough, he wins. He's kind of killing it this season, isn't he?
As a reward for his win, Dale gets to choose the other team's leader in RESTAURANT WARS! (Cue epic music.) He chooses the one chef he can't fathom working successfully with, and that person is Marcel. A lot of you brought up a very good point in the comments about Marcel's behavior last week -- he was drunk. And, yeah, he probably was as he was swigging straight from a bottle of gin, but I'd like to think that at a certain age, drunkenness doesn't excuse bad behavior. And that's saying a lot coming from me becuase I pretty much defend Marcel against everything. Anyway, the lovely people at Magical Elves put together this hi-larious music video about Marcel's plight. Watch:
Marcel had his hands full again this week with his team, the losing team. The chefs just wouldn't listen to him, which I found incredibly frustrating. I think Angelo put it best when he said that he would've fired Mike Isabella for talking back to him the way he spoke back to Marcel. Honestly, at the end of the day, Marcel was Executive Chef. If you have serious problems with the way he's telling you to cook something, problems that could result in a dish being worse, then speak to him about it. But to curse back at him as a member of his team, I thought, was kind of out of line. That being said, I didn't have to work under Marcel, and who knows how I would've reacted, but it didn't seem like Marcel's team gave him a chance at all. When Marcel said at Judges' Table that he, in fact, told his team to do many of the things the judges' criticized the team for, I believed him. Marcel is totally the Kim Richards of Top Chef. Nobody will listen to him! (Did I really just make that analogy?) I actually wonder what would have happened if Marcel fired Mike. I honestly don't even know if that's allowed, but it could've gotten interesting. At the end of the day, all of the arguments aside, not only were Marcel's team's dishes the worst, but it sounds like his individual dishes were too. That dessert really put him over the edge. I was obviously very upset to see Marcel go.
The other team had an interesting dynamic as well. Although Dale was the captain, it was Richard who really took charge in the kitchen. I am constantly baffled watching the chefs this season kind of just listen to whatever Richard tells them to do. Richard really proves the point that many of the chefs tried to expain to Marcel: that if you treat people with respect, and set a good example, people will just follow you. I hope other chefs give Marcel that opportunity someday, to prove that he's worthy of that respect. Richard had such a presence in the kitchen that he actually won the challenge. Well done, Mr. Blais. We put together a little list of superlatives, as voted on by all the chefs, and Richard was chosen as Judges' Pet. I doubt this week's win will do anything to change that opinion.
G-d, I really can't get over Marcel leaving. I'm distraught. I just didn't like the way he went out. Oh well. Nothing a little comfort food can't fix.
And speaking of comfort food (what a segue!), I had the pleasure of dining at new mommy Nikki Cascone and her husband Brad's newest venture Octavia's Porch on Tuesday night. Quite different from what she was doing at 24 Prince, Nikki is serving up global Jewish food, and, um it's f---ing awesome. And trust me, I tested quite a large sample from the menu. After some surprisingly light challah, my three friends and I started with a tasting of the potato and escarole soup, which was perfectly garlic-y since it literally had whole cloves of garlic in it, which I love. The four of us ordered four apps: the kreplach (pictured), the knish, the chopped liver, and the gefilte fish. I don't care for liver, but I tried it anyway, but the kreplach and knish were true highlights. They are both must-orders.
We were actually kind of satiated after all the apps, but obviously ordered entrees anyway. I ordered the tagliatelle as I absolutely needed to eat Ms. Cascone's pasta. It was excellent. My friends ordered the duck, the brisket, and the stuffing, which they all enjoyed. And, what goes better with pasta than a sweet potato? (She says ever-so-sarcastically.) But, the sweet potatoes needed to be ordered, and they were delicious. I struggle every year at my own Chanukah party making sweet potato latkes because sweet potatoe just doesn't bind as well as regular potato, sooo I'm either going to have to obtain Nikki's secrets, or just order them next year and pretend I made them. Even though we were all pretty full at this point (if you're looking for a light meal, this isn't the place for you), we got dessert. We all wanted the challah bread pudding, which didn't disappoint. Our adorable and attentive server, Michael, also brought us the PB&J sinkers which he sensed I wanted. They are little donuts you dip in peanut butter and jelly. Holy s--- they're good. And, although we didn't even order it, I think the drunken apple crumb cake was my favorite. It tasted like the crust of an apple pie, and I coudn't stop reaching over my friend and grabbing bites. The cocktails were great too. I embraced the atmosphere and got the 3rd & B, which consists of rum and homemade cream soda. My friend ordered the egg cream, which actually was much thicker than usual, and I kinda dug it. OK, I'll stop gushing now, but you should really check the place out before it gets super-full. This is a restaurant I will definitely be recommending and returning to. I'm so proud of Nikki!
Also, on another side note, Fay Ann Lee the director of the film I mentioned in last week's blog, Falling from Grace, wrote me a really sweet note on Facebook and told me that Gale Harold not only ate the chicken legs in the film, but is a foodie. As if I needed a reason to love him more. Swoon.
Finally, I see that many of you have requested our live chats to start up again. I'l see what I can do, but in the meantime, I'm going to try and live-tweet -- spoiler-free -- from our @BravoTopChef account as often as I can, so follow us.
Until next week, Happy Noshing!