Padma walks into the back and we can see she's wearing a fairly stunning red cotton sundress. Her wardrobe has been pretty unimpeachable this season, nary a shearling vest-over-bikini in sight. Padma tells them they had a few surprises and some definite disappointments. She'll see them all at Judges' Table.
Judges' Table. They didn't like CJ's "big green blob," which, Colicchio Bourdains, "It did evoke the original -- it was as bad as most tuna casseroles." Ted Allen guffaws. They really liked Howie's dish, but note that the Elks hated Micah's meatloaf. "The meatloaf had a really odd aftertaste," Portale decides. "It was a meatloaf that kept giving, but not in a very good way," Colicchio zings. Turning to Brian (MALARKEY!)'s stuffed cabbage rolls, Ted Allen thinks using lobster was a "crazy choice." Could not have said it better myself. Dale was also another favorite tonight. Padma goes to the back in her usual manner of trying so very hard to look and talk as though someone has contracted Hepatitis at a Hollywood party in order to throw everyone off the track that she is, in fact, calling back the winners; she beckons back Dale and Howie. Brought before the judges, Howie and Dale are told that they are the winners. "Thank you," they both say, just as somberly as Padma. "Howie, you can SMILE!" Padma teases. Howie forces out a smile that definitely doesn't reach his eyes. Poor Howie, even when he's top two, he just can't enjoy it. "It's gotta feel better than being up here twice for not impressing us," Colicchio grins, reminding Howie just how many times his food has sucked. Ted Allen notes that Howie chose not to make applesauce. Howie responds that applesauce, for him, is baby food and he wanted the crispness of fennel and apple to "lift the palate a little." Turning to Dale, Padma says, "You got some…stuff from a…box?" Dale cops to using the boxed mashed potatoes for his pierogi dough and he stands by his decision. "No one picked up on it at all," Colicchio says. Which is great, because it means that Colicchio let his phalanx of judges make up their own minds without first telling them about the box of potato flakes. Colicchio adds that they really enjoyed the dish and says that it was a really difficult decision to decide between the two of them. Portale announces Howie as the winner and hands him a stack of his cookbooks and also invites him to come to New York and work with him and his chefs for a week at the Gotham Bar and Grill. Padma sends Howie and Dale back to retrieve the losers. I've decided that with his mini-mo and round head, Dale looks like Chicken Little.