Top Chef
Cooking By Numbers

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Eating On The Dole

Oh, lord, here come the Chain Meal Club and they in all seriousness have draped themselves in sashes -- blue or red, depending on…what? -- which, in turn, are festooned with medals and chains. They look really stupid and also absurdly hard to clean. Then again, I'm sure these types employ special chain mail polishers and cleaners. Actually, only one guy is wearing a red sash and the rest are in blue. Clearly, you have to aspire to the red sash. It's totally a Frasier episode. Hail, Corkmaster, the master of the cork! He knows which wine goes with fish or pork! On the subject of said Corkmasters, CJ tells us, "I think they might get, like, medals and have all sorts of pageantry around their necks." Heh, he's so not impressed. In the dining room, Padma is distracted by something shiny. She leans over and says, "Oh, I love all of your saaashes." Ted Allen wants to know, "Are the medals based on the volume of food you eat?" which gets a big laugh over here, but pretty much nets only forced smiles and mirthless chuckles from the Corkmasters. Padma introduces Barton G. to everyone and they all lift their glasses.

Team Shrimp brings out their trio and Brian (MALARKEY!) loudly tells them what they will be eating and how they will be eating it. "We'll be eating from the right to the left," he explains. Right away that confuses me -- are they eating Hebrew or perhaps Japanese? Because wouldn't eating from left to right make more sense? Maybe he means his right, which is their left? I had a lamb trio once and we ate it from top to bottom and then another trio I had was in a circle, and I completely lost my grip on which dish was what right after it was described. I really have no idea about this one. Explaining the first dish, Brian goes on about his raw Key West pink shrimp in a quick "ceviche" marinade with Daikon radish, shiso, and caviar. Lia details her olive oil-poached shrimp seasoned with coriander and chile and under that is avocado and then a tiny diced salad of cucumber, candied lime, and grilled poblano chiles AND THEN there's a marinated tomato on top. Hung is next and he says, "Good evening, my name is Hung." A reader pointed out to me in an email that he doesn't get to say, "I am Hung." I'm sure he's dying to do that. Anyway, Hung's offering a sautéed shrimp with a corn pudding sauce -- reduced corn juice, cooked in its natural starch -- and corn with bacon and chives. The foam -- oh, the FOAM -- is essence of shrimp. Yeah, more and more, these foams just look like spit on the plate. Or the crap that washes up on beaches. Flotsam? Jetsam? Newsom?

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Top Chef

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