Top Chef
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God Save The Hot Dish

Brian and his straw hat -- under which he keeps all of his MALARKEY! -- bring out his stuffed cabbage. The Evil Dr. Mathra, padding out from the bedroom with a sleep-creased face, wants to know if Brian (MALARKEY!) brought a hatbox with him to Miami. Apparently, he's been wearing "lots of ridiculous headgear." "Lots" seems to be defined by this particular hat and a knit cap Brian (MALARKEY!) was seen wearing in the cheftestant apartment. Brian (MALARKEY!)'s lobster and shrimp stuffed cabbage is swimming in some Agent Orange lobster broth with green beans. "And I just wanted the world to know that it's okay to have a little bit of cholesterol, have a little of lobster -- everything in moderation," Brian (MALARKEY!) explains defiantly, with a little bit of weird hand waving that is actually letting the world know that it's okay to cook crazy. All lithium in moderation. Portale and Ted Allen make faces over Brian (MALARKEY!)'s speech. Colicchio sighs and looks annoyed.

Suddenly, Camille is bouncing in front of us, saying, "I picked the tacos -- one's a beef and one's a tuna." The Bravo Graphics tells us that the two open-faced tacos are a beef and chili salsa taco and a tuna and tomatillo apple taco. Are there really apples in that taco or is the title of the dish just playing up tomatillos as apples in the same way that tomatoes were once known as "love apples"? An Elk grabs at her water glass with talon-tipped fingers and says, "A little spicy." We next pass through Casey's rib-eye Sloppy Joes (NOT JOE'S, BRAVO!) with butter pickle and apricot compote. I have absolutely no clue what butter pickles are. I know what bread-and-butter pickles are -- is that what they meant? Casey's Sloppy Joes (Slop-sloppy Joe!) have the meat perched precariously and amuse-bouche-ily on thick cubes of toasted bread. Jutting her chest out, Casey announces, "You can pick it up, eat it with a fork, they're Sloppy Joes, so have fun with it." "How many headscarves does she have?" the Evil Dr. Mathra wonders grumpily, clearly in a fixated headspace tonight. At first I thought the golden cubes on the side of the Sloppy Joes were the apricot compote, however, because compote is usually a wet, viscous mass, I'm thinking they are just tiny cubes of toasted potato and functioning as Tater Tots replacement. The Elks like what Casey has to offer.

Joey From New York sounds totally depressed when he tells people about his low-cholesterol lasagna with turkey sausage, eggplant, and mushroom. We don't get much of a reaction from anyone on this one before Tre sets down his plate of roast chicken cordon bleu with bluefoot chantarelle mushrooms, asparagus, and parsnip sauce. You can see bits of ham and cheese poking out of the middle of the chicken breast slices, so it looks pretty authentic. Padma takes a bite and decides reluctantly, "This is…not bad." Colicchio frowns at his plate, "It's not the worst thing we were served today." Scary music plays to fake us out, as poor Howie brings out his pork chops and applesauce. Howie explains he did a fennel-crusted pork chop with a four apple-fennel slaw and an apple cider-ginger reduction. (Bravo Graphics calls this a "sultana raisin emulsion," which is singular.) The judges really love the dish. Padma notes, "It registers that familiarity but it's so sophisticated…and light…and tasty." I've heard Padma say that about herself as well. "This is EXCEPTIONALLY tender!" an Elkess says. And if dentures can cut through pork, you know Howie's finally learned how to properly cook his pork. "Mmm -- superb," her dining companion mumbles, jabbing at his dish with a fork. Padma thanks everyone and asks them to fill out their comment cards so they can be "factored into" their judging. Some Elk is heard to say, "I can't spell mediocre." Hee. In the back, the cheftestants hypothesize what the end results will be. Oddly, CJ thinks Lia will be one of the top dishes, even though she undercooked her lentils. Dale tells us he's pretty confident his chicken 'n' dumplings will be his best-received dish ever.

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