Top Chef
Food On The Fly

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Nuke it Up A Notch

Back in the kitchen, the chefs get on with cooking their crap. I'm not going to recite the ingredients of everyone's dish here because we hear it all again, but I just have to note that along with eggs and donuts, Miguel's dish will contain breath strips in some way. "I bought SPAM," Harold tells us, matter-of-factly, "I bought SPAM." Heh. In the kitchen, Harold says, "I fucking love SPAM!" "Ladies and gentlemen, SPAM's new national spokesperson," Lee Anne jokes. Harold bangs the SPAM out of the can. It holds its shape, of course. Looks like Stephen is using SPAM as well. He blathers on to us about the Hawaiians doing many preparations of SPAM. That is something I will NOT be eating on my trip next month. "Stephen, your SPAM's burning," Tiffani frowns. I want that on a tee-shirt. Complete with an image of Stephen's garlic bulb head. Andrea tells us that she encourages her clients not to eat chemicals and laughs that they are going to pass out and die when they see what she's making. Harold tells us that Stephen was using fresh herbs, which is a no-no. Harold told Stephen to pull the herbs off his plate, but Stephen told him he was screwed and couldn't. Stephen tell us, "Katie [Leebot] made it clear to us that we were able to use dried herbs and spices, I kinda omitted the 'dried' part." It's like when Keith Michael kinda omitted the "totally against the rules" part when he stashed that pattern book under his bed. Miguel tells us that Tiffani's attitude is "atrocious at times." Tiffani tells that she never knows if Miguel is being intentionally annoying, or if he truly doesn't have any "culinary thoughts" of his own.

The guest judge today is Jefferson Hill at the Rotunda Restaurant in Neiman Marcus. Oh, dear. When this show had originally aired, I had never eaten at the Rotunda. I have now. Instead of a breadbasket, you start your luncheon out with a popover, strawberry butter, and a demitasse cup of clear chicken broth. Although the strawberry butter was decidedly rancid, I can get behind the idea of it. I also adore popovers (though I did make a horrible crumby mess all over the tablecloth), but the chicken broth thing was just odd and most of us didn't even drink the stuff. I tasted it and it was very, well, chicken-y. I don't know how else to describe it but it was off-putting. I joked with my companions that it's probably the only thing the "ladies who lunch" surrounding us choked down over the course of their busy day of shopping. My papardelle pasta dish with shrimp, peas, and prosciutto di coto was atrocious. The pasta was mushy, the peas weren't fresh, the shrimp was rubbery, and the prosciutto di coto (ham, really, and also spelled wrong, I believe) was in ragged shreds, and there was way too much sauce. It made unattractive pools everywhere. Although all food writers, my companions agreed that going to the Rotunda was more for the atmosphere and the view of Union Square than for the food. However, the one dish on their lunch menu that is totally worthwhile is the Lobster Club. It's stacked up with thick smoked bacon, lobster, roasted red peppers, and shallot aioli on toasted brioche. Yes, the lobster is from Maine, so it's not local, but the damn thing also has avocado on it! And bacon, did I mention the BACON?! You can't miss when you're going for the pleasure center jugular like that. And at twenty-five dollars, the Rotunda is also going for your wallet's jugular. So, anyway, Lobster Club aside, I'm not impressed with the Rotunda's food, but lead on, Chefferson.

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