Bryan is sweating like a pig (no pun intended) which I noticed earlier. What is up with that? I mean, I get that it's a kitchen, but no one else is that sweaty. His hair is soaked. And I don't remember him being a generally sweaty dude in previous challenges. Weird. As they rush to finish, the brothers Volt get in a little verbal altercation about cling wrap. Kevin interviews that he thinks Michael gets into Bryan's head and knows how to push his buttons. Since that isn't really an issue this week, I feel like that's setting up something for next week, so just keep it in mind.
The cheftestants arrive at the venue and get set up. I can't imagine having an outdoor event in Vegas in the summer. And trying to keep your food fresh and looking good. The guests arrive, and there are a lot of them. The cheftestants do their best to serve everyone until the judges arrive. In addition to Padma and Tom, the judges are Toby Young, Dana Cowan of Food and Wine, and of course, Charlie Palmer. So here are the dishes each cheftestant produced:
Michael V. explains that his wine has notes of root beer, so he complimented that with root beer-braised pork cheek with a truffle bun and vanilla/cherry sauce paired with 2006 Cuvaison pinot noir. The judges like all the food, and Charlie thinks it pairs well with the wine. The guests can't even speak, but there are a lot of "Mmmmmmmmmm"s. Mike Volt!
Ash made a chilled pork tenderloin with cherry and corn salad paired with 2007 Sanford pinot noir. I still can't get behind chilled pork. The texture would be gross. In fact, the judges agree that the pork is clammy and overcooked, and Charlie says that the wine needed something richer.
Eli the Magnificent made braised pork belly with carrot puree and raw celery and fennel as a play on mirepoix paired with a 2007 Terlato family pinot noir. Isn't braised pork belly someone else's trick from earlier this season? Mike Volt? Eli interviews that his pairing is freaking awesome, and one of the guests really liked the sauce. The judges think the dish has great flavor but Charlie Palmer says that it's not a great pairing with the wine, which totally makes my day since Eli wouldn't shut up about how great he is at pairing.
Kevin presents his pork leg pate with mushroom salad and pickled cherries and a pork fat based mayonnaise paired with 2006 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills pinot noir. He explains that he lived in Oregon for a while and has been to that particular vineyard, so he knows that they have hazelnuts growing there. So he added hazelnuts into his sauce. He is like a little magical cooking leprechaun, isn't he? The judges think the dish is great, and works well with his wine.
Mike I. explains that he did a spin on a traditional Lebanese dish called "kibbeh", and it's pork shoulder stuffed with prosciutto, dates, and pine nuts and served over orange blossom yogurt paired with 2005 Wairau River pinot noir. The judges think the orange is a little overwhelming, although Colicchio thinks the kibbeh is well-seasoned.
Bryan made braised pork spare rib served over parsnip puree with mostarda paired with 2007 Rochioli pinot noir. Toby points out some ways that the dish picks up some notes in the wine, and Charlie agrees.
Jen made pork belly braised in soy sauce with a salad made of tomatoes, black olives, apples, celery, and truffles, paired with a 2005 Chanson Clos de Beze pinot noir. Padma has no words other than "Mmmm," and Charlie thinks it's well-seasoned. Way to go, Jen!
Laurine the Invisible made pork butt rillettes on an arugula salad with a golden raisin and pearl onion chutney on top paired with 2005 Chanson Clos de Feves pinot noir. The guests don't seem too impressed. Dana Cowan admits that she's not a chef, but the pork has the texture and look of cat food to her. I agree. Charlie thinks everything else is good, but the rillette is "a disaster."
Robin babbles and babbles about her brined center cut pork chop stuffed with sweet potato-apple roulade and a sour cherry-coffee demiglace paired with Mischief and Mayhem pinot noir. The guests comment that the coffee is too strong and you can't taste the cherry. Toby thinks it's slimy and Charlie can't even taste the pork, which was kind of the point of the dish. Tom says that the pork is sliced too thick, so it's hard to understand why you can't taste it.
The cheftestants sit in the Stew Room and wait to hear their fates. Mike I. claims that a lot of guests told him he was the favorite, and Robin (who is not wearing shoes which I find really disgusting -- I mean, they've been on their feet all day and they were probably sweaty) says that she was. No one said that, Robin. Luckily, Mike I. (who I suddenly like more than Eli, who knew?) doesn't take the bait, and just scoff/chuckles.
Padma asks Kevin, Bryan, Mike V., and Jen to come out. Seriously, this is the final four, right? Why not just eliminate everyone else right now and cut to the chase? Padma tells them that they had the best dishes and pairings this week. Charlie admired Michael's daring and inventiveness. He calls Jen's dish "the lightest pork belly dish" he's ever had. Toby talks about the difference between a European pinot and an American pinot; Jen had European and Toby likens it to a hairy armpit, and Jen did well to capture those notes in her dish. So her dish tasted funky and like a hairy armpit? And that's a compliment? Back to the drawing board, Toby. Tom tells Kevin that he hit all the right flavors in his wine to make a successful pairing. Charlie liked that he could taste pork in Bryan's dish, and it was a good pairing as well. Charlie gives a little speech about how awesome all four dishes were, but this week's winner is...Kevin! His prize is that he gets to cook at next year's Pigs and Pinot event. So the prize for winning is that he gets to do it again? Thanks? Kevin shows off his pig tattoo to show how much he loves pork, and everyone has a good chuckle before they have to eliminate someone.
The judges want to see Ash, Laurine, and Robin. Once those three are out of the Stew Room, the remaining cheftestants (at least the two Mikes) start bitching about Robin behind her back, and how they hope the judges just send her home. At least Mike V. tries to pretend it's about her cooking, saying that you couldn't even taste the pork in her dish. Mike I. is just honest and says he doesn't care about the food and just wants her gone. No one steps up to defend her.
Padma tells the assembled cheftestants that they had the least successful dishes. Robin says that she stands by her dish. Toby thought there just wasn't enough pork, and Tom thought the sauce was a little gummy. Charlie doesn't think Robin could say that her dish was great.
Ash admits that he's a little surprised to be there, and he wonders if his dish was too simple. Tom says that simple wasn't the problem, but it has to pair well with the wine, and the wine was complex. Padma tries to give him a hint, and asks if he thought the dish was underseasoned. Ash breaks down and admits that he originally was going to make a different dish; he describes what he meant to do, and Charlie Palmer is like, "Why didn't you do that? That sounds awesome!" Ash goes for self-deprecating again, which has worked in the past, but he might have used up that tactic. Tom points out that Ash is always coming in there and saying that he second-guessed himself, and maybe he needs to stop doing that if he wants to stop being in the bottom three.
Laurine says that she ran out of time, and she's so invisible that this is the first indication that we've really had that she had any problems with her dish. The only other clue we were given was when she was shopping and she said that she'd never made a pork rillette before. Because nobody cares about her dish, apparently, but it's also a sign that she's not going home this week. She is an enigma. Anyway, the judges tells her it was too dry. Laurine explains how she made the rillette (braised in chicken stock) and Charlie schools her on h