Top Chef
Sense And Sensuality

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Scalps and Scallops

Padmadala announces that the Elimination Challenge is for the five cheftestants to create a romantic five-course dinner with paired wines for a restaurant "full of celebrating couples." This doesn't strike me as that difficult a task for it to be the one that would have decided who wasn't going to Hawaii had Cliff not thugged himself out of the competition. It is the cheftestants' job to make sure they create a special, intimate dinner for the "celebrating couples" to remember. What are they celebrating in mid-January? Edgar Allen Poe's birthday? Regardless, I'd think that being on a television show would be enough to cement the dinner in the diners' minds, and if not, then they have memory issues that no glass of wine or plate of food is going to jog. Son of Sam babbles to us about the stakes being high. I don't care because I hate him. Because SOS won, he gets to decide which course and which protein he would like to prepare. No one else can serve the same protein as him.

The cheftestants gather around and SOS announces he would like to serve the first course but he hasn't decided on the protein. The cheftestants stand around and wait for SOS to make up his damn mind. Marcel babbles to Elia that he might like to do lobster, which is sort of the ultimate Valentine-y dish, so it never should have been such a shock when SOS ended up choosing it. SOS finally announces he's doing a first course of lobster and scallops. Marcel smilingly exaggerates his chagrin. Whatever, dude, do oysters for crêpes sake. Ted Ilan wants the second or third course, and he wants clams. Elia thinks she probably will do dessert but isn't sure yet. SOS points out that whoever does end up doing dessert might get rewarded for taking the risk since none of them are pastry chefs. More boring deliberation from the rest of the cheftestants.

The cheftestants shop at Wild Oats. Cliff restates the challenge for us. Again. Shut up, Cliff. Sam is shopping for his first course of seared scallops and lobster with plum sauce and beets. Ted Ilan shops for his second course of fideos ("small toasted pasta") with clams and a cava-saffron broth. I always thought that fideos is when the pasta is sort of twisted into little nests, but clearly I don't know what I'm talking about because I don't OVERUSE MY SAFFRON!

At the produce section, Marcel swears good-naturedly and laughs when he realizes Son of Sam is using beets. He wanted to use beets, apparently. Be that as it may, Marcel tells us he's not changing his whole dish because of the vegetable. His third course will be salmon with celeriac and beets. What is his obsession of pairing beets and salmon? He and Frank did that in the Jennifer Coolidge challenge. Because they try to force out-of-season seasonal challenges on them like Thanksgiving and Christmas, I get so confused what time of year it really is. Celeriac -- aka celery root -- is a big, round, nobbly brown root that sort of looks like a jicama and is white on the inside. It has a deep celery taste and is often used as a velvety puree or in a soup. It's also closely associated with fall and winter dishes. As are beets. However, in California, you can pretty much get celeriac and beets year-round, so it's not like they are available only in the winter/fall. I think it's still sort of summer in LA -- couldn't Marcel have found some relatively good asparagus and roasted those to be served on the side of the salmon? Salmon and asparagus are a pretty classic pair, and asparagus are supposedly sensual and also an aphrodisiac. It has to do with eating them with your fingers, or their phallic shape, or something. I don't know, according to the cookbook, Intercourses, "great French lovers of yesteryear dined on three courses of [asparagus] on the night before the wedding." Wouldn't want to be cleaning those bathrooms the morning after. Cliff, for his fourth course, will be doing sirloin with a lentil purée and some sort of plum jam. That is going to be a very brown plate. Elia has landed on dessert and is going to reproduce her Quickfire Kiss that Ripert liked so much. She's going to fill a puff pastry heart with the chocolate cremeaux -- which Bravo graphics are now just calling mousse because they are as worn out as I am -- and serve it with a chocolate heart. Chocolate, the first chapter in Intercourses, is very sensual. By the way, asparagus is the second chapter. Okay, I'll stop with my asparagus obsession, which even I am finding bizarre at this point. How good an idea is it for Elia to go back and reproduce a dish for a guest judge that she just executed? It seems like she'd get dinged for not being original.

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