It Came Upon A Sniff And Sneer
CJ dances on one leg (and one ball) and counts down the time until the next course is served. Betty -- being a drama-lama-ding-dong -- is agog, simply agog about how she sacrificed her third-course phyllo for her first-course yeast infection. Now what? She's making a stupidly large almond cookie instead. Tre and Marcel are going head-to-head with a lamb chop course. The third course comes out, and Betty and Josie are binned. The duet of Very Large and Loud Teeth wishes the judges happy holidays through forced smiles, and leaves.
The final four dish out. Marcel is serving lamb loin chops with butternut squash puree, maple syrup-pomegranate gastrique, and parsnip chips. Tre's lamb chops, on the other hand, are classically crusted with horseradish and mustard ("classically"? Really? Mustard I can see, but not so much with the horseradish. Too strong) and accompanied with a parsnip puree, Brussels sprouts "leaves," something with chanterelles, and balsamic jus. Tiffani brags about her "really light butterscotch pudding" with cider, "really light caramel," and whipped cream with orange, clove, and nutmeg. CJ blunders through his cardamom panna cotta perched on roasted Delicata squash (he calls it "Delicatati") with poached fig, gingersnap crumbles, and red wine and balsamic reduction AND star-anise and thyme honey.
The judges eat. They love Tre's lamb way more than Marcel's. Colicchio -- sitting at the head of the table -- says that Marcel's lamb has "absolutely no flavor at all" and isn't it seared well. Ted Allen -- clearly taking over Padma's parrot job tonight -- agrees about the poor sear and says it's just all grey. This is all because, earlier, Marcel was priding himself on searing only one side of his chops and keeping the other side nearly raw. They love Tiffani's butterscotch pudding -- to distraction, in fact, in Falkner's case. Colicchio decides it's the best thing he's had all night. Of course it is. CJ's panna cotta looked sloppy, but both Gail and Ripert liked the flavor combo.