Padma arrives, signaling showtime. She's trailed by this week's judges -- Wylie, Gail Simmons, and Colicchio. And by 200 guests, including at least one woman who's embraced the theme with gusto (and by gusto I mean lots of zebra print). They mill around the standees and make their way to the various food stations, as the cheftestants awkwardly sell their dishes with lots of fake brio. Apparently the mushrooms eventually passed muster, but Team Bear pulls them after a guest complains that they are cold to the bite.
Colicchio and Wylie start at Team Lion's table with the beet salad. It's got the aforementioned goat cheese foam, as well as yuzu and Ras al Hanout (which marks the second Elimination in a row that Richard has used this spice mix). He and Andrew both chose to work with yuzu, one of those flavors that has suddenly started showing up to lots of parties. Wylie likes he beet/spice combo. Padma and Gail sample Lion's next offering -- a bison tartare with a tarragon coulis, which isn't a stunner, but which Gail thinks is "seasoned really nicely," and then mumbles something about fiery chicken, so I guess that satay floated her boat as well.
Next they hit Team Vulture's table -- Mark's presents Padma and Gail a marinated anchovy with saffron aioli on a quinoa croquette. I've just been getting into quinoa lately, and this dish looks gorgeous, almost like the anchovy is resting on a bed of multi-colored roe as opposed to the quinoa. Of everything I've seen so far, that's the one I most want to try. The ladies seem to agree -- Gail loves "the bite," while Padma enjoys the acidity. Kind of the same thing, no? Zoi gets to sell the Moroccan-spiced lamb meatball (with Ras al Hanout, perhaps?) with ricotta, pomegranate syrup and pistachio. "Delicious," agree Padma and Gail, who specifically praises the sauce and the color. Random zoo staffers (or their guests) concur with the judges' verdicts.
Upon tasting Stephanie's roasted pear and crab salad with celery root, Colicchio gets the inside story on the soggy chips, and Wylie expresses anticipation for the intriguing combination of smoky pear and crab, but for him, the dish "didn't follow through" on its promise. Yes, Stephanie, you are not going to win all of the challenges. The black olive blinis with fennel mascarpone, rutabaga and beets don't look like the disasters they promise to be -- in fact, says, Wylie, they sound delicious. "Sound," says Colicchio, and it's clear from both their faces that, appearances and descriptions aside, the blinis suck. Wylie ascertains that the blinis were pre-made and transported, making it blatantly obvious for the umpteenth time what a crummy strategy that was. Antonia's hawking the minced lamb and edamame with Boston lettuce and radicchio in lettuce cups -- Padma and Gail enjoy them, as did Wylie, who points out that the banana bread (with salted caramel sauce -- yum! -- and meringue) is good as well, so maybe Stephanie isn't totally screwed.