Top Chef
Top Chef Holiday Special

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It Came Upon A Sniff And Sneer

CJ leads the second courses out, and Colicchio tells them all that it was a unanimous decision to rid themselves of Sandee and Stephen. Colicchio tells Stephen that his asparagus were "not so seasonal." Okay, then why did they have asparagus in the Top Chef pantry for Tre to make in the Quickfire? Also, Stephen is told that his gnocchi were heavy. Stephen's FISHHOOK is present and accounted for as he takes all this in. Sandee's soup was weak and watery. Sandee and Stephen take their second courses back to the kitchens and (hopefully) drink a lot. Stephen realizes he's not Superman, but a restaurateur.

Marcel serves his chicken liver and truffle turkey dumpling with a savory bread pudding, Tuscan-style torta, and spinach. Tiffani roasted duck breast and placed it on a bed of sage-rosemary spaetzle and finished it all off with a mulled wine and burnt orange jus. Betty, whose face time is quickly running out, is serving her overcooked pistachio-crusted rack of lamb which -- to confuse things --- is also wrapped in prosciutto and served over Le Puy green lentils and roasted sugar plum tomatoes. Even if this weren't Betty and was, perhaps, one of my favorites -- CJ, for example -- I would still be shrieking over profaning my sacred lamb with the salty and wholly unnecessary lashings of prosciutto. I love how the camera starts out panning over the parts of the lamb where you can't see how overcooked it is, and then for the ta-da shot, the middle of the chops -- where they should be at their pinkest -- are obscured by the tomatoes. Josie also went for wrapping her overcooked meat with pork, but she used bacon and also made a pumpkin gravy and herb-sautéed mushrooms. Tre wrapped his veal loin with "apple-smoked bacon" (I think he means "applewood-smoked bacon"?) and complemented it with sautéed French beans, macaroni and cheese, and a port reduction. CJ's fall-spiced goose breast is served with a quince and oyster stuffing, a mushroom gravy, and a pomegranate-jalapeño sauce. He also crackled the goose skin.

Back in the kitchen, Josie's bellowing about ending the meal with something decadent -- Oysters Rockefeller. See, watching her glee and anticipation is like watching the happy rich on Titanic, or a young and frolicking Puppy Yeller: you know they're going to die.

The judges chew over the presentations. Van Aken thinks Josie's bacon-wrapped turkey "could have been wrapped a few more times," and Colicchio says that Marcel's dish "is just so bad -- the cake and the liver?" "The grey dumpling?" Ted Allen adds. Have you ever cracked open a dumpling or a pot sticker? The meat is fairly grey-ish. That's why it's wrapped. Someone at the table says, "No, it's not bad!" but that mike is turned down much farther than Colicchio's, who adds, "The texture is SO bad!" Ted, munching on Colicchio's coat tails, says, "That liver dumpling thing -- that was not Marcel's molecular gastronomy." CJ's goose and Tre's veal are well-received. However, Falkner maintains the Bay Area's reputation for excessive food snobbery by noting that Tre's macaroni and cheese "is not [her] kind of family holiday, but I can see how that would be a family dish -- absolutely." Translation: "I don't like it, but it clearly pleases the unwashed masses." Gail's expression in reaction to Falkner is a beautiful thing to behold. Its very blandness is the epitome of extreme bitchiness and "oh, I beg to differ!" At this moment, I love her. Tiffani's dish is also loved, and Betty's overcooked lamb is excoriated.

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