Thursday, February 26, 2009

Top Chef in New Orleans

Last week's episode made me crave gumbo and crawfish. It is very cool to see New Orleans on the show. Did ya'll know that Emeril Lagasse is a yankee? He is connected to New Orleans because he became executive chef of Commander's Palace in 1982 and then he opened his own restaurant, Emeril's, in 1990.

Anyway, back to the show. I didn't blog about last week's episode. Jeff came back and he had to win to move on to this last round and he didn't. Carla won and I think she maybe could win it all. Fabio went home last week and I was so upset. I loved him! So, Carla, Hosea and Stefan are left for the finale and to compete for the Top Chef title.

The three finalists have breakfast on the Creole Queen a padlewheeler in the Mississippi River. Carla talks about how she just needs to do the "food that got her here" to win. Hosea talks about how Carla and Stefan own their own businesses and he doesn't. Stefan just has a cuss-filled rant about how he's the best and Hosea isn't. I think the judges said differently last week, buddy.

After breakfast, they go to the Historic New Orleans Collection (which I've never been to but would like to) and meet Padma and Tom in the courtyard. Tom tells them their final challenge is a "pretty simple one" and that they have to cook them, "the best three course meal of their life." (Umm, just noting that Tom looks especially good today. His shoulders look extra broad in that black/gray coat- love that!) He tells them that can use whatever proteins they want and that they will be serving head-to-head. He reminds them that it's a three-course-meal and that they do not have to make a dessert.

Padma tells they that they will be cooking their meal at Commander's Palace. How appropriate that we just discussed that restaurant. I've never been there either. I've never eaten there. She tells them that they will serve the next day to a table of "12 judges and distinguished guests." They have 2 hours to prep at the Audubon Tea Room that night and then 3 hours to cook the next day at CP.

Tom then tells them that they also get help. Carla says that she doesn't think it will be previous contestants because they already brought Jeff back. Then we see three contestants from seasons past finales- Marcel, Casey and Richard. There is a block of knives in front of the contestants. They will draw them to see in what order they will chose their sous chef. Carla goes first because she won the last challenge. She gets 3. Stefan gets offered to pull next but lets Hosea pull and he gets 1. Stefan has 2.

Hosea says that Marcel reminds him too much of Stefan. He picks Richard. Stefan picks Marcel which is so appropriate. Carla gets Casey and I think that is good, too. I like them and that is who I want to win as of now. Go Carla!

They are dismissed and head to the Audubon Tea Room. Everyone starts looking for the proteins immediately. Hosea grabs the foie gras and Hosea and Marcel are looking for it. Stefan pitches a fit because Hosea got all of it and he says (Stefan) that he wants two loaves. Hosea tries to compromise and Stefan acts like an ass. What a shocker! Carla picks shrimp, it seems. Hosea talks about ideas. Stefan then sees that Hosea has all the caviar and gets all upset.

Casey wants to convince Carla to sous-vide the sirloin, a technique she has never done. She seems a little uneasy. Hosea says that he noticed what they were talking about and wonders if Casey is taking over. Stefan tells us that his mom was a chef in his native Finland and that cooking simple food is "sexier than doing a bunch of bullsh**." There is more running around and then, the two hours is up and everyone says goodbye.

It's the next day and we see some more NOLA sights-streetcar, Bourbon Street, etc. The contestants get to the CP kitchen where they find Tom standing near some weird ingredients. It's an alligator (which does taste like chicken), blue crab (which is one of my favorite things) and some fish (red?). He tells them that they are adding one more course. Each of them will have to make an appetizer using some traditional New Orleans ingredients. One will cook with crab, one with red fish (yay, I was right) and one with the alligator.

He tells them that in order to decide who cooks with what protein, they will use a King Cake. AHHH! King Cakes are haunting me! He tells them that whoever gets the baby gets to choose their protein and choose which protein each other chef will use. Hosea tells us that, basically, no one wants the gator. Hosea ends up getting the baby. He chooses the red fish, gives the crab to Carla and the gator to Stefan.

Hosea decides to do his hors d'oeurve as a grilled corn cake with Creole Remoulade and a piece of blackened red fish- oh yummy! He thinks that this dish "represents New Orleans."

Then we see Stefan talking about how he doesn't know what to do with Mr Alligator. He whacks off the tail and realizes that is where all the meat is. He decides to make a soup with it. Now, I have not ever heard of alligator soup. Turtle soup, yes, alligator, no.

Carla alos decides to do a soup. She is doing a shiso soup with the crab and chayote salsa on top with Asian flavors. She admits that the pressure of the appetizer has her so rattled that she can't focus on the rest of the meal. Come on, C!

Now, on to the food:
-Trio of Sashimi (raw fish)
-Scallops & Foie Gras with pan perdu (which is so good- pan perdu)
-Venison (deer meat) loin with wild mushrooms
He says that venison is his favorite meat. It is a good meat that is very flavorful. It's pretty lean too. He says that he doesn't do a dessert because it's not his strong point.

-Halibut & Salmon Carpaccio (served raw and sliced thin)
-Squab with Braised Red Cabbage & Schupfudeln (German; potato noodles)
-Ice Cream & Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla Syrup & Lollipops
He says that he is doing a dessert because he would want one. He's doing something with the Nitrogen tank.

-Seared Snapper with Saffron Aioli (sauce)& Crouton
-Sous-Vide New York Strip Steak, Potato Rod with Merlot Sauce
-Cheese Tart with Apple Coins & Marmalade
She said that she is focusing on the sauces. She wanted to French food and sauces are big in French food. Then, she wanted the cheese course because in a typical French menu you have fish, beef, and cheese course. I like it! She says that she had in mind to do a cheese tart and Casey suggested a Bleu Cheese Souffle.

Then, after the commercials, we are back and see some more lovely New Orleans things- including a plate of Cafe Du Monde beniets. We have a CdM in our mall. OMG, I want some. Then we are shown some of the guests arriving at CP and I see Gail, Padma, Fabio and Rocco DiSpirto, who I love. When was this that Tom and Rocco were so close to me and I didn't know. AGH!

Padma thanks the guests and especially Ti Martin for hosting. Padma is drinking what looks like an orangey colored martini- yum!

Hosea's appetizer gets passed first. It's offically "Blackened Red Fish on Corn Cake with Creole Remoulade & Micro Cilantro." It seems that everyone liked-or maybe loved-it.
Stefan's app is next and it's officially "Alligator Soup with Celeriac, Parsley Leaves & Puff Pastry." Everyone seems to like it, too. I heard "lovely", "good consistency" and "good job."
Carla is last and hers is "Shiso Soup with Blue Crab & Chayote Thai Salsa." Everyone likes hers too. Tom said that the crab was cooked well.

Everyone (the judges and guests) sits down now at a beautiful, long table. The three contestants come out and Padma introduces them to the guests- Rocco, Hubert Keller (chef and restaurant owner), Branford Marslis (Jazz Musician), Fabio, Susan Spicer (chef/owner of Bayona in NOLA), John Besh (chef/restaurant owner-August in NOLA), Tory Mcphail (executive chef of Commander's Palace), Ti Martin (proprietor of CP), Gail Simmons, Toby Young, and the head judge, Chef Tom Colicchio.

The first courses from all of the contestants gets served. Everyone is talking first about liking Carla's fish (seared snapper). Ti Martin likes her fish but doesn't think Hosea's popped- in the mouth. Others comment that it needed more seasoning. Stefan's dish gets some diss from Chef Tom. Chef Hubert Keller likes it though.

The second courses get served. They all look good to me but I'd want that one from Hosea with the scallops and the pan perdu. Gail says that Carla's sirloin is tough. Tom says that this is the problem with sous-vide cooking, it loses spontaneity. I admit that I have no idea what that means. Ti Martin says, "The lady can make a sauce." Tom says that the dish doesn't remind him of Carla. Oh, no! Carla- why did you let Casey sway you? Stefan's dish gets some praise for a well cooked game bird. Gail says that it was true to him as a chef. She also loves Hosea's pan pardu. Rocco is tired of eating Foie Gras.

Time for the last course. Hosea says that Stefan's dessert looks good. Stefan says something rude about doing venison. Carla is having trouble with her souffle's! She ruins the souffle by boiling and curdling it. She decides not to serve it. I don't know what she is serving. ? She says that she is disappointed. Hers is an apple tart coin with bleu cheese and walnut crumble. She tells them that her "Bleu cheese souffle, didn't souffle."

Gail says that if anyone could've made a good dessert it was Carla and she is disappointed. Chef Tory says that he is glad to finish Stefan's meal with a dessert. He thinks it is the best dish of the series. That seems weird to me. Chef Tom thinks it's "eh." Gail thinks it's "1982." Hosea's dish gets a little praise. Fabio is asked, by Padma, to choose between Stefan and Hosea's overall meal. He chooses Hosea because of his closing dish. Chef Hubert Keller says that it's better to go out on a limb and do the dessert than to "play it safe" with the venison. I am wondering if this means that Carla is completely out?

Now, it's time for Judges Table. Gail starts by saying that Carla's app was really well done. Then they discuss her first course and how it was great. Then, the second course, the beef and potato was discussed. The sauce was great but the texture of the meat was not. I am thinking that things don't look so great for Carla. Tom asks her how much of an influence Casey was on her. She tells them that it was Casey's idea to sous-vide the beef. Tom raises his eyebrows. Then, on to the souffle, or the lack thereof. She tells them about what happened to the poor souffle. Tom asks her, "Why the souffle" and she says that Casey suggested it. Tom says that she allowed her sous chef to talk her out of cooking the food that got her to the finale.

On to Hosea. His appetizer was excellent. Gail asks him if he'd cooked Red Fish before and he says that he has maybe once. They discuss the strong flavors of it. They banter about him "sticking it to Stefan" with the gator. Then, Padma asks a dreaded question- "Were you happy with the..." Anytime she asks that, you should't be happy. They are now discussing his sashimi. They tell him that it looked good but didn't taste good. Then, for his second course, he tells them that he did the pan perdu as a "nod to New Orleans." Tom says that it was good and Gail says it was his best. Then, as for his venison, they say that it was good and well cooked. Toby asks if he thought not having an ending (dessert) for his meal was a risk. He says that he didn't think that one was necessary.

Lastly is Stefan. Gail asks him if he's cooked with alligator before. He laughs and tells her no. He talks about it's "weird texture," which is very true. The judges compliment the dish. Gail and Tom talk about the watered-down taste of his carpaccio. Tom says something about the way he prepared it which was freezing the fish so that he could cut it thinly. Moving on to the squab... Gail says she really liked it. Toby says it was his strongest. Tom agrees. And then Tom asks him why he did a dessert. He says that he thinks it completes the meal.

Padma asks why they deserve the win. Carla gets emotional when she answers and Stefan hugs her. They are dismissed so the judges can talk. The first thing that Padma says is that Carla is out of the running. Now, they compare Hosea and Stefan.

And the winner is..... HOSEA!

The Biggest Loser- Blue vs Black

Big, big stuff on this week's two one-hour episodes. There was a challenge where one person from each team had to do up-downs in the mud. The first person to 100 won and got to pick whether their team went blue (Bob) or black (Jillian). The person who came in last had to change trainers. The teams in the middle flipped a blue/black coin.

I don't know if I could do 5 up-downs. Plus, in the mud, no thank you. These players soldiered on though. They did not want to change trainers and I do not blame them. It was between Tara and Sione in the end and Tara won. She is very impressive. Her and Laura started off with Jillian and she wanted to stay with her. Kristin and Helen were fighting not to be in last place but Kristin beat her out so, Helen was last and had to switch to Jillian.

The team that came after Tara was Sione and Felipe. They flipped a coin and it landed on black. They were originally with Bob and so they were devastated. Then Dane flipped and he landed blue. He was originally with Jill. I don't remember how it all happened after that but the final teams were-

Blue (Bob)- Kristin and Cathy (stayed), Dane (switched), Ron (stayed but had to break up from his son), Mandy and Aubrey (switched).
Black (Jillian)- Helen (switched), Tara and Laura (stayed), Felipe and Sione (switched), Mike (switched and broke up from his dad).

Everyone was upset. No one wanted to break up teams or to switch trainers. Bob and his former team had a meltdown. I don't really blame them, though. I'd be so mad if I weren't on Bob's team. I would be really mad if I was and then had to switch. I couldn't work with Jillian. I think that you need to be pushed but she is a bitch.

There was a 24-hour challenge of riding a stationary bike. Whichever team rode the most miles in 24 hours won. The black team seems stronger and more together right out of the gate. They have Tara and Feilipe and Sione. Plus, they decide that everyone will ride for 30 minutes and then switch. The blue team just seems to be riding til they can't anymore and switching. In the end, after Mandi tries to get them to quit!, the black team wins. They win a three pound advantage at the weigh-in.

At the weigh-in blue team goes first. Dane loses 13 pounds which puts him at a 100 pound weight loss in 8 weeks. That is mind blowing and it's a Biggest Loser record. Kristin loses 10 pounds. Cathy loses 14 (and I think that I would DIE if my mom lost 14 pounds in one week). Ron loses 5 and so does Aubrey. Mandi loses 7.

Next up is the black team. They have the 3 pound advantage added to their scoreboard right away. I was going back and forth (in the room) so I don't remember each person's weights but, they end up winning. They would've won without the 3 pound advantage.

It's time to eliminate someone from the blue team and the obvious choice is Ron. Yes, he's a great guy and is trying hard but he is not going to pull big numbers and he cannot help during challenges. He asks that the team send Dane home because he had the support needed. Dane is all, "What?" In the end, they end up sending Dane home with 3 votes. 2 votes for Ron and then 1 random vote from Aubrey to Kristin.

Ok- are they nuts? This is ridiculous! They are already underdogs to the black team, in my opinion. They get rid of the big guy who still has weight to lose. He's still over 300 pounds. Ron is in the high 300 but he is not going to pull a big number. He can hardly walk. I think that this was a bad decision and Bob won't like it.

What do you think of the team switch up?
What did you think of Bob's reaction?
What do you think of the blue team sending Dane home?