Mixing Old Fashioneds
Top Chef All-Stars 2/9: Free Birthday Lunch
The remaining chefs gather at the bar to trade gripes after Tre’s elimination. Dale is only angry with himself for under seasoning his dish. Fabio remains whiney about Antonia’s “French” mussel dish besting his traditional Italian chicken. And Mike is just plain bitter about being on the bottom; he can’t even be bothered to congratulate Antionia on her win. I think the long hours of the shooting schedule are getting to the chefs and they’re going to start to crack.
Fondues and Fondon’ts
For the Quick Fire, only Padma is in the kitchen and there is no guest judge. She tells them that they are the guest judges and will vote for one top and one bottom dish, with the catch that a chef cannot vote for him or herself. For the challenge, they will be making fondue, and Padma doesn’t want to see any lazy bananas and chocolate mess. Apparently the vast majority of people associate fondue with key-swap parties of the 70s, whereas I’ve always associated it with long, fun family dinners. Maybe I’ve been doing fondue wrong for better than thirty years. Anyway, immunity is now off the table but the winner will get a three-day trip to Napa Valley.
After thirty minutes of furious cooking and Padma’s toast to the remaining chefs, they sample:
Richard’s bananas with amaretto, ras el hanout, chili chocolate and liquid nitrogen. He knows he did exactly what Padma said not to, but thinks he can put a new spin on it.
Tiffany’s apple ricotta fritter with hazelnut chocolate. The fritters are quite large for fondue.
Angelo’s walnuts, endive with goat cheese fondue and beet juice shooter. It seems more complicated than necessary.
Carla’s beef tenderloin and shrimp with coconut lime curry sauce. So far that sounds the tastiest.
Dale’s pho fondue with beef, bread, charred ginger, lime, sriracha and broth. Locally there’s been a pho explosion which I’m loving, so this sounds pretty yummy too.
Mike’s spiced lamb kabobs with mint and chili, and feta cheese fondue. The lamb was already cooked, which is just weird for fondue.
Antonia’s smoked salmon on toast, fromage blanc and crème fraiche fondue, as a take on Jewish deli foods.
Fabio’s billini with caviar, crème fraiche, fromage blanc, and bourdain wine, all inspired by his ski trips to northern Italy.
The chefs then take to filling out their ballots. It’s not a secret ballot at all and some chefs wonder if the others are going to be completely objective. Richard thinks he would win if there were a real guest judge, while Dale says he’s going to be all NYT food reviewer on the decision.
Fabio, Tiffany, and Mike were the least favorites; Dale put Mike on the bottom because the spice and feta didn’t work for him. The top three were Antonia, Dale, and Angelo. Angelo was beating himself up from the time he started this challenge, so he’s surprised to be in the favorites. Ultimately, Dale’s pho fondue takes the prize and will head to Napa.
Jimmy Fallon’s Birthday Spectacular
Padma sends the chefs to Rockefeller Center to the set of the Jimmy Fallon show. Full disclosure: I’m not a huge fan of Jimmy Fallon. Sometimes he can be funny but years of breaking into laughter on SNL wore me down. The chefs are asked to play something called “Cell Phone Shootout” where they will snap a picture of what is shown on a screen of moving pictures. The pictures are of his favorite dishes; the chefs will have to cook the dish that they snap a picture of for Fallon’s birthday lunch.
Antonia gets beef tongue; she’s never cooked beef tongue and is a bit nervous. Fabio gets a hambooger, as he says, with fries on top. Angelo gets pulled pork, Richard ramen noodles, Dale Philly cheese steak, Tiffany chicken and dumplings, Mike sausage and pepper sandwich, and finally Carla gets chicken pot pie. Carla has been talking about chicken pot pie for weeks, apparently, and is so overwhelmed, she can’t speak. Carla’s exuberance impresses Fallon. I worry she may hyperventilate.
It’s off for some shopping; Carla wants to win this challenge to bring her win tally up three. Dale picks up some pretzel bread buns for his Philly, because he thinks of soft pretzels and cheese steak as intrinsically Philadelphia. Fabio buys a bunch of strange meats to grind to make his booger; he’s somehow escaped ever making a burger, so he’s a bit lost. The chefs then head back to the apartment for dinner consisting of product-placed Bertolli pastas.
The next day arrives and it’s two hours of cooking in Colicchio and Son’s kitchen, but not before a few shots of Angelo in his very tight jeans and a few comments from Dale about Angelo’s unusual sense of fashion. In the kitchen, Angelo mixes a wide array of spices for the pulled pork and Richard tells Antonia how to pressure-cook the beef tongue, as it usually takes much longer than two hours to cook properly. Tiffany is putting a southwest spin on her chicken and dumplings. Carla realized she acted crazy on getting pot pie, and she needs to make sure she can get done inside of two hours.
Judging today are Tom, Padma, Gail, and Jimmy Fallon. First up is Antonia’s beef tongue, pumpernickel rye, caramelized onions and dill stew and Fabio’s chuck, brisket, and short ribs burger with melted cheddar cheese sauce and fries. The burger isn’t well received—apparently it tastes like meatloaf and the cheese sauce is gross. Antonia’s beef tongue is a hit with the crowd and they’re impressed she handled it so well.
Next up are Richard’s ramen noodles with seared pork belly, duck legs and duck egg and Tiffany’s chicken, dumplings with poblano chilies, red peppers, cilantro and lime. Richard’s ramen seemed to taste okay but Fallon wanted the whole crazy Richard show with laser beams. Tiffany’s chicken and dumplings was tasty but really was a tortilla soup.
Carla’s chicken pot pie with carrots, celery, pea salt and herbs and Dale’s Philly cheese steak on a pretzel roll, hot sauce, onions, and cheddar cheese sauce come out next. Dale’s sandwich had well-cooked meat and onions, but overall it was too salty. Carla’s pot pie is devoured by everyone with great glee.
Finally, Angelo’s pulled pork with coffee, dill, allspice and chipotle rub sandwhich with coleslaw and Mike’s sausage, peppers, onions, garlic, fennel, and paprika dish are served. Angelo’s sauce is unexpected but quite tasty. Mike did a good job with the thin sliced onions and peppers. The meal ends with an ice cream birthday cake for Fallon; he, like other 12 year olds, loves ice cream cake. He also announces that the winner of the competition will have a cooking segment on his show.
Padma calls Carla, Angelo and Antonia to face the judges first. They must have put tacks in Fallon’s shoes to keep the straight expression on his face until Padma announces they are the top three. The judges thought Angelo’s dish came together well, especially given the weird spices he used. Carla’s pot pie is loved, in part because she put crust on the bottom of the dish, which is apparently the key to a good pot pie. Antonia did a great job given the time constraint and the weirdness of beef tongue. That weirdness inspired their very own beef tongue song. Fallon then gives the win to Carla; she got her third win, will go on Fallon’s show, and got a six-night trip to Tokyo. I think all three should appear on Fallon’s show just for the beef tongue song.
Tiffany, Fabio and Dale are then sent to face elimination. Richard gripes again about being in the middle; he’s not intimidated by Carla at all. Yeah, right. The judges start with Tiffany; her dumplings were too thin and the broth wasn’t thick enough. Fabio’s burger was a meatball or meatloaf and the cheese sauce turned green. Dale’s sandwich was too salty, with the pretzel roll, hot sauce, and meat seasoning; he was still hung up on the last challenge’s under-seasoning critique. Fallon doesn’t want to let anyone go because he’s such a fan of the chefs.
After deliberation, Dale, Fabio, and Tiffany return to Judges’ Table where Tom sums up the proceedings. Tiffany’s chicken and dumplings didn’t have the richness and puffy dumplings it needed to have. Fabio produced a dry meatloaf and Dale’s sandwich was too salty. Padma then dismisses Fabio from the proceedings. We know he’s not going to fall of the map anytime soon—and if you don’t believe me, go check out his Twitter feed.
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