I ask you -- is there anything better than settling in to watch episode two of Top Chef surrounded by good food and friends? I take a sip of wine and a bite of seared tuna. Join me, beloved audience of four readers, as I take in Top Chef!
Actually I'm a big liar. My sister is in Toronto, my Parisian friend is Who Knows Where, and my boyfriend and I are I Don't Know What.
I open up my favorite cookbook, Recipes for People Who Are Going To Die Alone, turn past the tear-stained "Get Used to It Teeny-Tiny Chicken for One" and decide on "Your Arms Look Like Ham Hocks Healthy Sushi." So what if the manager has seen me four times this week and commented on it? It's times like this that we must treat ourselves.
I'll try again. Join me, beloved dwindling audience of four, as we take in Top Chef......Attack of the Clones!
We start out this morning in the Miami Real World house, um, I mean the Top Chef house. Micah is not a morning person. She stumbles out of bed and sulks across the kitchen, past Howie and....well good morning!
Tre is at the fridge in a white tank top!!!
He is reaching for something. Is it milk? Will it be heavy, causing his muscles to flex? Will he spill it on his shirt or have to wipe some off of his mouth with the back of his hand? I wait breathlessly. Unfortunately, he is a bit obscured by Howie doing something I have no interest in -- aka, being Howie. His head is covering up a bit of Tre's back. Or Tre's shoulder or beautiful hand that could have been lovingly crafted by Michelangelo.
MOVE Howie, you're ruining my fantasy wherein Tre and I are roommates, picked together to live in a house...
I suppose I will pay attention to Howie. He is saying something highly predictable about how he is "going to win and show these people who they're dealing with!" Whatever, Howie.
The challenge is to use citrus to make a delicious dish. Someone voice-overs that the quickfire features "every conceivable citrus I've seen" which I have a quibble with. Is it every citrus you've seen? Or every citrus conceivable?
The guest judge is Norman of....Norman's. Norman seems jovial but don't be fooled.
Tre is going to make something with Tangelo -- he seriously wraps his tongue around ever syllable of the word Tangelo. Swoon!
Sandee, our southern Mohawked woman, is having trouble with the sugar torch. I can relate. She's using the sugar torch to make a brulee with shrimp, sea bass, some kind of citrus, accompanied by a tiny mojito shooter. Stormin' Norman complains about the music and sad music starts to play. Sandee, I'm worried for you.
Micah, who is still not a morning person, makes a spicy avocado citrus soup which she admits is more like pudding....Norm is not happy.
Joey "I'm from New Yawk, New Yawk,"does a fennel salad with blood oranges. His accompanying watermelon shooter gets Norm's approval.
Take note, because Joey just invented the first watermelon-based drink. He also patented it off-camera. Look on the bottom of the next watermelon you buy. It will say "Patented by Joey of New York, NEW YAWK!" In fact, if you do create a watermelon-inspired drink, you should immediately send 50 cents to Joey, at:
Apartment 1, Mean Streets
New York, New Yawk, whatevuh zipcode!
Hung looks around the kitchen and gleefully says to the camera that he sees some "slummy dishes." Hung, you bitch, I'm starting to love you more than Tre. Stop it. Hung does well on the quickfire with a "slow" roasted sea bass, watercress and radish.
Lowest three of the Quickfire:
Sara, Sandee and Micah. Norm says that Micah's was "an unremarkable bit of food."
Top three of the Quickfire:
CJ, Hung, and Tre.
Hung is the winner of the quickfire and now has immunity from the Challenge!
Hung says, "I was thrilled...I didn't expect" (I am shocked and disappointed that he is about to say something humble) until he finishes with "...anything else." Hung you amaze me.
Joey is pissed off that they didn't like his dish. He is, I repeat, PISSED OFF, like he wants to punch Tom Colicchio. He stomps manfully. Haven't you heard? He's from New York. I'm having real trouble telling Howie and Joey apart. They both are swathed in chef's whites, I know, but they also both have NEW YAWK accents by way of watching Goodfellas 3,000 times.
Cooking "upscale BBQ." The chefs have $200 for groceries and two hours to prep the night before.
Tre is all, "aww, BBQ, easy, I'm from Texas." Hung goes for flank steak and Brian Malarkey goes for making his own seafood sausage, as in, "go big or go home." Brian, take off that fedora hat. Your last name is Malarkey. He will now be known as Brian Fedor-UGH.
Micah is sulking her way around the produce section. At the last minute she goes for some lamb because it's on sale. Tre lifts his grocery bag on the way out. Manfully. With ease. Swoon!
Sandee is nervous about this BBQ thing because she's from the south. So she sidesteps the southern BBQ issue by making a lobster with vanilla bean bacon sauce. She figures this is upscale. Yes, lobster is upscale...but there isn't a lot of BBQ.
Micah is sad and she says it's because she misses her daughter. Hung is skeptical and points out that she was on top of the world when she won her quickfire. Hung says of Micah, "don't use your daughter as an excuse that you're sad, that you're crying." He practically spits. I expect him to add, "There's no crying in cooking!"
The Morning of the Challenge:
Tre and Hung are doing pushups together. Adorable. Can they be a crime fighting duo? Sandee is doing some kind of martial arts on the roof!
Bikini shots! Mambo music! We're in Miami! We are at the challenge local now: 14 grills lined up.
Tom comes around. Remember -- he's a judge, not a mentor. CJ is hunched over a grill -- lamenting his height -- seriously he looks like Quasimodo. Malarkey Fedor-UGH is making something called "cino latino." Must he be so cutesy? Tom on Sandee's fancy lobster dish with vanilla, butter and dates: "It's like putting lipstick on a pig." Oh Tom. I love you.
Howie is doing a pork dish -- Tom thinks he might be cooking it too early (at too high a heat). Joey, who is THE KING OF NEW YORK, says, "You do something like that in New York? You're going home." It's true. Someone cooked a pork tenderloin for me the other day and it was dry. I was like, *You call this pork? Fughedabout it! Did you cut this gaaaalickkk with a razor? Gettoutahehhh!*
Hung is serving a watermelon champagne: this enrages Joey because he thinks he invented watermelon-based drinks at the Quickfire. Joey, who I still confuse with Howie, says something about how Hung "moved to Vegas because he can't hang in New Yawwwwk!" Hung points out that watermelon goes with BBQ and that's why he's serving it. Joey goes on and on, and Hung is a really good sport about it.
Padma chows down and dreamily muses about how good everything tasted. Hmm, really Padma? Is your appetite up?
Top three: Sara, Micah, Brian.
I love Sara -- she is "honored and surprised" at being in the top three.
Micah says she picked lamb because "you can't have BBQ without lamb" -- also, she adds in her head, it was on sale and I'm not a morning person.
Brian is the winner! I throw up in my statement-hat.
The loser brigade:
This week, we actually have four! Tre, Sandee, Howie and Joey.
Tre's problem was salt -- the judges think he "phoned this one in a little bit." Are they hard on him because he's from Texas?
Joey's problem, besides being a reality TV cliche, is that the judges say his wasn't upscale enough. Joey tries to do the whole, "Oh, I ate this chicken as a mere lad with my family" routine, but the judges don't care.
Sandee's problem is that she didn't BBQ, she merely warmed the lobster in a tray on the grill. Next please! Also the judges say they couldn't taste the lobster, it was overwhelmed by the dates and the butter.
Howie's Jamaican jerk pork was dry. That's all they really say about it.
Attack of the Clones:
The judges ask Joey who he thinks should go. It's worth pointing out here that he does have to answer: Everyone knows if you say yourself on these shows, they send you home. So, Joey says that Howie should go. Granted, this is kind of poor form, since he didn't even taste Howie's dish. However, Joey points out that in the first episode, Howie didn't even turn in both proteins for the surf & turf because he ran out of time.
At which point Howie goes on a rant against Joey, about how he was complaining all day and clearly isn't a leader. "You point fingers? That isn't what leadership is," proclaims Howie. "Friends, Romans, fellow chefs, lend me your ears!" He adjusts his toga and they all go back to the chef's holding pen.
Joey leaps up out of his seat, marches right over to Howie and bellows, "Next time I'm in there with you, you step up and be a man!"
At which point Howie howels, "YOU BE A MAN!" and beats his chest. They start throwing phrases around like, "little bitch" and "little girl" which really annoys me. They are also competing for most NEW YAWWWWWK accent.
The judges are deliberating. Norman says something about how BBQ is "three words. Low and Slow" -- which I suppose is really three words technically but I was confused and waiting for the third word of BBQ, which I suppose is "and."
Tom is, of course, fighting for Tre, but has a hard time "keeping Howie around." (After that rant I guess. Or maybe it's because Tom also can't tell Howie and Joey apart.)
So the question of the night is..what's the bigger sin -- no BBQ (Sandee) or not upscale enough (Joey)?
I would say the real question of the night is, should I get drunk for the next episode or pay some hobo to watch TV with me?
Anyway Sandee, please pack your knives and go.
Everyone is shocked. Hung, my sweetest little sweetum, says, "Sandee is a really cool girl and we hate to see her go."
Sandee says, "From day one, I knew I wasn't going to be in the upper echelons."
THAT IS SO SAD. These goodbyes are really hard. Hand me a drink!