Top Chef D.C. Episode 12: The Final Countdown

Shame on me. I didn’t realize we were getting to the final four so soon. This probably explains why I’m a blogger and not, say, a calculus teacher or an engineer. I’m back with would-be cheftestant Ed Hardy. We’re chatting semi-live, meaning we both DVR’d it and watched at the same time. The U.S. Open is going on and, as it turns out, I am concurrently watching Andy Roddick get Serbed. Ha! Get it? Tipsaveric is Serbian? Anyway, let’s get Ed in on this….

First, are you excited to be here again? Tell me again why you’re watching on delay? Did you take your lovely wife out to dinner? Where’d you eat?

"I totally almost wore the same thing as Padma. Ha! NOT!"

“Excited” is a strong feeling. Especially for a person who drinks until they can’t feel feelings anymore while watching Top Chef. I’m watching on DVR because I was out at dinner at Convivio. Chef Michael White is “White” hot right now in NYC. Which is great because Italian is the new culinary black. So Chef White is the new black.  Which makes sense. Because I’ve been drinking. My wife Françoise (CP note: She’s a food writer for StarChefs and is, for all intents and purposes, out of Ed’s league. You know it’s true, Hardy!) and I found a lot to like at Convivio. Good staff, good antipasti, and sfizi (Italian amuse). Some minor texture issues with the pasta, but we’re hypercritical reviewers. Worth a second visit!

Good to know. So, true or false: If Kelly really cared about her husband, she wouldn’t smoke. There I said it. And I used to smoke!

False. If I were on Top Chef I might take up smoking. As far as I know, the Magical Elves don’t let you out of the house, they make you keep weird hours, and they don’t allow you access to Padma’s stash of the good stuff, if you know what I mean. So, I would have to take up smoking to have something to do. Plus, its still acceptable for chefs. Just look at Tony Bourdain. He smokes, he’s cool. I hope he’s on this episode.

Angelo is divorced. He has a baby. Who is cute! And, his ex’s family looked down on his lil’ sammie shop. Can you explain why people who live in Manhattan think having a sammie shop is a sign of success while other people from, like, anywhere else in the world, might think you’re one step above a pushcart at the turn of the century (and not the one that just turned)?

"I'm on TV! How do you like me now?"

My parents (Hi Mom!) thought I was nuts when I went into cooking after nine short years of undergrad. Although perceptions are changing I understand that most Americans (Manhattanites and other notable enclaves excepted) wouldn’t want their sons or daughters to stand in front of a hot stove for long hours for low pay. Heck, I could earn more working underground. I’ll bet Angelo’s ex and her snooty family are regretting their judgment of Angelo now. TV makes everything better.

What’d you think of the QFC? My friend Eric Arnold pitched a suspiciously similar idea last year – so it must be a good one. In honor of the end of summer and all the wine I’ve put back, what would Ed have done if I’d have given him a rosé?

I would honor the end of summer with some peaches and a grill. How about Bacon-wrapped pork with Grilled Peaches and Maple Pork Jus? Rosé is a great grilling wine, and pairs with fruit nicely, especially stone fruits.

I’ve never pressure cooked anything as I watched too many I Love Lucy re-runs when I was home sick as a kid. I fear explosions. This is irrational, but … is pressure cooking a pork belly the best way to go right now?

Wondering WWED for the QFC? Wonder no more!

Absolutely not. Kevin was not thinking straight when he attempted this. If you have an hour, and it takes 10 minutes to prep, and 10 minutes to slice and plate, 40 minutes is not enough time for a braise, even in a pressure cooker. He absolutely failed in his critical thinking. Although its trendy to sous-vide everything for 24 hours in my mind I like old-fashioned pressure cookers. Nothing like watching steam dance away from your dish mixed with the danger of possible explosions.

Can you say a word about foam? In partik, cheese foam (which sounds like a foodborne illness).

Kelly’s emulsion is actually a foam, and I think she just plain made up the word “bajoule.”

Ha! I’m kinda sick of foam. It’s bizarre and photographs terribly. Your pal Angelo wins the QFC. This will bring him one step closer to Russia! Where should he dine when he’s in the UK?

I have first-hand reports that Daniel Boulud’s Bar Boulud is the new place to be seen in London. Finally, America is able to import fine dining to Europe! (Yes, Yes, I know that Chef Boulud is French, but he’s ours by now….) For nose-to-tail dining, I favor Fergus Henderson’s St. John Restaurant.

Cooking for NASA! Woot! Before we get into all this, though, Ed is anyone going to make SPACE ICE CREAM? And, have you had freeze dried ice cream? It’s all kinds of AWESOME!

I’ve been to the National Air and Space Museum six times. Each time I went was just a prelude to eventually reaching the gift shop, where I could purchase my beloved space ice cream. So yes, I love it.

Buzz Aldrin is in the house! Should he have punched that dude out who called him a liar and implied he didn’t walk on the Moon?

I think that proved he really did.

The big showdown is going to be in Singapore. Ed, do you want to get caned in Singapore?

Been there. Done that. The best part is that you get to keep the sugar cane at the end! I put it into some mojitos.

Speaking of been there, done that…I’m sick of hearing contestants say that they’re from a “food family.” How is a predictor of chef success? Gramercy Tavern exec chef Michael Anthony ate processed cheese as a kid and that certainly didn’t hurt his career.

I’m with Chef Anthony. I overcame early food allergies and a sheltered un-adventurous middle American food childhood to become a chef and bona fide foodie. Bottom line: It doesn’t matter.

What? Oh, sorry… Roddick just lost and I was rejoicing. The US Open is consuming me! I was supposed to be there, but I scratched a cornea and the bright lights would kill me. What were we talking about? Oh, yeah…space! Astronaut food. Should someone have done something with Tang?

Yes! I’ve seen Tang used by folks like the Voltaggios for a “tangy” acidic addition to dishes.

ED! They didn’t freeze dry the dishes before service? I wanted to see Buzz in a space suit microwaving the dishes and serving the chefs. How is this fair? We don’t know what any of these dishes are going to reconstitute like!

Set phasers on boring. All that talk about space food and nothing gets dehydrated. Where’s the fun in that? I haven’t been this disappointed since the Ewoks ruined the trilogy.

Did you catch how Padma said “space stories” like she maybe doesn’t believe that people walked on the Moon? Just sayin’.

"I'm pretty sure they don't allow smoking of any kind in space, Padma."

I did. I found it a bit odd as well. Exploring the final frontier, the last deep unknown is reduced instead to “space stories.”

Someone mentioned ice cream again! Let’s go back to ice cream. How awesome is space ice cream?

Space ice cream is the most awesome thing since the invention of sliced bread.

So, I’m speechless. I don’t want freeze dried short ribs. Or a Toyota Avalon. Help! Why did Angelo win? And, Tiffany is going home! I’m not watching anymore. 🙁

Sending Tiffany home is the last straw. She was the happy one. Now we’re left with grumpy, sleepy, dopey, and the navel-gazer. When she left she took all joy and genuine feelings with her. I’m not sure I want to watch anymore either.

Well, I’ll make you watch because if I have to, you have to. Anyway, this is a clear example of one of the laws of physics. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Roddick goes home (YAY!) and so does Tiffany (BOO!).

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