Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Top Chef 4 Live-Blogging: Puerto Rico

Here it is, the penultimate episode of TC4. That is, if Bravo decides not to air one of those gratuitous reunion specials. If they do, then I am certainly not doing this next week. Why? Despite the possibility, it's actually pretty unlikely that anyone in this bunch would kill any of the others. Not even slug 'em for that matter. That will happen off-stage. But I'm getting ahead of myself. This week our fab four high-tail it to sunny Puerto Rico. Will we see any comida boricua this week? Probably not.

Today's beer of choice: He'Brew (the "Chosen Beer"). I've been eying this Saratoga Springs, NY, brand of beer for a while but just never got around to it. There were several varieties at Wells Liquors. The one I got is He'Brew Origin, a pomegranate ale - "imperial amber ale brewed with luscious pomegranate juice". And of course, kosher certified.

I could quickly tire of live-blogging this show and The Next Food Network Star (Sundays at 10). At least TC4 is ending soon!

Note: Since it's off-and-on violently storming outside, there's a chance I'll lose my satellite signal and/or power. So if I get stuck somewhere around 10:27 or so, I haven't lost interest. It's just the weather.

10:00 That opening shot reminded me how much I love meat!

10:01 Ah, beautiful San Juan. Cue the Menudo.

10:02 Rich: "Not too many people expect Lisa to be here, that's for sure." That's for sure indeed.

10:03 Everyone looks calmer. Of course! For a sec at least...

And Padma introduces puertorriqueño chef Wilo Benet. The quickfire: make Wilo and Padma some frituras, using plantain (so I was wrong - they ARE going to make Puerto Rican cuisine).

10:05 Leese heads for the protein in the kitchen, the others pounce on 'em plantains. And AH, Lisa's been practicing.

10:06 Steph breaks out tuna and pork/shrimp tostones, while Antonia has a plantain jam to accompany the oyster fritters. I missed the rest.

Lisa has a chorizo and plantain fritter and a duck tostone. So far I have seen no displeasure in the judges' faces.

Rich has meatballs and plantain chips with ripe plantain salsa. Everything seems peachy, er, plantainy.

10:09 Ooooh, Antonia's tostones fell flat, and Rich's raw ripe plantain tasted raw. Well duh, they were raw. He's most pleased with Steph and Lisa.

Ooooh, look at the look of dejection on Rich's face.

10:10 And Steph is the winner. I think I would've drunk the whole bottle of beer had Lisa won.

10:11 And right to the fiesta boricua in Old San Juan, complete with spit-roasted pig, rum and Padma trading in her Bollywood know-how for takes part in some fun Puerto Rican dancing. (ADDENDUM: I had incorrectly heard somewhere that Padma's career detoured for a short time into Bollywood. My mistake.)

And then it all gets serious (cue the dramatic music). The contestants all get sullen and talk about the stress. Yeah well, at least you're there.

That was actually the only really funny thing that's happened so far. **SIGH** I thought this ep would be a little more interesting. At least I now know to look for some tasty frituras at the next LatinoFest (June 20 and 21st at Patterson Park, the same week as Baltimore's LGBT Pride Festival.

10:16 Padma pops back up with Tom this time at La Fortaleza, National Historic Site and the residence of the governor of Puerto Rico.

Oh YES! They are using whole pig!!! THE WHOLE F*CKING PIG!

10:17 We knew we'd see the last four eliminees pop up today, didn't we? Dale, Anthony, Spike and Nikki are back, and as winner of the quickfire, Steph gets to assign sous chefs. She wants to choose people that will get along together. I guess she wasn't paying attention when Lisa voiced over her distaste of Anthony. God, she didn't hear it?

YES! They are BUTCHERING the actual PIG! I am loving this...

10:18 Spike is paired with Richard for the very first (and last) time.

10:19 So Lisa and Anthony are veering away from Asian for Latin food, a thing Rich specifically wants to avoid - "It's their game" and he thinks he'd suck at it, so no frituras from Rich.

10:20 Ay, pobrecito Anthony. El no puedo comunicar con los vendedores porque él no habla el idioma.

10:21 Porky, no! Not kosher for poor Lisa, who is Jewish. Somehow I don't think this matters to her.

Why does this remind me of Motel Hell?

10:22 Rich phones Spike to bring back some maltas, plus tons of mangoes and stuff. The third really funny thing to happen tonight.

10:23 The "Tell me something I don't know" award goes to Anthony: "Lisa has a really strong personality."

10:24 And they hug. Awww.. Uh-oh. Somebody left something big and porky sitting out. I think it was Stephanie's.

10:25 Stephanie is throwing out pork that's been sitting out in a hot, humid kitchen all night? You're kidding me! Apparently Dale did this. But it was an accident so he's ready to butcher and cook himself instead.

For leaving pork belly out all night: DRINK!

10:26 I'm not even catching what the chefs have planned. It's just a-whirrin' by. Ooooh, I wonder if Lisa is making rice, too...

10:28 Steph and
Dale are now using chicharrones, one of the very few things I cannot stand to eat. I've had bad experiences with reconstituted pork skin soft tacos before. It wasn't pretty.

10:30 Oh, I didn't realize Step It Up and Dance was ending tomorrow. Hell, Bravo sure as hell timed all these finales poorly, no? At least stagger 'em a little.

10:33 Three minute commercial break - shorter than usual for Bravo. What gives?

Lisa: "I don't wanna come all the way to Puerto Rico just to be sent home." - But why not? It's Puerto Rico! Hell enjoy it!

And the chefs are serving a group of celebs including... (Oops, trailed off there. Still lost it.)

10:35 The dishes:

Steph: Pork satay on sugarcane skewers with miso almond sauce with coconut braised pork and plantain pancake, and tropical fruit-chicharrón salad. Judges seem to be happy so far.

Rich: :local pork and beans" with picked watermelon rind, pork ribs with malta and soy glaze, and barbceued pork shoulder with mango. Rich seems happy, but I didn't catch the judges.

10:37 Lisa offers a citrus pork belly with adobe roasted pork, yuca-pork rellena and a mojo (garlic dipping sauce).

And Antonia, what have we got here? Pickled sweet pepper and honey pork belly, corried pork with pumpkin and yuca and habanero pigeon peas with hamhock and pork sausage. The judges have their poker faces on. No idea how they feel.

10:39 The partygoers seem pleased. Antonia's pleased despite the spiciness, ad Rich's malta glaze pleased one long time local.

Thank God - no reunion show! The finale is indeed next week.

10:41 Watch out for that tequila. A few shots in and you have no idea you're drunk. Then after about shot #5 or so you are floored. Once it took me 7 1/2 shots before I stumbled back to a cab that took me home. At least I think it was home. Anyway...

10:43 Judges' Table - let's see what they really think!

Wilo: tremendous all around. Maybe this will be difficult.

Lisa and Antonia: a few things were weak. But this isn't Week 1 weak. This is "Penultimate Episode" weak. Their weak is probably better than most people's fabulous.

10:44 Looks like Steph and Rich are indeed going on to the finale. Any bets on which person named Lisa gets eliminated?

Rich: Tom thought Rich was "self-editing" and (thankfully) making simpler dishes. Steph's satays made Wilo a very happy man.

10:46 Rich is the winner tonight! For his troubles, he gets a shiny new CAAAAR! Richard, this can all be yours, IF the PRICE IS RIGHT!

Rich is cute when he flop-sweats, no?

10:47 And now it's down to Antonia and Lisa. Remember, ladies, even though you're their least favorites, they were still very pleasing dishes. For once, Lisa's "strong" dishes were actually strong, instead of just "strong" in her head.

To Gail, Lisa's purée was too sweet, and the focus was on the garnishes, not the pig. They question her decision to go Puerto Rican, though Lisa protests (big shock, though she tones down her protestations this time so it isn't all in-yo'-face).

10:48 Antonia says she likes her peas al dente, a problem the judges had with them. I really dislike 'em that way, too. What was their other critique? The dishes were too much alike? Again I missed it.

10:49 Lisa: Elements of each of her dishes that Gail was not happy about. Biggest mistake? The tostone. Wilo thought it was a good idea.

10:50 Lisa, for once you did not do a horrible job. But again, it all comes down to tiny mistakes.

Antonia's are too simplistic. There's nothing wrong with simplistic! But undercooked beans? The judges are not convinced.

IIII WAAAANT YOOOOUR SOOOOUL!"1 DAMN, people, I didn't need Santino Rice screaming in André's face tonight.

While I'm on the subject, here's a funny YouTube flashback: the Project Runway Season 2 Musical!

10:55 I did not vote! But I agree: Lisa should skedaddle.

10:56 Yadda yadda yadda great dishes blah blah blah A-game wha whaaa wha B+.

Antonia: pigeon peas were your downfall...

Lisa: some fell short

And the loser is... I think Lisa, but the loser REALLY is...

10:57 WHOA! Antonia is out! I miscalled that one, didn't I?

10:58 And Lisa is just pissed that they didn't congratulate her. Are we really still in seventh grade?

Final thoughts: Am I the only one shocked to see Lisa in the final three? I mean, come on. I didn't bet anything, but I am sure that money has been bet and lost tonight. Hell, even Bravo's website says they're shocked.

So who will win? Beats the hell out of me. Lisa's cockroach-y ability to stick around makes me think she will win next week. I just have this odd feeling. But no, it'll probably be Steph.

In fact, here's my prediction for next week (photos linked from Bravo TV website):

Top Chef:

Steph (the first female Top Chef)

Runner Up:

Rich (should Steph fail to fill her duties as Top Chef, Rich as runner up must step up to fill that role)

Also Ran:

Lisa (hey, she's been in the bottom eight times so far. How many Top Chefs have been in the bottom that often?)

And I'll be live blogging this next week. Also catch my live blog of The Next Food Network Star, Episode 2 on Sunday at 10 PM. Will the other Lisa get kicked out on her arse? Nipa? Adam? Will Paula Deen finally fry a stick of butter? Will Giada finally scratch Sandra Lee's eyes out? Stay tuned Sunday...


Nanc Twop said...

''They are using whole pig!!!

THat's exactly how I felt!

Also really thought it would be Lisa right up until the end too...

But wasn't it interesting that Bravo's sound people let us hear Antonia whisper to Steph: 'Kick their asses!'. Suppose that bit of editing means anything?

Nice zippy recap!

my Top Chef posts

John said...

I missed "Kick their asses!" But we all KNOW she will just kick ass.

Zak said...

What's up. Zak from Shmaltz Brewing here. Thanks for the shoutout on the Origin. I hope you enjoyed it. I wish I could comment on TC last night, but I may have fallen asleep on the floor 20 minutes in. Cheers!

theminx said...

I don't know why Bravo's not advertising a reunion show - there's an extra week between next Wednesday's finale and the start-up of Shear Genius on the 25th (you watching that, btw? 'cuz I'm quarterbacking Blogging Shear Genius for the BPR folks and would love to have your recap or live blog to post).

John said...

Zak: Thanks for the shout out. I liked the subtle hints of pomegranate, yep. (God, now I sound like a pretentious wine snob - a beer snob?)

John said...

Minx: I am not watching Shear Genius. I could only get through a few eps of the first before I turned off the TV, to keep myself from assaulting it.

Kit Pollard said...

How appropriate was your beer choice? Between her Kosher shirt and breaking the hammer...I don't know. Maybe your He'Brew was the encouraging support Lisa needed to stick around.

Chosen, indeed.

And no, you weren't alone thinking that she was leaving. Of course, by now I should be used to it. I've thought she was going home EIGHT TIMES!