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Top Chef: Las Vegas Episode 8 – When Your Dish = Armpit Hair is a Good Thing


Elimination Challenge – Cook 150 tasting portions for Palmer’s annual Pig and Pinot Charity Event. Chefs randomly draw knives and are assigned a part of the pig, and they must then pair it with a Pinot Noir. Jenn draws the wildcard and gets to choose her section. My question – shouldn’t that have gone to Eli for winning the Quickfire? Just saying. The judges are Tom, Padma, Palmer and Food & Wine Magazine Editor Dana Cowin.

DISCLAIMER – As you all know by now, my foodie skills are minimal. I take what the show tells me almost at face value and rely on the judges’ blogs and my very talented wife for insight. Compare what I know about food to what I know about wine – and I am a regular Eric Ripert. In college, we had wine and cheese parties with Boone’s Farm and government issued cheese. True story. My cousin would stand in line and get a big block of cheese for me and give it to me at Christmas. The boys on The Block in O’Connor Hall were very thankful.

According to Tom, Pinot grapes are complicated and can range from sweet to very earthy. The trick to this challenge is to either find similar flavors in the food, or to find opposites and have them contrast.

The dishes:

Hawk – Root Beer Braised Pork Cheek, with a Vanilla and Cherry Sauce with 2006 Cuvaison Pinot Noir. Dana likes the pork, and Palmer thinks he did a great job combining the flavors. One guest gives a loud, “Oh! My! God!” which reminds me of my mom, who used to exclaim that in the same manner all the time. Thanks.

Ash – Chilled Pork Tenderloin with a cherry and corn salad, with a 2007 Sanford Pinot Noir. Ash changed his original dish which had the pork served with polenta, aged jack and a cherry demiglase. MM suggested serving the meat cold and Ash changed it to this. Let’s see how that worked out. Dana found it to be clammy; Palmer said it was overcooked and salty, and that the big, rich wine needed something big to go with it.

Eli – Braised Pork Belly with Carrots, Celery and fennel with a 2007 Terlato Family Pinot Noir. Dana thought the carrots had “oomph.” Palmer found the dish to be good, but not paired well. For all of Eli’s crowing about how good he was at pairing, he turned out a fairly average dish.

Kevin – Pork Leg Pate, with a mayo-based dressing derived from the fat rendering, with a 2006 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir. All of them praise his dish.

MM – A Lebanese Stuffed Pork Shoulder with prosciutto, pine nuts, and yogurt, with a 2005 Wairau River Pinot Noir. Dana finds the orange flavor overwhelming, but Tom thinks it was well-seasoned.

BryanBot – Braised Pork Spare Rib, with a Parsnip Puree and a 2007 Rochioli Pinot Noir. He removed the bones after cooking. He gets praise from all.

Jenn – Braised Pork Belly with tomato, black olive, celery and truffles, with a 2005 Chanson Clos De Beze Pinot Noir. Padma makes yummy sounds, and Dana found it delicious.

Laurine – Pork Butt Rillettes with a golden raisin chutney sauce and a 2005 Chanson Clos De Feues Pinot Noir. One guest does not have . Dana thinks it is like cat food. Ouch. Toby says the sauce was good but the rillette a disaster.

Robin – Brined Center Cut Pork Chop with a sour cherry and coffee sauce, with a 2005 Mischief and Mayhem Pinot Noir. Dana finds the coffee overpowering, Toby says it was slimy, Palmer thinks it had no “porkiness” and Tom suspects it was cut too thin.

Top 4
Hawk
– Took daring steps and did it well
Kevin – Tom thinks he went deep into the wine to find those flavors
Bryanbot – Very successful, and really brought out the pork.
Jenn – She gets some attention here because of Toby. After Palmer mentions her pork belly was the lightest he’s ever eaten, Toby compliments her on her pairing with the wine. Hers was the first European wine they had after several American glasses. As a result, hers produces lots of “barnyard funky flavors” and the difference was like that between a “shaved armpit and a hairy armpit, we knew we were in France.” HA!!!!! Even Tom loses his composure and collapses on the table laughing.

The winner, as you know, was Kevin who gets to be a guest chef in the next Pigs and Pinot Event.

Bottom 3
Robin
– Despite standing by her dish, she is called out for not complementing the wine, and for having too thin of a cut and for her gummy sauce. While she likes it that way, Toby suggests that paying $12 in a restaurant for a thin piece of meat would be unacceptable. Toby later describes the sauce as the “gunk from instant coffee.”

Ash – He expressed surprise and is then called out for having no flavor and having the wine be unrelated to the dish. After mentioning his original idea, Palmer thinks it would have been better. Tom calls him out for his pattern of bending to the will of others. Tom later gives him the kiss of death by calling him “amateur.”

Laurine – She says she ran out of time, but the real problem was that she completely mis-prepared the rillette. Palmer informs her that it was not to be braised in chicken stock, but rather poached in pork fat. As a result, her dish was stringy and, according to Dana, Fancy Feast.

Ash gets the boot and is gracious about it. He gets another big hug from Jenn – she has been very kind to the booted chefs. He also vows to make his original idea at his restaurant and will invite Palmer, Toby and Tom to taste it.


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