Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Top Chef: Miami" Episode 4

The guest judge this week is Jamie Walker, who is the global master mixologist for Bombay Sapphire Gin.

Quickfire Challenge: Each contestant had to make an appetizer and use one of the ten cocktails made by the guest judge. Prior to the start, everybody drew knives, and each one had the name of a cocktail.

Joey Paulino presented his dish first, and it was carmelized diver sea scallop and Jasmine rice risotto. His martini was a roasted pineapple and vanilla one.

Howie Kleinberg did Balsamic Glazed Diver Scallops with Argula, Blueberry and Grape Salad. He did a watermelon and chili martini.

Hung Huynh did sour cream, Meyer Lemon Balsamic sauce, salmon and salmon skin, and his martini was the one with raspberry and mint.

C.J. Jacobson did a lemon balm martini served with carmelized watermelon with avocado and squid.

With the Sapphire Cherry martini, Dale Levitski did Seared Foie Gras with candied parsnips, orange and rice wine vinegar gastrique.

Tre Wilcox did the strawberry martini and made Sumac and black-peppered halibut with smoked sea salt and watermelon.

Casey Thompson did a strawberry and Balsamic Vinegar martini, and did a French Toast baguette with pecan-crusted Foie Gras and raspberry sauce.

Paulino was one of the more disliked in the challenge, and the winner was…Casey Thompson! She’s going on to the next round.

Now, for the Elimination Challenge. Here, the contestants are divided into teams of three, and each team must create their own menu. Each member of the team must do their own dish. Here are the teams:

#1: Hung Huynh, Brian Malarkey and Lia Bardeen
#2: Howie Kleinberg, Joey Paulino and Casey Thompson
#3: C.J. Jacobson, Tre Wilcox and Sara Nguyen
#4: Sara Mair, Camille Becerra and Dale Levitski

Levitski was originally on the second team, but was not happy with the fact that he was teamed up with the Quickfire winner, so he decided to switch to the fourth team with Paulino.

Now, for the four menus. The target restaurant was the Barton G. Restaurant, and the owner was Barton G. Weiss. He is a guest judge for this challenge.

Team #1’s menu was Key West Pink Shrimp in ceviche marinade with radish and caviar (Malarkey), Olive Oil-poached shrimp with avocado, cucumber, lime and grilled pepper salad (Bardeen), and sauteed shrimp with corn pudding, bacon, corn salad and shrimp foam (Huynh). On paper, I liked the looks of this dish. The preliminary judges reviews were good, as well.

Team #2’s menu consisted of Tuna Tartare Bird’s Nest with cucumber and jalapeno (Thompson), Coriander-crusted tuna with blood orange, marmalade, cilantro salad and shiitake mushrooms (Kleinberg) and a confit of tuna with fire-roasted cherry tomato, crispy shallots and bacon (Paulino). On paper, me and my brother thought neither of the dishes resembled tuna at all. The preliminary judging reviews were that the flavors were too strong.

Team #3’s menu consisted of Beef Carpaccio with Sherry Vinaigrette, Cigar Tuile and parsley oil (Jacobson), a butter-braised beef tenderloin with baby asparagus, carrots and white truffle sauce (Nguyen), and a black pepper and rosemary-seared beef tenderloin mushroom risotto cake with Sherry Reduction (Wilcox). I liked the looks of this menu.
The preliminary reviews praised the presentation of the dishes.

Team #4’s menu had Pineapple Semifreddo with pistachio, ginger and blueberry sauce (Mair), Macadamia nut pastry with marinated raspberry, vanilla coconut cream and roasted pineapple (Levitski) and Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Ginger Sabayon (Becerra). I liked this menu, but I didn’t think theirs would be the best one. On one of the desserts, the preliminary reviews were terrible.

It was a toss-up between Teams #1 and #3, and the winners were….

…Team #1! The solo winner was Lia Bardeen. She was invited to a charity event held by the guest judge.

The judges agreed with me that the two worst teams were Team #2 and Team #4. Given that both teams were brought into the judging room, we may have at least a double elimination this week. Kleinberg has been in the danger zone twice before.

Eliminated this show….

….Camille Becerra.
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