TV Dinner: 3/23-3/29/2008

Iron Chef America 3/23 — Tyson Cole, sushi master of Texas, challenged his idol Morimoto in Battle Ginger. Alton Brown told us there were five types of ginger on offer, and then proceeded to explain what four of them were. What was the fifth variety?! Morimoto seemed to be falling behind, and yelled a lot more than usual. During the judging of Cole’s food, Jeffrey Steingarten leaned over and read another judges notes (her name was Pim). He agreed with her “where’s the ginger” sentiment, and that pretty much summed up the whole thing. Morimoto won (of course). (Food Network, Sunday at 10pm)

Last Restaurant Standing 3/25 — The elimination challenge continued the theme of staff management, this time with a catered affair at Blenheim Palace. Mike and Ed, the somber brothers, seemed doomed from the start. They didn’t prepare their food well, they didn’t give their staff a meal break, etc. There was some funny stuff when the rugby players fed by Martin and Emma stole some of Lloyd and Adua’s champaign, and when Mike realized he had brought only one pan to cook all 50 steaks, but it was pretty obvious who was going to be cut. Mike and Ed (and the horrendously named Treacle Well restaurant) were out. Raymond Blanc told Martin and Emma that they were getting another chance, but said it’s “the last one.” (BBC America, Tuesday at 9pm)

Bizarre Foods 3/25 — Zimmern went back to his home state of Minnesota, where there are lots of Scandinavians. He ate a stinky brown cheese called Gamalost, which popular legend has it is cured in manure. Even the proprietor of the shop said that it doesn’t taste like cheese. Zimmern agreed, saying that it tasted like “spoiled meat.” Yum? Then he gave us a tutorial on lutefisk, which he said was more popular in MN than in the “home country.” Lutefisk is dried fish, imported from Norway. First they soak it in water for a few days, then they add lye (or caustic soda) to the mix, making it deadly poisonous. Then they soak it in fresh water for 7-9 days to make it eatable, and then they usually whiten the fish with hydrogen peroxide. Zimmern admired the finished product in all its “translucent glory,” and described the taste as salty and fishy with a jelly-like consistency. Then came some boring stuff, lots of deep-fried foods on sticks at a state fair and an ancient woman named Marjorie Johnson who has been winning blue ribbons at bake-offs for hundreds of years. I did find it interesting that both General Mills and Cargill are located in MN. There was a meat raffle which was even more boring than the state fair, and then Zimmern traveled to his hometown of St Paul and ate at Heartland Restaurant where they use almost all local products (for the show they made an all-wild boar meal). At the White Earth Ojibwe Reservation, he helped harvest wild rice, and ate suckerhead fish soup. The head of the fish is perhaps the most disgusting thing I have ever seen Zimmern eat — it looked like something from the Chinese Restaurant in Existenz. There was also a sauerkraut pie (made just for him), a burger with peanut butter and mayo, and deep-fried whitefish livers. (Travel Channel, Tuesday at 10pm)

Top Chef 3/26 — We opened on the two bearded lunatics (Andrew and Spike) in a tickle fight, and it was all downhill from there. Rick Bayless was the guest judge, and the quickfire challenge was to reinvent the lowly taco as a fine dining experience. Half of the chefs decided to just make street-style tacos, because they are idiots. Erik’s plate looked horrible as always. The two beards were in the top three, but Richard Blais won for his jicama-wrapped taco (he made three — one for each judge and one for himself!). The prize was immunity AND Bayless will add Richard’s dish to the menu at one of his restaurants. Then came the elimination challenge — cater a block party. Really? And the chefs had to get the ingredients from the people in the neighborhood. Really? The neighbors had pantries that had obviously been stocked by Bravo and the Top Chef sponsors, and I almost gave up. All of the people who made the worst dishes worried about them early. Zoi was unhappy about having to make pasta salad, and then made lousy pasta salad. Erik worried that his corndogs would get soggy in transport, and they did. Nikki was afraid her mac & cheese would turn into a dry brick, and… I think you can guess. I don’t think Nikki is long for this competition. Luckily, Padma showed up looking lovely in a t-shirt and jeans, and the eating began. The Blue team played to the judges and made some upscale stuff, while the Red team went the burgers and dogs route (except Dale, doing his own thing, made an fancy shish kebab). In their words, they went “simple for the locals on the block.” Ouch. The Blue team won, but only by a small margin; none of the food was very good. Stephanie won the challenge (this is her second in three episodes). The Red team had a very hard time accepting that they lost, even with all of their soggy food. Erik and his corndogs were booted. Next week: Boulud and Roeper! FYI — according to a viewer poll, more people think there will be a female Top Chef before there will be a female President. (Bravo, Wednesday at 10pm)

Posted by Howard