Sorry, guys. I've been through so many of these challenges they all start to blend together in my Swiss cheese for brains. It's 12:30 a.m. and I am watching the yacht episode on TV. It all comes back to me now...
I was in fact around for when they completed the Quickfire. I had forgotten all about Hung's landscape breakfast, which made me and the crew laugh harder than we had all season. Creative chaos -- and I gave him credit for making something that he knew would not have a snowball's chance in hell of winning, though I think he may have taken his dish seriously at some point.
I had sampled all of the camera plates and enjoyed Casey's and most definitely Brian's. Dale's was also interesting but REALLY spicy -- even for me -- who likes it hot. Spam makes its second appearance on Top Chef, and this time comes out as a winner. Brian's choice to elect himself team captain was to be expected, but he may have envisioned the end game happening differently in his own mind.
OK, so let's review the inaccuracy of my recap of the hors d'oeuvres. I did in fact taste all of them, but needed to watch the episode to refresh my memory. The tuna tartar was passable. Hung's smoked salmon on cucumber was in fact extremely ordinary, and his comment about it being good enough for inexperienced palates is a little off-putting, not to mention his food history rant at Judges' Table (I prefer the Hung who made the river of blue Froot Loops). The tomato basil bread pudding was delicious. The chicken curry salad was as visually unappealing as Howie's mushroom tart. CJ's sausage was tasty, but I feel like there's an overall abuse of seafood mousse/sausage this season.
The slider comment in my earlier blog was referencing the fact that I remembered some sort of thing cut in half with Dale's hors d'oeuvre, and now I remember the gougere stuffed yogurt. The yogurt, though well-seasoned, was definitely not firm enough and it made the gougere soggy. I did like the fact that Howie's hors d'oeuvres were hot, and the pieces that I had tried were not greasy at all. However, I think the lack of presentation (duxelles aren't pureed, but finely diced and then cooked down), combined with Howie's willingness to send himself home and his performance in the Quickfire, added up to the judges' decision.
I think the menu was extremely uninspired due to the lack of leadership, teamwork regarding the budget, and what was actually decided on for the final hors d'oeuvres. This is where Brian failed as team leader, in addition to execution. When they actually fell behind putting out the food it was because they had attempted to assemble all of the hors d'oeuvres a la minute. Having done enough canape parties, I know that sometimes you're better off having at least 120 pieces ready to go of each thing for a party of 60. Fill 'em up and then pace it out. In any case, I stand by my comments on Howie. He's a stand-up guy, and a very talented chef. I'm very excited for the next few episodes, but for now, I have to go to sleep. (Though Beerfest is coming on HBO right now ... DAS BOOT!)