Top Chef: Episode 4.2 Gourmet or No Way?
The elimination challenge on this week's Top Chef 4 was a little gimmicky - building a menu around the cuisine of different wild animals - but what the heck, I thought it was kind of fun and interesting. Zoology and cooking? Top Chef, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter…and it's delicious.

I mean, really, did you know that lions eat beets? Well, now you do. (I have to admit, though, based on how I feel about beets, this kind of knocks lions down a peg in my estimation.)

So which dishes from this episode looked the tastiest and which ones looked like…well, turds?

This is kind of a difficult column to write because I can't taste the dishes, so all I can do is hear what the judges say.  But then if I only go by that, then my picks will always just be what the judges liked and disliked.

So I am having to bring in the big guns: total and utter personal subjectivity. Applying my own personal palate to what the cheftestants offered up (while still taking into account what the judges said), I'll make my picks for what looked the most appealing and which ones I probably would have sent back to the kitchen.


Maybe I'm just hungry while writing this, but my picks for the top are the ones that looked the heartiest of the top dishes.

I'm picking Zoi's Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Meatball, Ricotta, Pomegranate Syrup & Pistachio as one. I'm actually not very much into lamb myself - I'm currently going through some kind of excessively compassionate phase where I can't eat anything that's extremely cute in its living form - but this sounds pretty tasty. The Moroccan flavor profile of the savory meatball must have contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the pomegranate, and then the texture of the meatball must have also complemented the creamy ricotta. The nuttiness and distinct flavor of the pistachios would have been a great element to round it all out.

Mark's Marinated Anchovy on a Quinoa Croquette might not sound especially appealing on its own, but anchovies can be very tasty, and the richness of the flavor must have contrasted well against the kind of herbal note that quinoa can have. This also would have been a hearty and filling bite, which is a good idea at a cocktail party, because too many light options can ultimately leave guests unsatisfied.

While Stephanie was in the bottom for her crab salad, the judges did comment that her dessert bite was tasty. It's Banana Bread with Salted Caramel Sauce and Meringue. Okay, if you've never had a salted caramel sauce, grab your pots and pans and get cooking (there's a great recipe for one in David Lebovitz's ice cream cookbook The Perfect Scoop). It's pretty much one of the tastiest things you can ever create, and I can imagine the richness was delicious on top of a good banana bread. The meringue would have been a great texture contrast - a little crunch to play against the softness of the bread and creaminess of the sauce.


Valerie's Black Olive Blinis with Mascarpone wound up sending her home. It sounded quite unappealing: the dried out blini topped with crunchy undercooked root vegetables. It also sounds like the mascarpone - a creamy cheese - could have helped the dish, but it sounds like the judges' didn't really get enough of that flavor.

Nikki's Mushroom Stuffed with Blueberries, Walnuts and Pecorino Cheese is a dish that consists of ingredients that in and of themselves are all pretty tasty. But the look of the dish - and the judges' feedback - make it wholly unappealing. Turd, indeed.

Ryan's Beet Salad with Yuzu, Ras al Hanout, and Goat Cheese Foam dish was liked by the judges, so my inclusion of it in the bottom is really super personal because I hate beets.  Beets killed my father.  Okay, not really.  But they don't taste very good.  And this particular dish just looks like medicine to me.

At the least, though, I would be curious to try it because I can't even imagine how (other than the beet part) the other components could work together well. Yuzu is a tart citrus flavor, ras al hanout is a Middle Eastern spice combo that usually includes ground chili pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg, and then the tangy flavor of the goat cheese. Since the judges liked it, I guess it worked, but I just can't imagine how.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Images courtesy of Bravo)