The Food and Wine Hedonist

leave your inhibitions at the door

Top Chef California Episode 3: Spines and Vines

The chefs took a road trip to Santa Barbara in a small armada of soul-less minivans, but at least they weren’t sponsored.   In previous years, Toyota was a big sponsor so we had to sit through a bunch of non-professionals trying to sell you on the luxuriousness and sex appeal of a tan colored Toyota Sienna. Thank you for that.

When they got to Santa Barbara, they went down to the water and started munching on some fresh sea urchin


I’ve had sea urchin twice before at sushi restaurants where it’s referred to as “uni” on the menus. I personally refer to it as one of the nastiest things I’ve ever had in my mouth.

Let that statement marinate in your mind for a bit.



Sudden Death Quickfire

They ended up at the Sanford Winery where they were to make a dish that highlights uni and pairs well  with a Sanford wine.  The chef with the best dish gets immunity and the one with the worst faces elimination.

Top 3: Grayson ( in crab salad with grapefruit and cucumber), Wesley (in Creamed corn, fennel, scallop), Carl (Eggs and Uni)

Winner: Grayson.  Sounds like the wine pairing part of it was the difference.

Bottom 3: Angelina (uni butter and pasta), Karen (in a soup), Giselle (in potato with onion jam)

Least Favorite:  Giselle.

Sudden Death – Giselle chose to go head-to-head against Angelina.   If she won, they both stay but if she lost she was gone.   They both had to make a dish with an ostrich egg.   Gisell made scrambled eggs with a salsa and pepitas and Angelina made a scramble with a spicy tomato jam, daikon, carrots, shiitakes. Giselle won and got to stay.


Elimination Challenge

The chefs paired off to make a surf and turf dish with the overall winner getting their own barrel of Sanford wine.   They did their planning, did their shopping and everything was all copacetic.   Until… Tom came in like the asshole he is and said that each pairing would be going against each other – surf VERSUS turf – with the loser from each pair up for elimination.   There were about ten people at the table and each chose their favorites of the pairs.

Winners: Grayson, Jeremy, Giselle, Kwame, Carl, Karen, Jason

Losers: Amar, Wesley, Phillip, Angelina, Chad, Isaac, Marjorie, Frances

Top 3: Jeremy (Spot prawns with potato gnocchi), Kwame (rock crab salad), Karen (seared cod with carrot orange puree)

Overall Winner: Kwame

Bottom 3: Frances (ginger glazed cod with jicama cucumber relish), Angelina (marinated mussels with escabeche), Wesley (sous vide ribeye with asparagus puree)

Gone: Frances.   Her inclusion of roasted squash (because she had it) and the soggy fish skin which she failed at crisping were her downfalls. And when there are two downfalls…

Here’s how bad it was – I loved Tom’s facial expression when he tasted it.

Grimace 2


But I REALLY loved this reaction –

Grimace 1


Random Thoughts

– Dang it, the Filipina is gone.   Although, Frances’ dish did get a few votes around the table so it was a little bit of a surprise.   But then again, Jason’s dish looked pretty horrible.

– Her food was a bit of a shitshow, but she was entertaining as all hell.  She was responsible for the quote of the night in a Filipino accent so strong that made it even funnier:

Pairing a dish with wine? That’s hard.  I worked in the Middle East for seven years and alcohol was forbidden.   I got a VionYAY, Vinyeer, Vinning. Whatever… I got a f*cking wine.

 – When they started the uni challenge, I just thought to myself, “No. Just no.” Though I will say I’m really intrigued with Carl’s uni and eggs.

– Then again…  Kwame’s winning dish was described as decadent, luscious, and slutty.   Yes, I need that in my mouth.

– Karen’s fish dish was voted as one of the best, although Padma’s plate didn’t have… fish.

– Giselle chose Angelina in the Sudden Death because she thought it was fair to against one of the others who were on bottom three.   She left out “it wouldn’t be wise to go up against someone who just kicked my ass.”

– Awesome food, wine, weather, the coast. I’m thinking I want to move to Santa Barbara.

– Over at Last Chance Kitchen, Frances goes head-to-head against Garret.  Absolutely hilarious dialog between the two.   Her dish looked and sounded really strong – wondering where that was in the competition.    Alas, Garret edges her out.   Either one winning would’ve made me happy.







About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

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This entry was posted on December 14, 2015 by in Television and tagged , , , , , .
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