Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chocolate Pudding

Last night, I had a hankering for home-made chocolate pudding. My mom used to make the Jell-O non-instant stuff when I was a kid, and that tasted swell to my as-yet-undeveloped tastebuds. But the best pudding I ever had probably came from the Daily Grind, at their short-lived outpost on Cold Spring Lane near Loyola College. My friend Andrée and I would go there late in the evening to have a cup of coffee and lament our woes of the day and occasionally we'd grab dessert. If chocolate pudding was available, it was mine. It tasted like childhood, a flavor that today's box of Jell-O could never replicate.

I checked online for recipes and found this one for John Scharffenberger's silky chocolate pudding. And you know what? It's good, but not great. It's too rich and dense, more like the chocolate creme brulée I almost killed my in-laws with some years ago than your everyday chocolate pudding. More like chocolate ganache than pudding. I could probably make it better by folding in some freshly whipped cream to lighten it, but that's more trouble than I wanted (the cream in the picture comes from a can - hey, it was good enough for Mom). Plus it would only lighten the texture, but not the calorie count.

Next time I'll try a cocoa-based recipe. Anyone have a favorite they care to share?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ze Mean Bean

I grew up in a Polish-American family, speaking Polish and eating Polish food. My grandmother was 39 when my mother was born, and my mother was a few weeks shy of 30 when I made my appearance in the world. That meant by the time I came along, for the most part, Grandma's days of cooking were behind her. No more home-made pierogi (ravioli-like dumplings), pączki (donuts), or krusciki (bow-tie cookies). But, she still made some things: soups like barszcz (borcht), szczaw (sorrel soup), and rosół (chicken soup); placki (potato pancakes); for the holidays there was always kapusta i kielbasy (sauerkraut and fresh Polish sausage); and when I was very small there were gołąbki (stuffed cabbage). Eventually, that became too labor-intensive, and Grandma didn't like to have "help" when she was in the kitchen. She grated every beet and potato herself, despite having four other adults in the house. For this reason, her recipes didn't get passed down from generation to generation and I have none.

Grandma's been gone since the mid-90s and I still make the occasional traditional Easter meal (throwing Ostrowski's kielbasa and some sauerkraut into a pot doesn't require a recipe), but it's rare that I get to eat good Polish food. About the only place in town that serves something from my memories is Ze Mean Bean Cafe, in Fells Point. I try to get there at least once a year with friends of mine from out of town, fellow Slavs. This year I remembered to take photographs.

We started off with the hriby dip, a mixture of mushrooms, sour cream, and Gruyere, served warm with toast. We fought over every last creamy, mushroomy bit. (I do not have photographic evidence, but there was even some not-so-clandestine bowl-licking going on.)

Next we had a round of borcht, a pretty similar recipe to Grandma's barszcz, but with the addition of carrots (my grandmother used beets only). It was good, but not as good as it has been in the past, which made me sad. It was usually the one thing that most took me back to my childhood, and this bowl's shortcomings were almost physically painful.

We tried two salads, this one with mache in a porcini vinaigrette accompanied by a raw beet and dried currant salad...

...and this salad with massive walnut halves and blackberries, chunks of Roquefort, and a cognac vinaigrette. Both were very nice, particularly the shredded beets in the salad above, and the luscious cheese in the one below.

On to the "Slavic Sampler" with cured kielbasa (which I had never eaten as a child and always have thought of it as an impostor, like an Eckrich or Hillshire Farms product), pierogi, holupki (a.k.a. gołąbki), and placki with home-made applesauce. I will admit that the kielbasa had nice texture and flavor, despite not being what I had eaten my entire life. The holupki were generously stuffed with rice and meat and had a particularly flavorful tomato sauce topping that might have been better than Grandma's, had I been able to remember back some 40 years.

We also ordered extra pierogi, because one can never have too many. ZMB's were fried until crisp on the outside and served with onions. The fillings were sauerkraut, farmer's cheese, and potato; my fave were the cheese, which had just the right amount of sweet and savory.

This is holushki, a Ukrainian dish of little dumplings, served with cabbage, asparagus, and roasted red pepper. A decidedly non-traditional preparation, but pretty darn good.

Finally, we had to have coffee and dessert. After all, ZMB had started out as a coffee house with home-baked desserts by the owner's mother. She still bakes them today. Here's her cinnamon babka:

and chocolate babka:

Both were more cake-like than Babka should be, particularly the cinnamon version. Too moist, but it tasted good so I'll stop complaining.

This is a caramel apple pie....

...and finally we had apple cake with cream cheese frosting.

While all of the desserts were good, I would have preferred something more classic, like makowiec (poppy seed cake), sernik (cheese cake), or krusciki. But...I guess not all ZMB customers would want to go "full Slav."

So while some things were a little disappointing, the hriby dip was as good as ever and the holupki were better than I remembered. The best part about the meal, however, was the company. Thanks, Ladies. See you next year (but hopefully sooner)!

Ze Mean Bean
1739 Fleet St
Baltimore, MD 21231
(410) 675-5999

Ze Mean Bean Café on Urbanspoon

Ze Mean Bean Café

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Episode Ten Recap

It's morning once again at the Top Cheftestants' McMansion where we find Jen beating herself up over her team's loss in last week's Restaurant Wars. Robin, on the other hand, is celebrating the fact that she survived yet another challenge.

At the Top Chef Sponsor-of-the-Week Kitchen™, we find Padma in yet another strapless jumpsuit, standing alongside two-time James Beard Award winner Paul Bartolotta.

Although he's been known to shill for Barilla, this week's challenge is sponsored by TV Guide. For the TV Guide Quickfire Challenge, the cheftestants must give a classic TV dinner their own interpretation. And the dinners are to be based on famous television shows. They of course resort to the knife block to find out who gets which show.

Kevin draws the Sopranos, Eli gets Gilligan's Island, Robin gets Sesame Street, Bryan gets M*A*S*H*, DoucheyMike gets Seinfeld, BrotherMike gets Cheers, and Jen gets the Flintstones.

Actually, Jen, Pebbles was not in the abusive relationship you seem to think she had.... Sounds like someone needs some counseling.

Come on! That would have been perfect!

Everyone seems to be doing fairly well, except for Jen, who is once again struggling mightily. What's up with her? Survey says she'll be in the top four, but from week to week, that's looking shaky.

Maybe she needs one of the guys to play Bam Bam and drag her around by the hair? How does Eric Ripert train his chefs, anyway?

Time's up and the cheftestants bring their dishes one by one to a little retro-style seating area that's been set up at one end of the kitchen.

Bryan presents his dish and gets a "Mmmm!" from Padma. Something weird then happens on the television screen and it takes me a few seconds to process it.

Bryan smiles.

You're probably right. Smiling would signify emotion, and that would be illogical.

After tasting, Chef Bartolotta is asked to reveal his least favorite dishes, which turn out to be Jen's very un-Flintstonian chicken roulade, and Robin's e-coli special hamburger with a raw egg cooked into it. On top were Bryan's Mmm-mmm-good meatloaf and apple tarte tatin and Kevin's meatballs. Guess being Italian swayed him a bit, because Bartolotta chose the meatballs as the winner. Congrats Kevin!

Padma announces that there is no more immunity. Instead, Kevin's dish will be featured as a new Top Chef entrée sold by Schwan's. WTF? Top Chef dinners? Next they'll be offering that damn knife block and special Tom Colicchio skin head wigs.

Padma then tells the cheftestants that the Elimination Challenge will involve taking over Tom Colicchio's restaurant Craft Steak for one night, where they will prepare a meal for four judges and seven other guests. But first, they go home to the McMansion, where the chefs drool over the possibilities.

While the men are planning their manly-man meaty meatfests, Jen is wandering around like a zombie, muttering about not being at the top of her game and needing to regroup. She also looks like she could use a good shower and a conditioning hair masque.

By the magic of television, we then find the cheftestants at the MGM Grand, entering Tom's Manly Meatarama.

The chefs are rooting through the vast collection of aged beef, Kobe, lamb, and lobsters, staking claim on what they want to use, when Tom comes in.

Tom then reveals to the judges that he and Padma have a special guest for this challenge - Darth Vadar's secret wife!

If it wasn't an emotion, I'd say Bryan almost looks disgusted.

Eli gives us the skinny on their guest judge:

Well, that explains why he thinks it's ok to be living with his parents. He's a Star Wars nerd. And is young enough to think the most recent trilogy was worth seeing, which it wasn't.

But Luke Skywalker's mom is not there to make their lives easy. Oh no.

Queen Amidala is a vegetarian. She's also a bit of a nutjob.

It is a cruel, cruel twist of fate that the once-drooling cheftestants have to rein in their own meat-happy tendencies to create a vegetarian meal for an actress. One who isn't even very good. Come on! Have you seen Episodes 1 - 3? Her emoting makes Bryan look like Jimmy Stewart!

But of course Robin is excited about the challenge because she loves to make vegetarian food. You know, that healthy-eating crap, yadda yadda. Bryan is worried (despite his unfurrowed brow) because he says this challenge changes all the dynamics for everyone. DoucheyMike isn't worried because he says out of 60 dishes on his Zaytinya menu, 20 are vegetarian, plus his mother was a vegan when he was growing up. Kevin is also ok with the veg challenge because he and his wife give up meat for Lent. Awww...so cute!

Everyone heads back to the walk-in, this time to find vegetables. Eli and Jen fight over eggplant, and Robin's head is spinning over the outstanding selection. Should she make squash blossoms, or should she make fresh garbanzos? Oh hell, she'll make both! And a bunch of other healthy crap, too.

The two hours of cooking time goes quickly. Robin is up first and doesn't get all of her elements plated - a few dishes go out without the garbanzos she was so excited about.

She takes her dish out to the waiting diners - Padma and Gail (both of whom have packed their boobies tightly away), Tom, Mrs. Vader, Paul Bartolotta, and several of her goofy-looking friends. Right away, Padma complains about the salt; this time, there's too much of it. And Tom had one of the garbanzo-free plates.

Eli's dish came out next. The judges thought his presentation was "thoughtful," but Paul Bartolotta said that he had one mouthful of herb salad that had too much lavender and tasted like a bar of soap.

Michael was up next. He thinks his fanciful presentation of asparagus and tomatoes with banana polenta will make Natalie scratch her head and say "I like this, but I don't know why." And indeed she was delighted by the dish, as were her friends.

This of course cracks up Padma, who remembers Ash's similar comments of a few episodes back. Either it's true, or the young-uns don't know any other artists....

Jen brings out her dish next, choosing to spoon on a sauce at the table. Her hand is shaking badly and she ends up baptizing several of the guests. Her food "tastes nice" but didn't feel substantial enough to be an entrée. It was likened to "a beautiful side dish" by one of the Queen's friends.

DoucheyMike comes out with his leeks-as-scallops dish. The leeks were undercooked, and in no way resembled scallops. Tom stated that if they were meat, they would be too rare.

Then a nervous Bryan brings out his artichokes with shallot confit. Padma may or may not have enjoyed the garlic blossom component:

That comment made all of the girls at the table giggle madly. The dish's flavors are big, so Tom remarks that it starts out as a little prick that gets big in your mouth, which causes another of Princess Leia's Mother's friends to say, "that's what usually happens." Hello? Can we have Eli's lavender soap to wash out these dirty mouths?

Luckily, Bryan is in the kitchen as all of this goes down, otherwise he'd probably turn 10 shades of red and short-circuit.

Last, but not least, comes Kevin with a symphony of unattractive brown stuff. Despite the poopiness, everyone loves his dish, saying it's the most like an entrée, and the most meaty. The Queen calls it "manly." Manly brown poop.

Fake out scene! The cheftestants go to Paul Bartolotta's Ristaurante di Mare to pig out on seafood. And pig out is exactly what Kevin does, as he eats everyone under the table. "I didn't get fat accidentally. This is a personal choice."

Sure, if your business is "slob" or "hooker."

/fake out

Then, once again through the magic of television, we are transported to the Glad Family of Products Stew and Booze Room to find Padma morosely requesting the presence of Michael, Kevin, and Eli to the Judges' Table.

Padmé Amidala (not to be confused with Padma Lakshmi) was enchanted by Picasso's dish:

Despite the good drugs Michael's been using, Kevin's dish, dubbed by Tom as "a mouthful of flavors" (an obvious comment, but I suppose it's a hell of a lot better than "a buttload of flavors") is the winner. And because nobody has a cheesy cookbook to give away, Kevin instead is awarded with a suite of cheesy GE appliances.

They then call out the bottom-dwellers: Robin, DoucheyMike, and Jen. DM is asked why he didn't provide a protein (which could have been asked of any of the others, frankly) to which he replied the leeks were supposed to look like scallops. Gail had to remind him that leeks were not in fact proteins. Nor did his leeks resemble scallops. And why was he so damn cocky about a crappy dish?

According to the judges, Robin's dish didn't have anything to tie it together. She tried to explain it for them.

They thought Jen's dish was more like a fancy garnish than an entrée and noted that over the weeks her performance has started to suffer because she is likely second-guessing herself. However, overall, they thought that someone else should be the one to hit the road.

Mike doesn't think it's such a good decision.

And back in the Stew room, everyone embraces DM like a fallen comrade. Even Jen, object of his derision several times, tells him she loves him. None of this bodes well for the other remaining female in the group....

Next week: Six chefs left - who goes next? Plus, an old-timer reunion dinner special!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Choice Bites 10.28.09

The New York Times spent a weekend in Baltimore and says good things about Petit Louis, Carma Cafe, Woodberry Kitchen, Bonaparte Bakery, and The Brewer's Art. It also says to call Fells Point, "Fell's." I lived in FP for the first 19 years of my life and never did I hear another resident of the area call it "Fell's." It's probably the people who pronounce "Thames" as "Tems" who do that. (On that note, this isn't England, people! Otherwise we'd be saying "leftenant" instead of "lieutenant" and calling Ralph Kramden "Rafe.")

What are 10 things that Tony Bourdain and David Chang hate? Besides Guy Fieri? Read here.

Speaking of Bourdain, check out his new animated series! (Thanks Dara!)

Rachael Ray takes her pets to school.

For Gourmet fans - the November issue is out, complete with turkey recipes! This is the final issue, so make sure to pick up a copy for posterity.


Speaking of Kimchi

Momofuku's David Chang showed Matt Lauer how to make kimchi earlier this week on the Today show.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What to Do With a Branch of Brussels Sprouts

I realize this doesn't look anything like Brussels sprouts:

It's a pork burger with Asian flavors, topped with home made kimchi, which was made with...Brussels sprouts.

Last week, a vendor at the University farmers' market had branches of Brussels sprouts for sale, so I snagged one. I asked Mr Minx to use some for dinner one evening last week, and when I arrived home, I found that he intended to make some sort of slaw with which to top sandwiches made with leftover short ribs. Meanwhile, I had been contemplating a similar cabbage dish - kimchi. He had blanched the sprouts but wasn't sure what to do with them next, so I made a quick dressing of vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger, Korean hot pepper flakes, and sesame seeds to go on top. Unfortunately, the Indian-esque flavors of the short ribs overtook the relatively mild sprouts.

Perhaps it would work better with a similarly-flavored meat product?

Attempt two involved some ground pork with which I made pork burgers. I also made another batch of kimchee, this time skipping the blanching step and instead slicing and salting them. The flavor was good, but Brussels sprouts are a bit on the tough side, like raw broccoli. Next time, I'll try steaming them a bit. However, on a sandwich, the texture didn't make all that much difference. And the pork burgers themselves? Outstanding.

Not much of a recipe here, since I did everything to taste:

Pork Burgers
To 1 lb of ground pork I added 1 egg, 1 tablespoon minced cilantro, 1 crushed clove of garlic, two chopped cloves of black garlic, a splash each of soy and fish sauces, a bit of salt and a healthy pinch of sugar. After forming into patties, I sauteed them in a tiny bit of canola oil until brown on both sides and cooked all the way through, 8-10 minutes per side, depending on thickness. (Aim for an internal temperature of about 160F.) While burgers are cooking, toss in a few slices of mushroom, if desired, and cook until browned.

Kimchi
Trim and slice thinly a pound or so of Brussels sprouts. Place sprouts in a colander and rinse well, then remove sprouts to a dry saute pan over medium heat. Put on a lid and steam for a few minutes (using the water clinging to the veg from the rinsing process) just until they turn bright green. Return to the colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process.

Drain well and place sprouts into a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix 1 or 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 tablespoon Korean pepper flakes, a couple of squirts of fish sauce, a tablespoon or two of white vinegar, salt, four chopped scallions, a teaspoon or so of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger, and a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. If you have sesame seeds, toast about a tablespoonful in a hot skillet and add to the salad. Mix into steamed sprouts and taste for seasoning - add more fish sauce, sugar, salt, vinegar until it tastes balanced to your palate. (After all, you're going to eat it. We're not going after authenticity here.)

Spicy Mayo
To 2 tablespoons of mayo, add 1 tablespoon of gochujang (a Korean bean paste) and a healthy dose of sriracha chile sauce.

To assemble:
Toast English muffins (or use bread of your choice). Top one half with mayo, sauteed mushrooms, the pork patty, and a healthy scoop of kimchi. Add cilantro sprig, more mayo, and the other half of the bun. Enjoy.

If you make this dish, please come back and let me know how it turned out!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Steak and Salsa

Saturday's dinner - chuck steak marinated in green chiles, garlic, cumin, chipotle, balsamic vinegar and olive oil and broiled, served over polenta and topped with a black-eyed pea salsa. Sorry, can't share the salsa recipe as I plan to enter it into a recipe contest that specifically states the recipe can't have been published anywhere else. Will post it in the future, when the contest is over.

Chuck steak isn't the most tender of meats, but it's fairly flavorful and it cost all of $3.

Friday, October 23, 2009

French's Recipe Contest

Feeling culinarily creative? Well, French’s Foods is having a recipe contest -- create and submit a recipe using French’s mustard or one of the other French's products and be eligible to win a Grand Prize of $25,000. Online voting and a judging panel will determine five finalists who will compete in a live cook-off in NYC.

Here are some details about what each recipe should include for the contest:
  • Be original, unpublished, and created by you;
  • Include at least one French's product;
  • Include no more than 8 ingredients(with the exception of salt, pepper and water…those are freebies);
  • And be prepared and ready to serve in no more than 1 hour.
  • For recipe inspiration and giveaways, check out the French’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Frenchs/129122660682?ref=ts)
Recipes will be evaluated on appearance, creativity and overall deliciousness and must be submitted by October 31, 2009 online at: http://frenchs.com/Login.php?redirect=/Contest/SubmitRecipe.php.

But wait - there's more!

Because cooking is messy, French's is providing a French's apron to one lucky MinxEats reader. All you have to do to win is to leave a comment with your favorite way to eat French's products. One name will be chosen at random by the very scientific "pick a name out of the hat" technique. Comments for the apron drawing will be closed on Saturday, November 7th. Please - U.S. residents only.

So what are you waiting for?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Episode Nine Recap

As morning breaks over Casa Cheftestant, we find Laurine ruminating that the remaining chefs are definitely the best of the bunch. Kevin is lamenting the loss of Ash, who added a special dynamic to the house, one that lessened the annoyance of the constant bickering between the Voltaggio brothers, who, believe it or not, are in their 30s.

On to the Top Chef Swanson/GE/Alexia kitchen where they find Padma with this week's guest judge.

Honestly, I like Rick Moonen and wish he had done better on Top Chef Masters.

The Quickfire this week is a two-team relay race. But first...the cheftestants draw knives; most are blank except for Jen's and BrotherMike's. They have instantly been elevated to the lofty position of team leaders and get to choose their team-mates. Jen, tempted to break up the Bicker Brothers (yes please!) instead chooses Kevin. Michael seems relieved and grabs Big Bro next.

I am dubbing the teams "Team Bicker," comprising Michael, Bryan, Eli, and Robin, and "Team DickHer," Kevin, DoucheyMike, Laurine, and Jen. Kevin is neither a dick nor a her, but I couldn't convince Jen to trade him for Eli just to make my name work out better.

The teams will get a total of 40 minutes to create their dish, however, each individual chef has only 10 minutes to work. And, while one chef cooks, the others must be...blindfolded.

I would bet money she feels the same way about you.

As the working chef must remain quiet, the blindfolded chefs will have no idea of what is going on. It's rather like an exquisite corpse, and no, I didn't steal that term from CSI, although a CSI/Top Chef mash-up could be pretty amusing.

The teams get 30 seconds to decide on the order in which they will cook. Jen and Eli start for their teams. Eli has a strategy:

Man...bet you didn't see that one coming! Eli also thinks his team is well-suited to working with one another. Well, three of them, anyway....

You know he's thinking "Uranus."

Next up is Robin and Laurine. Robin is pleased that Eli has gotten so much done in 10 minutes and works on a Caesar-like salad concoction. Laurine pretty quickly grasps Jen's concept and goes with it.

DoucheyMike and Bryan are third in line. DM looks a bit confused and dizzy after he takes off the blindfold, but that's not much different from his usual look.

Finally, Michael and Kevin cook last. Kevin realizes that Jen intended for him to oil poach the prepared black cod, but he naughtily decides to switch things up and cook it in butter instead.

Time is called; Rick and Padma taste Team Bicker's food first. They don't make many comments at all, so it's hard to tell if they liked the dish or not. When they get to Team DickHer, they ask Jen to describe the dish. She must still be suffering from her cold because she calls the fish "trout" when it's clearly black cod. (At least that's what she told us in a voiceover while she was cooking.) She's embarrased when corrected, but her team wins anyway.

Padma then tells the chefs that this Quickfire was of the high-stakes variety - the winning team gets 10K, to be split four ways. Or, rather than taking the cash, they can "let it ride" - if they win the Elimination Challenge, they each get 10K. The team, feeling cocky and/or greedy, takes the gamble.

Padma wastes no time in presenting this week's Elimination Challenge - the infamous Restaurant Wars. This year, instead of being responsible for frivolities such as potted plants, china patterns, and Sandra Lee-style tablescapes, the cheftestants will be competing in a fully-stocked existing restaurant, Rick Moonen's RM Seafood, which conveniently has two kitchens and two dining rooms, one more formal, the other somewhat casual. As the Quickfire winner, Team DickHer gets the advantage of choosing in which restaurant they would like to work; they choose the upstairs space.

With 30 minutes to plan, Team DickHer decides to eliminate the dessert course, since that is the traditional bane of most cheftestants' existance. Team Bicker, on the other hand, is so confident, they decide to do two different desserts. Potential Kiss-of-Death action here! Also during the planning stage, the teams choose restaurant names. Michael comes up with the clever Revolt (Robin, Eli, Voltaggio), and associates it with "revolutionary." On the other team, Kevin wants to call their restaurant Mission, based on the no-fuss practicality of Mission architecture.

The two teams each send two members to Whole Paycheck armed with $1500 in poker chips and two teams to Restaurant Depot with the same amount. Before they head to their respective vans, Rick Moonen reminds the cheftestants of something they should keep in mind when they cook in his restaurant:

While shopping, we hear that Eli has decided to be civil to Robin, since they're teammates. Big of him.

Back at the restaurants, the chefs set to work prepping their dishes. Eli and Laurine have taken front-of-the-house duties for their teams, but each is responsible for one dish as well. They all feel the pressure. Michael turns out to be a bit of a martinet and starts bugging Robin about the components about her dish, feeling she's "out of her league." Bryan doesn't like being told what to do by his little brother and starts complaining. Michael snaps at him, "don't be a dick."

The annoyance factor is starting to trump hotness here, boys.

Meanwhile, over at Mission, Jen is seriously in the weeds prepping for her two complicated fish dishes. Kevin is working on two meat dishes, one of which is Laurine's, and DoucheyMike is working on two apps. They are worried. And rightfully so - before they know it, customers are arriving while Laurine is still familiarizing the wait staff with the dinner selections.

Lucky for her, the judges hit Revolt first. Padma doesn't like the name, saying that it evokes "revolting." But they have mouthgasms over Michael's chicken and squid dish. The apps go over well, but then there's a long wait for the second courses (during which time the boys are too busy squabbling to cook). When they finally come out, the judges think Michael's cod is brilliant, but Toby's "not overwhelmed" by Bryan's entree. But I'm guessing he's not underwhelmed either, so maybe he should have just kept his mouth shut?

Dessert comes next, but first...more Revolting squabbling, this time involving Robin.

Lucky for Team Bicker, the desserts are a rousing success. They love Bryan's chocolate ganache ribbon (a similar dish put him in the bottom three in a previous Quickfire) with spearmint ice cream and tuiles.

Robin's pear pithivier was also a big hit with the judges, possibly to Eli's chagrin.

The judges then go to Mission to eat another 3-course meal.

DoucheyMike's char is lacking seasoning so Padma has to ask for salt. The second course at this restaurant also takes a while to come out because Jen is even further in the weeds. When it does arrive at the judges' table, it's disappointing. Also disappointing is Laurine's behavior - she doesn't bother to announce the dishes when they are brought out, she simply leaves, possibly to hide in the walk-in.

Finally the non-dessert third course is served; Laurine's lamb dish is undercooked, but Kevin's pork dish is good.

Fake out scene! Michael talks about being a professional and a really nice guy with the biggest heart in the bunch, yadda yadda. This is intercut with scenes of him being a dick over the Glad Wrap while cursing Bryan, and yelling at Robin in the kitchen. Yeah, nice guy. I sure want to work with him.

Back at the Glad Family of Products Stew 'n' Booze room, Padma comes in and announces in her best undertaker voice that she wants to see Team Bicker. Team DickHer is not suprised, as they know they sucked.

Tom says this was the best Restaurant Wars in all 6 seasons. They complimented Eli on his front of the house activity. They praised Bryan's ice cream and Robin's dessert. Because Michael produced two stellar dishes, he was declared the winner and given an autographed copy of Rick Moonen's cookbook, Fish Without a Doubt. Because a cookbook is a cheesy prize compared to a stage at a fancy restaurant, or a box of pots and pans, Padma also gives Michael the 10K chip that Team DickHer gave up when they let it ride. He generously offers to split it with his teammates.

Back in the stew room, after Team DickHer goes out for their tongue-lashing, Bryan acts pissy. He says Michael can keep his portion of the money.

But of course, like a good sibling, he's glad his brother won. Riiiiight.

Back at Judges' Table, Team DickHer is completely aware of their shortcomings. Kevin didn't cook the lamb to a proper medium-rare, which Laurine should have caught as plates were leaving the kitchen, so it's as much her fault as his. Jen's halibut was good but her trout was tasteless and the sauce was broken. She said at that point she was feeling pretty broken as well.

But not as broken as Laurine, whose poor showing as front-of-the-house manager got her the boot. The fact that Robin is still around is probably sticking in some craws right now....
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