Who will be eliminated tonight?
I suppose I am milking my Tyra Banks impression for all it is worth...but I digress. This previous Saturday witnessed the remaining CHG Top Chef contestants whittled from four down to two. The competition is fierce. The stakes are high. The task at hand is, by no stretch, an easy one. Today, the quartet of competitors must create a main course featuring bison, rhubarb and Bernard Callebaut chocolate. The panel of judges, including Chef Paul Shufelt, Che Bechard of Baseline Wines, 2010 Gold Medal Plates winner chef Andrew Fung, Mack Male and Sharon Yeo of Only Here for the Food, will not be lenient. Indeed, the competitors must select a wine to complement their entree.
(The photo album may be viewed here in its entirety)
First up: Shirley Fortez vs. Cedric Boeglin.
Shirley presents baseball-cut bison striploin with aigre-douce sauce, smashed spuds with garlic, and roasted tomatoes with truffle oil. The meat is rich, sweet and perfectly cooked and, while the potatoes err on the "rustic" end of the spud spectrum, their garlicky warmth begs for another bite and then another. The truffle oil is a bit misplaced and is lost among the assertive flavours present in the dish. Shirley's wine, a Castle Rock Petit Syrah, doesn't quite work with the sauce, since the sweet-sour dichotomy is among the most difficult to match with wine. Her dessert, lemon flan with rhubarb and chocolate sauce, is delicate and airy but the rhubarb flavour is elusive.
Cedric reveals a mini bison striploin with syrah beurre blanc, rhubarb sauce, all resting on oven-roasted potatoes and asparagus. The rhubarb sauce adds a welcome note of tang, though the meat is just a wee bit overdone. The visual appeal of the potatoes would improve had they been left whole and not hidden under the meat. Cedric selects J Lohr Syrah, though a syrah may be too gentle for a gamy meat like bison. Dessert features chocolate crepe Suzette. It's a hit of citrus and chocolate that works beautifully.
Second up: John Dykeman vs. Ben Weir
John creates juniper berry-rubbed bison loin accompanied by chive and sour cream mashed spuds, buttered asparagus and Bernaise sauce. His wine, the aptly named cabernet Sledgehammer, easily stands up to this rich plate. The potatoes and steak compete for attention; both are lavish and the meat does not outshine the starch. John admits that his initial dessert did not (pardon the pun) pan out, and he presents rhubarb cheese cake with white and milk chocolate sauce. Placing the cake in a bowl separates it from the sauce - not a good thing.
Ben conjures up rhubarb and bison shepherd's pie with green salad. It's different. Good different. Liberty School Cabernet is an amenable choice. The veggies within the pie could be a bit larger and the meat could be a bit finer, but it works. Ben's dessert showcases rhubarb sauce alongside cream cheese-filled crepes flecked with chocolate. They are rich, sweet, and could be a dessert-entree unto themselves.
Only eight points separate the contestants but, ultimately, Shirley and Ben move to the finale. In two days, one will triumph as CHG's Top Chef. Stay tuned.