Food Network Star 2012 Season 8: Episode 2 – “NYC on the Go” (and microrecap of Episode 1)

Art by Scott Hulme

Art by Scott Hulme

Hello, I am Zin! I did not know there was a crisis or I would have done the episode 1 last week! I am almost done with the Calvino Memos and I do not work on them anyway on Sunday or Monday so I will pick up now!

Previously on Episode 1 – Impossible Beginnings: they ripped off Restaurant Wars! Emily makes an astute observation about the teams: Alton has the nerds, Bobby the jocks, and Giada the cheerleaders. I would say: Bobby does, Alton teaches, Giada shows cleavage. And by the way, she should not wear short skirts. And she should eat an avocado and some whole wheat bread. The Bobby team did “Tasting Place” which is a dopey name but they are real cooks so they did well with food so they won and no one had to worry about going home. The Giada people did California cuisine at “Blu,” even though their restaurant was red, and it did not go so well, especially for Josh whose soup was oily, so he was in the bottom. Because he put chili oil in it! And because he did a somersault in their live team introduction and he was not very good at his individual tableside spiel. Team Alton did southern (“Do South”, cute), and again soup did not work: Cristy made a gloppy thick grey puree from black-eyed peas and cabbage which probably tasted as bad as it sounds (and looked). And she got very scoldy when talking about her style, she is FED UP with fat people! Who do you think watches food tv, Cristy? So she was in the bottom for being angry and making lousy food. Cristy and Josh did the Producer Battle and Cristy lost and was eliminated, bye Cristy!

Now, Episode 2!

Answer: what all tourists come to New York for.
The question: Food! At least if you are doing a Food Network show!

The teams have to go to different neighborhoods in New York and learn about an individual food place that represents the ethnicity of that neighborhood, then they have 90 minutes to create a dish for a busload of tourists, AND give a little tour presentation! That is a lot!

Team Bobby gets Harlem, Alton has the Jewish Lower East Side, and the Giada people go to… Little Italy! They are giving Giada a break! Except of course what matters is not what she is most comfy with, but what works for her team!

Team Alton picks their Kosher Experience:

Katz’s Deli is a deli that specializes in pastrami, and parti Marti (no, that is Aarti) wants it! She chats up the store guy but she does most of the talking rather than asking him about his shop and his pastrami! She loves the pastrami, she wants to marry it! See, there you go, one week the President supports gay marriage and the next middle-aged Southern party ladies want to marry pastrami! Bill O’Reilly was right, except substitute pastrami for turtles. I am not sure what Marti makes but it seems like tiny pastrami sandwich canape things. She tells a long story of when she went to Katz’s in the 80s so that is why she wanted that store! Smart! Susie is happy she improved her energy from last week, and Bob likes that she made a party food which is her culinary point of view.

Kossar’s makes bialys, thousands of bialys, which are square bagels with stuff inside instead of a hole. Justin the boy with crabs from Maryland jumps for it. He knows his bialys, he does! I wonder if he has a Jewish grandmother! He makes bialy chips with smoked crème fraiche and caviar, which sounds very Jewish and yum yum but is it really cooking? Bob and Susie like it, so I guess it is. His presentation was good, if odd. I like odd, but I think he is on the edge of uncomfortable odd, not cool odd.

Streit’s does matzo, lots of matzo. Emily from the 50s loves it though I am not sure why, but Alton tells her to get meshuggeneh with it. I am not sure what a retrorad girl from Orlando knows from meshuggeneh, but she is very cute and I like her! She loves the conveyor belt, and decides to use matzo to make 50s meatloaf with all the flavors of Passover, which is a pretty cool idea! Maybe she does know from meshuggeneh! She starts her presentation with the Willy Wonka conveyor belt, but then she gets motion sickness! Wow, that is inconvenient! No one is impressed with her presentation but her food is good. Alton asks what happened and she tells him she thought she would throw up. “That probably would have been bad,” Alton says. Yes, probably.

All that is left are The Pickle Guys and Judson is not feeling it, but he is stuck with it. I guess he never saw Crossing Delancey. The Pickle Guys are the last Pickle Guys in the area, there used to be hundreds! [addendum: no, actually, there used to be 40, but I got carried away and now that I have seen the episode again I wanted to correct it). They specialize in sour pickles. I hate pickles, so they all seem pretty sour to me. Judson makes two slaws. He starts screaming “The Pickle Guys” and makes no sense. Bob is sad his presentation was terrible, since he was so good last week!

Team Bobby does its own Harlem Renaissance:

Sylvia’s is the Most Famous Soul-Food Restaurant in Harlem. Michele the New England Seafood specialist grabs it! I like Michele! She is the most genuine of all these people I think! Here is the problem: the specialty is fried catfish and collard greens, and while Michele loves seafood, she does not like catfish; it tastes muddy (I think there are tricks to overcome that, but yes, it does have a character all its own). She decides to really season the hell out of it to make it palatable in sliders with a side of collard greens (she is excited about the collard greens). On the bus, she tells a story about Sylvia and claims to love catfish which is a violation of “Be Genuine.” Bob is sad she went downhill from last week, and her dish was not very good.

Casablanca Meat Market appeals to Malcolm the soul food specialist. He makes ribs. For presentation he does very well, I think he is expansive and joyous, Bob and Susie love him and his food is great!

Savoy Bakery goes to Eric the Napa chef. It is funny, it is a Harlem bakery owned by an Asian guy and specializing in Danish pastry! That is New York! And this is Eric: he makes his own cheese Danish. From scratch. And it’s good! Last week he made pasta and ricotta for lasagna, this week he makes Danish pastry. And his own caramel sauce. This guy can cook! No way they will give him a show!

Dinosaur BBQ goes to Nikki. They do Texas style bbq so she gets a bottle of Wango Tango sauce. Nikki makes grilled shrimp with the sauce on it. Bob thinks she is smooth but impersonal, and her food was good but her use of the product was pretty lame!

Melba’s is another famous Harlem soul food restaurant and they specialize in Chicken and Eggnog Waffles. Kara is not happy about being the one left with Melba’s (she tries to trade with Nikki for the BBQ but Nikki is no fool) because she does not fry chicken, she does not like chicken on the bone (what?) and she prefers pancakes to waffles. Kara just lost her audience! She must be getting the loser edit, they could not put her on tv after she said that! Who does not like chicken on the bone? It is the preferred way to cook any meat! And she apparently never heard of chicken and waffles because she is baffled. Melba tells her this great story about jazz musicians inventing chicken and waffles and she just ignores it. If they had invented broiled skinless boneless chicken breast and pancakes she might have paid attention. In her presentation she gets verbally tangled between “black” and “African American” and ends up sounding like she thinks a black woman is an exotic sight never before seen. Everyone looks embarrassed! Bob and Susie are not pleased; there is nothing unique about her. I think a cook not liking chicken on the bone is unique!

Team Giada and the Little Italians of Arthur Avenue:
First, a note. Giada is the most oddly proportioned woman I have ever seen. I try not to comment on physicality unless the person makes an issue of it but this is really freaky! It is like the character on Saturday Night Live with the tiny hands, except Giada shrinks as you go from head to toe. Maybe I have just not seen full-body shots of her before (they should stop that), but she is positively emaciated from the waist down while her arms and neck do not have that anorexic look, and her head is enormous! And when she smiles I want to check to see if I still have all my fingers!

Mike’s Deli is famous for hand-pulled mozzarella, and Yvan goes for it. Giada tells him he must use the mozz. He gets a lesson from the owner in pronouncing MOHTZ-a-rrrrrrehhh-llllllllaaaaaah, say it very slowly like the pulling process! Yvan goes for an antipasti skewer of mozz, artichoke, and tomato. Bob thinks he is charming but the dish is too simple. Even Giada worries about his “culinary chops.” Hey, Giada, you are the one who picked people for their stories and their smiles! It is a little late to realize maybe you should have looked for cooking skills!

The Trattoria specializes in Eggplant Parmesan, which suits Ippy, the half-Hawaiian Italian. Or Half-Italian Hawaiian. Giada says he can not make Eggplant Parm because that would be competing not highlighting! He makes pasta fagioli, or pasta fazul if you prefer, with eggplant and mozz. His presentation goes very well, and Giada finds all the eggplant parm flavors in his soup. Yay Ippy! I do not think he will be a Star, but he is a nice underdog!

Cosenza’s Fish Market appeals to Martita, who thinks Italian style ceviche. That is pretty clever! I wrote down that she mispronounced the name of the store (which has paid big bucks, I am sure, to get this promotion) but no one said anything about it so maybe I misheard; I do not remember. Maybe they hoped no one would notice. She does much better in her presentation than last week, and her dish is good.

Peter’s Meat Market specializes in sausages; it goes to Josh, which surprises me. I would think a rock & roll sushi chef would prefer the fish market. Maybe Martita beat him to it. He makes crostini with sausage and peppers, but he is focusing on a good story since he screwed up his presentation last time. Except this time he screws up his presentation again with a long rambling story about Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci as a waiter refusing to give him a reservation! Even in edited form it went on too long! And his dish is very basic. Rock & Roll is dying!

Palombo Bakery is all about cannoli, and Lickie gets it. No, make that Linkie. Giada tells her not to call her dish cannoli unless she makes authentic Italian cannoli. Linkie makes cheese cake with cannoli crust but she runs out of cream cheese. Someone suggests ricotta but she does not know from ricotta – hey, just what kind of a baker is she? She only has one recipe for all her desserts? Still, she does pretty well incorporating the place and the ingredients, and her cheesecake is good. I think it is lucky she ran out of cream cheese!

Team Giada wins! Kara and Judson have to do the Producer Challenge! What? Judson? Ok, he was not great, but he did well last week and Josh has had two bad weeks in a row. They really want Josh, I guess. But if Judson is eliminated I will be mad! Well, not very mad, because I do not think either of them are contenders. But I would rather see Judson a few more weeks than Kara. Maybe I am mixing her up with Fed Up who already went home, but Kara seems very limited in scope.

The producer challenge is to make a memorable potato dish – memorable is key – in 45 minutes and give a one minute camera presentation.

Kara does twice-baked potatoes with a terrific presentation and a little story about her mom making them for her birthday. Judson does a potato-crusted salmon; Alton gives him really good suggestions for camera presentation – rephrasing to be more inviting, and getting him to just talk instead of lecture to an auditorium of customers. Alton has been pretty impressive on this show so far, much nicer than his usual grumpy self. I still miss the goofy Good Eats guy though.

Kara does well on her dish but Bob does not think it is memorable; Susie thinks she is too cheery (wow, you really can not win once they count you out). Bob thinks they have not experienced her yet which makes me giggle. Justin made a dish that was not quite memorable and was not a potato dish, it was a salmon dish. Susie thinks he is a great corporate spokesperson but too artificial.

Kara goes home. And they have cleared the world of long-haired blondes!

We will see next week, when they do the Chopped tie-in episode, what category they go for next. I predict Eric will fumble because he will not have time to make things from scratch but he will try anyway and run out of time! Overall so far I am on Team Short Haired Bottle Blondes, Emily and Michele (with one “l”, I checked)!


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