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Top Chef Texas, Ep. 16: I've Seen Fire and I've Seen Ice

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To thoroughly enjoy the glory that is Top Chef Texas, we welcome comedian Max Silvestri, who will be here every week to take us through the season.

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Before we start this penultimate recap, I hope you guys will humor me. I wrote a new joke. Let me try it out. "Last night was the sixteenth episode of this season of Top Chef." Pretty good joke, right? What, you're not laughing? Maybe you're not laughing because the idea of the sixteenth episode of a reality show being anything but the finale is so unbelievable, and comedy needs to come from a place of truth. Or maybe you're not laughing because the very idea of more of this Texan season brings you to tears. Who can know which is the reason? Either way, no one is laughing.

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As we begin episode sixteen, Lindsay, Sarah, and Paul are playing a game in the car ride to the Fairmont Hotel. It is some kind of name game, and sadly it is NOT Fuck, Marry, Kill. FMK usually involves talking about people not playing the game, and in this case it would have to, because FMK with Lindsay, Paul and Sarah is already so obvious that there's no point. (It's in that order, respectively.)

FMK meet Padma and Emeril at the Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie in Vancouver's Chinatown. Sarah is relieved, for many reasons, that Beverly is gone. She thinks Bev would have been a knock-out at this challenge. Why do you think that, Sarah? The lighting in the restaurant is very poor, and after watching this episode Padma will probably get somebody fired. I am just kidding; Padma would never watch this show.

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Vancouver has one of the largest Chinese populations outside of Asia. I did not know that. I'm going to Vancouver for a wedding in August, and it's my first time in Canada. I will probably explore a lot of what Vancouver has to offer. (I will only eat and drink what is free at the wedding.) Our contestants will get some help in the kitchen from Top Chef Masters Anita Lo, Floyd Cardoz, and Takashi Yagihashi, who file into the restaurant. Sarah loses her shit. She's like a spazzy little kid. She knows Takashi from Chicago and respects him a lot. So you lose your mind? Get it go ether. He is your friend. Take it easy.

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The chefs draw knives to make teams. Sarah sees Paul get Takashi Yagihaski and says, "Oh you got Takashi!" Yeah, you sound genuinely happy for Paul, Sarah. Your sincerity shines through. She gets Floyd Cardoz. "Nice." Liar. That leaves Lindsay with Anita Lo. The teams have 40 minutes to cook an Asian influenced dish, and every 10 minutes they tag their teammate out. They can't communicate. (They can only communicate through the language of miss en place, which is a little like French.) The winner of the Quickfire will receive twenty grand. Paul doesn't care. "That's less than a tenth of what I've already made on this show." The Masters go first.

The Masters scramble and explore the small kitchen. Chef Takashi founds geoduck clams and thinks "sashimi." Um, that is not what I'd think. I'd think, "disgusting." We are so different people. Padma and Emeril peek through the kitchen window like little elf perverts.

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Emeril says to the contestants, "You got your hands full, guys." Sarah says, "thank you." That is not an appropriate answer. She can't do anything right. Emeril says, "Would you offer a hand to a stranger that's fallen down a well?" and Sarah say, "Probably not." The chefs switch off.

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Lindsay is still showing off her new earrings. Vancouver is all about earrings for her. Is she trying to get an earring company off the ground? Paul looks for mushrooms to go with the geoduck, which Takashi wanted. With ingredients all over the place, Floyd is a little racist to Takashi. "What is this, an Asian grocery store? You take everything you want? Oh, not you Anita." Good one. Everyone is real comfortable with that joke and it went well.

The Texas contestants finish out the last ten minutes, mostly following the lead of the Top Chef Masters. Anita and Takashi even left out plates that say, "Make the dish like this." Sarah keeps repeating how Paul is the master of Asian cuisine. OK, that's enough. Floyd offers to buy Takashi a drink at the fake bar. I bet he's serving HAM with his dish.

Lindsay (and Anita) serve a scallop two ways, with bok choy and chile and then fried roe with sausage and water chestnut. Anita maybe intended them three ways, and she's a little disappointed. Sarah and Floyd made pan-seared cod with coconut curry, and a crab salad with clementines. Floyd and Sarah were synced up. They are so synced up they do the worst fist-grab of all time.

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Paul makes a mirugai sashimi with yuzu dash, fried white fish, scallions and chili. He overdid it on the chili. Padma and Emeril love spice yet can barely handle it. Emeril says that Lindsay's Chinese sauces were a little overpowering. Sarah's could have used more acid. Paul's dish was brave, but it was too hot. He added the chili at the end, so it's all his fault. Emeril says, "The dish that has all of the notes of Asian flavors is Sarah and Floyd." All of the notes of Asian flavors? She wins 20k. I'm sure Floyd would not say no to that money, but he does not get any.

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Our contestants have survived the cold of whistler and and the heat of Texas, so they are throwing a "Fire and Ice" cocktail party. Is this related to the chain of "Mongolian grills" called Fire and Ice? I only went to one once, in the mall near where I went to college. The concept was you picked out your proteins, vegetables, and sauces from a salad bar, then you handed it to some dude to cook on a griddle for you. I was dining with a bunch of strangers, and while picking out my sauce, I tasted the habanero jerk sauce with my finger. Then I went to use the bathroom and THINGS were touched. I came back to the dinner and my crotch was on fire. I kept going back to the bathroom to try and splash water down my pants. It was a really fun meal, and one I remember fondly.

Each chef will be responsible for one dish and one cocktail. Their dishes must contain both a hot and cold element. Plus, the winner of this challenge gets a trip for two to Costa Rica. They'll be serving 150 of Vancouver's culinary elite. Emeril says that this is challenge will give them an opportunity to showcase themselves, and that "chili with a dollop of sour cream won't cut it." Man, that sounds great. I haven't eaten that for a while. Someone should make that.

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They chefs head to Whole Foods with a budget of $1200. The title card also informs us they have 45 minutes to shop. It is hard enough to justify showing the shopping scenes at all, but I can see how some people might be interested by the budget that chefs need to cook a
large service. But is anyone interested in how long in takes these guys to shop? "Oo, they've got 45 minutes. That's a fascinating amount of time. They shop and shop. Lindsay settles on halibut and makes a dig at Bev's cooking of her fish during Restaurant Wars. Let it go.
Paul looks for essential oils. He and Sarah are both doing frozen/snow type things, which Lindsay thinks is gimmicky and unlike her style. "Stay true to who you are." Be yourself, girl. WEAR those earrings.

They have five hours to cook. Sarah says, "You know what one thing I miss the most? A calculator." There are no calculators in Canada, and Sarah keeps having to take off her clogs to count past 10. Sarah is making 100 people's worth of pasta by hand, from scratch. Eesh.

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Paul works on his lobster stock. "I just got 30 pounds of lobster." That's so much, hot shot! What are you, a millionaire? I wonder how much time he had to shop. I wish they'd shown us. Sarah and Lindsay make mind numbing small talk. "Whatcha doing?" Just cook. "How you doing?" Stop asking. "I love that technique." I think Sarah is on some sort of medication.

Tom comes through and psyches everybody out. He gets Paul to tell him that he's no longer a good cook. Everyone's in the weeds. Paul wishes this was a surprise sous chefs challenge. Instead they got model/waiters. Sarah's making her ginger mousse on an anti-griddle, which is a very cool device that flash-freezes things on contact.

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The Elimination Challenge's service is half outdoors, and all of Vancouver's fancies show up in coats and skirts. Are they in an airplane hangar? I'm confused. Two douches say, "Fresh foam! Let's do it up!" and high five. I hate awkward high fives.

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Paul, as always, second guesses himself. He gets so nervous, I want to hug him and hand him a puppy and show him what unconditional love means. He serves his dish: king crab with lobster broth and lemon snow, alongside his cocktail, "the Pan Am": kaffir lime, palm sugar, Thai chiles and rum. I am surprised that cocktail hasn't been canceled yet. (Pan Am is an NBC show and it honestly surprises me Bravo didn't figure out a way to plug it.)

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Sarah worries her mousse is too frozen to melt into the stuffed pasta. She serves a five greens-filled pasta with garlic, chili and spiced sformato. Her cocktail is an "Agrumi": gin, kumquat,s and mango. Her flavors are great, but the mousse is rock hard. The cocktail is stiff, but not appropriate. Some girl says, "If I had a straw, I'd be dangerous," presumably referring to who she'll fight when she's on cocaine.

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Lindsay sells herself out last minute and serves a tomato ice alongside the dish. What happened to being yourself, Lindsay? You said yourself that being yourself always works out best in the end. "Will the judges like my earrings?" She serves a halibut with a fiery celery root salad, and a cocktail called the "Encendido": vodka, tomato, horseradish. Is that Spanish for Bloody Mary?

Tom reveals he hates vegetables when he gets snippy about the greens on everybody's plates, the kale on Lindsay's and the arugula on Paul's. "Why's it there?" Just eat it, Tom. It's good for you. This is the first challenge where the chefs didn't get to explain their dishes to the judges. Instead, they sit in a train car. Or a bus. Or a private jet. Or a trailer. I can't figure it out.

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The three almost-finalists stand before the judges. Paul's dish could have used a bit more spice, and the arugula wasn't truly incorporated with the other elements. Sarah's dish was brave, but that thing was too frozen, even if she did adhere strictly to the challenge parameters. Lindsay's drink pairing was the best, but the fish was a bit overpowering, and on its own her cocktail underwhelmed.

Padma head fakes the chefs and announces, "Sarah, you ARE moving on." Fantastic. I'm excited to see one more episode with Sarah. She heads back to the private jet stew room. It comes down to Paul and Lindsay. Lindsay's asked to pack her earrings and knives and go. She did great, and she regrets nothing. She is sad to say goodbye to Sarah.

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But it's not over yet. Paul is the winner of this challenge. Tom tweeted at the end of the episode that "Arugula is what happens when you really don't have anything negative to say." It's nice to have drama on this show explicitly called out as fake by one of its judges and producers. Paul's headed to Costa Rica. We STILL have one more episode. Can you believe it? Sarah says, "I always knew it would be me versus Paul." They are the two Texans. And the winner will be picked in Vancouver. Speaking of Costa Rica, I have a flight in three hours and I'll be without Internet for four days. I hope that by the time I come back Bravo has just announced the winner via a press release. "FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION: THIS SHOW'S DUMB."

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