"Batali vs. Tramonto &
Battle Fennel" - July 30
Editor's Note: What follows is a
televised-move-by-televised-move recap. Because a
sixty-minute battle, intro, and judgment has to be
edited into 45 minutes of airtime, not every move will
Rick Tramonto & Gale Gand. She's an innovative pastry
chef. He's a wizard in the kitchen. Together, they head
up the kitchen at the four-star restaurant Tru in their
native Chicago. He brings creativity to the entrees,
having been inducted into the Fine Dining Hall of Fame.
She conjures up tempting desserts, having been named Bon
Appetit's Pastry Chef of the Year. Together, they hope
to stand a chance against Iron Chef Mario Batali.
The Crib Sheet:
Mark Ladner & Anne Burrell, sous-chefs
Stuart Davis, sous-chef
8-4, lost last battle
against John Besh
The Theme Ingredient:
Fennel, baby and mature.
The Rules: Each chef
must create a five-course meal, with each course
utilizing the theme ingredient, within 60 minutes. The
judges will score the dishes on a 20-point scale: 10
points taste, 5 points plating and presentation, 5
points creativity and use of ingredient. The chef who
best articulates the theme ingredient through his dishes
The Talladega Nights battle
clock is set at 60 minutes, which will start when the
Chairman, with full heart and empty stomach, utters the words of
his dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"
Comedian and media gadfly Mo Rocca (NPR's "Wait Wait
Don't Tell Me...")
Editor-in-chief of Food & Wine Magazine Dana Cowin
Author Ed Levine ("Pizza, a Slice of Heaven")
Fennell (foeniculum vulgare) is the only ingredient to
have a vegetable, an herb, and two different spices, the
seeds and the pollen. The name fennel actually comes
from a very old Latin word meaning "little hay". The top
is used as an herb, while the stalks and bulb are used
as vegetables. The seeds and pollen are used as spices,
as they are intense in both flavor and aroma. They're
very expensive. In fact, if Alton sneezed right now,
then Food Network would dock him about $75.
Looks like the Iron Chef is
going for a salad, a tuna, and a tartare of some sort.
He calls the challengers "truly amazing" as they have
the ritziest eatery in the Midwest. The challengers say
that they just want to finish.
Rick & Gale are done with
seven dishes... and an origami, that Kevin calls a bit
cocky. We'll see if the judges feel the same way.
Judgment (Gand/Tramonto): Tramonto: "Fennel is
one of those ingredients that adds flavor to so many
things, so for me I needed to build stuff around the
proteins and still accent the flavor of the proteins."
Gand: "I was trying to treat it like it was a fruit." Dishes:
Fennel Soup, Peekytoe Crab Salad with Fennel Pollen,
Roasted Fennel Risotto (with a note: Miracles are to
come), Roasted Halibut with Fennel, Venison with Fennel,
Yuzu Mousse with Fennel Macadamia Salad, Pate a Bric
with Caramelized Fennel
Judgment (Batali): "I was practically born with
fennel coursing through my blood, so what we've done is
treated fennel five different ways to extract five
different essences of fennel. I hope we're successful." Dishes:
Shaved Raw Fennel Salad, Tuna "Cruda" on Steamed Fennel,
Squab Breast in Fennel Seed, Arista Toscana with Roasted
Fennel, Fennel Tartare.
The judges are mixed with
the challengers' dishes. The fennel was almost a bit too
subtle until the venison dish. They did love the mousse.
As for the Iron Chef, Ed quotes friend and fellow ICA
regular Jeff Steingarten: "I would pay for this in a
restaurant." But whose cuisine reigns supreme? The
... 54-46 in favor of
Iron Chef Mario Batali. Check out the 28 score in taste.
That means that at least one judge gave the Iron Chef a
perfect 10 in that category. This is the biggest win
that the Iron Chef has had in a long time. Simply put, a
visual play of dishes could not beat the flavor and
originality of the "Ayatollah Italiano".
Until next time, we bid you