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"Cora vs. Falkner: Battle Honey" - October 29

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 be shown.

The Challengers: Elizabeth Falkner, who returns to Kitchen Stadium America not as a sous-chef to an Iron Chef, but as a challenger. A pastry maestro who specializes in sugar art and one of the 10 best pastry chefs in America according to Bon Appetit Magazine, she owns the San Francisco patisserie Citizen Cake. Today, she challenges her former master, Iron Chef Cat Cora.

The Crib Sheet:
Brian Reimer & Pichet Ong sous-chefs
Sean Forsha & William Pilz sous-chef
14 years EXPERIENCE 16 years
Greek/Aegean COOKING STYLE Edgy California Cuisine
5-3, won last battle with Water Scheib BATTLE RECORD Challenger

The Theme Ingredient: Wildflower, clover, and buckwheat honey, fresh and in combs. And no swords, but the Chairman does have lethal honey spinners.

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 wins.

As the Chairman passes his two gladiatrices their respective spinners, the Ruby Tuesday 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!"

First, a recap, courtesy of the Iron Chef...  "She was my sous-chef on two battles (Battle Hamburger and Battle Clam, both in season 2). I know her secrets and her style. I'm going to be doing dishes that she never seen me do before, something that she may not know that I have in my back pocket. It's kind of a cat-and-mouse kind of situation."

Rebuttal, challenger? "I know Cat's highly competitive and so am I. Watch out, Cat Cora, because you don't know who you're going up against."

Looks like the challenger is starting with mead, a Buddha's hand, and some popcorn. Not necessarily together.

And the Chairman takes a bit of a snack straight from the comb at the altar. Pichet on the IC side is making cheese from milk and lemon juice.

Tonight's Judges:
Comedian/media gadfly Mo Rocca (NPR's "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me")
Grammy-winning Jazz musician Paquito D'Rivera
Culinary critic/author Jeffrey Steingarten ("The Man Who Ate Everything")

Semi-educational moment: We have three honeys with us today. The darkest is buckwheat. Then there're clover and wildflower honeys. Naturally honey is thick and syrupy. How is it made? Well, the honeybee, apis mellifera, as demonstrated by the tattoo on Alton's arm. Bee accesses the nectary from a flower... Nectar goes into the honey stomach... Meanwhile, the hairs around them gather pollen... The pollen feeds baby bees... The honey is expelled from the stomach... The liquid goes inside the comb until it's exactly the right viscosity, then it's capped with beeswax. An apiary slices the comb and accesses the honey. And now you know... the REST of the story.

Challenger is making tempura, while the IC is making soba noodles and loukoumades.

Cora has begun her plating early. Both have buckwheat noodles, cocktails, and duck. We're down to the final minute, and the challenger has not yet plated all five of her dishes. The Iron Chef, meanwhile, has six down! She's calling for the ouzo toast, while Falkner still needs a fifth dish with 15 seconds to go! If it doesn't happen in that time, it's not going to happen! And... she gets her honey ice cream down on the plate... but AFTER THE BUZZER! The ice cream will not be judged.

Put it down, walk away, Battle Honey is over!

The ruling on the ice cream... The Chairman will allow it. Going with NBA rules, if the ball is in the air at the buzzer, it counts. So Falkner has five for judging. "I think we're just not used to the kitchen. All in all, we have some tasty dishes, so let's just go from there." Cora: "We're good friends, we have a history, it was fun."

Judgment (Cora): "I really wanted to utilize all of today's secret ingredient that was presented, the buckwheat, the wildflower, the clover and the honeycomb. I think we accomplished that today." Dishes: Honey Chelsea Manhattan, Loukoumades (Honeycomb Fritter), Honey Bruleed Scallop with Honey Buckwheat Noodles, Honeycomb Sicilian Pistachio Duck Breast, Milk & Honey Soup, Honey Cake with Homemade Cheese and Honey Rose Foam.

Judgment (Falkner): "We had a lot of fun just playing around with what really tastes good with honey and how to push boundaries of it a little bit." Dishes: Mead Honey Drop with Honey Caramel Corn, Hamachi Carpaccio with Honey Granita, Prawn Cocktail with Honey Dipping Sauces, Duck with Buckwheat Noodles and Tangerine-Honey Sauce, Blue Cheese Ice Cream, Black Tea-Honey Gel and Indian Milk.

Seems like Mo and Paquito have a heart-to-heart over the Iron Chef's dishes. Her dishes are "revelatory" once you get past a few functional obstacles... Jeff is, as usual, very blunt with his critique of both dishes. The desserts go over well with the judges. But whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict...

Taste 18 15
Plating 10 12
Originality 11 11

... 39-38 in favor of Iron Chef Cat Cora. Taste is offset by plating on both sides with the math favoring the Tetsujin, who, if we're being honest, did not expect to win today. Victory is sweet for the Iron Chef but one could help but wonder what the outcome would've been had Elizabeth Falkner had sufficient time to plate the remainder of her fifth dish.

Until next time, we bid you good eating.

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