Well, readers, it’s a good thing I respect you so damn much. ‘Cause if I didn’t, I would just tell you to watch last week’s episode, substitute “Gregg and Karen” for “Carlton”, “Summer” for “Chester”, and “wine noodle” for “meat log”, and you’d pretty much have the same experience. But that’s not how I roll. I respect you. That doesn’t mean I’m gonna call you tomorrow, but I will strive to satisfy you tonight. So put on something nice, and let’s get to recapping.
Puff puff give!
This week, our Turkey-haired hero has been retained by Gregg and Karen to cater their engagement party. Gregg and Karen are a pretty average couple in their late 40s, and they’re in lurve. And they want to tell Marcel their story. You know the only thing I’m less interested in than Kanye West’s tweets? LISTENING TO OTHER PEOPLE’S DUMB-ASS RELATIONSHIP STORIES. It’s exactly like looking at somebody else’s vacation photos: I wasn’t there. Why would I care? But, without the sappy story, Marcel has no inspiration for his mighty morphin’ food, so… Marcel walks though a vineyard soaked in golden California sunlight with his newest clients, and listens to their story.
Karen and Gregg were high school sweethearts. But I guess they never banged or anything. They graduated, each went out and had a starter marriage, but Gregg could never get the idea of Karen’s sweet, sweet love out of his mind. (Kinda makes you wonder if that’s what put the bullet in his first marriage.) Thirty years later, Gregg looks up Karen on the Innerweb, and blammo! It’s re-love at first sight all over again.
Hair mates. How did you not know you were meant for each other?
The trio goes inside, has some wine, and we learn that Karen worked at a winery when she was in her 20s. The current vineyard—Church Estates—grabbed Gregg and Karen by the short and curlies with its pure loveliness, so they’ve chosen it as the site of their engagement party. Karen wants to know how Marcel is going to incorporate love in his food. Eww. On several levels. Marcel asks if Gregg used to cook for Karen. He did: surf and turf. Turkey hair decides to incorporate that somehow. More wine.
Woah! Slow down, champ!
Marcel wants to pair the great wine with his great food. He and the love birds go check out the venue, which is dubbed “the most romantic spot you can imagine.” A pond, apparently in a small valley, surrounded by trees and greenery. There’s a big glossy wooden deck/dock. Of course, the pond has a pair of swans on it. Are swans good eatin’? Maybe frozen in liquid nitrogen and thawed out in a bath of warm Velveeta? Just kidding. Too easy. Marcel wouldn’t even think of it. He says of Karen and Gregg “They want the world, and I want to deliver it to them.” He actually sounded sincere. I didn’t even want to punch him.
There’s nothing more romantic than a swan poop appetizer.
Who’s the conflict engine, uh, I mean party planner, this time. It’s Summer. And she’s got the reputation of being quite the perfectionist. Say it with me: thundercunt. In a Quantum Interview Summer says “I’ve heard a lot about Marcel … and I think that his creativity will be perfect for this event.” Take a picture, because this is the last nice thing either of them will say about the other.
Summer’s got an example of the place settings: gold-electroplated, story book romance-y, over-done and pretty tacky. Marcel turns a funny color and starts bobbing his head like an epileptic turkey. Marcel doesn’t do colored plates. He puts down a plain white plate and thinks it would work fine.
I think Summer is coming from a place of “no”.
Marcel says that plates might seem like a big deal, but the way foods looks affects the way it tastes. Summer says of Marcel’s plate: “Well, now it looks like we’re at a restaurant”. She says “restaurant” like other people say “dog feces”. She also says that Marcel ain’t getting his ugly-ass square white plates.
His first joust with Summer over, Marcel has a menu to brainstorm. To the white board! Devon, Robyn and Jarrid are in their usual places on the Slacker Couch. Marcel tells them the theme is “love-dovey stuff”, and Jarrid looks like he’s going to puke. “I got the perfect menu plan,” he says. “Let’s make a big edible Hallmark card that tastes like shit.” (Sweet Ganesha! Have Jarrid and I found common ground? Maybe, but my hair is still cleaner.)
Ideas, ideas. Mostly from Marcel, because Robyn and Devon are spazzing out over the romance theme and aren’t being a ton of help, and Jarrid has totally and completely checked out. Robyn goes from romance making her think of oysters (that dirty little tramp) to shellfish being romantic in general (????) to surf and turf. Strange she should say that, since that’s the part of the menu Marcel’s already got a full on robotic chubby for. He wants to “update” surf and turf. By stacking it on top of each other. Devon makes that “point to your eyes and then at the other person” motion to indicate he’s picking up what Marcel is putting down. I’m sitting home not having a clue what they’re talking about.
Robyn brings up passionate fruits… like… passion fruit. Good one, Kinky Curl. The ideas move on to heart shaped or symbolic food, like hearts of palm. Hearts of palm salad? Two-heart salad? Chicken heart salad? They jump to the next plate, prompted by a vague “simple food can be romantic, like pasta” idea. They bring up the Lady and the Tramp eating the same spaghetti noodle. Robyn and Devon go into cute overload. Jarrid imagines himself rebuilding a carburetor.
Dessert: Marcel is considering an edible engagement ring, but it’s nothing more than a concept yet.
I think this ground has been covered, but don’t let that stop ya.
And then, things get gross.
Prep Day #1:
Wine Noodle: Marcel has advanced the “romantic pasta” idea to a noodle made of three types of jellied wine. He’ll make it 30 inches long, one inch for each year Gregg and Karen spent apart. The idea is to have the noodle progress from one wine to the next to the next, like tasting a flight. Gross? Oh, just wait. To get jellied wine, Marcel’s going to use agar-agar (No, not the the Viking. The seaweed vegetable gelatin. Remember 8th grade biology? When you cultured mold samples? That Jell-O-like stuff on the bottom of the petri dish was agar-agar. It’s got the nutrients that molds, spores, and fungi need to grow up big and strong.) mixed with wine to simulate the pliability of a pasta noodle. They boil the jellied Riesling, Rose, and Pinot noir, suck the mixtures into syringes, and inject them into a 30-inch long tube. The problem is fusing the three mixtures into one noodle. They fill the tube, drop it into an ice bath to harden it, and used compressed gas to propel it out of the tube. But it doesn’t work: the air bubbles in the different wines won’t allow a continuous, unbroken noodle to form. Marcel abandons the three-wine flight idea, and settles for a jellied Pinot noir noodle. This works. The purple noodle jumps out of the tube like a glistening, 30-inch long night crawler.
Nothing says “romance” like a 30-inch purple worm.
Surf and Turf: For the turf part, Marcel wants to pair Pinot noir with flat-iron steak. He plans to make a “bridal veil” out of it by mixing the wine with agar agar, then pouring a shallow layer of it over thinly sliced truffles. The thin wine/ truffle sheet will then get draped over the meat. This will “provide flavor and texture” according to Turkey Hair. You know what already has flavor and texture? Meat. Why bring seaweed gelatin into this?
Ultimately, Marcel pictures three tiers of surf and turf: lobster meat in the shape of a heart on the bottom, lobster ravioli with earthy vegetables like brussel sprouts in the middle, and the veiled steak on a plate with king crab legs—and it wouldn’t be Marcel if he didn’t add a nice hot spurt of artichoke foam.
Hearts of Palm/Two-heart Salad: Hearts of palm is easy, so Marcel has to get all weird science with the other “heart” in the salad. He wants to “form mimic” tuna … with watermelon. Why? Why not? Devon and Marcel marinate, or, as they keep repeating “impregnate” the watermelon cubes in soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. (The little container is even labeled “pregger juice.”) Then they pop the cubes into something called a “Gastrovac”. No idea if this is the same thingamabob they used to vacuum the air out of the sous vide bags last week (or if Devon puts the machine to other uses after everyone else has gone home), but it first builds up pressure, compressing the watermelon, then releases the pressure, and the watermelon sucks in the juice. They taste it, and decide that it has the texture of raw tuna and sort of a sea-salty taste from the soy it’s “impregnated” with. They have successfully turned fruit into fish.
Can turning a fish into a fruit be far behind?
Prep Day #2:
Marcel complains in a QView that the team spent most of Day 1 getting the wine noodle to work, he’s got Summer coming in for a tasting in a few hours, and the party is tomorrow. Wait, what? Everybody out the pool! Who’s setting these deadlines? I know that reality TV thrives on impossible deadlines, but twice in a row now, Marcel and crew haven’t even started the process until 48 hours beforehand? They don’t even give us some faked-up reason why they have so little time. C’mon producers. Lie to me. Help me rationalize this somehow.
Edible Engagement Ring: The trick with the dessert is that Turkey Hair wants the whole thing to be edible: gold ring, diamond, the pillow the ring sits on, everything. They whip up some sugar-based taffy and begin working and pulling it. (You! In the back. Stop sniggering! I’m trying to work, here.) The sugar comes out of the pot at 325 degrees, and they have five minutes to work with it. They wrap thin bands of taffy around a dowel and fashion pretty convincing-looking rings. The ring pillow will be made out of marshmallow, which sounds reasonable, but will look horrible later.
Woah, perv! Let go of Bob. He’s got a date as a pillow later.
Marcel decides to avoid the ring looking like “rock candy” by making a transparent sugar crystal “bon-bon” with a liquid center. Of course, there’s no time to do this because: two days. So he calls in reinforcements. Sally “Macho” Comacho. Pastry chef extraordinaire and apparent Vulcan. (If Macho has emotions, those things are locked down tighter than a Saudi pro-democracy demonstration.) Macho devises a corn starch mold into which they’ll pour the sugar bon bon mixture. The corn starch will leach out some of the water, leaving a crystal shell around a liqueur center. The thing is, the corn starch is so powdery that, at most, a third of the molds will produce usable diamonds. The rest will be misshapen, unusable mutants. The bon bons will be attached to the rings with a dab of sugar glue. The diamonds have to set overnight, so the crew won’t know if it worked until tomorrow, i.e., the day of the party. Marcel points out that they don’t have a backup plan. Of course they don’t.
Marcel is sautéing(?) an ingredient and filling the kitchen with smoke as Summer arrives. It sure does make Marcel look bad. (For chefs, who regularly have to use fire to cook stuff, these people have an awful lot of trouble controlling fire.) Marcel immediately admits that only the Surf and Turf and the Two-Heart salad are ready for tasting.
Summer gets a severe case of bitch face and looks at Marcel like she’s just realized that she’s entrusted one of her parties to a learning-disabled gibbon. Then, Marcel throws in that he didn’t have any of the fairy tale plates, so he had to serve it on his own white, rectangular plates. “Here we go with the plates again,” Summer QViews. “Marcel needs to understand that this is my event, and he’s going to use my plates.”
Breathe deep, bitch face! Hope you took an iodine pill, cuz you know that smoke can’t be safe.
The steak, however, is a hit. At one point, Summer almost looked like she was enjoying life. Then we start up with the plating issue again. “How are you planning on serving this?” she demands. Marcel’s going to execute the tiered surf and turf with stackable tableware he’s ordered from Spain. Summer’s arched eyebrow silently asks the same question all of us at home are asking: Isn’t ordering dishes from Spain the day before an event just a tad foolish? Marcel blows off her concern, refuses further eye contact, and says “We’ve still got a lot to do, and this tasting set me back a bit… but I was happy to take the time.” Summer throws a remarkable “Bitch, please!” face.
Marcel and Devon pull up in front of the winery. “Schwank-a-delic!” Devon gays. The rest of the crew follow in a van packed with all the components of Gregg and Karen’s meal. They aren’t in the kitchen 30 seconds when the first fiasco hits: Macho Comacho discovers that the bon bon diamonds were packed wrong, and they’re all smashed together in a single Tupperware container. Who? Who was the fuckwit that didn’t even know how to pack spun-sugar liqueur bon bons?? Devon was that fuckwit. He ain’t up for taking the blame though: “This is Sally’s fault! If she wanted them packed a certain way, she should have said so. Or done it herself.” Marcel and Sally salvage 12 bon bons, one to make a ring for each guest.
The follow up episode will be the How Babies Are Made themed shower.
Good news! The Spanish tableware has arrived. Bad news! They looked bigger on the Innerweb, and now that he has them, Marcel realizes the top tier plate is way too small to fit the steak and crab legs on it. The dastardly little brat prince decides to launch operation “White Rectangular Plates.” Summer only brought enough tacky gold plates for the courses she knew about. If the Surf and Turf can’t be stacked in tiers, then each component will have to be served separately, and they don’t have enough plates. Only Marcel’s white rectangular plates can save the dinner. Turkey Hair’s maleficent grin says it all. He knew from the start he’d find some way to defy Summer’s terrible tableware tyranny.
As Summer, Marcel and Robyn walk to the dinner table, Marcel and Summer can’t even agree on how fast the waiters should walk when carrying the food. Summer proudly shows off the table setting, and it looks like Valentine’s Day jumped on a grenade, there are so many pink and red roses. Summer smugly QViews that Marcel is now onboard. He sees that her way was the right way.
Let’s hope there’s some taste on the plates.
Marcel is busy plotting operation “White Rectangular Plates” with Robyn. Here’s the plan: Turkey Hair will use his own plates, and he’s going to make Robyn tell Summer about it. Robyn tries to tell herself that she’s an excellent caterer, and it’s a caterer’s job to smooth over difficult situations. The fact that her boss is a total pussy is irrelevant.
Summer arrives at the outdoor kitchen that’s been set up across the pond from the dinner table—which I hope is far enough away that Gregg and Karen don’t hear it when Marcel starts dropping F-bombs later on—and Robyn tells her about the plating situation. Robyn delivers the news like she’s an 8 year old girl who’s been caught with mom’s lipstick all over her face. Marcel makes sure his back is to the discussion the whole time. Summer now QViews that, even though she was convinced before that she’d broken Marcel’s will, that “this is exactly what she expected from sneaky Marcel.” Now, Summer learns that there has to be an additional course, because the whole stacking thing didn’t work out. An additional course means another set of 12 forks, which she didn’t plan for. And making guests reuse a fork is “ghetto.” Marcel flips his wig, saying he doesn’t have time for this shit, and bleeping up a storm. Before she stalks off, Summer snots that next time, maybe they should test the plates first. She’s not wrong.
Party time, she is here.
The sun goes down, and the pond area is lit with about a million little fairy lights. Gregg and Karen arrive and are hugged by their guests. Some of the guests are a little afraid of the ginourmous fur stole Karen is wearing. During the summer. In California.
I smell mothballs.
In the outdoor kitchen, Turkey Hair and crew are meticulously arranging the “Hearts of Palm” salad one vegetable at a time, and apparently designing the presentation as they go along. Summer is growing concerned. But they get it plated and Marcel presents it to the diners. The dish is billed as “Hearts of palm salad with blood orange fluid gel and “impregnated” watermelon.” I’d be feeding that shit to the dog under the table. But now that it’s plated, I see Marcel’s point about the white plates. White doesn’t compete with the food’s color. And the stark background helps physically define each component of the dish. This food would have looked like crap on Summer’s gold plates.
Karen’s never seen a dish like it. The salad disappears down the guest’s gullets pretty quick.
Next up, “Wine Noodle”. And Summer’s noticed that the noodle is a single color, instead of tri-colored. This kind of unpredictability cannot be tolerated! “If you’re going to be making these changes, I need to know!” she spits. A noodle of an unexpected color has knocked Summer’s delicate party planning world askew.
Marcel serves the noodle in glass, claiming that he ran short of noodles, so he just left both ends hanging out, and was hoping that Gregg and Karen could share it? They do the Lady and Tramp thing, producing delirious applause from their guests. It’s dumb. And sorta gross. Then Marcel makes it worse by QViewing: “I just hope the noodle can withstand all the slurping. I haven’t tested it during an actual kiss.”
“Surf and Turf” time. Marcel explains some sort of plating strategy they’re going to use because the “tier” idea didn’t work out. Something about how the first two dishes have to be plated simultaneously, brought out to the guests, then he has to scamper back to the kitchen, futz with the steak plate, and bring that out so that all of them can be eaten together? Maybe? I think it’s just for drama, but I’m a smart-ass recapper, not a molecular gastronomist.
So, first tier: Beet ravioli stuffed with spiny lobster. Heart beet, geddit? Karen says the plate brings her right back to Gregg’s kitchen when she was 17 years old. The guests love both the presentation and the taste.
Second tier: Foie gras truffle jus over prawn ravioli with brussels sprouts. “I won’t ‘tier’ up, but this is very special,” Gregg quips. Save it for the professionals, Gregg. Frankly, the truffle jus is the exact color and consistency of puke, but the guests think it’s delicious.
Frantic plating of the third tier: the veiled steak and crab. Summer is pointed looking at her watch. The whole crew is plating and trying not to get in each other’s way. Marcel is waving a blow torch around and swearing at people. Summer is chanting “Gottago gottago gottago!” because that always helps people work faster. Across the pond, the guests are cooling their heels. One older lady looks pissed, but maybe it’s just menopause setting in. Pounding, dramatic music is playing. Someone could die if these plates don’t go out!
They could also die if the food does go out. That’s the thing with experimenting.
Commercial: When are those Ghost Hunter guys just going to give up and say “We never find anything. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that everything looks spooky in night vision, we wouldn’t even have a show.”
And we’re back. The plates go out. The steak and the crab look delicious. If Turkey Hair hadn’t gone and ruined it with the asparagus jizz foam, I really would have been coveting that food. Summer QViews that her plates would have looked better. Nobody besides Summer cares. Even menopause lady says it “was a feast in your mouth.” Karen is driven to tears by Marcel’s food. All the guests raise their glasses. “To Marcel!” Whu?? This is Gregg and Karen’s engagement party! Marcel is the caterer. I call misdirected toasting!
Dessert: Now the edible engagement rings are plated. The rings are pretty cool: the bands look like real gold, and the stones are a delicate pink color. But the “pillow” they’re resting on? That thing is the opposite of appetizing. Take all the appetizing in the world, get rid of it, and you’d be left with that pillow stuff. I thought they were going to use marshmallow? That stuff looks like week-old omelet.
Marcel hams it up with a bunch of “sweet as your love” lines, and then closes with “This desert is meant to be a symphony in your mouth.” I’m still cringing from the sexual innuendo, when a small symphony appears out of nowhere and starts playing “Ode to Joy.” Where the fuck did they come from? Did they creep up to the pond like symphonic ninjas? The orchestra is a bit much. In fact, it’s way much. But all the guests are oh my gawd-ing over it. Marcel shrugs sheepishly, like maybe the symphonic ninjas were shoehorned in by a producer and he was against it.
Marcel closes with a fairly sincere QView, saying that he feels an incredible sense of fulfillment having succeeded with his food, and that he’s gratified that Gregg and Karen let him be a part of their lives. I can see how it would be a good feeling. But I still don’t think agar-agar should be ever be encountered outside of a petri dish.