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December 20, 2012 at 12:12 AM

Berries and battles on ‘Top Chef Seattle’

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Top Chef Seattle‘ finally looked like a normal slice of city life on Wednesday night’s show — a shopping trip to Central Market in Shoreline and then a visit to an idyllic berry festival at Remlinger Farms. (Make that a normal slice of summertime life, when the show was filmed.) Season Four winner Stephanie Izard of Chicago’s Girl & The Goat joined in to judge a quickfire challenge where all ingredients were covered in name-brand aluminum foil, and then an elimination challenge where contestants battled over baskets of berries. Pairs of chefs were assigned strawberries (big ones, not the fragile local standouts), blueberries, blackberries, and the less common tayberries and gooseberries. Kristen won both challenges — first with a sponge cake baked in aluminum foil, next with a “flawless” goat milk custard with olive oil-macerated tayberries. Danyele packed her knives and went home, done in by a “rubbery” chicken terrine that Padma Lakshmi compared (not favorably) to baloney. Here’s our regular recap of highlights and lowlights:

Back to bickering: The biggest battles weren’t actually over the berries, they were between the contestants. By the ending moments, which have been tense for the past few shows, we heard nothing but bleeped-out back-and-forths between the squabbling chefs. My toddler was asleep, so I am fairly sure it was Josie who was yelling “YOU quit it!” at Stefan, just before she accused him of acting like a 3-year-old.

Unintentional product placement: Pepto-Bismol. That’s what Padma said Josie’s raspberry-salmon-crab California roll looked like. And that’s what judge Tom Colicchio said he needed after eating Bart’s blackberry salmon soup.

Mystery market: As glad as I was to see Central Market on the show, a change from Top Chef’s ubiquitous Whole Foods placements, why didn’t we hear anything about the place? You don’t get much of a sense from the shopping trip of how well-stocked it is and why it’s such a local favorite.

Possibly unfairly maligned: With Carla gone, the chefs are occupying themselves with personal attacks on Josie. “It hurts my soul when Josie laughs,” said Josh.

Definitely unfairly maligned: Frozen fish. John harangued Stefan without mercy for buying frozen tuna at Central Market after the fresh supplies were gone. “You guys can rest easy tonight knowing you voted for frozen tuna,” he yelled at farm-goers who put the winning ballots in Stefan’s box. We didn’t get to see the exact details of John’s catch, but fish that are frozen at sea and handled decently are often better than “fresh” fish that takes days to get to the market. (For sashimi, freezing’s also recommended to kill parasites.)

Best “Seattle Nice” comeback: After John got some blowback for his fish lectures, he tried out this line: “It wasn’t the fact it was frozen, it’s the fact it wasn’t sustainable.”

Coming up: Next week we’ll see the Rat City Rollergirls.

Any bets yet on who will be the winning chef?

Photo courtesy of Bravo TV.

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