nfns5 leftIf we had any question about the ‘narrative effect’ that goes into the editing of a show like The Next Food Network Star, this episode helped to put them to bed once and for all.

As you may recall, we left our aspiring TV personalities on something of a sour note, with just about everyone mad at Teddy for his actions and Teddy fighting tears.  Naturally, you might assume that such powerful emotions would carry over into the very next challenge that would be thrown at the group…right?

Not so much.  The distrust and (frankly) dislike of Teddy seems to have melted away as we head into the fourth episode of the series.  The remaining seven contestants (“the last seven people in the world” to have this opportunity, as Bobby Flay reminds them later in the episode) are going about their business as if none of the oh-so-dramatic events of last Sunday’s episode ever happened.

With Teddy Folkman out of town for a family reunion, we watched this week’s episode from the comfort of our own couch.  No commentary from fellow fans and well-wishers to accompany this one…but at least it was a quicker trip home at the end of the show!

IMG_6242The episode begins in earnest when the competitors assemble in the test kitchen to face Bobby Flay and another challenge: design a gourmet burger to appear on the menu at Bobby’s Burger Palace – a chain that Flay has been opening throughout the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT).  We’ve actually had burgers at the Eatontown, NJ branch, so we can say from experience that most of the dishes that the contestants turned out would have been right at home alongside the Miami, the Philadelphia, the Dallas and the Napa Valley Burgers that already appear on the menu. 

Michael channelled Little Italy with a Mulberry Street Burger that included chunks of mozarella tucked inside the patty itself and a garlic bread bun.  Melissa’s Burlington Burger recalled her college days with melted Vermont cheddar and turkey chili atop the burger.  Teddy drew inspiration from the fresh Amish-grown produce that he works with in his restaurants, paying tribute to those farmers with a Pennsylvania Burger topped with heirloom tomatoes, peppery arugula, and other fresh flavors.  Jamika thought of New Orleans as she whipped up a spicy cayenne burger atop a flayed sausage link.  Debbie and Jeffrey stuck with their California comfort zones – a bulgogi burger for Debbie and a sweet-heat offering from Jeffrey.  Katie stuck to her green guns as she put together a San Francisco Farmers’ Market turkey burger…a risky move, as turkey burgers generally need to cook at lower temperatures for longer periods of time to avoid drying out.

So who ended up going home at the end of the show (SPOILER ALERT)?  And whose burger will be making its way to Connecticut?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

img_6237There are few celebrity chefs who can compete with Bobby Flay for sheer star power.  Whether he’s taking on a challenger on Iron Chef America, coming to town to challenge a local favorite in a Throwdown or simply serving upscale southwestern-influenced dishes at his restaurants across the country, he tends to command attention.

So when my family told us about his newest (and nearby) venture, Bobby’s Burger Palace, we were eager to check it out.  After all, Flay had won his ‘burger’ throwdown, and the menu suggested an approach to burgers that was reminiscent of Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery.  With extended family in tow, we made a pilgrimage to check out the Burger Palace only a week or so after it first opened in Monmouth.

img_6243We arrived at the Monmouth Mall and made our way around to the Palace, one of several freestanding restaurants situated around the mall itself.  I know, I know…we’re not really doing anything to combat Jersey stereotypes here, but what can you do?  We walked up to the door in the freezing cold of the evening – and found ourselves facing a line that snaked out the door.

But we would not be deterred.  We had been promised hot, juicy burgers with creative toppings and accompaniments, and damnit it we were going to have them!

More pictures of the space and our impressions of how well the host of Boy Meets Grill handles the heat after the jump. (more…)