Gourmet Survivor 2004: Fifth Challenge Fulfilled, “Missionary Veal.”

With only five contestants left, things are getting fiery here in “Gourmet Survivor 2004.” This round I asked players to convert a friend with a food phobia by cooking that food in a new and more appealing way. Were our entrants successful? You be the judge. (Note: Dallas sat this round out, so she’s ineligible for immunity. In her defense, it was her birthday.) Now on to the entries…

Click the headings for the link to the entry:

Nick’s Entry: “A Totally Unexpected Visitor.”

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Harry’s Entry: “Goat Cheese and Marital Bliss.”

(Make sure to click the link above in addition to reading this text.)

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Goat cheese is the bane of my wife’s existence. She can’t stand the stuff. I love goat cheese. I often go to goat farms in the area to select the deliciously sour and sharp cheese in all its different varieties. Boy, do I know how to live.

For me, goat cheese is like wine. Instead of saying “That was a good year,” I say “That was a good goat. Born in 1999 you say? Is she from the Judean Hills region or the Ela Valley?”

The challenge for me was to make goat cheese palatable for my wonderful wife. This would not be the first obstacle I have overcome in this department. Previously she had disdain for coriander/cilantro, yet I gradually introduced her to the wonder of the pungent herb and now she is a cilantro eating machine. Yes, I am every living married man’s fantasy.

As for me, I used to detest olives. But why did I hate olives? Perhaps it was a bad experience as a child? I eventually figured it out. My inherent hatred of the olive was based on the fact that I had always eaten low quality olives. But my first year in Israel, a good friend escorted me to the outdoor market in Jerusalem and introduced me to a plethora of olives. There were meaty Syrian olives, lemony olives, spicy olives and many other types. It was a slow process, but I eventually learned to appreciate the deliciousness of the Olive. Experiencing the Olive as a fine food, I finally broke free of the prejudice that I had haunted me since my youth. I hoped that I could similarly free my wife of her struggles with the cheese of the goat. Something irreverent would have to be devised.

She loves cream cheese, so maybe I’ll make something with goat cream cheese. Would she even be able to tell the difference? Would I even tell her that she was eating goat cheese? The answer is yes! Because I had her pick it up in the supermarket?! Doh! But this cream cheese wasn’t going to be smeared on one of my legendary bialys (see challenge 1). That would be too easy. And slightly pathetic.

Back in my college days at SUNY Albany (It wasn’t the number one party school back then) I used to frequent a pizza and wings joint called Mild Wally’s. Their slogans were “You’re drunk. We’re Open” and “Got the munchies? Call Mild Wally’s.” Real subtle, huh? Anyway, one night (or morning) after hours and hours of gratuitous binge drinking, some buddies and I went to Wally’s for an early morning bite. There in front of me appeared something so glorious and so beautiful (particularly in my drunken state). A dessert pizza. Sweetened ricotta base with apple and cherry pie filling, cookie dough and more sweet stuff. It was decadent. It was delicious. But it was a one night stand. I never saw her again. That was almost ten years ago. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of what could have been between us. So my recipe is a dessert pizza, albeit a healthier version.

Due to time constraints, I made a bread machine crust. Three cheers for the bread machine. Get one. It will change your life. While the crust was rising I took a package of goat cream cheese from the refrigerator, allowed it to soften, and then mixed in honey and vanilla. Ah yes. Sweetness. I opened up a bottle of red wine, poured a few cups in a saucepan, added vanilla, lemon rind, a stick of cinnamon and an heaping cup (or two) of sugar. I reduced it by about 2/3 until it became delicious syrup.

I then gave my wife a glass of wine. I thought liquoring her up might make it easier for her to take a chance on the goat cheese. Hours later after several dough rises and several glasses of wine, I rolled out the dough and baked the crust for about three minutes in a very hot oven. Then I spread the flavored goat cream cheese on top and threw down some banana, pineapple, apricots and sour cherries. I cooked the pizza for about ten minutes and it came out of the oven looking quite edible.

Before serving, I sprinkled dark chocolate flakes on it and drizzled on the wine reduction. I made my wife drink a glass of tequila and gave her a slice.

Lesson learned? Drunk people like sweet things. But don’t take my word on it. She speaks below.

(No wives were harmed during the production of this recipe.)

I knew things were headed in a weird direction when Harry approached me with the new AG Survivor challenge and a strange sparkle in his eyes. Sometimes it’s hard for me to be married to a foodie. I have strange hang-ups about food and am not always adventurous in my eating habits. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining that Harry always makes amazing dinners, lunches and even brunches (well almost always, there was a lemon chicken incident a while back) and it’s wonderful to be able to rely on his delicious and thoughtfully prepared meals. But like I said, I just don’t like every food on this earth. Enter AG Survivor Challenge, with me as the victim – I knew that glint in his eye meant:  up-to-no-good.

And so, in no particular order: my food issues: I don’t like anything too spicy; any foods flavored with apple, watermelon or banana (I only like those fruits as fruits, not watered down or concentrated); papaya, guava, passion fruit and any derivative drinks, mixes, sorbets, cakes, confits, or jams – hate ‘em, hate ‘em, hate ‘em; caramel corn or cracker jacks; and coconut. It may seem like a lot to you gourmands, but Harry, my sweet husband, has already succeeded in helping me get over (and even love) the following with his creative and tasty dishes: coriander, slightly warm (not spicy), fruit in meat dishes, carrot cake and yogurt. In each of the above cases, Harry convinced me that I hadn’t properly tasted the ingredients, that they weren’t cooked properly or that they weren’t in their starring dish. So I tried them each again, with a bit of resistance, and was won over.

And so, with a bit of hesitation, Harry and I agreed that it was time I started to like: goat cheese. Israel has delicious dairy – rich creams, fresh homemade cheese farms and desserts a’plenty but somehow I just couldn’t stomach the goat cheese aftertaste. It was sour, sticky, foul tasting and lingered on for way too long. Harry promised that I would eat even like goat cheese when incorporated into a dessert pizza. Using my sweet tooth against me (with a little help from the alcohol) my husband proceeded to prepare the goat cheese with honey, vanilla bean and plain old sugar. I’m a sucker for sweet foods and chocolate, so I gave it a few bites. Honestly, I liked the way the goat cheese set off the apricots and pineapple. And the chocolate shavings are always a crowd pleaser. The dough was light and slightly sweet; cooked to pizza dough perfection. Have to admit that I’m less anti-goat cheese having this experience under my belt. I would now be able to eat goat cheese heated and with some fruit (a big step for me). It’s definitely a sophisticated taste (I wouldn’t serve goat cheese dessert pizza to a seven year old) but I wouldn’t stick out my tongue next time Harry begs to use it in a recipe. Thanks, AG. Oh, and Harry, I’m not going to fall for tequila trick again. One night in that lousy Tijuana jail on our wedding night was enough for me.

Michelle’s Entry: “Green Pepper Glory”

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Andrea’s Entry: “Covert Coffee Cake”

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42 comments

  1. “immunity for, immunity for…” “IMMUNITY FOR, IMMUNITY FOR…” (that’s a reference to some movie, but unfortunately, i can’t remember which- ferris bueller?): NICK

    who knew that Botox was so big with the post-presidency crowd?

  2. Hooray the dogs are back.M y vote’s for Harry, who knew the secrets to a happy marriage were Communication, Compromise and Cheese.

  3. That would be Super Troopers, Scott. “Littering and…littering and…littering and…Smoking the reefer” AH a fine movie, that one.

  4. What a great effort from everyone- you’ve made this decision quite difficult!

    I’m going to cast my immunity vote to Harry, a man unafraid of getting his wife boozed up, so as to tempt her with goat cheese. *sigh*

  5. What a great effort from everyone- you’ve made this decision quite difficult!

    I’m going to cast my immunity vote to Harry, a man unafraid of getting his wife boozed up, so as to tempt her with goat cheese. *sigh*

  6. These were all so great! I have to go with Nick though. His seemed the most creative. Bleary-eyed and PO’d about being back to work, I squinted at the screen and asked “Does that guy have a picture of Bush taped to his face?” Funny stuff.

  7. Tough decision– very creative efforts from everyone.

    I would give Harry immunity– it’s too easy to hide the unlikable food and trick someone into eating it, but Harry put the goat cheese front and center. Although after drinking wine and tequila, one’s judgment could get easily skewed, I suppose.

  8. Excellent entries from all (but Dallas sadly). My vote goes for Harry though. It takes guts to actually get the person to BUY the ingredient they hate! And the dessert pizza sounds fantastic.

  9. I agree Nick’s entry was a scream — especially how GHWB’s mouth was oddly fixed in every pose, wow, he’s a happy guy! :P But Harry once again has the most creative and labor-intensive entry. Plus, his wife first-person testimony strengthens his case for conversion of a goat-cheese playa hata. Yay Harry!

  10. Difficult choices –

    Nick’s: Actually convincing a broccoli hater to eat some would be impressive, but I need a certified letter from HW Bush on that one to believe it is true.

    Andrea’s coffee/chocolate cake – I find it too hard to believe anybody hates coffee. The cake sounds delicious, although the Splenda sounds too adventurous for me. But coffee/chocolate is too obvious a combo.

    Michelles green pepper conversion was impressive. My wife HATES green peppers. She’ll eat chilis but never green bell pepper. Just spits them out. I’ve never been able to put them in a dish that she would eat, so I almost went with Michelle. Very impressive. BUT

    I dislike goat cheese. The lingering aftertaste of the cheese tastes like essence of goat to me. I grew up near a goat farm and the cheese tastes the way goats smell – sorta unwashed, sour and gamey. Nick’s receipe, though, sounded interesting. I could see how the goat cheese flavors could go with the fruit and wine reduction. It actually sounded good. And original. So I go with Nick.

  11. My vote is for Michelle. She put her friendship on the line several times during the challenge and it survived the green pepper force feed. She was very creative and found ways to incorporate the item into foods her friend already enjoyed. You can’t expect anyone to get over their distaste of this bitter vegetable in one afternoon, do you? Go Michelle!

  12. Initially, I was leaning toward Nick. Very funny stuff, and I’m from Texas, so I feel for GHWB.

    HOWEVER, as someone whose S.O. has crazy food fears/dislikes of her own (balsamic vinegar, any combination of fruit and chocolate). (To be fair, and just in case she stumbles across this post, heh, I don’t like mushrooms – at all. I know, I’m a weirdo), I am going to vote for Harry to get immunity.

    He didn’t shy away from the challenge or try to be cute about it, and even put the goat cheese right out there on display. That’s bold. Plus, I want a slice of his pizza.

  13. Looking over the other comments, it looks like Peter up there confused Harry and Nick, unless Nick *also* made a goat cheese pizza.

  14. I vote for Michelle because I too dispise green peppers and she actally made me want to eat that strudel!!

  15. Nick.

    I would have given it to Michelle, because I hate green peppers (to my family’s dismay), so I know how hard it is to convince someone to like them.

    Nick’s was just too funny.

  16. My vote is for Michelle. I think her entry was the best. Making someone who hates green peppers actually enjoy something they are in..amazing!

  17. As someone who dislikes both green peppers & coffee, I can understand the level that Andrea & Michelle had to overcome, but my vote has to go to Harry. Great job.

  18. Immunity to Michelle. Her persistence was amazing, her range of delicacies made with green pepper flawless, and even after getting the big raspberry twice, she succeeded in winning over her friend’s phobia of green peppers. I hate green peppers too, but I would most certainly snack on that scrumptious looking dish!

  19. My vote goes to Harry. (Did anyone else recall while reading this the scene with Gene Wilder and his goat in the Woody Allen film ‘Everything you wanted to know about sex *but were afraid to ask’?)

  20. While everyone did a great job, I’m throwing a vote out for Harry. Over the top creativity, along with a delicious recipe that might make me eat goat cheese (I’m a goat cheese hater too, but I keep trying it to see if I change my mind). So good job all, and Harry’s my vote.

  21. I thought they were all great, but I have to give my vote to Michelle. I think she deserves immunity for making not one, but three dishes! She was very persistant and creative. Go Michelle!

  22. All entries were good, but I vote for Harry. I confess, in part because I can’t wait to see what he will come up with next!!!

  23. I have the most admiration for Michelle’s hard work and persistence, but I’m afraid that if Harry isn’t given immunity, the other contestants are going to gang up and vote off the “strongest” one. Immunize Harry!

  24. See, Andrea had a problem with this challenge. She’s been doing this exact task for the last 8 years. Before we were living together, I never ate things like asparagus, curry, cous cous, practically anything that qualified as Tex-Mex, etc.

    For the person that couldn’t believe that someone could hate coffee: I *detest* it. Don’t care if it’s black, milky, sweet, whatever. If she wants to go to Starbucks, I’ll get a bottle of root beer and some chocolate covered graham crackers.

    In that vein, I had to go out last night to buy more milk because of the cake.

  25. My vote goes for HARRY!

    Why?

    He uses local product to his advantage and encourages us to look around the neighborhood for our own treasures.

    He makes dessert for his wife.

    He serves wine generously.

    His dogs are cute.

    Go HARRY!

  26. But did michelle work the smartest? I don’t think so. The raw green peppers on a hot dog was obviously not going to cut it.

  27. Another vote for Harry.

    An aside: I abhor coffee. If there’s a drop in any foodstuff, I can taste it.

  28. mm, I beg to differ on your last comment. I think smarts includes working it different ways to win over the subject. The challenge clearly said “in wayS that might convert them.”

    As far as I can see.. everyone else only made ONE dish with the hated item du jour. She prepared the dreaded ingredient THREE ways (hotdog relish, sushi and studel) and incorporated things she knew her friend already enjoyed. She should get bonus points for not using her spouse or an impersonator.

    But I guess, like all reality shows, it’s about who everyone likes best. I can’t wait to see what kind of “pizza” Harry will make next.

  29. First of all, Nick should go. He didn’t at all fulfill the requirement of the challenge.

    Other than that, it is such a hard choice between Harry and Michelle. Harry is above and beyond my favorite. I fear everyone feels this way and that the other competitors resent that…

    However, Michelle obviously tried very hard to succeed and it’s her persistance I admire. Her creativity in the sushi and strudel was awesome.

    That being said, Harry’s looked the tastiest. He gets my immunity vote.

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