Gourmet Survivor 2004: The Final Four

Nick. Harry. Michelle. Andrea. Separate and alone, foodie icons of the internet age. Together, fierce combatants in the final weeks of what will surely become an international phenomenon–Gourmet Survivor 2004.

This week’s challenge was to write a restaurant review. Simple enough. Let’s see what our fierce fighting foodies came up with. Vote for your favorite to get immunity.

Nick’s Entry: “You Can Never Go Home…or Back To College”

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Harry’s Entry

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Mordoch, the meal I have eaten 1000 times

Yikes. This by far is my most difficult challenge to

date. Not because of the content but rather my

location. I am currently sitting in an Internet cafe

in a country with an unfamiliar keyboard. The surreal

swiss German version of “white rose” by Nick Cave and

Kylie Minogue is playing on the loudspeakers and I

feel like I am in biyyaro land. That was actually

supposed to be bizarro but the “y” is where the “z” is

supposed to be on the keyboard. Eegads. Crazy Swiss.

Unfortunately I won’t be reviewing a restaurant here

but rather my very favorite restaurant in my former

hometown of what is known by insiders as J-Town and by

normal people as Jerusalem.

If you want to get to the culinary core of a culture

you need to find out where the working class grabs

lunch. These restaurants serve incredibly fresh food

due to high turnover, have cult followings and are

usually wickedly cheap. For the past eight years nary

a Friday goes by that I don’t have a delicious lunch

at Mordoch, a family owned Kurdish style restaurant.

I was lucky enough to dine at this establishment only

hours before I received the AG Survivor challenge.

You’ll have to forgive me for the lack of photos.

Now, a little about the restaurant. The Mordoch family

are Kurdish and serve the best kubbeh soup in the

entire country. Kubbeh soup? Never heard of it?

Neither did I before I had my first portion on a hot

summer day back in 1997. Perhaps you have heard of the

Lebanon’s Kibbeh, a fried version…but we’ll get to

that later.

The meal always starts out with three or four small

salads. They change daily. This week we had a carrot

salad with diced chilies, pickled lemon rind and

cilantro. A mediocre cabbage salad that was flavored

with sesame oil and an above average amount of black

pepper and a traditional Turkish salad. The carrot

salad was incredibly spicy. I enjoy spicy food but my

eastern European Jewish palate can only take so much.

That’s why I always have hummus as smooth as a baby’s

bottom on hand to cool the sometimes overwhelming

mouth burning. This of course is mopped up with hot

fresh pita bread that is brought in every half hour

from the bakery up the street.

There are two kinds of kubbeh soup – red and green –

Red kubbeh soup has a tomato and beet base. Green

(commonly known as Chamutzta) is a really sour soup

made with swiss chard and a massive amount of lemon

juice. The star of both soups however is the Kubbeh

itself. Kubbeh are bulgar dumplings filled with lamb

meat and spices. The meat is sealed in the dough and

as soon as you cut one in half with your spoon,

delicious oil from the lamb leaks out….yum. Now my

lunch companions always get the sour soup. I however

can go either way. Depends on my mood. Last week I had

the red soup and the balance of beets and tomatoes was

a bit off. It was too beet-y. It was an off day. It

happens. It was still delicious, just not the same.

Sigh. There is always next week.

Usually I fill up on the soup, salad and hummus and

it’s more than enough….and I always grab something

to bring home. In this case I took some fried kube.

Its the same kube that is in the soup, just shaped

differently and deep fried. Best served with techina

(I say techina you say tehini) and a squeeze of lemon.

Best thing about Mordoch is the price. A huge bowl of

soup is roughly three dollars. About seventy five

cents is added to the bill to account for the

unlimited salads and pita, the communal hummus runs

about three bucks for a large plate and the meal is

always ended with a complimentary turkish coffee.

Complimentary for regulars that is…..

Now if you excuse me all this talk has made me hungry.

A very late dinner beckons.

Michelle’s Entry

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Andrea’s Entry

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30 comments

  1. once again, a very difficult decision, but my vote for immunity goes to HARRY. I was able to get a substantial (and favorable) impression of unfamiliar food.

    while the others submitted excellent reviews in their own right, I didn’t learn anything new about the food. Nick deserves an honorable mention for barging into the kitchen for a picture– and for eating somewhere that the chef wears a cowboy hat.

  2. Nick. I was actually disappointed no one went with the full-on NY Times style review of a real hole of a place.

    The cowboy hat won me over.

  3. Immunity to Andrea. This may be fickle of me but she picked up on a theme that many restaurants tend to overlook – a decent menu for children and fresh crayons with every puzzlebook. A review within a review – now that’s service.

  4. Gosh, it’s a tough call. Andrea’s notes on kid-friendliness at Chili’s were very astute, though Nick’s bravery at eating potential roach thoraces also gets kudos.

    I think I’ll have to give it to Nick, if for the Ew Factor, alone.

  5. Nick. I love shady Mexican resturants. They are the only ones I’ll eat at because of the great food.

  6. Andrea gave a great review, and gets added points for the cute kid ( who has a GREAT sense of clothes no matter what Andrea says). But Nick’s review is just too good. He captures the hole-in-the-wall with the surprisingly good food aspect. Plus, Taco Lou’s is bicycling distance from me and I can try it out.

    Thumb up for Nick.

    -Pete

  7. I do love Andrea’s “Kerry Me” shirt, but my vote goes to Nick. I used to go down to Rutgers to visit my ex and enjoy the grease trucks. I miss nasty college food (although, Taco Lou’s food actually looks pretty good).

  8. Nick had the most review-y review, so I vote for him this time. But two thumbs way up for Andrea’s shirt!

  9. I’d have to say it’s a toss-up between Harry and Nick. A good review should have a sense of humor or occasion, as both their reviews did. The ladies reviews, while well written, weren’t very engaging and I have to admit that neither would persuade/disuade me from visiting the restaurant they wrote about. Nick and Harry manage to write fun, engaging, informative information about places with good chow. Bravo dudes!

  10. My vote goes to Harry. The fact he has no pictures and thus describes his dining experience solely by means of his writing – as is the case with most real restaurant reviews – made me realize his entry has a substance the others seem to lack.

  11. My vote this week is for Nick. A food review that was truly fun to read.

    Kudos to Michelle and Andrea too for their reviews. I so want to drive to the Red Hook Brewery for a cheese platter. Damn you Michelle! Maybe a trip to Molback’s soon? I especially like how Andrea included useful information for families, which I wouldn’t have even considered (given I have no children but helpful if I were to go someplace with friends who have children).

    Sorry Harry, I normally find your entries above par but this week’s fell short because I’m sure you aren’t fasting your trip and it would have been interesting to see what you would have found had you chosen to write about a resturant you ate at during the actual challenge period.

  12. My vote goes to Nick, for the vivacity and love he has for food that formerly came out of a trailer. Especially considering that Taco Lou looks like a sketchy kinda guy. Fried rice man has recently disappeared from my campus, and it’s so sad without his little cart of goodness.

    I spend entirely too much time with children (I’m a nanny) and loved Andrea’s attention to the family-friendliness of Chili’s. Especially knowing that they have non-gross crayons. Her daughter is darling.

  13. Andrea all the way.

    Every entry was fun to read, though. I really liked Nick’s quest to revisit Lou’s, but overall I thought he was holding back, maybe resting on some roach laurels, which are probably adjacent to the thorax.

    Harry’s descriptions of each dish were divine, but perhaps for the same reason that my photos of Disney World are so much more exciting than the photos of my new bookcase.

    Michelle’s sandwich appeared fresh and inviting, but I wanted more details in the words. It’s a credit to her that she left me wanting more, I suppose, but as a wannabe-foodie, I’m all about being fulfilled…

    Andrea has received credit for the whole child-friendly thing, but – honestly – I hardly noticed that part. I mean, other than the fact that she politely removes her youngster from the dining room as needed, for which she is my hero. (To me, “family friendly” means there is a separate menu with cheese pizza and chicken fingers for picky ankle-biters, ordering dessert never involves a credit check first, and no one wears a G-string in front of Grandma. “Family friendly” does not mean “entitled to scream.”)

    No, I like Andrea’s review best because she went to boring old Chili’s – what can be the nicest restaurant in town for many Americans – and took nothing for granted.

    The fan-spread of nachos? The individual bursts of bean flavour? She challenged Chili’s with special ordering. (No butter! Hey, I went to Bennigans one time and they couldn’t fix *my* quesadillas without meat – scary.) She challenged their staff with an unorthodox need. (Peanut-free crayons!) She described and described and described the qualities of her potato course when a lesser woman would have just said “the fries weren’t so good.”

    All that, and she chose a restaurant that was guaranteed to put everyone off right away next to the inevitably more chic or unique choices of the other contestants.

    I vote for immunity for Andrea – the bravest and boldest of them all…

  14. Nick for Immunity! He really seized this assignment and ran with it. You could sense the gusto, the liveliness — he was having fun with this one.

  15. Ooooh this is a tough one…but… Andrea. Definitely Andrea (her great taste in t-shirts and adorable child pushed her over the edge).

  16. I loved all of the entries but I am going to give Andrea my vote. Her choice of retaurant as well as her photos won me over. I DESPISE Chilis but the nachos made me reconsider. Maybe it’s just too close to lunch.

  17. Andrea! It seems like it would be more challenging to do an interesting review of a chain restaurant, and I think she did a fantastic job.

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