Night Crawler

A shelf collapses in the Iron Chef's corner. The crowd begins chanting for the challenger. Tyrr shoves a strawberry in the beak of her duck "to mask the birdishness of the dead fowl." Sherman produces a striped sea bass. ("Fish is just a quick-moving vegetable.") A black cat runs through the kitchen. ("Is this a fresh ingredient?")

Finally, just as the crowd begins to be disillusioned with the commentary ("That's fresh wasabi she's grating, not okra!"), and just as the judges begin grumbling about filling their stomachs elsewhere ("Run for the border anyone?"), the countdown begins. With New Year's-style excitement the crowd explodes on "1." Sherman looks harried but the first dish is ready.

While grateful for food, the judges are still critical. The challenger's menu consists of spiced-mango charoset and hummus on matzo crackers ("The matzo is not fully integrated into this dish"), Cajun-spiced matzo balls in vegetarian consomme ("Excuse me for being selfish, but I like more salt in my broth"), vegetable and ricotta scacchi ("This is a dish of plain honesty"), Dutch-oven-steamed stuffed fish ("This is a dish I would serve at my home"), and layered pear ice cream torte ("A sundae on Saturday, how poetic"). Sherman is humble, but hopeful.

The Iron Chef's service is elegant in presentation and complex in nature: matzo-sour cherry "cappuccino" with French-pressed beet foam ("Unexpected harmony, a very Iron Chef moment"), matzo-brei with wasabi aioli ("Very disappointing. The matzo is soggy"), matzo-farfalle popover with seared duck breast ("This is ambrosia, a stunning ensemble of flavors"), and matzo puffed pastry with white truffle marscapone and black truffle matzo ice cream ("Forgive me if I am being selfish, but I do not believe that mushroom is a dessert"). While the Iron Chef is a touch defensive, she remains humble before the judges, and after much deliberation, she is proclaimed winner by a very small margin. The crowd applauds and disperses quickly in search of vittles.

"This is a proud moment," says Tyrr as a few cameras flash in her direction.
"Did you notice any of the judges taking bribes?" asks Howard Sherman, the challenger's white-haired father. There are one or two fur coats on the judges' podium. Anything's possible.

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By Silke Tudor

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