I have to admit, this episode was more tolerable than its predecessors (and not just because SF is my home town), with challenges that were a bit less absurd.
On the first challenge, Cosentino took good advantage of having lived and worked in SF for the last 13 years. First, he navigated to the Ferry Building easily. The two local challengers seemed to get a bit lost (I mean, how difficult is it to get from Pier 39 to the Ferry Building?!). Then Cosentino had an advantage at the Ferry Building because he's got a shop there and knows the place very well. The caviar, cheese and olive oil challenge was actually fairly interesting, perhaps more so than previous episodes' taste challenges.
The dim sum challenge was pretty amusing, particularly for those of us who grew up going to such restaurants. Cosentino's idea of short-cutting the identification of the ordered items was smart. And to watch Aaron struggle with the pig's blood dish was bordering on precious.
At Boudin Bakery, Cosentino again took charge, fortunately for the team.
Then to watch Sanchez get his comeuppance at Old Mandarin with that dish, that was great. Mind you, I don't really have anything against Aaron, but if you're going to toot your own horn about how chiles are your thing, you'd better deliver. Chris just hunkered down and ate. His urging on certainly helped Aaron finish up. But, as one of them said, having to eat that dish so close on the heels of the dim sum meal really had to have taken its toll.
The side-of-beef challenge at the CCA - an interesting one and very tough for all of them. How many tries did each team have to take before they got it right? And in front of culinary student bystanders? I think it was Chris who said it was embarrassing.
The challenger team certainly made the better move when they moved to the cake decorating part, especially when it came to the logical move of putting the top layer in place before decorating. Then Aaron insists on picking up their top layer with his hands against Chris' insistence that they use the provided offset spatulas. Duh!
They were very lucky that they fixed their cake in time to hustle across the finish line first.
All in all, a better episode, but the concept is still debatable.