Casey Thompson: Mile High!

Casey Thompson, putting the "first class" into "first class." Dunno what that means, either.

Two in a row, Casey Thompson -- very impressive, especially considering you had guest judge Anthony Bourdain eating out of the palm of your hand by episode's end. "This is Top Chef, not top cook," he said, referring to the remaining five with the derisive sneer of a true believer in the Shinsei executive chef's fine dining. Theirs is a bona fide love affair -- perfect for a mile-high episode during which the cheftestants had to serve their first-class dishes to Continental Airlines flight attendants craving something more than nuked brown something served on a mound of blended gray whatchacallit.

Thompson, who last week got a Mac PowerBook, this week brought back to Dallas a pair of fly-anywhere tickets on Continental, which she received after her veal medallions and cauliflower gratin impressed the judges. Alas, her one-balled buddy C.J. was sent packing. And speaking of balls, what say you, Anthony Bourdain?

Casey was again, the big winner. Pleasant surprises are all too rare when you fly as much as I do, and I think any business class traveler, no matter how jaded, would be absolutely delighted to have Casey's veal medallions show up on their tray. It was an unusual choice -- and a daring one, to offer veal. More daring yet to match it with creminis and apple. It was cooked right, looked elegant, and tasted absolutely delicious.

Her cauliflower side dish was a smart, durable pick, and unlike the others' veggie selections, it neither stuck out like a sore thumb nor distracted from the main event. Indeed, every element, ingredient, color and texture that Casey put out complemented the others beautifully. She not only gave us the best dish, but also showed the biggest balls of the lot.

All of the sudden, Thompson's a favorite to win this thing. And that doesn't even take into account how adorable she looked cooking breakfast in a robe during the episode's Quickfire Challenge. --Robert Wilonsky

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