Friday, August 28, 2009

The Egg and I: The Project Runway recap

Um, why is Mitchell still here? Anyone? Anyone? Yes, I realize that his combination of boy-next-door looks and neurotic fretfulness has a certain je ne sais quoi, but he is an EPIC FAIL as a designer.

Let’s see, week one: Half naked model.

Week two: The jankiest pair of pregnancy shorts that ever janked their way down the runway. (Seriously, they could show these shorts in health ed and prevent more teen pregnancies than every PSA combined: Don’t let this happen to your upper thighs.)

Not that Malvin is off the hook for his hellish fertility dress. Yes, Malvin, every pregnant woman wants to have chicken legs, feathers, and some sort of egg-bearing pouch. But at least the boy can sew—and now, with Ari’s ouster last week, Project Runway has gotten rid of both conceptual designers—and their conceptual hair.

Didn’t you love the fact that the show is hosted by a veritable goddess of model fertility, but the designers are making a pregnancy dress for . . . Rebecca Romijn? (Who else always wants to call her Rebecca Romijn-Stamos? Yeah, me too. Still, not nearly as bad as when So You Think You Can Dance’s Nigel Lithgow bemoaned the passing of “Farrah Fawcett-Majors.” Way to be four decades out of the loop there, Nigel.)

The awesome thing about Rebecca Romijn is that she actually looked pregnant. I mean, most models (Heidi included) truly do look like they’ve got a beach ball stowed under their dress when they’re pregnant—everything stays annoyingly, perfectly fat-free except for that one glorious bump. (Indeed, when the models were prancing around the studio in their pregnancy pads asking each other, “Do I really look pregnant?” I was thinking, “Yes. Yes you do.”) But Rebecca looked, well, a little fleshy. Borderline zaftig. Yay! Stars, they’re just like us!

Can we discuss eventual challenge winner Shirin? Could she be any cuter? So pretty, so spunky, she doesn’t even seem real. She's like an actress hired to play an up and coming designer in a Disney movie. And she can actually design, too? Bitch. (Did you catch what Nina Garcia said about her outfit: “You delivered a very versatile outfit.” Get it? Delivered? Ahhh, that Nina. She slays me.)

New rule (with apologies to Bill Maher): Michael Kors can not take any more shows off. We need his good eye and better barbs, especially this early in the season, when the cast is still kind of a faceless blur.

There’s potential, I suppose. Althea’s earth child lovefest routine is pretty endearing, especially if she keeps producing such beautiful dresses. Ra’Mon’s outsized ego could prove to be explosive. Logan’s all around hotness has to cause some sparks, right? But last week’s stars—Johnny “I’m a recovering addict” Sakalis and Christopher “Book learnin’ is hard” Straub—receded into the background. Who is this season’s Santino? Its Christian? Its Jay?
To quote Tim Gunn, “I’m not bored”—yet. But these contestants need to step it up their games or I’m switching my allegiences to Isaac Mizrahi and The Fashion Show. (Ha, just kidding. Did anyone else watch that piece of crap?)

Hilarious Lifetime programming I won’t be watching this week ™: Stranger With My Face.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Brothers Grim: The Top Chef Vegas recap

How bout that wedding challenge, huh? To me, nothing spells “let’s spend our life together” quite like wings and tequila shots. (The couple that does jägerbombs together, stays together?) But hey, it’s their wedding—and they did seem like a lovely couple. (Although did you notice that the alcoholic tendencies were already putting a dent in their soon-to-be-wedded bliss? Bride, defiantly: “We’re going to out drink you!” Groom, bitterly: “It’s pretty much par for the course.” Okay, kids. Step away from the shot glasses.)

But I digress. There’s so much more to talk about, like Goofus and Gallant really going at it, Michael Isabella staying securely aboard the douche-train, and Ashley freaking out over the marriage-themed challenge. (I wonder how she’s going to feel about next week’s military-themed challenge? Something tells me girl is not a huge fan of don’t-ask-don’t-tell.)

The show started with a Quickfire challenge where they had to sidle up to a “big ass crap table” (™ Kevin) and roll dice to determine the number of ingredients in their dish. A low number like 3 is a bit of a disaster, but a big number like 10 is even worse. Ah, Vegas. . where everyone's a loser!

Obvious frontrunners Jennifer and Kevin are in the top three, but Goofus (aka Michael) actually wins. Cut to Gallant (Bryan) stewing in his own juices. Not since Iago has someone glowered so dramatically in the wings.

Then onto Whole Foods to shop for the Bachelorette and Bachelor themed challenge. Besides the awkward shot/food pairing, the teams have been divided by gender. Rut ro. With all due deference to my fair sex, the girls are going to get crushed. And Jennifer knows this.

“I’m pissed off about the challenge!” she barks. And once I come out from hiding under my couch, I must agree. (Is it just me, or is Jennifer a little scary? At one point, at Whole Foods, Jennifer screamed: “I need a worker!” and I half-expected one of her teammates to run up to her side and say, “Yes, Chef?” Later, she bellows, “Watch your knife!” and just to be on the safe side, I secure all the knives in my home.)

Among the men, Ash is asked to be in charge of keeping the orchid alive. At first he takes umbrage, “It’s because I’m gay, they think I can grow flowers better than straight guys.” Then, upon reflection, he realizes that gay men can grow flowers better than straight guys and commences cooing sweet nothings to the flower.

As for Goofus, having won the Quickfire challenge, he says that he’s now “all about beating Bryan.” I love the fact that these guys don’t even try to hide their raging sibling rivalry.

Likewise, Gallant is all about avenging his mortifying Quickfire loss to his brother.

Somewhere, Sam Shepherd is scribbling notes for his next play.

In the kitchen, Ashley finishes up her watermelon sorbet thingy ahead of schedule and makes the cardinal mistake of doing a second dish—a dessert no less. (“I’m not a pastry chef,” she notes ominously and I’m thinking, “Has she ever even WATCHED the show?”) Jennifer tries to order her to stick to one dish, but Ashley takes her life into her own hands and disobeys.

Back at the house, Preeti, who has been with her partner for years, tries to muster up some of Ashley’s righteous anger about the whole Bachelor/Bachelorette party. “I feel lame that I’m not more fired up about it,” she says. Hey, Preeti. We can't all be activists.

(BTW, Michael I's Douchetastic Moment of the Week™? On Preeti: “I just call her Purty, cause I can’t pronounce her name.” Yes, Michael, because Preeti is such a tongue-twister. Could the guy be more of an ugly American? Where are Stefan and Fabio when you really need them?)

Time for the party itself where a truly incredible thing occurs.
Mattin says the following: “The girls are really hot.”

Yes, Mattin, whose power comes from his jaunty little red neckerchief, thinks the girls are really hot. Later he adds, “But I’m so focused on food, I don’t have time to flirt.” Now that’s more like it.

So, as expected, the guys pretty much demolish the girls. Hector kicks ass with his tofu ceviche (who knew?) and Goofus does a goat’s cheese cookie so Gallant, not to be outdone, does a sweet and sour meringue cookie. A coincidence, I’m sure.

Apparently, both savory cookies are delish—and it actually comes down to Goofus vs. Gallant! If I didn’t know better, I’d say the whole thing was staged!

Gallant wins! Order is restored in the universe! It’s a blow to tyranny, injustice, and snotty kid brothers world over!

Now to the girls, who still haven’t quite figured out that they lost. (“We’re like Michael Phelps!” announced Jesse. Except for the winning part.. . )

It comes down to Eve (bizarro Roseanna Arquette), Preeti, Ashley (who flunked with her panna cota), and—oh noes!!—homegirl Jesse.

Ashley pretty much just got a slap on the wrist for being over ambitious. Jesse was scolded for making a muddled lettuce wrap—nothing I hate more than a muddled lettuce wrap—and started to cry. (No Jesse! Don’t you know there’s no crying in Baltimore?) The bottom two, clearly were Eve and Preeti. Eve did some sort of bland shrimp and Preeti over-marinated her tuna. Tom Colicchio called Preeti’s dish “amateurish” and said that she “didn’t have a clue it was bad.” Naturally, Eve lost. (?)

Oh well. Eve's excuse upon leaving:
“My flavor combinations may not make sense to the judges, but they make sense to me.”

Gotta love that self-esteem.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mother, May I Sleep With Organza?: The Project Runway Recap

Well, we did it.

We survived the first episode of Project Runway: The Lifetime Years. All in all, it wasn’t that bad. The contestants weren’t asked to design mom jeans, or a fannypack, or a tea cozy, but it was a little jarring having them in L.A. and seeing ads for Army Wives and Drop Dead Diva instead of Real Housewives and Millionaire Matchmaker.

Let’s get the elephant out of the room, shall we? How much did Ari look like Samantha Ronson? I mean, slap a black fedora on that girl, stick her behind a turntable, and you’re good to go. (Anyone up for a hipster version of Parent Trap? Lindsey can give the girls performance tips.)

But here’s the million dollar question: Do you think the episode was filmed during one of Lindsey and Samantha’s “off” periods? If so, is it possible that Lindsey was exacting her revenge on Samantha by getting Ari booted? Might Ari have been “in” if Lindsey wasn’t “out?

As for NA poster child Johnny? I have the following words in my notes: “Too soon! Too soon!” Look, if you’re crying half an hour into the first challenge (and it’s a relatively easy challenge at that; it’s not like you’re making a dress out of a head of lettuce or anything) and if you need Tim Gunn to go into Papa Tim mode (“Are you being too hard on you?”) and if you’re freaking out because you have no access to cell phones so you can’t call your sponsor—has it occurred to you that maybe you should’ve sat this one out? (It appears that “I’m a recovering addict” is going to be this year’s “I love leathah.” )

And frankly, I wasn’t feelin’ Johnny’s flowy tomato red dress. The judges’ praise felt producer-manipulated—self-doubting underdog triumphs with near win!—but hey, what do I know?

I did love Christopher’s little “cute and edgy” VMA number, although I agree that the taupe organza skirt looked dirty. And while I appreciate the fact that he’s self taught, I think Christopher’s “I don’t understand all yer fancy schoolin’” act is going to get old fast.

A few random thoughts:

Mitchell is one lucky boy that Lindsey Lohan was dumped by Ari because his Elizabethan stripper outfit was fugly.

Nicolas looks a bit like a wan, blonde Daniel Franco. Anyone? Anyone?

Louise looks like Eve Ensler, of Vagina Monologues fame.

In the end, I was glad Ari went instead of Qristyl, who may have questionable taste (in both design and the spelling of her first name) but is quite lovable.
Frankly, the minute Ari decided that instead of sketching a design she would stand on her head, I knew she was a goner. Pretty sure Diane Von Furstenberg doesn’t spend much time upside down.

I give the episode a B. Once I got past the wee bit of cognitive dissonance—wait, there’s a Mood in L.A.?—everything seemed just fine. I can’t wait to figure out who’s gay, who’s straight, who’s talented, who’s a pretender, who hates each other, and who’s sleeping with (or lusting after) whom. Only then, will I really know the games have begun.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Freaks and Leeks: The Top Chef: Vegas recap

No lie. If I were to run into the cast of Top Chef: Las Vegas in a dark alley, I would seriously consider crossing the street. I mean, I understand that these are some of the finest culinary minds in America, but they look like cast-offs from Jim Rose’s freakshow circus. That’s a whole lot of tattoos, piercings, and curious facial hair per contestant. Is the Culinary Institute of America suddenly offering free tats with every diploma?

That being said, looks like we have a lot of talent assembled this season. Both our Quickfire winner, Eric Ripert protégée Jennifer (who, on her Bravo bio, lists Compressed Watermelon, Chesapeake Bay Jumbo Lump Crab, Fennel Pollen and Wild Boar Prosciutto Chips as her “favorite simple summer recipe”) and our Elimination Challenge winner Kevin Gillespie (hey Kevin, the Brawny towel guy called, he wants his beard back) seem like early favorites.

As for the show? It was almost unbearably painful to watch poor Preeti hacking away at those clams. “They’re just like oysters, right?” she asked, as the mise en place countdown was about to begin. “Noooo. . .” said Kevin, his voice trailing off mournfully—and it was sort of like one of those scenes in a horror film where you know the cute girl is going to get it. For her part, Preeti seemed unfazed by her crushing humiliation.

Instead, it was cocky, bossy, full-of-herself Jennifer who turned several shades of red when she won for her ceviche—and this was before she gave Tom Colicchio a deeply awkward, fan girly kiss on the cheek.

The early season villain has emerged—bizarro Ben Affleck Michael Isabella, who couldn’t believe he was losing the clam shucking to a girl (“no offense or nutin’”) and who challenged Robin Leventhal’s completely reasonable choice to not exchange her immunity for a chance to win $15,000 by saying that she wasn’t confident in her abilities. It’s almost too easy to hate this guy.

B’more’s own Jesse (lip piercings, giraffe emerging from a sunset tat on chest) thrived in the Quickfire with her shrimp and grits and faltered a bit with her dry chicken in the Vegas vice challenge. But she never seemed truly in jeopardy.

I like the fact that two brothers are competing, especially since they are like Goofus and Gallant from the Highlights magazine. Technically, I’m supposed to be rooting for Bryan because he’s from Frederick, but I do love me a bad boy (Michael).

Besides bizarro Ben Affleck, we have a few more celebrity lookalikes.
Ashley Merriman looks like Beck. There I said it.
Eve Aronoff looks like Roseanne Arquette’s mousy younger sister. (No, not Patricia Arquette.)
Robin Levanthall looks like Patti LuPone.
We also have the ridiculous French chef Mattin, who wears a jaunty red neckerchief, and thus, looks like Speedy Gonzales.

Finally, we say good bye to Jennifer Zavala, who will always comfort herself by believing that the reason she was eliminated was because she used wheat gluten and not because her chili relleno tasted nasty. (Even though Gail very specifically said, “It wasn’t the seitan that was the problem.”)

For the best, I suppose. I found it hard to look at her. I kept turning into my mother: “Why would such a pretty girl put such an ugly tattoo on her neck?”

A leitmotif of the season, when you get right down to it.

A few extra notes: I changed my tune on Top Chef Masters. No, it never reached Top Chef levels of awesomeness, but I found myself really enjoying the camaradarie and mutual respect among the contestants—not to mention the awesome culinary skills on display (I’m still drooling over that burger challenge). I fell in love with the self-effacing, slightly grouchy Anita Lo, and thought Chefs Hubert Keller and Rick Bayless were such class acts. As for Michael Chiarello—just at the end there, I thought he might pull off the upset and I actually would’ve been happy for him. He was always discounted as a bit a pretender, but he proved on this show that he really has the chops. (And the massive ego to go with them.)

Finally, thanks to those wascally wabbits at Lifetime, Project Runway and Top Chef are running on consecutive nights . This might make regular Top Chef blogs a bit tricky. I will endeavor to blog about Top Chef whenever I can, but my heart belongs to Project Runway. My best advice would be to subscribe to this blog (and why don’t you, anyway?) so you never miss a post.