Friday, September 25, 2009

Everybody Loves Ra’mon: The Project Runway recap

Seeing the preview for next week’s Project Runway, I almost wept. There it was, the adnoidal voice, the pleasingly orange face, the housefrau-from-Boca-style takedowns—Michael Kors is coming back! Praise Chanel!

For now, however, we will have to contend with this sham that bears some vague resemblance to Project Runway.

So FINALLY, they get to a Hollywood themed challenge. The contestants have to choose from 5 film genres: film noir, action/adventure, “period piece” (I put this in quotes because “period piece” is not a film genre), western, and sci-fi. Then they’re supposed to create a character in that genre and dress her.

To help, they get a much-needed “dosier” on their genres. I wonder what the action/adventure dosier read like: “Many things will blow up, sometimes giant robots are involved.”
And perhaps period piece read: “This is not actually a genre.”

For some reason, no one wants western, which makes no sense to me at all, since it’s an actual style of clothing people wear. I mean, it’s not like I’ve ever heard someone say, “That Roxanne, her style is so period piece.”

The breakdown is this:

Epperson and Shirin both get the dreaded western.

Louise, Irina, and Althea pick film noir.

Logan and Carole Hannah (who are totally, possibly, ohmygod—squee!—hooking up, at least if you believe the misleading promo for Models of the Runway) both get action/adventure.

Ra’mon, who reveals himself to be the world’s least likely Trekkie, and Nicholas both get sci-fi.

Gordana and Christopher pick the vague “period piece.” (As Gordana aptly puts it: “Could be the 80s, could be Roman time.” Exactly.)

So not much happens. People keep trying to steal Louise’s bobbin, which sounds kinda dirty; Tim Gunn takes one look at Epperson’s (admittedly kickass) western get-up and says, “All I can say is, Annie Get Your Gun!”—which Epperson seems to intuitively understand is a compliment; Christopher thinks Victorian-era women showed a lot of skin; and Irina displays more of her Disney-ready pluck by proclaiming, “I’m going to make the best darn saloon dress that I can!”

The only semi-drama comes from Ra’mon, whose dress, according to Tim Gunn will either be “sublime, or a big, hot mess.” (I love when Tim Gunn tries to use trendy colloquials. They’re so charmingly forced.) Ra’mon has a fitting with his model and realizes that she looks like “Kermit the Frog gone wrong” and goes back to the drawing board. The last time Ra’mon did this, he triumphed! Would history repeat itself?

The three judges this week are Zoe Glasner (again), costume designer Arianne Phillips, and John Varvatos.

If you would indulge me, I’d like to have a private word with John Varvatos: “Please design more womenswear, John Varvatos. Please, oh please, oh pretty please?” Thank you. (Too desperate?)

So the bottom three are Louise, whose film noir dress is more like film mort, and Ra’mon who has now graduated from “big hot mess” to “hot green mess”; and Gordana, who designed a flawless, but let’s face it, totally uninspired, flapper dress.

The top three are Nicholas, who did a cool Tilda Swinton-esque ice queen thingy, complete with frost in the hair; Christopher, whose Victorian dress, pictured, while inappropriately sleeveless, was quite a showstopper; and Epperson, who brilliantly managed to get that rugged beauty thing he was going for.

(An aside: To his credit, Varvatos actually made a reference to the skills of Epperson’s model, Matar, something none of the other judges have ever done. It’s true, Matar worked that fierce cowgirl look to perfection. Models are people, too, folks!)

(Do you think my new, strange over-identification with the models stem from the horrifically bad, yet why-can’t-I-stop-watching-it Models of the Runway?)

I actually thought Christopher was going to win, because the judges were pretty much orgasming over his dress (it was my favorite, too), but that was a bit of misdirection and Nicholas won. Good for him, I suppose.

Loser row came down to Louise and Ra’mon, once Gordana was hastily declared safe, and . . . Ra’mon could not pull another rabbit out of a hat. He is gone.

Tears were shed, a few even by Tim Gunn. And. . .scene.

Hilarious Lifetime programming I won’t be watching this week ™: Diet Tribe.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

For He’s a Jolly Good Paella: The Top Chef recap

This episode starts with the most poignant image ever: Mattin’s abandoned red scarf, lying forlornly on his unused pillow.

Sadly, this tender image does not reflect the overall mood of today’s show.

You see, it may be a competition, but everyone in the house can agree on one thing—that Robin is subpar. She’s not up to snuff. She doesn’t have it what it takes. She’s not in-it-to-win-it. Whatever phrase you can come up with to say that they all think she sucks.

And such is the way that I watch reality TV: I am now Robin’s number one fan. (The only thing I hate more than a bully? A pack of bullies. This is how I once found myself rooting for quite possibly the most unsavory contestant in the history of Top Chef, Marcel.)

The Cheftestants are so united in their belief that Robin deserves to be manning the grill at a Denny’s, that just for a brief, barely perceptible second, they consider not letting her into their super-cool red scarf Mattin tribute club. They relent and give her the scarf, which she ties around her arm, gangster style.

Chef Michelle Bernstein is the guest judge and the Quickfire is to make a dish that represents the angel and the devil inside you. This is a very clever concept executed with varying degrees of literal-mindedness by the chefs. (Gallant, for example, makes white and dark chocolate, which actually lands him in the—gasp!—Bottom 3.)

The good news? Robin wins with her salad and apple crisp—the salad representing the healthy way she was supposed to eat when she got diagnosed with lymphoma; the crisp representing the sweet goodness she wanted to eat. And yes, bitches—she gets immunity. Huzzah!

Then something truly unexpected occurs: Eli reveals himself to be an ass. (Did anyone else see Eli’s assitude coming? Me neither. He just seemed like your garden variety hipster nerd to me.)

“That’s a pretty easy way to win a Quickfire: Ohhhh, when I had cancer I could eat this. . .” Eli says mockingly. Yes, boys and girls, he’s mocking the lady with cancer.
Something tells me Fan Favorite is no longer in the offing for him.

So Penn and Teller show up and do some tricks with wadded up balls of tin foil and limes and juggling then they explain the trick is misdirection, but I still have no idea how they did it, mostly because I’m preoccupied by the fact that these two never age. Have you noticed that? The greatest misdirection of all: Eternal middle age.

The Elimination Challenge is to make a dish using illusion—oh no, wait, that challenge was taken up by the Doogie Howser episode of Top Chef: Masters. Instead, it’s to deconstruct classic dishes, like pot roast and caesar salad.

In a shocking twist, Jennifer is disgruntled with her dish: meat lasagna. Is that girl ever gruntled?

More bad news: Toby Young is back as a guest judge. Oh joy.

Michael I gets Eggs Florentine and he doesn’t know what that is. He calls them “Eggs Foreign to Me”—which is crazy. Two weeks ago they’re making veloute sauces without batting an eyelash and this week Michael doesn’t know about an inescapable brunch staple? (I mean, I half expect McDonald’s to come up with a McEggs Florentine in the next few weeks.)

So Goofus is all in his element, making a caesar salad with homemade brioche croutons. This gets Gallant’s goat: “Michael’s baking his own bread,” he says, clearly wishing he’d thought of it first. “Show off.”

Proof that karma is, indeed, a bitch, Eli’s pressure cooker explodes.

Ron is supposed to make paella, which is good, because he makes it all the time, but bad, because he has no idea how to deconstruct it.

Kevin, who has chicken mole negro, promises to redeem himself for a previous mole sauce fiasco.

Jennifer keeps fretting over her lasagna.

And it’s time to serve.

There’s some naughtiness involving Padma and bull’s testicles and Penn doesn’t like Gallant’s tuna reuben and Tom calls Ron’s paella a “sad plate of food” (if Ron had tied Mattin’s scarf around that plate, it would’ve truly been a tear-jerker.)

Teller, of course, doesn’t speak, which is hard, but I did observe one small advantage to being a mime: It’s a license to make faces at Toby Young.

(Inside, we are all making faces at Toby Young.)

So the Top 3 are Ashley (pot roast), Goofus (that Caesar), Kevin (chicken mole) and, yes, Jennifer, who has lost a bit of her mojo, but can still cook.

Ash is still griping over Robin’s Quickfire win.
“I guess I’ll just make salads and crisps next time,” he says. “Apparently, that’s how you win.”

And somewhere, Eli’s mother is sighing with relief that her son isn’t the only insensitive ass on TV this week.

So Kevin wins. And the bottom 3 are Ash, Ron, and Laurine.

Everyone piles on Ron’s paella.

“My problem with the dish,” starts Padma, “leaving aside the mushy rice and overcooked seafood. . .” (Does she really even need to finish that sentence?)

And Toby pronounces paella with two hard “l”s, which is such an Anglo-centric thing to do. And apparently, Michelle Bernstein is a Latino, which means she’s either a Sephardic Jew, married to a Jew, or the world’s first non-Jewish Bernstein. Discuss among yourselves.

I almost thought Ash was going to go home for his non-shepherdy Shepherd’s Pie. But, alas, it is Ron.

God, I hope Robin kicks just a tiny bit more ass next week.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shop the Presses: The Project Runway recap

They say if you repeat a lie enough times, you actually believe it to be true.

And so it was with Johnny and his “the steamer ate my dress” fable. First, he told it to himself, then he told it to his model, then he told it to the judges. At some point, I think he could actually see the whole event unfolding in his mind: There was the steamer having a malfunction, leaking gallons of water all over the dress, which was now wet beyond repair. There he was, sad but brave—the first dress may have been a Dior-inspired winner, but he would make a second dress, equally fantastic! Because that’s the kind of competitor Johnny is: strong, resolute, undeterred by life’s inevitable setbacks.

In fact, as Logan so aptly put it: “He threw out the dress because Tim Gunn didn’t like it.”

Okay, so Johnny lied about the dress. So Tim Gunn did not call it a “Dior-like sensation” but a “craft project gone awry” and a “kindergarten project that had been attacked by birds.”

And maybe you’ll disagree with me on this, because clearly Tim Gunn does, but I still think Nicholas was wrong to throw Johnny under the bus. Let Johnny tell his little lie about how his first dress was the frock of the gods and contained the cure for cancer and the secret location of Osama Bin Laden. So what? Did Nicholas think that Johnny’s phantom Dior dress was actually going to affect the judging? (Then again, Logan stayed alive last week based on a pair of skinny jeans, so who knows the criteria with this ever-rotating group?). I was really surprised when Tim Gunn practically high-fived Nicholas for calling Johnny out. Apparently, Tim Gunn does not tolerate lying—not on his watch!

Generally speaking, it was a better episode than last week. But we should make up a word for dumb cattiness: Datty? Because this group is as datty as they come.

“I’m not sure what Irina is going for with that trench coat,” sniffed Althea, glancing disparagingly at Irina’s soon-to-be-triumphant coat. “I mean, it’s just a coat.”

Meanwhile, Nicholas was so concerned with Johnny’s “red mess” he forgot to notice that his own “punk” dress was neither punk nor particularly neat (or whatever the opposite of a mess is.) I loved when they showed the picture of Nicholas in his “punk years”—looking exactly the same as he does now, except with shorter hair and a few more necklaces. Oi, oi, oi, Nicholas!

Also, I totally disagree with the judges on Gordana’s dress, pictured. I loved it, and thought it was bogus when they said it looked “too wearable.” “I thought the point of the challenge was to make a newspaper dress look wearable,” said Gordana, polite but with a hint of defiance. “I must’ve misunderstood.” No Gordana, you didn’t.

In the end, it was clearly time for Johnny to go home and get back into treatment, as evidenced by this ominous statement when he lost:
“Giving up addiction was easier than this. I feel so empty.”

Paging Dr. Drew.

Probably the best thing about this episode? The fact that Project Runway may have single-handedly figured out a way to save the newspaper business. Figures my favorite show would offer up the first practical solution to the crisis in my industry. Hey, if you can’t read it, wear it!

Hilarious Lifetime programming I won’t be watching this week ™: Army Wives in the '40s.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Heating Up: The Top Chef Vegas recap

News flash: Mattin is French.

He’s so French, he doesn’t need to wear a beret—his Frenchiness is just that evident.

He’s so French, he calls French toast “toast”

He’s so French, he has not just one jaunty little neckerchief, but a backup neckerchief, shoved deeply into his back pocket. For a true Frenchman never leaves home without a backup neckerchief!

Oh well, just when it became clear that Mattin mentioning his Frenchness was the most awesome drinking game ever (and a one-way ticket to AA), he goes and gets cut.
But I’m ahead of myself, as usual.

The show starts with Goofus acting in a typical Goofus manner: Boasting and bragging, which is not the way Gallant taught him to behave.

“I received one Michelin star,” he brags, adding, “I don’t brag about it, though.”

He also has predetermined the final three: Himself (natch), his big bro (natch), and. . .Michael I. (And here I thought he and Jennifer had something beautiful between them.)

Off to the Quickfire challenge they go, where Chef Tim Love is waiting to rub them up with hot oil. . .oh sorry, wrong Chef Love.

No, it’s far, far worse. They have to cook with cactus!

“I was born in France,” starts Mattin. This could go anywhere. “Basque Country.” Yeah, yeah, get to the point, Frenchman! “We have no cactus in Basque Country. I didn’t know you could eat cactus.” Not looking good for you, garçon.

Actually, Mattin wasn’t alone in his cactus consternation. With the exception of Michael I.—who knows you have to cook cactus like salmon—none of the chefs know how to cook with cactus. Why? Because apparently, cactus is prickly and slimy and gross and nobody in their right mind would ever want to eat it.

The funniest thing in the world was watching Chef Love eat these slimy cactus creations— he had permanent bitter beer face. (Ash summed it up rather succinctly when he said, “He looked pissed at me that I made him eat this food.”)

So Michael I wins the Quickfire (and 15 grand!) and Goofus is ticked.

“I’d rather be able to work with interesting flavors than take the slime out of cactus,” he says. Which is not a sore loser thing to say. At all.

Now for the Elimination Challenge: Make food for two dozen cowboys on a ranch, with God knows what kind of cooking equipment.

Naturally, my first thought was a grilled Romaine salad, a tasty mojito/ceviche combo, and ceviche 3 ways.

I’m just kidding—but I’m not, because these were actually the spectacularly bad ideas of Robin, Ron, and Mattin. Really guys? Really? After a hard day’s work on a ranch, you think these cowboys are hankering for ceviche and a mojito and some burnt lettuce?

The other catch is they have to camp overnight in tents—and if you’re worried about snakes, fear not! Ron is at the ready with his snake-repelling voodoo branches. (He also needed a sword to cut open his coconut. I know a Hopkins student who might be able to lend him one. . . (
Too soon?))

Jennifer is very frustrated by the challenge, but it’s hard to distinguish her “cooking outdoors” frustration from her normal frustration.

Eli hates the great outdoors.

Some of the cheftestants have no problem cooking in a fire pit, namely Ashley, who grew up on a farm, and Laurine, who says she’s like the “MacGyver” of chefs, and Gallant, who remains gallantly calm and composed under even the most intense culinary pressure.

Did I mention that it’s, like, 800 degrees out there?

So Gallant wins the challenge—with a pork and polenta dish. At this point, he’s pretty much smoking the competition. And no, that was not a fire pit joke.

Joining him in the Top 4 are Goofus, Ashley, and Laurine. It’s nice to see Ashley and Laurine in the top for a change.
As for Goofus—foiled again!

“Everytime we stand at the judge’s table together, I seem to win,” shrugs Gallant, a twinkle in his eye. Later, he will castigate himself for boasting, as it is not the Gallant way.

In a shocking development, the Bottom 3 are Ceviche 1, Ceviche 2, and Romaine Salad girl.

Robin explains that she wanted to make something hearty, like a steak, so she made a grilled romaine salad with drunken shrimp. Which makes no sense at all and Colicchio calls her on it. (Also, those drunken shrimp? More like hobo-on-a-five-day-bender shrimp. Not good.)

Ron’s ceviche is apparently better than Mattin’s ceviche. So he’s safe. But Mattin’s ceviche was so bad that Colicchio discreetly got up and threw it. . .away. (I know—I totally thought Colicchio was going to hurl. But no such luck.) Also, Chef Love said he was “not well” as a result of eating Mattin’s ceviche. Not one for the resume, mon ami.

Worse still, Mattin thought his raw cod was actually a taste sensation. So it’s “au revoir” to Mattin. Hang in there, Frenchie. I hear there’s a Jerry Lewis marathon on AMC.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lifetime Sentence: The Project Runway recap

I had assumed that when Lifetime began airing Project Runway, they would do everything to reassure us that everything was going to be okay. That the host would be the same, that Tim Gunn would be the same, and that the judges would be the same. For those of us who were anxious, sweaty-palmed, and ill-at-ease, Lifetime would make the transition as smooth and painless as possible. . .

Seriously, who were those judges? It’s bad enough that Michael Kors has been AWOL for the past two weeks, now they give us no Nina Garcia, too? I half-expected Heidi Klum to be replaced by Elle MacPherson and Tim Gunn to be replaced by Regis Philbin.

And can we talk about this exchange between bug-eyed “celebrity stylist” Jennifer Rade (a dead ringer for the lead singer of Betty for you L Word fans) and “official hot contestant” Logan.

Jennifer (lasciviously): You’re really cute. I like your pants and sneakers.

Logan (embarrased, yet opportunistic): I hope that helps me.

Jennifer (honestly): It does. For sure.

Umm, what? You’re hot, therefore you get to stay in the competition? Didn’t anyone explain to “celebrity stylist” Jennifer Rade that that’s kind of against the rules—of life? Can we make some sort of citizen’s arrest here? (Do fashion police have any actual authority?)

Luckily for Logan—and celebrity stylist Jennifer Rade for that matter—Qristyl with a Q and an I and a Y truly did deserve the boot for her moribund black party dress—but I’ve got my eye on you, Rade.

And while I’m bitching, let me add this: The contestants are serious duds this year. There, I said it.

I thought Johnny would be fabulously neurotic, but instead, he’s just neurotic. I thought Althea would be a wind dancing earth-child, instead she’s just a little spacey. I thought Christopher would be the righteous autodidact from hell, instead he seems to have forgotten that he learned to make dresses using moonshine, straw, and potato sacks. Frankly, I couldn’t pick Irina, Gordana, or Carol Hannah out of a police lineup—and I doubt you could either. Louise seems to carry all her personality in her glasses and hair.

Is it possible that, after 6 seasons of Project Runway, all of the talented, larger-than-life design personalities have been used up already? Have we reached a tipping point in the reality TV design show world? Perish the thought.

This week's challenge was pretty lame, too. I mean, past contestants have had to design for moms, trannies, and fatties and this gang has to design for models? Which is different from the way they usually design how? Oh, riiiight. This time the models are their clients, not their mannequins. But P.S., stay true to yourself and design exactly what you want, or otherwise, you’ll end up like Logan, needing to be saved by a pair of tight silver pants on the runway.

(Did you also notice that the designers literally have no idea what they’re talking about? Both Althea and Epperson’s outfits were singled out by contestants for being hideous. Both ended up in the Top Four.)

(Oh, and while I’m bitching: The Lifetime website loads really slow on my Mac. . . )

(Also, I’m out of milk. . . )

Sigh. I suppose the episode wasn’t a complete loss.

First, shirtless Logan lived up to my expectations. (Maybe there’s hope for Lifetime yet?)

Second, it was cute when Epperson was talking to his family and then crying as he sewed his dress. (In the immortal words of Zulema: “I don’t care if you gotta cry. But cry and cut.” Now Zulema, that girl had personality.)

Althea thinking a smoking jacket was a “cigarette jacket” wasn’t so much interesting as sad, but she is adorable, in a Kirsten Dunst kind of way and I loved her winning suit.

And there ya go.

We won’t have Qristyl with a Q and an I and a Y to kick around anymore. I guess by next week, I’ll have to find someone else to make fun of. Seriously, what kind of name is Epperson anyway?

Hilarious Lifetime programming I won’t be watching this week ™: Project Runway? (Okay, now I’m just being melodramatic. I know, I know. Take a Midol.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

French Kiss-Off: The Top Chef Vegas recap

Before I start this recap, I must recount a chilling phone conversation I recently had with my mother, also an avid foodie and Top Chef fan.
“You do know what restaurant Michael I is from, right?” she asked.
“Luigi’s Emporium of Douchiness?” I responded.
“No, Zaytinya.”
It was impossible.
You see, I have eaten at Zaytinya, a Greek and Mediterranean tapas restaurant in D.C. But it’s more than that: I have worshipped Zaytinya, I have silently bowed to the food gods who preside over Zaytinya. I have celebrated major life passages at Zaytinya. For Zaytinya, you see, is awesome. And therefore, Michael I, on some level, must also be awesome.
I am so confused.

Anyway, as I work out my conflicting emotions over Bizarro Affleck, let’s move onto the show, which started with guest judge Daniel Boulud dropping a major twist: Not only would the winner of the Quickfire Elimination Challenge, which was to make an intriguing dish using snails, get immunity, but the loser would be immediately asked to pack up his or her knives and go home!

Cut to 14 chefs escargo-ing in their pants.

The general consensus is this: Snails are ugly, they’re not that tasty, and no one knows how to cook them. Good times. To make matters worse, Daniel Boulud proved to be the most inscrutable of guest judges. “Interesting,” he kept saying, as the he nibbled on snail fricassee, snail soup, and snail sandwich.

Somehow Kevin managed to win the challenge by cooking snails in bacon jam. Ewww, right?

The bottom three were Ashley, Jesse, and Robin, who have a certain something in common—but I can't quite place what is. Hmmmm, what can it be . . .what can it be. . .? Oh, who am I trying to kid? They’re all freakin’ FEMALES. Good lord, women, pull yourselves together. This is getting embarrassing.

Anyway, the 3 luckless ladies have an amuse-bouche-off to determine the loser. Poor put-upon Jesse makes some sort of under-seasoned tuna tartare and loses.

“The thing I want people to know is that I don’t suck this bad,” says Jesse on her way out. And let’s just leave it at that.

The Elimination Challenge is this: Pair up to make French food for a veritable Mt. Rushmore (arc de triomphe?) of French chefs: Boulud, Hubert Keller, Laurent Tourondel, Jean Joho, and Christ-in-an-apron himself, Joel Robuchon.

“I’m nervous to eat in front of this man, let alone cook for him,” says Tom Colicchio, just in case the cheftestants weren’t sufficiently freaked out enough.

Kevin got immunity, which meant that he would not have to cook, but would instead be dining with the masters. (His awkward little suit and gulping, golly-gee-whiz enthusiasm at the dinner table was pretty much the cutest thing ever.)

So Mattin was all in his element, because he’s French you know—even though I have secretly suspected that he is just faking it. I mean, if I were some kid from Ohio pretending to be French, I’d slap on a red neckerchief and say things like, “Isn’t French cooking ze best?” But I digress. . .

With Kevin out of the game, it comes down to the pairings of Goofus and Jennifer and Gallant and Michael I.

(Oh, by the way, Michael I did not have a Douchetastic moment of the Week ™ this week. And that’s not just because I love him and want to marry him now that I know he’s the head chef at Zaytinya. He was just happier this week. Maybe it was Gallant’s always courteous and helpful influence.)

Ashley was paired with Mattin (he’s French, ya know) and she kept trying to suggest things like an asparagus veloute sauce, and he kept shooting her down. He wanted to make the sauce with bacon. (You can’t go wrong with Colicchio and bacon, can you? Or can you? Dun-dun-dunnnn.)

At the judging table, it was revealed that Joel Robuchon doesn’t speak English, which didn’t stop Gail from nodding knowingly at every word he said.

At first Chef Boulud was a little snarky about Gallant and Michael’s clever little deconstructed béarnaise and trout.
“If you mix the ingredients, you’ll have a béarnaise” he said, and haters of high-concept cuisine across the globe wept with gratitude. But in the end, he had to admit that it was pretty tasty.

They also loved Jennifer and Goofus’s rabbit and mustard sauce. The rabbit, said Robuchon, was cooked to perfection.
(That’s “le perfection” in French.)

Hector and Ash didn’t fare quite as well with their chateaubriand au poivre. According to Gail, the steak looked like it had been “hacked with a knife.” Never good.

They also didn’t dig Mattin and Ashley’s poisson with veloute sauce because the sauce tasted too much of. . . wait for it. . .bacon. Foiled by bacon! Oh, the humanity.

Afterwards, Chef Robuchon said that “any of the young candidates can come work for me” And while he didn’t bother to add, “But not you, Hector and Robin,” it was implied.

So the top 4 were Team Goofus and Team Gallant (do I smell an actual Top 4 of the show? Only Kevin can break up this little gang of four). Gallant wins and Goofus is bummed and Michael I sort of makes up for both losing and winning last week and Jennifer remains unstoppable.

Bottom four: Ashley and Mattin and Hector and Ash.

Mattin lies about Ashley’s asparagus veloute suggestion and brilliantly points out it was their “first shot” at working together so it isn't fair to judge. Oh, Frenchie, you have a lot to learn.

Hector admits that hacking up his chateau was a big mis-steak. (Heh.)

And ladies and gentleman, someone with a beard and an adam’s apple is actually going home! Good bye, Hector! Someone had to be the first dude to go, and it was you.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Surf’s Down: The Project Runway recap

I hate to break the news to the Project Runway casting team, but they didn’t exactly field a group of mensas this season.

To wit: Heidi’s anvil-like clues about the site of the next challenge had them momentarily stumped.

“It’s a place you can’t leave California without seeing,” she said. “And here’s a hint: Bring your sunscreen!”

The designers all stared at each other, befuddled. A few tentatively mumbled, “The beach?” Others were afraid to make such a bold prediction.

Johnny looked pleased as punch with himself when they did, indeed, roll up to the beach (in a short bus?). “The first thing that popped into my mind was the beach!” he crowed. Complex atom theory is clearly the next thing that will pop into his mind.

But hey, any excuse to see Tim Gunn in flip-flops (“only for the beach!” he scolded—and somewhere, that group of school girls who visited the White House in flip-flops reddened) works for me.

The one big FAIL of the beach scene? No hot surfer dudes. I realize that Project Runway is all about female fashion, but could they throw in a token lifeguard or something, just as a prop? This is the kind of thing Bravo would never screw up.

The whole "Garnier Elimination Challenge"—to make a fashionable surf look and pair it with a super-awesome Garnier hairdo—was extra infomercially, even by Project Runway standards. (Any episode now, Tim Gunn is going to start having advertising patches sewn onto his blazer, like a car from NASCAR).

So it’s the first team challenge of the season, always good for a little drama.
I won’t tell you all the partners, because some were, quite frankly, dull.

Here’s all you need to know:

Johnny was paired with Irina, and I only mention this because it was pretty much the first time I ever heard her speak and she just kept saying, “hippie” over and over again: “It’s super hippie!” “It’s so hippie!” “It’s, like, hippie.” (At the end of her little hippie outburst I wasn’t sure if she—or I— actually knew the definition of the word.)

Mitchell was his team leader and he picked Ra’mon. And this is what he said, I swear to God: “I wanted to pick someone who can carry me.” Refreshing honesty? Or alarming insecurity?

Qristyl was team leader and she picked Epperson—and I'm pretty sure I saw some romantic sparks between those crazy kids. (Just kidding. They hated each other.)

And here’s how it went down. Ra’mon didn’t want to be the team leader, but Mitchell gave him no choice, because he pretty much just sat there, watching Ra’mon work.

At one point, Mitchell did come up with this hilarious bon mot: “Auf wiedersehen, bitches!”—a turn of phrase so witty, so slyly naughty, so delicious to his fellow contestants, he had to say it twice. (I told you this cast was dull. They make little “design-licious” Blayne from last season seem like Noel Coward.)

Meanwhile, Qristyl (an aside: can you imagine her having to make reservations over the phone: “That’s Qristyl with a Q . . and an I . . . and an inexplicable Y crammed between the T and the L”) wanted to be her team’s leader, but Epperson wouldn’t let her. He was actually pretty patronizing, giving her rudimentary sewing tips and shooting down all of her ideas. The funny thing is, Epperson isn’t exactly a powerful, dynamic figure. Indeed, he reminds me of those Slowsky turtles on the Comcast high-speed Internet commercials. But in his own mellow, low-fi way, he’s pretty intimidating. Qristyl with a Q and an and I and a Y didn’t have a chance.

I figured that making a surf outfit wasn’t going to be the last word on the challenge, and I was right. Tim Gunn came into the studio and announced that the designers had to make an avant-garde look that was inspired by their surf look.

Upon hearing this news, the designers all looked like bad actors indicating “concerned”—with their mouths hanging open (even more than usual).

Ra’mon got the not-so-great idea to do a rubberized catsuit. Tim Gunn was not impressed. Ra’mon freaked out. Mitchell looked up briefly, thought, “So glad this isn’t my problem” and went back to doing nothing.

Then, at the last minute, Ra’mon decided to completely change his look. Instead of Creature from the Black Lagoon chic, he decided to make a (let’s face it, way-too-wearable to be truly avant-garde) chartreuse dress with a hand-dyed gray color splash. And when I say last minute, I mean last minute—I’m not sure the dye had dried by the time they hit the runway.

Michael Kors is absent, again! Unacceptable. (As Tim Gunn might say, “I can’t want this more than you do, Michael Kors!”). In his place, the extremely cuddly Max Azaria. This week’s celebrity pimping a fashion line I didn’t even know she had? Rachel Bilson. I must say, that girl is adorbs.

So down they march—the Roxy collection in the year 2093.

Then a most remarkable thing occurred: Ra’mon and Mitchell were in the top four.
Heidi asked Mitchell to point out what he did for the challenge. “I made the bathing suit,” he said. What bathing suit, you might ask? Exactly. The damn thing was covered up by the dress. (I’m not even convinced there was a bathing suit—and we may never know. This is the like the Project Runway version of the Loch Ness monster.)

“Did you help with either of the dresses?” Heidi prodded.
Not really.
“Who picked the patterns?”
“Who came up with the concept?”
“Who’s your daddy?”
Well, you get the point.

Despite Mitchell’s expertise at standing around doing nothing—Ra’mon manages to actually win the challenge.

But fresh on the heels of Michael I. being both a winner and a loser on last night’s Top Chef (see my recap below), Mitchell is now asked to remain in the bottom 3. Yikes!

His fellow denizens of Loserville? No surprise here: Epperson and Qristyl.

I’ll put everyone out of their misery: Mitchell goes home.

He cries a little, says he should’ve “tried harder” (ya think?), and heads home to strategize his next move—and by "strategize his next move" I mean lie on his bed and eat bon bons.

Hilarious Lifetime programming I won’t be watching this week ™: September Secrets.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Room of Doom: The Top Chef Vegas recap

If I was bunking in room 666, or whatever room it is that once housed Preeti, Eve, Jennifer Z., and the soon-to-be-gone Laurine (I mean, who are we trying to kid?) I’d do whatever it took to get the hell out. Fake the swine flu. Claim cibophobia (that’s fear of food). Pretend you have a bad case of nocturnal farting. Because they’re dropping like flies in that room, man.

Oh, and way to represent, ladies. So far we’ve had three shows and, yes, three women have gotten the boot. (Somewhere, Julia Child is weeping.) It’s not surprising when you think about it, since all these women were dealing with some serious self-esteem issues. Jennifer Z. refused to unpack her bags because she didn’t want to seem overly confident (no fear of that, honey). Eve claimed that she really only cooked to please herself. Preeti nervously noticed that everyone else’s dishes for the Air Force challenge looked a little more complex than hers (probably because her pasta salad looked like something you’d see wrapped in cellophane at the local deli counter). And Laurine is so excited about feeding those hungry air force kids, she forgot she was in a freakin’ competition. (I realize she’s not technically gone yet, but again, just a technicality.)

Thank God for HBIC (that’s Head Bitch in Charge) Jennifer. She is my gender’s last hope.

So back to the show. Anyone else think it was funny that Mark Peel was overseeing the potato challenge? Just me? Alrighty then.

Some starchy goodness was being whipped up by the contestants, but I was extremely puzzled by Ash’s failed potato ice cream, which then turned into a random smearing of potato “custard” on the plate, which Mark Peel actually thought was a taste sensation.

Michael I.’s first Douchetastic Moment of the Week ™ also cropped up during the Quickfire Challenge: “Risotto is a style of cooking,” he said disdainfully. “Not only for rice.” Like, duh, who doesn’t know that? (Okay, me. But he didn’t have to be so snotty about it.)

Local girl Jesse crashed and burned once again with overly cayenned sweet potato soup. (It was hilarious watching Mark Peel’s reaction to her soup: “The color is lovely. The texture is lovely”—insert spoon in mouth; watch lips contort in pain and all color drain from face—“You do like your cayenne pepper, don’t you?”)

Anyway, Jennifer won the Quickfire and immunity with some sort of potato/oyster combo. Girl needs immunity like Seacrest needs more hairgel. But hey, score one for the double-X chromosomes.

Next the elimination challenge at the Nellis Air Force Base. The contestants paired up, but they were supposed to work together in a giant mess hall, making lunch for the members of the base, many of whom had just returned from (or were on their way to) combat. Michael, in a surprisingly shrewd move, asked Jennifer to be the executive chef.

It was so damn satisfying watching her boss people around, run the kitchen with military precision, and put Hector in his place when he was telling a folksy story about working in a brewery. “Are we going to have conversations now?” she barked at him. “Or are we going to talk about the food?”
(I was surprised she didn’t have the poor guy drop and give her 50.)

The lunch went extremely well—save for Michael I’s soggy shrimp salad and Preeti and Laurine’s lame deli salad. Jesse and Ron made a seasonally inappropriate clam chowder, but I guess it was tasty. Tom Colicchio was utterly delighted by what Goofus did with his bacon. Apparently, it just takes a little wizardry with bacon to make Colicchio giddy like a school girl.

So yes, the top 2 teams were Eli and Kevin (paired up because, as Kevin said, “We bond on a fat guy level”) who made a delicious-looking pulled pork and potato salad.
And Goofus (natch) who was teamed with Michael I. But wait, didn’t Michael I. have that horrible poached shrimp salad? (Foreshadowing, people!)

As Goofus was called in the top 4, Gallant stewed quietly, but the thought bubble over his head clearly read: “Mom loves me more. . .Mom loves me more. . .”

Needless to say, Goofus won. With his bacon prowess, he pretty much owns Colicchio at this point.

Eli and Kevin got their props, but Michael I. was asked to gather the bottom 3: Preeti, Laurine, and . . . Michael I.!

Yes, for the first time ever, someone is in the top 4 and the bottom 3! How did Michael I. manage this inauspicious feat? By admitting that he had nothing to do with Goofus’s magical bacon and everything to do with the soggy shrimp salad.
Commence a display of rage from bizarro Affleck that involved clenching of the fists, rocking back and forth on the balls of the feet, and a truly murderous glare.

Of course, I knew one of the girls was a goner. Preeti showed a bit of spine when she snarkily asked Gail, “Did you think that clam chowder in 90 degree heat was inventive?” But in a move filled with decency and integrity (and destined to get you voted off a reality TV competition), neither Laurine nor Preeti was willing to throw the other under the bus for the lame pasta salad.

“They wanted us to incriminate each other, but we wouldn’t” said next week’s loser Laurine.

As for Preeti, she went back to the room of doom, where she had cockily unpacked her belongings, and left.