Thursday, October 29, 2009

Old, drab, and sad: The Project Runway recap

The show begins with Heidi putting the designers in a much deserved time out.

They have to sit, quietly, with their backs to the stage contemplating what a boring season they have provided for us. Bad designers! Bad!

They turn around to discover the ghosts of winning looks past.

Well, in Irina’s case, it’s the ghost of yesterday’s winning look. And in Logan’s case, it’s the ghost of a 4th place finish.

The idea is to take their best look and create a companion piece, which is kind of cool, because that is the essence of building a collection.

Off to Mood they go, where Irina falls in love with some ugly brocade pattern and Christopher buys his weight in white silk.

Also, Tim Gunn does something he never does (or at least, never before on camera): He gives Carole Hannah some pretty damn specific advice.

She’s deciding whether or not to stick with her comfort zone of a dress or venture into that mysterious world of garments with legs, also known as pants.

“You can’t stretch yourself creatively if you’re not in your comfort zone,” says Tim.

So a dress it is.

The usual rippling wave of cattiness makes its way through the studio.

“Those look like Malvin pants,” says Logan to Althea. As in Malvin, the guy who went home on the second show. And because he’s boyish and oh so insouciant he can almost get away with this sort of mind fuck.

Next, Irina and Althea, munching on some sort of mysterious snack food, recreate the junior high school cafeteria tableaux of my nightmares: Two mean girls, sitting, munching, assessing their prey.

In this case, they are eyeing Logan, whose collar does look a lot like the zippered neckline Althea created for her Christina Aguilera look.

“Should I confront him?” whispers Althea between bites.

“Hell yeah,” says Irina, swallowing. (What a shocking piece of advice from Irina, who usually only has the best interests of others at heart.)

Of course, when it comes to cattiness, Althea is a mere apprentice. She steps aside and lets the master take over.

“Now that I have a minute to see what everyone else did, I think a lot of them should be worried,” says Irina.

Then she adds, “Why did Christopher’s one dress throw up the other?” —and laughs heartily at her own vicious joke.

Althea can laugh, too, buoyed by her place as the Queen Bee’s number one besty. But alas, harmony among mean girls is a tenuous thing. A little bit later, Irina accuses Althea of copying her! OMG, you guys!

Tim Gunn is back in the studio. And once again, he isn’t so much giving Carole Hannah advice as telling her exactly what to do.

After he points out that her one bit of fabric would make a great lining to the dress he exclaims, “You just had a major breakthrough!” Yes, and his name is Tim Gunn.

To the runway we go. No Michael Kors but my boy Nick Verreos from Season 2 is one of the judges! Squee! I always had a little crush on Uncle Nick.

The other guest judge is the gorgeous and talented and classy and perfect Kerry Washington (someone explain to me again why she’s not a bigger star?).

Nick + Kerry almost = Michael Kors. So I guess I can live with that.

Allow me to assess the garments.

I absolutely loved Carole Hannah’s dress. So what if all she does is dresses? And so what if Tim Gunn pretty much designed it for her? It rocked. And I want one.

I hated Meana Irina’s outfit. Sorry. I did. The dark camel color. . .again. The faux fur on the sleeves. The dress that looked like some sort of fusty old couch in grandma’s attic. Do not want.

On the other hand, Althea nailed it again. Whether or not she copied Irina’s sweater concept is a matter of opinion. But I don’t care. I loved that heather grey sweater and those bitchin’ paper-bag-waste jodhpurs. You get yours, girl.

Gordana’s jacket was not even worthy of being called a hot mess. It was barely a lukewarm mess. And Heidi was right when she pointed out that Gordana even managed to make her gorgeous model look like a “before” picture.

Christopher’s outfit. . . I think the problem here was there just wasn’t quite enough material.

Logan’s get-up: Welcome to Hot Topic in the year 2145.

So there’s a bit of sniping on the runway as Irina kinda accuses Althea of copying her oversized sweater concept. (Because there aren’t like, a zillion oversized sweaters in stores right now.)

In the end, everyone ignores Irina and Althea wins. Yay!

And Logan finally finds out that a knit cap and a pair of skinny jeans can only take you so far: Specifically, 10 episodes.

Goodbye my little hipster Hanson brother. I will miss gazing upon you. But not your butt ugly designs.

Just a Little Prick: The Top Chef Vegas recap

At this point, it’s actually kind of sad to watch the systematic breakdown of Jennifer.

She went from bossy, supercilious, unstoppable—a glorious combination of Sue Sylvester from Glee and Anthony Bourdain—to, quite literally, a quivering mass of insecurities. Her hair is askew, her sweatshirt is zipped up protectively over her chin, her mind is probably racing with dark and destructive thoughts. It’s like some horrible social experiment gone awry.

So the show starts with Goofus sharpening his knives, which is not heavy-handed imagery at all. (I’m surprised Bravo didn’t photoshop a raging fire behind him.)

The Quickfire Challenge is to make a gourmet TV dinner inspired by famous TV shows. At least, I thought they were famous. (I mean, it’s not like they were being asked to make TV dinners for Cop Rock or Mama’s Family. We’re talking Seinfeld here.) But the Cheftestants are totally stumped.

Gallant’s idea of M*A*S*H cuisine is the oh-so-Korean chicken roulade (couldn’t he have thrown in a token kimchi just for appearance’s sake?).

Eli seems to have confused Gilligan’s Island with Fantasy Island and makes “cheesy resort food.”

Jennifer is disturbingly under the illusion that Bam-Bam is hot. (She must be referring to some sort of Joannie-Loves-Chachi-style Flintstones spin-off, because the Bam-Bam in the original is, like, 4.)

And Michael I, who got Seinfeld, feels that nothing says “neurotic New York Jew” quite like sausage and green peppers.

Anyway, Jen and Robin are in the bottom. Kevin and Gallant are in the top. And Kevin wins. (He made Sopranos-appropriate meatballs, for what it’s worth.)

The Elimination Challenge is to take over Tom Colicchio’s very own Craftsteak. But once they arrive at the restaurant, a very special guest arrives. It’s Natalie Portman! And guess what, kids? She’s a vegetarian. Surprise!

So, of course, there’s lots of kvetching about making a vegetarian meal and general mocking of vegetarians and Jennifer gets saddled with these sad, puny little eggplants and takes out her anger by viciously pulverizing her scallions, who never did anything to her.

After serving Natalie and her friends, Eli comes galumphing back into the kitchen and announces: “Natalie Portman has hot friends!” This is moral equivalent of having dinner with the Obamas, coming home, and saying, “The White House plumber is a surprisingly good conversationalist.” But that’s Eli for ya.

(And can we discuss Gail’s dress? It looked like she had a romaine salad stapled to her chest. Did she misunderstand when her doctor encouraged her to get more roughage in her life? )

Alright, I guess I’ve been avoiding it long enough. We have to talk about the longest, most awkward series of double-entrendres, triple entrendres, and quadruple entrendres I’ve ever witnessed.

In case you missed it, it went down like this:

Gallant brings out his dish of artichokes with garlic blossoms. Then his garlic blossoms are dissected:

Padma: I got a little prick on the end of my tongue.

Natalie Portman (giggling): Don’t say that!

Padma (always happy when she is the focus of dirty talk): It’s getting bigger in my mouth.

Natalie (chortling): That’s what’s supposed to happen.

Tom C (finally getting it): It went from a little prick to big in your mouth.

One of Natalie Portman’s “hot” friends (wanting some TV face time): That’s what usually happens.

Make it stop.

Goofus serves up some sort of asparagus salad and banana polenta that is very creative and compels one of Natalie Portman’s “hot” friends to say: “Michael is Picasso.”

(Somewhere, Ash is all, “I told you guys!”)

At the judging table, the Top 3 are Eli (ugh), Kevin (yawn), and Goofus.

Natalie Portman, who seems truly determined to show the world just how un-PC she is, says to Goofus: “Who’s your dealer and is he accepting new clients?”

They also say some nice things to Eli, but I have chosen to ignore those remarks.

Anyway, despite Goofus’ trippy genius, Kevin’s domination continues. His duo of mushrooms with turnip puree wins. He rules with meat. He rules without meat. He pretty much just rules. (Although, if you ask Goofus, Kevin made an amateur dish that Goofus himself could’ve made in 20 minutes flat with one hand tied behind his back. Will these people ever realize that sore loser is never going to be an attractive personality trait?)

The Bottom 3 are Robin, Michael I and Jennifer.

By now, it’s clear that one of two things needs to happen: Either Jennifer needs to be taken out of her misery or Robin needs to go home. (Even I, staunch defender of Robin, think she’s the weakest chef left.)

However, Michael doesn’t help himself when, in defending his undercooked turnips, uses two of the most douchetastic phrases known to man: “It is what it is” and “whatever.” (Had he thrown in a “big whoop” he would’ve completed the trifecta.)

As the judges deliberate, they discuss Jennifer’s mental fragility. “She really is losing it,” says Tom Colicchio. Cut to Jennifer in the holding room staring at a wall, laughing. It’s like the frickin Bell Jar in there.

But somehow, it is neither Jennifer nor Robin who gets the boot—it’s Michael!

Robin lives again! She’s either some kind of indestructible robot vampire chef, or she’s simply discovered a masterful secret to staying in the competition: Don’t suck the most. I mean, pitiful as she is, there’s always someone who sucks just a little harder. A valuable survival lesson for us all.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Attack of the Giant Cowl: The Project Runway recap

Something miraculous happened on this week’s episode of Project Runway: Logan made a joke.

Not a “take up my hemline—please” sort of thing. Or anything that would actually make someone, you know, LOL.

But an honest to goodness, look-mom-he-has-a-personality! joke.

Here’s how it went down:
The challenge was to create an outfit inspired by a place that has shaped the design aesthetic of Michael Kors. (Turns out, Kors has been shaped by a truly schizophrenic assortment of locales—don’t you really have to choose between New York or Hollywood?—but that’s another story altogether.)

Carole Hannah went first and picked Palm Beach.
Then Nicolas picked Greece.
Althea picked St. Tropez.
Irina picked Aspen.
Gordana picked Park Avenue.
Christopher picked Santa Fe

And Logan, bringing up the rear, picked Hollywood. Then he raised his hands triumphantly over his head—as if rejoicing in his booby prize. And the other designers laughed and laughed.

(Come to think of it, maybe it wasn’t really all that funny.)

Sooooo. . .the Irina pop-up bubble of cattiness continued:

“His dress looked like something an Amish person would wear,” she sniffed at Christopher’s (admittedly sad) garment.

“I look around and the level of craftsmanship and creativity hasn’t increased,” she said, to the room.

“Maybe if they would joke less and sew more, they’d do better,” she opined. (Can you imagine if she’d been around during Santino’s season?)

Not much else happened.
Christopher narrated the moment where he realized that his dress looked like a Little House on the Prairie costume. The funny part was how clearly the look on his face read: “Oh shit. I just designed a Little House on the Prairie dress.” It was unmistakable.

Tim Gunn took one look at Irina’s outfit and said in that glorious Tim Gunn WASPy intonation: “It’s a giant cowl.”
(He just has a way of putting things, doesn’t he?)

Nicolas sheepishly admitted that he’d never been to Greece.

A touch bored, my mind began to wander over to whether or not Logan buys his knit caps in bulk. . .

Once again, I liked Althea’s outfit, pictured, the best. To me, it was the fantasy. I could see that girl hanging out on some hairy-chested tycoon’s yacht sipping Cristal.

Irina’s winning cowl was okay—certainly luxe, but a bit too matchy-matchy for my taste. And so very, very. . .brown.

I am stunned—stunned!—that Carole Hannah didn’t get whacked for her lack of originality. Yeah, the dress was nice, but I enjoyed it more 3 seasons ago, when Uli made it.

Gordana’s dress was okay—the necklace was pretty special, but certainly not the stuff of Park Avenue fantasies. Mr. Big would not approve.

Now let’s get to the real duds of the bunch: Christopher, Logan, and Nicolas.

Logan’s idea of young Hollywood is a plain white skinny jean, suspenders and a vest. (Slap a knit cap on that sucker and it looks like something he would wear). Lindsey wouldn’t even bother to put down the crack pipe for that get-up. (I kid, I kid. . .)

Christopher’s idea of Santa Fe is bad fabric and a big belt. (Come to think of it, that’s pretty accurate.)

And Nicolas’s idea of Greece is . . .office temp worker.
(No Michael Kors, it wasn’t reminiscent of Grease: The Musical— you’re better than that.)

(He did, however, redeem himself when he said that Carole Hannah’s loud pattern was like a “pinstripe” in Palm Beach.)

Guest judge Milla Jovovich proved to be very nurturing—and pretty clever in her own right.
“If this show was Project I Didn’t Mind It, he’d win,” she said of Logan.

Later, she cried when young Nicolas got the boot.
“I don’t know how you guys do it,” she sniffed, as Michael Kors smirked malevolently.

Raise your hand if you thought Christopher was going down? Yeah, me too. But at least Christopher made a fun belt. Nicolas’ outfit was the exact place where Mediterranean dreams go to die.
So he is gone.

(Lifetime-programming aside: Michelle Pfeiffer and Ashton Kutcher made a movie together? Where they’re . . .lovahs? How did I miss that? Was this some sort of warm-up for Cherie? And DVR. . .set.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Revolting: The Top Chef Vegas recap

Can we just acknowledge the fact that the Voltaggio brothers have pretty much hijacked Top Chef? We no longer tune in to see whose sauce is unsalted, whose fish needs more acid, and whose foam is flat. It’s all about Goofus and Gallant, playing out their little domestic psychodrama for all the world to see.

And I love it.

“When we were kids, I was the instigator and Bryan was always trying to look out for everybody,” says Goofus, in a rare moment of self reflection.

Ah, plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose.

Crazy new Quickfire challenge: The blindfolded tag team hootenanny. The cheftestants are blindfolded, split into two teams and . . . waterboarded. No, just kidding. In fact, they have to make a tag team dish without consulting with each other or even knowing what ingredients will be involved. The teams are Eli, Robin, Goofus, and Gallant vs. Jen, Kevin, Laurine, and Michael I.

Keystone Kops style mayhem ensues.

So team Kevin and co. win—despite the fact that Jen thought they were cooking with trout, when, in fact, they were cooking with black cod. They are giving the option of taking 10 grand and splitting it four ways, or taking home 10 grand each if they win the Elimination Challenge. Feeling cocky after their big win (we can win without even knowing what protein we’re using!) they go for the gusto. Who can blame them?

In case you hadn't guessed, it’s Restaurant Week and Top Chef has finally realized that this is not Top Design and they’ve gotten rid of the annoying “decorator’s showcase” portion of the challenge. (If I saw one more chef standing in Pier One holding a scented candle, I was going to scream.)

Another good wrinkle: The front-of-the-house person has to be responsible for at least one dish.

Laurine, who says she has lots of experience with FOTH (I don’t even know if that’s an actual anagram, but I’m going with it) offers to fall on that sword for team Mission.

Eli—because who doesn’t want to be seated by an ill-tempered troll before they embark on a culinary voyage?—takes the FOTH for team ReVolt.

Yes, you read that right. The name of the Voltaggio brother’s team is ReVolt (it’s the Volt boys, plus Robin and Eli, get it?)

“Won’t that make people think of the word revolting?” Robin says. She is quickly patted on the head and ignored.

Just for the record, here are the top 5 restaurant names that would still be better than ReVolt


So the plan for team Mission is to not do dessert, because dessert has been the death of many a team on the restaurant challenge.
(This is the logical equivalent of skipping the math portion of the SATs, because, you know, math is hard.)

The plan for team ReVolt is to have Robin do as little as possible. But that’s okay, she and Goofus are strategizing her little pear tart and she raises her hand for a high five and I think, “he’s just going to leave her hanging there. . .a high five dangling in the wind” and he actually, albeit diffidently, slaps her back. And it is the happiest moment of Robin’s life. (And possibly mine.)

Meanwhile, the Voltaggio boys are fighting about Gallant’s chocolate ganache.
“Can you execute your ganache without it being grainy?” asks Goofus.
“Yes,” Gallant says, clearly and understandably annoyed
“Don’t get angry,” barks Goofus.

And that, boys and girls, is a little microcosm of Goofus’ leadership style. He says something highly inflammatory or offensive to someone and, when that person gets appropriately defensive, he says, “Don’t get angry.” (Or in the case of his skirmish with Robin in the kitchen, he will give a twitching, foaming-at-the-mouth: “Relax! Relax! Relax!” Because nothing is more relaxing than a man with veins bulging in his neck screaming at you to relax.)

As Goofus puts it himself, “Some feelings are going to hurt. That’s not my fault.”

It’s clear right out of the gate that team ReVolt have their act together and Team Mission don’t. For starters, Eli is pretty good at the front of the house, even if his presence is a little too intense for me. (Both he and Goofus should seriously look into yoga.)

Of course, the Volt boys are brilliant, Eli is not half bad, and even Robin comes through with her pear tart.
And, in all fairness, obnoxious as Goofus may be, he ran a tight kitchen. While team Mission was “in the weeds,” team ReVolt was in a pretty good groove.

Meanwhile, it would appear that the only thing team Mission got right was their name. First of all, if flop sweating is a great quality for FOTH, then Laurine is your woman. Second, the judges audibly gasped—yes, gasped—when they found out that Mission had no dessert. Third, Padma asked for salt. (The news of this snaked ominously through the restaurant—Padma needs salt, Padma needs salt—until it reached a horrified Michael I in the kitchen.) Finally, Jen’s fish was mushy and I’m pretty sure Kevin/Laurine’s lamb was still alive.
Baaaaad times.

So yes, team ReVolt wins. “Best restaurant we’ve had in six seasons,” says Tom Colicchio.

And then Goofus is rewarded for being a dick and gets the 10 grand. And then he does something surprising and sweet—he splits the money among his teammates.

It’s hard to say what annoys Gallant more: The fact that his kid brother won the challenge, or the fact that he went and did something kind of nice. I mean, how annoying was that?

“You can keep mine,” says Gallant huffily.
“Why are you pissed?” asks Goofus.
“I’m. Not. Pissed,” Gallant replies through gritted teeth. “I’m very happy about this whole situation.”

Later, Gallant explains to the camera, “I’m tired of his unprofessional behavior being rewarded.” We hear ya, buddy.

And with that, it has suddenly occurred to me that Goofus could actually win this thing. I had always thought that Kevin and Gallant were 1 and 1A with Goofus and Jen completing the Top 4. But after last night’s show, I don’t know. Gallant will always be exceptionally good. But Goofus—bratty, bossy, risk-taking, reckless, egomaniacal Goofus—has the potential to be great. And it’s killing Gallant.

“Does anyone want to cuddle before I go home?” sighs Jen. Awww, remember when she was like a little soup nazi? Those days are over.

“Your sauce was broken,” the judges tell her.
“I’m feeling a little broken right now,” she replies.

But worry not. Jen ain’t going nowhere. And neither are Kevin and Michael I.
Laurine was yet another victim of the FOTH syndrome. My advice for future cheftestants? When asked to be the maitre-d’, make sure you maitre-don’t.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Diamonds on the Crotch: The Project Runway recap

Savvy viewers of Project Runway were all thinking the same thing this week: Either Carol Hannah is going home or she’s totally winning the challenge. Something is always afoot when a heretofore anonymous castmember is suddenly getting lots of face time.

So what did we learn about Carol Hannah?
1. She doesn’t know the meaning of “middle of the pack”: “I wouldn’t say I’m in the middle of the pack,” she explained. “I’ve never been in the bottom.”
2. She seems to think she’s the first girl to ever have a crush on a guy. “I’m the only person this has ever happened to!” she said of her “distracting” crush on Logan.
3. And . . . that’s it.

For this challenge, Heidi promised the contestants they’d be meeting an exciting celebrity and there was. . . Bob Mackie waiting for them with Tim Gunn. While the rest of the contesants felt short-changed, Nicolas couldn’t believe his dumb luck. Apparently, he has the Bob Mackie action figure at home, plus the Bob Mackie trading cards, plus a scrap book of his own making called, “Ways to Be More Like Bob Mackie, by Nicolas.”

Mackie explained that they would be designing a larger-than-life stage outfit for none other than Christina Aguilera (who is apparently too famous to show up for the challenge instruction part). At this point, I thought Nicolas might actually have a heart attack. “Best Project Runway Challenge—ever!” he gushed.
(Natalie Portman and Sarah Jessica Parker might disagree . . .)

Logan looked blandly at the camera (as opposed to his usual dynamic way of looking at the camera) and said: “I don’t know as much about Christina Aguilera as the other designers.” (Didn’t that feel like just a wee bit of a dis?)

At Mood, the feathers and sequins and lace were flying, fast and furious. And then I remembered that just last week, Shirin was paralyzed in the face of feathers, and I worried for her.

Tim Gunn is also worried—about just about everyone.

He points out that Nicolas’s outfit looks a lot like his Tilda Swinton-esque Ice Queen getup (it does.) His exact phrase: “Good God. Talk about déjà vu.”

Christopher’s big “reveal” is so uninspiring, it compels Tim to say: “If you’re going to have a reveal, it should be supersexy slut.”

And Shirin is once again in a feather coma. Tim tells her that her dress looks like student work.
“You don’t like anything about it?” she asks.
Tim pauses, trying to find the mot juste: “No.”

Gordana is totally exasperated and keeps yelling at the camera for no apparent reason.
“Stupid dress!” she yells at one point. Then she stops and says, “Sorry. I curse.” (Looks like someone played a trick on her back at the Adult Education Center.)

Meanwhile, I’ve decided that they need to create some sort of Irina bubble graphic to pop up and make catty comments whenever we see a designer’s work: “Tacky!” the little floating Irina head can say. Or “Totally bargain basement!” It would save a lot of time.

No Michael Kors on the runway. But Nina Garcia is back. And Christina Aguilera bothered to show up this time. (If only she and Michael Kors could’ve compared plastic, orange glows.) And Bob Mackie proves to be pretty handy with a quip himself.

“It looks something from the road company of the Pussycat Dolls!” he says to Christopher. Later, he gives Logan the soon to be legendary advice: “Put some diamonds on the crotch and you’re home free!” Christina Aguilera nods sagely.

So Carol Hannah wins. To be honest, I have no idea why. Her dress kind of looked like what it was—a lot of random black fabrics stitched together. Maybe it would’ve worked as a gown for the VMAs or something, but I didn’t see it as a great stage outfit.
I totally would’ve gone with Althea’s dress, pictured, which was, in a word, slammin.

Gordana, indeed, was damn lucky to have immunity.

Nicolas didn’t quite have the reaction he hoped for—Mackie leaping on the stage, embracing him, and crying, “My son!”—but his dress went over pretty well.

The bottom 3 were Logan, Christopher, and Shirin. And my little ragamuffin, my little trooper, my little pony Shirin is gone. Her lip trembled, but she held her head high, as all good Disney heroines must.
“I’m not going to give up!” she announced. And. . .cue music.

(Next week, a very special episode of Project Runway featuring Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. Must be sweeps.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

That'll Do, Pig: The Top Chef Vegas recap

The show started with Goofus reflecting on last week’s brush with the Bottom 3:
“Even Picasso would do a paint-by-numbers from time to time,” he said.

Okay, he didn’t actually say that, but he came close!
“Babe Ruth struck out once or twice,” he actually did say.
The boy is clearly reading his press clippings. (Or Ash’s diary.)

Anyway, after last night’s show I’ve decided that I’m just too sensitive for reality TV.
I mean, does anybody else feel as badly for Robin as I do? It kills me how mean they all are to her. (Except for Gallant, of course, who doesn’t participate in such childish behavior.)

Are you all buying into this, “she’s so annoying” “she’s so undeserving” “she’s playing the cancer card” crap?
(Can one even play a cancer card? As far as I’m concerned, once you survive lymphoma, you can wield that damn card whenever you like.)

When Bravo put up its little poll—Which is Worse? 1. Eli’s immaturity 2. Robin’s passive aggressiveness—I was sure it would be a slaughter. And it was—for Eli. (He received 39 percent of the vote; 61 percent of Bravo’s viewers think Robin is Mrs. Passive Aggressive Pants).

So let me get this straight. A dude who lives at home with his parents (they are so going to ground him after they see the way he’s been treating Robin!) and calls a woman who dares to suggest that he clean up after his stinky scallops “his mother” is not immature? Whatevs.

So today’s guest judge is Chef Charlie Palmer and, just coincidentally (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) both Goofus and Gallant have history with him. I’m not quite sure what their relationship with Palmer was but it seems along the lines of when you have a chemistry teacher who just looooooved your older sister and thought you were kinda, sorta smart in your own way, but no way near the MIT-level chemistry wiz that big sis was and no matter what you did you couldn’t quite live up to the supremeawesomeness that was Felicia Weiss. . .not that I would know anything about that.

The Quickfire was to pair something with an Alexia crunchy snack and the Cheftestants have clearly been instructed not to say, “But this snack food is garbage!” Instead, they talk about the difficulty of pairing food with Alexia’s “big flavors.” Heh. Like salt.

Poor Jen, who has totally lost her mojo at this point, overcooks her pork and hopes and prays that Padma and Charlie come to her station first, as the pork is continuing to cook in its juices.
Naturally, she’s last.

So Eli wins. Which pains me more than you know—and Ash, Robin, and Jen are in the bottom. Oh well.

Ash comes up with this surprising statement: “Eli deserves a win, he’s an amazing chef.” And then it occurs to him that he’s turning into that guy—you know, the guy who has nice things to say about everyone except for himself. (Oh Ash, you are so beyond being that guy.) And he straightens up, musters his most macho voice and attempts: “Not that I didn’t deserve the fucking win.” Not convincing, buddy.

The elimination challenge is something Kevin, or Red Thunder as I like to call him, must’ve cooked up in a dream: The Pig and Pinot challenge: Pair a part of the pig with a bottle of pinot noir. So they go to this magical restaurant in Vegas where the waitresses fly in the sky to get wine bottles (or did I hallucinate that?) and taste the different wines to pair with their pork.

Eli, still flying high from his Quickfire win (not literally, in this case), sniffs: “There are clearly a lot of amateur palettes in this group.” Oh Eli, just shut up.

Back in the kitchen, everyone starts cooking their pork. There’s a little skirmish between Goofus and Gallant, but it dies down quickly. No blood is spilled.

At the Pig and Pinot event, swine flu is but a rumor, as the guests arrive, hellbent for pork.

In elimination, Goofus, Gallant, Kevin, and Jennifer are the Top 4. (With all due respect to Michael I, that’s pretty much my actual Top 4 of the competition.)

Toby Young particularly appreciates the fact that Jennifer picked a “hairy armpit” pinot noir, as opposed to the “shaved armpit” chosen by the other cheftestants.
Thank you, Toby Young, for ruining pinot noir for me for life.

But in the end, it was Red Thunder’s challenge to win and win it he did. His pork pate was apparently a revelation. His joy at winning this challenge was actually kind of adorable.

Now the Bottom 3: Ash, Laurine, and—ouch—Robin.

“I hope they make the right decision,” Goofus says ominously.
“Me too,” says Michael I.
“What is the right decision,” snaps Gallant, clearly as annoyed as I am by this tomfoolery.
“Big R, little obin,” says Michael I. Such a rapier wit. “I hope grandma goes.” (Could these people be more hateful? Aaargh!)

Judging is harsh, because there’s an awkward moment where Chef Palmer reveals that Laurine has no idea how to make a pork rillette, and Robin’s pork wasn’t porky enough, and Ash’s definition of making “my food” is apparently coming up with a good idea, panicking and making something that tastes like shit.

As the judges deliberate, Ash sits in the holding room, slaps his forehead, and says, “Oh, I forgot the flavor!” (Funny.)

Commercial break. (A question: Was that Ali McGraw in that Macy’s ad? Random.)

Judgment time: Needless to say, I’m holding my breath, hoping that Robin sticks around a week longer. (Not that it’s ever going to occur to these numbskulls that maybe they’re wrong about her—but it still pleases me to see them so lathered by her presence.)

And Ash is gone! In parting, he would like to point out that Preeti, Ron, Mattin, Jesse, Hector, Ashley, Jennifer Z, and Eve all probably deserved to stay in the competition longer than he did. But it was, indeed, an honor to work with them. . .

Friday, October 9, 2009

Here Comes the Snide: The Project Runway recap

Divorcée? Really, Project Runway? Divorcée? What year is this? 1961? Next week, the contestants will design for harlots. Or maybe scallywags.

I actually felt for these poor women, standing up there sheepishly in their ugly wedding gowns. A few looked like they had gotten married at the Grand Ole Opry. Aging flowerchild Stephanie (only cruelty free products!) clearly got married during the dawning of Aquarius. And then there was the awkward fact that the ink had not yet dried on some of their divorce papers.

For the designers, who had to use the old dress to make a fashion-forward look, the key was volume. The more fabric, the more appliqués, the more beading, the more lace, the better.

Which was how Shirin totally got screwed. Not only did she get paired with Charlie (wow, she was a pip, huh?), who wanted peacock feathers and a Cher “Half Breed” moment, she had to work with a polyester sheath dress.

“I got nothin’ to work with here,” said Shirin, sighing. (Seriously, could she be more adorable?)

To make matters worse, Tim Gunn reported that the designers could only purchase 2 yards of fabric. (At which point, Shirin looked like they had just told her that tickets to the Taylor Swift concert had sold out.)

Turns out, Gordana had been “diworced,” so this challenge was really triggering some emotional stuff for her. She called up her two (gorgeous) teenagers and they weren’t home and she had a little meltdown.

The thing that sucked was, nobody consoled her. They all just kind of stared at her, like, “Bummer that you’re crying.” What a bunch of emotional pygmies.

Anyway, Gordana pulled herself together, but I can’t say the same for Shirin, who was sadly pasting peacock feathers on her mini dress when Tim Gunn came over to rescue her.

Tim Gunn pointed out that the peacock feathers looked a bit random and Shirin burst into tears. And let me tell you, Tim Gunn knows what to do when someone is crying. You hug them. Soothed by the tender touch of Gunn, Shirin got back to work—her pluck and resolve as intact as ever.

Meanwhile, Epperson’s plan to master the challenge was to “use as little of the dress as possible.”

Tim pointed out that the challenge was, in fact, to use the old dress to make a new, empowering, “divorcées rule!” kind of dress.

“Oh, I must’ve misunderstood,” said Epperson. Ya think?

Nicholas hated what he was making for his client (that makes two of us, bb) but she loved it—a little too much.

“I love you and I want to have your child!” she announced.

Noting the mortification on Nicholas’s face, she hastily added, “Not really. It’s just an expression.” (Just for the record, I Googled the phrase “I love you and I want to have your child” and it came up 2 times.)

My God did these designers send some drek down the runway, or what? These dresses were so ugly they seemed downright. . .German.

“Where are the beer steins!” chirped Michael Kors, never one to pass on an Oktoberfest joke.

So Gordana wins, which is so great, because her dress was totally bitchin’ and she’d had a bad week (and, if you watch Models of the Runway, you know that her bad week was about to continue.) But Shirin got a lot of love for her white mini dress, which was also great.

(Cue the theme to her Disney special:
She’s plucky!
She makes her own luck-y!
She’s a designer who digs in!
She’s a designer made of win!
She’s Shirin!)

Irina also got praised by the judges but I was glad that she didn’t win, partly because she’s getting a little big for britches and partly because I wasn’t mad about her dress. Yeah, the color was nice, and yeah, she did the best job of incorporating elements of the original gown, but it still looked kind of MOB (that’s mother of the bride for those not up on Kors-speak).

The bottom 3 were Christopher, who made some sort of puffy “metallic garbage bag” that he felt defined himself as a designer (ruh-ro), Epperson, with his hideous Oktoberfest moment, and Logan, who created the least flattering pair of pants seen on TV since Urkel.

And it came down to Logan vs. Epperson. Hottie vs. Slowsky.

What would Project Runway do? Keep the gorgeous, but clearly less talented designer? Or keep the middle-aged man with a somnambulistic manner and no chance of a spin-off series?

Who am I trying to kid? Epperson never had a prayer.

And somewhere, Qristyl with a Q and an I and a Y is pointing and laughing.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Adventurous Nutty Americans: The Top Chef Vegas recap

Oh hey, Top Chef. Nice of you to join us this week. Hope it wasn't too much of an inconvenience for you. . .

So the word of today is hyperbole.
Let’s define it.

Hyperbole: –noun Rhetoric.
1. obvious and intentional exaggeration.
2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”

Look, we’ve all used hyperbole from time to time. Sometimes I look back at old movie reviews of mine and cringe at the “performance of a lifetime” or “film for the ages” that I’ve dropped. (On second thought, Made of Honor really wasn't all that good.)

But Ash took hyperbole to a whole new level in praising Goofus. I mean, what WAS that? Cleaning Picasso’s brushes? Why not add, scrubbing Gandhi’s toilet? Or sharpening Einstein’s pencils? (I just realized that my analogies were no more outrageous than Ash’s. And that’s because it’s IMPOSSIBLE to come up with an analogy that is more outrageous than Ash’s.)

So I repeat: What was that?

Is Ash just totally over the competition and wants out? Is he majorly crushing on Goofus? Does he really believe that Goofus is a culinary genius and that he, Ash, is a mere foot servant? I have no idea.

But the question: Would Ash’s act of self-sacrifice be his undoing? (This cliff hanger would work a lot better if 99 percent of you hadn’t already watched the episode.)

The episode started out harmlessly enough. The Cheftestants were forced to crank a slot machine and play a kind of culinary Mad-Libs—making dishes inspired by random word pairings like “nutty, tangy Latin American” and “blue cheesy Middle Eastern.”

One of the words that many of the Cheftestants got was “umami,” which basically is a kind of savory, earthy flavor, mostly associated with mushrooms.

At this point, Eli seems perfectly content to let his asshole flag fly and hogged most of the mushrooms.

The guest judge was Tyler Florence and he was so supportive of the food he liked (“good job!” and “I love your flavor combinations!”) that it was doubly awkward when he just chewed and stared.

Jen was sick and forced to be an “Adventurous Nutty American”—which is pretty funny, when you think about it.

Anyway, the bottom 3 were Eli, Jen, and Robin.

The Top 3 were Kevin, Goofus, and Michael I.

And Kevin wins! Just like Robin in the first episode, Kevin was offered the high stakes option: immunity or $15,000. He took the 15 grand, which was the right move. Look, on the first day of the competition, before you know the lay of the land and the pecking order, you take the immunity. But at this point, if you don’t think you can win, what are you still doing there? (Yes Ash, I’m talkin’ to you.)

So Padma tells the chefs there’s going to be a dinner party and, because they apparently forgot to TiVo seasons 1 through 5, they are totally fooled.

“It’ll be nice to have a night off,” they all agree.

But surprise, surprise! They’re not attending the dinner party, they’re making the dinner party! Who could’ve possibly seen that coming?

And this is not just any dinner party. This is a party for the prestigious, highly coveted, internationally renowned. . . Macy’s Culinary Council? (Macy’s and Culinary and Council seem like another one of the random word pairings that came off the Quickfire slot machine.)

So the chefs are paired up to make food for the members of this august body, who include the likes of Tom Douglas and Nancy Silverton.

Eli and Ashley are making prawns and gnocchi and beets.

Michael I. and Robin are making seared tuna and pickled Asian pear.

Ash and Goofus are making a deconstructed ravioli carbonera and halibut.

Jennifer and Kevin are making barbecue kobe beef in a cardamom broth.

Gallant and Laurine are making . . . wait, what the hell are they making? (Top Chef chose to completely ignore this no-drama duo during the cooking portion of the telecast.) Turns out they were making pan roasted halibut, for what it’s worth.

So Michael I reverted to his douchey ways and kept patronizing Robin and trying to fix her food and ignoring her insight into Asian flavors. Whatevs.

Goofus had a meltdown when he lost power on his wok and had to recook his halibut. Ash cleaned Goofus’s utensils.

At one point, Eli just randomly announced “beets and prawns. It makes sense. It just fucking makes sense.” And Ashley walked away, disgusted.

Before judging, Goofus and Gallant have their first tender moment since the time when Gallant got a bike for Christmas and Goofus got a lousy ski jacket (cause he ripped his old ski jacket in recess) and Gallant said, “You can have my old bike, buddy. And we’ll fix it up together and make it super fast!” and the whole Voltaggio family hugged and laughed.

Turns out, Goofus is not feeling too good about his twice-cooked halibut. And when he’s vulnerable, he loses that cocky edge and goes crying to Gallant, who is always there for him, as a proper big brother should be.

The Top 2 teams were Jennifer and Kevin and Gallant and Laurine. Both dishes were super yummy, but Jennifer’s cardamom broth was heaven and she wins a $10,000 Macy’s gift card.

“Kevin will get a suit out of this,” she says, putting the Macy’s husky department on alert (I kid, I kid).

The bottom 2 were Ash and Goofus and Ashley and Eli.

Back in the waiting room, Kevin rather innocently began speculating about what Goofus had put in his dish and Gallant would have none of it.
“I’m tired of dissecting other people’s dishes!” he said tersely. When Gallant is mad, we all suffer.

Cut to Ash’s show of Biblical devotion to Goofus and Goofus not sure whether to be pleased, embarrassed or freaked out.

Meanwhile, Ashley and Eli had undercooked their prawns and overcooked their gnocchi—and besides, who the hell thinks prawns and gnocchi go together anyway?—and Ashley is OUT.

Can I just say something? I understand that Top Chef has a policy of booting a person from the team that made the worst dish. And I understand that the prawns and gnocchi were worse than the dry halibut. But Ash should’ve gone. He’s mediocre and, worse than that, he knows it. Ashley, on the other hand, was actually showing some promise.

Oh well. Next week, a smackdown between Goofus and Gallant! That is, if Top Chef can take time out of its busy schedule to be on next week. . .

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Meet Oscar

Thought y'all might want to know a little somethin' about my new pup.

Age: 5 and a half months
Breed: Terrier mix
Weight: 13 pounds
Adopted: From Annie's Orphans in Gaithersburg, MD
Ears: Larger than you'd expect
Fur: Smooth, with arbitrary patches of scruff
Disposition: Lovin’ it

Turn ons

Belly rubs
Rolling in dead things
Anything that squeaks
Awesomely large sticks
Shoes (the more expensive the better)
Table ends
Neighborhood kids
Tug of war with Ruby
Ruby’s kibble
Shag rugs
Pointy ears, because they rule

Turn offs

Vacuum cleaners
Car rides
Cats, who mock me from afar
Going to the vet
That one annoying dog at the park
Crate training

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ruffle Kerfuffle: The Project Runway recap

There’s an old expression in fiction writing: “Don’t put the gun over the mantle unless you plan to shoot it.”

Heidi Klum, apparently, is not familiar with that expression.

“One or more of you will be out,” she said ominously, not once, not twice, but five times throughout the course of the show.

Hell, if you’re going to do a misdirection, why not go for the gusto: “One or all of you will be eliminated.”

Because as it turned out, only one designer got cut. Just like, uh, every other show.

Heidi, you sneaky fraulein, you!

Actually, there was at least one misdirection on the show that I totally approved of:
I’m referring, of course, to the powerful, unstoppable pairing of Christopher and Epperson.

Ohhhh, they’re going to win, I thought, when Chris and Epp got paired for the Macy’s I.N.C. challenge.

Ohhhh, we’re going to win, thought Chris and Epp when they got paired for the Macy’s I.N.C. challenge.

What followed was the thing that happens everytime there’s a group challenge: One team, basking in a kind of smug confidence, flaunts their awesomeness all over the studio. Not only are they designing the best garments, but they are getting along so well, nurturing and enriching each other’s creative experience, showing the others what team work is all about, proving that talented people don’t need to snipe at each other to get great results.


Yup, Christopher and Epperson were in the bottom two, with their weirdly shiny shirt dress and their janky tunic, which made me laugh. A lot. Especially when Christopher cried.

Actually, none of the duos were particularly contentious. I mean, Gordana and Irina clashed a bit because Gordana was being too subservient. The horror.

Shirin and Carole Hannah probably debated who was more likely to become the next Powerpuff Girl.

Althea and Logan smoked a giant bowl and happily got to work on their garments.

Oh, and have you heard that Nicholas doesn’t like ruffles? Yeah, for everytime Heidi said “one or more of you will be out” Nicholas countered with, “And I raise you one ‘I hate ruffles.’” At least in Nicholas’ case, there actually were ruffles to be worked up about.

Can we talk about poor Logan? There he is, just making his garments, rocking his little ski caps and skinny jeans, charming us with his rapier wit (oh wait, scrap that last one) and everybody wants him. If I’ve done my math correctly, the only contestant who doesn’t want Logan is Epperson. Factor in the models and he’s the most objectified guy on Lifetime since Dean Cain starred in I Do (But I Don’t). Poor guy, must be awkward for him. (Call me, Logan, I’ll comfort you.)

Meanwhile, can we can have an amen, a what-what, and a hallelujah! Because Michaels Kors is back!

When I looked at Louise’s hideous dress and thought, “What does that remind me of?” His Royal Orangeness was there to say, “It looks like a bridesmaid dress with a ruched on shower loofah.” Yes it does, Michael Kors. Yes it does.

And when I looked at Chris and Epp’s janky tunic, Michael Kors was there to explain: “It looks like a teal charmeuse disco puppet.”

So Irina wins. Can I say that I loved her dress? She’s turning into a serious contender. (I don’t know why she didn’t make that her winning Macy’s party dress, but maybe it was too hard to mass-produce?)

Anyway, it came down to Christopher and Louise. Turns out, Christopher did reinvent the shirtdress. He just reinvented it in a really ugly way. But these ruffles have ridges. . .Louise is out! And Christopher is. . .safe.

“I had fun,” said Louise, racking her brain to think of the names of any of the judges.

And with that, she went off to write the next installment of the Vagina Monologues.

Hilarious Lifetime programming I won’t be watching this week ™: Say Yes to the Dress.