Friday, July 30, 2010

Filler, Not Killer: The Project Runway recap

First, I hate when Project Runway overlaps with Top Chef because doing two recaps a week is a major pain in the butt. Yes, it’s all about me.

Second, an hour and a half? Really, Project Runway? The last time I was clamoring for an extra half an hour, Santino was making punk lederhosen. But especially not now, since the show is not exactly in its prime, if you know what I mean.

Anyhoo, dear readers, I make no promises that I’ll be able to crank out these recaps in a timely fashion every week, at least not until Top Chef season is over, but for now, away we go. . .

Let’s meet some of the newbies, shall we?

There’s Ivy, whose incredible self-confidence is tempered with just enough irony—a kind of “You get that I’m totally full of shit and this is my TV persona don’t you?” wink—to make her bearable.
“This is going to be the Ivy Show!” she announces. “I’m a force to be reckoned with.”

Next, there’s Casanova from Puerto Rico. Yeah, dude’s name is Casanova. And let me tell you, he is every inch the heartbreaker. Okay, so he’s actually kind of sweaty and lumpy.
Also, Casanova’s accent brings the instant hilarity:
“Will New Jork jeat me? Or will I jeat New Jork?” he asks. Jeat = beat, btw. “Will New Jork take me? Or will I take New Jork by the balls?”

(Sing it with me folks: If I can take it by the balls, get Anna Wintour to answer my calls. . . it’s up to jou, New Jork, New Jork!”)

There’s cute little AJ, a poor man’s Daniel Vosovic, who designs for punk rock girls in Missouri. Both of them.

He’s very concerned that he’ll have to interact with someone scary, scaly, and old: Enter Peach, who is—gasp!—50!
“Am I going to be the oldest? Hell to the yes!” says Peach.
Am I going to overcompensate by using young person’s lingo? SFM!

We also meet Kristen, a former graphic designer who is a Johnny-come-lately to the world of fashion.
“I allow mistakes that I make to be part of the piece.” she says. “I embrace the crooked zipper.”
And her hasty exit from the show begins in 3, 2, 1. . .

Next, we meet the genuinely nutty Jason, who seems to think that his ridiculous bowler hat has some sort of intimidation factor. Honey, I’ve seen A Clockwork Orange, and you ain’t no Alex.
Jason is also the guy—and we get one of these every season—who has to go through great pains to tell us that he’s straight. He boxes! He likes boobies!
When people think he’s gay, “I have to straighten them out,” he says. See what he did there?

I know Mondo is going to bring the funny, but I haven’t quite figured out how yet.

Anyway, so all 17 (!) designers meet at Lincoln Center, the new home of Fashion Week.

Bad news, say Heidi and Tim. You’re not really on the show yet! The fact that it’s being filmed and aired on TV is besides the point! The show isn’t the show until we say it’s the show, get it?

So they’re all going to have one final “audition”: They are instructed to pull a garment from their suitcase and incorporate it into their design.
But, wait, there’s a twist: Now they have to hand their garment over to the person to their right.

This is particularly discouraging for Casanova, who had pulled out his $1,007 pair of Dolce & Gabbana pants. (I love that he insisted on mentioning those 7 dollars) and for Mondo, who was so going to wear that kilt tomorrow!

A few observations from the studio:

PiperLime is to Bluefly as Lifetime Network is to Bravo. Discuss among yourselves.

Mood Annex? Me no likey. Actual brick and mortar Mood please next week.

I can’t tell what’s worse: Jason’s design toolbelt (which Tim Gunn calls a “design corset”) or his actual design.

Mondo is making something . . .matronly? Didn’t see that coming.

Something else: I really feel sorry for eventual loser McKell because Tim Gunn totally encouraged her design. (Not before he faked her out with a “Can I be honest with you? . . . I think it’s adorable!”)
(Also, because her design was about 10 times better than the drek vomited out by Bowler boy and Casanova.)

But I’m ahead of myself.

Some halfway decent stuff comes down the runway, especially considering that they had 5 hours to create it—the shortest time ever on Project Runway.

I particularly liked AJ’s ballerina-on-crack design and Sarah’s military-inspired jumpsuit, and Christopher’s smart little cocktail dress.

You know what I didn’t love? Eventual winner Gretchen’s dress. I found it kind of blah. But if Selma Blair likes it, my opinion is obviously invalid.

The bottom 6 are:
Ivy who is criticized for getting a pair of pants and making . . a pair of pants out of them. (“I guess this won’t be the Ivy Show, after all,” she cheerfully shrugs.)

Youngblood April, a recent fashion grad, who pretty much lives in that thin line between “deconstructed” and “poorly made.”

Bowler boy, who made “my hairdressing cape when I get a haircut.” Good one, Heidi!

Poor McKell, whose oddly shaped top did have an awkward “dicky”-like appearance, but whose playful colors and full mini-skirt appealed to me. (Her garment is pictured above.)
Michael Kors calls her dress a “disco apron.” (And that’s a bad thing?)
She is also cited for PiperLime accessory wall abuse.

Casanova, whose barely-there dress inspired all the best Kors-isms of the night:
“She’s a mother of the bride who’s also a pole dancer,” his royal tan-ness says. “She’s a pole dancer in Dubai.”
Nina finds Casanova’s look fascinating: “Fascinatingly bad.”
Selma Blair adds her two cents: “I loved how daring it was in the back. I also loathed it.” Heh.


Nervous Nicholas, whose ballgown with the sweater ribbing was just plain ugly.

So there’s all this suspense about who’s going home, as Heidi implies it could be a massive cut.

In the end, though, it’s just poor robbed McKell. I knew there was no way they were getting rid of nutty Jason and Casanova.

Tim Gunn has an awkward moment with her in the green room where he calls her out for her “dubious styling.”
Sure, blame the PiperLime accessory wall.

The show ends with all the designers saying goodnight to each other, Walton’s style. For this they needed the extra half an hour?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pea Brains: The Top Chef D.C. recap

I love the name Aaron Schock, because it totally sounds like the lead singer of a punk rock band, not the perky (and abtastic) Young Republican that he actually is.

Anyway, Rep. Schock is in the house, wearing his smart little congressman pin (and a suit, you pervs!), to judge the Quickfire Challenge.

Turns out, members of congress can’t be wined and dined the way they used to and can only be served food on tiny sticks.
(My next cocktail party? I’m totally serving blocks of cheddar cheese with American flag toothpicks. Now that’s classy.)

The challenge is simple: Make a bite-sized hors d’oeurves that fits on a toothpick.

(I was amazed at how many Cheftestants instantly went for kabob. Sort of a super literal translation of the food on a stick concept, don’t ya think?)

The best part of this Quickfire Challenge? Watching Angelo chop up those vegetables. It was so fast it reminded me of Franklin, the lovesick vampire, speed-texting the word “motherf**er” on True Blood, for those who get the reference.

Anyway, a Congressman is actually the worst possible Top Chef judge because, as Amanda points out, they smile constantly.

So while Padma looked annoyed at many of the miniature offerings (Padma was in a particularly bad mood this episode—more on her later), Rep. Schock kept that inscrutable campaign smile going. It was impossible to tell what the little bugger was thinking (except “cut welfare and drill for oil” of course).

Stephen for his part, was very very confident that his 3-course meal on a stick would take home top honors (and damned if it almost did.)

Bottom 3: Alex, Ed, and Kelly.

Top 3: Kevin, Angelo, and Stephen, who was praised for putting “a lot on a stick.”

In the end, Angelo won $20,000 and immunity for his cucumber cup with spiced shrimp and cashew.

But Kevin was drinking the Haterade.
“If they like eating Chinese food all the time, that’s their problem.”
Who is this “they” he was referring to? Aaron Schock and . . . the third gunman? Because as far as I know, Schock was judging alone and for the first time.

The Elimination Challenge is to make a power lunch for 24 diners at the Palm Restaurant in D.C.

They draw knives to pick a protein and Andrea gets swordfish, which she doesn’t like.
Her solution? To cover up the swordfish flavor as much as possible. Great plan, Andrea.

Both Angelo and Ed get these giant lobsters, which is really a disadvantage, because they have to be broken down. Plus, they obviously emit some sort of powerful radiation that will turn both Ed and Angelo into Lobster Man. Occupational hazard, I guess.

The other thing you need to know about Ed? The password is . . . pea purée. Keep that in mind.

Amanda and Kelly both have porterhouse steak, but Amanda totally can’t deal and removes the bone to make filets, which is kind of cheating.

Back at the house, Andrea is wearing the most awesome skull and bacon t-shirt that I need to own, now.

Tiffany and Ed are allegedly flirting. Everyone talks about those two as though there should be some “boom chicka waa waaa” music behind them, but all I ever see them do is talk. They don’t even throw in a stray cuddle.

“Ed is not flirting with me,” confirms Tiffany. “I got a man.”

Meanwhile, Kenny tells Alex about Ed’s pea purée and this gives Alex a great idea to steal: He, too, will do pea purée.

Brilliant! (If you think Alex’s idea larceny is bad enough, wait til you see what he does next.)

So the next day, in the Palm’s kitchen everyone is prepping their food and Ed can’t find his damn pea purée.

He asks everyone, except for Alex, oddly enough, who is sitting there stirring a giant bowl of pea purée.
Perhaps Ed thought to himself, “No one would be that obvious, would they?”

The devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

So Ed has to think fast and make some sort of vegetable medley to go with his lobster.

Something else of note happens in the kitchen: Kelly has a big vat of salt and she refuses to share it with anyone! In fact, just to prove to everyone that she only brought enough salt for herself, she dumps the whole thing on her porterhouse.

In the dining room, the cast of my favorite morning show, Morning Joe, is in the house! (Along with other D.C. players like Senator Mark Warner, Chef Art Smith, and Tim Russert’s cutie-pie son Luke.)

Host Joe Scarborough, who used to be one of those Newt Gingrich “Contract with America” congressman (I’ve since forgiven him), seriously bemoans the end of the days when House members were wined and dined with “huge steaks, smoking huge cigars.”
“Those days are over,” he says sadly.
Now, it’s just cheddar cheese on a flag stick.

(On an unrelated note, I totally want to be in a book club or, like, a pilates class with Mika Brzezinski, who I love.)

Poor Tom Colicchio has apparently been put in a timeout by Padma and has to eat in the kitchen by himself.

Out comes the food:
Kelly’s porterhouse with crispy potato arugula salad
Amanda’s NOTporterhouse with pomme Parisienne.

Everyone agrees that Kelly’s porterhouse is too, yes, salty, except for Joe Scarborough, because it reminds him of the good old days.
No one notices that Amanda’s porterhouse is actually a filet.

Tiffany’s swordfish with olive-raisin tapanade
Andrea’s swordfish smothered in a vanilla beurre blanc.

Everyone agrees that Andrea hates swordfish, and also people who eat swordfish.

Stephen’s pan-seared salmon with warmed vegetable salad
Alex’s applewood-smoked salmon, now featuring Ed’s pea purée!

People are frickin' licking the pea purée off their plates.

Angelo’s butter-poached lobster with foam
Ed’s lobster ballotine.

Nobody understands the foam.

Kenny’s peppered lamb with fig-pistachio bread pudding
Kevin’s double-cut lamb chops with olive and goat cheese rissole.

Consensus? Kevin’s lamb is too tough.

Afterwards, all the Cheftestants are talking Pea Gate.

“If Alex stole Ed’s pea purée, that’s kinda grimy,” says Kevin.

Alex is beginning to get wind of all this character assassination.

“It was coincidental that Ed lost his pea purée,” Alex protests. “I didn’t even know he was making pea purée!”
(Once again, I find myself wondering: Do they notice those big cameras following them around? The ones that record pictures! And words!)

And lest you were still thinking that there was a chance that Alex didn’t do it with the pea purée in the Palm kitchen, Kenny points out: “There’s no way Alex could’ve gotten his pea purée that silky if he just made it this morning.”

Ladies and gentleman of the jury, the prosecution rests.

Top 3 are Tiffany, and—dramah!—Alex and Ed.

I’m particularly happy for Tiffany, because she was so sure she was going to be in the Bottom 3, she even got “how to be in the Bottom 3” lessons from Stephen.

But of course, Alex wins. And of course, the thing that takes him over the top? His splendiferous pea purée.

Bottom 3 are Kevin, Kelly, and Andrea.

“I guess that’s what happens when you don’t share your salt,” mumbles Amanda. (My new favorite catch phrase.)

But Andrea’s disdain for swordfish and the people who eat it, did her in. And she’s going home.

As she and Kevin and Kelly hug it out, a truly sentimental moment, stinkypants Padma looks up and says, in her most villainous voice: “That’ll be all. Thank you.”

At least she let Tom Colicchio out of his time out.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dinner with Brezhnev: The Top Chef D.C. recap

Andrea wakes up in a good mood. She’s been in the top 2 for the last two challenges and she’s beginning to feel unstoppable.
“I’m in a good place,” she says, practically humming “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar.”

Meanwhile, Angelo is using the “S” word again: Strategy.
“I keep on changing my strategy,” he says. “Keep striving for more.”
Dude, this isn’t Survivor. Shouldn’t your strategy be, like, cooking really, really well?

Speaking of Survivor, the cheftestants are instantly confronted with a table of what Kevin calls “nasty proteins”: alligator, emu, rattlesnake, duck white kidneys (aka testicles).

Andrea is disgusted. But not because she may have to cook duck balls. Because her arch nemesis Michelle Bernstein is the guest judge. You see, Andrea has a restaurant in Miami and so does Michelle.

“I’m not sure if you ate at my restaurant and ate at hers there’d be much difference,” she sniffs.

Thing is, Bernstein has this little thing I like to call a James Beard Award on her side and is, well, pretty famous. Andrea, on the other hand, is a contestant on a game show.

So, as Andrea’s face contorts into a veritable mime’s gallery of expressions—a fake smile, a grimace, a wink, a stare-down—I’m pretty sure Bernstein is thinking: “Now, what was her name again?”

Anyway, they all get to pick their nasty protein and Angelo gets the duck balls, but then he doesn’t because there’s some sort of mid-game switcheroo (did anyone get the point of that?) and now Kevin has the duck balls and Kelly has the emu egg, which is large and green and looks like something from the Flintstones.

“Wait? Which is the yolk and which is the egg white?” Kelly asks Amanda, former keeper of the emu egg.

Amanda has that look on her face like when the waiter brings over one cup of decaf and one cup of regular and clearly has no idea which is which.
“That’s the yolk,” she says half-heartedly.

In a shocking move, Kenny is doing alligator 2-ways.
(Because normally he likes to present simple, straight-forward preparations.)

But the Bottom 3 are Stephen, with his insipid frog’s legs and Alex, with his chewy ostrich, and, yes, Andrea with her tough wild boar.
“I’m being called out by Michelle on national TV,” she moans. She had a nightmare like this once.

Top 3?
Tamesha, with her duck tongue, Amanda, who killed the llama (figuratively speaking), and Kelly, who mastered the emu egg with a simple omelet.

And the winner is. . . the sponsors! Because we cut to a commercial break. When we come back, there’s a random outdoor shot of some dudes playing basketball, with a few cherry blossoms in the frame. If the camera man’s job was to photograph the majesty of the D.C. cherry blossom, he failed.

The real winner is Kelly, with her silky omelet, that looked runny and undercooked to me. But what do I know? At least it had goat milk cheese and I could pretty much eat your foot if it was coated in goat milk cheese.

Anyway, Kelly is sent home for the rest of episode, or something like that. Because I swear, she is never seen again.

So the Elimination Challenge is called the Cold War (guess they couldn’t come up with a clever War on Terror-related food contest) and the cheftestants have to make a dish “best served cold.”

The twist here is that they will be splitting into two groups and judging each other’s dishes. Ha. Positively evil.

Then, they get to wander around the USS Sequoia, basically the boat version of Airforce One. (Because boats were so crucial to the Cold War?)

So Angelo is going around helping everyone with their ideas. Is this his aforementioned strategy? Or just Angelo being a know-it-all? Discuss among yourselves.

Kenny is freaked out by the whole “jury of your peers” thing, because he thinks that the other cheftestants will try to sabotage him.

“Kenny is so paranoid,” I write in my notes. (Oh, how young I was then.)

Amanda is making sure that everyone realizes just how truly, terribly, unbelievably, mind-blowingly horrible this judging situation is: “No one realizes how hurtful, vulnerable, and scary the impending challenge is,” she says. But Amanda does. Oh yes she does.

Tamesha can’t stand Amanda. “I could strangle her in a heartbeat,” she says, with a vaguely sociopathic calm.

Meanwhile, Michelle Bernstein is so totally in Andrea’s head. Girl can’t concentrate. Honey, if you let Michele Bernstein throw you off your game, the communists win.

Judgment Day.
The first team is Kenny, Kevin, Ed, Amanda, and Alex.
The judges, the, are Angelo Tamesha, Andrea, Tiffany, and Stephen. And suffice it to say, they make Simon Colwell seem like Paula Abdul.

Kenny’s duo of grilled lamb (what you were expecting a “single” of lamb?) is deemed “chewy” by Tiffany and his okra is called “slimy” by Angelo.

Alex’s sous vide lamb with beets and tzatiki is up next.
Tamesha found the tzatiki “heavy” and Andrea thought the beets lacked salt and texture.

As for Amanda’s chicken galantine?
Tamesha thought it needed salt.
Angelo said, “I could taste the proteins coagulating.” (Number 45 on the least appetizing phrases in the English language!)
Andrea got a big chunk of cartilage in hers.

Kevin’s surf and turf veal and tuna is up next. Stephen felt it “lacked acidity” and Andrea added that it “needs zest.”
At this point, Tom Colicchio could take it no longer. “Whoah. Did nobody taste the Meyer lemon?” he asked. Hello? Acid! “And the tomato added acidity,” he added for good measure.
Let the backtracking commence! On second thought, the peer judges thought Kevin’s dish was an acid-y delight.

Final dish? Ed’s sockeye salmon on pumpernickel with vichysoisse (pictured). So, were the peer judges chastened by their recent run-in with Tom’s common sense?
“I found the pumpernickel to be a dry sponge,” complained Angelo. “It wasn’t pleasant.”
“The lemon pieces were too big,” noted Tamesha.
That would be a no.

Now it was time to determine the most/least successful.
Although clearly Amanda, with her coagulating proteins and giant piece of nasty cartilage had the worst dish, the cheftestants decide to bestow that dishonor on Kenny. So, huh, he WASN’T paranoid after all. My bad.

Most successful? Acid Master Kevin.

Turnabout is a bitch, so Team B is up next.

“You should’ve heard what they said about your food,” says Tom to the new crop of judges. He says it in a twinkly, ironic way, as though he’s only joking. We know better.

First up, Tiffany with her ahi tuna and gazpacho
Amanda declares the gazpacho flavors to be excellent—and cartilage free!
Alex notes that it is “beautifully prepared tuna, perfectly seared.”

I like this team better.

Next, Andrea’s trio of tartares.

Kenny: The beef needed more seasoning.
Ed: It needed a little more something on each component.
Michelle Bernstein: Wait, who is Andrea again?

Stephen’s chilled beef with crispy rice is up next.
Kenny put down his fork: “I’m not wanting to take another bite,” he grumbles.
Says Ed: “I couldn’t taste the beef at all. It was like that old commercial, ‘Where’s the Beef?’”

Everyone takes a bite of Tamesha’s scallop with pickled rhubarb and something called long pepper and pretty much gags.
“It’s too spicy!” chokes Amanda.
“The scallop texture was . . .off,” says Kenny. (For a man worried about being thrown under the bus by his fellow contestants, he’s racking up a lot of road kill himself.)

Finally, Angelo’s sockeye salmon with cilantro.
“I couldn’t appreciate the flavor of the salmon,” says Kenny. (If that’s the worst dis Kenny could come up with, I get the feeling that Angelo’s dish is actually pretty good.)
“We’ve seen a lot of Asian dishes and they’re all beginning to run together,” says Amanda. Ooooh, burn.

Most successful? Tiffany.
Least successful? Tamesha.

So the top two, Tiffany and Kevin are sent before the (real) judges.
Tiffany’s tuna is expertly prepared but Kevin’s surf and turf is deemed delectable and he wins! And gets a trip to Hawaii. Somehow, he thinks Top Chef is springing for his whole family to go. Not sure that was part of the arrangement.

Bottom two are the predetermined Kenny and Tamesha.
And Kenny is still ticked.

“I feel that I’m here because I’m a threat to the other competitors,” he says.
But Michelle Bernstein, who feels that her mission in life is to the crush the egos of Top Chef contestants, replies: “I didn’t enjoy any of the flavors.”

Nonetheless, it is Tamesha, with her crazy long pepper and mushy scallop, who has to pack her knives and go home.
And suddenly even she is beginning to question Romeo’s motives.
“Angelo is a mentor,” she says warily. “But I wish I had taken more control over my own dish.”

Call me naïve, but I don’t really think that Angelo was trying to sabotage his fellow cheftestants, do you? Especially not Tamesha, whom he had the hots for. Am I total sucker for feeling this way?

Only time will tell. But the good news? Next week, people say pea puree a lot!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Man for No Seasoning: The Top Chef D.C. recap

Hey, it's Deuce Bigalow, Top Chef Gigolo.

Yes, Angelo was in full mack mode in the apartment with Tamesha. Invading her personal space, talking about wanting to "extract her inner passion" (ewww), clearly wanting to be the Spencer Pratt to her Heidi Montag.

Meanwhile, innocuous Ed Cottontail, aka the guy Top Chef fans would be least able to pick out of a police lineup, was making his own quiet moves on Tiffany. (He loves her laugh! They just understand each other!) You go, Peter Rabbit.

Off to the Quickfire Challenge, where Patrick O'Connell from the Inn at Little Washington is the guest judge and they are practically begging Tim to win a challenge. You see, the challenge involves blue crabs, something Tim, who's from Maryland, knows a thing or two about.

As Amanda aptly puts it: "Crabs are a religion in Maryland." Amen, sister. Praise Obrycki's.

Angelo turns to the camera and says, "Well, I had crabs. So it just brought back bad memories."
I kept waiting for a wink, a laugh, a tiny smile forming at the corner of his lips to let me know he was joking, but it never came. It never came.

Tamesha, run for your life!!!!

Andrea is dead to me, because she prefers stone crabs to blue ones. But what does she know? She's from Florida.

Ed Cottontail decides to take a page out of Angelo's book and make crabs with Thai seasoning. Angelo takes note of this warily.

For his part, Tim decides to let the natural flavor of the crabs come through and pretty much does . . . nothing to them.
"That's the star," he explains of the crab. "Give it the mic and let it sing." (But maybe you could, I dunno. . . suggest a song?)

It's Crab Fest 2010 over at Kenny's work station, where he's making a three-course crab meal. Show off.

Back at Amanda's station, Padma tastes the crab salad.

"Wow," says Padma.
"Is that a wow, yes, yummy?" asks Amanda. You've got to admire her optimism.
"It's . . . pungeant," says Padma.
So that would be a no.

Bottom 3 are Amanda, plus "I'd Rather Be Eating Stone Crabs" Andrea, and Kevin, who is beginning to lose his mojo.

Top 3: Ed Cottontail, Kenny, and Angelo.

Tim wears the look on his face that has truly come to characterize him this competition: Mild anger and bewilderment. "I guess I should've put some soy sauce in there," he grumbles.

And the winner is. . .Ed Cottontail! Gets the girl and he gets immunity.
What a stud.

The Elimination Challenge is to make a family style meal at an organic farm in Virginia. And as far as I can recall, it's a Top Chef first: The cheftestants are working all as one team. This is really unnecessary, because they all end up breaking into pairs anyway. But it does make for an awesomely train-wrecky planning session in the house.

Angelo and Kenny are clearly vying for top dog status and they start fighting over truly inane things, like whether they're drawing names from a hat to determine partners or food groups.

It's total chaos, with everyone shouting at once and picking sides. As moist-eyed Stephen notes: "It's too many cooks in the kitchen." (And really, how often does one get to use that cliche literally?)

In the end, it's no contest between Kenny and Angelo, considering the fact that Kenny has acquired such nicknames as Big Daddy, Black Magic, Black Lightning, Black Angus, and The Beast and Angelo has acquired the nickname: "That creepy guy who's always hitting on Tamesha."  Less catchy.

"Kenny is a natural leader," gushes Kelly.

It's decided that they will retain the same teams form the previous Elimination Challenge.
Everyone is okay with that, except for Ed Cottontail, who says: "I'm happy to work with someone else." Then he looks apologetically at Deconstructed Borscht's Alex and says, "It's not that I don't want to work with you." (His little ruse of pretending that he wasn't trying to dump Alex would've worked a lot better if everyone else wasn't totally cool with the previous pairings.)

Of course, Ed would prefer to work with Tiffany, with her great laugh and total understanding of him as a man, but she's saddled with Tim again.

"It's like I don't even have a partner," she says. I believe that's what the kids call a "dis."

On the farm, everyone is grabbing meats and veggies from the back of a truck. Tim hoards all of the turnips, which gets Kelly mad at him.

At some point, Kenny knocks over Kevin's cauliflower. Angelo thinks the 5-second rule is in effect, but it's probably just because he wanted Kevin to give people mad cow disease.
Kevin smartly throws his cauliflower away.

Angelo can't get over how "luscious" Tamesha's cherry. . .composte is. "It's super sexy," he says. Okay, just stop.

As for his own duck, "I basically made love to that duck." So now the duck has crabs.

Tim had some idea to do a vegetable mousseline, but then decided that, in keeping with his winning crab strategy, he would just let the flavors of the chopped veggies speak for themselves. (Oh but wait. . .his crab strategy actually lost.)

Amanda, still the soul of optimism, thinks her minestrone soup is delicious.

Kelly had extra time after making her eggplant dish and actually had the guts to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp. Impressive.

At the judge's table, where Eric Ripert is wearing a truly adorable scarf, the eating begins.

Amanda's soup had no pasta, so it's a failure as a minestrone, plus the veggies weren't cooked uniformly, so it's a failure as a soup.

Stephen's salad, "Left me cold," says Padma. Not sure if she was making a salad joke there or not, but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Kevin and Kenny nailed their cous-cous and curry, even if the curry was a little strong. "I like my beer cold and my curry hot," says Tom. Love that man. 

Tim's diced turnips, asparagus, and potatoes, possibly the least impressive Top Chef offering since Angelo smeared some peanut butter on a celery stalk, left "no impression" on the judges.

Tiffany's collard greens are undercooked.

Andrea's pork loin is scrumptuous, as is Kelly's eggplant accompaniment AND her rhubarb pie. "She gets extra credit," says Tom.

Angelo and Tanesha's duck is perfectly respectable, as is Ed and Alex's ratatouille stuffed beef.

The Top Two teams are Kevin (mojo rising!) and Kenny and Andrea and Kelly. And Kelly wins! Good on her. And, yes, I noticed that Andrea and Kelly have now essentially won two challenges in a row. That partnership is en fuego!

Bottom 3:
Tim, Amanda, and Stephen.

Tim, as usual, is incredulous about being in the bottom. (Of course, the fact that I used the phrase "as usual" in that sentence pretty much tells you all you need to know.)

Padma essentially tells the group, "We had a lovely meal in a beautiful setting ... and you RUINED it!" Everyone is appropriately chagrined.

Stephen's salad dressing is referred to as a "concrete truck." He looks, if possible, even more moist-eyed than usual.

Tim's diced veggies just sat there.

Amanda's minestrone was "amateurish."

And the loser is . . .Tim.

Time to be put out of his misery. He was a gentleman in defeat, offering some advice that perhaps he should've taken himself: "Make sure you season your food, guys." See ya back in Charm City, pal.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Giving the Business: The Top Chef D.C. recap

Can we just make one thing clear: I, too, have never had a baby (otherwise, you can be sure I’d be ditching this low-rent gig and getting on that Mommy Blog gravy train). But I wouldn’t be completely flummoxed at the prospect of making baby food.

I mean, what’s so damn hard? You crush some apples, you mince some peas, you stew some peaches. It’s not like babies turn to their parents and say, “I find this a bit bland. Perhaps some turmeric would excite my palate more.”

And yet, upon finding out that the Quickfire Challenge was to make baby food (in honor of Padma and Tom’s new little poopers) and a corresponding adult dish, Lynne said: “Oh crap. I’ve never had a baby, I don’t know what babies like.”

Try some coffee and some peanut butter, Lynne. Maybe put a toothpick on top. That should do the trick.

This was a high stakes challenge, meaning $20,000 was on the line, as both Tom and Padma were picking winners at 10 grand a pop.

“If I win, I’ll give the money to an orphanage in Thailand for kids with AIDS and HIV,” said Arnold.

“Hooker and an eight-ball please,” said Alex.

(A question: Do you think Alex looked in the mirror one day and thought, “Well, being America’s darling is out”— and just decided to fully embrace his inner douchebag? If so, well played.)

We learn a lot about our contestants with this baby food challenge.

First, we learn the sad news that Kenny lost his first wife and had to raise his daughter on his own.

We learn that Kevin has a baby on the way. (A great excuse to bond with Padma, by the way.)

We learn that Angelo has a baby—but, judging by the way he was hitting on Tamesha, no baby mama?

Speaking of Tamesha, she went from extra to speaking part this episode!

First, she wins Tom’s heart (and 10 grand) with her special licorice oil. (“I won 10 thousand smackers,” she said, adding a full-on Joey Tribbiani: “How YOU doin’?”).

Then, we find out that Angelo finds her sexy (really?) and that she totally shoots him down (really?)
“Angelo and I are really good friends, but there’s no way it’s going to happen,” she says,
(Who are you waiting for, Tamesha—George Clooney?)

Anyway, Padma’s pick for the baby food challenge is Kenny, which makes me happy.

Now for the seriously complicated (and, if you ask me, somewhat unfair) Elimination Challenge:

In teams of two, the cheftestants are asked to make a breakfast, lunch, and dinner that would be appealing to guests at a Hilton Hotel. (The winning dish will even be featured on the hotel’s menu.)

Here’s what made it so dang complicated: Unlike, say, the World Cup, where it’s survive and advance, this Elimination Challenge was LOSE and advance.

The winners of the breakfast challenge didn’t have to make lunch or dinner. The winners of the lunch challenge, didn’t have to make dinner.

To further add to the head-scratching nature of this Challenge, all of the dishes were eligible for the top prize. So even a two-time loser in breakfast and lunch, could end up being the challenge winner, if Tom, Padma, and co. so determined. (If anything, they were MORE likely to win, getting two more chances to impress the judges. See? Unfair.)

Finally, the entire team was being eliminated. Not just one member.

Judging the food were former Top Chef All-Stars Bryan V., Spike, and Michael I. Plus, Tom, Padma, and Eric, the lady from the Hilton Hotel, and some broad who sounded exactly like Zsa Zsa Gabor.

(A side note: Do you ever hate yourself for being attracted to somebody? That is the way I feel about Spike. I hate his dumb little hats and his dumb little name and his cooler-than-thou attitude. And yet. . .attracted. Someone hit me over the head with a frying pan, please.)

For the breakfast challenge, Tim let Tiffany take the lead on the crabcakes for their crabcake benedict.

(On behalf of all the good people of Maryland, I must say this: Tim, how could you? Tiffany is from Texas. They know from ribs and giant steaks and political nepotism in Texas. Not crabcakes. Have some Old Line pride and take charge of that cake! But I digress . . .)

In the end, Tim’s deference to Tiffany paid off: They won the breakfast round, along with Amanda and Stephen who made a poached egg and pancetta.

Totally predicted that those two teams would win round one. (Also have some swamp land to sell you on the Gulf Coast.)

Onto to lunch:

Angelo and Tamesha are able to work through their fog of sexual attraction and make a (semi) winning beef carpaccio with jicama salad.

Also advancing (I mean, uh, NOT advancing): Alex and Ed with their delish-looking scallops. Yes, Alex, you do indeed, cook the hell out of scallops.

So now competing in the dinner round: Kelly and Andrea; Arnold and Lynne; and Kenny and Kevin.

Naturally, with all the dinner options in the world available to them, both Kenny’s team and Lynne’s team choose to make shortribs.

Kelly, for one, is pissed about being the Bottom 3:
“We’re frustrated that we have to be cooking for our lives, feeling like we’re in the bottom of the competition,” she groused.

Maybe you feel like you’re in the bottom because you are in the bottom? Just a thought. . .

But Kelly and Andrea have a secret weapon that clearly Kenny and Kevin don’t have. I am, referring, of course, to THE BUSINESS. No, The Business is not The Situation’s Wall-Street-ready brother. It’s the jus of the shortribs. And, apparently, without enough business, your ribs ain’t all that.

Meanwhile, Lynne and Arnold are discussing facial scrubs. . . I mean, how long to cook the fresh pasta for their mussels in squid ink pasta.

Lynne is very afraid of overcooking the pasta, while Arnold is very afraid of not being ready on time.

Somehow, the pasta ends up being undercooked and Arnold is STILL to blame (at least according to Lynne.) Shady.

It seemed, at least to my eyes, that all three dinner dishes were relatively successful.

But somebody had to win and somebody had to go home.
Andrea and Kelly gave the judges the business—and they win! Not just the dinner round but the whole shebang! So totally unfair. (I’m sure Angelo’s business could beat their business.) But good for them?

And Arnold and Lynne are . . .OUT.

Lynne probably lost because she didn’t have any tattoos or piercings. At least that’s what she’s going to tell herself.

As for Arnold, I’ll miss the little bugger. He’ll always be more than a Louis Vuitton bag to me. And Arnold, for the record: At the final elimination? Your skin looked mah-velous.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

You Be Grillin': The Top Chef D.C. recap

Well, damn. I actually liked Tracey.
I liked the fact that she looked like Turtle from Entourage in drag.
I liked the fact she was swoony over Angelo.
I liked that the fact that her nutty internal monologue—“Put your back in it!” “Look at me go!” “Sugar snap peas!” (I think this was a profanity of some sort)—was never going to not be funny. 
I liked the fact that she was "psychic."
But mostly I liked the fact that she did the thing so few Cheftestants have done—completely spazzed over all the delicious food the other competitors were making. The moment she finished her picnic challenge, she gleefully made her way from station to station: Squee! Ribs! Yes! Pork butt! Yum! Lamb kofta!
“None of these are worse than mine,” she admitted, happily munching.
I’m going to miss that girl.

But, as usual, I’m ahead of myself.

The competition started with a shameless (does Bravo do it any other way?) promo for their new series: Top Chef: Just Desserts.

Johnny Iuzzini, who’s apparently a big deal in the pie world and might actually be cute if he just got rid of that Bob’s Big Boy hair, is the cohost, along with Gail Simmons. I’m glad Gail is getting her own show: She’s such the Mary-Ann to Padma’s Ginger.

So, as usual, the Cheftestants were completely freaking out about having to make dessert.

“It’s a dessert that always sends someone home!” they moaned.
(The logic here is somewhat faulty since everyone is making a pie. Also, it was the Quickfire elimination, which doesn’t send anyone home.)

Also, it sort of bugs me that these people can’t make a damn pie. It kind of reminds me of what happens on Project Runway (now seen on a competing network!) when the designers are asked to make a dress that’s size 8. They freak out like they’ve been asked to design a dress for a woman with an extra set of appendages.

In particular, Tracey had no idea what she was doing, leading to this hilarious moment with Andrea:

Andrea: What kind of pie are you making?

Tracey (truthfully): I don’t know.

Andrea: It’s top secret, huh?

Tracey (liking the way that sounds): Uh, yeah.

Andrea (slightly ticked): Alright, I’ll remember that.


But Tracey wasn’t alone. For the most part, these pies were a sorry lot.

But there were a few standouts: Kenny and Kelly.
Kenny won with his delicious looking Bananas Foster pie. (A good thing, too, because after last week’s banana pudding debacle, the banana needed a confidence boost.)

The Elimination Challenge? Make a grilled picnic lunch for Capitol Hill interns.

In an interactive moment on maxthegirl, I ask you to pick the next joke:

a. BBQ + Capitol Hill interns = The dream Bill Clinton had last night.

b. Whee! Another chance for Rep. Aaron Schock to break out his pink checkered shirt and teal belt!

(Google it.)

c. Monica Lewinsky was last seen grabbing a fork and taking off in full sprint.

Anyhoo. . .
Arnold was very upset about the grill challenge because, in his own words, “Not a grill guy. It’ll clog the pores way too fast.”

Arnold’s obsession with skin care is getting a little . . .strange.

We also find out this episode that pretty Amanda had a little episode involving, “pills, cocaine, and anything I could get my hands on” back in her 20s. Whoa. Didn’t see that coming.

There’s a funny moment where Amanda and Alex (lead singer of Deconstructed Borscht in case you forgot) are arguing about who gets the oven and Tom Colicchio walks in. It’s always embarrassing to get caught in a hissy fit in front of Tom, since everyone always tries to be so suave in front of him.

Later, in the house, Angelo muses out loud over Amanda’s skills in the kitchen:

“Amanda’s a good chef. Can Amanda beat me? No, she can not beat me.”
Glad we cleared that up.

So everyone has an exalted opinion of their own food:

Alex claims that he could “eat the ass out of this pig all day” (ewwww.)

Tim thinks that his dry rub is his secret weapon. (The bowel-evacuating duck apparently disagrees.)

Moist-eyed Stephen thinks that his bacon/sea bass dish is a can’t-miss. (“Unless the sea bass gets dry,” he says—twice.)

In the end, the Top 3 are Angelo with his lettuce wraps, Amanda with her ribs (nice!), and Arnold, who sacrificed his pores to create a yummy looking lamb kofta.

And crater-face Arnold wins!

“Surprise, I win,” says Arnold in an amusingly blasé way.

Bottom 4:

Timothy, whose ribs were okay, but whose cous-cous was bad-bad.

Tracey, who was right: None of the dishes were worse than hers. (Apparently, her Italian sausage was so bad, Tom Colicchio took umbrage on behalf of all Italian people. Now that’s some bad sausage.)

Stephen, whose sea bass was not just dry, it was inedible.

And Kevin, whose Puerto Rican BBQ tasted exactly like, well, a Puerto Rican BBQ—but not one manned by a professional chef. (Ouch.)

I was kind of hoping concerned looking Stephen would be the one to go, but no, it was Tracey.

“I deserve to go home,” she said. Oh, sugar snap peas.