Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Next Iron Chef: This Apple Thing Is Hard

So, when I sat down to recap this show I actually was eating an apple. I bought a whole bag of them. They're good for you! So I tried to take that iconic Iron Chef America shot where the chairman's nephew takes a big hearty bite out of a red apple. What I found is that it's totally impossible to do that without looking insane: I have a new found respect for the chairman's nephew and America's next top models.

Alton Brown is the host.

I'm sorry, but I'm not an Alton Brown fan. I should qualify that. What I mean is, I'm not a fan of his TV persona, at least not his wacky, frenetic Good Eats TV show persona. He's all bubbly and chipper and popping in and out of the frame. Peter and Travis actually like that show! I suppose I like the science behind it but honestly I can't deal. I did catch him on The Next Food Network Star and he was all dour and dry and mean. Which is to say, much more to my liking.

So we have Alton as the host, eight established chefs and 3 judges. I initially went over to the show's site to get some info, but I am immediately jealous to see that the "amateur gourmet" "New York's Funniest Food Blogger" will be recapping the show for the Food Network.At least it's not Andrea Strong. I can't dislike though because he actually seems nice and he looks like my cousin.

The eight chefs are John Besh, Chris Cosentino, Jill Davie, Traci Des Jardins, Gavin Keysen, Morou Quattara, Aaron Sanchez and Michael Symon.

The three judges are Donatella Arpaia, Andrew Knowlton and Michael Ruhlman.

Okay, so it'll be 8 challenges that take place around the world (pretty cool!) Not cool? The insane, organ-heavy soundtrack moaning and groaning throughout the entire show.

The first challenge takes place at the Culinary Institute of America. We meet some of the chefs and find out little tidbits, such as Besh was once a marine, Traci has the most experience, and some highly redundant personal philosophies.

Michael's is: "I'm in it to win it...you got it, bring it." I feel like he should cut this motto in half.

Julie's is: "I don't mind arguing a point...or making one." Huh?

Gavin is apparently the youngest, and has taken on the burden of "Representing every young chef in America."

MINI CHALLENGE: (ahem, the quickfire.)

The chefs, after meeting Alton Brown, are taken to a gym. Yes, a gym. I think this could have been done in a kitchen, but Old Alton says that the "Chairman" thinks cooking is a martial art and requires speed. Do we really need to maintain this magical iron chef thing for the whole season? Sigh. Anyway the chefs are going to be judged on timing and also skill; they must break down a chicken, fillet a salmon, do something to lamb, cut daikon (thin enough to read the paper through), shuck some oysters/clams and also get 2 cups or so of liquid out of a coconut.

I do like how we're getting some chef skills here (like on Top Chef when we found out Casey couldn't cut onions. Just saying.) Although, ironically, as Traci points out, most of these chefs are at the level where they have people under them doing these things.

Besh has the fastest time, but Sanchez does everything with the most skill, so he wins. Morou is incredibly fast but winds up slicing his hand open and also isn't as meticulous as the others.


"The Chairman," says Alton, "has a sweet tooth, but he likes his desserts...weird." The challenge will be to create 2 desserts, in 90 minutes, and one of the desserts has to use a savory ingredient. Also, they can't use butter, sugar or cheese.

Sanchez has the advantage so he picks his ingredient first; he goes for duck confit.

Michael picks bacon, Cosentino picks Tripe, Morou picks chorizo, Traci picks salmon roe, Besh has catfish, Gavin has squid and Jill gets left with beef shoulder.

They go to the kitchen to work, where I swear they are using Viking blenders. Does the culinary institute really have their students work with Vikings? Or is this product placement? I actually was given a Viking blender as a Christmas gift. It's almost too nice for my kitchen. It's hardcore.

The chefs are having serious problems in the hot kitchen. I actually feel kind of a kinship with them because of this; memories of overly-ambitious dinner parties gone awry fill my head. Ice cream machines aren't working, (been there) stuff won't whip (yup) and flan won't set. (okay I've never made flan..)

Michael is really having the most trouble with his bacon ice cream. Ha. In fact, when Alton comes over to see how it's going, the machine is going completely nuts, with cream just pouring out of the machine. And then, the tray just falls out. Michael looks like he might flip and Alton shows some smarts and starts edging away, saying, "I'll just walk away!" Michael decides to make it just a bacon sauce not a bacon cream.

Besh, who I like alot, is making a catfish stuffed truffle. I know! At one point he screams, "Why did I pick catfish!" The pressure from being from the south?

Cosentino is soaking the tripe in something to make it less...tripey. Good luck. I have heard that people often soak tripe in milk. During all of this, the soundtrack is still going nuts; it sounds like the Roman Army is about to come marching through. It's very distracting.

By this point, all of the chefs are bright red and sweaty. It really must be hot in there! That does suck. I've had things go straight to the garbage due to heat/humidity. For instance, pie dough. Oh, the heartbreaking moments I've had with pie dough! The tears! The apologies! The declarations that there is no going back, that it'll never happen again! And yet, year after year in the heat of summer, I always go back to that tricky pastry dough. Blueberry tart is just too good.

There weren't any disasters, which I suppose shouldn't be a surprise since they people are professional professionals. Michael is criticized for making something inspired by his pastry chef (the bacon creme french toast) and Traci is with him in the bottom two for making something topped with salmon roe, which they felt wasn't desserty enough.

I would honestly say there isn't much she could have done there, but maybe frozen the roe and covered it with white chocolate with some type of ginger essence? Because I was going to say that it's impossible to make a fish dessert, but Besh actually has won with his "Catfish three ways." Besh made a white chocolate hallah bread pudding with bananas foster and a catfish and grape truffle, and a parfait of catfish and white chocolate served in a biscuit, and some catfish beignets. I'm impressed!

He modestly says, "I don't claim to be the catfish dessert making king" - but I think we can safely assume that no one else is claiming this. It's all yours, Besh.

Ultimately, Traci Des Jardins is sent home. As Alton (very nicely puts it), "Sometimes there are ingredients that can't be wrangled." This moment really makes me see potential awkwardness of this show. I mean, the judges might actually KNOW these chefs, personally. Also these are some of the top chefs in the nation - how awkward to be sent home.

Personally, I think Michael should have been sent home. Bacon is so easy (compared to salmon roe) and he really did play it safe.

Traci does seem a little teary in her interview, but she says "I had lots of laughs. Tomorrow is a new day."

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Top Chef: Malarks Disses Hung

So in NY Mag's Grub Street they have an interview where Malarkey talks about his exit. I find it extremely irritating that he thinks Hung sucks for not helping CJ finish his cooking during the airplane competition.

Malarkey says:

He’s got a really young, immature soul. He’s not focused on the right things in life. There’s no point in being an asshole, and that’s how he comes off. When he was watching CJ die cooking at the airport, I was like, “Hung, help CJ,” and he just sat there and washed his knife, and I was like, “Oh, you little asshole.” I think he’s an angry little man.

Am I heartless for thinking this is a competition, not summer camp? I mean, there shouldn't be any cheating or backstabbing, no sir, but isn't part of the competition plating and cooking your food within the time limit?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

gym follies: yawn etiquette?

I was at the gym today by my work, on the elliptical before going to my usual Thursday night yoga class, when this guy walked over to me.

"Excuse me." He said. "But I noticed you're yawning. I noticed from all the way across the room."

I was unsure how to respond to this. Was he trying to pick me up? I don't think so. Was he saying I wasn't working out hard enough? I'd just started! I'm still baffled.

Then, he added "it's contagious you know." So I guess he was annoyed?

Ultimately I convinced myself that I yawn when I exercise (I do it lately during yoga and spinning too!) because I have a horrible heart defect and oxygen isn't going to my heart, and I'm going to drop dead.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Top Chef: At Last, a Real Challenge

So, we're in New York.

The big apple! Mean streets! My man Joey's town! The chefs are at Le Cirque. This is apparently Le Cirque's 3rd location. I was actually at Le Cirque last week for a Young Lion's event. Eh.

Padma walks in with the owner of Le Cirque. The chefs are served a special dish, a white sea bass wrapped in a russet potato. Padma says, "Pay attention to how this tastes. Because this round of competition is all about the classics."

The challenge is to recreate the classic dish in 20 minutes. Dale points out, "for 20 years that dish has been refined, and we have 20 minutes! We walk in there" (the kitchen of Le Cirque, and a service is actually going on) "and every single line cook was like 'who the fuck are you?'"

Malarkey is in a newsie hat. On backwards. My friend Peter is appalled by this hat. Peter is an accessories designer so I feel validated. "That hat! That hat!" he wails throughout the episode. It's almost like background music. I'm grown a bit immured to Malarkey and his parade of toppers gone wrong, but Peter's ire inspires me to say once again, MALARKEY STOP WITH THE HATS!

Hung, classically trained chef, is up first. "This quickfire is really not intimidating to me..." and I believe him. I really do think Hung enjoys cooking. He really does cook with gusto (although some would say freneticism.)

The owner likes Hung's - who he calls "Hang". "Bravo, this is close to the original." Hang is glowing.

When Hung goes back to the other Chefs, they want to know how his went. They also want to know how he cooked it! He says, "I can't really reveal that." Which I am totally fine with. I agree that it's kind of annoying of him to go on and on about how easy and simple it is, but I don't blame him for not telling them how he did it, and I don't think they should have asked him since the very challenge was to approximate how to cook the dish from eating it. And I especially don't think the chefs should have been so hard on him for not revealing it!

But I did learn last week that I'm one of the few people who doesn't dislike Hung. I had to do some soul-searching on that one, but I'm standing by it. Go on, hate me! I can't help it. I'm also going to admit that I think Hung should win, at the risk of alienating the people who read this who hate Hung. I'm sorry, but a blogger must be true to herself! What else does she have?

As for the other quickfires, Casey's is the top contender with Hung and Sarah and Dale's are pretty bad: Sarah's is raw, and Dale's is flavorless.


They're at the French Culinary Institute! Padma points out that this is the last challenge between the chefs and Aspen. She says they asked the French Culinary Institute to come up with the ultimate French test, and the school chose these ingredients to be the ultimate test
of skill and creativity...it's a potato, onion and chicken.

See, now this is my type of challenge (and quickfire). I feel like we're actually getting to see some cooking skill, as opposed to just crisis management (cook on planes, on trains, in trailers, make a fried egg on a pony climbing a hill! Devise a wedding banquet on 30 cents and unlimited canned foods! Make stone soup in a rocket ship!).

Hung: "Those are perfect flavor combinations. Classics. Score for me."

Also, Hung, as the winner of the Quickfire, gets an extra 1/2 hour to cook and he gets to serve first.

The Chefs get $200 dollars and go to the Union Square Greenmarket. I like the Greenmarket but I find Union Square area to be such a madhouse of NYU Freshmen. Dale spends most of his time following Casey around as they shop together. I think Dale should be a little less BFFing and a little more focused. "Casey and I get closer and closer," he muses. Great Dale, but what are you cooking?!

Casey is going to make a Coq Au Vin. I did make that once, at a dinner party. It took hours and hours -- seriously like 5 -- and some cheese was set on fire and the host had to clean out the oven in his underwear the next day and at the end, the dinner party of 12 had consumed 13 bottles of wine (and cocktails!) but it was delicious.

Hung starts to cook. Actually, first he screams "Whoo-hoooo!" and sharpens his knives frantically. "I want to do everything with finesse and grace and elegance." The other chefs check out his skills, and they are indeed, as Malarkey says, "Spot on." Hung is doing a sous vide chicken (in butter!) with a very very crispy chip of fried chicken skin. I'm not a huge fan of sous vide (At least not when I had it at WD-50.)

Malarkey is going for taste over presentation this week, making a sort of Shepard/peasant pie of chicken, pheasant, sausage and potato. Sarah is making a fricassee of chicken with couscous. Dale is making some sort of chicken duet.

TOM IS HERE! He raises eyebrows and strikes fear into the hearts of young chefs, as usual. He also introduces the panel of judges from the French Culinary Institute. An intimidating lot! It's the dean of classic studies, the founder, the dean of this and that, Jacques Torres and more. I have a soft spot for dear Jacques because I once wandered into his chocolate shop in Dumbo and he made me a hot chocolate and was very charming. Oh, French Men!

Dale says that it's the "last supper of chefs" and they are all "apostles." I am curious to who Jesus is in this tableau.

Hung is plating by himself. He asks for help but everyone says they are too busy to help him. That's fine with him, he understands. See? Now, Joey would have bellowed and raged and Howie would have gone on a maniacal rant about "making him an enemy" but Hung just plates it. Like a champ! The judges love his crispy chicken skin. It's called, "magnificent." There is some back and forth over the fluffiness of his potatoes, but the founder of the school points out, "Quite frankly, I ate the whole thing. I liked it!"

Sarah is up next, and her fricassee isn't getting any good reviews. She explains her chicken by saying "it makes me feel all warm and homey." It always makes me uncomfortable when the chefs get emotional about their food and tell stories. It's kind of like when waiters spend 30 minutes describing some menu item and get really verbose, like "These luscious raspberries are hand massaged by virgins in a purified water bath at exactly 98 degrees, to be the same temperature as your palate."

Dale goes next, and he forgets to put the sauce on the chicken! So it's actually kind of boring. People aren't enthusiastic. They think his duet of chicken concept ran away with him.

Malarkey's peasant pie is really revolting looking. I assume the meat is all underneath, and then there is a giant green cloud of potatoes covering the whole thing. Dale says, "what is that big green turd on his plate... because it was crazy." However, the judges are enjoying it. There is some question if the smoky sausage outstrips the chicken, but they (especially Tom!) really enjoy it.

Casey is last. They all enjoy her coq au vin, although Tom insists that it's not really coq au vin since coq au vin uses an old rooster. He insists this over and over again.


I do a quick poll (of my four guests) and find out that NONE of my co-viewers likes Gale. They think she's too judgmental or something. She's a judge! I can't believe it! Has the world gone mad? We are surrounded by beer bottles so perhaps their judgment was clouded.
(Next week, if I make them watch "Gossip Girl" again, we will be drinking tequila.)

I point out to Peter, "She's an editor at Food and Wine Magazine!"

"So what?" He says. "you just like her because she's a writer. She isn't a chef. She just sits and types."

This stumps me. Could it be? I point at my laptop ominously and say darkly, "I'm going to put this in my blog." Which might be the lamest threat ever, but....DONE. I ran into Peter on the F train today and gave him a chance to recant but he stands by his Gail opinion.

No revelations here; the top three is Hung, Casey and Malarkey The Newsie, but it's clearly between Hung and Casey. I think they're setting up a final two between Ilan and Marcel. Oh, excuse me, I mean Casey and Hung.

Hung is declared the winner.

The loss is between Dale and Sarah. Tom says something about wanting to know what drives them as individuals.

Dale delivers an icky speech (and you know I love Dale!) about how "cooking is love." Okay, ew. He then continues on about how food and"when you taste it, you know who got laid last night." Okay! First off, minus 1000 points for using the word "laid". Also, if I taste my soup and I know that chef got laid last night, I'm sending it back. Thanks.

I predict to my co-viewers that it will be Sarah who is sent home, since Dale is more amusing. They think I'm cynical. I think they're naive! Travis says, "Don't you think it's about the cooking?" To a point, my innocent friend, to a point. Anyway, I'm right.

Sarah, please pack your knives and go.

Sarah: "Thank you all. thank you for the ride. I had a good ride. I made it to the top five. I'm happy. I'm gonna miss all my friends...this doesn't define me as a chef."

Back at the chefs' holding pen, the four going to Aspen all congratulate each other and drink champagne. They give Sarah a plastic cup of champers to drink on her way out the door. Nice.

Casey waxes philosophical on the merry bunch: "all of us at one time have been on top and on bottom."

You said it, sister.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gossip Girl

Stay tuned! I'll be covering Gossip Girl for the Huffingtonpost.

I had to do some soul searching to figure out if I'm qualified to recap this. I'm ashamed to say that I am. I am trying to entice my Top Chef cohorts into watching with me, by creating a delicious peach/tomato salsa and some guacamole. Hopefully they'll take the bait.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Well hallo there. Fancy meeting you here.
So, here we are. Is it tacky? To invite you into my blog? Even with all of my creepy asides, I don't even know you that well. Have we had three posts yet? Will you think less of me? Would you like to come up for a drink? Oh, okay. You can stay. Please stay! Oh that? That belongs to my roommate. Wow, my room is usually so much cleaner. Do you want some water? I want some water. I'm going to go get some water.

All four readers, have you found me? I decided to start posting here because I can actually post it myself right after the show, or at least the morning after. So the good news is that I'll be able to post faster. And, I can fix my horrific typos when I notice them later instead of reading my post later (after I've woken up) and agonizing over spelling mistakes that have slipped through my fingers. And I can also probably be even more inappropriate.

On that note, I may sometimes post a totally ridiculous picture taken with a camera that was an aspirational purchase; a camera that I am totally unqualified for and have still not figured out. I will also make a very serious face.

Tom, you can also call me.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Le Bucks

I read an interesting article today. It's about a man who lost his job as an advertising executive, was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and found both contentment and health insurance working at Starbucks.

I realize that it is so uncool to be okay with Starbucks, but I am. Yes, their drip coffee is horrible. No, I do not need a coca-frappa-whappacino. And, yes, it's a little silly to say tall, grande and venti. But it always annoys me when a customer (on that note, it annoys me that they call them 'guests' but whatever) insists on saying small medium or large to the poor guy behind the counter, who in fact did not make up the naming system and would also like to say small medium or large. Anyway, I think I just like that they give everyone, even part-time workers, health insurance!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Top Chef: Food Flight

So, here I am on my own blog. Welcome. See the archives for my older top chef posts, including last week's.

Anyway. I actually have 2 people watching Top Chef with me, which hasn't happened since the first episode. Have I become more likable?

Padma, seeming alarmingly awake, bounds into the top chef bedrooms! Padma really is hyper. I don't recognize her. She's very emotive this episode. Padma runs into the Top Chef Bedrooms like it's Christmas and shouts that she wants them to make her breakfast. Honestly, she seems 11 as the chefs lumber out of bed and stagger into the kitchen. Malarkey apparently sleeps in a hat. Why?! Does anyone have any conspiracy theories? Dale is no fool: he says, "Breakfast challenge. I know it."

It's true. Their entire apartment has been turned into a kitchen whilst they were asleep! How did they not wake up? It really is like Christmas! Casey is in a bathrobe! Who will cry first? Then it'll really feel Christmas.


The quickfire is to make Padma breakfast. Of course. And of course they must use this ridiculous blender that the show is clearly doing a product placement for. Do they think we don't know these things? "With this blender," touts Padma, "You can make practically anything!"

"MARGS!" screams Travis, who is caught up in the moment of his first Top Chef viewing and who loves margaritas. As do I.

Hung says, "We all scatter like roaches." I nervously eye my kitchen. I did spy a roach there earlier. I hope Travis doesn't see. Anyway, it's (as Joey would say) New Yawk.

I am also wondering if this is all pre-coffee. Would the producers really be that cruel? I've actually made coffee with my eyes closed before. Dale confesses that he ran a brunch place in Chicago for about a year and it was voted best brunch.

Hung makes steak and eggs, and a smoothie with Gran Marnier in it and hilariously says, "I also put a little alcohol in it...for Padma." Sarah says of Mommy Dearest Padma, "we know she likes alcohol..." and then realizing how bad that sounds, she continues "and she likes marscapone cheese. And she likes healthy products." So Sarah makes egg cooked in french toast with multi grain bread.

CJ makes crepes. "Women" he confides "love crepes for some reason! They just have this thing with crepes." Yes CJ. And they also love SHOPPING and SHOES and have mugs that say "Hand over the chocolate...and nobody gets hurt!"

Ultimately Hung is the winner (I guess Padma really loved the snootful of liquor in the shake.)

"The game is about to change! Top Chef is hitting the road!" says Padma. All of the chefs are flying to New York! That's my town!

There's a montage of them getting ready for NY, during which Malarkey puts on a fedora. The hats are back. I laugh hilariously when they land in the Newark airport. Not quite there yet! Padma is waiting for them when they disembark. Casey says, "We knew that we were in for...something." Good prediction Casey.

Padma says that in order to actually make it to Manhattan, they'll have to get past the elimination challenge, set at Newark Airport. She then makes them check into a hotel "near the airport." Oh wow. Not quite a New York Penthouse! Padma cruelly giggles. There's a shot of the New York City skyline. "We could see it in the distance." says CJ longingly.

Elimination Challenge!

They all walk into a hanger, wearing hairnets. Padma is there in a hairnet, and she manages to look gorgeous. The challenge is to create a dish for business first service on an airline I won't name. They then have to pack it up and serve it to the judges and a group of "frequent fliers."
Hung, as the winner of the quickfire, gets to pick his protein first, and then none of the other chefs may use it. They get a tour of the kitchen of this airline, and it's huge. Hung looks depressed. This really doesn't feel like a very culinary challenge. Hung picks Chilean Sea Bass, since "it's oily, think, moist, it's really hard to dry it out." I guess that's a good pick, but I would have picked red meat, which I think would have screwed the other chefs.

Dale is making a peppercorn crusted fillet. CJ is making Halibut with some sort of succotash pilaf and a side of broccolini. Dale: "peppercorn crusted fillet is a slam dunk." Malarkey is making a 'surf and turf' of steak and lobster hash. Casey is making something with veal medallions. Tom is here! Tom: "fish is the last thing I'd order on a plane." Sarah is making salmon and a cous cous.

The chefs prepare their meals with no real mishaps. Hung gets some flack for not helping CJ. Eh, it's a competition! I think there's a difference between stabbing people in the back and not helping them. Our judges are the head chef of this airline, Anthony Bourdain (looking chic!) and Tom. No Gail! Tom is in a leather jacket and backwards Newsie Cap. I'm not going to say anything because I love Tom.

The frequent fliers are, as I predicted, Flight Attendants. The chefs serve the food and there aren't any real fiascos, except that they do have some difficulty figuring out the ovens inside the airplane. This challenge really doesn't excite me. Dale actually makes only 17 servings when he was supposed to make 18, so the last guy in the aisle doesn't get any food. Now it feels like a real flight! CJ gets the most maligned, for his overcooked brocolinni, which really does look very weedy. Anthony Bourdain says, "They were cleaning Bob Marley's house and found this in the closet...sickening."


The top three: Dale, Casey and Hung. The winner? Casey, for her veal medallions. I kind of think Hung should have won. I feel they are setting up Casey to be in the top three. She's only been middle of the road until now so I find this trajectory all very suspicious.

The bottom three: Malarkey, CJ and Sarah. The judges are stunned by the brocolinni. "I can't believe that was actually served.' says one of them. Tom seems very cranky this episode. Anthony Bourdain cruelly says of Sarah's salmon, "We're talking cat food territory." Ouch. Bourdain also says the broccolinni was "horrifying....you couldn't serve it in prison. It was wretched."

Tom adds that the broccolinni was "the single worst thing we've had throughout the entire competition." CJ looks totally morose. That did seem over the top cruel. Especially because Padma then says..."CJ please pack your knives and go."

CJ says, "Can I say something?" I have a moment where I'm afraid he'll pull a Howie. But he graciously continues "Just to say thank you very much for this experience. I appreciate all the feedback and it was a really great experience."

Padma looks like she's going to cry.

CJ gets a round of applause.

'"I made a lot of new friends. Made connections... I'm looking forward very much to the things that are going to happen in my life....I'd love to sit down and have a beer with Anthony Bourdain and talk shit about my brocolinni."

I really wasn't that engaged with this episode. Could I miss Howie? Say it ain't so.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Top Chef: Howie's Last Stand

I was sitting at my desk the other day, idly chewing on a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich and musing over something highly important like my incipient crow's feet or the merits of fish-oil pills, when a co-worker jolted me out of my reverie.

"What are you going to do? Tonight? About Tre?"

"Huh?" I blinked stupidly.

"He's gone. Remember?"

Readers, I felt the pain of parting all over again. A montage flashed through my head: one with much milk pouring, smiling, lifting of grocery bags and getting physical on the balcony. SIGH! But the show must go on. Tonight we even have a totally new episode. My TV says it's called "Chef Overboard," and I must admit that the chance of it being Howie lifts my spirits mightily.

Hung, in a rare moment of reflection, is musing about how he was sad to see Tre go. "It's shocking to me that he's gone...I'd rather lose to him than anybody else if I had to lose." Aw! I think we know Hung well enough to know that he silently adds "not that I'm going to lose
to this bunch of clowns."

Malarkey is talking about missing his wife. And dog. And restaurant! My god! His hats are so dumb but his life is so full. Sob! Bridget Jones, Singleton Blogger, tippity-types away, awfully jealous. Anyway, Malarkey says it's time to "focus up."


Padma is in basically a marching band jacket with the sleeves cut off. I have a horrible flashback to my own marching band outfit from High School. It had braiding, piping and a tall hat with a gigantic plume.

Our guest judges is Michael Schwartz. Michael's take on food is: "It's gotta be fabulous! It's gotta look great and it's gotta taste great!" Fine with me.

Our Quickfire is 10 minutes to shop in an aisle of the supermarket each chef draws randomly, and 20 minutes to cook (with limited use of the food pantry). This seems a bit unfair since some of the chefs draw much better aisles to shop in. Howie is in the canned fruit/processed juice aisle, for example.

Malarkey is in the canned seafood aisle, which he's happy about, until a little Tom Colicchio appears on his shoulder and whispers something about how Malarkey only ever cooks with seafood - so Malarkey goes for SPAM!

Howie, or as I call him, Mr. Bitchy Pants, is saying "I don't like this challenge!"

What kind of nut would?

Hung would. Hung is in cereal land and since he's 11 this fills him with excitement. The cereal aisle only filled me with despondence because sugary cereals were off limits. Hung actually says he wants to make something like from when he was a kid. "This challenge is definitely the most fun I've had. Because I'm playing with food. Like a child." Or something. "I love eating! This is what I do!" Back at the kitchen, he's grinding up scary cereals into a strange blue powder, which he is creating a sort of road with.

"Dude, are you building a smurf village?" says someone. Dale?

Howie's sauce falls apart...SO HE DECIDES TO PRESENT NOTHING!!!! Who does he think he is?! Says Howie: "Unfortunately I have no dish to present. ...it was just a mess. I'd rather not push myself to put out something I'm not proud of." It's like he think he deserves points for
having high standards! He did this in the very first episode! Howie, you're a chef, and the first duty of a chef is to MAKE FOOD!

Even my roommate is disgusted. "Oof!" says Jill, after Howie's speech. My roommate Jill is pretty dry and the fact that she's so turned off by this can't be good for Howie. Fine by me! I tell her I will quote her on today's write-up and that she should read it. I do not tell her
it will just be "oof." I will do anything to Add A Reader!

Ultimately Malarkey and his Spam of Wonder win the challenge. Hung's deeply strange meal gets a "what the fuck is that!" from the guest judge. Hung admits, "Well, it's a little different." Padma and Michael are deeply disappointed in Howie. Padma looks particularly annoyed.
I've been watching Padma enough to decipher this, I think. I'm pretty sure she blinks.

It's group work, of course - 1 group though, not teams. The chefs will be catering an ultra exclusive party, thrown by a nightclub I refuse to name, for a designer or something who I actually forget the name of. Continuing our budget theme, the challenge is that the budget will
be only 350 dollars to prepare snackies for sixty people.

Malarkey, winner of the Quickfire, gets to choose who the team leader will be. He decides to take it for himself. Smart move? I'm not sure. This will put him on the chopping block. The chefs go over some menu items. Malarkey is letting people "express themselves." I would say
he's letting people hang themselves...some chefs are making one thing alone and one thing together, but Howie, to redeem himself for the quickfire, is making 2 dishes alone. Go big or go home! Feel free to choose home!

Nothing too interesting happens at the supermarket except that Dale gives up the goat cheese that he was going to use for gougeres (hmm!) and instead decides to do yogurt/cream cheese mixture. (aghh!)

At the site of the challenge, the chefs find out this will take place on a party boat. Of course! Padma says, "You'll be working in tight quarters." My ears would perk up if Tre were still here...who KNOWS what happens when people are stuck at sea for long periods...?!

Sarah is making a savory tomato bread pudding. CJ is making a sewafood sausage (Malarkey's turf!) and Hung is making a salmon and cucumber dish: a "classic dish that people with an average palate would appreciate." I think he's forgetting about Tom's palate here. Tom
comes in and looks around. He leaves and remarks that it all seempretty simple and safe, pretty ordinary. Tom seems pretty subdued. Clearly he is missing Tre.

Howie, who I think is considering his legacy, muses about how he knows he been "tagged as not a team player" (to put it mildly!) so he's going out of his way not to be "pushy or aggressive." He says he's "obviously not some shitheel." Obviously. Hung looks over at Howie's
mushroom duxelle and says it looks like "dog diarrhea." Leave it to Hung to take it all the way to Diarrhea. Couldn't just be dog poop.

CJ thinks Malarkey isn't being decisive enough about every one's dishes, but Malarkey just voice-overs "I'm making sure everyone has the opportunity to succeed....OR FAIL!" Malarkey! Your hats always made you seem so guileless!

People are liking Casey's beef carpaccio over a shitake broth and also CJ's sausage and Sarah's tomato bread pudding. Howie's asparagus, prosciutto and Parmesan cheese cigar is not going over so well, and neither are his duxelle tarts. No major disasters though, except for a
dessert by Sarah and Casey that doesn't even go out, since the chocolate won't set.


Howie is in the holding area with the chefs, defiantly saying, 'I thought every dish was good and I don't give a fuck what they say." Which seems a little silly since he signed up for a cooking show competition with judges.

The judges, meanwhile, are saying that everything was just a little flat. No standouts except for Casey, CJ and Sarah. There is some thinking that Malarkey should have edited the menu better. The chefs come in for judging and Tom gets into it with Hung over Hung's salmon

Tom: "Your food was right out of the 80's."

Hung bristles and delivers a lecture on food history.

Tom baits him; "Do you have another canape that was better?"

Hung falls right into the trap! "Of course I do!" He spits.

Howie, apropos of nothing says (paraphrased); "Can I address the panel? I'd rather send myself home than see Brian go home. So I'm going to withdraw myself from the competition."

I don't think Brian Malarkey was getting that much criticism?

This is the oldest trick in the book!!!!

I hate this. I think that Howie knew he was going to be sent home so he tried to make it look like it was his choice - which is insulting to Brian. Anyway. Padma coldly says, "It's the judge's decision. Not yours." Snap!

"Then make it," says Howie.

They leave while the judges confer and Howie says to the other Chefs "I gotta lot of pride in me. I'll be in control of my own destiny. Fuck them!" Which seems to support my theory that he knows he was going to be sent home anyway.

The winner? Casey and the beef Carpaccio. Her gift? A mac laptop! Ooh! Someone gave me an Apple Laptop and it really was the greatest gift ever. Life changing!

Howie please pack your knives and go.


"I haven't necessarily been too proud with the way that I've been with some people here. I..made everybody my enemy...but the reality of being a chef is that cooking is a team sport. I don't have any regrets. I stand by my decision. I am a good chef. And all that anybody has to do to know that, is to come taste my food."

The last sentence is kind of touching but the rest seems contradictory.

Well. It's the end of an Era. Howie's gone. Who on earth will I write about now? Who will I insult? Your blogger is 50% leer and 48% insult (1% tears and 1% alcohol) so this is going to be tough. I basically like all the chefs left.

I might have to become a nicer person for my next recap. Damn you, Howie. Damn you!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Prospect Park

My labor day weekend was pretty slow, but at least I got to go to Prospect Park.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Top Chef: Deja View

So. Here we are. Top Chef...the repeat. Someone is seriously going home this week! Seriously! I'm watching by myself this week because my friend Travis thinks I would "shush" him. True!

It's a bit hard to get excited about a challenge repeat. I am also severely disheartened by the fact that Hung opens an envelope slipped under the door at the start of the episode to read some comments from.....Andrea Strong. Will this blogger never leave? Hmm? This
ambassador of zing? Who is she and how did she ingratiate herself into the show? (and how can I do this next season? Do I need a zing makeover?)

Speaking of makeovers and bloggers that talk too much, I did give myself a makeover...again. Makeover? More like mistake-over! I was going for the curly bob - like this. However, forgetting I had curly hair, I wound up with this. Since this child-like look was exacerbated by my wearing a white frilly dress today, I decided to look a little grown up by wearing makeup.
Now I can tell you exactly what happened to Baby Jane . Honestly don't cut your own hair drunk. Or ever!

But anyway! Andrea De La Zing's comments are read aloud again, so that the chefs can take her bon nots to heart for this challenge.

Padma, at the quickfire, attempts to make it more exciting by announcing that the teams for the restaurant challenge will now have to offer two (count 'em!) options for each course. Tom says that they have someone to help one of the teams out, a consultant that will go to the team winning this week's quickfire challenge: a relay race!

Our teams (from last week) are:

CJ, Malarkey-pants, Casey and Tre: or, as Dale calls them, "The Dream Team."

Howie, Hung, Sarah and Dale: or as Dale calls them, "The Bad-News Bears."

The race is composed of four legs: shucking oysters, chopping onions, breaking down chickens (and by that I do not mean breaking down their spirits, but rather breaking down their carcasses), and separating eggs and then beating the egg whites until the bowl can be turned over and the egg whites not fall out.

Everyone on team bad news bears is grateful to have the speed demon, Hung - even Howie acknowledges this. Howie does not annoy me this episode at all. Are the producers making him a little more appealing since they have sneaky plans to keep him in until the top three?

First off it's Howie verse Malarky for the oyster shuck. Malarks, who is a chef at a seafood restaurant, beats Howie (who actually does well against him) by five oysters. Then, it's Sarah vs. Casey on the onion cut. Sarah is ahead by a mile, cutting onions like a short-order chef at...an onion shack...and Casey deliberately and slowly cuts, and cuts. She is the Leonardo Da Vinci of onion cutting. Dale, (who really should just take over my job here) says something
about needing "a speed queen."

Malarkey is staring at Casey and wishing for a "tap out rule." Even Hung, who is on the other team, is staring at Casey and voice-overs, "She's playing with, massaging the onions!" But soon Hung is distracted by his own turn, or as he says, "It's chicken time!" I actually imagine that he says this, just in his own life. E.g, "It's shower time!" "It's coffee time!" Hung is, of course, incredibly fast. Even Tom stares as chicken parts fly around the kitchen.

Hung finishes. Casey is STILL chopping onion! Dale whips ups a storm and poof! - the challenge is finished. Bad News Bears, victorious. They cheer, they clap, they hug - I feel like they should turn over the watercooler on the coach (or may I suggest Tre?) but they don't.

Anyway, back to our tedious challenge. Yawn.

Apparently the restaurant patron who was such a jerk last time is --of course-- a guest this week: his name is Christopher Ciccone (Madonna's brother!!!) and he is here this week to help them make their restaurants look better, or, "fine-tune their concept and design."
Dale, who I really want to be my bgb (best gay boyfriend) says that Christopher is "Definitely one of the most annoying people I've ever met in my life." But, ultimately the chefs are happy to have his help.

Cut to the house. It's work-out time! Let's get physical! Tre is on the balcony, clad in a tight tight tanktop and shorts, jumping rope. He makes some comments that have me believe that he's out there every day (but of course) and the producers have been HOLDING OUT on us.
Why? I can't think of a reason so I abandon that theory.

The opposing team decides to go out on the balcony to have some brainstorming session (or to leer at Tre, along with the rest of America), clearly assuming that Tre, who has a "brain for business and a bod for sin" won't listen. But readers, Tre is a Renaissance man. He
manages to spy on the other team AND do some tantalizing work-out moves, such as pushups with his legs over his head and his hands resting on WEIGHTS! Then, Tre struts around the balcony. Strut, you dish you! Work it!

This brings me to a conversation I had at work recently. My work friend commented that she doesn't see the appeal in Tre. We were in the elevator. I was aghast. "Really? You don't?" I decided that maybe she has to actually WATCH the show to see his appeal? Hear his dreamy
smooth baritone? Watch his muscles gently (oh so gently...with the coiled restraint of a Tiger yawning or a Lion playing with a mouse) flex as he scrambles eggs in the morning?

But anyway! Brainstorming. The dream team is in the kitchen talking about menu: Tre cockily volunteers to do dessert, saying, "I can do bread pudding in my sleep." Casey, who has blood in her veins and is therefore attracted to Tre, tries to justify it by talking about how
"they have started leaning on each other like brother and sister." (ha!)

It is the next day and Tre is in a dove-grey, silky V-neck sweater. Just saying! The teams are off to get wine. The Bad News Bears have an extra $200 bucks for wine and the help of a consultant who is, of course, Steven from season 1. Steven gives them some long-winded,
bombastic wine advice that is actually probably very good. Even Hung says, "He may come off as arrogant but he knows his stuff."

The restaurants, with the help of Madonna's Brother, have been redecorated. Dale likes the change but says with all the deep red it's, "kind of like valentines day threw up all over it."

Our guest judge tonight is Geoffrey Zakarian, owner/chef of Town and apparently one of the beautiful people. Ted Allen is also here, (does anyone know where Gail Simmons is? I'm
seriously upset about this.) and of course we have Padma and Tom. Tom will be in the kitchens tonight, observing, which I think is an interesting twist. He'll also be eating of course, but in the kitchen. Anything to be closer to Tre!

Let's get to it, shall we? Dale is in a short-sleeved shirt and jeans, which I think works but Ted Allen, clearly thinking he needs to give some snark to seem Top Cheffy-like, says "he looks like he's working at Dennys." (Haven't we already had a Denny's crack this season?) Some old chefs show up -- Joey (at one point wearing sunglasses inside) and Sarah and Camille and Leah -- for dinner, and when Dale mentions this, Hung says, "Who?" I love Hung! I'm on team Hung.

We have an assortment of dishes paraded out; the dream team actually has some losers that the judges hate. Mostly two dishes from Tre (head chef) get the most vitriol: a sugar cured salmon dish (our guest judge says it's like "a car wreck in Times Square) with pesto, and his bread pudding that is called "dry".

The Bad News Bears are beating them on the food front, which I think is due to Hung being in the kitchen (who, I really do think is technically the best) and Sarah, who is kind of snappy and mean but seems to be holding them all to very high standards. Howie is bitter when Sarah makes him redo the lamb, which did look seriously undercooked.

Tre is a much more mellow executive chef, and I think the dishes are going out a little sloppier. However, people are really liking the"table-side" service from Tre.

"HI TRE!" shouts Ted Allen, like a groupie. Later when the judges are discussing the meals, (and the fact that the Dream Team's restaurant April had some truly bad dishes) Ted Allen remarks wistfully, "...but I loved how Tre came around and poured the creme anglaise over our
desserts..." which for a second I mishear and think he said, "poured
the cream anglaise over our shirts." Either way, it sounds dirty and delicious.

The Dream Team loses. Sarah, Executive Chef of the Bad News Bears, wins.

The losers have to go stand before the judging panel, and there isn't any fighting at all. The judges talk about how bad the food was, and for the first time (kill me) I can kind of see Jamie Lee's point; It's kind of horrible to watch. Here they are, Chefs, getting totally reamed by people they consider culinary idols. The flip side is that sometimes they get compliments...but watching them now, all sad, it's hard.

CJ, as the head of the team (since he picked teams) and also as a sous chef, is called out for letting his exec chef send out that disastrous bread pudding. Tom says the team, "Suffered from overconfidence."

The judges talk in private, clearly trying to find a way not to send Tre home, but ultimately they can't avoid it.

Tre, please pack your knives and go.

Farewell! Farewell my love. Farewell. Now, readers, you see why I've gone on especially about Tre this week. It's not because I'm a desperate blogger with bad hair. That's incidental. It's because this is goodbye!

Farewell to flexing muscles, silky baritones, cool-cat delivery and tight (so tight!) white tanks.

Farewell to balcony workouts and charged moments with Tom.

Farewell to real culinary talent.

See you in my dreams!

Monday, August 20, 2007

A blogger scorned

I was emailing with my friend Travis about Top Chef. I invited him to join my merry circle of watchers (which may, this week, include someone besides myself) but he declined, saying:

I'm afraid watching Top Chef with you would be stressful, like someone makes a comment and you're like "pipe down, I'm working!"

To which I retorted:

Ouch! you just earned a vindictive shout-out on my blog. But I guess it's true.

But anyway. Top Chef. I had this horrific experience on friday night. I was out with Dorothy and Kate for dinner at the Good Fork in Red Hook. Eh, it was okay. We had 9:30 reservations. Arriving at 9:30, we were told that it would be about 20 minutes and were directed across the street to a wine bar, where we each had a glass of wine. We had just come from the Brooklyn Inn where I'd had a whiskey and gingerale.

So anyway, we ordered at 10 or so and didn't get a scrap of food (including a salad!) until 11. At which point yours truly was at exit 67 on the Boozy highway. At some point in the meal, I noticed a beefy neck mere feet from our table. Suddenly, the (bald) man swiveled his head around...was it...could it be....Howie?! Long-standing target of my web vitriol? I've often sweated thinking of what it would be like to ever run into one of the top chef contestants (part of this nightmare, of course, is the dream that anyone reads it....especially Tom.). I hissed to Dorothy:

It's Howie! It's Howie and he's going to kill me.

But, he merely went back to his meal. Was it him? Probably not. Was it frightening? Yes.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Top Chef: Blah Zone

I'm underwhelmed. Should I write this hopped up on espresso tomorrow morning when I'm late for work, which will create a bit of excitement, at least on my part? Should I get right to the point and say who I loved and who I hated tonight?

The worst part? I didn't even love or hate anyone. Dale continues to amuse me and CJ is not my favorite like he used to be. Howie is Howie, which is to say, thissss close to going crazy, but I'm even used to that now! I hate to say that Jamie right, but your barbarian blogger found this ep a bit boring: No blowups, no backstabbing, and no tears. Not even any hot tubbin'! No hats from Malarkey! Tre is completely dressed!

We open up with Casey overlooking a canal. I immediately notice her lush layers, because last night I took a pair of kitchen scissors and cut of six inches off my hair. People are, as is our tradition, talking about the chef who left last time, in this case, Sarah. CJ is saying that Howie had no tact (understatment of the year!) and they it's the final straw and "Howie's done for us." You wish! He'll outlast you all! When the smoke clears, he'll be standing there with a cleaver, trash talking, I assure you.

They walk to the quickfire challenge....and....it's Daniel Boulud! I'm ashamed to find, after hearing him introduced, that I've been mispronouncing the name of his restaurants as Boulee. The horror! I'm so gauche! And here I thought I was just poor!

The chefs are, of course, excited.

'He's a big deal" says CJ.

Hung, who I think is earnest and adorable, says "I respect him highly. I love his restaurants."

Dale, who as the fat kid from junior high can do no wrong in my book, ever, says, "Holy Shit! It's Daniel Boulud!"

I am also into this quickfire. The challenge is "to come up with your own unique take on America's best love meal...the burger!" And, because Top Chef is sickeningly about product-placement, and nothing is sacred, not even a burger because the producers HATE AMERICA, it's sponsored of course by some burger restaurant that I refuse to name, because I had tons and tons of readers (don't disabuse me of this notion) and I know my abstemious take on product whoring will make a difference. Take that!

Anyway. This challenge is dear to my heart because I LOVE burgers and red meat. 6 days out of 7 I'm a vegetarian because I'm too lazy to cook meat just for myself, but on the seventh I want a steak. In fact I just went home to my parents in the suburbs tonight and had a burger from the grill. Hmmm. The New York Times Style section just did an article on how it's cool to like red-meat or something, that men love a woman who loves a big steak,which is true of course, if you're an anemic, spindly dishwater blond type...but I bet that if you LOOK Like you like steak you look like a hog, not a hedonist.

Anyway. Daniel Boulud is of course notorious for his fancy, expensive burger that has a block of fois grois in the middle. Howie says it's about 120 bucks? I thought it was 68? I went to DB Bistro Moderne once but couldn't bring myself to order it. I look it up. $27? I thought it was more? Aha, apparently there is a $100 double truffle version.

Padma also announces that the winner of the quickfire no longer has immunity. Fine by me. "No more hiding!" Says Malarkey, who is wearing a red leather top hat. Actually, he isn't. Which is a shame!

The chefs have 1/2 and hour for the quickfire. They race into the kitchen and Hung cackles hysterically. Why? Who knows?!

Many of the chefs are making seafood burgers. I love seafood! But I'd like to see some more variations on....a BURGER OF RED MEAT. I think that would actually take some culinary fearlessness..to serve a red-meat burger to Boulud instead of cowering behind fish burgers. Casey and Howie, I think, are the only ones doing a red-meat burger. SIGH!

Hung is making a shrimp burger with tempura flakes and shitake. Daniel thinks its very juicy and it's true, it's running down his chin.

Sarah wants her burger to be a "little healthier, lighter" (wrong wrong wrong) so is serving it on lettuce (I know immediately that Daniel will be offended by this joke of a bun.) She's got a crab burger with citrus. Daniel is, indeed, horrified by the lack of bun.

Malarkey is doing a fishburger based on his fish sausage that he won a challenge with - a scallop, shrimp and sea bass burger. Daniel says this has too much bread.

Casey is doing a sort of friend beef burger - I applaud her for this.

Tre is doing a surf and turf ciabatta burger;

Dale is doing seared tuna with an egg on top.

Howie is using truffle butter for the extra fat (the way to Boulud's clogged, french heart - smart move Howie.) It's a black truffle burger with taleggio cheese, that Daniel says is very good, very moist.

CJ is doing a scallop mouse and shrimp burger with tangerine, that Daniel says is "beautiful."

Ultimately Daniel feels that some of them were slightly more sandwiches than burger. His least successful were Sara's and Tre's. His favorites were CJ, Dale, and Hung. CJ wins. Howie manages to clap looking very bitter. CJ doesn't get immunity, but he gets the advantage of picking his own team for the restaurant challenge!

The team gets a raw space, 24 hours, $2500 for decorations and $700 for food. Each team will have an FOB, design, sous chef and head chef. 30 guests will show up at each restaurant.

The teams are:

CJ, Brian, Casey and Tre.

The other team is Howie, Hung, Dale and Sara.

Howie's team is leaning towards the french influence American contemporary blah blah blah bistro thing. Tre is nominated to be the exec chef, which he has no problem with, since he has the most experience. I have no problem with Tre. At all. I do have a problem with that shirt he's wearing. It's huge! Tre, wouldn't you be comfortable in something tighter? An undershirt? Chaps? Howie wants to cook. "I'm happy in the kitchen." Which is probably shorthand for "I know people hate me." Sara decides to be exec chef, which Howie says if fine by him (probably because if the food sucks the exec chef takes the fall). Howie, it pains me to say, is no fool.

The two teams go shopping. Malarkey stops Casey from making the mistake of scented candles. There is no one to stop Hung and Dale from getting scented candles, which seems insane, and the judges absolutely hate it later.

Eh, what more is there to say?

You know why? Because at the end of it all, NO ONE goes home.That's right! No one! Jamie Lee would be so happy! Boring! Blah!

To sum it up:

Tre overcooks the potatoes! Howie's risottos is gooey! Hung does a great job on his tuna! Malarkey, as the FOB, sweats alot and makes people uncomfortable! Dale has 8 years of restaurant experience! He works it like a pro and says: "You're half prostitute,half performer!" Dale, that is how I feel every day! Someone sends out an amuse bouché, an oyster with ginger and watermelon granita! No one credits Joey for something using a watermelon and he crashes through the restaurant window with an axe! Some food blogger who I shall not even name, because no one gives ME free food, even though I blog about how HANDSOME they are, TOM, is here to give us some zingers. Fine! Her name is Andrea Strong! Zing zing! Andrea Strong insults the black tablecloths as "very billy idol...and I don't' want to eat off Billy Idol." More zing please?! Is this zing fat free? I may be a blogger but even I am suspicious by this inclusion of a blogger into the show! I would prefer to hear Tom, Padma and Daniel Boulud take about the food! Howie put cream in his risotto, which even I know not to do! Howie says, 'I'm not put off by eating a heavier item! ...that's what turns me on!" Wow, stop right there!

So, there you have it.The judges send no one home. Why? Some contractual obligation for an extra show? The producers were too lazy to think up a new challenge for next time? They thought they might finally have to send Howie home, since his risotto was really bad? Who knows! Tune in next week, I guess, for....the same challenge. Huh?

Blogger out! Zing! Tom, you looked especially manly and handsome tonight. You have a sure hand, an even keel, and some real charisma. I also loved your outfit tonight. NOW EMAIL ME! Andrea Strong doesn't deserve you. Zing!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Top Chef: Shark Jump

I think it's best to start off this recap with the last line of my Top Chef notes, which was:


Here is where I turn away from -- forever -- straight up recapping the show. I have to clamber up on a rickety soapbox and shout, "Shame on you, Top Chef Producers." Shame. Jamie Lee Curtis thinks Top Chef watchers are barbaric morons. When I read that, I was annoyed that she
decided this after watching about 30 seconds of the show, on mute. And yet, after last night I think that although viewers aren't total idiots, the producers might think we are. How else to explain this turn of events?

Maybe I should start at the beginning.

My roommates are away, so luckily even though it is 400 degrees, I can at least kick back in my underwear and drink a beer while I watch the show. I do, in fact, have a mouse living in my apartment, but I'm going to hope it doesn't saucily trot across my teeny tiny living room whilst I blog, which it in fact did last night while I had a dinner party...which was embarrassing. I tried to pretend that I was shocked -- shocked! -- but actually we've been living together for quite some time.

Today's episode of Top Chef not only opens with a bikini clad girl, it opens with a bikini glad girl bending over. You don't even see her face. I would say this sums up where this show is going. We flash to the waking-up shots, most notably of course, Mr. Sexy Man Tre With the Honey-Caramel Baritone Voice.

Dale is voice-overing that he was "The short fat gay kid who was teased in Junior High." This provokes me to consider who I was in Junior High. After remembering that I was in the Latin Club and the marching band, I decide to stop remembering.

The quick fire

The sponsor is Cold Stone Creamery! The quick fire is about creating a delicious topping to go with the vanilla ice-cream, which they will mix in, cold-stone style. I've never been to cold stone creamery, but there's one right in the Atlantic Mall. Maybe I'll hoof it down there
(or take the B63, let's be honest). This quick fire is definitely giving me flashbacks to my high school job, which was at TCBY.

Dale, as the fat kid from junior high, clearly knows his way around ice cream. He decides to make a peach cobbler type thing. He's "looking for texture, for flavor."

Howie, also no fool when it comes to dessert, "starts thinking about berries...sweet cream and berries. If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I do agree with him.

Hung says, "Any monkey can make fruit and berries and make it taste good" or something. This monkey of Hung's! It sounds amazing! So far it makes cocktails, ice-cream creations and a host of other things. Does it know Shiatsu? Hung has decided to make some disgusting amalgam of 7 totally disparate flavors, including white chocolate, cauliflower foam, tempura flakes and some other ridiculous things. The ghost of Marcel hovers.

It comes down to Dale and Howie, and Dale wins.

The Elimination Challenge:

Surprise! Padma says the chefs are "off the hook for now" and will "get a chance to enjoy Miami nightlife." The chefs are all incredibly happy. Silly, silly chefs, can't you see this is a trap? Cut to the real world house, where they all get all dolled up. They are so giddy.
I also read recently that they have no TV, Cell phone, internet, newspapers. That seems extreme. But it does explain why they are going so bonkers over the prospect of socializing with other people. I also read that they can't even fool around with each other because if they
catch something, the TV show could be sued.

Dale and Sara N. are dancing around happily. They admit they have become great friends. Sara N. says, "he's my new gay boyfriend." I want one too. I do live in New York. Unfortunately these days I'm more Sister Carrie than Carrie Bradshaw, so I'm probably not going to
attract any fabulous gay men. The chefs all hop into a stretch limo. Someone screams, "Yeah! It's ON!"

And then, it's off.

Or as CJ says, "All our dreams come to a crashing halt." Hung actually screams in horror when he sees Padma, with our guest judge, standing in front of the Miami club with 2 food prep trailers, and the familiar knife block for choosing teams. Padma says that each team will have 30 minutes to shop and a budget of 300 dollars. They have to "create something that will satisfy the late night partier."

Dale, as the winner of the quick fire, doesn't even have to cook. He gets the night off, and a four course dinner with the guest chef. Dale says, "I can just feel the anger in the entire group."

They draw knives, and the teams are:

Black Team: Hung, Sarah, Tre, Malarky

Orange Team: Howie, Sarah N., Casey and CJ.

CJ says that "Howie hasn't worked successfully with anyone."

Sarah says "I don't want Howie on my team, personally. I know he's not a team player and every team he's been on has been on the bottom."

The teams start strategizing. Malarkey takes a leadership role and they kind of decide what to do based on space: Malarkey decides to do a cold bar, since that will take him out of the mobile trailer entirely, freeing up some space.

Howie tries to take charge of his team, since he was born and raised in Miami -- which does nothing to explain his accent -- and knows the nightlife cuisine. Howie wants to go simple but upscale: sliders, crab cakes, etc. Sara N. is trying to make some suggestions but Howie
steamrolls her, very dismissively. She wanted to make fries with different dipping sauces, which I think would have been a hit.

Howie, knowing that everyone hates him, says "there's very little about being liked that has to do with being a good leader." Yes, Machiavelli was right...if you're a corporate raider, an Italian
Prince or a DICTATOR. However, Howie, you are on a TEAM.

After the supermarket, it's 12;12 and time to start cooking. Tom is here! In a baseball hat! He looks adorable. Adorable. Tom goes over to the black team and makes chit chat, clearly picking up on the positive vibe.

Tre is behind the grill in a white undershirt, saying to Tom, "Once they see these guns, they're gonna wanna get back here." And then cackles hysterically with a kind of yee-haw at the end. Tom laughs really hard. They kiss. Just kidding.

Tom wanders over to Doom & Gloom Inc, where CJ tries to explain the menu. Tom says that they have a good menu, but "Sara N. had her head down." It is here that I know she is doomed. Howie and Sarah get into an argument over the milk shakes: Sara N. wants to cut them with crushed ice. I'm going to side with Howie here, who is appalled by this idea. As a former marching-band member and latin club pioneer, I also know my way around an ice-cream container.

CJ remarks, staring off into the horizon, "We're going to be flooded by a bunch of drunk morons." This is actually giving me horrible flashbacks to another high school job, when I ran the snack bar at a Yacht Club on the North Shore of Long Island. There was a summer
sailing program for kids from 9-12 in the morning, and as I set up the grill, fry-o-later, etc, I could see them sailing around. Then, my coworker Mary and I would stare off to sea as 1000 little children docked their little sailboats and ran up to shore, screaming like Vikings, preparing to raid the snack bar. Thinking about it still stresses me, after at least a decade.
So anyway, I really know how CJ feels as the drunk crowd gets out of the nightclub and swarms the two trailers.

The orange team is having some problems. Sara N. can't find the top of the blender to make milkshakes, and they just aren't as organized. CJ says, "Howie's a bulldog and Sara N. just keeps drifting off." Tom is there waiting to be served, and waiting...and waiting. CJ stands

Meanwhile, the guest judge is at the Black team's area, enjoying Tre's bacon wrapped shrimp with cheese grits. Hung is also making onion rings and chicken in the fry station.

After an eternity, Tom gets a slider which he likes. Padma is eating everything and loving it; I love her. Ted Allen shows up and gets a slider. Tom says of Sara N.; "Sara N. just in general seemed to be just a little out of it." Hmm.


The black team is clearly the winner. Tom feels they put together a well-flavored menu that was also accessible. Ted loves the grits, and says "Note to chefs, if you want to make people happy give them bacon." Duly noted! At my dinner party on Tuesday, since it was so
hot, I served BLT's with my farm share tomatoes, and it was a hit with boys and girls alike.

Tre's grits win! Malarkey looks very happy for him.

Doom and Gloom Inc. enters to be judged:

Sara N. talks about how she was demoralized by wearing her going out outfit to cook in. She was "out of her element." The judges think this is lame, although Padma is more sympathetic. I would like to see Tom and Ted to cook in high, high heels, basically shirtless, as grease
spatters their bare chests. My goodness. What I mean is, I can see Sarah's point.

The judges are not impressed by Howie's Cuban sandwich at all, which is especially bad because he's from Miami, so if he's going to make a Cuban sandwich it should be good.

The judges also comment on how the team dynamic didn't seem right. Howie takes the opportunity to say that they weren't getting a "full load pull by Sara N.." He says there was "no food coming out." Ah, Howie, my trash-talking chef from Hell.

Sara N. says that no one told her that during the challenge. She says, "I don't think Howie's and myself personalities worked well together in the kitchen." Which I would say is a very restrained way of her to say that Howie is unbearable.

Tom says, "Why didn't you assert yourself?"

Sara N. says, "There are certain chefs I've worked with who I know just won't bend." I agree - if you're on a time limit, there is only so much time one can argue with say, a Howie or Joey type. I think the judges alwaysdeliberately ignore this.

Howie continues on his rampage of vitriol: "She's the baby of the team! The baby of the house! Everything needs to be done for you!"

CJ interrupts to defender her - "that's a little extreme."

Sarah N. says, "That's enough."

Howie: "What's enough?"

Sara N.: "You."

They walk back to the holding pen and Sara N. starts to cry. The other chefs look horrified.

CJ says it was "an asshole thing to say."

Howie says, "If that's how it came across...that's not what I'm saying."

CJ says something about how Howie tries to cop this integrity role...and Howie interrupts that he "doesn't need anyone signing off on anything I say...I'm not trying to be an asshole."

Sara N.: "You're more of an asshole everyday. More and more and more."

The judges call the chefs back in and say it's basically between Howie and Sara N. I'm thinking, of course it will be Howie. What did he contribute to this team? The Cuban sandwiches, which nobody was impressed by. The sliders made by Sarah played to much better reviews. And, of course, he's Howie, who the judges have admitted gets along with no one.

Tom says, "one of you is more suited to this competition." This is where I really think Howie is going home.

Sara N., please pack your knives and go.


She says, "I'm a little bit angry. That I didn't get to show exactly what I can do in the kitchen...." She doesn't hug or say goodbye to Howie. He sits alone. She continues "I think I'm too nice for a competition. There's a fine line between being competitive and being an asshole. "

I'm seriously annoyed too. Please. My theory? I think that Howie realizes that he needs to be the villian to keep going on this show. Either that, or he really is just that contentious. I think
that the producers tried to make Hung the new Marcel, but realized that they needed more overt conflict, and that's why they've kept Howie here.