Friday, May 30, 2008

Meat the Chefs

No? What's at Steak? Steak Your Claim? High Steaks? A Lot at Steak?

Anyway. Sorry this is a little delayed, but I had computer problems yesterday and then this stupid thing called work sort of interfered.

This week on Top Chef, the judges FINALLY cut the Sultan of Smarm, the King of Kiss-Ass, the Monarch of Mean-Spiritedness… yes, finally, SPIKE. It was about time he or Lisa went, and it was a close call between the two. I’m not okay with Loser Lisa staying, but I’m more than okay with Spike going.

I can’t believe Loser made it to the final four! It’s a travesty that Dale isn’t there; I wonder if Tom was mad when he heard what the stupid guest judges did last week. I still can’t believe Bourdain was so stupid.

Okay, I won’t go into that again.

This week, the cheftestants had to butcher and grill tomahawk chops for the Quickfire. I missed the beginning of the show, so I don’t know what exactly happened as they prepared for this challenge, but Antonia, Loser, and Spike did well, and Spike actually won. Gag. Anyway, the Elimination Challenge was for each chef to create an appetizer and entrée to be served at Rick Tramonto’s restaurant. (He was the guest judge this week.) They had to use ingredients found in his kitchen and they had, I believe, three hours to prepare their dishes and each had his or her own workstation to prepare their dishes.

Spike’s advantage for winning the Quickfire was to choose his proteins – in five minutes – for each dish (appetizer and entrée), and no one else could use what he chose. So he went into the cooler and poked around and decided to use the tomahawk chops for his entrée and scallops for his appetizer. The scallops were frozen and practically every other chef told the camera they were glad he had chosen them, because they wouldn’t have wanted them anyway. So as usual, bonehead Spike completely wasted his advantage.

The others chose their ingredients and everyone got started. They had to cook dishes for guests at the restaurant as well as judges Rick Tramonto, Padma, Gail, and Tom, and the VIP guests – the winners of the first three seasons of Top Chef: Harold Dieterle, Ilan Hall, and Hung Huynh. What they showed of those previous winners was actually pretty positive; they seemed to be judging dishes fairly and not trying to be overly critical.

What we saw of the comments of the judges as they ate was, as near as I can remember:

Appetizer: Warm Mushroom and Artichoke Salad, Poached Egg, Bacon Vinaigrette

Egg poached perfectly, but salad limp (the word soggy may have actually been bandied about)

Entrée: Bone-In Ribeye, Roasted Fennel, & Cipollini Onions, Shallot & Potato Gratin

Very good, well-rounded entrée, perfect for a steakhouse

Appetizer: Grilled & Chilled Shrimp, Confit Lemon Zest Salad with Baby Tomatoes & Crustini

Shrimp shouldn’t have been chilled, but lemon was great

Entrée: NY Strip Steak, Spicy Apple Caramel Sauce, Peanut Butter Mashed Potatoes

Surprisingly, they liked the mashed potatoes, though it sounds gross (apparently there’s just a hint of peanut butter in them), but the steak was - you guessed it - under-seasoned

Appetizer: Hamanchi, Crispy Sweetbreads, Radish & Yuzu

Perfect, delicious; Rick Tramonto said he would put it on his menu in a heartbeat.

Entrée: Prime Beef Filet, Potato Puree, Turnips & Red Wine with Pickled Brussels Sprouts

Pretty good, I think; I can’t remember much about what they said here. I know that, at judges' table, Tom said the meat wasn't cooked consistently, but he didn't eat with the other judges in the restaurant, he acted as Expediter for the cheftestants instead.

Appetizer: Pan Seared Scallops on a Bed of Roasted Hearts of Palm & Oyster Mushrooms

Not good. Scallops not good, hearts of palm apparently didn’t seem fresh either.

Entrée: Tomahawk Chop, Sweet Potato Puree, Blanched Brussels Sprouts & Cipollini

I can’t remember what they said here except that it seemed like he had added honey to the sweet potato puree and it was way too sweet. Well, yeah, I guess if you add something sweet to sweet potatoes, it would be too sweet. Who would do that?? Oh, yeah, Spike.

Appetizer: Veal Sweetbreads with Sweet & Sour Sauce of Golden Raisins & Pine Nuts

Very good; the only negative comment was from one of the past winners of Top Chef (I think Harold, who is so awkward and prissy and kind of mean); he said he would have liked the pine nuts roasted, but otherwise it was great. Everyone agreed it was great.

Entrée: Beef Tenderloin with Salsify Puree, Wild Mushrooms & Apple Sauce

I can’t remember comments except they all liked it.

(I’m sorry, I know I should really tape the thing so I can review it before I write this, but who has the time?!)

Okay, on to judges’ table.

They called all of the chefs in, since they’re down to only five, and began their critique of each cheftestant's dishes. When they told Spike they didn’t like the scallops and he shouldn’t have used them – Tom was really blunt about it, said he shouldn’t have used frozen scallops, period – they said it’s part of the chef’s responsibility to make sure he doesn’t use inferior ingredients, and shouldn’t even accept delivery of something inferior, and Spike shot back, “Well, it was in your walk-in. If it was inferior it shouldn’t have been in your walk-in.” Rick Tramonto said, basically, “Fair enough. I’ll take that, but you have to take this: you shouldn’t have used them.” Spike finally had the sense to shut up. When they were asked to leave so the judges could discuss, Spike went to Rick Tramonto and shook his hand (he’s big on shaking hands, even when he shouldn’t*) and said it was an honor, blah blah, backside smoochy smooch. Ugh.

*When he was sorting his sad scallops, Tom walked up to do his usual pre-challenge chat/mind games and Spike reached out to shake his hand, glove and scallop juice and all, and then went RIGHT BACK to touching the scallops. Doesn't anyone on this show believe in hygiene??

In the storage/stewing room (stewage!), Spike said he had no idea where that comment to Rick Tramonto came from and he couldn’t believe he said it. Well, here's what I think, Spike: you're an asshat, that's where it came from. Either he just lost his temper and blurted it out, or he thought he was going to get cut anyway so he made a comment like that so he could blame his elimination on that rather than poor cooking choices (or just plain poor cooking). I’m not sure he’s clever enough or humble enough for the latter, though, so I’m guessing he just lost his temper. Wow, what a puzzle, what a complicated guy.

Meanwhile, the judges discussed the chefs and it was clear right away that Antonia, Richard, and Stephanie were safe. Finally, sense reigns! They zeroed in on Loser and Spike. And here is the first time that I’ve been disappointed in Padma: she said that Loser “has an amazing palate” but just didn’t move out of her comfort zone or something inane like that, and Tom disagreed. Thank you, Tom! What amazing palate? They’ve said time after time that her food is under-seasoned, and last week she couldn’t tell her dish was too smoky until Dale told her it was and she still couldn’t fix it! (Alas, poor Dale!) Anyway, Padma, what were you thinking? Did you have too much wine with dinner?

Moving on, they called the chefs back in and proceeded to tell Richard that his appetizer was their favorite appetizer and he was safe. Then they told Antonia that her entrée was their favorite entrée and she was safe. Then they told Stephanie that they liked her dishes and she was the WINNER! So those three were all relieved and excited and had to leave the room. (Ha ha – they were asked to by the judges.)

The judges then proceeded to tell Loser she had been on the chopping block FIVE times, and Spike he had been on it SEVEN times. This, of course, begs the question of WHY one of them will be in the final four? And was Dale on the chopping block before last week? If so, it was maybe once. And have either of these losers won an elimination challenge? Okay, yes, Loser has won one; Spike has won ZERO. Dale won TWO. And it’s interesting that their track records suddenly seem to matter, when the judges obviously didn’t care about that last week! Okay, okay, enough about Dale. I wasn’t a fan of his personality, by the way, just his talent. I hate unfairness so his untimely elimination really rankles.

They finally told Spike to pack his knives and go and he took it pretty well. I would have been equally happy with either of them leaving and was really wishing the judges would throw convention to the wind and say BOTH of you pack your knives and skeeeedaddle! Wishful thinking. Ole Moana Lisa is still with us.

Next week: FINALE! I’m assuming Loser will get cut pretty quickly, despite her new manly, yet much more attractive - and apparently washed, hairdo. If she doesn't, I’ll be irate about that for a while. (But at least I’ll have moved on from the Great Dale Debacle of 2008!) Between the other three, it’s anyone’s game. I thought Stephanie was really strong for a while, then Antonia was doing well and Stephanie faltered, and now Stephanie has stepped up, so who knows? I still think Richard should be in the top two (if they go down to two, which I think they do; my memory is almost nonexistent these days), but I would be happy with any one of those three winning.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Scarlett Fever

You know how, usually, when an actor comes out with an album you think, "Vanity project!" with a sniff of disdain and a dismissive shrug? Well, now Scarlett Johansson has come out with an album.

Yeah. TOTAL vanity project.

If you don't believe me, check this out.


I'm not sure if she can sing or not, I just know that she doesn't in this song. And what is the video about, exactly? How tiring and depressing it is to be a gorgeous millionaire movie star at the ripe old age of 23?

Let's see... people wanting to know you, wanting to be you, doing your makeup for you, catering to your every whim, even producing an album for you though you clearly can't sing... Rough. And getting engaged to a hunky celebrity who seems like he may actually also be a nice guy... Double whammy. I guess it's tough to be 23 and on top of the world.

She must be depressed because she knows it's all downhill from here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pomp and Circumstance

On Thursday, my nephew graduated from high school. Nothing makes you feel older than seeing kids you remember as teeny babies -- remember like it was yesterday, mind -- walking across a stage receiving a diploma. Two years ago it was his sister. Thanks, guys, for really bringing home the message, You're old!

Oh yeah... Congratulations!

(And isn't that a cool picture? He was pretty far away from us, on the football field, and he's looking straight at the camera.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Top Whaaaah?

On last night's episode, the chefestants got woken up at 5:45 am by a surprise visit from Tom. Wow, what a fun way to wake up! Not only a strange man's voice saying, "Hey! Wake up!" but a strange man who gets to JUDGE you, gets to decide your FATE for you. Nice. (Not that Tom is a strange man, necessarily; you know what I mean.)

So they straggled down to the kitchen and Tom told them their quickfire challenge was to go to Lou Mitchell's, a very busy Chicago breakfast landmark, to work the short-order egg station. They each had to work it for a set time and the winner would be the person the owner of the restaurant would hire. It was over quickly, we didn't see much of each chef, but it was enough to make me NEVER want to be a short-order cook.

Though a tough decision between Dale and Antonia, Antonia prevailed. Go, Antonia! Whatever, I like her.

The chefs then went to meet Padma for a description of the elimination challenge. Restaurant wars! Antonia's prize for winning the quickfire was to choose her team. She chose her team members from the Wedding Wars challenge, Stephanie and Richard. Well, duh. The only other decent chef is Dale, and working with him seems to be like working with a hungover porcupine. Oh, hell, that's an insult to porcupines. Sorry, little guys.

The teams got busy planning their restaurant themes and menus and buying ingredients and decorations. Team Winner (I'm just assuming) went with Warehouse Kitchen, a gastro-pub theme, and Team Loser (even if they, by some miracle, won the challenge, still... losers) went with a – surprise! – Asian-themed restaurant, Mai Buddha. Tom was absent for this challenge, so he was replaced by da da dum... Anthony Bourdain. Who would totally freak me out. Tom doesn't pull punches, but Bourdain, I don't know, can really put people down. Way down. To China from North America down. Anyway.

Team Antonia (naming each team after its executive chef) moved along at a nice clip, calm, organized, pleasant, professional. Stephanie handled the front because she's opened her own restaurant before; she also created two dishes. I was a little unclear on how she managed this since she was out front, but I don't know how much she did before she had to go out there. Oh yeah, each team got to choose help from past contestants and TA chose Nikki to help them with the pasta.

Team Dale chose Jen to help them. (Poor Mark and Andrew didn't get chosen.) Spike handled the front for their team, presumably so he wouldn't be the one to go down in flames if they ended up losing. I'm so sick of wiliness – wow, that looks wrong but I checked and it's actually right – helping these people move along. It's supposed to be Top Chef, am I right? Not Top Manipulator?

Team Dale had problems from the start. Dale put a rotten avocado in his Halo Halo and had to try to fix it, so he was in a bad mood right away. Then Lisa couldn't get her laksa right, Dale kept telling her it was too smoky, Spike said it was sour (?), and she just couldn't seem to figure out how to correct it. Since she didn't seem able to tell anything was wrong with it until they told her, I don't know why they thought she would be able to fix it. That's it, I'm just calling her Loser from now on. Does she even have taste buds?

Loser was also in charge of a dessert – mango sticky rice – and she couldn't get the rice sticky! Now, I'm no chef but I know that one rice gets sticky while the other doesn't – I think short-grain gets sticky and long-grain doesn't, but don't quote me. I told you I don't cook. But even I at least know there's a difference. And she's supposed to be a CHEF! Ugh, she infuriates me!

Meanwhile, Spike took credit for braised short ribs but, as it turned out later, it was just his recipe and Dale actually cooked them. I think Dale should have gotten credit for them if they turned out well, but I'm not sure he did. Dale also created butterscotch miso scallops with spicy eggplant and pickled long beans for one of the main dishes.

Of course, Dale and Loser spent most of their time in the kitchen arguing and cursing and Spike either avoided them or egged them on, depending on his mood. It was about as pleasant as you would expect.

Finally, dinnertime was over and the judges – substitute head judge Anthony Bourdain, guest judge José Andrés, Ted Allen, and Padma – went back to the judges' table. The results...

Team Antonia won, naturally. Their dishes were well-received by the judges and the other diners. The judges particularly liked the fresh linguine and clams with sausage and horseradish creme fraiche, and the gorgonzola cheesecake with sweet potato puree and concord grape sauce. Both of those dishes were... Stephanie's! So she won the challenge.

I was a little surprised because, like I said, I don't see how she did those dishes if she was out front. Did she prepare them early? Did she just provide the recipes and the others did the actual work? I know Nikki helped with the pasta; did she get credit? Also, Nikki told them there was grit in the clams and Antonia tasted them and said there was, and Richard rinsed them again, so it seems like maybe he actually cooked the dish? I don't know, it wasn't clear to me. It doesn't seem like she should have won if she didn't actually cook them, but I like her okay, so it didn't really bother me.

On to Team Dale, the clear losers in so many ways. Spike again did his best to distance himself from the fray, saying the lack of teamwork was a problem between "those guys." The judges mentioned later that he was smart to do that; maybe, but smart in a sneaky, cunning way, not really intelligent and certainly not honorable or decent. They slammed Dale and Loser for the lack of teamwork, especially Dale as the executive chef, but didn't say anything negative about Spike's uninvolvement – BY DEFINITION a COMPLETE lack of teamwork. I'm so sick of him and his slick smarminess. I can't understand why it works for him.

Predictably, the judges hated the laksa because... all they could taste was smoke. Imagine that. Loser actually stepped up and took the blame for the laksa. Dale said, "I don't know laksa, I trusted these guys" and Spike said, "Well, it wasn't like any laksa I've done," both completely leaving Loser flapping in the breeze. Which was kind of yucky, but it since was her dish, and they tried to tell her how to correct it, it was understandable.

Then Spike wanted to take credit for the braised short ribs and Dale stepped in and said he cooked them, it was just Spike's recipe. I don't blame him, I'd want credit if I'd done the work. Especially with Spike trying to slide out of all responsibility and yet take credit if it looked like the judges were about to say something positive.

Dale took credit for the butterscotch disaster and I think was surprised that the judges hated it. HATED it. Anthony Bourdain and José Andrés absolutely excoriated it. They almost gagged. That's pretty bad, given that Anthony Bourdain will apparently eat just about anything, and like most of it. It was also very interesting because Dale had been doing so well before this serious misstep.

I can't remember what they said about his dessert, the Halo Halo. I know they said something at the dinner table about it being a good idea or interesting or something, but I don't remember if they liked it or just the idea of it.

They also didn't like the mango sticky rice and here Loser tried to shove responsibility off onto Dale by saying he told her what rice to use and it wasn't a rice she was familiar with. He said, "I did not tell you to grab that rice!" Loser looked at Spike to back her up and he just shrugged and said, "I don't know." Way to help the team, Spike ol' buddy ol' pal! Oh well, maybe he really didn't know. And I don't know who was right about the rice issue, but I have to ask WHY would Loser use a rice she wasn't familiar with? That makes her not only a loser but also a dumbass.

So the judges asked them to leave and take their squabbling with them (they didn't actually say that, but they were thinking it). They apparently only considered booting Spike off briefly, though, in my opinion, he deserved it for not taking enough actual CHEF responsibilities. He needs to get called on his chickensh*t scheming ways. Can you tell I'm sick of him? And his straggly almost-there facial shrubbery – no, not even shrubbery, just weedy growth. And his hats. And his icky voice and manner. And his teeth. Ugh. I need to go take a shower now.

There, that's better. Now the real debate – Dale or Loser? The judges were being hard on Dale because he was the executive chef but I think that's a completely specious argument. Here's why. I presume that in a real kitchen, the executive chef has some actual authority. Maybe not to fire employees (unless he also owns the restaurant) but at least to relegate one to chopping onions, if the EC decides the person has offended him. (For simplicity, I'm going with him since I'm mostly talking about Dale here.) Obviously I don't know much about how kitchens actually run (beyond what reading Kitchen Confidential taught me a few years ago), but I'm guessing something like this actually goes on.

Given that, how is the executive chef position in these challenges at all similar? They have no actual power over these people, and they all know it. The judges chastised Dale for not controlling his team and his kitchen, but I ask you, and would love to ask them, how much control can he actually have? He can't fire Loser, he can't even take over her dish, can he? I guess he could have taken it over and tried to fix it and then the judges would have been told that she couldn't even finish a dish and he had to try to salvage it. But then he would sink with her if it still wasn't any good. That's so not fair.

I understand that in a real kitchen, the restaurant is only as good as its weakest dish, so the executive chef has to be sure that everything going out to customers is as good as he thinks it should be, but in that case, he also has much more authority and control over the kitchen. Here the position is largely spurious and just means the chef has put himself on the chopping block. I think they should get some credit for stepping up and trying to take on the thankless extra responsibility, but they don't. They just get slammed for it. I really hate that about this show.

I also think they should take past performance into consideration. Who in real life would get fired for one mistake? I mean, unless you did something actually illegal or cost the company millions of dollars through sheer stupidity. Most of the time you get a little break, especially if you have a good track record.

Well, you can see where this diatribe is heading. They cut Dale. DALE! He was definitely a prickly pear and difficult to work with, but he also had talent. Despite his mistakes this time. So these judges, in all their infinite wisdom, kicked off the only talented chef that the losing team had on it. Way to go, judges! Right on!

It should definitely have been Loser. She should have been kicked off a looong time ago. If I have to hear her whining and complaining past the next episode (unless Spike is the one to go next time), I'm going to cut a ...something. Probably just my palms with my nails. But still. It will hurt and I don't like pain. So, judges, help a loyal viewer out?

I'm so aggravated by this episode. I wonder if the verdict would have been different had Tom been there instead of Bourdain?

Top four should have been Antonia, Dale, Richard, and Stephanie. Top three should now be Antonia, Richard, and Stephanie. Top two should be Antonia and Richard, with Richard FTW. Although it would be nice for a woman to win; Richard, despite his pink shoes, just doesn't qualify.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Oh, Come On

I missed the ANTM finale again last night, so I made Andrew check to see if they were going to air it again. He said he didn't see it if they were, but they are going to rerun the entire cycle soon. So he asked if I wanted to know who won and I said, I guess so. He said, Who do you think didn't win? I said, Whitney. He said, Yeah, she won.

This show is so totally rigged. They just want to seem PC, like they aren't causing anorexia and bulimia and drug abuse and God only knows what else, so they leaped on the first "plus-size" girl who was as close to being as thin as the others as possible without actually slipping out of the plus category.

Well, I'm not upset, I liked Whitney, though she was a little fake. She's pretty and I like that she is normal-sized, though I hate that means she's considered a plus-sized model. I don't mean normal, as in Americans have gotten so fat that now Whitney is considered normal. I mean, Whitney is normal, Americans are generally MUCH fatter than that, and the other girls are like sticks and probably don't eat. Of course, some girls are naturally that thin when they are that young. God knows I was. Well, I don't know; I don't think you could see my entire rib cage from the BACK. *shudder*

I can't recap, obs, since I didn't see it, but I hope to catch it when they rerun this cycle. I probably won't watch the episodes again because I really did find the show -- and Tyra, especially -- to be extra annoying this time around. But I would like to see the finale and how they justified choosing Whitney.

I just checked around and have seen some pictures of Whitney pre-show where she is really thin. There's a rumor going around that someone from the show approached her and told her she'd be on it if she gained 10-20 pounds. So she was a size 4 or 6 and went up to an... 8? Maybe a 10? It's hard to say, since the camera does add pounds. I wonder. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if it was true. Nothing seems honest on this show.

If they were going to go with a plus-sized model, they should have gone with Toccara who was beautiful (and presumably still is) and seemed like a lot of fun. She was really plus-sized; Whitney just seems slightly bigger than the rest.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Boxing Match

I missed ANTM last night -- I know, the FINALE! -- so I can't talk about that. I'm going to try to catch it when they run it on Sunday.

But I did see Top Chef!

Last night they had to create a "sexy" salad (whatever) for the Quickfire Challenge and Spike won. His first win. Maybe the guest judge thought he was cute? Maybe it was actually good; people have really liked some of his dishes throughout the season. Anyway, he didn't get immunity but he did get an advantage for the Elimination Challenge.

For the EC, the cheftestants had to create a hearty, healthy, delicious box lunch for Chicago's finest (police or police academy students or both, I wasn't clear). They had to use something from each of these food groups: protein, grain, vegetable, and fruit. Spike's advantage was an extra ten minutes to shop and what he chose, the others couldn't use. So he deliberately chose chicken, bread, tomato, and lettuce so no one else could use those box lunch staples. I may have to call him Spite from now on. What an ass. The others then got to shop and were much more creative, some because they now had to be, and some because they just are.

They went back to the kitchen and started creating their lunches and it went pretty smoothly except Lisa's brain had apparently stopped working altogether. First she got shrimp -- why, hello, cholesterol! -- and had to be TOLD by Crazy Andrew that it's loaded with cholesterol -- you sneaky little artery-clogger, you! -- so she decided to just use it sparingly. Then, even though she was calling her dish stir-fry, she decided to use brown rice. Okay, whatever, it's "creative." But brown rice takes forever to cook and they only had two hours to prep, cook, package, and store their lunches in coolers to take to the cops. So she did her vegetables and shrimp, then went to check her rice and discovered that someone had turned the flame all the way up! Her brown rice was ruined! SABOTAGE! Everyone else was like, whatever, get over yourself. She decided to hope for the best. (Yes, that always works out well.)

Let's see... Andrew did some sort of weird sushi rolls, using pine nuts and parsnip instead of rice. Spite did an odd chicken salad with olives and grapes, and only used the tomato and lettuce as sort of lame decoration -- kept them from the others and then didn't even really use them! Ass! Lisa did her shrimp "stir-fry." Stephanie did a mushroom, leek, and meatball soup. Antonia did a curried beef and rice dish. Richard did a grilled tuna burrito and was admittedly annoying, asking every cop that came to his table, "The question of the day is: do you like burritos?" I generally like Richard and think he's talented, BUT. Annoying! Dale did yet another Asian dish. Not one to roll the dice, our Dale. But he used bison, which was smart.

The top two judge faves (Chicago's finest didn't get input -- no respect!) were Stephanie and Dale. Guess who won? Yes, of course Dale. At least he didn't lose his temper this week (that we saw, anyway) and so was just his usual sort of surly arrogant self. Sigh. It's almost too bad he's such a good cook.

The bottom three were Spite, Lisa, and Andrew. Even with his advantage and his pettiness, Spite STILL didn't do well. The judges said the chicken salad tasted weird and apparently he spent the whole two hours just doing that. He said, "Well, olives and grapes are sweet and salty, what don't you get about sweet and salty?" Ooh, the nerve! Tom (Colicchio, head judge) just smiled and said, But olives have a flavor, they're not just salty, and that flavor didn't work. Or something like that. SNAP. Good to see karma working a little magic there. Lisa's brown rice was underdone -- ah, the SABOTAGE worked! -- but the judges also called her out for having underdone shrimp (gag) and something else wasn't right, but I can't remember what it was. Andrew's sushi apparently wasn't very good and it wasn't a filling, satisfying lunch.

So, here we go. Andrew and Lisa, both with pretty bad defensive angry attitudes, start defending themselves. Lisa told the judges about the SABOTAGE and the judges basically responded that even if she was a victim of SABOTAGE, it's her responsibility to keep an eye on her dishes. THANK YOU. Besides, she's not so talented that the others would need to resort to SABOTAGE to get rid of her. Tom then said, Well, the shrimp were underdone, too. She had nothing to say to that. Trapped, she threw Andrew to the wolves and said, Well, he didn't follow the rules, he didn't have a grain. Tom basically replied, We know, Lisa. Very adult-to-a-difficult-and-disappointing-child.

Andrew defended himself in a predictably unpredictable, uncomfortable way. Very impassioned speech about how he studied nutrition for years and this was the most healthy dish in the world that he gave those cops and if they didn't like it... They didn't show him actually using curse words in front of the judges but it seemed a near thing. He used them plenty at other times, yelling at Lisa, talking to the camera... Seems to be just the way he speaks. Anyway, he and Lisa got into it and the judges seemed to find it all very distasteful. Well, it was. Two awkward and frankly not very likable people showing their asses... not pleasant. So the judges shooed them away and discussed.

Back in the storage area the cheftestants waited and Andrew and Lisa argued and Andrew finally just stared at Lisa in a completely creepy psychopathic way. I think he is seriously unhinged. The judges called the bottom three back in. They all stood in front of the judges' table like it was a firing line and looked defiant. Padma looked at them sadly and said...

Andrew, please pack your knives and go.


Andrew, in a complete surprise move, handled it extremely well, and was gracious and almost charming about it. He asked the judges if he could shake their hands and thanked them for the opportunity. He hugged Spite several times before he left and they were very enthusiastic about each other and hooking up later and staying friends. With benefits?

So exit Crazy Andrew. I still can't believe he took it as well as he did. Good on you, Andrew!

Next week: RESTAURANT WARS. See chefs who have no idea how to actually run a restaurant scurry around like little mice, little angry mice, squeaking at fellow mice to do this FASTER and that BETTER and YOU ARE RUINING OUR CHANCES, YOU STUPID MORON, WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

MhER Gene

One thing that motherhood has done for me is to ramp up my emotional response to hearing about harm coming to any children, and even animal babies, by about a thousand percent. I've always been sensitive to the vulnerable and more easily moved by their plights -- so children, the elderly, sick, and animals -- healthy adult humans are sort of on their own, in my emotional book. Well, since I had Joe that soft-heartedness has increased wildly. Like a thousand percent.

We've been staying at my parents' house the last few days because with three dogs, it's hard to keep our place clean. And it's an old rental house, so it just never seems clean, you know? Anyway, my parents went out of town so we went over and ensconced ourselves in a nice clean house where Joe could roam around (because he's crawling now, remember?!) and we don't have to worry about him picking up a toy covered with dog hair and putting it in his mouth. Because everything goes in his mouth now.

My parents have a birdhouse that has recently become inhabited by some bluebirds, which we were all very excited about because it's usually hogged by squirrels. So this morning I noticed that the mom and dad birds kept flying up to the birdhouse and then away again and the pine straw was sort of blocking the entrance. So I went outside to see what was going on. I moved a little straw aside and saw something kind of black and odd-looking that I couldn't make sense of at first. Oh yes, you see where this is going. It was a SNAKE. Then I saw its evil little face looking at me. Bastard! I was so angry. So I went inside and starting crying and then made Andrew go out and try to get that damn thing out of there.

Well, he couldn't. It just stayed all curled up, staring at him and flicking its tongue. Oh, I have never hated a snake like I hate that one. Those poor babies! And the poor mama and daddy birds! I just can't stand it.

And I was just talking about how king snakes are beneficial to have around (we had one at our house the other day) and last night I was thinking about how those birds were nice and safe in their little house because it was storming. I JINXED those poor birds!!

Yes, I know it's natural and the circle of life and all that BS. I get it. Nature, she is cruel.

So she should be able to take it when I say that I hate her for it.

I'm going to stop now or I'll start crying again. See, thousand percent increase in saline output.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mommy's Log

Bunny is crawling! Forward! He took off Monday all of a sudden, right across the room. He went after the telephone, one of his favorite playthings. That would be our telephone, a cordless. He much prefers our telephones and remote controls to any toys we give him. So why do we keep buying toys??

He has also started pulling up, so we really have to watch him now; he'll grab hold of anything and pull. He has also started crying when he doesn't get his way. Believe me, we're trying to nip that nasty little habit in the bud. It's hard sometimes, looking at his cute little face.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

This is Reality

* spoilers *

I only saw the last part of the second half of ANTM last night, so I don't really have much to say except that last week Tyra told Whitney to stop being so sexy and then the guest judge this week said that Whitney needed to be sexier! And do you think Tyra stepped up and said, Well, last week she was being too sexy so I told her to bring it down, so that is probably what happened. Um, no. Tyra stepping up? Not gonna happen.

Anyway, they finally, FINALLY, booted Dominique off. Who took it really well, and was actually kind of endearing in her "I'm so great" kind of way. Nice to see a positive attitude, even if it's a little arrogant.

I still say Anya for the win. The only reason Whitney has made it this far, I think, is because she's the smallest plus-size girl they've had. And she is really pretty, though, strangely, that doesn't always seem to carry much weight on ANTM. (Ooh, I just did what I accused the judges of doing last week! Ha! I didn't even realize it.)

I wish they would stop comparing Fatima to Iman; while there is a superficial resemblance, Fatima has nothing on Iman (even though in these pictures Iman is probably twice Fatima's age):

On to Top Chef! Again, if you aren't watching, you should be. Do it, watch it, do it, do it, doitdoitdoitdoit.

This time they had a WEDDING to prepare the food for, and the team that won the Quickfire Challenge got to choose Bride or Groom and they chose the BRIDE. Crazy!

The Quickfire Challenge was the relay race one that is really fun to watch. It was down to the wire, unlike last season, when Casey took three hours to chop an onion. The team that won it was a much stronger team, with Richard, Antonia, Stephanie, and Andrew, but, like I said, it was close. Dale, who is such a prat, pitched a fit about losing, hitting a locker and yelling F**k! Then he had to have his diaper changed. (As Antonia said. Hee!)

So the wedding was fun -- I mean, we didn't see much of the wedding, just the food parts. Which is good, how boring to watch some strangers stand there and say some vows. Ho hum. Get to the food!

The bride's team had to create a wedding cake and none of them are pastry chefs, so... very daunting. Stephanie took it on and it turned out nicely. I mean, it looked nice. Apparently the groom's cake tasted better, but looked much worse.

The bride's team won, and Richard was the winner out of the contestants. He wanted to give the win to Stephanie, since she took on the cake, so they ended up sharing it. I thought that was nice. Very collegial and respectful.

Nikki, on the groom's team, was cut. It wasn't a surprise, she didn't seem like a strong contender anyway.

Next week: Dale loses his temper! Richard wears a pink shirt! Lisa says something negative! Andrew says something bizarre! Spike wears a fedora! Stephanie and Antonia act normal!

You can't wait, can you?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Reality Bytes. Bits? Maybe Nibbles.

Here we go again. I know, right? Anyway, I watched ANTM and Top Chef last night (WHY must they be on the same night? At least they're not on at the same time.)

* spoiler alert *


Easy to see Katarzyna was going down. Obviously they didn't like her; they couldn't even be bothered to pronounce her name right. So it looks like the winner will be Anya. But who knows? They've kept Dominique around despite her missing tooth. I mean, look at this (from fourfour; Rich Juzwiak does a hilarious recap of ANTM every Monday. You should never, ever miss it.):

They gave Dom a hard time about how she was dressed at judging, like they were surprised. Tyra told her, while giving her her picture which meant she was still-in-the-running-towards-becoming-America's-Next-Top-Model, that she needed to work on it and then said "So it looks like Dominique" (or something like that; I don't have the show memorized or Tivo'd or whatever, I'm working on memory, people, and it's become a nervous, timid little thing lately) and I thought, That's what she's doing now, Tyra! Ugh. This cycle is so annoying.

Whitney isn't going to be around much longer. She keeps landing in the bottom two and they're only keeping her so it looks like they aren't a bunch of fashionatrixes (-trices?) who are disgusted by the fact that she isn't a size 2. Well, Tyra probably likes to keep the plus-size girls around longer so she doesn't look quite so behemoth next to the contestants. (And my point here is that the girls are usually unhealthily skinny, not that Tyra is too big. I think Tyra looks fine.)

And they always make comments that have to do with weight and size when they speak to Whitney, and I'm not sure they're aware of it. It's either sly and mean, or it's unconscious and unbelievably un-self-aware. (Hm. There has to be a better word for that. Oblivious? Stupid?) I wish I could remember (again with the creaking brain machinery) what exactly they said, but it seems like Miss Jay, Nigel, and Tyra all did it. Maybe it's scripted, which means it's sly and mean. Alright, I found a couple of comments and now they seem more unconscious than deliberate. Calling Whitney down, Tyra said, "Last but not least, Whitney." Okay, people say that, it may not have meant anything more than that. And when Nigel was talking to the judges he said, "There's a lot to Whitney." Then he went on to make it seem like he meant personality-wise, but when he said it, Paulina made a face like, Are you talking about her weight, man?

And what is with Tyra trying to pretend like she feels maternal towards these girls? Do you plan to not bother to pronounce your own daughter's name correctly someday, Ty-Ty?

Let's not forget that she chooses the "best picture" that they judge the girls on. Oh, no chance of rigging the competition there, no! Again, ANNOYING, this cycle. But I have to watch it to the cold, grim finale now.

Top Chef

Again, if you aren't watching, YOU SHOULD. And you don't have to be a foodie to enjoy it; as I said, I don't cook, don't like to, and don't even really like to eat more than a few things. It's become a bone of contention between my husband and me: he likes to try new things and likes most of what he tries; I don't like to try anything new and almost never like it when I do. It's a problem. I'd be perfectly happy eating the same four things I know I like, tra-la. Anyway, we struggle on and try new things because I want to make sure we have interesting things for Bunny to eat. Healthy, too. Another struggle.

Okay, this post sort of got away from me for a moment. Back to Top Chef.

So last night they had an interesting challenge -- to make a healthy, tasty meal for a family of four on a budget of $10. I think they get to use staples that are in the kitchen already, so they had only to buy main ingredients (but at Whole Foods, which, you know, a little pricey). Still, challenging. It was fun to see what they came up with. AND they had to cook with kids that are part of the Common Threads, an organization... oh, I'll just let them tell you: The Mission of Common Threads is to educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being, and to foster an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking.

So, again, fun to watch. Mark got cut (hee, that never gets old)(yes, to me) this time. I was sad to see him go, I liked him, but I wasn't very surprised. His cooking didn't really seem to be of the same caliber as some of the other chefs'.