Archive for June, 2007

China, bad.

Had a conversation at the bar last night. Almost everyone at the table loves China. I don’t. And I have my reasons, but not the time to go on a diatribe. I’ll save it for later. One other person at the table was with me on the poo pooing of China. Some day when I have time to try to gather my thoughts, I’ll try to articulate them.

In the meantime, even if you don’t have time to read all the links, at least check out the wide selection of stories about why China is bad for consumers. Hopefully the marketplace will correct our heavy trade with China… I won’t hold my breath because people are still shopping at Walmart too.

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Top Chef – Sunny Delights

Gosh, is this only the second episode of the season? There is still so much whittling that needs to be done that the face time for the contestants is all over the place. Fourteen contestants left.

We start out with everyone getting ready for the day. Yay! They’re all still getting along! And I’m not sure which chef this is, but she was wearing this monstrosity last week too… I guess it *is* a nightgown and not a bed sheet. Well, I hope it’s at least comfortable. I’d worry about the tie coming undone and choking me, but I guess I am an active sleeper sometimes…

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Quickfire: The chefs walk into a table full of citrus, citrus and more citrus. Welcome to Miami. Apparently the guest judge, Norman Van Aken, is “one of the Godfathers of South Florida cuisine.” While the chefs listen to the quickfire directions, the camera gets a shot of the chefs lined up in the kitchen. That dude is literally head and shoulders above the rest!! tall.jpgIs everyone else on this show just super short or is that guy seven and a half feet tall!? The quickfire challenge is to create a delicious dish incorporating citrus fruit in 30 minutes. Micah explains that this challenge should be easy, but she has a mental block. She had more ideas about preparing gooey duck than she does about making a dish with these ingredients which she uses every day. Tre and Hung are both feeling like the front runners in the competition.

Last week, the chefs did the quickfire outside of the Top Chef kitchen and the elimination challenge was done with only half of the chefs in the kitchen at a time. Now, with the fourteen remaining chefs all working in the kitchen, things are a little more congested. They show plenty of shots of people rushing around the kitchen and running into each other. Sandee complains, “These torches suck!” Must not be a sponsor, or that wouldn’t have made the cut, right? Although… I think Hung was complaining about a stove burner not working too.

Sara N makes her first real appearance. She was barely even noticeable last week. This week, they were showing a her so much that I thought she must be a goner! She complains that her plans for the quickfire are not really working out because her shrimp needed preparation which she hadn’t counted on. The judge turns out to be kind of a hard ass. He tries CJ’s (giant dude) dish and asks him if he made the decision to leave seeds in. Next is Casey (Celine Dion), whose play on smores was not focused enough on the citrus. Sandee (fauxhawk) makes a trio. Please let this not be a neverending parade of trios and duos again. Judge doesn’t like the mojito or the fact that something needs to be removed from it to drink it. Micah makes avocado “soup” but it looks like slightly watery guacamole. Judge asks simply, “Soup?” and Micah replies that it turned out like pudding. I’ll say… Padma eats it on what looks like a chip. Lia makes crab salad and Padma bites into some shell and says she doesn’t think that’s a crouton. Judge says it sounds like shell. Dale’s citrus salad looks like slop on a plate to me. Judge says he would have like a little olive oil to “go against that sunshine.” Sara N says she wasn’t expecting the judge to be so critical in his critiques. He was a little on the snotty side. Sara N was nervous and it showed. She took her awkward pill and stumbled all over herself trying to explain her dish. Judge was a butt to her.

Hung says that looking around the kitchen, he saw some “slummy dishes” so being such a humble guy, he’s sure he’s got this thing wrapped up. Judge likes it too. Tre’s is also good, along with Howie, and Brian. The judge likes Joey’s drink, although we don’t hear comments about the food. We don’t hear how Sara D or the bed sheet girl did. God, have they covered the bed sheet girl at all? Bottom three are Sara N (no focus), Sandee (garnish in the way), and Micah (unremarkable). Top three are CJ (complex, but coordinated – even with the seeds), Hung (distinct and well coordinated), and Tre (well thought out and plated). Hung wins and I can’t believe his giant head doesn’t explode from all the swelling. It was disappointing to see all women in the bottom three and all men in the top three. Joey is pissed. He thought he did a tremendous job on his dish and expected to be in the top three. His lips get all pursed when he’s pissed.

Time for the elimination challenge. It’s time for a champagne barbecue, brought to you by Kingsford Charcoal and probably a little bit by Moet too. Time to create an upscale barbecue dish for a “sexy and sophisticated crowd” at the event. Tre feels like this challenge is right up his alley since he’s from Texas. Howie feels like he’s got something to prove here. How about putting all the food on the plate? Everyone goes shopping and it’s kind of funny. Casey tries to do math and asks CJ his opinion on how many slices he thinks she can get out of something. He’s going with the same protein so he decides not to help. Casey replies “I’m doing other s***, I don’t need you! Tch. Outta my way.” Heh. Micah sees that everyone has gone to the meat section to start, so she tools around the produce section to start. She’s in a really foul mood because she misses her daughter. Isn’t this, like, day two for them as far as filming goes? Sara N decides to try her hand at math. She orders 20 pounds of rib eye. At $10 a pound, that’s her entire budget. Luckily, Hung points this out to her… that was nice of Hung. I almost thought he might be a nice boy under all that big talk.

treeyebrows.jpgTwo hours of prep time. Hung runs around the kitchen. CJ is making some weird mound with a pineapple underneath. Brian is making a seafood sausage. What’s with Brian making the food that is long and tubular? Tre is making barbecue salmon. He’s a serious competitor and if you’re not careful, he’ll raise his eyebrows at you! I like Tre so far and it’s fun to do screen captures of his interviews and rock between pictures. His face is very expressive. During the prep, there is lots of chopping and slicing. I love watching chefs do this. So quick, easy, and accurate. I’ll never know how they do it. Sandee thinks that, since she’s from the south, everyone expects her to do barbecue chicken (we’ll leave that to Joey), but she decides to go with a lobster pancetta with vanilla bean butter bacon sauce. Um. Sounds like too many flavors to me. I’ll stick to my Hot Fries, thank you very much. She says a lot of people are going the barbecue route, but she wants to go a little bit more upscale. Well, she’s getting one of the requirements of the challenge… Micah is still going on about feeling like crap and it sounds like there has been a little gossiping among the other chefs about it. Casey says, “we’re not sure if it is that she really misses her daughter or if she is upset about the quickfire.” Hung rips on her too, saying that Micah’s using her daughter as an excuse for being upset. Sara N is working with scotch bonnets and didn’t know how hot they were. Apparently, they are the same species as the habanero… but shouldn’t she know that before cooking with it? The peppers start to burn her fingers while she’s cutting them. They run out of time before Sara N is done with some of the stuff that needed to pickle overnight. She’s afraid her food will be inedible.

Elimination day: Time to go out and barbecue in the heat. Sarah N has never started a barbecue before. Micah can’t remember how much charcoal to use and how long it burns. Isn’t there info on the bags? Sara D can’t figure out how to f***ing work the lighter. Heh. Child proof. Some people are putting a lot of lighter fluid on their charcoal. I can’t believe that their food doesn’t end up tasting like lighter fluid. CJ is stooping over his prep table and says to Lia, “It’s like the only time I wish I was 5’3. No offense, hon.” Well, when you call her “hon” I don’t see how the little lady could be offended.

Chef Tom comes around for the sniff n’ sneer. Hung says all the right things. Tre, making conversation, says that he could do this in his sleep and Tom takes that as Tre saying he was coasting through. Joey is making barbecue chicken and Tom asks him if this is gourmet enough. Joey says no, but you’re supposed to have fun at a barbecue. Wrong answer, Joey – why do people have a hard time figuring out that they have to listen to the entire challenge, not just bits and pieces? Tom explains what Sandee is doing as putting lipstick on a pig. Well, that can’t be good. I can’t understand what it is that Sandee is doing, but apparently it doesn’t utilize the barbecue. Something about poaching blah blah blah. I can’t cook, people! Howie is cooking pork and he started too early.

yummy.jpgGuests arrive: Obligatory shot of some gays. Oh, Bravo!, you sure know how to include the gays. Camille is not feeling confident about her dish. Wait. Who the heck is Camille!? I think she’s the bed sheet chick. I have no earthly idea what she’s worked on in the first episode or the earlier part of this episode. She’s kind of cute too… more Camille please! She’s making swordfish and must not have run into any problems because we don’t see her for the rest of the episode again. Micah: more fun with math! “You know, 60 people. That’s not 10, that’s not 15, that’s 60 people.” Sara N has made Vietnamese barbecue and Padma says it’s yummy. With her mouth full. Love that Padma. Everyone loves Brian’s seafood sausage and he’s good at selling it too. CJ criticizes Sandee’s dish because braising poaching blah blah not technically barbecuing blah. Howie realizes that his pork is drying out, but hopes to coast through. Joey says if people said the same things about Howie’s dish in New York, he’d be going home. Shut up, Not Gourmet Boy. Hung made a watermelon champagne and Joey and his stupid sideways baseball cap heard this and didn’t like it. Joey says Hung is a “Kiss ass. That’s why he moved to Vegas, because he couldn’t hang in New York.” Thank god this competition is in Miami, because if it was in New York, Joey would never shut up. In his interview, Hung tries to think quickly to come up with an excuse about where he came up with the idea for the drink. Don’t play poker, dude. You’re a bad liar. Joey makes some comment about getting Hung some knee pads because he’s a kiss ass. How about making some decent food so you don’t have to worry about it?

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Casey feels the same way I do about Joey. Everything is always someone else’s fault when it comes to Joey.

Judges table: Tom says that across the table everything was very good. They knock Hung for having a simple dish. Tre’s dish was too salty for Padma but too bland for the others, plus it was lacking acidity. This isn’t the first time that Padma’s thoughts about a dish have been the complete opposite from everyone else’s opinion. Weird. Sandee’s food wasn’t really barbecue. Top three: Sara N, Brian, and Micah. Glad to see it’s 66% chick. Sara gets light headed when Padma announces that they are the top three. She’s very, very honored and surprised, but it’s Brian who wins with his seafood sausage. All three have come from the bottom to stand here in the top and you can see clearly that they are happy to have turned things around, at least for now. Bottom three: Howie, Joey, Sandee, and Tre. Er, that’s four. How are they doing this now? Sometimes two at the top, sometimes three. So far, it’s bottom four. Is that the new format? Tre knows there was an issue with salt on some portions. Joey chose barbecue chicken because his family used to have it when he was growing up. Obviously, not high end then, no? Gail says the chicken was super hot and hard to pick up, Joey replies that he likes to serve his proteins super hot. Guest judge Norm points out that guests were eating without utensils. Joey stares at him kind of slack jawed before saying he failed and he’ll try better next time. Sandee is totally shocked that she is there. There was so much butter and the dates were so strong that no one could taste the lobster, plus it didn’t feel like barbecue. Howie knew what was wrong with his dish and explains that he hasn’t cooked to his potential yet. When asked whose dishes he tasted, Joey replies Tre’s and Sandee’s but he thinks that Howie should go home because of the first elimination challenge and hearing that Howie’s pork was dry. Howie shoots back that Joey’s been doing a lot of complaining and basically says he’s bound to fail. Competition brings out the animal in Joey and that animal is icky. Joey and Howie argue back and forth while they wait for the judges’ decision. Joey offers to go home now. Oh, if someone would take him up on that offer.

Ultimately, the bigger sin was no barbecue at all rather than not upscale enough, so Sandee is sent packing. Oh, fauxhawk, we hardly knew ye. They’re kicking all the southern people out! It seems like people really liked Sandee and they were sad to see her go. It was kind of sweet because everyone gave her a little ovation when she left. Hopefully she’ll continue to do well where she works now.

Product placement logo shots – GE Monogram oven: 1, Rav 4 count:3, Fresh Market2, Kingsford:8, Moet:3. Next week looks like there’s some hot tubbing going on, some Howie sweat, followed by some terrible food, and finally – Ted Allen!

Curl Girls

Have you caught Curl Girls on Logo yet? Didn’t think so. While it’s nice that there’s something new to watch on Logo, this show isn’t worth the time. I don’t have the Logo channel, but the premier episode is available as a free download on iTunes. Not really worth the bandwidth or the time to watch it. I get sucked into *all* kinds of reality shows but this feels staged (more than usual for a reality show) and boring at the same time. How can you go wrong with chicks in bathing suits? Drama that has been done, redone and done once more for good measure. Yawn.

Well, the good news is that I don’t have to worry about not being able to watch the next five episodes. Guess I’ll stick to Kathy Griffin, Traveler, and Top Chef. Deadliest Catch‘s season finale is tomorrow. This is good because my television watching habits are getting out of control and soon the butt groove on my couch will be complete!

By the way, I refuse to link to the Bravo website. Their website hurts my eyes and my sensibilities.

Top Chef – First Impressions

Well, it’s that time again. Against my better judgment, I watched Top Chef. We’ll see if it is the show or if it was just last year’s cast that made the show so unenjoyable. It looks like Kenmore didn’t like that the chefs went to chow.com and bashed their appliances… it’s now called the Top Chef Kitchen rather than the Kenmore Kitchen. One less tired product placement, yay! It looks like Glad has taken over as the big sponsor. Plenty of shots of the chefs riding around in the Toyota Rav4s too. Rav4 count: 7 , Continental Airlines:1, Moet champagne:7, GE Monogram:1, Fresh Market:1 First impressions: Sara… one of two. What’s up with her shirt sleeves? I like that she introduced herself as a fromagier, and then said, “that’s a fancy way to say a cheese maker.” Seems down to earth. Clay… Mr. Southern Man. No culinary school, thinks he’s the dark horse. Mia made it pretty far last year with her southern cooking, but the judges like sophisticated stuff. All I can think of when I hear his name is Clay Gayken. joey.jpgJoey tries to set himself up as a teddy bear, saying that he’ll give the money to his mother if he wins. Whatever. He comes off as a bully to me. And what’s up with the collar being up like that? Is that coming back into style now, because it just looks like you’re trying to hide a hickey when you do that, IMO. He moves his head around in a funny way too. He seems like an odd man. He’s like a caricature of a little New Yorker pizza maker or hot dog vendor… no? Next up, dude with the mohawk. At first, I thought he’d be the attitude, but he seems sensitive and possibly gay. Every so often, I think I see him swish. Although, later he says, “Fantastic!” instead of “Fabulous!” He’s throwing me off! Is his name Dale or Dell? I think it’s Dale, but Tom keeps calling him Dell. Tre seems pretty serious and determined. I like him, although I’ll never understand tattoos on the forearms. More power to ya, bud. What I like? He enjoys people’s reactions to eating something good. It goes something like this. treeat.jpgtrewow.jpg Next up, Sara, two of two. Heck, I think the initial intro is the only time they even really touch on her. They go to Gianni Versace’s old mansion. Creepy considering its history, especially when they show the front steps. Hung. Introduces himself as a CPA. Certified Professional A-hole. Nice and classy. Micah walks in like a celebrity in disguise, but she seems nice. Kind of a hippy. More mohawks… or… I guess maybe fauxhawks. Really, when does one become the other and why do people wear them? Lots of lesbians sporting a fauxhawk these days and it’s especially odd when older lesbians do it, Sandee. It’s the new mullet. Lia seems like a nice sweet Midwestern girl. She’s living in Brooklyn right now. Hey Joey, you can live in New York and not be obnoxious! Check it out. Next up is CJ, from Orange County. Dude’s tall! And… he tells us he has a false testicle. I’m glad you’re in remission dude, but you could spare us some of the details! They aren’t even done with the introductions before giving the cheftestants an unexpected quickfire challenge while they’re all dressed up and unprepared. Sneaky. Tom wastes no time in reminding the chefs that he is not their mentor, he is head judge of the show. Get over yourself dude. amuse.jpgQuickfire: make an amuse bouche from the leftovers of the hors dourves they’ve been munching on for a half hour. It’s quite a spread of food, but they only get ten minutes, they have to use plastic utensils to prepare the food, and the food should tell the judges “who you really are”. Mad scramble. Lots of people using oysters. Clay basically made a fruit cup out of an apple. Wha? I didn’t go to culinary school either, but what the heck? In watching this show only one season, you should know that an amuse bouche is a small taste of food, one bite, to whet your appetite. Micah wins with this pretty little dish. I love the pretty little food shots. Those people know how to light and shoot food to make it look nice. And it does seem to reflect her personality. I don’t know why. I guess it’s a little like those commercials where the food matches the outfit they’re wearing. Micah looks a little like her Tuscan Sushi Revisited, but she just needs a furrier hat… Padma dismisses them after the challenge. They get the night off and now they can go promote the hotel where they are staying. The editors throw in a little crazy Padma look in at the end of the quickfire. Eek!

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So they all go back to the hotel and bond. Nice digs there. Would someone please tell me, is this chick wearing a bedsheet or is that some sort of nightgown?

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We continue on with the introductions now. Howie. He gives the standard I’m-not-here-to-make-friends bit. He seems like he’s from New York. Hung gets in on that action and gives the same spiel in his interview. Oop! Looks like Top Chef has gone with GE ovens this time. We move on to the elimination challenge. There is the knife block and they’re walking in to see a table full of “proteins” but all I can see is slimy looking food and a boar’s head. Gross. Clay look scared. Sara One of Two looks relaxed… just another day in the kitchen. Micah has her hair pulled back and looks completely different. Where’d my hippy go? Time to create a surf and turf dish using exotic ingredients. There are only two portions of each gross ingredient and they’ll draw knives to see in which order they get to choose what to take. People start taking the easier ingredients first. Tre decides to take risks, Brian takes a snake and an eel, Sara One of Two takes geoduck. What the heck is that? They pronounce it “gooey duck” but I want to say “gee oh duck.” No? Anyway, it looks… well… wrong. Hung says it is shellfish. It is a fish or fowl?

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While shopping, Joey works himself into a tizzy because Micah is trying to help calm down Clay who’s running around like a chicken with his head cut off. Says Joey, “I hope she don’t tell me what to do. I’ll tell her to f*** herself.” Insert odd head bobbing. You’re a sweet boy, Joey. The chefs are split into two groups so there is more room in the kitchen, I guess. Howie talks about taking time out to make sure everything is prepped so he can put out the best food possible. Cue the wasting precious time music. Sandee injects her frog legs with some cajun spices. Clay’s sweating it up. Lia says her food isn’t going to be beautiful and Tom encourages her to take the time to make it beautiful. She looks at the clock and agrees. She’s kind of cute in a girl next door sort of way. Time starts to run out and everyone starts to hurry. Howie runs out of time and starts pacing around. With no other options, he takes what he has and all the chefs line up to take their food out to present to the judges. They like most of what they eat. They are quick to poo poo Clay’s dish. Group two is up. Hung is full throttle. Brian the eel boy is butchering his stuff. Sara One of Two is laid back. She seems to know a lot. We meet Camille, who likes simple food done right. She’s making kangaroo. Gross! Tre and Tom talk about Tre not wanting to lose. Tre tries some of Hung’s stuff and it rolls his socks up and down. So Hung can cook, but he doesn’t have to be such a jerk! Time starts to run down and people start running around. Brian runs out of time and didn’t get to do everything he wanted. The judges like Tre’s dish and they like Hung’s as well. Dale’s alligator is “super tough” and Brian’s dish would be good if Anthony Bourdain was drunk. What does that mean? How is eel and rattlesnake bar food? Judges table. They think that, on average, the performances were very good. They like Sara One of Two, Hung and Tre. The only “tiny criticism” of Hung is that his plate didn’t have any contrasting color. It looked pretty beige, but Bourdain called it “pretty flawless.” They give good comments about Tre’s dish too. They only call out Hung and Tre to come to see the judges. Tre says he knew Hung would be in the finals with him after he had tasted his food. It’s nice to see one chef complement another rather than knocking the other guy to try to build himself up (Ilan, I’m looking at you). Hung defends the beigeness, but we know how that goes, don’t we? Despite saying his dish was a bit conservative, they select Tre as the winner and he gets a stack of Bourdain’s books and a night on the town in New York with Bourdain. If you’ve ever read “Kitchen Confidential” you know… that man can drink. Good luck to you, Tre. They ask them to send in Howie, Brian, Clay, and Dale. Is it odd that they had two at the winner’s table and four at the loser’s? floods.jpg Oh, Dale, you can’t be gay with that outfit. Brian explains that he made his dishes far too complicated for the time alloted. They criticize him for frying the food. Padma gets a little attitude and says “anything will hold up well against frying. You could fry my toe and batter it well and it would taste good.” Ouch. Dale’s food was chewy and he gives some excuse, but the judges call him on trying to play it safe. Howie tries to explain why he ran out of time, but explains that he was trying to make sure that everything was perfect and kisses up to Bourdain. Someone finally gets away with not serving something and giving the excuse that it wasn’t ready to be served. The judges have long said, “If it’s not right don’t serve it” and by golly, they meant it, although they did give him a hard time and rightly so. His risotto was good enough to keep him there. I think the judges knew that Howie was talented enough to move on, so they let him slide on this one. I think that was the right call… because now we come to Clay. Clay doesn’t know why he’s been called to the judge’s table. He stands behind his dish but says in the same breath, “It could have been better, obviously.” He par-cooked his food for no good reason. celine.jpgceline1.jpgThe judges beat the man down, pile on and then tell him to pack his knives and go. You know the food is bad if you get kicked off instead of the guy that didn’t complete the challenge. Inedible, “Economy class of Air Cambodia,” lack of fundamentals. Eh, I’m not sorry to see Clay go. He was a little annoying. When they show clips of what’s to come on the rest of the season, you get a feel for who stays for a while. Looks like Sandee isn’t going to last too long and Joey is. There’s some chick who looks like Celine Dion. Plenty of the people who they introduced. Not so much of the handful that they didn’t really cover. Plenty of yelling and crying going on… and some issue with big Joey. It should be interesting and/or painful. Here’s to hoping less pain and more interesting.


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