Friday, January 30, 2009

What is it with Italians and Monkey Ass? "Top Chef" Season 5: Episode 10

We started the episode off with some interviews about a subject I thought we'd left long behind - the grossness of Ho-Leah and Ho-sea. Apparently they were both sad (we knew that already) and regretted their idiotic behavior (which we also already knew), but apparently the BRAVO producers wanted to milk as much mileage out of their lame hook-up as possible, so we were treated to more interviews about how the hooking was over. Fantastic. And yet, this was the best part of the episode - I didn't think anything could be worse than the horrible restaurant wars last week, but, no, leave it to BRAVO to prove me wrong.

The Quaker Oats Quickfire Challenge:
First off, I was extremely excited to go to Scarpetta after I read the review of the restaurant in the New York Times a few months ago. I still want to go, but, I have to say, I'm not entirely thrilled about it - Scott Conant was not winning me over with his winning personality on Wednesday night. I'm sure he's a very talented chef, but I'm so over the cocky, better-than-you attitude all these chefs have. I'm sure your food is wonderful, but you don't have to be an A-hole about it.

Moving on...seriously? Quaker oats? Is there anyway to make something with oats other than encrusting various food items with them? I'm going out on a limb here and saying this was worse than the diet Dr. Pepper challenge, and probably the worst sponsorship ever. I love me some Oatmeal, but come on guys, you can do better than this. Carla once again steeped up as the person who worked the sponsorship into her interviews the most, though, the producers must love her. The best line of the Quickfire went to Fabio and his "why eat vegetables when there's meat and fEEEsh?" and that was it for redeeming qualities. Jeff, once again, was over thinking things, Stefan acted like a douche hat, and Leah couldn't properly de-bone her fish. Again. Why is she there again? Mostly I was confused by Jamie's Rachael-Ray-terrorist scarf.

The Glad Press 'n' Seal Elimination Challenge:
The surprises were football/chef jacket/jerseys, personalized for each chef. Kind of cool, and, I have to admit, I was extremely excited for the football challenge/ I love football and I love eating food while watching football (really, who doesn't), so I think this challenge had potential. Unfortunately, I think it fell way short in its execution.

For the challenge, the chefs had to compete as a team against a team of former "Top Chef" contestants, the "All-Stars" by going head-to-head with an "All-Star" in an individual round. The chefs had to cook a meal representative of a football team in 20 minutes, from scratch. Please. Whatever. First of all, could they have picked a more lame group of people as the "All-Star" team? I don't understand the love for Spike/Andrew and their platonic love for each other - I just find them both annoying. As for the rest of the "All-Stars," I didn't remember who any of them were, with the exception of Nikki, but that was mostly because she was just on last season. I'm sure by season 8 of "Top Chef" I'll have no recollection of her, and my brain will be the better for it. Second of all, I didn't understand Jamie's (and the others) "intimidation" when looking at the "All-Stars." She said it was because they were on TV, but what the hell? She's on TV. I can't believe someone as confident as her would be concerned about cooking against Andrew or Miguel.

Since Stefan won the Quickfire, he got to choose his team (Dallas) and his opponent (Andrea from Season 1, yeah, I had to check to be sure she was actually on the show, too). Then each team got to pick who would cook for each of the other teams and the head-to-head matchups were determined based on their choices. The chefs then got two hours to play around with recipes and practice cooking in 20 minutes (don't even get me started). This scene was basically useless to the program, which was an inexplicable hour and fifteen minutes again (stop cutting into my enjoyment of "The Daily Show" show). The only relevant things we learned were: a) Josie used to play professional womens football, which means she can kick pretty much anyone's ass, b) that Fabio likes to refer to "monkey ass" as many times as he can, and c) that Andrew likes to pee on people he deems inferior to him (where does he find them?).

Then we had a commercial break in which I wrote this:


For the actual challenge, the teams moved to the ICE to cook head-to-head and be judged the the usual judges (for a touchdown) and a team of student tasters (for a field goal). The team with the most points would win "bragging rights" and the season 5 chefs who lost to their "All-Star" opponents would be up for elimination. On the way to the ICE, Fabio drops the "press n seal" product-placement bomb, ensuring the producers would keep him around another episode (which factors into relevance in a little bit). I'll also say that Tom looked extremely pissy during this entire challenge. Did you see him all slumped in his chair, with his arms folded, leering at the chefs as they came in? Maybe he doesn't like football? Maybe Spike put on one of the prop-helmets and rammed his head into Tom's gut?

The food:

Leah vs. Nikki: Leah gets the touchdown for her steak and Nikki gets a field goal for her chicken livers.

Hosea vs. Miguel: Both of them do salmon, but Hosea wins all ten points for his salmon roll (which I grudgingly admit looked good).

(Montage of Josie and Andrew torture some crawfish)

Carla vs. Andrew: Andrew acted like a jackass and served crawfish crudo. Carla somehow managed to make gumbo in 20 minutes and gets a touchdown for her team. (Side bar: Was Ariane not wearing pants when they cut to her?).

Stefan vs. Andrea: Stefan made a duo of meat (that's what she said) and interviewed that he was in love with Andrea. Um, dude, not to rain on your parade or anything, but aren't you married? Stefan's arrogance didn't win him anything, however, as Andrea takes all ten points and hugged Tom inappropriately. At this point, I realized that the judges had to throw their votes so Stefan wasn't the only one up for elimination, because they're clearly not sending him home, like, ever, so the rest of the competition was basically useless to watch. But I did anyway. Luckily, I didn't have to right away, as we got another commercial break, during which I wrote this:


Jamie vs. Camille: They both made cioppino (which, ironically, B. Flay had just made on "Throwdown" an hour earlier) San Fran style. Scott rambled on about how much he loved Jamie's style of cooking and the manner in which she cooked. Jamie won.

Jeff vs. Josie: Jeff won my heart all over again by dumping rum on everything he was making. Even if it was bad, at least you'd get a nice, little buzz, right? Josie inexplicably made warm ceviche (gross) and even more baffling, she won. All the points. This is when I started to cry because I knew Jeff was going home.

(this is adorable, that's why it's here)

(same for this one)

Fabio vs. Spike: Fabio ranted (hysterically) about Spike not using cheese, because, to an Italian, one must use cheese when making food for Packers fans. Fabio lost, but got enough points to pull out the win for season 5. At least they beat those douches on the "All-Star" team. And, hopefully, it was the last we'll ever have to see of those ridiculous "All-Stars."

The Glad Forceflex Judges' Table:
The top four were Leah, Carla, Hosea, and Jamie, who all appear in front of the judges wearing headbands. In the only other good part of this fiasco, Carla won two tickets to the Superbowl for her 20 minute gumbo and subsequently made an adorable touchdown signal in her post-win interview.

The three losers by default were Fabio, Jeff, and Stefan. Fabio over-cooked his venison, Jeff made some ceviche that Tom hated, and Stefan just couldn't cook as well as Andrea (which I absolutely do NOT believe). This was probably the worst group of people to be at Judges' Table ever. None of them had any business being there. Leah and Carla (sorry, I like her, too, but really) get to stay? As I said before, Stefan was clearly not going home, and Fabio is a product-placer's wet dream, so that only left Jeff to take one for the team. And boy did he ever. Tom reamed him out at Judges' Table and I'm not sure why...perhaps an extension of the pissiness from earlier? Jeff looked like he wanted to cry when Tom was done, to which I yelled toward the TV, "don't worry Jeff, I still love you - I'll comfort you." Sadly, it was clear at this point that Jeff was going home, and he did. But he got a kiss from Fabio before he left, which is really all anyone could ask for, so I guess he went out on a high note. Plus, I'm clearly going to plan a trip to Miami to stalk Jeff.

Next week: ERIC MOTHERFUCKING RIPERT!!!!!!!!!!! (Which almost makes up for the future lack of Jeff in hotness equivalents). Fresh water eel! Toby makes an enigmatic Star Wars reference!

Edited to add, there's an interview with Jeff here. Ouch to Tom.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Worst Episode of "Top Chef" Ever

Yeah, I'm not going to get to write up last night's debacle until tomorrow, but I wanted to let you all know that I think it sucked. Big time. WTF WAS that? The only redeeming quality was Carla winning and making that touchdown motion in her interview. Jeff going home was awful (who will I leer at now?), Leah not going home was even more awful, Fabio rambled about monkey ass again, and the "All-Stars" Bravo brought back were clearly the only former contestants desperate enough to come back to the show, not anyone actually worth tuning in for. Spike, his douche-hat, and Andrew? Come on. Josie and Andrea? Please. The other ones I don't even remember 12 hours later? Whatever. Josie and Spike torturing the crawfish? Almost made me vomit. The Quaker Oats sponsored Quickfire? Possibly worse that the one sponsored by Diet Dr. Pepper.

Also, I think Ariane forgot her pants. And why is Stephen Starr such and A-hole?

Monday, January 26, 2009

More Ed...

A picture of sassy Ed from the SAG awards - rockin the tux and looking hot.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The EdsKape 2009

As promised, here's picture of the tablesKape from Ed's birthday celebration:

Containing: "The Office" Seasons 3 and 4 on DVD, "The Daily Show Indecision 2004" DVD, the Andy Bernard "Dancing with the Stars" mug, Cap'n Crunch, sushi, Hello Kitty (because she's a part of every sKape), the Ed card, some malted milk balls (for no reason at all), and the item ubiquitous to all sKapes - a lemon.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

And Now...The Reason AbS is Here...

(Yes, I'm stealing more pictures from

Happy Birthday, Ed! I hope you have a great day!

To celebrate AbS's favorite day of the year, KN and I will be dining on sushi (one of Ed's favorite take out foods), decorating her coffee table with a tablesKape of Ed - fit only for a crazy person (or Sandra Lee), and watching some highlights of "The Office" seasons 3 and 4, as well as "The Daily Show: Indecision 2004" DVD. Maybe we'll even listen to a little Lonesome Trio and pretend Ed is serenading us.

So, for those of you who can't party with us, have a shot to celebrate Ed and all the brilliance he has given us over the past year.

P.S. Photo of tablesKape to come.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Feel Like a Hummingbird on Cocaine - "Top Chef" Season 5 - Episode 9 (Subtitle: It's Called "Top Chef" not Top Slut)

I hate Restaurant Wars. I don't understand why Bravo makes such a big deal about it. It's a crappy challenge - think about it. They make the poor chefs open a restaurant in 6 hours (a feat which normally takes months to years to accomplish), then break apart every detail of the decor, food, and service. It's "Top Chef" not Top Waiter or Top Decorator ("see you later, decorator" - does anyone remember that show?). Yes, the chef-owner of a restaurant needs to make the interior design decisions of his or her restaurant, but they normally have, you know, a trained professional to give them options and people to actually do the design and decorating work. Sure, chef-owners need to train their waitstaff and make sure they know how to carry a plate withour spilling sauce everywhere, but, come on, is Thomas Keller at Bouchon yelling at waiters? F no. This is why chefs have head waiters, who have probably been with them since the first restaurant. And this is why Restaurant Wars sucks. The competition is about cooking, yet people get sent home for lacking front-of-house skills or decorating savvy. BS. I get that these skills are necessary to have, or at least know you need someone to help you out, but there's no need to Radhika and Fabio to be lugging planters around instead of designing and executing the menu. Rant over.

So, Hosea and Leah interviewed at the beginning that they didn't send Ariane home, yet Leah feels sick b/c she's partly responsible? At least Jamie had the balls to throwdown the first "throw under the bus" of the season. I don't know. Ariane and Leah both should have gone home. We went over this last week, moving on.

The Budakkan-sponsored Quickfire Challenge
This Quickfire was pretty uninteresting, right? I don't know what Jeff was thinking with the salmon and puree?

It looked so flat and boring on the plate. And Fabio, I don't even understand what the concept of his restaurant was - lunch cookery? I did think Radhika's looked tasty, but as soon as she won, I was like, "yeah, she's going home." Then I saw Leah win, and I was like, "NO, she's DEFINITELY going home." Could Stephen Starr have picked two worse people to be in charge? I don't think either of them has displayed good (no, actually ANY) leadership all season. I could practically feel the disdain and mocking oozing out of Stefan through my TV.

The Toyota Sequoia/Pier 1 Restaurant Wars Elimination Challenge
Radhika was in charge of Team Sahana, which also included Jamie, Carla, and Jeff. Theme: global/old spice trade. Leah was in charge of Team Sunset Lounge (wtf?) and Stefan, Fabio, and Hosea (they will, henceforth, be known as Team Slut for obvious reasons). Theme: Asian-influenced. And I am not impressed with either concept, but the menus sound good.

The teams the head out to buy decorations and subsequently destroy Pier 1 and spend $5,000 each. This entire segment could have been cut out of the show to have the episode fit in the one hour time frame and prevent me from being angry about blatant sponsorship. Also, I was confused as to why they had to shop for their restaurants BEFORE they saw the spaces they would be decorating. Anyone else?

[Speaking of other things that could have been cut from the episode, HO-sea and Ho-Leah making out (and the added porno music). WTF? I had to pause my TiVo, run to the bathroom, and mainline brain-bleach to get that grossness out of my head. They kissed, ugh, big deal. let's all move on. We watch the show for cooking and random chef in-fighting, not to watch two people lay in a bed together. Call me if Jeff gets naked.]

Anyway, while they were menu planning back at the apartment, it became clear to me that Radhika has no leadership skills (could she have been more passive about doing front-of-house?) and has no business being anywhere other than the kitchen. Which is fine, she seems to be a great cook, but step up and say, "I'm the leader, Jeff do front-of-house, you're hot and the ladies will love you, I want to cook my menu." On the other team, Leah clearly had no leadership skills either, letting Stefan walk all over her, then whining and leaving to have a cigarette. Then making out with Hosea. Ugh. It was pathetic.

The next day there's HO-Leah and HO-sea awkwardness and a pointless montage of the teams shopping at Whole Foods and Restaurant Depot (this also could have been cut out of the episode, thereby making it a 45 minute show). The only drama occurred when no one could find lamb shanks (causing the word "SHANK" to be said more times in two minutes on any TV show, ever, including "Prison Break") and the producers had to re-edit Carla saying "Toyota Sequoia" into the scene.

Finally, the cooking:
Basically, both teams had issues, Radhika put Jamie in charge so she can decorate and gave no input to poor Carla about her desserts or the problems she was having with the freezer. Team Slut couldn't work together because of HO-sea and HO-Leah's lovefest and Stefan couldn't get his parfait to set up, either (but, he wisely MacGuyver-ed an ice bath to make it work (yay! Tim Gunn!)). HO-Leah then messed up her fish by portioning it and then attempting to de-bone it and yelled at HO-sea to redo his sauce. And Stefan cackled maniacally in the corner all the while making awesome sounding desserts - he is a true multi-tasker. Basically, the only good that came out of the cooking montage was Fabio putting on his suit and looking hot. Well, that and "we can serve money ass in a clam shell." WTF does that mean and why do I love it so much?

Apparently, all the waiters on Team Sahana were idiots - where did Bravo find these people? Who doesn't know how to keep a plate level to prevent carefully plated sauce from running all over the plate? Jamie was pissed Radhika didn't train the servers how to do this, but I think they should have know how to do this already. And, it didn't affect the final outcome of the show anyway, so (again), waste of air time. As far as the food goes, Jeff and Jamie both did good jobs.

(This is here because Jeff is hot, even when he makes ridiculous faces like this one)
All the food sounded good ("SHANK" was dropped a few more times), despite the ubiquitous scallop (on a chickpea cake, though, so SOLD!!), and everything appeared to be hot and delivered in a timely fashion. Carla and her desserts were a different story altogether, though, right? I feel badly for her, I think if the freezer had been working, she would have been on her game, Team Sahana would have won, and Ho-Leah would have gone home. As is was, though, the desserts sucked, due to Carla and (mostly) Radhika's apathetic attitude.

Sunset Lounge:
Fabio was adorable and darling and will absolutely be hired to run the front-of-house of my restaurant.

He and Stefan totally carried the Hos' asses on this one. Without Team Europe, Leah would have been knifed faster than she could say "I still love my boyfriend." As for the food, the short ribs sounded tasty, but that cod was pathetic. Seriously, Leah? I know you're off your game b/c of HO-sea, but it's just a piece of fish, for the JUDGES, no less. At least get that piece cooked properly. Stefan's desserts all looked awesome, and I don't even like dessert. I'm not really a Stefan fan personality-wise, but his food is amazing.

I will not be surprised if he wins the whole thing and certainly won't be upset if he does.

Judges' Table:
Team Slut won by a small margin, thanks entirely to Team Europe's charm and sweet tooth. Leah got reamed for being a ho and improperly cooking fish because she was too distracted by HO-sea's hot ass. Team Sahana lost because of Carla's crappy desserts and Radhika's total lack of leadership and deficit of basic interpersonal skills. After some shady editing and a commercial, Radhika gets sent home. Which, given the team that lost, I think is fair. However, it's clear to me (and probably all of you) that Leah has no business being there anymore. She can't cook a piece of fish which she KNOWS is going to the judges and lack the leadership skills to control a kitchen. How on earth can she even be considered for Top Chef?

Next week: All-stars? How is Andrew an all-star? Josie? Is that her name? Why are they dressed in football uniforms? Fabio yells at the guest judge about Italian restaurants!

Side note: Why is Toby still there? He contributes nothing of value to the show. One pithy comment about Elvis Presley and nothing else this week. Does he even know about food? Just because he's a white guy with glasses doesn't make him interchangeable with Ted Allen, Bravo producers.

Ed Helms Post of the Day

Look what we have to look forward to in the post-Superbowl episode of "The Office:"

Also, check out for some pictures of Ed from Sundance - promoting "Manure" (which apparently sucks) and looking all-around adorable.

Here's a preview:

ZOMG! So adorable!

Here's another (although I'm not sure what's going on here):

Ed is the only one who looks remotely happy to be there. Tea looks like she wants to cut a bitch, Billy Bob is leering lecherously (think T-Bag on "Prison Break") and appears to be clenching his fist (getting ready to punch Ed for putting his arm around him?). And it looks like they photo-shopped Kyle MacLachlan in after the fact. Plus, he looks mildly deranged. Whatever, Ed looks good, that's all we care about, right?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Return (of "Burn Notice")

One of the best shows on TV returns for the start of the rest of it's second season tomorrow night - "Burn Notice."

Just thought I'd give you guys some non-Ed-Helms-related eye candy for a change. If you have time at work tomorrow (and I know you do), go to the USA website and catch up on the first half of season 2 and watch a clip of the first few minutes of tomorrow's episode. Want more? You can check out an interview with Bruce Campbell here.

When we last left Michael, he was getting blown up at his apartment. Once he recovers (after a nap, some yogurt, and a snarky rant by Sam), he'll head out to kick ass and take names. And figure out who burned him. I think he's supposed to find out who burned him at the end of this season, which should make for a good group of episodes leading up to the end of the season.

Definitely check out the show tomorrow at 10 pm in USA. What else are you going to watch? "ER?" The channel 11 news at 10? Anderson Cooper? Actually, it's OK if you watch AC...just TiVo "Burn Notice" to watch Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and a plate of eggs.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Shout-Out to BW and PW

Two of the most awesome people in the world, BW and PW, went on a trip to Las Vegas last year and, while there, purchased a fantastic Christmas present for me during their dinner at a restaurant I would love to go to*:

Yes, that's right, Thomas Keller's Bouchon Cookbook. But wait, it gets better...look at this:

Oh, hells yeah - it's the one with his autograph! What up, bitches? Now, as any good culinary-student-turned-at-home-cook (yes, I realize that's the opposite of what should actually happen), Thomas Keller is one of my idols. I guess he's the idol of a lot of chefs and home cooks, though. Look at French Laundry at Home for just one example of the many people who respect and admire him (and crazily cook all of his recipes!). I've read so much about him, including many of Michael Ruhlman's books, the numerous articles, and blog posts. My dream is to go to Napa Valley to drink wine for a week straight and eat at The French Laundry (you and me, BW!!). His dishes are known to be incredibly innovative and playful, while invoking familiar, comforting foods, kind of the opposite of what I enjoy cooking and eating (simple, flavorful comfort foods that invoke, well, comfort foods), so it's probably no surprise that I'm in complete awe of Keller and other like him. I could never do what he does. His culinary mind, probably his whole mind, is so well beyond anything creative I could ever come up with.

Which is why I'm going to attempt to cook a lovely meal from the book for BW and PW as a thank you for this awesome present (date and time TBD). I may not be as creative as, well, probably most of the chefs and cooks in the world, but I went to culinary school, I should be able to follow a recipe or three, right? Gosh, I hope so...otherwise this is going to be pretty embarrassing. And, lucky for you all, I'm going to totally document every culinary debacle and triumph - just for you.

So, the menu:

Option 1:
First Course - Scallops with Citrus-Braised Endive (page 168)
Second Course - Chicken in a Pot (page 200)
Third Course - Almond Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote (page 282)

Option 2:
First Course - Mussels with Leeks and Red Verjus (page 167)
Second Course - Skirt Steak with Caramelized Shallots and Red Wine Jus (page 209)
Third Course - Chocolate Terrine with Custard Sauce and Pistachios (page 289)

Option 3:
Whatever three dishes BW and PW pick (or a combo of the above) when we have our Lasagna Throwdown (B. Flay style).

(To be fair, I'll probably make some of the vegetable dishes in the book, too, but I'll wait on those until I figure out what main dishes I'm going to make).

OK, this is not going to be a regular thing...there's no way I have the time to cook all the foods from this cookbook, and, even if I did, I absolutely do not have the money to do so. Maybe once I have that awesome job in charge of craft services for "The Office," have seduced and married Ed Helms with my mac and cheese, and he can provide the funding for my cooking whims, I'll blog my way through my cookbook collection. For now, it's a three-course menu.

So, vote on the menu you want me to cook, or leave a suggestion. I'll attempt to cook almost anything (the only limiting factor is what I can find in central NJ), so the sky's almost the limit.

*They also awesomely stole the menu from their dinner for me, too...holla!

Friday, January 16, 2009

In Which I Honor the Protein: Top Chef Season 5 - Episode 8

Alright, I had high hopes for this episode based on the previews...what's not to like? Hung returns? Awesome. Jamie and Jeff turning their noses up at processed foods? Brilliantly snotty. The chefs going to a farm (which I correctly assumed was Blue Hill Stone Barns, also know as the place where I would like to live and work)? Fantastic. The possibility of the chefs having to slaughter their own protein for dinner? And the killing being shown on cable? Even more awesome.* Jamie and Stefan calling each other douchebags? A level of awesomeness not attained on "Top Chef" since the smackdown of Marcel in the restaurant supply store during Season 2.

But, honestly, I was a little disappointed with the results of the challenges. I mean, overall, I think the concept of the each challenge was good (well, to be fair, one was INFINITELY better than the other), but the chefs and judges kind of let me down.

The SPAM/Turkey SPAM-sponsored Quickfire Challenge:

OK, they HAD to have a challenge where the chefs could only use crap, right? I mean, they always have those challenges, the vending machine challenge, the Swanson broth challenge...but, I found it quite interesting that the only thing they actually showed the brand name of were the GE ovens. The whole show is one big commercial food f***, why stop with this challenge? Maybe the companies weren't too keen on their products being referred to as crap? It's kind of funny how the sponsorships work, right? I mean, just last week they were extolling the virtues of diet Dr. Pepper, now they won't show the label on a can of Goya beans? Regardless, Jamie and Jeff's expressions were hilarious when the ingredients were finally almost made the conspicuous lack of product placement worth it.

I think Jeff did the best job - his food was visually appealing and apparently tasted good. I was kind of mad Hung didn't pick him for the win, but I guess Stefan's tasted better. As for Jamie, WTF was she thinking? Radhika, too. What the hell guys? I know it's canned stuff, but there's no excuse for acting the way they did about it. I know all restaurants have cans of stuff around. And, chefs cook all night in their restaurants, I'm sure every single one of them has some frozen food, cans of black beans, and a few boxes of mac and cheese lying around for a quick meal when they get home. I was actually a little offended by the chefs saying, "Oh, this is fine for the home cook" or a "housewife." The hell? I think Ariane even said in her exit interview that Gene made SPAM at the apartment when he was on the show for a quick meal. To be fair, most chefs would probably only use a few canned or processed ingredients and liven them up with good, fresh stuff, but, come on guys. It's a challenge you know you were going to have, suck it up and plan for it.

The beautiful, completely product placement-free, Elimination Challenge:
How amazing was that farm? Really? I would give a lot to be able to go up there at the end of the summer, just grab whatever I could and spend the day cooking. I wanted to frolic naked through that tomato patch with a salt shaker, bottle of olive oil, and about 10 baguettes. Preferably with Fabio and Jeff there, too:

What an amazing opportunity for the chefs, and they all seemed to appreciate it, especially after the craptastic Quickfire. I imagine it was tough for them to adjust their menus based on what was available, but, when all the produce looks like that, I guess it's not such a bad thing.

Team Pig - I had high hopes for this team. I've made my love of Jeff pretty clear, as well as my love of pork, so they were my favorite going in. Radhika pissed me off with her snail-paced corn grilling (she didn't even look like she cared), but Fabio making pasta kind of made up for it. I'm a little upset they didn't do better in the end. I feel like the pork loin and ravioli were probably pretty good, it's just that judges expected things to be a little more simple and pig-flavored. Those fried green tomatoes looked fantastic, though, as did the side salad that apparently took three hours to make.

Team Chicken - Poor Carla. Seriously, she didn't deserve to be in the middle of that crap. Whatever weird, faux-sexual-tension thing is going on with Stefan and the person he thinks Jamie is is really disturbing. But, those bitches pulled it out though. I absolutely think roasted chicken is the best way to showcase a fantastic piece of poultry and Jamie's paillard was perfect for the season. And, for a second, can we talk about how awesome Carla's tart looked?

Look at it. Yum-dash-O! She really should have gotten the win all to herself, if only for putting up with the other two jackasses.

Team Lamb - What. The. Hell? Hosea and Leah's relationship is gross. I'm sorry. Don't they both had significant others? Can't you keep it in your pants for three weeks? I'm no fan of Ariane (in fact, I predicted she would go out the way that she did, just on the wrong week), but at least she stepped up and tried to do something, her team just totally bailed on her and, if I may employ the most over-used "Top Chef" expression ever, threw her under the bus. Leah, you're an idiot. Own up to the crappy job you did and admit that you did nothing. Hosea, admit that you're a cheater and a passive f***. Ariane, learn how to butcher and prepare lamb. I think Ariane A right choice to send home, let me explain. The point of the challenge was to "honor the protein," which she, and she alone, did not. Nor did she ask her team for help when she realized she was in way over her head. That said, Leah should have been sent home, too, for admitting that she knew how to butcher and tie lamb, but left Ariane to flounder, which she did basically nothing. That's unacceptable in any job, right? You help people who need help, bottom line. Plus she's just annoying and will clearly not win, so she might as well go home, right?

Next week: Restaurant Wars! Which is actually my most hated of all the "Top Chef" challenges, but more on that next week. Also, Radhika has a nervous breakdown.

P.S. WTF was Betty doing in that commercial/product placement crap with Stephanie? Poor Stephanie...I bet she tried to return her win after realizing she'd have to be in the same room as that crazy ho.

P.P.S. Stefan whispering "cock" was the best moment (hands down) of the season so far.

*Note: I love animals, I'm not all about hurting things unnecessarily or anything, I just think it's important that people realize their meat doesn't come from a Styrofoam container in the back of the grocery store.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday List of Random Things: Things I Got For Christmas That I Love

1. Silver iPod Nano (16 GB)

And I HEART it. Really. You know, I never had an iPod before, I didn't want to be all stupid and trendy. I had a Creative mp3 player for a long time, it held a ton of songs, but that bitch was big (TWSS), then I downgraded to a 6 GB, much smaller Sansa. Unfortunately, the Sansa's wheel got all filled with random fuzz, pita chip crumbs, and other detritus from my bag and busted up. So, I broke down and asked my Dad for a new mp3 player for Christmas (it should be noted that my Dad's had an iPod for like 5 years, way ahead of the curve there). I really like the player, it's light, very small, and holds more songs than I own, but, I have to say, I'm not a huge fan of iTunes. Really. I'm annoyed that I have to figure out how to convert my videos to some format that can actually be played on my iPod. I'm totally confused when it comes to Podcasts and can't figure out how to add pictures. I realize this is really embarrassing for someone under 30 to admit, but I am: I'm an iPod virgin. Please help!

2. All-Clad Stainless pots (3 qt. sauce pan and 2 qt. saucier with lids)

Yeah, they're beautiful, I know. So far, I haven't used them for anything legitimate, though. Boiling water for pasta is not how a pot like this was intended to be used, I know, I'm sorry, I just haven't had the time to make a port reduction or a delicious apple, onion, mustard sauce to pour over a ham. I will, though, and I promise to write all about it. I will say that I finally got to get rid of some of the old pots that I had accumulated through the years of living with assorted roommates, which both emptied my kitchen and helped refine my (soon to be) ever-expanding cookware collection.

3. Books!
So many books, so little time: "Comfort Me with Apples" - Ruth Reichl (which I've read already and love), "The Nasty Bits" - Anthony Bourdain (which I'm surrently reading and also love), "Julie and Julia" - Julie Powell (I liked it, apparently it's going to be a movie, too), "On The Line" - Eric Ripert (he's hot, what can I say, also the book is good), "The End of Food" - Paul Roberts (haven't read it yet, probably will next. This is a topic near to my heart), "Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer" - Tim Stark (it sounded interesting, I haven't read it yet), and "More Information Than You Require" - John Hodgman (whom some of you may remember as a correspondent on "The Daily Show" or as PC). I'm going to try to get through them all by reading during lunch and in the evening, you know, instead of watching 8 hours of TV, but I don't know how well it'll work - I do love TV.

4. Mario Kart for Wii!

Ha! Awesome! I love, love, LOVE this game. It's addicting and so much fun to play with a group of people. We played for pretty much all of New Years Eve (until we switched over to the New Years Eve coverage, to watch Carson Daly awkwardly lurch Times Square). So far I've played and gotten good ratings on all the 50 cc courses, and I'm about half way through the 100 cc courses. I can't believe how horribly bad I am at Rainbow Road and Wario's Gold Mine, though. Like, it's pathetic. Pathetically sad. My ratings for the cups that contain those courses are, well, let's say not good. I need someone who's great at those levels to just play those for me wo I can move on to the 150 cc. Anyone? I'l cook food...

5. DVDs!

"Firefly" and "Pushing Daisies" Season 1 to be more specific. Also awesome! I haven't watched "Firefly" yet (I never watched it when it was on TV, either), but I love Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin (he's the best part of "Chuck," am I right, ladies?) so I'm excited to power through the whole series one weekend. As for "Pushing Daisies," it's hard to talk about it without tearing up, since ABC canceled it, so all I'll say is that the show is amazing, I suggest everyone go out and buy the DVD of season 1 and (when it come out) the DVD of season 2. In fact, the season 2 DVD will probably be the only place we'll get to see the last three episodes (don't get me started - why would you spend all that money to film the episodes, then not even show them on TV?). Perhaps the "Pushing Daisies" rant is best saved for another time.

So those are the highlights, to be fair, I got a bunch of other awesome stuff, too, but I don't want to ramble on aimlessly...five things is good enough for a Friday List, right?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I feel oddly like I need a diet Dr. Pepper: Top Chef Season 5 - "Focus Group"

(A close second for the title was, "It's 'Top Chef,' not Top Scallops," thanks, Fabio)

Hooray! After two weeks off, we finally got a new "Top Chef" and it was kind of good, at least the Elimination Challenge. I was kind of confused by the blatant sponsorship of the QF challenge by Dr. Pepper, though. Normally it's all, "use Swanson broth" or make a gourmet meal out of this Dorito, the food is never actually INSERTED into the title of the Quickfire. I'm surprised the editors didn't have to make a new graphic with a Diet Dr. Pepper bottle instead of the usual QF intro. But, the EC won me over, as did a number of the chefs, but lets get to that later...

The Diet Dr. Pepper Quickfire Challenge (I think I'm going to create my own sponsor for each of the challenges from now on):
I'm going to admit it, right here and now, I had a total issue with the QF last night - and not even for the reason you might think (DDP). Just because you have no WHITE SUGAR in a food does NOT MAKE IT DIET!!! Did you hear some of the words the chefs were throwing around to describe what they were making or their final dish? Deep-fried. Honey. Nuts. Walnut oil. Bread Pudding. Ricotta cheese. Which one of those screams diet to you? Um, none? This is what makes me mad. It's fine to make a refined-sugar free dessert, but it's not any more diet than a piece of chocolate cake if you're just going to deep fry that bitch and cover it in honey.

That said, Jeff's baklava spring roll sounded awesome, as did his ice cream - he always makes sorbets and stuff, maybe because he's from Florida? Whatever, I'm not complaining, he could make me ice cream everyday...then preferably feed it to me on a private beach. Radhika's dessert looked good, too, I do like bread pudding, but, still, not so much a diet food. Ariane's plate looked gross, I don't know what was up with beauty shot, but the melted whipped cream all over the crepes looked horrible. Look at it!!!
Also, not food related, but was Stefan kind of flirting with Jean-Christophe? I didn't understand what was going on there...even Padma looked confused (well, more confused than normal). I was kind of pulling for Jeff to win the DDPQF, but, alas, he was beaten by Radhika (fairly, I guess, not having tasted the food) - it's OK, Jeff, there's always next week.

The Purina Cat Chow Elimination Challenge:
Was anyone else concerned when Padma said they had the night off? I expected they would send the chefs out to a club, then make them cook dessert for the drunken masses, a la Miami...remember Casey and the heels? Ugh. Luckily, they surprised me by actually sticking to their words and Tommy C. waited until the next morning to come to the house to give the chefs their challenge. (Sidebar, Fabio being worried about the house being messy for Tom was the cutest thing ever). The challenge was great. I think it should have been one of the earlier challenges, though, so the judges and other chefs could get a sense of each others' style and ability level. I guess it made sense to have it now, especially after reading this, to really get the chefs back on track and into their comfort zone for a challenge, to really see what they could do with (relatively) no limits. I think it was a rare opportunity for the chefs to directly hear the judges comments, as well as the insights of their fellow competitors, which I imagine is both painful and extremely beneficial. How many chefs get that level of insightful critique, week after week? I have my doubts as to how "blind" the tasting could be, I mean, I'd expect that the other chefs, Padma, and especially Tom, would know each of the other chefs style's by now.

The Food:
Group A:
Melissa - Tuna Tacos - WTF? I would absolutely not make tacos as my "signature dish," given the resources available to them and the time they had.
Hosea - Halibut wrapped in bacon! Sold! I was sorry to hear the fish had been overcooked, it sounded really good. Bacon, what's not to love?
Radhika - Her soup sounded delicious, I'm sorry it didn't turn out all that great, but she had immunity, so it wasn't really that relevant.
Fabio - Did anyone else here the Italian music start up as soon as he popped up on TV, rolling pasta?

His dish sounded really good, I can't believe he undercooked the lamb, though (insert sad-face emoticon). Maybe Ariane should have told him how to properly cook protein, since that's apparently her forte.
Jamie - UGH!!! Scallops! Cook something else! Nothing else needs be said, except that it probably was a fantastic dish, if not very inspired.

Sidenote: Why do I have to watch commercials for "The City" and (gag) "Bromance" on Bravo?

Here is a direct transcript of my notes from last night, specifically when I realized the other chefs were judging Group A's food:
HAHAHAHAHA! They have to judge the other groups' dishes!!! HAHAHAHAHA! Doesn't Group B get an advantage, then? Since they'll know how the judges critique the food? Especially Toby? And, they get to watch the review on TV? Tom cackling about Toby and the WMDs!!! Ugh, yeah, they liked the unoriginal scallops. But, hooray for Fabio (minus the lamb). Gene - not so good. Melissa - cat food? Really not so good.

Group B: (was anyone confused as to why the chefs were allowed to bring their Whole Foods carts out onto the streets of Manhattan to bring their groceries to the kitchen? Aren't you not allowed to remove shopping carts from the store?)

I think the Group B was fairly non-critical of Group A. Maybe they edited out the worst of it (although i doubt it, Bravo is all about the reality TV drama), but they were very fair and constructive in their criticism of the dishes, in my opinion. It must be tough to judge your friends' food.

Jeff - I don't know what to say, why does he always do so many dishes? He creates so much work for himself. I bet if he had focused on one actual family-style dish, he would have done awesome. Leah - I can't believe she admitted to doing something she had never done before - has she learned nothing from the ostrich egg debacle?
Ariane - Ugh. I hate to say it, but it sounded really good. Skate, capers, pineapple? What's not to like? And, again, she cooks her protein perfectly.
Stefan - full disclosure: I'm German/Eastern European and heart German/Eastern European food, so I was practically licking my TV when I saw his dish...God, that cabbage looked delicious. Perhaps the dish was a tad heavy for August, but I'm going to let that slide, that was probably my favorite dish of the challenge.

Carla - what happened? Her risotto sounded like it would have been good, she should have just stuck with that and not second-guessed herself, but I guess that's easy for me to say as an outsider. At least she realized it in the end.

Judge's Table:
Jamie, Ariane, Stefan were in the top three.
Jamie won and got cocky, as predicted. I guess I'm not surprised, her food is always good-looking and sounds tasty, I just get a weird, bad-attitude vibe from her. Kind of like another hated contestant from last season, who will not be named. Stefan's dish was my favorite (and he's on my TC Fantasy Team) so I was kind of pulling for him and his crappy attitude, but I'm good with the winner.

Melissa, Gene, Carla were in the bottom three, again, not shocking. Gene was getting the loser-edit from the beginning (calling his family early on during the episode, also serving to plug T-Mobile) and he clearly got in over his head with the whole fish, although the idea of it sounded good. I can't get behind his daikon with tomato, though...WTF was he thinking? As for Melissa, well, I think she just phoned it in, which sucks, because this was the challenge to really shine. I'm kind of upset her food was compared to cat food, though, that was probably unnecessary. Carla - I'm not surprised she was the one to stay, her dish suffered from over complication, but her original idea (risotto alone) was actually good. Plus, she was able to articulately explain her thought process going into the dish, as well as how it could be changed to be better. The other two were just bad all around, one too creative and the other not creative enough. I've actually found myself liking Carla more, so I'm also happy she gets to stay and amuse us with her other crazy antics.

As for the new judge - whatever. I think he just wanted to come out swinging as a douchebag and go from there. I don't quite know why. Why would you want people to think you're an asshole right off the bat? I guess he knows what he's talking about or they wouldn't have brought him on, but that doesn't make me miss Ted Allen less. As long as Toby tones it down and actually talks about the food, I'm good with him. I really only Tom, anyway.

Next week: Hung! A farm (do they have to kill their own meal?)! Stefan and Jamie act like douchebags! And actually say they are douchebags!

Monday, January 5, 2009

My New Years Resolution is...

OK, so this is old...I probably even posted this before, but it's no less appropriate. Wait for the end, then you'll get it...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Top Ten "Top Lists" of 2008...continued

1. Well, I have to plug myself somewhere, right? The top ten adventures of Iko in 2008:

10. Field trip to Bar Americain.

9. Stalking Ian Riggs and Ethan Lipton.
8. The trip when we were rejected by "The Daily Show."
7. The trip when we got to see "The Daily Show."
6. Seeing Stephen the first time!
5. The outing to Otto and "Clinical Depression."

4. "The Daily Show"/"Colbert Report" Improv Jam.
3. Going to DC to see Stephen's portrait. Also, Jamon Iberico.

2. Getting to shake Stephen Colbert's hand!!!
1. (Was there any doubt?) Stalking Ed Helms at Parkside Lounge.

How could anyone not put that face at number 1?

Bonus list item: the entire trip to Toronto,

especially seeing A-Rod and Jeter, talking to Johnny Damon, and seeing Pudge order an extra shot to add to his vodka tonic. Also, beer straw.

Happy 2009

Ed and Stephen would like to wish all the AbS readers a Happy New Year!

I would too.