Thursday, June 26, 2008

Shear Genius, season two: They're here, it's shear, get used to it!

So remember last season when you were like, "Hey, there's this new show called Shear Genius" and I was all, "What?" and you were like, "Yeah, it's a reality competition show about hairdressing" and I was all, "You've got to be freaking kidding me" and then you were like, "No, seriously; we should watch it" and I was like, "I'm not watching some goddamn reality competition show about people cutting hair; I've got better things to do with my time" and you were all, "No, you don't" and I was all, "bitch" and you were like, "Come on; we at least have to watch the first episode" and I was like, "ugh; whatever" and then we watched it and it was fantastic?

What? You don't remember that conversation? No, I'm pretty sure that's exactly how it went. Anyway, the only problem with the show was that the season was over too quickly.

Fortunately it's back for season two! René and Jaclyn are back but that woman with the shag has been replaced by master colorist Kim Vo.

Jaclyn: "Kim Vo is responsible for Britney Spears."

Why would someone admit to that?

Here are my helpful descriptions of the contestants so you can tell them apart, based mainly on their hair:

Paulo has a goatee and tattoos. He is a gay dude with a crush on Jaclyn Smith. For some reason, he thinks this is unusual.

Nekisa has long dark hair with highlights.

Charlie is bald with glasses and he is a total badass who doesn't care what you think about him. Ooh, I'm scared.

Nicole has short blond hair. She is one of the few geniuses who actually has a decent haircut. Why do most hairdressers have such awful hair?

Daniel has glasses and a blond fauxhawk. He is from Dallas and he likes his hair dyed, fried, and pushed to the side.

Dee has short streaked hair and dresses in men's clothes. She immediately tells us about her girlfriend because she is afraid we might not be able to guess that she is a lesbian.

Matthew has blond hair and immediately tells us about his wife because, you know, most male hairdressers are gay and he isn't, OK?

Gail is a brunette and has kind of a bob.

Parker has glasses and dark spiky hair. He also has two-days growth of stubble that he has been working on for three weeks.

Glenn has long mousy blond hair. She loves color.

Meredith has long blond hair.

Oshun has been nominated for an Emmy and he thinks he is good at rhyming. Also, he's deep:

Oshun: "I'm deep."
How deep are you?
Oshun: "As deep as the ocean."
That's pretty deep
Oshun: "Yeah, that's what I'm saying; I'm really deep."
Oshun: "As deep as the ocean."
got it.
Oshun: "Actually, you know what? I'm even deeper than the ocean."
oh, boy . . .
Oshun: "If you went down to the bottom of the ocean and were digging way down into the sand for a really long time, you still wouldn't be as deep as I am . . ."
um . . .
Oshun: "I could talk all night about how deep I am but I still don't think I could properly convey to you the extent of my depth . . ."
well, please don't try
Oshun: "I've been nominated for an Emmy."

Anyway, for the quickfire challenge, the geniuses have to cut their clients' hair while they are wearing blindfolds. That doesn't seem like much of a challenge. Who cares if the clients are wearing blindfolds?

Jaclyn: "No, dummy; the hairdressers are wearing blindfolds."

Oh, cool! They come up with the best challenges on this show!

So the geniuses have to feel their way through a cut. I love it! But, again, I find myself wondering where the hell they find these clients:

Client One: "I'm off my meds."

Client Two: "Wait . . . what?"

Client Three: "I was planning to shave my head anyway so I thought, 'what the hell.'"

The results are a mixed bag, as one would expect. A few cuts look pretty good, a few cuts are pretty bad, and a few of the cuts look like they were done by Andrea Bocelli:

Paulo: "What the hell do you expect?! I was blindfolded!"

Yeah, so was everyone else. But they weren't all equally bad.

Nicole and Dee are the top two and Dee wins the quickfire. Oshun is at the bottom. Dee will get first choice of client in the elimination challenge:

Dee: "This worked out so well for me that I'm going to keep cutting hair blindfolded for the rest of the season and even when I get back to my salon."

Daisy from season one: "Excellent idea!"

For the elimination challenge, Jaclyn introduces us to our hair mentor, René Fris:

Jaclyn: "You remember René. His books have all been number one on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list for over twenty weeks (not really). He looks like Superman and he talks like Donald Duck on helium! Isn't he adorable?"

René: "Hi hi!"

Hi hi, René!

The challenge will be to make the clients look like cartoon characters.

Rene tells us the rules of the challenge. We have no idea what he's saying. Just smile and nod.

The geniuses shake it.

So, there are six cartoon characters between twelve geniuses, which means there are two of each character and the geniuses end up going head to head with one other genius. Somehow they all got the memo that one of each had to be good and one of each had to be bad:

Wilma Flintstone:

Daniel - good. It really looks inspired by Wilma but it's still wearable.

Gail - bad. Just awful.

Jem (I don't know this character):

Nicole - good. It looked fun and young.

Glenn - bad. Dull, inappropriate, and ugly.

Lucy van Pelt:

Nekisa - good. I think this was the most difficult character because the hair is just a blob. Nekisa's style was strange but, for some reason, it totally made me think of Lucy and yet it was still kind of cute. I was surprised and impressed.

Oshun - bad. I don't even have words to describe it. It's possibly the worst hairstyle I've ever seen in my life.

Marge Simpson:

Charlie - good. Well, maybe good is too strong a word. At least it looked like Marge. But there wasn't any interpretation there.

Matthew - bad. This was almost the opposite of Marge Simpson. I don't know what he was thinking.

Betty Boop:

Parker - good. I thought this was really successful. Very cute.

Dee - bad. This wasn't terrible. It just wasn't very good.

Judy Jetson:

Meredith - good. This was a tough one and I thought Meredith did a good job.

Paulo - bad. This had nothing to do with Judy Jetson.

So the two Marges, the two Bettys, and the two Lucys are the top and bottom styles.

One of the judges tells Charlie that part of the challenge was to create a style that was wearable everyday:

Judge: "René told you that."

Charlie: "Really? I had no idea what he was saying. Sorry about that."

No, seriously, I'm pretty sure that was never mentioned. Anyway, they like what he did so it doesn't matter.

The guest judge liked Daniel's Wilma but thought he used too much hairspray:

Daniel: "Can there be too much hairspray? I don't understand. I'm from Dallas."

I completely agreed with the judges that Nekisa's Lucy and Daniel's Wilma were the top two. Daniel wins! Congratulations, Daniel!

I also agree that the bottom three were Gail, Matthew, and Oshun. All three were really hideous. Oshun has given his last cut. Sorry Oshun.

Oshun: "This is bullshit. Really deep bullshit. Bullshit as deep as the ocean."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Shout Out Time! Shear Genius premiers tonight!

First of all, a shout out to Blogging Top Chef for all their work during this past season and for linking to my Top Chef posts.

Second, a shout out to Linda Merrill who is covering HGTV's Design Star on her Surroundings blog. I don't recap the show but I watch it and enjoy reading Linda's take.

But the main point of this post is to shout out about Shear Genius. I will be writing recaps (sometimes I get to it on Fridays but sometimes I don't have a chance to write until Saturday or Sunday so please keep checking back)!

If you love Shear Genius, here are the two blogs you have to visit regularly:

TLo of Project Rungay will be covering Shear Genius on their Tom & Lorenzo site!

The fabulous people that brought you Blogging Project Runway have started a new site for Shear Genius called Blogging Shear Genius! Make sure you check out the new site!

Enjoy the show tonight and see you back here this weekend!

Monday, June 23, 2008

This past weekend's home improvement project: The patio!

Here is a picture of our patio! We have been waiting for the painters to finish working on our building and now that the patio walls have been painted, we could finally get some more plants. The design problem was that I wanted a partial screen of plants so that we didn't just have a view of a big blank wall but we couldn't have plants that were too bushy or we wouldn't have room for a table. I think the best options were either attaching a trellis to the wall and growing bougainvillea or jasmine or to get some tall bamboo plants. I think either option would have worked but the trellis would have been a pain to attach, the plants would have been messy, and I think it would have taken a while for them to grow in. So we got some bamboo. They didn't have bamboo like this at Home Depot; we had to go to a bigger nursery to find it. I think it goes really well with the mid-century style of the architecture. It is so much more pleasant to look outside now. Now we have a courtyard view instead of a view of a cement wall. I also put some succulents in planter boxes above the lower wall to add some privacy. The problem is I don't think they will get enough sun under that tree and I may have to replace them with something else. Overall, I'm very happy with the results!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Top Chef: Chicago: The Reunification!

OK, so now that the season is over and nobody cares anymore, we have a reunion episode. Seriously, I thought the season was perfectly entertaining but it's over and I'm trying to get on with my life. Unless they have clips of Michael Kors having a laughing fit, I don't know what they could do to keep my attention.

Anyway, I'm writing a brief recap:

So, we begin with Andy Cohen introducing the judges and telling us that Richard is too busy giving birth to show up for such an important event. Bravo should have performed a Cesarean earlier in the week to make sure he would be available.

We see the clip of Stephanie winning, as though we can't remember that long ago and need to be reminded.

Gail defends her state of shock about Richard's choking comment:

Gail: "I wasn't shocked that he knew he choked; I was shocked that he said it."

Tom: "Yeah, we all understood what you meant. We were still all shocked at how shocked you were."

Tom asks a dumb question:

Tom: "Stephanie, do you want people to think you are a woman or a chef?"

Stephanie: "Who gives a rat's ass? I just want the hundred thousand dollars."

Now for the regularly scheduled bromance section of the Bravo reunion show:

The couples are Spike and Mark, Dale and Richard, Spike and Andrew, Spike and anyone else who will have him, and, of course, as always, Tom and Howie.

Apparently Mark got married to Andie MacDowell in order to get his green card. Congratulation, Mark!

Now on to Jen and Zoi: Spike is called out for mentioning that they had an advantage by having a partner on the show, which is basically exactly what Jen and Zoi said in one of the early episodes but now they think it was a disadvantage. How dare Spike say something that makes perfect sense and that everyone agreed with? What an asshole.

Is it true and Jen and Zoi have split up? Well, they aren't going to tell us because they feel like they've already talked about it too much. Of course, I haven't heard or read a damn thing about them so I'd like to know:

Zoi: "We think it's better for people to get their information from Internet rumors than from us."

Have it your way.

Then we learn about the chefs bizarre dreams:

Dale: "I had this dream where I was in Whole Foods and I bought a rack of lamb but the meat wasn't as good I thought."

Spike: "I had this dream where I was running around Whole Foods looking for ingredients for a meal."

Lisa: "I had this dream where I was being judged by the judges."

Wow. Those dreams make no sense at all. I wonder what they could mean.

We learn that Antonia got the nickname MC Hammer because of her ridiculous baggy pants and the fact that she was personally responsible for every elimination this season.

Antonia: "It's hammer time!"

Then we get out-takes from the Glad Wrap room. The chefs are performing magic tricks and playing the didgeridoo while Gail is asleep on the judges' table.

Andy: "Is it just me or were the judges extremely critical this season."

It's just you. I'm pretty sure the judges were exactly as critical as every other season.

Apparently Lisa was scowling a lot at judges' table. I didn't notice.

Lisa tells us about this lesbian party she went to. Is that a party with lesbians or some special type of party?

Lisa: "You wouldn't understand."

Then we get clips of the special insanity that is Andrew. Gail gets all weak in the knees:

Gail: "Like, oh, my God! He is so cute!"

We get clips of all the stupid fights on the show. But the clips are made so much more entertaining because they are accompanied by bell sounds from boxing matches.

The chefs had potty mouths this season and the viewers' sensibilities were offended. Sheesh.

We get Richard live via satellite, apparently from the CNN headquarters. He gets an adorable Top Chef onesy for his baby.

Time to announce the fan favorite:

I bet it will be Nimma.

Nimma: "I bet it will be me."

I already did that joke.

Tom: "I can tell you it probably won't be Lisa. Ha ha!"

Lisa: "Laugh it up, hairless-ball."

Stephanie wins another ten thousand dollars. What a stupid decision. The fan favorite should be someone the people love but who doesn't really have a chance of actually winning.

Other Eric: "Did you vote?"


Other Eric: "Well, if you don't vote, you can't complain about it."

You're right. I should take my voting responsibilities more seriously.

Finally, words of advice for future Top Chef contestants:

Lisa: "Learn how to make rice."

Stephanie: "Try to be just as cute as a button."

Good advice. Well, that wasn't so bad. There were a few cute parts. They just should have aired it before the finale.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Top Chef: Chicago, finale, part two: still in Puerto Rico!

OK, so Eric and I just got back from New York (see my previous post for a report on my trip) but our hotel did actually have Bravo so we got to see the finale on Wednesday. Also, speaking of Puerto Rico (yes, we were; just look at the title), we got into the city last Sunday during the Puerto Rico Day parade, which made it really hard to get to our hotel. Our friend Lisa, who was in the car with us, kept saying, "Ooh! I love the Gay Puerto Rico Day parade!" and we kept having to tell her it was just the Puerto Rico Day parade:

Lisa: "Are you sure? Well, I happen to love the gay Puerto Ricans!"

Anyway, back to Puerto Rico and the remaining chefs: Richard, Lisa, and Stephanie. Stephanie tells us she is hoping to be the first female top chef, Richard says he doesn't want to be a total loser because of the baby, and Lisa tells everyone to suck it.

We meet up with Padma and Tom, who introduce the culinary god Eric Ripert and two other people I've never heard of. They are going to be the sous chefs, which is really demeaning and I can't figure out why they would subject themselves to this but they seem to handle it well.

The three guest chefs each have different proteins to work with so the contestant chefs will get both the guest chef as a sous chef and have to design a menu around those particular proteins. Got that? They will have to make a four course meal with fish, poultry, meat, and dessert.

Stephanie picks first and she chooses chef Ripert. Good choice. Who can resist that adorable French accent?

Richard is doing the molecular gastronomy thing. His special request for cooking equipment is a small nuclear reactor and he's using it to change the molecular structure of Tabasco sauce:

Eric Ripert: "I've never seen that technique used outside of North Korea."

On day two, Tom comes into the kitchen and tells the chefs that their sous chefs all called in sick. I bet they went to the beach. Lazy bastards.

Lisa's menu is grilled prawns, tom kha gai soup (Gesundheit!) and dumplings, Wagyu beef (which I guess is like Kobe beef), and black Thai rice pudding.

Richard's menu is scallops, guinea hen with froie gras and eggs, pork belly, and the ever popular banana scallops with bacon ice cream.

Stephanie's menu is red snapper, quail with lobster ravioli and quail egg, lamb medallions, and ricotta pound cake.

Tom visits the chefs. Richard has nothing to say other than the fact that his menu is abstract:

Tom: "Abstract like Picasso or completely nonrepresentational like Jackson Pollock?"

Richard: "Liquid nitrogen banana scallops Toyota Glad wrap."

Tom: "I'll let you get back to work."

Stephanie is making the best pound cake she's ever tasted, which doesn't seem to impress Tom.

Lisa is very relaxed. What do you want to bet there's some burning rice somewhere in the kitchen?

Richard is making liquid nitrogen ice cream. Doesn't that sound delicious? Stephanie is inspecting her pound cake with a magnifying glass. She's hoping that it's so boring the judges won't even notice it.

OK, I understood why they were at the governor's mansion last time because the first lady of Puerto Rico was actually at the garden party. But why are they still at the governor's mansion this week? Did NBC buy Puerto Rico?

Anyway, at the dinner in the governor's mansion are the three sous chefs (Eric Ripert and those two other people), some other chef from Puerto Rico, Mr. Zagat (no shit!), Tom, Padma, and both Gail and Ted (I didn't know they could both be in the same room at the same time!)

Stephanie wins the first course with her soup, though the judges liked Richard's scallop, too.

Lisa wins the second course with her soup. The judges also liked Stephanie's but they were really upset by the leeks. Who can blame them? Leeks can be very annoying.

Stephanie wins the third course with her lamb. The judges were not impressed with either Richard's or Lisa's dishes.

Lisa wins the dessert course with her rice pudding (she finally proved she can make rice!), though the judges also like Richard's bacon ice cream. Personally I'm sick to death of his banana scallops. It's just a banana slice! Get over it!

OK, so it looks to me like Lisa won two courses and Stephanie won two courses. Richard is clearly out of the running but I really think it could be either Lisa or Stephanie. Oh, my God; how upset would America be if Lisa won? There would be rioting in the streets! I'm secretly hoping she wins! OK, it's not a secret any more.

Padma: "Do you have any last words before you are executed?"

Stephanie: "The problem with my dessert was that I second-guessed myself. And it just wasn't very good. But I've learned from it and I would make a good top chef."

Lisa: "Suck it!"

Richard: "I don't think that was the best meal I've ever made."

Gail: "Well, I've never! I am so shocked by what Richard just said! Ooh . . . give me a minute . . . wow, that knocked the wind right out of me. How could he say that? I can't get over it!"

Padma: "Jeez, Gail; would you pull your shit together?"

The judges deliberate all night and finally decide to avoid World War III by making Stephanie the first female top chef! Congratulations, Stephanie!

Thanks for reading, everyone! Come back for Shear Genius and Project Runway recaps!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Socks and the City: Erics visit Manhattan, go to some museums, eat at some restaurants, and discard used socks!

Yes, when I travel I usually take my old socks and underwear and then throw them out after I wear them. That way I have fewer dirty clothes to take home in my luggage. This isn't a very significant part of my trip but I had to mention it so I could use that stupid title.

[The new home of the Museum of Arts and Design, at Columbus Circle. The remodel is not quite finished but I was very interested to see it because I was so annoyed that they destroyed the original Edward Durell Stone building. Some people thought it was ugly but it was a landmark and I thought it was cool. It's not bad now but it's pretty sad when a museum, which is supposed to be a champion of art and culture, destroys a cultural landmark instead. Thank you to Other Eric for taking pictures. To see a picture of the original building, click here.]

Oh, by the way, did you hear that Tim Russert died? Apparently he's the first person to ever die. And nothing else has happened anywhere else in the world for the past two days. Seriously, I was watching CNN, CNBC, FOX, and other news channels and it was 24 hour a day Tim Russert-dead coverage:


But that's not all:




Oh, My God! Aren't there cities flooding somewhere? Can't I get some actual news? Sorry; I know his death was shocking and they should definitely report on it but they could give it a rest for a few minutes and tell us something else.

OK, so Eric and I went to New York. Eric was there on business and I went along for the free hotel room so I could check out the museums.

We stayed at the Essex House on Central Park West. Beautiful art deco building that was recently renovated and it has a great location looking over the park. The prices are outrageous so I was expecting a little more luxury. It was very nice and I know we got one of the cheap rooms, but it didn't quite live up to the advertised prices (Eric got a business rate, so I don't know what his company actually paid). We were on the 10th floor looking south and the city view wasn't too bad. The room was pretty small but there was a sofa, which was nice. The lighting system was ridiculous; it was controlled from the phone and we never figured it out. The refrigerator was packed with mini-bar items and had this tiny little space labeled "For your personal use" that was almost big enough to hold a Snickers bar. The bathroom looked fancy but it was not very functional. I have to say, though, they gave us plenty of towels except for the day they didn't give us any at all. The closet was WAY too small and the window blinds were hard to use. It was also hard to get anyone to answer the phone in guest services. Having said that, everyone was very friendly and it was a very nice hotel; certainly more luxurious than I'm used to but still not as luxurious as I was expecting.

We got in Sunday evening and it was about 95 degrees with thunder storms. Awful. We walked (stupid idea) to Mamma Mexico, where we had a nice meal and then we walked back in the rain and saw the Chris Burden sculpture at Rockefeller Center. Then we took three more showers and went to bed.

Monday we put on our Jimmy Choo's and went shopping at Century 21, where we both bought Pucci ties, and we went to Filene's Basement, where we got nothing. We walked by the World Trade Center site. Lots of tourists were in the church graveyard across the street from the site and they were taking pictures with the headstones. Really weird. We had lunch at S'MAC, which only sells macaroni and cheese. It did not sound at all appetising because it was so hot and humid out but it was actually really good! We stopped at H&M on Fifth Avenue on the way back and I bought a suit. We have H&M here in Los Angeles but we don't get the all the same items and I haven't seen the line of slim-cut suits here. They had a size 34 slim cut that fit me really well so I got it. I don't ever wear a suit but it's nice to have one that fits in case I have to go to a wedding, or something. My old Banana Republic suit doesn't fit very well, even though I've had it taken in. I should just have one made but I don't have the patience.

Monday night Eric had a business dinner so I spent the evening with the real New Yorkers: standing in line at Whole Foods. I think I saw the artist Kara Walker shopping there!

Tuesday I went to the Museum of Modern Art, which was only a few blocks from the hotel. The only problem is that it's closed on Tuesdays. Along with almost all the museums in the city. I don't know why I didn't know that. I think Monday is the closed day in most cities. So I walked through the park, even though it was so hot, and I spent the entire day walking like a zombie through the Metropolitan Museum. Most cities have one major museum that's open on the day all the others are closed and for New York it's the Met. I hadn't planned on spending the entire day there but it was actually pretty nice. The other times I've been there I've run through the museum in about an hour, just taking in a few highlights so it was really good to be forced to spend more time. Tuesday night, the weather broke; there was a terrible storm and the temperature dropped twenty degrees.

Wednesday was much more pleasant and I went back to MoMA when it was actually open. I had never been there and I was really impressed. I've been to MoMA Queens but the Midtown location was closed for renovation when I've been there in the past. The new building isn't actually that exciting but the collection is great and I was very excited to see the Olafur Eliasson show. He is an installation artist who works a lot with environments, light, and mirrors and there were some very cool works. I found out that the other half of the show, out at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens, had some more installations and not just photographs, as I had thought. So I decided I would have to go out there the next day. I had a nice three course lunch at MoMA. I'm so sorry I just missed the pre-fab housing exhibition they were setting up in the courtyard that will open this month. Wah! I love pre-fab housing!

Anyway, after MoMA, I went next door to see the "Dargerism" show at the American Folk Art Museum. I had seen a Henry Darger exhibition there in the past so I wasn't sure I needed to see another one but I'm so glad I went. It was mostly works by contemporary artists who are inspired by Darger's work and it was really good!

Wednesday night we had dinner at Beacon and I had the wood roasted oysters just for the hell of it and I actually liked them.

Thursday I headed out to Queens to P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center. I was annoyed that I was getting such a late start to the day but when I got out there it wasn't open yet and I had to wait 15 minutes so now I'm glad I got such a late start. So, it really is an old public school building and they've left much of it intact so it's a very strange venue. They had videos set up down in the old furnace rooms in the basement, which was really creepy. There were a few interesting works by Eliasson, like the backward waterfall that has water going up and there were also more disorienting light rooms. But the major work, a thirty or forty foot circular mirror that hangs from the ceiling and rotates and pivots, was closed for repairs. That was disappointing.

After P.S.1, I got back on the subway and went to SoHo. I was hoping to meet up with Tom and Lorenzo of Project Rungay while I was in New York but they weren't able to get into the city this week. So the only Project Runway-related activity I did while I was there was to visit EMC2, Emmett McCarthy's boutique (Emmett was on season two, in case anyone doesn't know who he is). I didn't get to meet Emmett but his shop is very cute and the dresses are adorable!

None of the maps had the new location for the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Yes, the new New Museum of Contemporary Art. The new building opened a couple of months ago but the old location closed years ago so I don't know why it's still on maps. Anyway, I had the address so I was able to find the building, on Bowery, only a few blocks from the old location. The building is really cool; it looks like it's covered in mesh and like someone just randomly stacked different sized boxes on top of each other. Loved it! The exhibitions were OK.

Thursday night we went to Il Mulino, an amazing restaurant in the Village. It's a tacky-looking little space with amazing service and food! Apparently they have a location in Las Vegas but we can't figure out how they would transfer that hole-in-the-wall feeling to Las Vegas. Maybe lots of cramped little rooms? Then we went to Bar 89 for dessert. They have unisex bathrooms with transparent doors that turn opaque when you lock them. Which is OK for a guy, who stands with his back facing the door, but a girl we were with refused to sit down facing a glass door and I don't blame her; I don't think I could have done it. Fun!

Friday we got up early and walked through the park to the Met, just like I did on Tuesday but this time I wasn't by myself and the weather was lovely. I had spent the day there on Tuesday but there were a couple of things I hadn't seen because Eric wanted to see them. We had a limited amount of time because we had to go to the airport but we saw the Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy show, which was tiny but had some really beautiful pieces; it was a mix of actual superhero costumes from movies and some amazing haute couture outfits from the past few decades that were inspired by the superhero look. Then we went up to the roof with the amazing views of the park and an exhibition of Jeff Koons sculptures. We also went to the temple of Dendur and had lunch in the cafeteria, which was pretty good.

When I was at the museums all week I was amused by the tourists taking pictures of all the most famous paintings they've seen in books even though they already have the pictures in the book where they saw them and they could get better images on postcards in the gift shop. It just didn't make sense to me. Then, of course, when I was there with Eric, he was taking pictures of everything! But seriously, it wasn't the same thing because he was taking weird arty pictures of obscure objects or pictures with him doing the Egyptian and not really taking pictures just of the works of art.

Then we got our luggage and headed to the airport. We had a car service but the driver was completely insane and I actually think a taxi would have been more pleasant. I had four hours at the airport because Eric had an earlier flight but I got a massage and had a drink and the time went by pretty quickly. Unfortunately, my flight was then delayed an hour and then we sat another hour on the plane before we took off so I was at the airport a really long time. When I finally got in to Los Angeles, it was the middle of the night and Eric was asleep so I took a taxi home because I was too tired to deal with a van. I didn't know it would cost almost $100 with tip! That's outrageous! That's almost as much as I spent on airfare! I'll never do that again.

Anyway, I didn't do as much as I had wanted but it was so hot the first couple of days I just didn't feel like doing much. I saw five museums, had some great meals, and did a little shopping. The only thing missing was a show (I went to stand in line for half-price tickets to A Chorus Line but ended up not getting them). All in all, a pretty good trip!

Eric has more pictures and stories on his blog! Thanks for reading and I'll have my Top Chef finale post up tomorrow.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Top Chef: Chicago, Finale, Part One: What Happens in Puerto Rico!

This is the story about how Andrew and Lisa accidentally get married because they are really drunk and then they win the lottery so they can't get divorced so judge Stephanie forces them to create a meal together and they end up falling in love.

Last week Lisa skated by again and Spike was sent home.

We meet up with the four final chefs several months later at an airport in Puerto Rico. Stephanie has been traveling around Cambodia, Antonia has opened a restaurant, Richard has been attending Lamaze classes, and Lisa has gotten her hair cut.

For the quickfire challenge, Padma confuses me . . .

Padma: "To be fair, that isn't difficult to do."

Ha ha. Anyway. She confuses me by telling us this round will determine the final three. What exaclty is a "round"? I would call the quickfire the first round. So does that mean someone will be eliminated after the quickfire?

Padma: "Stop thinking so hard. Can't you just enjoy being in Puerto Rico?"

I'm not in Puerto Rico. I'm in Burbank.

Padma: "Oh, jeez; sorry."

The guest judge this time is Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

Richard: "Willow is one of the most respected witches in Puerto Rico. Plus, she likes chicks, which is pretty hot."

For the quickfire, they have to make little fried snacks called frituras and they have to use plantains.

Willow didn't like Richard's and Antonia's use of raw plantain (yuck) but he liked Stephanie's and Lisa's use of tostones, which must be a popular form of frituras, though it wasn't mentioned in the introduction to the challenge.

Stephanie wins! She will get a pretty good advantage in the elimination challenge.

The chefs go to a party and enjoy Puerto Rican culture. Looks fun!

Richard: "I'm having fun! I know you can't tell by looking at me, but I am!"

For the elimination challenge, the chefs will be cooking for a garden party at the beautiful governor's mansion. Each chef is given a whole pig to work with. The pigs will go shopping for them while they work in the kitchen.

But then the last four eliminated chefs show up (they just happened to be vacationing in Puerto Rico) and it was decided it would be better to use them as sous chefs and use the pigs for the food:

Stephanie: "Sorry, Wilbur."

Stephanie's advantage will be to pair up the chefs:

Stephanie: "My plan is to pair up people who actually work well together because it will be better for me if everyone is the kitchen is getting along."

God, she only cares about what's better for her! Selfish bitch.

Anyway, the teams are Stephanie and Dale, Richard and Spike, Antonia and Nikki, and Lisa and Andrew.

At the local market Nikki just buys a bunch of stuff that smells good to her, even though she doesn't know what it is.

Andrew is trying to speak Spanish:

Andrew: "DO . . . YOU . . . HAVO . . . PLASTICO BAGOS?"

Meanwhile, back at the kitchen, the chefs are having a hard time hacking their pig carcases apart:

Lisa: "My rabbi is going to kill me."

Dale has a special recipe for pork belly that involves leaving it sitting out overnight:

Dale: "The secret ingredient is botulism!"

So, Richard makes barbecued pork shoulder, pork belly with pickled watermelon, ham and beans, and ribs with Malta glaze.

Antonia makes pork belly with sweet peppers, pork sausage with pigeon peas and rice, and curried pork.

Lisa makes yuca and pork rellena, citrus braised pork belly, and adobo roasted pork tostone.

Stephanie makes chicharrones, fruit and prosciutto salad, coconut pork with plantain pancake, and pork satay on sugarcane.

The party goes pretty well. There are some problems with Lisa's execution and Antonia's pigeon peas are undercooked.

Richard and Stephanie are the top two. Richard wins a Toyota Corolla:

Richard: "Great. How the hell am I supposed to get that back on the plane? I'm pretty sure there's more than three ounces of fluid in that thing."

The Bravo poll is in: 117% of viewers think Lisa should go home.

The judges weren't crazy about Lisa's food but they really didn't like Antonia's concept of serving all her dishes mushed together on one plate and they were annoyed that she didn't realize the pigeon peas weren't cooked.

Antonia is out. Sorry, Antonia!

Lisa: "Excuse me, but I think a congratulations would be in order."

Sorry, Lisa. Congratulations for once again not being the absolute worst this week!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Top Chef: Chicago, episode twelve: Raising the Steaks: or Date My Restaurant!

[Note: I'm writing this as I watch the plume of smoke rising from the Universal Studios video vault and the smell of burning plastic is making me a little dizzy so forgive me if my recap isn't as factual and lucid as you've come to expect. Oh, you've never expected that? Good.]

Last week Dale was sent knife-packing and we start this episode with the women talking about how many women are left:

Stephanie: "I've been running the numbers and I've figured out that there's a possibility three women could be in the final four!"

Yes. It's also possible, but unlikely, that there could be three women in the final three. It would be virtually impossible for there to be three women in the final two, however. Just wanted to point that out.

Antonia: "Let's just figure out who the winner is and be done with it. The remaining Top Chef superdelegates are going to have to get off the fence and make a decision. I'm talking to you, Gail."

For the quickfire, the chefs have to butcher their own meat. They are starting with a rack of beef ribs and cutting them down to individual ribeye chops with Frenched bones. Or something like that. I don't think I've seen that done with beef.

Anyway, Spike does really well because both his grandfathers were butchers and he apparently inherited the skill from them in his DNA.

The guest judge is the beloved and benevolent Chicago chef Rick Tramonto.

This episode also brings my first mention this season of Padma's attire. Those trousers are hideous. And she's been doing so well.

So, the chefs have to make a medium-rare steak for Rick, who will judge the butchering, temperature, and "doneness" (although "doneness" is in Webster's, I don't believe it is a real word so I put it in quotes). I don't think he cares how it tastes.

Richard tells us he usually cooks steak for several hours at sixty degrees:

Other Eric: "Did he just say sixty degrees?"

Yes. I think that's the famous Richard Blais sense of humor at work.

Spike wins the quickfire and wins the same stupid "advantage" (I actually believe "advantage" is a real word but I have it in quotes for a different reason) he won in the police academy episode: he gets first choice of ingredients. This actually gives him fewer options than the other chefs because he has to make a decision right away and stick with it.

Back at the house, Richard is holding up a big Glad tall kitchen bag like someone holding up a handmade banner at an American Idol taping (I Heart Jason Castro and The Glad Family of Products!). At this point, the blatant product placements have ceased to annoy me and just make me laugh.

The chefs are taking over one of Rick Tramonto's steakhouses. Spike gets first pick of ingredients in the walk-in so, naturally, he screws up and takes the frozen scallops.

Tonight, Tom will be expediting the meal service! I don't know what that means but it sounds very exciting!

Antonia: "Oh, it's more exciting than you can imagine!"

It kind of sounds like he's going to be a waiter.

Lisa makes a chilled shrimp appetizer. The flavors are good but the judges don't understand why it's chilled.

Richard makes an appetizer of hamachi and sweetbreads and the judges love it.

Spike's appetizer of frozen scallops is not popular.

Stephanie makes an appetizer of crispy sweetbreads and the judges love it.

Antonia makes a poached egg and spinach salad that the judges didn't like much.

Richard's entree with fillet and other stuff tastes OK but the judges wonder why the dish's elements are spread out all over the plate. Eating it is so much work! These poor judges!

Lisa's entree is a strip steak with peanut butter mashed potatoes and it gets mixed reviews. The judges liked the sides but didn't like the steak.

Spike's entree is the tomahawk chop and sweet potato puree and the judges are not impressed. They like the steak but not the sides.

Stephanie's entree is tenderloin with wild mushrooms and apple sauce. the judges love it.

Antonia's entree is a ribeye with fennel and potato gratin. The judges love this one, too.

Tom did an excellent job. I think he has a future as a waiter.

Padma asks to see all the chefs at judges' table. Oh, my God! They all won! Or maybe they all lost!

The judges tell Spike his frozen scallops were crap:

Rick Tramonto: "As a chef, you can't use such terrible ingredients."

Spike: "With all due respect, you suck. Those crappy ingredients were in your walk-in."

Tom: "Oh, no she di'int!"

Stephanie made two good dishes, Richard made the best appetizer, and Antonia made the best entree.

Stephanie wins! Congratulations, Stephanie! She wins a signed book! (And a kitchen)

Spike and Lisa are the bottom two. What a surprise!

Tom: "If you had been listening to our comments, it shouldn't have been a surprise."

I was being sarcastic.

Tom: "Oh."

Spike is out. Sorry, Spike.

That means Lisa is in the final four:

Lisa: "I am as excited as hell!"

Other Eric: "I was sure she was going to say 'shit.'"

Lisa: "I'm going to shock the shit out of the judges!"

Other Eric: "OK, there it is."

Next time we join the final four in Puerto Rico. Lisa will have a new lesbian hairstyle while Richard will keep his old lesbian hairstyle.