Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Top Chef New York episode three: Thanksgiving in July!

Happy Thanksgiving! And to those of you who don't celebrate Thanksgiving, happy holidays! What am I saying? Bill O'Reilly is right, as always; this War on Thanksgiving is getting out of control! It starts with a half-vegetarian meal for the Foo Fighters and the next thing you know some godless communist will put a Smurf balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! What?! That already happened?! It wasn't just a brining-induced nightmare?! Oh, my god, we're all doomed!

Anyway, last time Jill went home after the chefs ruined American cuisine for Tom Colicchio:

Tom: "I used to love American food but now it's dead to me."

Fortunately, Fabio saved the day by finally bringing Italian food to the New World:

Fabio: "The dish was financed by Queen Isabella of Spain because I saved the princess from a dragon."

This week Fabio is being financed by the Olive Garden and he will travel to China to steal the idea for pasta.

Before the challenge starts, the chefs have a few minutes of downtime. Richard takes this opportunity to talk to Alex about his favorite subject, being gay:

Richard: "Oh, my god, I totally missed Gay Pride to be here!"

Alex: [sound of crickets]

The guest judge for the quickfire is Grant Achatz. Someone mentions that he had cancer and I realize I've read about this guy in the New Yorker. He had tongue cancer and his doctors wanted to remove his entire tongue but he sought alternative treatments so he could save part of it because, obviously, his tongue is very important to him. He managed to keep cooking even though he had no sense of taste during much of his treatment. But you know the most inspirational part of the story? He's pretty cute! God, I'm shallow.

Padma: "Just in time for the holiday shopping season, we would like to remind you that there is a Top Chef cookbook. It's the perfect stocking stuffer for people who wear really big stockings, like Tom!"

Tom: "Padma, I keep asking you not to talk about what I do in my free time!"

Padma: "Sorry. Anyway, for this challenge you have to put your own spin on one of the recipes in the book. And by 'put your own spin on it,' I mean 'copy it exactly.'"

So the chefs start copying the recipes by former Top chef contestants. Then, halfway through cooking, Padma comes into the kitchen and makes an announcement:

Padma: "You know what? I changed my mind. I'm in the mood for Chinese."

So the chefs have to take their half-made dishes and turn them into Chinese food.

Tom: "Finally, everyone else gets to experience Padma's crazy mood swings that I have to live with every day."

Fortunately, the chefs will get to use Swanson's Chinese Broth in a Box.

Leah wins and she gets to pick her team for the elimination challenge.

Team Underpants is Leah, Jamie, Hosea, Stefan, Melissa, Radhika, and Fabio.

Team MILF is Richard, Alex, Ariane, Carla, Danny, Eugene, and Jeff.

The chefs will have to cook Thanksgiving dinner several months early for the Foo Fighters and twelve thousand fans at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York:

Foo Fighters: "The food needs to be vegetarian. But with lots of bacon."

The chefs go shopping. Why on earth would you use turkey bacon with turkey? That's a little redundant, isn't it? It doesn't make it vegetarian, if that's what they were thinking.

The chefs are taken outside to cook their food in the alley behind the stadium, next to the dumpsters. They are hit by a hail storm and then the locusts descend:

Chefs: "Oh, come on!"

Tom: "Stop your whining!"

Apparently the Foo Fighters like chocolate-covered frozen bananas so Richard has the brilliant idea of making chocolate-covered frozen bananas. Fortunately, he is unable to use that idea because they don't have a freezer. Unfortunately, he and Jeff come up with the even worse idea of making banana s'mores. Who would want a soggy, cold graham cracker at the end of a Thanksgiving meal? Nobody, that's who.

Team MILF is making turkey, stuffing, roasted potatoes, pork roast, macaroni and cheese, pumpkin parfaits, peach cobbler, and banana s'mores.

Team Underpants is making turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, side salads, pumpkin tiramisu, and fruit crisp.

Judging Team MILF:

The judges like Ariane's turkey and decide that she has redeemed herself and is, in fact, a MILF. They also like Eugene's ham, which he made on a homemade charcoal grill:

Eugene: "I asked myself, 'What would MacGyver do if he were cooking Thanksgiving for the Foo Fighters in a parking lot?' The answer was obvious."

The judges didn't like the undercooked potatoes made by Howie, er, I mean Danny. They also didn't like the stupid s'mores and the pumpkin mousse parfaits:

Foo Fighters: "More like barf-faits! Ha ha!"

Hey, I happen to like parfaits! I know I didn't taste them but I thought they looked pretty good.

Judging Team Underpants:

The judges liked Jamie's vegan cornbread stuffing and they also liked the sweet potatoes. They didn't like the turkey as much as the other team's. They liked the fruit crisp, which looked revolting, and they loved Fabio's pumpkin tiramisu.

Team Underpants wins and they get to attend the concert! Congratulations, Undies!

Team MILF has to clean up the stadium after the concert:

Team MILF: "Oh, my god, is that a used condom?"

The losing team has to go in and be judged:

Richard: "I just hope we don't resort to cannibalism."

OK, so it comes down to Jeff, Richard, and Howie, um, I mean Danny. Why do I keep doing that?

Jeff emerged as the unofficial team leader so, in a way, he was responsible for the meal. And his stuffing and dessert were bad. But I really think he contributed so much to that meal I would hate to see him go. I think it should come down to Danny and Richard. I'm sure they were doing plenty of other things for the team but, when you are being judged as part of a team, you have to make sure you have very specific, major contributions that can be judged individually. Those s'mores were not only terrible but they didn't seem like much work.

Richard is out. Sorry, Richard!

Tom: "For a band traveling on tour, July is a very important time of year when they are all thinking of their families. Richard, I hate to send you home on fake Thanksgiving, but someone has to go."

Jamie: "Hey, Stefan, remember in the previews when we were arguing about whether vegetarians eat fish? I totally thought that was going to be in this episode!"

Stefan: "Yeah, me too! Since the Foo Fighters wanted vegetarian food and we were on the same team, I was sure we were arguing about this meal. But as it turned out, both teams almost completely ignored the need for vegetarian food."

Jamie: "Seriously! I'm glad nobody noticed."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Top Chef New York episode two: Restaurant Wars! But without the wars! And with only one restaurant! And they aren't actually creating the restaurant because it already exists. But, other than that, it's just like restaurant wars!

Last week we lost two members of the CIA. This week the FBI will get involved, with agents Mulder and Scully investigating the mysterious disappearances:

Scully: "These heels are killing me."

Mulder: "I enjoy looking at porn."

Well, OK, so apparently they have more important issues to address.

We start this episode with Fabio talking about dragons:

Fabio: "Yeah, dragons are super cool! They, like, breath fire and shit!"

So that's not really what he said but, honestly, I have no idea what he was talking about.

Stefan says that Fabio is his biggest competition and then Fabio says that if Stefan were a princess he would totally rescue him from a dragon and then they kiss. No, really. Serious bromance going on here.

Donatalla Versace is the judge for the quickfire:

Donatella: "Padma, your outfit is very Isaac Mizrahi . . . for Target."

I never get tired of that joke.

Padma: "For the quickfire, you have to make a hot dog. Of course, the actual definition of a hot dog is pretty vague so you are pretty much free to screw this up any way you want."

This was a weird challenge. A hot dog can be described as a specific type of sausage that is ground to a very fine, smooth texture and pre-cooked. Or a hot dog can be described as serving any type of sausage in a bun. So when you are instructed to "make a hot dog" it could mean you are supposed to make a very specific type of sausage or you are supposed to put a pre-made sausage in a bun and choose the condiments. I wasn't sure what Padma wanted them to do. I can tell you, however, that wrapping a pre-made sausage like sushi in no way fulfills the instructions of "making a hot dog."

Most of the chefs make their own sausage. The judges like Radhika's and she wins immunity! Congratulations, Radhika!

Stefan: "There is nothing wrong with my wiener."

Fabio: "I'll be the judge of that."

Jeez, get a room!

Angelina of Nathan's hot dog stand is supposedly competing against the chefs. She takes out a pre-made hot dog and puts it in a bun and Padma acts like it's a major accomplishment. She declares Angelina the winner. I'm telling you, this challenge made no sense.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs will be cooking at a restaurant. Specifically, Tom's restaurant. Of course, Tom's not going to let them cook for his real customers:

Tom: "New Yorkers are really critical. In fact, they are a bunch of whining losers. I just want to punch them in the face."

How are those anger management classes going, Tom?

So, the chefs have to split into groups doing appetizers, entrees, and desserts. For some reason, it seems like everyone wants to do dessert. That's weird. I guess the contestants finally got the memo about learning how to make dessert.

Fabio buys olives. Then he grinds up the olives and make them into new and improved olives. Yeah, he made olives. Who does he think he is? God?

God: "Seriously! I spent a lot of time creating olives and he thinks he can make better olives? Oh, who am I kidding? I created the whole world in six days so I didn't really spend that much time on olives. But I still called them good and that should be enough for you people. Having said that, I kind of want to try those new ones."

Yeah, get in line, God. Since God doesn't live in Los Angeles (trust me) he will probably have an easier time finding spherical olives than I will. For some reason, we do not have much in the way of molecular gastronomy here on the West Coast. Yeah, apparently I can go to Beverly Hills and have Marcel serve me some foam but to get the full experience I need to go to Chicago or London.

Jill buys ostrich eggs and then scrambles them so that there is no way to tell they are ostrich eggs. Other than the terrible flavor.

Hosea can't get the fresh crab meat he needs so he gets canned crab meat, since you won't be able to tell the difference. Other than the terrible flavor.

Fabio is still talking about dragons:

Fabio: "I just love dragons. I could talk about dragons all day. Hey, remember that movie where Sean Connery played a dragon? That was awesome! Who else likes dragons?"

Seriously, why does he keep talking about dragons?

Eugene tries to make a joke about the long flight back to Europe, forgetting that the flight back to Hawaii is even longer:

Eugene: "Oh, yeah."

During the commercial break, Leah falls in love with Hosea because he happens to be sitting next to her. They get married and live happily ever after:

Hosea: "What the hell just happened?"

The chefs are serving dinner to a bunch of Top Chef rejects who think they are better than everyone else:

Tom: "God, they're worse than regular New Yorkers."

Jamie made a cold corn soup and the judges love it.

Hosea made a disgusting and slimy crab salad that is universally reviled. He thinks he might have won the challenge.

Leah's scallops were OK but the presentation was totally 80s:

Padma: "I felt like I was on the set of the Golden Girls."

The judges love Fabio's reconstructed salad.

Melissa made an avocado and apricot salad that is pretty boring.

Jill's quiche is bad. She should have used regular eggs and then called it "mock ostrich egg quiche," which could be served while asking the question, "wouldn't it be cool if this were made with ostrich eggs? Fortunately, it isn't; but try to imagine how interesting it would be if it were!"

The judges don't like Eugene's presentation of his meat loaf. That's a long flight back to Hawaii, Eugene.

Eugene: "Oh, shut up."

Stefan's halibut is good.

Jeff's jerk chicken is good:

Jeff: "I didn't make jerk chicken."

Any chicken you make is going to be jerk chicken.

Jeff: "Oh, ha ha, very funny."

Alex made pork tenderloin and it is not good.

The judges don't like Radhika's avocado mousse dessert, which Padma describes as sweet guacamole.

They like Daniel's pound cake.

Ariane's lemon dessert is too sweet and Padma almost dies:

Padma: "That bitch tried to kill me!"

Richard makes banana bread with peanut butter but Other Eric is making so much noise about how heavenly that sounds that I have no idea what the judges thought about it.

The judges like Carla's apple tart.

Tom talks about how disappointed he was in the food. The food was so good in the first challenge that he doesn't know what went wrong. Well, first of all, the chefs obviously don't know what "new American cuisine" means. Probably because it doesn't actually mean anything. Secondly, they were only making food for four people in the first challenge and that's just not the same as preparing food for dozens of people in a restaurant. But I certainly understand his disappointment. That food was crap.

Jamie, Fabio, and Carla are the top three and Hosea, Jill, and Ariane are the bottom three.

Four salads and two desserts. The entrees were all in the middle.

Fabio starts defending his dish because he thinks he is on the bottom:

Fabio: "I don't know what's wrong with you people! Most people would love that salad! I took cheese and grated it and then I melted the grated cheese and formed it back into a block of cheese and then I sliced it very thin, sealed it in an envelope, sent it around the world by FedEx and then served it to you and you don't appreciate it? I also took the dishes and ground them into dust and then I used the dust to make clay, which I formed into new dishes using a potting wheel and a kiln. It's a lot of work but I think it's worth it. As my momma in Italy would say, 'you can all bite me!' I don't understand why you didn't like it!"

Padma: "We DID like it, you dumbass!"

Fabio: "Oh."

Fabio wins! Congratulations, Fabio!

Fabio: "Thank goodness! Now Stefan won't be embarrassed to be with me."

Padma: "Jill, you really screwed up. If we keep you on the show, how will you keep from screwing up in the next challenge?"

Jill: "Well, it was just the pressure of the challenge that made me screw up. So next time I'll be fine as long as there is no pressure."

Jill is out.

Ariane is crying because she thinks she doesn't deserve to be there:

Ariane: "You know how every time you cook you just keep tasting it over and over and over and every time you taste it it's still just as bad but you hope that if you keep tasting it it will somehow get better but it never does and you make everyone else taste it and they all tell you it's too sweet and you know it's too sweet but you just hope that the problem will magically go away? Does that ever happen to you?"

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Top Chef New York: If you can make it there, you must be very proud of yourself!

Ooh, I just realized I haven't posted in almost two weeks! Well, a lot has happened. Thank you again, everyone, for your messages of congratulations on our shotgun wedding! That and the stress of the election almost killed me. Last Tuesday was very exciting but my body just couldn't take it anymore and I came down with a cold and spent most of last week in bed. Anyway, I'm feeling better now and ready to start blogging a new season of Top Chef. One more note before we start: December 10th will be A Day Without Gays. Joel Stein had suggested the 5th but apparently other people had already started organizing for the 10th so mark your calendars. Take the day off of work, don't go out to eat, don't go shopping, don't use the Internet. Just stay at home and read a book or watch a DVD. If everyone participates there will be a lot of homophobic women walking around that day with terrible haircuts and hideous outfits and unable to get a decent apple martini. And Banana Republic will probably go out of business. Seriously, a lot of people don't realize how empty their lives would be without gays. Could they live without us for one day? Probably. But it would be interesting to find out.

OK, so let's meet this season's lesbians! Where are my lesbians?

Jamie: "Here I am!"

One lesbian? Really? That can't be right.

Richard: "Don't worry, I'm so gay you won't even miss all the lesbians! No, really, I'm super super gay! I'm not kidding! I'm totally into everything gay! I like rainbow flags and Judy Garland and, oh my god, I would totally have sex with Tom Colicchio! Tom is so yummy I want to have sex with him right now! THAT is how gay I am!"

I can't argue with that kind of evidence.

Patrick rounds out our trio of gays/lesbians:

Patrick: "Don't you think it's time for someone with a lot of heart and absolutely no experience to win Top Chef?"

Yeah, no, that's not going to happen. But thanks for playing.

Fabio is Italian:

Fabio: "I can't believe it's not butter."

Eugene is from Hawaii and has lots of tattoos.

Jeff thinks he has amazing hair.

Radhika is Indian. No, Indian Indian, you know, like, from India:

Radhika: "People think because I'm Indian I'm going to make a lot of spicy curries. And I probably will."

Lauren's husband is currently deployed in Iraq:

Lauren: "I didn't want to sit at home by myself so I figured I might as well enter a cooking competition."

Sure, why not.

Ariane is from New Jersey and has two daughters.

Danny is from New York and he doesn't feel he's appreciated:

Danny: "Everyone always assumes I'm gay because of the industry I work in so I'm going to talk about football . . ."

No, Danny, this is the one Bravo show where you don't have to worry about that.

Danny: "Oh, right. Never mind. Well, I just hope people notice me."

Carla is a caterer.

Leah doesn't want to look like a little bitch.

Stefan is European:

Stefan: "Well, of course I am European, you son of a silly person! Why do you think I talk in this ridiculous accent? I blow my nose at you. Your mother was a hamster and your father smells of elderberries."

Why are you insulting me?

Stefan: "You think a vinaigrette is an emulsion! Stupid Americans! I fart in your general direction! Now, go away before I taunt you again!"

Fine. Forget it.

Padma tells us about the quickfire:

Richard: "Ooh, what's she wearing?"

Oh, please. Who cares.

Padma: "For the quickfire challenge, you will have to symbolically peel the city of New York. Your time begins NOW!"

The chefs run wildly through the city trying to figure out what Padma means. Some of them try taking the copper siding off the Statue of Liberty, others try acid washing the Empire State Building, and still others try undressing trannie hookers but that really doesn't have anything to do with the challenge.

Padma: "For heaven's sake! I was talking about peeling apples! They're sitting right there on the table!"

Oh, that makes sense. So they have a series of challenges where the chefs peel, dice, flambe, and juggle apples.

Radhika: "Everyone just assumed that because I'm Indian I would make a chutney. So that's what I did."

Lauren and Patrick, who trained together at the Culinary Institute of America, are the bottom two. Not great advertising for the CIA.

Jeff: "How's my hair?"

It's fine. So, anyway, Lauren is eliminated and the rest of the chefs pick knives with New York City neighborhoods that will inspire their ethnic dishes for the elimination challenge.

The chefs go shopping and then go to the Top Chef kitchen, where nothing too exciting happens. Ariane watches a pot boil, Patrick screws up cooking noodles, and Jeff realizes it takes longer than five seconds to plate food.

At judges' table are Tom, Gail, Padma, and Jean-Georges. The chefs go head to head:

Stefan beats Ariane making Middle Eastern cuisine.
Jamie beats Richard making Greek cuisine.
Jill beats Radhika making Jamaican cuisine.
Hosea beats Carla making Russian cuisine.
Leah beats Melissa making Italian cuisine.
Daniel beats Patrick making Chinese cuisine.
Eugene beats Alex making Indian cuisine.
Jeff beats Fabio making Latin cuisine.

Fabio needs a translator to explain his dish:

Barbara Billingsley: "Excuse me, but I speak douche."

Oh, Barbara, that was uncalled for! I'm sure Fabio is very nice.

Ariane and Patrick are the bottom two:

Tom: "Ariane, your basic cooking skills are lacking. What would you do at home in New Jersey if someone asked you to make Middle Eastern food?"

Ariane: "I would look at a book."

Tom slaps Ariane in the face:

Tom: "How DARE you use that word in my presence!"

Ariane: "What word? Book?"

He slaps her again:

Tom: "We are chefs! We do not read!"

Patrick is out. Sorry Patrick.

Leah, Stefan, and Eugene are the top three and Stefan wins!

Stefan: "You silly Americans are always winning Top Chef. It's about time a European chef won!"

Tom: "The winner of the first elimination challenge always goes on to win the season so we're just going to go ahead and declare Stefan the Top Chef winner of season five!"

Wow! Congratulations, Stefan! Well, that was such an exciting season! See you for season six in Pittsburgh!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Cantaloupe? Oh, yes we did!

Yesterday the Erics got married in the cute little Tuscany Chapel at The Hollywood Wedding Chapel in West Hollywood! It was a very sweet, simple service performed by the Rev. Lorelei and attended by a couple of friends. It was really lovely and I highly recommend The Hollywood Chapel for all your wedding needs. They also do beach weddings or other locations but their two chapels on Santa Monica Blvd. (we were in the smaller of the two) is perfect if you don't want to reserve a church or make a bunch of other plans.

We didn't want to make a fuss so, originally, we thought we would get married at the courthouse in West Hollywood but we waited too long and they got booked up. We also couldn't do it in Beverly Hills because they were also fully booked by the time we got our license! So they gave us an appointment at the courthouse near the Los Angeles International Airport, which didn't sound very nice to begin with, but the date also turned out to be problematic. So then we were able to get another date at the Norwalk courthouse, which is the main courthouse for Los Angeles County, for October 31st. We were not thrilled with that, either. Getting married on Halloween in some city we've never been to just seemed depressing.

So, then Eric found The Hollywood Chapel and it was such a lovely, yet inexpensive, alternative to the courthouse and we were able to do it on November first, which will make our anniversary very easy to remember! We got the elopement special and kept it very casual. We were in jeans and dress shirts and wore leis that my mom had shipped from Hawaii. Afterwards, we went down the pub for pints and fried food. Perfect!

Anyway, I just wanted to put up a little post about our day. Thanks to everyone for your kind wishes!