Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Recap week ending 11/22/2009

Top Chef 6 - Las Vegas:

The guest judge this
week was Gavin Kaysen who competed in the 2007 "culinary Olympics" called the Bocuse d'Or. Sorry, not impressed. The footage of that event looked like it was filmed in a high school gymnasium by a local municipal access cable company. Seriously, it looked like a joke.

Anywho, for the Quickfire Challenge, the 5 remaining cheftestants were to try to recreate in their own style Chef Kaysen's dish that he made in 2007 which was a Ballotine of Chicken, Chicken Liver and Crayfish. It is essentially a protein inside of a protein inside of a protein...think turducken.

While the instruction were to make a "version" of it, brother Michael apparently took a little too much license and made a terrine. I'd always thought of a terrine as a cooking dish (and it is) but in food it's essentially several items pressed together and shaped and cut. It kinda looks like a sushi roll. So, his dish didn't go over too well. Surprisingly, Jen won! It was her first win in a looong time, and maybe finally will get her confidence back up. Her win got her 30 minutes extra time in the Elimination Challenge.

The Elimination Challenge of course was to make something in the style of the Bocuse d'Orusing one protein (either Salmon or Lamb,) and 2 garnishes. Kevin (who I agree with) said that while the Bocuse d'Or is all about presentation (you present your dishes on a mirror...oy,) he wanted to focus on complex flavors. I mean, leave it to the French to come up with a food competition that is more about looks than taste. What is it for, a magazine cover? Ridiculous. Anyway, Brian was the one who everyone thought had the best technique and complicated dish, but his lamb was undercooked. If he had Jen's extra 30 minutes, he probably would have won. All of them received some praise, and all of them received some criticism. Kevin won, which I'm SURE pissed off Michael because he keeps saying that Kevin cooks what he cooks on his day off. WTFE a-hole. Kevin not only focused more on taste than appearance, but he sous vide his meat, which he'd never done, and he had asked brother Bryan the night before on some tips for doing it. Bryan said that he'd have been an a-hole to not tall Kevin...and that he doubted that his brother would have told Kevin. He's probably right, and Kevin is probably lucky that Michael went to sleep early, so he didn't know about his brother "helping" a competitor. Eli ended up going home so as predicted here after the 1st or 2nd show, the Final Four are the brothers (Bryan and Michael,) Kevin, and Jen.

Next Iron Chef America:

This started with 10 chefs, and I only knew 2 of them. Amanda Freitag and Jose Garces. Both had competed on ICA before (and Garces won as I recall.) The final 2 chefs were Jose and Chef Mehta who was born in India. So, the new Iron Chef would be a minority (either Hispanic or Indian.)

The final round was a head to head ICA battle in Kitchen Stadium and the "secret ingedient" was "ribs and racks." So it was ribs from pig, cow & buffalo. Unlike the first NICA 2 years ago, the 3 judges who had been judging all along actually got to be judges for the finals. The last time, there was a LOT of issues where the 3 judges throughout the show weren't the judges for the ICA battle (3 Iron Chefs were instead,) and the 3 judges who had been there all along thought that Symon probably would not have won had they been the judges. So, this time not only were the 2 judges there, but also 3 current Iron Chefs (Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, and Morimoto.) To me, that made the most sense, and both the Chairman and Alton Brown also were served dishes. I bet if there had been a tie that Alton would have been the tie breaker.

It seemed pretty apparent to me who would win. The 3 judges of the series made noise that Chef Mehta took more risks and that maybe led to more failures but also led to the single best dish. The Iron Chefs seemed to say that Chef Garces might have been more "conservative" but nearly everything was technically correct, cooked correctly, and he didn't produce 5 "Latin" dishes, so it wasn't "really" conservative for him. In the end, Chef Garces won and is the new Iron Chef to replace Mario Batali who has had a falling out with Food Network...although he WILL compete in the Iron Chef Battle with the White House Official Chef along with Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse (who also has had a falling out with FN.) This special episode of Iron Chef America will air in January.

Detroit Lions vs Cleveland Browns:

While this game was blacked out locally, I listened to it on the radio.

What the heck was that on Sunday?
The Lions are at home against another 1 win team. A team that had ONLY had 5 TDs for the ENTIRE SEASON so far, and of those 5, only 1 player who was directly involved in ANY of them was actually in the game. The Browns are imploding from within with players calling out the coach, the coach calling out players, and the owner working to replace the GM and coach. ANd they're imploding from without with fans hoping they lose all the rest of their games, that the QBs get hurt, that the owner fires everyone and/or sells the team. You think it's been bad here? At least the Lions team are on the same page and trying to get wins.
So, what happens? The Browns roll up a 24-3 lead.
In the first quarter.

But, as I contended last season...these Lions aren't quitters. Last season, had we played Cleveland or St Louis, or Cincy, or a couple other teams, we probably would have beaten them. The Lions were motivated to not go 0-16 while those other teams just wanted the season to end...and they lucked out because each one of those 4 win or less teams played other 4 win or less teams while the Lions did not.

So, the Lions get it back tied at 24 at halftime. Then they took the lead! Then, like the Lions, they not only lost the lead, but turned the ball over late in the 4th quarter by a bad decision by StafFORD. Calvin had triple coverage, yet Matt tossed the ball his way regardless. Dumb. Typical Lions QB. But wait! The Browns fail and kick the ball back to the Lions. What does StafFORD do? He marches them down the field to around the 30. Then he heaves a last second desperation toss towards Bryant Johnson in the end zone, and is promptly flattened onto his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Johnson was essentially frisked like he was a dope smuggler, so after a pass interference call, the Lions had 1st and goal from the 1 with 0.0 showing on the game clock. Daunte Culpepper, who hadn't even been warming up, had to run onto the field to run the last play. So what does the genius coach of Cleveland do? He calls time out. Many say that he didn't have a choice. They were winning and they had to get their defense set. BS! Let the ice cold Daunte try to run a game that he had absolutely no handle on and take the chance that the Lions, as usual, would fail. Instead, out runs StafFORD, lame arm and all, and tosses the winning TD to rookie TE Pettigrew! HOLY SCHNIKES!!!! This isn't Joey Harrington. This isn't Scott Mitchell. Those clowns would have been writing in pain on the bench, watching the game on the jumbotron.

What did I learn from this game?
That the Lions are absolutely terrible. Their defense couldn't stop a check, and their special teams must be full of "special" people. Durr durr.
But, the offense isn't horrible, and StafFORD tossed TDs to 5 different players. 2 rookies, one a 2nd year player, and one a 3rd year player, and the 5th the backup TE. That shows that perhaps there is a nucleus to build upon. StafFORD has shown that he could be "the real deal" and prior to the game HE took all the blame for the multiple dropped passes over the prior few games. That sends a signal to his offense that HE is the leader, and that builds respect. StafFORD got 422 yards and 5 TDs, the first time a rookie has done that since the 1930s! HOLY SCHNIKES! Does this mean that the Lions "turned a corner?" Hells no. But it does show that perhaps, just maybe, they got the right guy last draft. The offense needs LINEMEN, not skill players or StafFORD will get killed. But the guy's got the heart of a winner and the toughness and guts to get him through the bad times.

The Lions will be lucky to win 1 more game (Chicago at home on the last week is their best bet) but that was a nice win and a nice boost to the offense and showed that the Lions may FINALLY have a true leader in the locker room. They had better spend the entire off season bringing in veteran defensive linemen and secondary as well as o-linemen, and target those positions with EVERY pick in the next draft.

Oh, and I happened to pick up StafFORD for my Fantasy Football team and he got me over 55 points! W00t!!
I played my brother's team, and he's a HUUUUGE Lions fan. Must have sucked for him knowing that although the Lions would win, he was getting killed. Sorry about that, bro.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Week Ending 11/15/2009

Top Chef 6 - Las Vegas:

The guest judge this week was Nigella Lawson who is sexy but I've never been a big fan of her cooking shows. The Quickfire Challenge had the 6 remaining cheftestants prepare breakfast in bed for Padma and Nigella (they were in separate beds, perve.) Robin's breakfast of course sucked and as usual she was all "I was unhappy with my dish." Of course you were, you blow. Bryan's dish also ended up in the bottom but only because he added vanilla to it which Nigella didn't like. I dunno, it looked and sounded great and I'm not sure how vanilla could have ruined it. For reasons unknown, Jen made "Shit on a Shingle" and actually CALLED it that! WTF!?! Michael made a nice dish, and Kevin made an interesting twist on "steak and eggs" by adding coffee beans, but it was Eli's Reuben/Eggs Benedict sandwich that won the Quickfire, and earned him the one and only slot from this season to be including in the new Top Chef Quickfire Challenge Cookbook. Good for Eli, as that will probably be his last honor in this season.

For the Elimination challenge, the chefs were each sent to various casino/hotels in Vegas to be "inspired" and then turn their inspiration into a dish for 250 guests. That's a LOT of work for each chef, but you just knew who would do well and who wouldn't.

Jen again tried to sabotage herself and in the "stewing room" where they wait to find out their fate she just kept saying, "Just send me home already." Nice. Nothing like giving up.

Eli went to "Circus Circus" and somehow decided that meant peanut and popcorn soup. WTF? Sounds gross. Chef Tom blogged that he actually kinda liked it, but ultimately Eli failed to pull it all together. Padma said that she NEVER wanted to try to eat it again. Nigella was afraid to even try, but ultimately did after the other judges gave it a go.

Michael won by making a nifty chicken wing dish inspired by firefighters of NYC. It had a little sweetness and a little heat and had a semi-frozen blue chees mousse on top.

FINALLY getting the boot was Robin who tried to make things that she'd never done before (again) and failed at it (as usual.) She claimed that she had been an artist and I think she should do everyone a favor and go back to doing that as she just sucks as a chef.


I went and saw Michael Jackson: This Is It and it shows how he was involved with all aspects of the show from auditioning backup dancers to watching the shoots of the little videos that would appear on stage during the different songs. He looked to be in good shape, danced well, and for the most part his voice was in fine shape. I do think they "augmented" his voice by playing the album version of the song at times 9probably as the audio was poorly recorded when he sang it live (remember, these rehearsals weren't supposed to see the light of day) but when he did sing live that were obviously live, he sounded really good.


Fringe was pretty decent although I saw the first "twist" a mile away. Next week should be amazing as it is about the "Observers." Yes, that's an "s" at the end. Stargate:Universe was kinda boring, and Sanctuary wasn't very good (again.) Smallville was quite good although the "Wonder Twins" weren't really given much to do. Lois believed Clark to be "The Blur" and showed him that she was ok with the idea (so why Clark continued to lie to her is a little odd) but this episode did mark the appearance of "Clark with spectacles." Lois also realized, fully, that she is madly in love with Clark and when he risked her life (or so she believed) to try to save her, that just cemented it. Survivor had one of the best Tribals ever as Evil Russell found a Hidden Immunity Idol for the second time WITHOUT A CLUE! Amazing. It led to a great tribal where the "other tribe" cast 7 votes to evict him (although Shambo's was a sham vote...just for looks) and they were all nullified by Russell playing the HII. It was awesome.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Recaps and a little more 10/28-11/1/2009

Top Chef 6 - Las Vegas:

First I want to correct myself from last week.
Although it seemed at the time that the judges weren't happy with either seafood dish from Jen last week, I read Tom's blog and he stated that her Halibut dish was good, the shellfish dish (the one she cooked to order like a dumbass) was terrible. So, Mike I. had 2 acceptable dishes; Jen had 1 good and 1 bad; Kevin had 1 good (his dish,) and 1 bad (Laurine's dish that he cooked;) and Laurine had a bad dish (her lamb dish that she prepped, Kevin cooked, and she allowed to be served undercooked,) and did a terrible job as hostess. So, I now agree that she did deserve to go over Jen last week.
Now, on to this week...

This was one of those Quickfire Challenges that had NOTHING to do with the guest judge. The guest judge was Paul Bartolotta, who has one of the top Italian restaurants in Vegas. The challenge, though, was sponsored by TV Guide and was "tv dinners." The challenge was misnamed because instead of making a dish to be frozen and then served tv dinner style, they were asked to make a dinner to eat fresh that was inspired by a classic tv show. What Chef Bartolotta's connection to any of this escapes me. It just seems that they were able to get a paying sponsor (TV Guide) and "crowbarred" the guest judge into the challenge.

The shows that were to "inspire" the chefs were MASH, Flintstones, Gilligan's Island, Sesame Street, Soprano's, Seinfeld, & Cheers. For me, none of the dishes really had ANYTHING to do with the shows. Kevin at least made an Italian dish (meatballs) for the Soprano's, but pretty much everything else could have been for any tv show...or heck, just any movie, radio program, or even book. I will give Robin props for being a non-tv watcher and used to eating only "healthy foods," yet knew Big Bird and Cookie Monster. Unfortunately, she made a cookie and some mess with an egg on top. It looked terrible and she wound up in the bottom 2 along with Jen who is Hell Bent on crashing and burning. For MASH, why didn't Bryan make something inspired by Korean cooking like Korean Ribs and a Korean style veggie side? Instead, he made meat and potatoes which he said would have been something American Servicemen would have considered "comfort food." Ok, I'll give him that, but the Korean Ribs would have been great, especially since there was an episode where Klinger had ribs sent from Toledo. For the Flintstones, why didn't Jen make a GIANT CUT OF BEEF with the bone in, and call it "Brontosaurus Style?" For Gilligan's Island, Eli went "tropical" but why not a mini coconut pie, or even coconut custard? Why not something with "Ginger?" Anyway, Bryan and Kevin were the Top 2 and Kevin won.

For the Elimination Challenge, they were going to take over Tom's Vegas restaurant, Craftsteak. The Cheftestants were all excited and mulling the proteins when Tom brought in Padme Amidala herself, Natalie Portman. Oh, did they mention that Natalie is Vegetarian? I don't understand why chefs go nuts over having to cook for vegetarians. A few weeks back, Gordon Ramsay on Hell's Kitchen called the the "biggest pains in the ass in the world." Kevin made some snide comments too, but at least not as bad. Chef Tom acknowledged that although he understand why vegetarians/vegans choose to not eat meat, he went on to say that there are stomach acids that ONLY exist to break down meat...so in other words, Vegetarians/Vegans are going against nature. Well, at least he tried.

I go to a Vegetarian restaurant all the time, and there is PLENTY that can be made vegetarian. Heck, every Indian and Ethiopian restaurant have a big vegetarian menu, as does most Mexican and many Italian. Not including odd things like Seitan, they can use beans, lentils, and soy for protein, but pasta dishes, rice dishes...so many dishes are out there that are already vegetarian, let alone any number of dishes that can be made. Robin was excited because she cooks and eats vegetarian all the time. Mike I. also cooks vegetarian all the time and his own mother is Vegan. The rest mentioned that they have vegetarian dishes or make them special at their restaurants...but they all seemed to whine a bit.

Well, whatever. Michael, Kevin and Eli were in the top, and Kevin's sloppy looking mushroom dish won. I think this made him the first to win both the Quickfire and Elimination Challenges with the same guest judge. Michael bitched that Kevin's dish may have been tasty (he didn't try it,) but it was pedestrian and could be made by any young chef in cooking school, while his was much more complicated. Chef Tom admonished this on his blog and that technique and presentation don't exceed taste, and Kevin's tasted better...although I think he actually wanted Michael's to win inspite of Kevin's dish tasting better, and was out voted.

Jen, Robin & Mike I. were in the bottom (this meant Brother Bryan was alone in "no man's land,) and all of them were pretty terrible. I think the judges are cutting Jen slack, but her dish did seem to be the least offensive of the 3. Robin's was a bunch of disparate veggies that had no connection to each other, and the dish was not balanced in terms of seasoning, acidity, and so forth. But surprisingly, it was Mike I. who got the boot. He didn't cook his leeks properly...and for whatever reason tried to make them a "pretend protein" rather than actually incorporate a real protein. His dish fell apart and he just was like, "oh well, whatever," because rather than try to fix it, he figured that Robin would fail worse and she'd go. He was wrong. In Chef Tom's blog, he seem to imply that one of the brothers or Kevin will go earlier than expected, and in the promo for next week, judge Toby is heard to say, "he" in relation to someone totally failing.

Random Thoughts:

After one of the best Smallville's in a loooong time, they followed up with another good one. Oliver is back and has recruited a gal to be his "Speedy" of sorts. He also got into a love triangle with Clark and Lois, but the episode ended with Clark taking matters into his own hands (although Lois already had told Oliver that she loved him as a friend but Clark has her heart) and Clark kissed Lois.

Sanctuary was one of those episodes to show that the "new person" is part of the team. It didn't work. She still sucks.

Stargate:Universe was one of those "needs of one outweigh the needs of the many" episodes. It was so so.

Ghost Hunters was semi-live with 5 "scariest" episodes as voted by "fans," but hosted live and included Steve and Tango and people from their spinoff series Ghost Hunter Academy. It was ok, more good humor from host Josh, but after they were spoofed on South Park a couple of weeks ago, I'd have rather seen a full episode made by South Park than this sort of semi-live "best of."

Personal Notes:

With my birthday so close to Halloween, I've always had a special place for it. Also, it fits me much more than say Christmas, or 4th of July. I've always looked forward to it...
Until a bad combination of factors over the past few years.

My ex and I wanted to get married on Halloween. We couldn't get the date, so we settled on November 1. It was great, and everyone who was there still talks about how unique and fun it was. The theme was Halloween during the Renaissance. She made her Renaissance style wedding dress, my Renaissance style outfit, her son's outfit that was like a junior version of mine, the 3 little flower girl's dresses, and altered the matron of honor's gown.

We made most of the decor ourselves. The card box looked like a castle. The bride's cake looked like a castle, and the groom's cake was dark chocolate ganache over a red velvet cake...so it looked like a "blood cake." The groom's cake had a little gazebo painted black with black roses on it, and little figurines of Dracula and The Bride of Frankenstein. All of the tables had artificial leaves on them. We took all of our carved pumpkins (my family and my brother's) from Halloween and spread them around the reception hall. We had a table set up for kids after dinner and hired the 2 gals who operated the after school facility at my stepson's school. People were encouraged to dress up...either Renaissance or Halloween costumes. Not everyone did, but many did dress up. It was a LOT of fun.

But now, I see that day just after Halloween, and it makes me a little sad. Before it was over, I had a little family of me, my wife, my stepson, and our 2 dogs. Worse, 2 years ago on 10/29 I had to put my girl dog to sleep (the other one lives with my ex several hundred miles away down south.) So now I've "bookended" my favorite day of the year with "sadness."

This year, it's kinda hitting me differently. Last year, I had no desire to decorate for Halloween as it was the first year anniversary since my little girl had to be put down. I went Trick or Treating with my niece and nephew...and I will again this year. Having just turned 40 and still single...and then these 2 dates all in a row...I'm just not feeling much joy or having the kind of fun that I usually have. Add to that the fact that I'm still having money problems and know that until I get that improved, I won't even THINK about trying to date anyone...
Well, it's all left me more than a little melancholy.

Yeah, yeah, I know...waaaaah.
I know it could be worse. A LOT worse. But the weight of the "blahs" is keeping me down. As I've written before, I'm not a "rah rah" type of person, so when I get the blahs...oy. But, I'm muddling through and hanging in there. At any rate...I just wanted to try and put how I'm feeling into words as it seems to help to "get rid" of those feelings.

I went to my brother's to carve pumpkins, then went Trick or Treating with them on Halloween. It was fun.
But I miss my little girl.
And I miss my little family.