Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Top Chef lights a fire in Chicago,Idol takes on the Beatles,part I and New Amsterdam gains ground

Top Chef started it's fourth season in a tasty manner,having the new set of competing chef meet up at the original Pizzeria Uno for a get together lunch. Their talk time was short lived,as Padma and Chef Tom showed up to deliver the first Quickfire,which was for the chefs to create their own version of a deep dish pizza and bring to the mystery guest judge for tasting.

The guest judge turned out to be Rocco DiSpirito,who chose among his favorites Richard's peach taleggio pizza with a sweet tea sauce. Sounds weird to me but apparently the guy pulled it off. Another odd ingredient was marmite from Mark,a New Zealander(the chefs were allowed to use special ingredients that they brought with them in this challenge)which is known to be rather bitter but Rocco was pleased to discover that it tasted great mixed with chicken and zucchini as a deep dish filling.

After the tasting,the chefs were divided into winning and losing teams that had some significance the next day for the Elimination Challenge. The winners of the QF had a knife pull to see in which order they would get to choose a classic dish to cook against a member of the losing team. The dish choices included duck ala orange,lasagna,eggs benedict,steak poivre,chicken piccata and souffle.

Souffle was the last dish to be chosen,due to the degree of difficulty in making one as Eric and Zoi found out the hard way. At least Zoi was smart enough to make a dessert plate,using rice pudding and a shot of espresso. Eric whipped up a pepper jack cheese number that used mashed potatoes as a base(way too heavy for a light pastry like this).

An even worse mistake was made by Ryan,who was supposed to prepare a chicken piccata which is made with egg and flour,not breadcrumbs! Breadcrumbs turn it into chicken cutlets,big time. Ryan acted very defensive about his dish,making Chef Tom wonder if Ryan knew his cooking basics. Anthony Bourdain was a special guest judge for the Elim round but it was Rocco who got in a real good quip-"it's not just his gnocchi that was dense." OUCH!

First to pack her knives and go,however,was Nimma for oversalting her shrimp scampi and under salting her pizza. You gotta watch those condiments,people-it's a surefire way to get kicked off a cooking competition if you forget to do your basic seasonings there.

The winner of the first Elimination Challenge was Stephanie,for making a duck ala orange with spring rolls. They didn't mention if she won immunity for the next round or not(I hope they don't decide to do away with that!)but it's a good start for her.

At this point,I can't really root for anyone just yet but Mark,with his Kiwi cooking style,is an early contender for me(even if his duck dish flopped). The biggest jerk so far is Andrew with his constant whining and complaining. Granted,I was with him when Richard used more than one deep dish for the pizza challenge,leaving Andrew scrambling about to find something to use.

Later on,tho,Andrew was up against Richard to prepare crab cakes and got all paranoid and snotty about there not being any mayo in the TC kitchen. Andrew had bought some during the Whole Foods shopping run and when he saw that Andrew was in need,helped him make some mayo and even offered his own store bought supply. Andrew had nothing but 'tude during the entire thing. Hey, buddy,maybe you should've checked what was in stock before going to the store!

Well, this season looks pretty promising so far and with Hell's Kitchen due back on by early April,we should have some hot times with the cooking competitions this spring.

I have a couple of questions for American Idol-first,do you really need to have Beatles songs(and/or tunes written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon)for two weeks? Isn't one week enough,particularly for some of these songs to be put thru the wringer? Plus,isn't Jim Carrey a big enough of a movie star to just make an appearance on the show without having to dress up like a third rate amusement park mascot?

The big news on the show this week was David Archuleta forgetting the lyrics to his song. I know most people have already given him the AI crown here,but you guys have to remember that when it comes to Idol,nothing is written in stone. The kid's only human after all and while I do think he has the potential to make to the Final Two,the strongest singer to beat(in my humble opinion) is Carly Smithson.

I do miss Danny Noriega and wish he could've made it to Beatles week,but he's going to do very well for himself,thanks to all of the publicity. Good luck,kid!

Enough with the nice;this week's Sanjaya award winner is Kristy Lee Cook,who barely escaped elimination for her country style take on "Eight Days a Week". David Hernandez's "I Saw Her Standing There" was lousy and boring but not as horrifying as listening to Kristy mangle the melody here. Hon,just because you can sing best in a certain genre,that doesn't mean you have to make every song sound that way.

Also,I don't think it was fair of Seacrest and Paula to try and blame Simon for Kristy's country singing. All of the judges have been telling her that she's good at that,not just Simon! Put the blame on Mame,not Simon Cowell:



Carly Smithson gave the best performance this week with "Come Together" but I have to admit that Chikezie was surprisingly good with "She's a Woman". A clever move on his part to take a lesser known song and completely make it his own. Brooke White's choice of "Let It Be" was much better suited to her style than the tunes she's been picking the last couple of weeks. Of course,I loved Amanda Overmeyer's "You Can't Do That"-I noticed that she doesn't make gender changes when she picks her songs,which I like. That "Me and Mr. Jones" deal didn't fly well with me,plus I find it very distracting-a reminder that the song was not originally meant for this singer.




I've seen three episodes of New Amsterdam so far,and this show is really worth watching,folks. You might think that the premise(immortal man seeks his one true love to make him mortal while working as a NYC detective)would quickly wear thin but it doesn't. Instead,we get some interesting complexities,such as one of John Amsterdam's
best allies being his son Omar,who ages like the rest of us and confronted his father over whether or not he really loved his mother during the second episode.

That conflict was thoughtfully and emotional dealt with,plus having Amsterdam use his long memory of historical experiences to deal with the cases that he gets is turning out to be a handy detail that enhances the plots,not a crutch for them to lean on:

Random Notes:

Smallville: We get a new episode tonight and it has a very special guest,Pete! Yes, Pete Ross returns to see his old friends and winds up with some kypto powers to show off. That attracts attention from Lex,which never leads to anything good:

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