Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

True Blood's Tara gets a reality check,Top Chef gets schooled and Work of Art gets a classic booking

An interesting new Quickfire challenge was introduced on Top Chef last,with everyone divided into teams of two to make a sandwich in thirty minutes. Sounds too easy,you say? The chefs thought so,too,until Padma showed them the double sided aprons that each team had to wear which turned them into conjoined culinary twins.

While most of the teams managed to whip up a tasty bite there,Angelo continued his winning streak with Tracey literally by his side. Their flounder marinated in fish sauce with a spicy mayo and pickled red onions rocked both Padma and special guest judge Sam Kass(the Assistant Chef for the White House)and granted immunity to Angelo and Tracey for the Elimination challenge ahead.

Sam Kass staid on to judge that round as well,which grouped the chefs into groups of four to create a healthy lunch for middle school kids. They had to use a budget equivalent to what a regular public school gets to feed about fifty students($130 or $2.60 per child)and make it as nutritious as possible.

There was a change of pace at the Judges' Table,with the two worst teams being called in first to receive their grilling. Angelo's winning ways didn't help him out here since the closest thing to a vegetable on his team's plate was the peanut butter mousse with celery on top of a tuile cookie that he made.

It was almost like they had two dessert offerings(the peanut butter is extra protein,but still..)which is not what the judges were hoping for,health wise.

One of the teams that did well was Kelly's and she took the win for this challenge with her braised pork tacos with pickled onions and cilantro.

The only bad thing about that was her constant insistence about the tacos being her creation all the way thru the challenge,which was understandingly annoying to the rest of her team(especially Arnold). Oh,well,at least their food was kid appropriate and tasted good to boot.

Back to another losing team,Amanda headed up the lunch list of failures for her group by serving up chicken thighs in a sherry jus. Yep,sherry as in alcohol,for kids! I know that booze tends to burn off most of it's intoxicating content during cooking but come on,now!

Not to mention that chicken thighs are not the best part of the bird to begin with(I prefer white meat,folks). The judges asked why sherry and Amanda's basic response was "That's how I like it." *Sigh* How do you become a professional chef and not comprehend that cooking for a client is about their preferences,not yours!

The worst thing about the chicken sherry incident is that it wound up getting someone else on Amanda's team sent home. Jacqueline had planned to make a chocolate banana pudding but her group went over budget at the checkout counter and most of the stuff she needed was taken out.

She switched gears and made a banana pudding with fresh strawberries instead,only it was starting to get too starchy so Jacqueline dumped in a mess of sugar to straighten that out. Unfortunately,it didn't work and she was called on the carpet for adding that extra sugar and told to pack her knives and go. Jacqueline should have been more forceful about keeping her ingredients but Amanda's bizarre insistence on that cooking sherry for a nutritious school lunch rightly should have sent her home as well.

Next week,another run-in with desserts has the chefs scrambling for cover. Probably,if they just calm down a little,things will turn out as easy as pie.

The gang at Work of Art had a literary challenge this week;to create a cover for a classic novel. The choice of books included Frankenstein,Dracula and Alice in Wonderland,which produced some interesting designs but I'm sad to say that one of my favorite authors got a couple of very off putting showcases for her best known book,Pride and Prejudice.

One of the artists assigned to P&P was Jaclyn,who claimed to have seen a film version of the story but her misspelling of Jane Austen's name and calling Darcy "Darby" makes me doubt her word on that. Her concept was to take a half nude picture of herself,with a bowler hat in one hand and turn it into a sketch drawing along side a tree. That would be fine if the book was The Unbearable Lightness of Being,not Pride and Prejudice!

Judith was the other person who had P&P and at first,she tried to make a fingerprint painting that suggested flowers(she said that she's read Jane Austen but didn't expand on any of the book's details much).

That wasn't getting her anywhere so she just wrote the title as backwards letters across a color divided canvas,which made as much sense as the Mad Hatter's tea party in any film adaptation(maybe she should've gotten Alice in Wonderland instead!).

The end result,plus Judith's attitude about "I don't work on assignment" earned her a one way ticket out of the competition. Hello,it's a competition and that means you work on assignments in order to win! No one forced you to be here,seriously.

The winner here was John,for his abstract take on H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. Granted,it wasn't my first choice for the win(Mark's Dracula cover was a strong contender here)but it does have a retro sci-fi vibe to it that makes the book look appealing enough to a new reader to pick up and browse through it.

A new edition of The Time Machine with John's cover art is now available from Penguin and no doubt pretty soon at a book store near you. I hope to have an interview with Kathryn Court,the president of Penguin who appeared on this episode,to talk about this selection and other upcoming artwork for the Penguin Classics line in the near future.

Congrats to John,whose victory is even sweeter due to his dad being a librarian. He will be very proud to shelve this volume and show it off to his patrons indeed. Nice job in making an old school classic look shiny and new wave:

With all of the supernatural hijinks and soap opera subplots on True Blood that dominate the landscape,it's nice to see a realistic yet sad moment between two characters once in a while. Lafayette had no choice but to get in Tara's face after her botched suicide attempt and the best way to sober her up was to show her where she could end up if her grief couldn't be controlled.

They took a trip to visit Lafayette's mother(Alfre Woodard)who is being kept in a rather expensive mental home,thanks to those illegal side jobs of his. That went a long way towards helping Tara snap out of her funk and to a touching scene of family truth telling.

It's good to see this bond of familial love and solidarity between these two troubled souls and hopefully they'll be able to keep each other grounded as time goes on. How Lafaytette is going to feel about Tara making the new vampire in town a good friend of her is a whole other story but we'll see about that next time:


DESIGN STAR: Courtland got a little karmic victory this week,by winning the apartment makeover challenge with the guys. Nina,who threw him under the bus the last time,made plenty of enemies on the girl's team by bossing everyone around but it was Emily who took quite a few lumps with the judges this round:

THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR: Dzintra finally got the boot as her team challenge with Aria showcased her worst personal traits. During the presentation of their food to the judges(plus,singer Colbie Caillat,whose after party it was),Dzintra actually went "Shush!" to Aria and then proceeded to talk about how the salad she made didn't resemble a hairball. Not appetizing there,to say the least:

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