Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

TC All-Stars on a fishing trip,Worst Cooks get a hands on lesson and dealings at Downton Abbey

Things were quickly changed up on Top Chef All-Stars this week,as the chefs got to skip over a Quickfire Challenge to prepare for an Elimination round that would send two of them home.

Everyone went to Montauk to fish for five hours and then use their catch to cook a beach party dinner for a hundred people. The chefs were split into four teams of three and went to sea in two boats. While it took more time for one boat to finally get a bite on their lines,they all had enough fish to fry(or cook as they pleased).

While this was a team challenge,individual effort was appreciated. Dale used striped bass for his fish taco with corn and avocado relish,radishes and cabbage. It went over well with the judges but Judge Tom did ask him if the taco shell was homemade and it wasn't. Maybe not a big deal but Dale didn't get the win here,so it might have cost him a few points.

Ironically enough,Antonia's open faced porgy po'boy with cabbage slaw was a great dish but she ended up in the Bottom due to the crappy food her team mates put out. Poor Antonia,this is the second time in a row that she's had to suffer for the failings of others-team challenges are not her friend,it seems.

The victory went to Carla,for her bluefish in lettuce wrap with pickled watermelon rind and bagel croutons. Her big prize was a trip to Amsterdam,which made her literally jump for joy in the stew room,causing Marcel to sour the mood by sarcastically apologizing for not being happy since that meant his team was in the loser's ring.

Marcel was acting pretty jerky during this whole round and I really don't think he needed to make Carla feel bad about her win. She wasn't trying to rub anyone's nose in it,her happiness was genuine.

Speaking of Marcel,he and his other team mates(Richard and Fabio)decided to pool their resources and only make one dish. That was a calculated move on their part,with the reasoning being that if the plate was a flop it would be hard to blame just one or two of them for that.

That strategy worked,since their sea bass with succotash and corn puree came off as heavy and overloaded. The addition of foam and a Concord grape gastrique was the kiss of death for this stinker.

It was ladies' night to pack their knives and go. Antonia's two team mates took their leave,starting with Tiffani F. Unlike Carla,she didn't clean the bloodline out of her bluefish and smoking it didn't help matters much.

I will say this for Tiffani F,she does appear to have mellowed out since her season one days. A certain season two player could follow her lead in that department(yes,Marcel,this means you!).

And finally exiting the building was Jamie,with her incredibly watered down watermelon salad and sea bass. When questioned about her prep,Jamie did say that she chopped up cucumbers and then added water to them before putting them though the blender.

Cucumbers are watery to begin with,so this was like adding salt to a salt lick. Jamie's days have been numbered for a while now,so it was inevitable that she would be heading home.

Next week,Restaurant Wars! Bourdain will be back and it looks like Marcel's attitude is going to land him in hot water again. Definitely a must-see,folks.

After an egg cooking challenge that took them to a working farm,The Worst Cooks In America were taught how to make a pair of pork dishes for their Main Dish round. Each contender had to participate in the cooking demo for at least one step,which came in handy later.

Chef Anne had her crew make an Asian inspired pork tenderloin with sugar snap peas and spinach. I find it interesting that chicken and pork are the first two meats being taught to these contestants,since cooking them properly is of the highest importance in order to prevent salmonella(which is probably why they were chosen early on):

Robert Irvine taught his recruits a herb coated pork paillard with compound butter and asparagus. During each team's cooking time,they not only didn't have a written on the blackboard recipe to check but their notes were taken away as well.

Some did better than others,although one person on Robert's team forgot to make two portions of pork and had to beg for another piece to cook from one of her fellow recruit. She managed to have enough on the plate in time but it was a close call:

The first airing of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classic this past weekend was as absorbing as promised. While the high drama of what will happen to the Crawley family with their entail forcing an unwanted relation upon them is riveting,the real intrigues are amongst the staff.

In particular,the ambitions of footman Thomas(Rob James-Collier),who is apparently willing to do anything for advancement,are ones to watch out for.

His attempt at blackmailing a titled nobleman on the make for a rich wife and trying to hustle newly hired valet Mr. Bates(Brendan Coyle) out of his position mark Thomas as a real snake in the grass.

I wonder,however,why ladies' maid O'Brien(Siobhan Finneran) is so keen on helping him out. Their connection is clearly not romantic which makes me think that maybe they are related in some way.

Amongst the Crawley family players,I will have to say that my favorite is Violet,the Dowager Countess. Maggie Smith is in top form in this role,as a grand lady who will not be gainsaid in her goals even if that means challenging the entail and making an alliance with her American born daughter-in-law.

Her reactions to the modernization of her world are also amusing. One of my favorite scenes has Violet holding up a fan to dull what she perceives as a harsh glare from the electric lights installed in a chandelier.

Her practicality in family matters appears to be unexpected by her eldest granddaughter Mary(Michelle Dockery),who was stunned to learn that encouraging her to marry the new heir apparent Matthew(Dan Stevens) was the Countess' idea.

So far,Downton Abbey has caught the attentions of many and as the episodes continue,more mysteries and schemes will be unraveled for the delight of all. I'm glad that we're getting the original British version instead of a Americanized remake since some things just don't translate as well as first intended in every setting:


BEING HUMAN: Speaking of Americanized versions,SyFy Channel will be debuting their take on the British supernatural series next Monday.

It may not be fair to judge a show by it's promos but frankly,folks,this really looks like a watered down take on the edgy BBC series it's based on.

The cast has a glossy look and feel to them and the whole vibe is more loosey-goosey. Hate to be one of those "the British show is better" people but that is what my pop culture spider sense is telling me:

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