Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, March 31, 2011

A turmoil in a tea cup for a TAR team,another Sanjaya award for an American Idol and the Top Chef All-Stars winner is...

The finale for Top Chef All-Stars arrived at last,with Mikey Isabella and Richard Blais ready to duke it out,culinary style,for the big win.

The challenge was "the restaurant of your dreams",with the main stipulation being to serve a four course meal for about seventy people(including two panels of judges).

Both contenders had their choice of three sous chefs from amongst their former competitors but that was no easy task there. All of the TC All-Star players had to make an amuse bouche as part of a blind taste test that Richard and Mikey had to use to pick their crew.

Mikey wound up with Carla,Tiffani from Season One and Jamie,who he called his "angels" while Richard came up with Spike,Angelo and Antonia. With one hour to plan and five to cook,both groups didn't waste any time in getting things underway.

Richard called his restaurant "Tongue & Cheek",wanting to blend a touch of whimsy into his solidly prepared dishes.

That notion came through in the amuse bouche that he added as an unofficial fifth course. The raw oyster with lemon horseradish ice cream and salsa verde rocked the world of everyone who tasted it.

His official first course of hamachi went over fine but it was his second course that had the diners and judges alike singing his savory praises. Richard's pork belly with black cod cutlet and bone marrow was a busy plate but beautifully executed and a real favorite with the judges.

Mikey's restaurant was named "Restaurant Iz",going for a mix of Italian style with a refined form of pub food.

His opener was a beet salad with mozzarella,truffles and a chocolate vinaigrette that pleased someone but underwhelmed others. All agreed that was a good starter,nonetheless.

The course that was Mikey's high point was his third;a braised pork shoulder with roasted cabbage,turnips and pepperoni sauce. Judge Gail could not stop talking about that sauce,seriously. She was completely over the moon for it,just blurting out "Pepperoni sauce!" at times.

In typical Top Chef fashion,it came down to the desserts to settle upon the winner. Mikey's rosemary caramel custard coated with pine nuts along side a blend of citrus,apple and cherry was nicely done but Judge Tom wasn't thrilled with the firmness of the custard.

At first,Richard's cornbread with foie gras ice cream(he originally planned to make Captain Crunch ice cream but had second thoughts about it) dessert looked like a dud,since the ice cream was more of a freeze dried consistency that turned off the first set of judges.

By the time the second panel showed up,however,Richard had reworked the ice cream to make it more creamy and subtle. It was a close race to be sure,but that last minute adjustment made all the difference.

So,congratulations to Richard for a hard earned victory. Next week will be the reunion show where Elia gets in Judge Tom's face,followed by the second season premiere of Top Chef Masters,hosted by Curtis Stone.

This All Star season was fun to watch,with my only regret being that Anthony Bourdain wasn't able to be part of the final rounds(guess his schedule didn't work out that way,oh well!). I'm looking forward to seeing Top Chef Masters and hope all of you will,too.

On the latest leg of The Amazing Race:Unfinished Business,each team had to take a quick tea tasting before learning that their next location was in India. That small tea break turned out to be the prelude for the first Roadblock,which was to find that particular tea amidst five hundred bowls of brew in a dining hall.

It took just about every team a long time to complete this task,with Margie and Luke being last ones to finish. Luke became overwhelmed and nearly undone by the end yet he did find the right tea at long last.

The flavor of that special tea was peach mango,which will be an official Amazing Race blend coming out from Snapple. I doubt that Margie and Luke will be trying any of it in the future,since they were eliminated,thanks to the time lost at that Roadblock. I'm not a fan of fruit flavored teas myself but might give this one a taste just to see how distinctive this brew is:

It was Elton John week on American Idol,with plenty of mixed results in the performances. While the judges might find Haley's take on "Bennie and the Jets" to be amazing,it sounded more like the crooning of the lost lovechild of Richard Cheese to my ears.

However,I'm afraid that we can all agree that Naima deserves this week's Sanjaya award for her noble attempt at doing "I'm Still Standing" in reggae style.

Jennifer Lopez was right to appreciate the artistic choice here but also correct in realizing that this was not the song to tweak in this manner. Sorry,Naima,but this was a flop that hopefully won't be fatal for you come tonight's double elimination:




CAMELOT: Yes,it's another retelling of the King Arthur story and it premieres on Starz tomorrow night(not an April Fool's joke,I swear!). This rendition appears to be a bit more rough and tumble than the usual take on the tale,which might make it worth a look:

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