Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Top Chef Masters returns,Mildred Pierce's restaurant romance and an Idol gently weeps

After the TC All-Stars reunion special(for which all I'm going to say is that Elia would be a better cook if she got off her high horse once in a while there)last night,a new season of Top Chef Masters began.

We have a new host at the helm,Curtis Stone, who will also be judging and unlike the previous TCM season,contenders will be eliminated each week(with donations made to their charities). Some of the chefs on board here include Celina Tio,Traci des Jardines,John Currence and Suvir Saran. A lot of faces that I don't recognize here,which is good since that should make the proceedings more unpredictable.

For their first Quickfire,the chefs went head-to-head in pairs to make a dish with two mystery ingredients and twenty minutes on the clock.

The food pairings were wackier than anything I've seen on Chopped-for example,one team had marshmallows and canned corn beef,another had sardines and dragon fruit and a couple of chefs were handed cottage cheese and frog legs.

The QF was so challenging that three of the chefs didn't manage to finish their food,an automatic loss for them. Despite having peanut butter and black licorice to work with,Traci won the Quickfire thanks to her duo of salads with one having a peanut butter vinaigrette and the other a licorice and orange dressing. Her charity,La Cocina,will get five grand for her victory here.

The judges,which include TCM regular James Oseland and renowned food critic/author Ruth Reichl,then announced that the Elimination challenge would be Restaurant Wars,something that hasn't been done on the Masters season before.

One team was made of the QF winners and the other from those who lost. Every chef had to be responsible for one dish and the winning team would be decided by the diners at each eatery.

The QF winners called their place Mosaic,with Traci taking the front of the house duties. Her bread salad was a good start to the menu and her staggered seating of the guests seemed to indicate an orderly flow of things,unlike the folks over in the next restaurant.

The other team named their restaurant Leela and Naomi Pomeroy was at the front. She choose to seat all of the diners at once,which caused quite a bit of back up in the kitchen and a long wait for food to come out.

Naomi may not be the best person to put in charge of organizational tasks but when it comes to cooking,she's clearly at the top of her game. The chocolate torte that she made for dessert knocked the socks off of everyone,even the judges who were less than thrilled with some of the dishes at Leela. Their serving of lamb arrived raw and in the salad,a piece of apple still had the label attached to it.

Despite the mixed results and slow service,Leela won the challenge. Guess the diners who ate at Mosiac weren't crazy enough about such dishes as Suvir's spicy braised short ribs with oat risotto. To be fair,the judges were divided about the risotto but loved the meat.

So,up for elimination was Mary Sue Milliken for her chocolate cake filled with lemon puree. She had trouble finding bittersweet chocolate in the TCM kitchen and decided to use what regular chocolate was available. That changed the density of the cake,causing it to be dried out.

I thought it looked like an upscale version of a Hostess cupcake myself but I would've tried it before the buttermilk berry cobbler that Suvir whipped up. That wouldn't have been the best tasting choice,since the cobbler rocked the house.

Sent home,however,was Hugh Acheson for his over salted scallop with grits. Hugh took a risk by using extra large scallops,a product that he wasn't familiar with and choosing flaky salt that overpowered the whole dish.

On the bright side,Hugh's charity Wholesome Wave will receive some money and this third round of Top Chef Masters got off to a great start. Next time,the chefs will have to update a classic dish from the sixties and the guest star will be Mad Men's Christina Hendricks,sweet!

Episode Three of Mildred Pierce had the opening night of Mildred's chicken and waffle house as the main event,with the usual amount of chaos that goes along with such territory.

Fortunately,her good friends Ida and Lucy were on hand to help and stay on in the business that turned out to thrive rather nicely. Another surprise guest was Monty,who Mildred hadn't spoken to since that weekend which lead to her younger daughter Ray's untimely death.

His re-entrance into her life was rather timely,with Monty's fortunes dwindling as Mildred's are rising enough to help him pay for his well accustomed to lifestyle. A mark in both the plus and minus columns here in Monty's favor is Veda's fervent approval and admiration of him.

The two of them seemed to be natural born allies,something that Mildred caught on to but didn't take warning from right away. Another bad step on the path to pain for our former Mrs. Pierce,indeed:

On American Idol,the contestants had to select a song from the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame,a pretty tall order to be sure.

Most of the performances were decent at best,with Jacob Lusk choosing to go with "Man in the Mirror" over "Let's Get it On",a personal decision on his part and Casey almost going with "Every Little Thing She Does(is Magic)" but in the end taking on "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" as potential interesting moments.

Over all, no one was bad enough to earn a Sanjaya this week so instead,let's shine the spotlight on James Durbin,who took his own chance by singing " While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by George Harrison.

Producer Jimmy Iovine and guest mentor will.i.am thought it might be a snoozer of a number yet James made that toned down tune work for him just fine:


UPSTAIRS,DOWNSTAIRS: PBS Masterpiece airs the first of three parts of this revived version of the classic class warfare miniseries this upcoming Sunday.

The setting is still 165 Eaton Place in London,where original cast member Jean Marsh brings in a new generation of players to this stylish field during the 1930s. Those of us craving more of Downton Abbey should find some satisfaction here:

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