Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

A double down for the Next Food Network Star,the TC Masters finale and dealing with the Ned Stark Situation

The third season finale of Top Chef Masters
gave the remaining three chefs the standard last challenge of this series,which is to cook the meal of your life. The first course would be based on a childhood memory and the second on the food moment that made him/her want to make cooking their career.

However,a new twist was introduced for the last course. Each chef have to draw a knife to see which of the critics on the Judges' panel they would have to make that person's most memorable meal. Gael Greene joined James Oselund and Ruth Reichl for this round and I was glad to see her and those crazy hats she loves to wear back again.

Mary Sue has been on a strong winning streak,so she was an odds-on favorite to do well here. She started things off with an steak tartare,since those were a regular feature at the Christmas Eve dinners she had while growing up.

It was made with Asian flavors,including pear that one of the special guests to the big meal(Judge Tom from Top Chef)felt that it needed to be diced up a little more.

While her middle course of shrimp and pasta received mixed reviews,her dish for Ruth Reichl was a major league hit. Ruth's choice was lemon souffle,a treat she first tasted on her first trip to Paris.

Mary Sue not only made a souffle,she added to the plate a lemon hazelnut meringue,rhubarb compote and lemon ice cream that was whipped up with liquid nitrogen. Everyone swooned over that plate of sweetness and Ruth proclaimed it to be "heaven."

Traci's childhood dish was shrimp creole,like her grandfather used to make only with a modern day upgrade. Her version was done in a deconstructed manner,which the diners did delight in.

The roasted quail salad that Traci made for her second course did please Gael Greene somewhat but the favorite meal of Gael's that she was supposed to make wound up with a "thumbs up,thumbs down" reception. Gael requested fried duck with Bearnaise sauce,similar to what she ate on her honeymoon.

Traci made duck two ways,a salad with braised duck leg and the other with the sauce. Gael enjoyed the second style of duck and found the meat in the salad to be dry and tough.

Floyd had a early setback,as rain and traffic cut down on his prep time for the finale but he managed to pull through that challenge rather well. His childhood course was upma polenta,a savory snack that he refined with wild mushrooms and coconut milk. Despite it's seeming simplicity,the dish did get some love from the crowd.

His second course of rice crusted snapper didn't sit well with everyone but his meal for James Oselund was a real heart warmer. James asked for rendang,a meat dish that he discovered on his first trip to Southeast Asia. Floyd was worried about having enough time to braise the oxtail,especially after losing most of his prep time.

One of the main things that James stressed about the dish was being able to taste the soulfulness of it and Floyd may not have added a lot of spice but the heart was there in every mouthful.

With that last course,Floyd became the winner of this season. Congrats to him and to his charity,The Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund,which will get the hundred grand cash prize. Floyd may not have won many of the challenges during this competition but he won the one that mattered the most.

The Next Food Network Star had a double elimination in it's second week,sending home Juba right after the first challenge of the day. Each contender had to make a pizza that represented their point of view and present it on camera.

Juba has had problems with talking on camera from the start and his shaky performance combined with a pizza crust that didn't fully bake sealed the deal for him to be let go. He seems like a nice enough guy,maybe he'll have better luck next time.

The main challenge was a team one,and Penny as the winner of the first round got to choose up the teams and decide which theme dish they had to simplify for the home cook. The themes were expensive ingredients,time management and complex techniques and they had to be cooked and served to a panel of Food Network notables such as Anne Burrell,Scot Conant and the Neelys.

Penny had hoped to knock out early favorite Orchid by placing her with a team of fellas and while she did take a few steps back,Penny's plan did not succeed on that level. She did earn a small victory by putting Katy on her team where her flaws were exposed to the judges there.

Katy's lack of focus is what truly did her in and it's just as well. Next week,Duff Goldman will show up for a dessert challenge that should be sweet for some and sour for others:

Normally at this point,I would just go into my usual Game of Thrones recap but seeing as the reaction to the execution of Lord Stark in the last episode has caused many of the fans to lose faith in the show, we need to deal with this Ned Stark Situation right now.

Since I read the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series before the show began,I knew that this moment was coming and yet,it was still sad to see poor Ned Stark sell his honor short in order to protect his daughters and perhaps prevent a war.

Unfortunately,like many a good man before him,Lord Eddard put his faith and neck in the hands of those who hold those values to be signs of weakness and paid the ultimate price for it:

This sad development was greeted with shock,naturally,by those who haven't read the books and many have expressed feelings of betrayal by killing off someone who they considered to be the main character(particularly due to Sean Bean being cast in the role). Some have even said that they no longer want to watch GOT and before anyone makes such a rash decision,let me point a few things out here:

1) There is no "main character" in Game of Thrones. Do not be lead astray by casting choices. This is a story with multiple points of view,with the only constant being that damn Iron Throne that all and sundry strive to claim.

2) There are major characters,of which Ned Stark was one, and their stories will continue on. Ned's death sparks off a whole host of serious consequences that throw the entire kingdom of Westeros into utter chaos and cause many of his family and allies to make hard and fast choices about where their destines ultimately lie.

3)One of the best signs that you're involved in a good story is that anyone can die at any time. As a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, this came up quite a bit. Yet, Joss Whedon always made such sad departures some of the best moments of the series and didn't let a little thing killing off Buffy to stop the show.

Have faith,my friends. It will take time to avenge Lord Eddard Stark but it shall happen,one way or another. You really don't want to miss the finale this Sunday because if you think that nothing more could surprise you here,you are in for such sights to behold that will keep the buzz going well into next year:


THE TONY AWARDS: This season of Broadway earned several awards for South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone,as their first big musical Book of Mormon took home nine wins,including Best Musical and Original Score. Congrats,guys and I believe in your continued future on stage.

Neil Patrick Harris did a great hosting job,as always,and why can't he host everything,seriously? Not just a guest spot on the Oscars,give him the whole show,please!:

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