Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Top Chef Texas rings the dinner LaBelle,Work of Art's winner and a new season of Downton Abbey is on the horizon

The contenders on Top Chef Texas went to Austin,where Judge Tom was waiting with Padma for their next Quickfire. The challenge was to take suggestions from TC's Twitter followers to make a dish within forty five minutes. Immunity was not on the table but the chance to win ten grand was.

The tweets had the chefs making bacon the focal point of the plate,with a hash on the side. At one point,each one of them had to grab an ingredient from the pantry and pass it on to someone.

That caused a lot of confusion but some good dishes came out of that twisty turn challenge. Paul took the prize money here,for managing to make a satisfying flavor combination out of bacon fat,blackberries,asparagus and clams.

After that,everyone was sent to a bar where,lo and behold,the great Patti LaBelle appeared. She sang a little "Lady Marmalade" for them before Padma came out to introduce the Elimination challenge.

The theme was inspiration,as in make the dish that inspired them to become chefs and to also honor the person in your life that served as your culinary role model. Patti and a few of her friends joined the judges for the dinner,along with Emeril who took his turn on the regular TC panel this round.

Since there was some left over tension from Heather's bout of nastiness last week,it was gratifying to see Beverly take a spot in the Top Three this round.

Her inspiration was her mother and she represented her with a Korean short rib that was braised in a pressure cooker and served with an edamame puree with scallions and mushrooms. The meat came out incredibly tender,due to Beverly taking a chance with a piece of kitchen equipment that wasn't usually in her comfort zone and the judges felt that the rest of the dish was composed nicely.

Edward joined her in the winner's circle,for a modern version of his grandmother's bibimbap,which is mostly made up of rice and vegetables.

He was worried about serving such a non-protein plate but the lemon chili sauce along with the fried egg on top truly sealed the deal for him.

Sarah won the challenge,however,by combining two of her grandparents' favorite meals,homemade sausage and stuffed cabbage.

She ground up her own sausage and filled cabbage leaves with it,plus made spinach with browned butter. I don't even like spinach and that sounded good to me! Seeing her win was a treat,since her face lit up with authentic joy.

Less than thrilled was Grayson,who wound up in the Bottom Three for the basic approach she took to this challenge. She chose to make the kind of steak dinner that her dad would make,which was not a totally bad idea,yet she didn't bring anything new to the plate.

Also,her choice of meat wasn't up to par and not only did the steak dominate the dish,it was hard to cut and chew as well. I hope she has better luck next time.

Next to her was Chris C.,who hoped that no one would notice the white film on his sockeye salmon that indicated that it was rushed to the plate(of course,just about everyone did).

The brown sugar glazed carrot puree and potato comfit that went with it weren't much of a crowd pleaser at the table,either. The overall conclusion was that he mixed and matched too many flavors at once here.

Shipped off to Last Chance Kitchen here was Heather,due to making her mother's beef stroganoff a meaty mess.

The beef had trouble braising and she was too nervous about using a pressure cooker(unlike Beverly,totally ironic)to fix the problem. The meat was so bad that Patti LaBelle insisted that it came from Bigfoot,ouch!

The herb spaetzle that accompanied it was dry as well. While I'm happy to see Heather packing her knives before unleashing any more meanness on Beverly(who I'm starting to warm up to),the possibility of her return makes her a bit uneasy. Still don't know when the LCK competitions will be over but maybe by the time Top Chef Texas returns in early January,we'll get a clue on that.

The second season finale of Work of Art had our three finalists eager yet anxious to present their exhibits. Each one had a home visit from Mentor Simon,who offered up suggestions on their progress that they all seemed to take to heart.

Young's display was mainly dedicated to the death of his father,with family photos mounted on some of his dad's shirts and hung up in a clothesline manner and a shrine made up of objects that were left behind.

The whole exhibit showcased the impact of that passing upon his family very strongly and even caused hostess China Chow to shed a few tears,due to the memories of her mother's demise that were brought to the surface during the show.

Despite that intensity,Young's arrangement of the pieces did come off a little insular and at times,it felt as if he was boxed in not only by that sadness but also by some of his other artistic notions.

Young also tried to incorporate another piece,a wooden platform that was photographed in different locations but that merger didn't work out as well it could. Nonetheless,it was a truly thoughtful tribute and Young will,no doubt,do well in his future artistic endeavors.

Sara made a rather bold move by stepping far and away out of the box and showcasing sculpture,paintings and performance art.

She made a costume that allowed her to collect anonymous confessions from passers-by(it was shown on video)and the themes gathered from that turned into pieces such as a mattress filled up with syringe needles(a very Saw 2 vibe there)and a giant bird cage with a thousand paper cranes escaping from it.

Sara's brave new steps were appreciated by some but not all. Judge Bill insisted that it came off more like "collection of short stories" instead of a completed narrative. Hey,Bill,you do know that short story collections can possess a central theme while certain selections are able to stand alone on their own merits,right? Just checking!

Anyhow,this new approach highlighted many of Sara's strengths while giving her room to expand her horizons. She came in third place but not for lack of trying,that's for damn sure.

While Kymia's exhibit shared the theme of the death of a parent with Young's,her take on that included a look into the nature of death and spirituality that had both paintings and sculptures included.

She made what I consider a death mask that was pretty impressive,along with three "grave" displays. Most of the showcase had a series of paintings done in different mediums that invoked mythology and pathos in a way that inspired thoughtful contemplation.

The strongest piece in Kymia's collection was a painting of a sail boat that represented her father's sudden death and partly inspired by a dream she had of him. The seemingly simple imagery with it's subtle air of mystery was an absolute stand out and that alone earned Kymia the win,in my opinion.

Congratulations,Kymia,and I wish you the very best. In addition to the other prizes,one of her pieces will be auctioned off by Mentor Simon and all of the money will go right to Kymia. Chances are that it'll be the boat painting that goes on the auction block and whoever gets it should put that amazing work in a truly proper place of honor.

My favorite moment of the night was the appearance of the Sucklord at the finale,where he presented Judge Jerry with a very special action figure.

The "Art Critic" figure comes in regular and glow in the dark editions and yes,folks,you can buy your own from the Sucklord(no,I don't get any compensation for this. I just find it knee slappingly funny as hell).

Hey,Jerry,remember when you were confused by the Sucklord's exit line-"If you strike me down,I shall become more powerful that you can possibly imagine"-a few weeks ago? This is the fulfillment of the prophecy there,buddy. It wouldn't hurt you to learn a little more about pop culture in case you show up again next time and maybe expand some of your horizons as well:

With the new year just around the corner,the new season of Downton Abbey is hard upon our heels. The beginning of the first World War will shift some of the focus that the lives and loves of the aristocrats and servants have regarding the future of their world but the themes of money,class and manipulation are going to still be on hand.

The first season of DA will be replayed during the holidays until the premiere of Season Two on January 8,2012. With the cold winter months just getting their bearings and other media speculations threatening to overwhelm our senses in the new year,going back to Downton will be a very welcome relief indeed:


RACHEL VS. GUY:CELEBRITY COOK-OFF- Also due in early 2012,Food Network will have a variety pack of celebs compete to win fifty grand for charity in teams headed up by Rachel Ray and Guy Fieri.

Some of these famous folk have appeared on Iron Chef America as judges while others appeared to be new to the cooking scene. Either way,this should be a pretty appetizing distraction for foodies to enjoy:

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