Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Announcing this year's Bad Movie Month line-up

It's become a small but sincere tradition here at LRG to hold a month long salute to the worst in film during August, the last leg of the dog days of summer. With June literally a day away, the time seems right to make known the theme for 2011's Bad Movie Month and we're doing a Salute to SyFy Channel Movies,folks!

Yes,we did have a poll last year to determine our next theme but due to a tie vote,all of the previous categories had to be scrapped and a fresh one needed to be chosen. Since the SyFy channel has become synonymous with bad films within the past decade,honoring their made for TV contribution to the cause of schlocky cinema seems as appropriate as a Comedy Central Roast for Charlie Sheen(I won't be surprised to see that coming around the pike).

Our first fishy selection will be Sharktopus, the now classic tale of a mutant monster creature created by semi-mad scientist Eric Roberts as a boon to mankind but a test run causes the control device on the critter to shut down.

That naturally leads to murderous mayhem,as Sharktopus decides to chomp on any and all pesky tourists in his path along with fleeing his pursuers,including a really annoying reporter gal and her reluctant camera man and the gun toting hired hand recruited by the scientist and his daughter. In some ways,you really can't blame the poor hybrid killing machine for doing what comes naturally to him:

Next on the seafood tray is Mega Piranha,starring former 80's pop sensation Tiffany as a genetic researcher who teams up with a Navy Seal to find out what happened to a boat load of diplomats but soon discover that they're up against an ever growing school of giant sized piranha(hence the title).

Brady Bunch fans will be delighted to see Barry Williams,aka Greg Brady,in a dramatic role here and Tiffany followers shall rejoice to hear the song she contributed to the soundtrack. Tiffany has quite the SyFy Channel movie star status as she recently went up against former pop music nemesis Debbie Gibson in Mega Python Vs. Gatoriod this season. That sounds amazing but I think it's best to check out where Tiff got her new cult movie start first:

Heading for the insect kingdom on our next stop,Mansquito(also known as Mosquito Man)takes it's turn down the path where many a rip-off of The Fly has flown. A hapless scientist is unfortunately exposed to his own experiment and has trouble convincing everyone that his transformation into a human sized blood sucking bug is not that big of a deal.

No major stars in this one,unless you count the guy from Parker Lewis Can't Lose,but there is plenty of violence as heavily armed men prove to be no match for the lovelorn bug boy. Guess they need to stock on Raid in jumbo cans there:

For a taste of the supernatural,our next to last stop is Puppet Master Vs. Demonic Toys,which sets up a cage match between two cult movie franchises from Full Moon Entertainment.

Representing Puppet Master is Corey Feldman as a descendant of the puppeteer who created these vicious little marionettes and in the other corner is Vanessa Angel,as the spoiled little rich girl who runs a toy company that stocks evil dollies.

The plot centers around a diabolical scheme to unleash a slew of twisted toys upon children Christmas morning-why they didn't bring Chucky in on this is beyond me,folks:

Now,my sister Stephanie happens to have her birthday in August and as a special blog treat for her,we include a "Sister's Choice" additional selection to Bad Movie Month's season. Her pick this year is I Am Omega,yet another rendition of Richard Matheson's lone survivor in a mutant vampire world story that has been called both I Am Legend and Omega Man.

What amuses my sister the most is that the star of this flick is Mark Dacascos,other wise known to foodies as the Chairman of Iron Chef America. Mark has made a few other appearances on TV,including an episode of the canceled too soon series Middle Man and recently on the new version of Hawaii 5-0. Seeing him walk down the road where the likes of Charlton Heston and Will Smith have gone before should be interesting,to say the least:

Bad Movie Month features will be posted on each Friday in August(Sister's Choice will be as close to Steph's birthday as I can put it)and I hope many of you will enjoy cooling off from the sweltering summer heat with these stone cold clunkers. While these SyFy Channel flicks are wonderfully awful in their own way, it's too bad that they don't offer more opportunities to explore the depths of horrible genre film making as they once did. Times change,I guess and not always for the better:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Movie Parody Party!

As Memorial Day weekend begins,so does the official parade of potential blockbuster films into multiplexes across the nation. While times are still tough out there, catching a bargain matinee showing in air conditioned surroundings can be your best bet for no frills entertainment on a budget.

With that in mind,I have assembled some amusing takes on our current crop of summer movie offerings to either encourage you on the way into the theater or to offer a bit of comedy consolation for those of us resorting to Netflix for our new film fix.

First on the hit list is Thor,which has been conquering the box office with such zeal these past couple of weeks. No doubt that this mega Marvel of a film will continue to make strides,profit wise,even with the likes of The Hangover 2 to compete with this weekend.

Conan O'Brien's take on Thor has been rather skeptical,based mainly on the trailers he's been watching. For some strangely silly reason,he has trouble buying the actor cast in the lead role as the right man for the job. I don't get it,he sounds great to me!:

Next, the Marvel/DC gang at It's Just Some Random Guy's parody palace are ready to mock the big summer movies,with a little help from some spiked milkshakes served up to Spiderman(don't ask,it's a standard gag a here).

Up on the chopping block and made to walk the plank is Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,which looks a lot better than the actual made to order sequel that's already sailing the cinema seas:

For X-Men: First Class,an enterprising online editor has taken the trailer's soundtrack and mixed it with an amusing array of clips from the Star Wars saga. The results are tasty,in a peanut butter and chocolate kind of way that induces more of a smile than a smirk.

This is still good parody fun,nonetheless. It's also funny and a little scary just how well these two sci-fi/fantasy franchises play well together:

Finally,the Random Guy gang has prepared for your family friendly fare their version of Kung Fu Panda,whose sequel is unreeling at theaters as we speak. It also takes a few shots at the upcoming Green Lantern flick as well,which as Indiana Jones would say,I have a bad feeling about this with Ryan Reynolds at the forefront here:

Have a good Memorial Day weekend,folks and I'll see you all next Tuesday. Hopefully by the end of this summer,we will be able to look back at the movies from this season and rejoice in the silver screen goodness granted to us by Hollywood.

Realistically, the nominating committee for the Razzies will have too many candidates to choose from. Oh well,mocking movies is just as good for reviving our sagging cinematic spirits:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A couple of game changing moves on Game of Thrones,our new American Idol and a meaty taste of Chopped

The stakes were literally high for Tyrion on Game of Thrones,as his capture by Lady Stark and imprisonment at her sister's stronghold placed him in a "sky cell",built into the side of a mountain with one particular wall missing for a deadly view.

In order to get himself out of a situation where he's being accused of crimes that he didn't commit(but more than likely his siblings did),Tyrion resorted to his best weapon and only defense,his wits and intelligence.

His first smart choice was to offer a confession to Lady Stark and Lady Aryn for his "crimes" but the more he confessed,the more amused the assembled audience became. Even that creepy kid of Lady Aryn's was caught up in the very off color tales Tyrion was spinning there:

However,once the fun was over,Tyrion rightly called for a trial by combat to win his freedom ,a request that neither lady could refuse. While one of Lady Aryn's knights was chosen as her championship,Tyrion had only Bronn, one of Lady Stark's hired guns, willing to fight for him.

That turned out to be the best move for Tyrion,as his man was street smart enough to win the day for him. No flying for that little man,indeed. Sometimes the right combination of brains and brawn can be be a real life saver. If I were Lady Aryn,I wouldn't rest easy about Tyrion's departure since a Lannister does pay his debts one way or another:

Too bad Viserys Targaryen wasn't as smart at playing his cards with his Dothraki brother in law,Khal Drogo. Feeling jealous after watching his sister win acclaim from her new people,Viserys got impatient waiting for his promised army and got drunk enough to demand it from Khal Drogo in front of his tribe,using a sword pointed at the belly of a pregnant Dany to do so.

Danerys has been aware for awhile that a)her brother would make a horrible king and b)he's an entitled selfish son of a bitch who has no qualms about hurting anyone to get his way. That knowledge and her new status as a Dothraki warrior queen is what made her stand aside and let Khal Drogo settle the matter once and for all.

It may seem like a cold move on her part but it's not as if her brother cared for her beyond getting what he wanted most,a golden crown. Unlucky for Viserys,he learned the hard way that sometimes you need to be careful about what you wish for:

The tenth season of American Idol wrapped up last night,with it's usual mix of returning contestants,clips from past episodes and guest star performances.

Of the latter half of that,I would have to say that next to Lady Gaga's amazing mountain climb rendition of Edge of Glory, my favorite of the night would be James Durbin rocking out with Judas Priest.

When James left the competition,my interest in the show started to dwindle for awhile(fortunately,Haley and her increasingly annoying performances gave me something to look forward to). Seeing him bring Rob Halford to the stage was beyond awesome and a nice unexpected twist to the proceedings:

The true business of the night was to pick a winner and that honor went to Scotty McCreery,which was rather predictable. Scotty seems like a good kid and he does have the musical chops to put out a great country album there. Congratulations,Scotty and best of luck to you.

Now that this transitional season of Idol is over and done with,I'm still not sure about how long the show will continue to last. As much as Steven Tyler's antics are amusing and the ratings are in the high numbers,the lack of Simon Cowell snark was lingering in the air. Perhaps that longing will cease,once the X Factor debuts this fall but no doubt,I will check out Idol next year just to see what's the what:

Since Top Chef Masters took a week off-a new episode will be on next Wednesday-and with Memorial Day weekend being the perfect opportunity to start off barbecue season,I thought that a look at a handful of grilling meat themed clips from Chopped would be good for our foodie focus.

First up is chicken wings,which a group of chefs had to use as the main component of an appetizer,along with sake and grapes. One chef in particular was thrilled about finding this in the mystery basket but his enthusiasm wasn't enough to cook his chicken fully before time ran out:

We move from chicken to beef,as in deckle of beef,a rather tough cut that appeared in a entree mystery basket. The tricky part turned out to be slicing the meat once it was cooked and the right cut kept certain chefs from being dismissed:

Last but far from least,there was a all grilling episode last season that gave the competing chefs items like fish and country style pork ribs. Yet,there were still a few culinary curve balls tossed in,such as popcorn on the cob during the entree and hot dogs for dessert.

Food Network is doing another Grilling Week and a fresh Chopped grilling challenge is planned,so we'll see if this new bunch can top the grilling gang from last time:


TRUE BLOOD: Season Four is set to begin on June 26 and plenty of messes from Russell Edgington's reign of terror need to be cleaned up here. Not to mention that witches are setting up shop to cause more trouble for Sookie and friends-yep,I'm champing at the bit for this party to get started as soon as it can:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Can a couple of the Big Three networks get you to sip their Mad Men style cocktail?

With a new season of Mad Men on delay,due to negotiation difficulties,the time to swoop in on those fans longing for a hit of the sixties seems to be now. ABC and NBC are set to launch two new series on their fall schedules that focus on workplaces of the past that will be redefined as current events of the day roll on.

ABC's ticket to ride is Pan Am,starring Christina Ricci as one of the iconic airline stewardesses who wants to see the world and escape the confines of middle class expectations.

Other gals share her desire to recreate themselves in a society that keeps their restrictions on proper female behavior as tight as the girdles some of them have to wear to look good in those company uniforms. Their antics,however,are not always as buttoned up to say the least:

NBC chose to go straight for the sizzle by greenlighting The Playboy Club,which has already raised a few eyebrows and objections from the usual set of morality watchdogs.

The leads in this ensemble cast are Amber Heard as new hire Maureen and Eddie Cibrian as Eddie,a well connected lawyer and prominent keyholder at the club. The two of them find themselves thrown together in a most unexpected way,which sets up this potentially romantic couple to either be divided or united by the deadly secret held between them:

This isn't the first time that the major networks have tackled this turbulent era,altho their approach has been a mix of the serious and sweet nostalgia.

I think the last dramatic series to handle this period on regular television was China Beach,which received a lot of critical love but only enough fan appreciation to grant it three full seasons(season four was held back for an odd length of time,going on hiatus in 1990 with the final episode airing in the summer of 1991).

That show dealt with Vietnam,a topic that leads itself to seriousness but there were moments of levity slipped in along with offbeat narrative choices. Plus, credit was given to the women who served on the sidelines as nurses,a group that gets easily overlooked in such circumstances. All in all,it was a pivotal showcase for that era to placed in but not a pretty one,a strength back then that would be considered a liability now:

Don't get me wrong,the glitz of Mad Men is part of the appeal but what keeps viewers tuned in are the true to life emotional impact of the choices that the characters make at work and home.

The truth is not always pretty,like the picture perfect ad campaigns the gang at the now Sterling Cooper Draper Price struggle to create for their clients,some of whom refuse to acknowledge the changing world and marketplace around them.

What's especially worrisome to me is that both of these new shows are centered around the so-called "good life" offered to women in those days as sex objects on display. That is a part of that time period worth exploring but I fear that these series may be more interesting in using this more as an opportunity for eyecandy.

The women on Mad Men deal with the social and sexual morays that take at least one step forward for every step back yet they don't belittle or dehumanize those circumstances. Even the feisty Joan,who openly uses her wiles,gets to feel the brunt of sexism and be legitimately treated as someone who doesn't deserve such treatment:

Hopefully,Pan Am or The Playboy Club can prove to be something other than Mad Men's little sister who dresses up in her older sibling's clothes but doesn't know how to pull the complete look off. Otherwise,folks will look else to be entertained and Mad Men fans will chose to wait for the real deal for their retro buzz of satisfaction:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sandwiching summer reading and movie going for kids of all ages

With our first big summer holiday weekend soon to be upon us,many people are going to have the dilemma of finding a decent movie to take the children in their life to. True,there are plenty of family friendly offerings on the table but if you're looking for something that has a bit of substance to it,you might want to seek out those kid flicks that are based on books.

That doesn't always guarantee quality but it does give you an excuse to introduce young people to a few great reads over the summer. Let's start off with Mr. Popper's Penguins,a modern day version of the 1938 children's classic written by Richard and Florence Atwater. Jim Carrey stars here as a businessman too busy to interact with his loved ones until an unexpected inheritance arrives in the form of six frisky penguins.

Since this is a Jim Carrey movie,more of the story emphasis will be on physical gags than anything else but perhaps some of the spirit of the original book(which won the Newberry Award back in 1939)will shine through. One can hope,after all and penguins are undeniably cute,especially on film:

Plenty of young girls will probably be clamoring to check out Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer,since the series of Judy Moody titles by Megan McDonald already have quite the following. They're so popular that even Judy's apt nicknamed little brother Stink has his own spin-off set of books.

Jordana Beatty plays Judy(if you're a Legend of the Seeker fan,you'll remember her as Rachel,that brave little girl who helped Wizard of the First Order Zed out at a certain birthday party)and Heather Graham is on board as Aunt Opal,enlisted to watch Judy and her brother while Mom and Dad take a business trip.

Judging from the movie's title,the plot is pretty self explanatory and judging from the trailer,it should have a decent crossover appeal to boys and girls. Gross out humor is universal,which explains why some of that is present here yet there is a good amount of girl power energy to round that out nicely:

Of course,the main event in this category will be the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,Part Two,which finally wraps up the phenomenally successful boy wizard saga gifted to us by J.K. Rowling. While it has been a long time coming for these films,particularly for the young actors playing Harry,Ron and Hermione who have literally grown up in front of our eyes,this has been a wait worth taking indeed.

Even with the necessary condensation of the plots and subplots within that final book,most of our favorite fan moments should be able to come alive on screen.

I won't get into which ones I'm hoping to see,in order not to spoil things for those who haven't read the books but I will say that Stephen King will be probably be on the edge of his seat hoping to hear a certain set of words and that wherever I'm watching this film,my ears will be ready to catch that phrase,too:

That's all for this category at the moment but rest assured, Hollywood is on the hunt for the next big kid's series to whip into a string of hit movies. As we speak,a number of budding Young Adult and children's books are being snatched up by major studios hoping to score the next Twilight or Harry Potter franchise.

While that is good news in some ways,it's not so in others. The popularity of any YA/kid's series is a hit or miss gamble,much like most pop culture items,and I fear that some promising titles will suffer in translation from page to screen simply due to the need to manufacture a box office cash cow.

Then again,quality treatment of even immensely hyped source material when it comes to movies is possible. What is truly important to keep in mind is that reading still matters despite the constant barrage of media distractions and that a good book is the sure fire way to ward off the summertime blues:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mark Schatzker's Steak has more than sizzle on the page

For many people,steak is just another piece of beef. To folks like magazine contributor and author Mark Schatzker,finding that special cut which packs all of the tender juiciness and rich flavor you remember from the first time you tasted it is a meaty mission worthy of being undertaken.

That savory journey lead to this tasty tome entitled Steak:One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef. As a food and travel writer,Mark was able to take a world tour of sorts to check out the best in steak,which is seen as a very All American meal but is appreciated in very different ways overseas and even in certain part of the U.S.A.

Mark's love of steak began early on,as his father shared his love of sirloin with his family based on his first great steak eaten at a restaurant in Ontario. Beef happens to be one of those foods that bring people together and creates some strong ties that bind them in mutual meat lover's appreciation, a bond that's hard to break:

Mark's first stop was in Texas,a state as connected to steak as Maine is to lobster. He visited several cattle ranches,most of which have seen changes in the taste and quality of their meat over the years due to modern feeding and maintenance techniques that produce a large number of bigger cows. The offset to that,however, is a distinct loss in flavor.

Nevertheless,Texas is still considered Big Steak country,especially at the famous Big Texan restaurant where you can get a free steak dinner known as the Texas King,if all of 72 ounces of it can be finished in one sitting. It's a challenge many have taken but few have succeeded at:

He then went on to places such as France,where an extinct breed of cow was brought back during WWII that makes for an intriguing slice of steak,Scotland, to find a truly authentic sample of Angus beef and Italy ,where the best in steak can be found in remote parts of the country and celebrated in festivals called Sagra della Bistecca.

On every leg of his trip,Mark finds people to guide him to the best steak in the area and they're just as fascinating as the food.

Japan is,of course,a key stop where Mark's guide is also a "Kobe virgin" and in Argentina,where he was introduced to the customary barbecue feast known as asado at a local parrilla grill house,Mark was quickly yet quietly informed by his host that the very idea of gas being used to cook the meat was considered an "abomination". Having local folks to show him the edible ropes really helped Mark to savor the regional flavor profiles all the more:

Steak is an engaging read,particularly if you're a meat eater. While the prose can tilt towards the technical at times,it's swiftly shifted back to the delights of discovering the nuances of the people that Mark encounters as well as the cultural quirks and unexpected taste sensations.

He blends all of that with a sense of humor and sincere interest in such debates as corn vs. grass fed beef,which tastes better,along with preferred cooking methods. While Steak is not a cook book,it can give you something to think about when prepping for your summer barbecues this season.

The book is now available in paperback and is an edible education at it's best. Think of it as a golden ticket for the greatest steak showcase on earth,as well as a nifty Father's Day gift. Steak offers a savory glimpse into a realm of taste that only a few could bite into outside of a culinary class and is just as satisfying as a nice juicy porterhouse in print:

Friday, May 20, 2011

The ultimate end of days dance party mix

With many people holding parties this weekend using the theme of the alleged apocalypse scheduled for tomorrow,I thought it was my pop culture duty to at least offer up some suggestions as to the proper music for this occasion.

Now,my intention is not to mock anyone's faith or beliefs. Given the erratic times that we're going through at the moment,it's not surprising that some might think our time is running out here.

However,I'm more of the "glass is half full" mindset when it comes to things like this and am willing to stick it out until we flip over to the better half of the record,so to speak. Too many media delights to look forward to ,such as the last Harry Potter,a new season of True Blood and the rest of those Game of Thrones books to read, for me to throw in the proverbial towel just yet.

Anyhow,let's get this party started right with the time honored end of days classic,Prince's 1999. While that predicted doomsday date has come and gone,it's still recognized as the best toe tapping tune for any imagined final farewell celebration.

The song is mostly an automatic New Year's Eve standard but it's as perfect as perfect can be for a last blast party. I wonder if anyone has thought to put this song in a time capsule-nice to think that future generations will have something to rock out to during their scientific studies of the past:

For those of you in a Ghostbusters mood who wish to choose the form that the Traveler will take,may I suggest a very gleefully vengeance driven Dr. Horrible? His plans for a Brand New Day upon his hated rival in love and super hero warfare Captain Hammer are rather chilling,not to mention his marvelously melodious singing voice:

For a sweet touch of irony,Timbuk 3 and their one hit wonder The Future's So Bright(I Gotta Wear Shades) was practically destined to fill this slot.

Plenty of graduation parties have been liven up by this laid back look at the best yet to come and should provide a nice mellow cool down on the dance floor there:

Now,it's only fitting to pay tribute to the after world on both sides of the celestial spectrum. Regardless of what you do or don't believe,most people agree that there's a good place and a bad place for all souls to end up in.

On the good side, we have Belinda Carlisle promising that Heaven Is A Place on Earth. Who better than a former Go-Go to give us encouragement to walk down the sunnier side of the street,especially if it's far away from those creepy kids in masks and choir robes who sing in the background of her video here.

While this may not be quite the ideal harps and clouds number,the song is certainly upbeat enough.

For the other worldly hot spot,you have to head straight for the heavy metal section. This isn't as easy as one might think,given that countless bands have jumped on this particular bandwagon for several decades. The choices are nearly never ending.

Yet,when you whittle your selections down on basis of quality,only a few true artists in this field remain. Emerging from that battlefield in triumph to contribute to the festivities,Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album holds many wicked delights.

My personal favorite is The Evil That Men Do,a saying that hasn't lost any resonance since the day it was first uttered:

What about a bid for clemency,you may ask? Shouldn't we select a musical spokesperson to plead our case for continuation as a species to the Powers That Be? Certainly there have been enough movies and shows with this concept at the core out there to help us with this.

In that case,the right person for the job is Olivia Newton-John,who is no stranger to the role of divine emissary. While her 1983 romcom reunion on screen with John Travolta in Two of a Kind was an epic movie disaster,from the ashes of that cinematic failure came the successful song Twist of Fate.

The fact that this tune survived while Travolta's career went into exile for years afterward is a sure sign of ONJ's miraculous musical skills. Who better to request an encore for the world, I ask you?:

No matter what happens this weekend,I hope you all stay well and happy. If any concerns about the fate of the world arise, just keep in mind WWGGD(What Would GaGa Do?)and do what comes naturally,folks-just dance!:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

TC Masters have a six course love fest,Game of Thrones' triple throwdown and a double Sanjaya for Haley

A most intriguing test of their basic skills was given to the six remaining contenders on Top Chef Masters this week,as their Quickfire challenge was a relay race of sorts that showed just how keen their sense of taste,smell and touch were.

Blindfolds,nose plugs and ear phones had to be worn at different times and then the chefs had to write down what they thought their food items were,with the lowest scoring person having to sit out the next round.

For the last two players,the test was sound. They had to identify such everyday food noises as Rice Krispies in milk(which neither of them got),breaking celery and buttering toast. Hugh emerged as the winner and received five grand for his charity but immunity is no longer on the table from here on out.

The Elimination challenge had the chefs make a six course "Date Night" dinner for several couples,with the secret focus of the food being on the relationship between Chris and Victoria,who have been together for four years. Chris planned to propose to Victoria at the end of the dinner and it was a truly romantic moment(she said yes,folks-thank goodness!).

Each chef was responsible for one course and all of them sat down with Chris to go over some of the highlights of their romance and any food connections that could be made to their love.

Floyd was very inspired by his own romance with his wife to make a dish that was a big hit in one of his own restaurants.

The "Karma Sutra" shrimp was served with black pepper along side watermelon with a touch of lime and mint. Despite the strength of the pepper,the conjoining of the shrimp was a palate pleaser that put Floyd in the Top Three for this round.

Joining him was Mary Sue,for her mussels and clam stew with sausage. It turned out well,despite her slicing off the top of her thumb during prep that fortunately didn't hold Mary Sue back for long.

While briefly returning judge Gael Greene was concerned that the extra large crouton would be a little too crunchy for a romantic meal,the stew was a savory delight.

The winner,however,was Naomi for her chicken thigh with sweet potatoes done two ways. The chicken was first braised then oven roasted to crisp up the skin nicely,which the other visiting judge Gail appreciated quite a bit.

On the opposite end of the kitchen,Hugh was called on the carpet for his strip steak that was too chewy and served with a giant onion ring meant to represent the bracelet that was one of the first gifts exchanged during Chris and Victoria's relationship.

The food was pretty basic and uninspired,which the judges pointed out to Hugh whose response was "It's not like we were cooking for gourmets here!" That caused Curtis Stone to raise an eyebrow and ask,"Do you think cooking down for people is good?" In Hugh's opinion,sometimes that is-talk about your appetite killers,yesh!

Meanwhile,Traci's apple galette wasn't doing her any favors. The tart was dry,with only a small scoop of creme fraiche and the phrase "Je T'Aime" written on the plate in caramel sauce. Granted,that saying was a key one in keeping with the theme but the whole dessert needed a bigger touch of love than that.

Sent home was Celina,who took a rather literal take on her course. Since Chris and Victoria made it a habit of theirs to have beer and pretzels at every sporting event they went to,Celina thought that making a pretzel with a beer mustard sauce on the side would be a fun idea.

While she earned kudos for making those pretzels from scratch,it was the salad that was also added to the side that threw the entire plate off kilter. Pretzels and salad just don't go together;an apple sardine sandwich would have more harmony.

Next week, the chefs get a taste of weird science and some microwave love-getting a little high tech heat here!

Many of the fans watching Game of Thrones have been waiting for a good fight scene and they were treated to three of them during the last episode. The first one was between the Clegane brothers better known as The Hound and the Mountain.

When a swift trick by his opponent caused him to lose the joust held in front of the king,the Mountain took fast and furious revenge,giving his brother no choice but to try and stop him. That bout was something to see but the most tense showdown was between Ned Stark and Jaime Lannister,over the impromptu capture of Jaime's brother Tyrion by Lady Stark. It's a pivotal moment in the plot that promises to lead towards more gruesome ends for more than one person involved.

My favorite of the three,however,is when Tyrion gets a chance to fight during his captivity trip with Lady Stark and company. While he may be a Lannister,Tyrion is too smart(as he himself points out)to plan the murder of young Bran Stark and arm the assassin with one of his own weapons,so I have some sympathy for him at this juncture.

Since he's also underestimated due to his size,it's cool to see Tyrion show just how formidable he can be in a physical confrontation. While he's still in a world of trouble at the moment,Tyrion did show Lady Stark that sometimes a low blow is the best one to make:

The Final Three performed three songs on American Idol last night,with James Durbin sadly not being amongst them. Instead,Haley kept her spot and gets a very special honor from this blog for her persistence. She is the first AI contender to receive two Sanjaya awards for worst number of the evening.

Never mind her stumble during the contestant's choice song-Haley made a more awful moment to remember when she sang her producer's choice,"Rhiannon" by Stevie Nicks. It wasn't enough that they cranked up the fog for her on stage or that Haley wore a grey Grecian Goddess dress to give her an extra airy-fairy appearance.

The wind machine was what put the whole number into a whole other orbit. Haley looked more like she was auditioning for a road company version of Xanadu than competing for the top prize on Idol:



For the judge's choice,Haley was assigned "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morrisette. I recall in Idol seasons past that each one of the judges chose that song for only one of the last three contestants.

This seemed to be a group decision,which makes you wonder why Scotty and Lauren had well known country songs while Haley got a hard rock/pop tune. Hmm,a little obvious insight into who the judges want to see in the finale,perhaps?

Anyway,giving Haley this song was a bad decision. The beauty of this angry ballad is the slow yet steady rise of righteous fury as the singer brings forth the smoldering power of a wronged lover right in the face of her unfaithful lover.

Haley comes across as being miffed that the mall's about to close in five minutes. Sorry,sweetie but some things just can't be faked:




THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR: A new season starts up in June and I swear that one of these budding chefs looks like Nora Dunn from Saturday Night Live. I'm still not sure if it's really her or not,which is one of the reasons I will be checking this out:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My taste of the Top Chef Tour

For past few years,Top Chef has taken their act on the road by conducting cross country tours where fans can meet and greet many of their favorite TC contenders as well as get a chance to sample their culinary wares.

Yesterday,despite the occasional bouts of intense rain, I was able to make my way across a very damp parking lot along aside a good friend to attend one of the first stops in New York on this year's Top Chef Tour. The mood inside the tented area was cheerful,as folks flocked in to check out the cooking showdown that was about to begin.

Each TC Tour event gives two former competitors a mini version of a Quickfire challenge,as they must make a dish using the same protein(chosen by Facebook fans in each city) and set of ingredients,with each allowed to add one special component of their own.

They have fifteen minutes to cook and are judged by selected members plucked from the audience. Our first chef was Ash Fulk,from Season Six which was Top Chef:Las Vegas. As we entered the tent,Ash could be seen at his prep station,hard at work on his mise en place, a sure promise of good things to come from him:

Facing off on Ash that day was Angelo Sosa,of Top Chef Season Seven and fresh off of Top Chef All-Stars. This is Angelo's first time on the tour and we were his first stop. Hopefully,the warm welcome he received from all assembled will keep growing as he goes onward.

The dish that Angelo and Ash had to make was a skirt steak,with mushrooms,cabbage and other sundry items. Not only did the fellas have to cook fast,they also had to take questions from the audience and the judges on stage as well.

Being one of those judges myself(thanks to answering a trivia question from the moderator),I can tell you that it was pretty exciting to be that up close to watching how each chef would put their dish together.

As is his preferred choice of cuisine,Angelo took an Asian approach to the dish,making a Korean B-B-Q style of plate with kimchee and pickled mushrooms(as a shout-out to a well known tiff between two of his S7 competitors,he had some pea puree on the side). Angelo had a more casual yet charming attitude towards his cooking,a smart and savory tact indeed:

Ash went with a southern approach,making grits for his steak and his choice of special ingredient was anchovies which he made into a sauce for the meat. Trust me when I say that you wouldn't know there was any fishy element to the dish if no one had told you beforehand(I mean that in a good way,I swear!).

After we on stage had tasted the finished food,along with those in the audience who were served similar plates from the sous chefs on board the tour bus,our decision was unanimous. While Angelo's spicy steak had a wonderful blend of heat and sweet,Ash's delectable down home take was the hands down winner.

As one of the other judges put it,Angelo's dish was something you'd have and enjoy at least once but Ash's would be the one to have over and over again.This was the first time that I ever had kimchee or grits and if you're going to be introduced to new taste sensations,having a Top Chef do so for you is a culinary opportunity worth taking.

I just hope that my critiques of the food sounded sensible. The mike was passed to me at one point on stage and my hair nearly did change colors when I mentioned how "pleasurable" it was to go from Angelo's plate to Ash's. Granted,I'm not an food expert or master in the field like Jacques Pepin or someone like that but my impressions of the food were just as truly meant as any of theirs would be:

As of this writing,the Top Chef Tour will be completing Day Two of their time in my hometown and will be moving on to the other eleven cities in their itinerary. If one of them happens to be near you,do take the time to see it.

The events are free,with autograph signings from the chefs afterward and other foodie related games(we had a guess the aroma test which sadly I flunked but did get a nifty Top Chef bag clip for my trouble).

One of the tricky things about being a fan of cooking competition TV shows is that you're never able to get a real idea of what the food is like for yourself. With the Top Chef Tour,people can expand their flavor profiles as well as get the true flavor of the folks who make it all happen. That extra touch truly does mean so much: