Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Top Chef Seattle goes cruising,scary sibling rivalry on The Vampire Diaries and a sad loss at Downton Abbey

The final five contestants on Top Chef Seattle set sail for Alaska,as their next set of challenges took place on a cruise ship taking them up there to finish the rest of this season.

Curtis Stone from Top Chef Masters was on board as guest judge for both the Quickfire and the Elim,the first one being to prepare a one bite dish using iceberg lettuce as the focal point.

A lot of the chefs seem to disdain iceberg lettuce and granted,it may not be the sexiest one in that leafy bunch but it certainly has a great crunch factor worth enjoying. Sheldon won this round with a Vietnamese pork wrap that included pickled pieces of the lettuce heart(nice going there,dude!). He received an advantage in the Elimination round,which turned out not to be so beneficial to his cause(more on that later).

The challenge was to "re imagine" surf and turf,to be served at a restaurant on board the ship that specializes in offbeat food and unique forms of presentation. Joshua chose scallops and pork,using both belly and bacon.

He intended to make a pasta with the scallops but that didn't pan out,so he turned them into a scrambled egg concoction that worked really well. The flavor profile pleased just about everyone and Josh's willingness to go out of his comfort zone earned him a top spot at Judges' Table.

The winner,however,was Brooke who had some doubts about the proteins she chose. Frog legs and mussels may seem to be a double dose of surf but she managed to bring an earthy zest to the legs.

It was served with a celery root and fennel puree that complimented the entree nicely. The only quibble was with the papadum chips,which were a little greasy. Other than that,it was a clear cut win and Brooke was awarded a trip to the Bahamas that no doubt her husband will really appreciate once this show is over with.

Lizzie went with suckling pig and scallops,using the pork as stuffing for cabbage leaves. The scallops were served with a mustard sour cream and the over all result was middle of the road.

The chefs had to work with electric stoves,which threw Lizzie off and caused her cabbage to be undercooked. The meat filling was tasty enough to let her go through,a real lucky break there,indeed.

Sheldon had first choice of proteins,thanks to his QF win,and no one else was allowed to use them for their dish. He seemed rather overwhelmed and uninspired,which could explain why he picked two of the standard go-tos for surf and turf,lobster and beef.

He made a lobster tempura that was cold and limp by the time it went to the tables. That landed him in the Bottom Two but the kimchi that went with his Korean BBQ beef saved him from packing his knives. I'm glad that Sheldon's still around and hope that he can keep his head in the game as they all head closer to the finish line.

Stefan was the one sent off to Last Chance Kitchen,for his braised pork belly with a rock hard crust. You could actually hear Judge Tom and a couple of others at the table trying to chew that crunchy top without breaking off a tooth,I swear!

Stefan insisted that pork with a crust like that was common in Europe and Curtis Stone did back him on that,but it was unpleasant to eat. I like a crispy crust on my roast meat,too but it can turn splintery on you. He also made an eel ravioli that buried the fishy flavor and not in a good way.

So he packed up and squared off against Kristen in LCK and despite their friendly flirty vibes,she beat him in the cook-off challenge. Stefan did take that extra loss well,being genuinely happy for her getting another shot at the competition. I hope to see her back with the TC pack before the finale very soon.

The race for the vampire cure is on in Mystic Falls tonight as The Vampire Diaries bring together a few of the remaining Originals to form teams for the hunt. Klaus is using Damon and Jeremy(whose Hunter's Mark needs more vamp kills to grow and form the map that leads to it)while Rebekah has a reluctant alliance with Stefan.

Since Stefan is still sore over Elena now insisting that her love for Damon is real and not a side effect of sire bonding,you can't blame him too much for switching sides there. Then again,both teams have to worry about Cole,who is the wild card in this deadly deck. Cole's determination not to release Silas might actually make him the most sensible sibling here,which is pretty scary if you think it about:

We've seen some tragic scenes on Downton Abbey before but the untimely death of Sybil after her difficult delivery of her baby daughter was a real heart breaker,folks. Why no one had the good sense to listen to Dr. Clarkson(their regular family physician)over that pompous idiot that Lord Grantham insisted on bringing in is beyond me.

The poor girl suffered needlessly and her passing touched everyone in the household. Even Thomas broke down and cried,which made it all the more sorrowful to witness. Sybil was a real sweetheart and her departure changes a great deal,including the future of her parent's marriage:

The resonance from this passing will be keenly felt for the rest of the season,particularly when it comes to the decisions about how the new baby will be raised. Personally,I think Lord Grantham should just shut the hell up and let Thomas do what he thinks is right,especially regarding the baby's baptism. Meanwhile,Mrs. Patmore is exactly right about the mismatched romances going on in the kitchen,she's better than Dear Abby on that point!:


RACHAEL VS. GUY: Johnny Weir's time on this show is done and while I'm sorry to see him go,I will still stay tuned to the end. Johnny was fun to watch here and hopefully,he'll do another series like this in the near future:


Monday, January 28, 2013

Pride and Prejudice,sitcom style

Today is the 200th publishing anniversary of Jane Austen's most beloved novel,Pride and Prejudice,which I and my fellow Austen fans will be celebrating not only on this day but throughout the rest of 2013.

My P&P post for this occasion is fittingly meant to cover two sets of Austen fanfare,the first being Alyssa Goodnight's P&P Anniversary Party Blog Hop and the other being the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge hosted by Laurel Ann of Austenprose.

Both of these events naturally lead me to reread P&P again,a book that was not the first Jane Austen novel I ever read(that honor goes to Persuasion)but it has steadily become one of my favorites. It's hard to resist the pleasures of Elizabeth Bennet's company as well as Mr. Darcy's or even Lady Catherine De Burgh's(to which Mr. Collins would humbly agree).

However,in this latest reading,I found a few elements of the story that lead me to believe that P&P not only paved the way for lively heroines and stern yet solid heroes but her engaging writing for this novel bears a few telling traits that many of our best situation comedies for TV carry on to this day. Let me list some of these examples that show just how Jane Austen has helped the sitcom thrive:

ONE SIDED ROMANCE: The main love story of P&P begins when Darcy finds himself intrigued by Elizabeth's "fine eyes" and slowly starts to feel romantic interest in her,something that she at first doesn't share likewise with him.

Others are quick to pick up on Darcy's growing desire,such as the jealously snarky Caroline Bingley and Lizzie's all too practical friend Charlotte Lucas. Particularly during the Netherfield Ball,when the two of them share a dance and conversation that holds more than one meaning in between the lines,the romantic misunderstandings are perfectly underscored.

This trope has been featured in many sitcom romances,with Niles and Daphne from Fraiser being one of the best:

LOVERS' QUARREL: When Darcy does reveal his true feelings of love to Elizabeth(in one of the worst marriage proposals ever),sparks do fly but not the ones he was expecting.

By that time,Lizzie had several resentments against him,one involving her sister Jane and Darcy's good friend Bingley for which she was very justified in. The other dealt with Wickam's claims of infamy against Darcy that turned out to be a case of misrepresentation.

This classic clash between Elizabeth and Darcy set the standard for relatively compatible couples to have a bit of a break-up due to severe differences of opinion such as the intensely logical Sheldon and Amy on The Big Bang Theory,although I doubt that either of them have read P&P:

EMBARRASSING RELATIVES: In the follow-up letter than Darcy gives to Lizzie after that awful proposal,a major reason that he cites for both breaking up Jane and Bingley and his own reluctance to admitting his feelings towards Elizabeth are the public antics of the Bennet family.

Lizzie is angered by such accusations against her clan yet does realize that there is some merit to that charge. Mrs. Bennet's less than subtle attempts at matchmaking,the flirty behavior of younger sisters Lydia and Kitty,sister Mary and her tone deaf singing(plus the sarcastic comments of her father)do leave a rather unflattering impression of the entire family.

Most sitcoms have plenty of family members that the main characters wish were miles away at times,such as the Barones from Everybody Loves Raymond(although I do think that Marie would get along great with Mrs. Bennet):

FAMILY CRISIS: What ultimately brings Elizabeth and Darcy back together is an event that puts the follies of the Bennet family into a serious tailspin that none of them can survive socially.

Lydia's elopement with Wickam quickly becomes a near tragedy as their hiding out in London rather than getting hitched at Greta Green puts their ill timed engagement on a level that usually leads downward for anyone in that day and age.

How the Bennets react to this news shows their true character for each member of the family,a circumstance that numerous sitcoms have had for their families. The atmosphere at Longbourn after Lydia's terrible situation is known is as about as tense as any Thanksgiving dinner held on Roseanne was:

Since Jane Austen did enjoy theatricals in her day,it does make sense that P&P possesses some of those key ingredients that make our modern day TV shows the skillful successes they are.

So,happy anniversary Pride and Prejudice and as Mr. Bennet would say,what more could an entertainment offer but to make sport for their competition and laugh at them in return? Besides,if Jane Austen were alive and well in Hollywood today,many of her works would come with a laugh track indeed:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Top Chef Seattle chickens out,Bunheads' dance of the distraught and meanwhile at Downton Abbey...

The mood was subdued at Top Chef Seattle last night,as the aftermath of Kristen's dismissal(she did well in Last Chance Kitchen,btw)lingered in the air.

Nevertheless,it was time to embrace the new Quickfire Challenge. Special guest judge Katsuya Uechi was there to taste their sushi creations and see if they met his high standards.

A couple of chefs were already into sushi,so they thought they might have an edge. However,the winner here was Stefan,his first ever. He had trouble deciding what to make in the beginning and wound up doing two dishes,one yellow tail and the other lobster.

Unfortunately,immunity was not up for grabs but Stefan did win five grand. He could've really used the immunity since his Elimination Challenge offering was less than appetizing but we'll get to that soon enough.

Judge Tom and special guest judge David Chang entered the TC kitchen to announce the Elim,which was to make fried chicken dinner for the two of them and a few other notable foodie folk.

The guest list included Wolfgang Puck,Emeril and Michelle Bernstein. One thing that seemed to be a strong point of contention was that some of the chefs didn't cook the whole chicken and went for the white meat instead.

Personally,I love white meat chicken and would take that over a plate of wings any day of the week but that's just me and my taste buds there.

One of the chefs up for the win was Lizzie,who basically made chicken cutlets with coriander and black pepper,plus a peach cabbage slaw. The judges enjoyed the flavors but griped about her not using more of the chicken.

Chicken cutlets are a favorite meal in my house and while I'm not into any kind of slaw,Lizzie's plate would be emptied quickly at my family's dinner table.

Sheldon did serve most of his chicken but was short of a couple of wings,due to one of his batches burning up and not having enough time to make up for that.

Regardless,everyone loved his umami drumsticks and thighs,along with the wings seasoned with grapeseed oil. He might have gotten the win if those missing pieces had been replaced promptly.

Victory instead went to Josh,for his smoked chicken. The judges appreciated the hot sauce and blue cheese served it with for that buffalo wing kind of taste. His prize was a large set of wine(365,who came up with that number?)but I bet he would have preferred cash.

Then it was time for the Bottom Three and things got rather interesting. A couple of the losing contenders went with cop-out excuses but nobody was buying that line of
baloney today.

Brooke,to her credit,immediately owned up to the flaws in her dish. The dukkah crusted chicken breasts she gave them had been double fried,which dried out the meat.

It was also her bad luck that two of the guests(who have a place called Animal) had interviewed for line cook jobs at her restaurant years ago but didn't get hired. They promised good naturedly not to hold that against her but after eating her chicken,one of them remarked "Perhaps it was good we didn't get that job!"

Stefan made a traditional chicken cordon bleu,that didn't taste so great,and his reason for doing so to the judges was "I'm from Europe and we don't have fried chicken over there."

Padma then turned to Wolfgang and asked him about that. He totally pooh-poohed that notion and Judge Tom flat out said that Stefan was just trying to play it safe. At least, do something a little original with the recipe,dude,come on!

Lucky for him,it was Josie's time to go. She made a big deal about making "real Southern fried chicken" but despite the cayenne and garlic that went on,the food was a greasy mess.

She attempted her usual routine of talking her way out but Judge Tom was not having that anymore. He pointed out Josie's constant trouble with time management and didn't want to hear her excuses about equipment failure(she used one of Lizzie's friers when one of hers wasn't working. Lizzie was very generous to Josie all through prep,actually).

So,Josie at last went off to Last Chance Kitchen and faced off with Kristen,a nice grudge match indeed. Normally,I don't watch LCK(would like some surprises with this show)but I tuned in today and yes,folks,Kristen beat her fair and square. Hopefully,she'll be able to return to the competition very soon.

While there is a considerable amount of quirk on Bunheads,what with the charismatic brother-sister duo of Frankie and Cozette taking over the town and Melanie feeling the need to avenge her brother's break-up in very Hulk like fashion,but you can't overlook the dramatic developments there.

The biggest drama is in Sasha's situation,as her neglectful parents have decided to get a divorce and move away to different cities. Sasha's mother gave her an ultimatum: choose who you want to live with and do it now because I am so out of here. Nice,huh? Guess she memorized that section of the Mommie Dearest handbook on How to Mess Up Your Daughter Big Time.

Sasha refused to leave,to which her mother simply tossed her the keys to the house(which is already sold)and took off. Sasha then went to Michelle for comfort and it looks like she may be staying with her for awhile.

Granted,Michelle is rather ditzy at times(not surprised that she forgot to go to summer school to finish up her high school credits due to an extended Dollywood visit)but at least she actually cares about what happens to the girl. Sasha's emotional turmoil was displayed in a touching dance sequence that played over the end credits and so far,it's one of the most memorable TV moments of the year:

Even with Sybil's sudden departure from Ireland(Tom really needs to reassess his priorities there),things at Downton Abbey were calm for the most part.

Anna and Mr. Bates had their communication cut off for awhile,Daisy considered the possibility of hooking up with new footman Alfred(who seems to have an eye for the new kitchen maid)and another footman has been hired,a handsome fella named Jimmy who pleases the eyes of not just the ladies. Also,Edith received a much needed boost of confidence by having her letter to the editor of a London newspaper about the rights of women prominently published(good for her!):

That letter may lead to a regular writing gig for Edith,which would be great. Other promising new plot developments include a possible break in the case against Mr. Bates(fingers crossed!)and Thomas leaving himself vulnerable to payback from O'Brien,who he's been feuding with ever since her nephew Alfred was hired on. Even when it's quiet,there's never really a dull moment at Downton:


RACHAEL VS. GUY: Glad to see that Johnny Weir is still on board but dude,you need to cook something other than chicken! Turkey is not that much different,my friend-you have to change it up and soon there:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Say hello to Ellen Meister and Farewell, Dorothy Parker

Movie critic Violet Epps is known for her sharp wit and scathing remarks in print but in person,she's more of a meek and mild type. That lack of forthrightness tends to hamper her the most when she needs to fight for what she truly wants,such as custody of her orphaned niece Delaney or to break up with Carl,a mooching lush of an artist.

Hoping to get some inspiration from her literary mentor Dorothy Parker,Violet pays a visit to the famous Algonquin Hotel where Mrs. Parker and her Vicious Circle often hung out,sharing drinks and snide comments with each other. After a look at the hotel's guest book filled with legendary names,Violet gets more than just a taste of the lady's spirit-the ghost of Dorothy Parker establishes actual contact with her:

At first,Violet is thrilled to be chatting up her favorite writer but Mrs. Parker has more to offer her new friend than uncalled for candor and her special brand of snark.

As Violet struggles with family and work problems,Mrs. Parker has no qualms about taking charge(and at times,taking over Violet's body)to push Violet into what she considers to be the right direction.

One of those directions leads into the arms of Michael,Violet's martial arts teacher whose love of the Marx Brothers and old school puns makes him a rather viable candidate for romance. That last push,however,makes Violet want to shove Mrs. Parker back to the beyond:

Despite their disagreements,Violet does manage to take some of Mrs. Parker's advice and find her own inner strength and spunk. In return,she also is able to give the great lady a little perspective about the regrets of her mortal life and the literary legacy that Dorothy Parker left behind.

This is my first time reading Ellen Meister(thanks to Library Thing)and I won't make it my last. Farewell,Dorothy Parker is a lively novel not only pays proper tribute to the spirit of Dorothy Parker,it introduces us to an engaging set of characters that stand up well on their own.

Meister also captures the real essence of Dorothy Parker and doesn't fall into the trap of turning her into a live action cartoon. The Mrs. Parker portrayed here is full of funny lines and foibles yet is real enough to display a myriad of emotional
pain regarding her childhood years along with doubts about her impact upon the world at large,not to mention some wry observations about modern day life:

While the book does have some serious moments,it's far from being downbeat. The story is as fast paced as a Gilmore Girls dialogue and packed with the right amount of sweetness and spark. It's as reviving to your spirits as a shot of gin would be to the fabulous Mrs. Parker herself.

Farewell,Dorothy Parker is due to arrive on February 21 and do make plans to entertain yourself with this charming tale of an unlikely friendship that feels oh so right. To miss this golden opportunity for Dorothy Parker delights will haunt your reading days and night,to be sure:

Monday, January 21, 2013

A little extra reading to do at the movies this year

With a brand new year of movies comes a brand new set of books made into movies,some of which you may or may not have read yet.

Granted,plenty of fans are already lining to see how Catching Fire and the second installment of The Hobbit stand up to their sources but there are a few other book based films arriving this year that you might want to check out,either at the library or the multiplex,before those two show up.

First up is the potential summer blockbuster World War Z,based on Max Brooks' novel of a worldwide zombie invasion. Since the story is told through a series of oral interviews from dozens of characters,the screenplay adaptation has distilled most of that down in order to have a leading man to focus on(played by Brad Pitt).

No doubt,many of the readers will be less than thrilled by that change but it might work out for the best here. Plus,having Brad Pitt on board does ensure a wider audience both in the US and overseas,so this genre breaking zombie epic could make waves beyond the horror movie pond:

Coming much sooner to a theater near you,Parker is adapted from a Donald Westlake thriller entitled Flashfire. Jason Statham plays the title role,a thief with Robin Hood type morals,who is double crossed by a gang of thugs(with Michael Chiklis as their leader).

After being left for dead,Parker takes up the mantle of revenge and teams up with Leslie Rogers(Jennifer Lopez),a real estate agent also taken in by the gang. This isn't the first Westlake novel featuring Parker to be turned into a film(earlier efforts include 1967's Point Blank and Payback in 1998)but this one may succeed where the others faded into film history. Statham's pretty popular with the action movie crowd and this film seems to be much smarter than his usual fare:

A bit more on the female friendly side,Admission stars Tina Fey as Portia,an admissions officer for Princeton who gets more than one surprise when invited to meet some potential applicants at an off beat high school run by former school mate John(Paul Rudd).

John believes that one of his students is the child that Portia gave up for adoption a long time ago and hopes to reunite them(not to mention get the kid a better chance at entering the Ivy League). The Jean Hanff Korelitz novel that this romantic comedy is based on did receive some solid positive reviews and the material does seem right up Fey's alley there:

Since Twilight has had it's last film chapter,there is more room for another teen fantasy series to come alive at the cinema. Hopes are high for the first installment of Cassandra Claire's Mortal Instruments series,City of Bones ,due to arrive in late summer.

Lily Collins stars as Clary,a NYC girl who discovers a hidden world of danger and magic hidden from the "mundanes" and that she and her mother play a vital role in. Clary's mother is a demon fighting Shadowhunter,who has hidden a powerful object from the clutches of Valentine,in whose power she is now in.

In order to save her mom,Clary must tap into her undeveloped powers and work with a team of experienced Shadowhunters lead by Jace(Campbell Bower)in order to protect more than one world. This YA series does have a strong following and could be a smash hit,provided the film lives up to the high standards set by the fans as well as be enthralling to a fresh new audience:

There will be other literary fare at the movies,no doubt,but these four are good enough to start with in book form,I think. How well they will reflect on their original print versions is debatable yet at least they will be a welcome break from the nearly endless chain of remakes and reboots that Hollywood seems bound and determined to offer us at every turn.

True,some remakes are decent and particularly,remakes of renowned literature can shine a new light on old themes there. However,I do have my doubts about putting the likes of The Great Gatsby in a 3D format.

Don't get me wrong,I'm not a big Fitzgerald fan to begin with and I like Baz Luhrmann's zippy takes on the classics. It just feels to me like a extreme version of gilding the lily here(plus,making those halfhearted high school book reports even more confusing than ever before):

Friday, January 18, 2013

Who's afraid of the Oscar Curse?

Folks in the entertainment industry are rumored to be a superstitious lot and that notion is somewhat supported by the lore of an "Oscar curse" that befalls either viable nominees or winners in the acting categories.

How much credence you want to give to these Hollywood harbingers of doom is up to you but there is a bit of considerable evidence behind a few of the more persistent movie awards myths.

Let's examine a few of them and see how well these Hollywood hexes truly mark the spot:

THE ROTTEN RELEASE JINX: This is a fairly recent one,started by the surprising loss of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls. His role as the charismatic singer James "Early" Thunder impressed both critics and audiences alike and his win appeared to be a sure thing.

However,a few weeks before the awards,Norbit hit the theaters and while the insulting comedy made a decent profit,it also earned the scorn of those critics who had been singing Murphy's praises months ago. It's doubtful that many of the Academy voters even saw Norbit(which ironically received a Best Make-up nomination a year later)but the timing of it's release did seem to be a true stroke of bad luck:

That then began the notion that the release of a bad movie just before the Oscar could sink the chances of someone looking to win big. Anne Hathaway's dramatic turn in Rachel Getting Married,for example, was thought to be a shoo-in for her to get Best Actress yet she happened to lose that golden boy not long after the release of Bride Wars.

The alleged comedy that reduced two gal pals into big league bridezillas was so reviled that film critic Mark Kermode declared that if it did not make his Worst of the Year list,he would retire(the man's still in business there).

Fortunately for Hathaway,there are no other dreadful romcoms with her name on them recently to sink her chances this time around. She's a definitive lock for Best Supporting Actress(which has hazards of it's own)and as long as she resists the urge to team up with Kate Hudson again,her future for award winning roles looks bright:

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS SLUMP: The list of ladies whose careers have gone in a tailspin after winning this award is quite lengthy,with the likes of Mercedes Ruehl,Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker,to name a few.

The main standard bearer for this jinx has been Marisa Tomei,whose unexpected win for My Cousin Vinny was long rumored to be a mistake(that allegation has since been shot down). Nevertheless,the string of lackluster films,such as The Paper,Untamed Heart and Only You, that she made afterwards further perpetuated that belief.

Eventually,Tomei made a comeback and even earned another Oscar nomination for The Wrestler in '09. Granted,she didn't win but she did prove that supporting actress slump is not a permanent condition:

The heiress to Tomei's dubious throne for some time since has been Mira Sorvino,who received her trophy for Mighty Aphrodite in 1995. Despite the cult success of her co-starring role in Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion,Sorvino has so far stayed in slump mode.

Her most recent onscreen appearance was on the small screen,in a made for TV flick called Finding Mrs. Claus(yes,it was a Christmas movie). Hopefully,Sorvino can find the right part that will bring her talents to new heights rather than the lows she found in films like Mimic and The Replacement Killers:

FAILED FOLLOW-UP SYNDROME: Separate from the Best Supporting Actress Slump is the curse that strikes down both actors and actresses who achieve wins at the Oscar stage but grievous body blows at the box office from there on out.

Talents such as Halle Berry,Cuba Gooding Jr. and F. Murray Abraham have suffered from this movie malaise and still do. Keven Spacey's decline in this jinxed category is particularly interesting,since he became a mainstream marvel playing likable yet devious characters in films like The Usual Suspects,L.A. Confidential and the one he won the Oscar for,American Beauty.

Since then,he's appeared in sympathetic sap fests like Pay It Forward and K Pax or
beleaguered melodramas such as The Life of David Gale. Spacey has tried to make a comeback(as well as done some directing) but even his turn as Lex Luthor in Superman Returns wasn't wicked enough to win moviegoers back into his corner. Nothing wrong with an actor stretching their wings there but in this case,he would've done better to stay a bad boy:

Another recent notable name in these ranks,Gwyneth Paltrow was considered to be on her way to bigger and better things when she picked up the Best Actress Oscar for Shakespeare in Love.

However,the film roles she took up since then have been a mix of lowbrow humor(Shallow Hal,View From the Top)and over labored dramas such as Possession and Country Strong. She has made strides towards regaining her past glory with her reoccurring role in the Iron Man movies and guest appearances on Glee yet it'll be some time before Paltrow can be taken seriously in a serious role there:

It's too soon to tell if any Oscar curses are in full effect this year but actors and actresses should take comfort in knowing that they can be broken. After all,if Sandra Bullock can take home an Oscar and a Razzie with the same stellar aplomb and good natured grace,anything is possible under the Hollywood sun and on the red carpet:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Top Chef Seattle's Restaurant Wars continue,Downton Abbey's wedding woes and Face Off returns for a royal rumble

The second half of Restaurant Wars played out on Top Chef Seattle last night,as Kirsten and Sheldon went head to head with their eateries. It was boys vs girls in the team make-ups and each set of contenders were given an empty space to work with,which meant that they had to create their own kitchens as well as dining space.

Sheldon's concept for his restaurant Urbano was modern Filipino cuisine,something that neither Stefan or Josh were familiar with. Stefan decided to take on front of the house duties and that seem to work well for him at the beginning.

As time went on,however,his charms wore out fast as tables from the first service were slow to leave. A backlog of customers had already formed by the time the judges arrived. Stefan managed to get them seated but was neglectful and terse with them at times,so not the smart thing to do there!

Lucky for him,the food was good enough to win. Josh did very well,even though some of his dishes didn't exactly have the true ethic flavor palate required.

One of his better dishes was the dessert,known as halo-halo. It was coconut sorbet with avocado mousse and bananas,which the judges loved a lot. Stefan also had a dessert offering of dark chocolate covered macadamia nuts and ginger tea but his sour mood spoiled the joys of that sweet.

Sheldon was pretty much all aces with his food and the judges' favorite dish of the night was his adobo. It was a plate of pork belly with mung bean puree and a pea shoots salad,which Stefan failed to describe properly when serving it. His attitude was beyond terrible there,seriously.

Sheldon is a sweet guy who treated everyone well,right down to the dishwasher who helped out with the food. I'm happy that he won but it's too bad that victory became an advantage for Stefan.

Speaking of advantage,Josie was able to use Kristen's good nature against her during judges' table and threw her right under the bus as fast as she could. True,Kristen should have been more take-charge in the kitchen when it came to getting Josie's dish done right and she did overextend herself by getting too ambitious with some of her concepts.

However,Josie was being slower than usual and insanely passive aggressive,which dragged down the whole service. Brooke was doing a lovely job as front of the house and the first couple of courses went out smoothly.

Josie's bouillabaisse was a traffic accident from hell. First off,she was supposed to have the broth ready the day before service but she didn't start it until the day of and about a half hour before customers arrived,it still wasn't done.

Then,she "forgot" to add the gelatin and didn't seem too concerned about that. Kristen told her to use cream instead to make a foam to be put on the plates but Josie didn't even bother to make sure the applicator worked properly!

The dish came out late and the fish was unevenly cooked,plus some people got a little bit of broth and others didn't. Josie kept insisting that she was just doing what Kristen told her to do,which was total bull but instead of calling her out,Kristen held her tongue which cost her a spot in the competition.

To be fair,the judges did find fault with some of Kristen's own dishes such as the beef bourguigon,that tasted great but didn't have the expected red wine sauce.

They also had trouble with her dessert,a deconstructed macaroon. Judge Gail was most insistent that it didn't possess the correct flavor profile associated with that classic French treat. Since Kristen's theme for Atelier Kwan was classic French with a twist,I guess that's fair.

For her to go home for Josie's subtle sabotage is not,in my opinion. Clearly the judges' table was divided on this decision but they did reach some sort of conscious and why they felt the need to keep Josie on with her streak of slow motion screw-ups while Kristen has become a frontrunner is beyond me,folks.

Well,what's done is done and hopefully,Kristen will be able to beat CJ in Last Chance Kitchen. One thing is for certain and that is that Stefan will probably take whatever opportunity he gets to bring Josie down,since Kristen was his girl,so to speak. I could be wrong about that,yet I won't be surprised if he plays a part in getting Josie kicked out at some point.

It was supposed to be Edith's day to shine at Downton Abbey,but her wedding to Sir Anthony ended in heartbreaking disaster. He jilted her cruelly at the altar and I do mean cruelly,folks.

What kind of a gentleman lets the lady arrive at the church in her wedding gown(which looked beautiful,btw)and walk down the aisle with her father in front of a full house,only to call the whole thing off just as the minister starts the show?

Edith's been bitchy at times,true,yet a good portion of that is due to competing with Mary for attention from all sides and here,she was really sweet and happy towards everyone. I know that Countess Violet meant well by telling Edith to just let him go but she could've at least smacked Sir Anthony for his hideous timing!

*Sigh* I hope that Edith can find real love and true happiness before this season is over. Maybe she should take a cue from Sybil and look below stairs,since that new footman Alfred was quick to come to her defense in the servant's quarters and he was right in that she could do much better than Sir Anthony(I think so,too):

Speaking of Sybil,the next episode seems to be her turn for trouble. Not sure what's going to happen but it looks as if Tom won't be as reliable as he should be,especially with a pregnant wife to take care of:

The SyFy series Face Off started a new season this week and the main challenge was for teams of two to create a goblin king. With Labyrinth being one of my favorite fantasy films,I was thrilled to see what they came up.

The goblin kings had to represent a particular region where their kingdoms were set,such as arctic cold,jungle and swamp. My personal pick for the win was the Desert Goblin King created by Eric Fox and Jenna. The coyote skull face with it's golden tumbleweed crown was truly effective in both close-up and distant viewings.

The look that did win belonged to the Mountain Goblin King from Meagan and Anthony. It also happen to be a double victory for Anthony,since he won the opening challenge for Fantasy Queen,so this was a nice way for him to begin the competition.

The concept was to show the king turning to stone due to his stony heart and the face application in particular showcased that idea exceptionally well. Congrats to both of them in pulling that off.

The losing look was put together by Troy and Michael,with Troy going home for it. Their Volcanic Goblin King was a hot mess,not to mention completely covered up in all of the wrong places. That crown looked more like a dunce cap than a sprout for exploding lava,in my opinion.

Next week,the make-up artists get the chance to create a superhero for DC Comics,which promises to be truly geek-tacular:


SWEET GENIUS: Season 3 of this sweetly silly competition show is about to wrap up,due to Anne Burrell's return for another round of Chef Wanted. This won't be the last we see of Chef Ron Ben-Israel and his unique brand of baking fun,I'm sure: