Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bunheads making whoopee,TAR's fight club mentality and the winner of Top Chef Seattle is....

For the second half of the tenth season finale on Top Chef Seattle, Kristen and Brooke faced each other in a cook-off before a live audience that included the judges along with the winners of the previous TC seasons.

 Each lady had her own sous chef pit crew. Kristen's consisted of Stefan,CJ and Kuniko while Brooke had Sheldon,Josh and Lizzie.

 I would have thought that Stefan would be on Kristen's team but they didn't show us how the teams were selected,so who knows? They had five rounds of cooking for 160 people and the winner would be the first person to get three out of five.

Kristen had a great start in Round One,with a chicken liver mousse that accompanied a frisee salad with mustard,prune and hazelnuts. Everyone loved the flavor combination(although Judge Gail wasn't too thrilled with the salad greens)and it was an easy one-two-three vote for her.

 Brooke's crispy pig ear salad was ,alas,too crispy. Thanks to CJ,who was clearly seen burning that key ingredient, the judges couldn't enjoy the rest of that dish as much as they wanted to.

Fortunately,Brooke was able to make up for that loss in Round Two with her seared scallop dish. It was served with salt cod,something that Emeril loves,and the black currant and mustard seed vinaigrette was a big hit as well.

 Kristen's scallop plate,with Meyer lemon and bitter orange,was also a crowd pleaser. The voting  was very tight for this round but in the end,Brooke managed to earn a much needed win.

Brooke then went for a redemption moment in Round Three,by making a better fried chicken than she did during that particular challenge. Her vadouvan chicken wings with a sumac yogurt tahini and pickled kohlrabi were a pleasant surprise but Judge Tom had doubts about how all of the elements meshed together.

 Kristen won this round with a celery root puree that had bone marrow and mushrooms. Despite a couple of complaints about the temperature of the food and how the mushrooms were cooked, she easily claimed victory.

With Kristen up by two,Round Four was crucial for Brooke to win. She paired pork cheeks with red snapper,which seemed like a truly satisfying combination there.

 However,Kristen's red snapper with tarragon,leeks and uni sealed the deal for her. She won for the third and final time,becoming the newest Top Chef champion.

Congratulations,Kristen! You are a winner in more ways than one and best wishes for your fabulous future. Brooke,don't feel too bad,you did your best and would have made an excellent addition to the TC winners circle.

It was actually nice to see two good people in the prime of their careers competing with such positive spirit and good sportsmanship. Thank you,ladies,for making this competition a feast for the soul as well.

Too bad the same can't be said on other shows. On The Amazing Race,Jessica and John were called upon to honor their agreement regarding the second Express Pass by father-son team David and Connor.

 According to the pact,David and Connor were supposed to get the pass but John and Jessica insisted that it was more important not to let everyone in on their deal. They invoked a "Fight Club" clause,claiming that if their alliance was exposed,the contract was null and void. First of all,that condition was never brought up during the pact and/or agreed to by all parties involved. As Judge Judy would say,you can not unilaterally alter a contract,verbal or otherwise.

Second,the real reason that Jessica and John want to hold off on handing the pass over until they have to is to get the rest of the teams  to suck up to them. So not cool,plus there is no reason not to hand over the pass to David and Connor while still keeping the alliance under wraps. Those two just bought themselves a bucket load of bad karma,if you ask me:

 Meanwhile,twin brothers Indries and Jamil(who came up with the Express Pass pact in the first place)wound up going home.With one of the guys being held back by his fear of water,their chances were pretty slim to begin with but at least they finished this leg of the race without giving up,a strong point in their favor:

Bunheads had their "winter finale" this week,with Michelle taking another shot at Broadway with an audition and the girls considering making sex ed more than just a classroom assignment. Despite all of Sasha's determination to drag her friends into that arena with her,it turned out to be Ginny who went solo on this mission.

 There's talk that the show might not continue,which would be a real shame at this narrative point. Many interesting plot developments and new characters,such as Truly's uber bossy sister Millie(played by GG alumna Liza Weil) have been introduced,along with some more character development and to end the series now would deprive the growing number of viewers of a proper conclusion

 Come on,ABC Family,don't give up on these girls now. This may not be the ratings grabber that Pretty Little Liars is but the time and talent on display here is well worth the long term entertainment investment:


GAME OF THRONES: Season three starts near the end of March and while I won't spoil anything for those who haven't read the books,I must say two words- Red Wedding. Keep an ear and eye out for that,that's all I am going to give up,folks:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Springing into March and April with a fresh bouquet of books

 Most of us are sick of the winter storms by now,even though one benefit of them is the extra reading time granted. Curling up with a good(or just amusing)book is very conducive to cold weather months.

  However,the warming breezes of spring will soon be upon us,along with a plethora of new pop culture delights.

 The prime pick of the upcoming crop will be the new books blossoming at bookstores and whether you prefer the flowers of fiction or the sturdy shrubs of non fiction fare,the garden of literary delights is open to all:

 PASSAGES FROM INDIA: In Lavanya Sankaran's new novel,The Hope Factory, we meet Aand,
an aspiring factory owner in Bangalore, who is in hopes of increasing his good fortunes by expanding his property which,despite his connections,is not as easy as it would seem.

 Others relaying on his prospects include Kamala,the family maid who longs to place her son in a good school by currying the favor of Aand's temperamental wife. Aand turns out to have something in common with Kamala,as he tries his best to make his own deals without upsetting his interfering father-in-law more than necessary.

 I'm awaiting my copy of this intriguing tale from Library Thing but you shouldn't wait to check out this story of how fickle fortunes and flattery can be(April):

The newest entry in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series,Leaving Everything Most Loved, has our leading lady detective seeking to discover more than one mystery about the unsolved death of an immigrant Indian woman.

 The victim's brother wants answers,as the police have clearly made a mess out of the investigation. As witnesses come forth only to be suspiciously silenced(some permenantly),Maisie is getting curiouser about the case as well as the lifestyle that these new arrivals from India face on the mean streets of  London.

 You may not be familiar with the Maisie books(this is the tenth one in the series) but it's comfortable reading that you can sit yourself down to at any point,preferable with a nice cup of tea on hand(March).


 A most unlikely couple get together in New York of 1899 in Helene Wecker's fantasy novel,The Golem and the Jinni.  Chava is a female golem,meant to be the bride of an immigrating rabbi who was sent away from his homeland for dabbling with dark magic.

 However,her prospective husband dies on board but not before saying the incantation that brings Chava to life. Arriving in America,she learns to fend for herself,yet has some help from the few that know the truth about her origins.

Ahmad is a jinni,released from his imprisonment in a copper flask but still bound to serve the shopkeeper who inadvertently set him free. He and Chava cross paths and form a bond,finding solace in each other in dealing with the all too human world around them.

 Their friendship also allows them to protect one another from those who would  abuse their powers and/or destroy them. With a potential new threat stirring in their midst,Chava and Ahmad may have to take more dire measures to secure their safety and future happiness. This engaging pair of cross cultural figures combined with the nuance of Old New York should add a truly magical touch to your spring reading(April):


 If you're still in the mood for Dowton Abbey and it's downstairs world, take a tour inside the real life palace of Queen Victoria with her staff in Kate Hubbard's Serving Victoria.

 Hubbard shows us the behind the scenes of daily living with the memorable monarch  through the eyes of six of her servants,from a widowed lady in waiting to a lady of the bedchamber that shared her company on many social outings. Even with the rotating staff assembled for all of the queen's reign,from her coronation through her long period of mourning after the death of her beloved Albert,Hubbard is able to showcase the tender heart of a fiercely strong willed matriarch(April):

 Elizabeth Winder looks into what may have strongly influenced the writing of a pivotal modern  English poet in Pain,Parties,Work. The subtitle of the book is "Sylvia Plath in New York,Summer 1953",when Plath was 21 and spending a month in the city as a guest editor for Mademoiselle's college issue.

 During her brief stay,Plath enjoyed many new experiences including attending a Yankees game and dancing at a posh social club. However,the change of scene also had it's pitfalls,which may have found their way into Plath's best known work,her one and only novel The Bell Jar.

Granted,I have not read The Bell Jar or any of her poems,yet this fresh portrait of the emerging writer promises to inspire me to do so,as well as bring new insight into those already enchanted by her provocative prose(April):


Another book that I'm eagerly awaiting from Library Thing's Early Reviewers program is Elizabeth Strout's latest novel. The Burgess Boys follows brothers Jim and Bob as they struggle to leave painful memories of their Maine childhood behind by becoming NYC lawyers.

 Jim and Bob tend to clash over many things,but when their sister Susan calls them home to help get her son Zach out of serious legal troubles,the brothers unite to do their familial duty even if it means facing up to their mutual personal demons.

 Strout tends to deliver when it comes to sketches of emotionally frayed characters making the best of what life has landed in their lap and this new book promises to be another amazing notch in her literary belt(March 26).

 Jennifer Cody Epstein follows up her engaging earlier novel,The Painter from Shanghai, with a family saga set during and after WWII. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment starts with fifteen year old Yoshi, who is living with her mother in Japan and has only a ring from her father to connect her with a soldier from America.

 After the harrowing attack on Tokyo that drove her from her home and in the midst of the postwar world,Yoshi meets up with Billy,a young GI who has a secret burden of his own that may help her understand the meaning of the ring her father sent her. The Painter from Shanghai was such a wonderful read that makes this new story from Cody Epstein appear to be a truly worthwhile wait for(March):

 These and many other great reads are ready to sprout up at all of your favorite literary outlets as soon as soon can be. So,take comfort in the lingering cold days as things are bound to look better in the spring in more ways than one:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscars 2013:The Musical

Last night's Oscars had more than it's fair share of ups and downs(not a slam about Jennifer Lawrence's stumble on the stairs,honest!) but despite the hit and(mainly)miss jokes by Seth McFarlane and dull moments such as Kristen Stewart's low energy(Sorry,hon,but you were more lifelike as a Twilight vampire than you were on stage there),there were some fun moments to be had.

 The theme of the show was Music of the Movies,which was a nice treat considering that for some time now,that portion of the awards was getting the short shift. This was made up for in abundance with a number of great performances that saluted the song and dance style of cinema very handily:

MRS. GOLDFINGER: The salute to 50 years of James Bond films had the expected clip montage and a delightful surprise as Dame Shirley Bassey appeared live to serenade the audience with "Goldfinger".

 Not only did she look amazing,her powerhouse vocals were in fine form. There have been many great theme songs from the Bond films but Bassey set the bar for that standard long ago and you can see and hear why.

Such a pleasure was worth sitting through those awkward presenter moments,if you ask me:

SKYFALL SIREN: Speaking of Bond girls,Adele performed her Oscar nominated theme for SkyFall(which tied with Zero Dark Thirty for the Best Sound Editing award,something that hasn't happened for over a decade) and later picked up her Oscar for Best Song.

The old school flair of her singing style was on full display and after Bassey's number,it was good to see that the musical legacy of James Bond was in good hands at this point in time.

Congrats to Adele for her win and much thanks for giving us a such beautiful Bond bouquet:

  DREAMGIRL GLORY: As part of a tribute to musicals of the past decade, Jennifer Hudson came out to do what she does best. Granted,the version of "And I Am Telling You"  she did was a condensed one but that didn't mean that Jennifer was going to verbally walk through this song at all.

 You could hear the impressed sighs in the audience as she pulled out all of the stops and rang every bell and whistle there. I know that some people consider this type of singing as screaming but with vocal harmony this strong and skillfully done,clearly there is a world of difference between singing your heart and soul out and screeching.

 Jennifer needs to do another musical(appearances on Smash are not enough!) movie ,Hollywood,pay attention and get on this,stat!:

Other musical highlights included Norah Jones singing her nominated tune from Ted and reenactments of  key numbers from Chicago and Le Miz. All in all,this Oscars may not have been as good as hoped for,yet they weren't quite that bad either.

 Congrats are in order for Argo(four wins,including Best Picture which gave Ben Affleck that award he was denied for in the Director's category),Daniel Day-Lewis,Anne Hathaway,Ang Lee,Christoph Waltz,Quentin Tarantino and Jennifer Lawrence. As for the musical segments helmed by Seth McFarlane,pretty good but fancy footwork can't make up for lame Lincoln jokes and a "We Saw Your Boobs" number.

 When all is said and done, we all had a memorable moment to treasure after this,plus a few songs to hum as it was over. For those who lost,take heart- at least there was a song to salute you on the way out:

Friday, February 22, 2013

The LRG's last minute Oscar picks for 2013

With the Oscars only a couple of days away,this is the time to place your final bets as who and what will be bringing home the gold on Sunday night.

 Granted,I made a few predictions early on,but with more award show giveaways and  growing buzz built around certain nominees,adjustments had to made.

 Mind you,these are just my best guesses so,don't look to me for a sure fire way to school your local Oscar pool. However, based on my years of Academy Award watching and keeping my ear to the glittery ground, these latest picks are pretty well educated ones:

AND BEST PICTURE IS.... At first,I was convinced that Lincoln would get the top honors in this category but now,not so sure. While the celebrated bio-pic will be getting a few of those golden statues as their parting  gift for the night,massive media love for this film has shifted somewhat.

 Lincoln is still seen as an excellent movie,however Argo has been basking in the awards show circuit spotlight these past few weeks. A good chunk of the reason for that is director/leading man Ben Affleck not being nominated in either Best Actor or(more importantly to some)Best Director categories.

 It also helps that some nominees such as Les Miserables ,Amour and Zero Dark Thirty will most likely be honored in other sections of the show. That,plus the added bonus of Argo not only being based on a true story far enough in the past to have some true perspective on it's subject but having Hollywood help save the day,is what should get this low key thriller a huge leg up on the competition:

THE BEST ACTRESS/SUPPORTING ACTOR SHOWDOWN: While there's no doubt about who will win Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress this year(Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway should have their acceptance speeches well honed by now), clear favorites for their respective opposite side of the street nominees have been hard to come by.

 In the case of Supporting Actor,all of the nominees are previous winners and since this category has often been used to make it up to a fella for past losses,that makes things tricky indeed. My best bet would be for Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook,as a reward for not doing another throwaway part in a comedy or thriller the way he's been doing for a long time now.

 As to the ladies of the Best Actress section,I see it as a race between Jennifer Lawrence(Silver Linings Playbook) and Jessica Chastain(Zero Dark Thirty). Both of them have won awards for their roles and have great momentum behind them. However,I think that Chastain may edge out Lawrence for the win.

 Yes,Zero Dark Thirty does have a few issues with it's political content but it's more of a dramatic part for Chastain than Lawrence's is in SLP(which is more of a dramedy with romantic overtones). An additional plus for Chastain is that ZDT director Kathryn Bigelow was also not up for Best Director,which many saw as an oversight and may want to make up to her for with this win:

CLASH OF THE ANIMATED TITANS: The nominees for Best Animated Feature are pretty good this year,with stop motion features like Frankenweenie
and Pirates! Band of Misfits included. The big contenders,however,are Wreck-It Ralph and Brave,both having Disney ties.

 As much as WIR will appeal to gamers and fans of Toy Story,Brave's girl power themes may hold a stronger sway over the Academy voters. While the likes of The Hunger Games gets overlooked by the Academy,those yearning to vote for a bow and arrow slinging heroine have a ready outlet in this film's fiery redheaded princess:

In other categories,Best Song will go to Skyfall (especially since Adele will be there to perform it live),Best Director for Steven Spielberg(they'll want to give more than one award to Lincoln)and Life of Pi should garner a nice number of technical awards.

 No doubt,there will be a few surprises to balance out the predictable winners and the show will run into overtime at some point(possibly due to the number of lame jokes about taking so long to finish). Regardless of that,this year's Oscars should be a fun film celebration for all to enjoy. Hopefully,the acceptance speeches will have more to offer than the standard platitudes that stars practice to pitch perfect form. Go for broke,people and give us a few good quotes to talk about:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Top Chef Seattle's Finale Part I,TAR's Express Pass Plotting and Downton Abbey says farewell to Matthew

The season finale of Top Chef Seattle began with revealing the winner of Last Chance Kitchen,Kristen! After the shock and surprise wore off,the main challenge to determine which two would make to the second half of the final showdown was laid out before them.

All three of them(Sheldon,Brooke and Kristen) were to take over the kitchen of Judge Tom's premiere LA restaurant Craft. Each one had to make an appetizer,entree and dessert for the incoming guests and the judges. Judge Tom was back there with them,expediting the service and tasting their food from the back of the house.

Kristen's opening course of duck rillette and chestnut veloute shined but a couple of judges were divided about the flavors of her entree.

She served an ahi tuna with veal mustard jus and Meyer lemon puree. The lemon was purposely burnt,to add a bitter note to the dish but some of the judges felt that note didn't ring right with the rest of the plate.

 What disappointed Kristen herself was how her dessert turned out. It was a nice bowl of curry chocolate with cashews,which was fine with everyone but a tad too simple for someone of her skill level.

Her overall food performance was good enough to send her to the Final Two,leaving it down to Brooke and Sheldon.

Brooke's approach to the meal was scattershot due to her not being able to decide quickly on what to make. We've seen this before  from her and while she does manage to recover well,it is a bad habit that could easily clock her out of the competition.

 For her appetizer,she went with veal sweetbreads in a crispy salad with kumquat and beets. Hugh Acheson thought that she needed to clean the sweetbreads better and most of the judges agreed that a shot of acid would've enhanced the flavors.

However,the braised short ribs that she made for the entree course redeemed her fully. The Parmesan sauce that accompanied it on top of the nettle puree also won praise.

The judges loved her dessert, as well,a brown butter cake with fruit and goat cheese that Brooke hadn't made in some time. Turns out that recipe was as easy as riding a bike for her.

 Sheldon started off  with a bang,as his sashimi spot prawns with court bouillon appetizer was well received by the judges. The diners were also singing the praises of this dish,making it look like a real home run for Sheldon.

However,he decided to deviate from his regular norm for the rest of the meal,which threw the judges for a loop and not in the good way. I don't blame the guy for taking a chance by going outside of his comfort zone but perhaps this wasn't the best time to do that.

Sheldon chose quail as his protein for the entree,serving it roasted with a pine nut puree. The food was okay,yet the judges felt that this was not the best display of his talents.

Sheldon's dessert is what did him in,in my opinion. The white chocolate mousse was good but the fennel that was paired with the apple on the plate completely overwhelmed it.

So,Sheldon is out and it's Kristen and Brooke who are going head to head next week in Part Two of the TCS finale.Congrats,ladies and as RuPaul would say,may the best woman win!

 Ru would also remind them to not f*** it up,which Brooke may need to heed to. Keep your focus as sharp as your knives,if you want the win! I would also be happy if Kristen won,btw. It's nice when two such worthy and worthwhile opponents are facing off like this,a rare treat on reality TV indeed.

A new season of The Amazing Race started this weekend,with a new incentive for the first team to reach the Pit Stop. Not only would that team get one Express Pass(which allows them to skip a challenge during the race) but a second one to be given to another team would also be theirs.

The first five groups out of the airport made a pact that which ever team won the Express Pass package would hand over the other pass to the second pair amongst them. That seemed to be a fair way to go about it,yet it looks as if John and Jessica are going to renege on that deal. Not a good way to make friends and allies,guys! You never know who you'll need to help you along the way,especially when those Double U-Turns show up:

Meanwhile,the last three teams at the Sandcastle Roadblock were so frustrated at the seeming impossibility of finding the clue that they all decided to take the four hour penalty(which would delay them at the start of the next leg)and head for the Pit Stop. That plan didn't work out so well for Team Firefighter(Matt and Daniel),who had trouble with their canoe and wound up being the first team eliminated. Too bad,fellas,better luck next time:

  A lot of things happened on the third season finale of Downton Abbey,but the big one that everyone is talking about is the death of Matthew. Fresh from seeing his newborn son,Matthew meet his untimely end in a car accident,which will cause quite an upheaval as the promised fourth season begins next year.

 Apparently,Dan Stevens(who plays Matthew)wanted off the show and word is that he'll be appearing in a miniseries version of P.D. James' Pride and Prejudice themed mystery,Death Comes to Pemberley. That's good for him, I suppose,although a shame that we won't see him make those necessary improvements at Downton that Matthew was planning to keep the estate going. Let's hope that brother-in-law Branson will take up that mantle and keep things afloat for the Crawley crew there.

Granted,I wasn't a big fan of the whole Matthew & Mary love story(care a bit more about Edith,who deserves better than a Jane Eyre retread romance,if you ask me) but it was sad to consider the effect this tragic loss will have on Mary. Fare thee well, Matthew,you will be missed:


 THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: Chaos is breaking out all over,as Silas has risen and Jeremy may be truly down for the count this time. Hopefully,Elena can get a grip before things get even worse and yes,they will get worse way before we see any sign of better:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker weaves a tale of a true and trying friendship

Jennifer Chiaverini is best known for her Elm Creek series of novels involving the art of quilt making but her latest work,Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, cuts a swath of historical cloth from the Civil War era for her fictional frame work this time around.

 The dressmaker of the title is Elizabeth Keckley,who was born into slavery but managed to buy freedom not only for herself but her son George,due to her talents as a seamstress. Elizabeth moved to Washington and started up a private dressmaking business of her own,with a respectable client list made up of both Northern and Southern society ladies.

 Her impressive skill with the needle even had the wife of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis make her an offer to come back South as her personal modiste(stylist). However,Elizabeth refused on more than one ground,a main one being that she was selected by Mary Todd Lincoln to be her modiste and maker of the many gowns required for her public appearances as First Lady. Mrs. Lincoln also become a friend as well as a most valued client,a bond that Elizabeth cherished and that Mary Lincoln needed.

 Mary Lincoln,in some respects,was like the little girl with a curl from the nursery rhyme-she could be a good hearted soul and a real charmer but was prone to self created turmoil and strong emotional outbursts. One of her bad habits was her tendency to spend beyond her means(and keep that information as far away from her husband as possible),a weak point that her critics eagerly loved to touch upon:

Elizabeth's role in the Lincoln household went beyond making sure Mary's dresses were ready on time. She also assisted with the children and even offered emotional comfort to Mr. Lincoln,whose health and heart were weary with war troubles.

 One of the times that Elizabeth's presence was a great boon to the family was during the tragic illness and death of young Willie Lincoln. His mother's grief was all consuming,causing the other members of the family to restrain their own sorrow in order to carry on.

 Elizabeth offered what comfort and support she could to both parents,understanding the loss of a beloved child all too well herself. Her son George(who was able to pass as a white man)had died in battle,fighting for the freedom that his mother had to purchase and that Lincoln was doing his best to give to the whole nation:

Elizabeth was with the Lincolns through good times and bad,the worst being after Abraham Lincoln's assassination She was a shoulder for Mary to cry on and even stayed with her in Illinois for a brief time when the remainder of the family moved out of the White House.

 In some ways,Elizabeth's deep emotional ties to Mary came at great personal cost. When the former First Lady's financial problems caused her to attempt to secretly sell her ball gowns through dubious buyers(causing even more gossip and criticism), one of the ways that Elizabeth sought to help her was to write a memoir of her own life that included the White House years.

Unfortunately,that noble attempt backfired,as the book received harsh reviews and critical attacks that accused Elizabeth unjustly of trying to cash in on her connection with the family. It also caused Mrs. Lincoln to cut off all ties with her,a sad shame since Elizabeth was one of the true friends she had left.

 Elizabeth carried on to rebuild her life and revive her dressmaking business,which had suffered due to her unwavering respect to the memory of Abraham Lincoln and what she felt was her duty to help his widow in any way she could. However,her real legacy was in the art of sewing,a gift that she shared with many willing students and friends over the years:

This is the first time that I've read Jennifer Chiaverini's work and I have to say that her first hand at historical fiction is skillfully applied here. She brings to vivid life Elizabeth Keckley's life and times on the page,creating an emotional portrait of a woman who dealt with her own struggles best by helping others,with her major fault being not knowing when to quit giving more than she should.

While Mary Lincoln's difficulties make her rather sympathetic at times,the toll that her  issues took on her loved ones is well showcased without painting her as a villain,something that the press during those days loved to indulge in all too much. Chiaverini's pacing is steady yet not swift,which makes this novel a good long read for those eager to take their time with a good read.

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker is now available at a bookseller near you and it would make for an excellent reading group selection. While Mrs. Keckley has gotten some recent notice for her place in history from the award winning film Lincoln,Jennifer Chiaverini brings this wonderful lady further into the spotlight and displays her contributions to humanity on the high shelf she so richly deserves:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Top Chef Seattle makes a memorable meal,Thomas in trouble at Downton Abbey and the winner of Rachael Vs. Guy is...

For those of you who check in on my regular TV Thursday post,my apologies for not having one up last week(had a few technical problems to work out that took longer than expected).

Hopefully,we can now get back on track with Top Chef: Seattle,which was still in Alaska last night.  The Final Three contenders consisted of Brooke,Sheldon and Josh,who was most anxious about the impending arrival of his first child(congrats are in order for him and his wife there,due to their lovely baby girl Georgia coming in safe and sound).

 Brooke got a little anxious herself when they all had to ride a helicopter to get to the Quickfire Challenge. Flying is not her thing, particularly in tight quarters,yet she managed to overcome her tensions there.

 After the copter ride,everyone traveled by dog sled to a camp for professional sled teams where Padma and Judge Tom were waiting.

 The challenge was to cook a meal in thirty minutes,using only what was available in the camp kitchen and supply tents.Brooke prepared a halibut dish,along with Sheldon. Hers,however,was more satisfying and Brooke won the round,a nice start for this day indeed.

Upon arriving at the place where the Final Three would be staying,two surprise guests were waiting for them. Emeril and special judge for this round Roy Choi(who worked with Brooke before) prepared for them a great meal and shared a few reminiscences about what was their turning
point for entering the culinary field.

 That,of course,lead to the Elimination Challenge. Each of them had to prepare a dish that defined their own personal push towards a career as chefs. Including Emeril and Roy Choi,Judge Tom,Padma,Wolfgang Puck and Gail Collins were also present for that extra special dinner party.

Brooke had a lot of difficulty in settling on what to make and for a while she was seriously floundering. Fortunately,she decided on a braised chicken(like her mother used to make) combined with a grilled quail(to represent the chef she is now).

 Even with the quail being a tad overdone,the other flavors on the plate more than made up for that. The judges loved the picked veggies and carrot barley served on the side as well. Brooke won this challenge and will be in the Final Two,yes! So happy for her,Brooke has been quite the rock star this season.

 I was worried for Sheldon,due to the saltiness of his broth. The judges really liked how his pan roasted rock fish was cooked and how well the
prawns went with it,too.

Sadly,he didn't realize until the last minute that the liquid for the broth had reduced too much,making it way too salty. Judge Tom was concerned that this one misstep could take him out of the game.

Lucky for him,Josh made an even bigger error. He chose foie gras and prepared it three ways;pan seared,profiterole and touchon. I'm not familiar with the last style but from what I gathered from the judges,it's a dish that takes a long time to cook before it's right and Josh did a rather hasty version that fell apart and was laden with veins.

 So,it's off to Last Chance Kitchen for Josh and next week,we will see if he returns to face off against Brooke and Sheldon for the win. I suspect that it will be Kristen who does the victory walk out of LCK,but we shall see.

 On Downton Abbey,the focus was on Thomas for the most part this episode,due to him giving into his loneliness and making a very unwelcome move on James. His lack of discretion was due to listening to O'Brien who slipped a good number of poison pills into the ears of most of the male servants here.

Thomas has usually been the type of guy who could bounce back from a sticky situation but this time,he felt truly defeated and didn't even bother to put up a fight when Carson(upon pressure from James via O'Brien)was ready to dismiss him without a reference. Mr. Bates wound up championing his cause,so to speak,and got the whole thing taken of,with a little help from Lord Grantham. As devious as Thomas has been to Mr. Bates in the past, Bates couldn't help but offer a hand to someone in such dire need of it and even Thomas didn't deserve to be set up like that,not at all:

The finale airs this upcoming Sunday and there are sure to be some surprises,along with surprise guests as well. I do hope that a fourth season of Downton Abbey will be coming our way in the near future because it's hard to see how everything will be neatly wrapped up for good:

The second season finale of Rachael Vs, Guy: Celebrity Cook Off had Dean McDermott(aka Mr. Tori Spelling) and Carnie Wilson going head to head to whip up a three course meal for a group of  guest judges that included Kathy Griffin.

It was touch and go there for awhile,but in the end,Dean emerged triumphant. He appeared to actually know what he was doing in the kitchen and his win was well earned.Carnie meant well but her erratic approach to cooking really got on my nerves.

 Since it was all for charity, the real winner was Miracle Babies,Dean's cause that he was competing for. Congrats,Dean!:


 WORST COOKS IN AMERICA: Season Three begins this Sunday,with Chef Anne going up against Bobby Flay as the best to teach the worst. Good luck to them both,since this new crew of recruits looks
rather raw indeed:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A musical box of Valentine's Day treats

With Valentine's Day on tomorrow's horizon,many folks are doing their best to show their loved ones how much they truly feel about them with some last minute gift shopping.

 You really shouldn't take a hasty present for granted,considering that even remembering this special day so close to the wire is a sign of affection(although a rather slow one at that).

For some of us,gift giving on this day is hard to bear since we may not have sweethearts of the romantic sort to shower with purchased pink and red products.

 As for me,I am offering readers a sweet deal on my Chronicles of Copper Boom e-book series. Starting yesterday,a coupon for a free download of the first book,Party Overkill,is now available. Just use the code YH89E at Smashwords to get your copy gratis by February 16. Part of the reason for this coupon caper is to celebrate the recent publication of Part Two in the Chronicles of Copper Boom saga,A Chilling Warmth.

Hopefully,some interest will be peaked and momentum for the rest of this super sized tale of potential heroes and villains that will slowly but surely come. In the meantime,here are a few music videos that highlight a traditional trinket handed out for Valentine's Day:

DIAMOND JUBILEE: Jewelry is a highly anticipated gift on this day and the number one gem on the holiday hit list is diamonds. Sparkly is as sparkly does in my book but the glow of those ice stones turns quite a few heads. The best known musical tribute to these gems is Marilyn Monroe's "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" that has been lip synced and sung in plenty of pop culture venues,including the guilty pleasure flick Burlesque:

A ROSE IS A ROSE: Flowers are another standard of Valentine's Day,with just about any combination of posies making the cut. However,roses are held up as the ultimate floral token of true love.

 One of the best songs,in my opinion,that uses the flower metaphor so aptly is Seal's "Kiss From A Rose",originally a key tune in the Batman Forever soundtrack. Not one of the better Batmans,I grant you ,but this sensuous ode to heartfelt passion plays well in any forum:

CANDY CRAVING: Numerous connections to love and sugar have been made over the centuries,with phrases such as "sweets to the sweet" and "he/she is sweet on you" only being the tip of the iceberg.

Chocolates are a steady safe bet when it comes to a last minute Valentine's gift but other confections such as candy hearts and red hots are deemed acceptable in a pinch.

So,if your sweetheart happens to be humming Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy",your sugar options are rather open there:

HEART OF THE MATTER: That pictographic symbol of love(although not at all automatically correct) is seen everywhere on Valentine's Day and can be given out in various forms. Candy boxes,flower arraignments, a repeating pattern on specially selected clothes and even a simple trace and cut out form on drawing paper manage to make the grade(the last one being more suited to grade school).

 What kind of heart you offer up is often telling about your true feelings,according to most,so if someone accuses you of having a "Heart of Glass",it's not a shout out to the Blondie song,trust me on this one:

Regardless of your relationship status,I wish you all a Happy Valentine's Day and hope that some small item of affection makes it's way to you on time tomorrow.

 As for you last minute shoppers,don't get too wound up over what to get your someone special. Having the perfect present would be nice but even a little gesture like their favorite snack or giving that most precious commodity of all, your time and attention,can be just as good and perhaps so much better.

 Of course,if you need to buy something,a card always goes over well. Even if the recipient acts like it's not good enough at first,it can win them over in the end: