I would love to have a personal (Top) Chef, if only for one meal

May 31, 2008

I have watched Top Chef for a few seasons, but only this season have I actually wished I could try the food. I was really impressed with the dishes the five chefs came up with at Rick Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood restaurant last week. I am not a “foodie” so I can not appreciate food like “squid emulsion” or “foam.” Unfortunately, my palette is limited to mostly sweet and salty. Remember the blind junk food test from Season One? I could do that! In the past, I had to wait until the last final episode to appreciate how these chefs can create dishes from experience, how they can adapt the ingredients into their recipes, and how they can cook a meal in thirty minutes without a microwave! This season, you can’t just be a good chef, your food has to have meaning; the “foodies” have to feel your love, your passion, your soul. In a perfect world, my own personal chef would emerge happily from the kitchen and in a friendly manner discuss the courses for the evening meal. It would be so different from a server reading “tonight’s specials” at a restaurant. My personal chef would explain the whole history of the meal, from conception to birth: how he or she shopped for special ingredients to make my meal healthy and memorable: found the certain fresh vegetables at the market for the salad, and how he or she came across this one exotic fruit for the dessert. For a brief moment I could pretend I was a “foodie” about to be served dinner with love. I guess the the feeling I’m imagininging is “nurtured” and I am reminded how far I have gotten away from the “nourishing” aspect of food; meals have become just things to whip up and woof down. Although I would enjoy the pampering a personal chef would provide during a dinner service, I would want him or her to help me make my own positive connections with food. Is it possible for me to get excited about shopping for ingredients or do I have to out-source this ability? Is the goal of a personal chef to get you into a dependent-on-them lifestyle or to teach you to be more independent?

For more information try these links: The American Personal & Private Chef Institute and chef2chef a culinary portal

PJ

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Chef Spike could not revive his frozen scallops {Top Chef}

May 30, 2008

The Quickfire Challenge this week was a vegetarian’s nightmare. The chefs had to show their “butchery skills” at Allen Brother’s meat plant and cut seven chops with a “frenched bone” from an American raised long-boned rib-eye, USDA Dry Aged Prime Rib rack in 20 minutes. After returning to the Top Chef Kitchen, each of the five remaining chefs had to cook a tomahawk chop in thirty minutes. Spike, a grandson of two butchers, soared through both parts of this challenge, and as a reward he was able to have first pick of ingredients from Rick Tramonto’s kitchen in Rick Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood restaurant. For the elimination challenge, each chef had to create an original appetizer and entree. Chef Tom Collicico took on the role of “Expediter” for the dinner service. Tom’s quiet demeanor was quite a switch from Chef Ramsey’s famous freak-outs in Hell’s Kitchen. Previous Top Chef winners Harold Dieterle (Season One), Ilan Hall (Season Two), and Hung Hynh (Season Three) were invited as the judges’ VIP guests. (I must say that Ilan looked a little out of place wearing a brown tee-shirt)

Stephanie won the challenge with her Sweetbreads with Golden Raisins & Pine Nuts appetizer (she was proud that she could make sweetbreads taste like Chicken McNuggets) and her Beef Tenderloin with Wild Mushrooms & Apple Sauce entree . Richard’s Hamachi with Crispy Sweatbreads, Radish, Avocado & Yuzu appetizer was the favorite dish of the evening, and Lisa’s Peanut Butter Mashed Potatoes was the best side dish. Chef Tom thought that Antonio’s entree tasted best out of all the steak dishes.

Lisa and Spike wound up as the bottom two, Lisa was at the bottom for the fifth time. I think Padma saved her because she thought Lisa had “an amazing pallet.” The frozen scallops turned out to be Spike’s downfall. Spike tried for a long time to drain the water out of them with paper towels, but he still could not turn them into fresh scallops. Moreover, at the Judge’s Table Spike told Rick that he shouldn’t have had scallops in his walk-in that “weren’t high quality.” (Ouch) Rick rebounded with, “I’ll take that shot, bro. I had frozen scallops in my cooler, but you got to take the shot that you used them.” On the positive side, working in Rick’s hot kitchen made Spike remove his signature silly hat. I really hope he tossed it into the wood burning oven. Next week the four remaining chefs head off to Puerto Rico. Will there be an all women final three?

PJ


Matt, Louross, and Jenn crash and burn in Hell’s Kitchen

May 28, 2008

Chef Jenn looks so sweet in this photograph, but her teammates saw a different side this week. Jenn managed to lose the first challenge by not putting sauce on two of the dishes. For their punishment, the Blue Team had to become a maintenance crew and scrub the outside of the restaurant. Lourross tried to lighten the mood by pulling his work outfit over his head to which Jenn said, “You’re stupid and you got a wedgie.” Bobby thought Jenn was being bossy and said the quote of the week: “I come in peace, but if you break my sanctuary, you will feel it.”

Both teams completed dinner service (barely) this week, but still managed to gross-out Chef Ramsey and his guests. Petrozza was busted for putting dirty lettuce leaves in a shrimp cocktail. Louross sent out raw steak, prompting Chef Ramsey to cry, “Raw Steak!!!” and round up the Blue Team to come over and “feel the meat.” Is this what really goes on in a restaurant kitchen, or just a TV kitchen?

Matt wins the gross-out award for letting sweat from his forehead drip into pasta water (Ramsey said that was the reason the customers were sending the appetizers back for being too salty). Matt tied a dinner napkin around his head to try to fix the problem, but Ramsey just made fun of him for wearing a diaper around his head and acting like a baby. “This is not The Simpsons, Homer,” he said to Matt after the dinner service. Cory begged Matt to “cook like a normal person,” but nothing helped.

Meanwhile, Jenn undercooked her first dessert which prompted Ramsey to tell her to “F*** Off!”

Ramsey let Petrozza pick two teammates for elimination as well as choose which one of them should go home. Petrozza chose Louross for his lack of skills. Then Ramsey called Matt and Jenn forward and told them to take off their jackets and switch teams because he was “unconvinced by the both of them.”

To Jenn: “you may be able to manipulate your team, you can’t manipulate me.”

To Matt: “You’re lucky to be here. Look around. You’re out of your depth.”

Needless to say, neither team was happy about this switch.

But as usual, Gordon had the last word: “Louross was never short on energy. He was just short…(pause)…on cooking skills.”

From the previews it looks like Matt becomes even crazier next week. I predict Ramsey will eliminate Matt or Jenn (or both) next week.

PJ


First family’s ranch could be Ellen and Portia’s wedding venue

May 28, 2008

On May 10th in Crawford, TX, the the first family let Jenna have her day away from the political climate in Washington, safely ensconced at the ranch surrounded by family, friends, and the Secret Service. I thought the first family’s first wedding would be a footnote in the mainstream press, but the May 26th edition of People Magazine featured the festivities on it’s cover. Jenna’s nuptials were given all the schmaltzy reporting schmooze of a celebrity wedding.

Although Jenna chose to have her wedding at the family ranch in Crawford, her plans to offer the ranch for weddings to her celebrity friends could generate the same excitement as White House weddings did in the past.

Check out ABC’s Jack Trapper’s blog post:

Political Punch

Power, pop, and probings from ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is ABC News’ Senior National Correspondent based in the network’s Washington bureau. He writes about politics and popular culture and covers a range of national stories.

Jenna Bush tells Ellen She Can Use the Ranch for Her Same-Sex Wedding

May 27, 2008 10:49 AM

–>People Magazine reports that in an appearance on Ellen to air this Wednesday, First Daughter Jenna Hager (nee Bush), sitting with her mother First Lady Laura Bush, tells Ellen DeGeneres that she can use the President’s ranch in Crawford for DeGeneres’ pending same-sex wedding with actress Portia de Rossi.

“So, the ranch was a great place to get married,” DeGeneres says, “it looked like nobody could fly over and get pictures or bother you, really.”

“Yeah,” says Hager, “that was really nice.”

“So, can we borrow it for our wedding,” DeGeneres asks. “Can we get the ranch?”

“Sure,” says Hager.

“Okay, great,” says DeGeneres.

– jpt

Jenna Bush is either a Republican Repel or an American Ambassador for Equal Rights. Hopefully, W will continue to support his daughter. Jenna’s post-wedding publicity tour for her charitable causes will most likely generate more press (both mainstream and tabloid) than her actual wedding.

It’s been 37 yeas since President Nixon’s youngest daughter, Trisha, had the first outdoor wedding at the White House.Trisha was featured on the cover of Life Magazine in 1971 as well in a multi-paged feature story showing off all her wedding gifts. In July of 1985, Life Magazine also featured Caroline Kennedy on the cover. She beat out Sarah, The Duchess York (aka Fergie) who wed Prince Andrew that month as well. There was synchronicity in both weddings in the same month: America had it’s royal family, too. Life reminisced about Caroline: how she rode her pony, Macaroni, on the White House lawn and how she posed for a wedding photo beside husband Ed Schlossberg on the beach where she “summered as a child.”

You can still get those happy feelings of yesteryear by reading blogs like dallasbrides.wordpress.com and weddingbee.com, whose writers have knit together past and present histories of family celebrations and American Presidents. I found the following links to be interesting:

1) The White House Weddings site

2) Family Life at the White House page at the official White House Website

3 ) NPR weighs in with their article White House Weddings: Fuel for Capitalism

4) Take a look at pictures of past white house wedding memorabilia (Circa. 1966 bag of rice, Circa. 1886 satin covered cake box) in the Life and Death at the White House page at The American Presidency website

PJ


Jessica sent home becuase of an “easy” Golden Retriever {Groomer Has It}

May 26, 2008

For the “On the Cover” elimination challenge, groomers found dogs at the Long Beach Recreational Dog Park to model for a chance to be featured on an upcoming cover of Groomer To Groomer magazine. Jessica was sent home this week because she chose a Golden Retriever named Puget who, according to the judges, was “too easy to groom” for a “Western Dog” themed photograph.

Groomer To Groomer magazine features “editorial” cover photographs, and I learned from watching America’s Next Top Model that “editorial” means artsy and fashion-forward. According to eliminated grommer Sarah Grace’s blog, guest judge Emily Willis,Vice President of Creative Services for Groomer To Groomer, “explains that they want to show a professional groom on the cover, but also one that demonstrates creativity.” However, on the Groomer To Groomer web-page, there are two past covers that don’t feature creative cuts (the third is a dog groomed to look like a basketball).

Aside from the winner, Kathleen, whom Artist said her “Circus Dog,” Scruffy, looked like he had been dipped in acid, the judges had negative feedback for everyone. In the end, Jorge squeaked by based on his results in past challenges. Not only did Jorge do a poor job of grooming Chloe, an American Cocker Spaniel, but he appeared to have “walked his dog through paint” according to Jessica. (Personally, I would have selected the Harlequin Great Dane (below left) that was at the dog park for a “Formal Dog” themed photo shoot because his coat had tuxedo colors)

Despite the judges’ criticisms about Jonathan being a poodle-only groomer, Emily Willis liked Jonathan’s “Disco Dog” themed poodle the best, even though the fur resembled a big cloud of blue cotton candy. Jonathan also trimmed the head of his poodle in an attempt to create an afro. (Huh?)

Jasper and Artist put forth the most effort this week: Jasper groomed and painted his Terrier mix to look like a “Super Football Fan,” complete with a “hairy chest and hairy back.” The hairy chest/back feature thoroughly grossed out metro-sexual judge Xavier, but proved that Jasper can be creative. Artist challenged himself by choosing a Briard, a breed of dog he has only seen once in South Central for a “Rock and Roll” themed photo.

I can’t wait for next week because the dogs will judge the groomers (via a pet psychic) to select a winner. This will be a first for Reality TV!

PJ



“They shall not grow old…” {Memorial Day}

May 25, 2008

They shall grow not old

As we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them

Nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun.

And in the morning

We shall remember them.

By: Laurence Binyon


A Poem for Memorial Day by Walt Whitman

May 25, 2008

COME UP FROM THE FIELDS, FATHER
Walt Whitman

Come up from the fields, father, here’s a letter from our Pete,
And come to the front door, mother, here’s
a letter from thy dear son.

Lo, ’tis autumn,
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio’s villages with leaves
fluttering in the moderate wind,
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and
grapes on the trellis’d vines,
(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?)
Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent
after the rain, and with wondrous clouds,
Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful,

and the farm prospers well.

Down in the fields all prospers well,
But now from the fields come, father, come
at the daughter’s call,
And come to the entry, mother, to the front door come right away.

Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous,
her steps trembling,
She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor
adjust her cap.

Open the envelope quickly,
0 this is not our son’s writing, yet his name
is sign’d,
0 a strange hand writes for our dear son,
0 stricken mother’s soul!
All swims before her eyes, flashes with black,
she catches the main words only,
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast,
cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.

Ah, now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all
its cities and farms,
Sickly white in the face and dull in the head,
very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.

Grieve not so, dear mother (the just-grown
daughter speaks through her sobs,
The little sisters huddle around speechless and
dismay’d),
See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will
soon be better.

Alas, poor boy, he will never be better (nor maybe
needs to be better, that brave and simple soul),
While they stand at home at the door he is
dead already,
The only son is dead.

But the mother needs to be better,
She with thin form presently drest in black,
By day her meals untouch’d, then at night
fitfully sleeping, often waking,
In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with
one deep longing,
0 that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent
from life escape and withdraw,
To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead

son.

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