Thursday, February 26, 2009

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire

Does this person look like a winner?

Pools of outrage, disgust and blind fury are flooding my eyes. I just watched the Top Chef finale and I am irate. As I’ve stated and probably overstated, this season has been – to use yet another bad food metaphor – a bit less than delicious albeit still somewhat watchable. Now, with last night’s finale, what was a stale season has curdled and become putrid with the appointment of “douche boy” Hosea as Top Chef. Honestly, his entirely unmerited victory makes a complete mockery out of the establishment that is Top Chef and is an injustice to past winners whose titles actually stood for something. I’m so mad I can barely see straight enough to type this.

I wasn’t even paying attention to most of the episode because I was so confident that Stefan – the only remaining deserving cheftestant – was a cinch to win. One of the only things I remember about the show was how stupid and even more Neanderthal-esque Hosea looked with that ridiculous, asymmetrical soul patch growing on his hideously receding jawline. It adds insult to injury when an already offensive looking person goes and does something like growing a soul patch. No good can come of it, so please boys, shave them off. The look works on no one, but especially not on appropriately nicknamed “douche boy”.

The only other minutely interesting snippet that I can recall from the episode was that for once Toby Young wasn’t the biggest fool in the room, because inexplicably “jazz legend” Branford Marsalis was present and had only two things to say, both of which made Toby’s comments seem like divinely received words of wisdom: “It’s really cool sitting around listening to chefs talk cause they talk just like musicians,” and “I agree with just about everything everyone’s said.” What a complete and utter dolt. If one has nothing interesting to say, say nothing at all, especially if one is being filmed.

Only did I spring up and actually pay attention when Padma delivered the unbelievable verdict that it was Hosea, not Stefan who had received the lofty title. My partially digested food made a move to escape from whence it entered my body and I uttered a cry of stupefied horror. The show has now lost all credibility and I am seriously considering not watching the next installment. I feel like the producers owe Stefan as well as all the previous seasons’ winners a giant apology for so harshly tarnishing the meaning of what it is to be Top Chef.

And now, I’m not only outraged, but perplexed – did other people actually like Hosea? Though I’m normally an astute viewer, maybe he had at least one redemptive quality that in my Jeff-induced trance I somehow missed? Seriously, if you can think of even one reason why this backwoods Cro-Magnon is deserving, send it my way. Until then, I shall remain in my outraged, nauseous state, so please hurry.

Monday, February 16, 2009


This is our final four? So many words flood into my mind when I ponder the way this season of Top Chef has panned out, including but not strictly limited to: disappointing, regrettable, lamentable and perplexing.

I just don't get it. I'm not sure what went wrong with Bravo's carefully oiled culinary machine, but a wrench of indiscernible shape, size or origin seems to have been thrown into its wiring. I don’t know if it’s because of Padma's déclassé outfits, or because Gail Simmons and Anthony Bourdain are gone, or the fact that the obscure-movie-referencing, woefully unknowledgeable troll known as Toby Young has replaced them, but this season is just not as sumptuous as those of an earlier vintage.

I think it was when we lost our last shining hope of a happy outcome at the end of the season (Cheftestant Jamie) that I truly gave up. It's hard for me to even work up the zeal to write anything at all about these mundane remaining four aspiring chefs. But I guess - for lack of having anything better to do that this hour of the night - I will write a brief summary of our remaining four. From crappiest to least crappy:

Hosea - I don't get this guy. I mean, he's strictly mediocre yet because someone else has always screwed up worse than he has, he's still in the game. With his weirdly oblong head and back-woods hick appearance and am disinclined to trust him. I mean, he would be fine - he wouln't even cross my field of vision - if he left somewhere in the middle, but because he's in the finale, I simply can't stand for this.
Chance of Winning: 0%

Fabio - I don't hate him. I guess he has a winning personality as the judges keep attesting over and over again ("I wanted to spend the whole day with him" - Gail Simmons), but his Italian stallion charms just don't work on me. His food seems solid though lacking the innovation of say a Jamie or a Stefan.
Chance of Winning: 30%

Carla - The same case that was made for Hosea can be made for Carla. She's been pretty mediocre throughout the show (albeit she has impressively come on strong recently!) and has only survived because of others' misfortunes. I like her, though. She's quirky with those bizarre bug eyes (a former model? Seriously?) and the way she keeps comparing herself to a turtle is oddly fitting. Also she's tall, and I have a soft spot for tall women.
Chance of Winning: 0%

Stefan - I don't really care for Stefan; the villanous status that Bravo shamlessly tried to adhere to him never really held as well as the one with which Hung (Season 3) was branded. He's not really all that evil or conniving, nor for that matter is he loveable or endearing. Again, he's pretty mediocre, though I do like the fact that he has a crush on Jamie (who doesn't?). Despite my wishy-washy feelings toward his personality, I will admit that if anyone but Stefan wins, this season will officially qualify as not only boring but completely unfair. He's just an all around superior chef to everyone else (with the possible exception of Jamie).
Chance of Winning: 70%

Jamie -
Should have won. Should not have been voted off. By far my favorite cheftestant aside from my culinary boyfriend Jeff. She is included here for honorary purposes only.

Mendocino Murders

So on Valentine’s Day I was informed by my friend Clare of some sad and shocking news: John Nettles – who plays the shrewdly dapper Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby in Midsomer Murders – is leaving the show at the end of this season. For those of you who haven’t seen it but are fans of cozy British mysteries, Midsomer is simply the most guiltily delectable. For the past 12 years, Nettles and a delightfully incompetent, fish-out-of-water, city-savvy sidekick have been sweating it out in Midsomer – a quaint but inexplicably deadly county in which no less than 200 people have been murdered. As they plunder the depths of the county, they uncover wrongdoings – infidelity, blackmail, incest, you name it – as incongruous with the picturesque countryside as they are evil. Mixing cozy, granny-esque elements like book clubs and high tea with improbable and oft ridiculous murder is simply a divine combination and this show should truly not be missed.

So as the intelligent reader may have already concluded, I was crushed by the news that Nettles is planning on leaving. This is really pretty huge news to a diehard fan like me and while I wish him the best in his career, I spent the better part of V-day thinking that there was no way the show could go on without him. But now I’ve hatched a plan that, if followed out, will not only turn the lemons that blossomed when John told us this grievous news into lemonade but will perpetuate the brilliance of the show and give me a job as well!

So here’s the deal: As dedicated fans already know (yawn, old news), while DCI Barnaby has remained a constant character throughout the series, his sidekick has changed three times. The show started with the adorably inept Sergeant Troy – a cute, slightly wet behind the ears, darling who gave the show a sort of comic softness that Barnaby alone could not provide. While I was distraught when I learned that Troy left the show, I was surprised to discover that the show didn’t suck without him.

Phase 2 (Post Troy) featured a new sidekick – Sergeant Dan Scott – who, while not as bumbling as his predecessor, was equally loveable and even better looking. Phase two was a success!

While I haven’t progressed this far in my viewing of the show, I do know that in 2005, the tides again turned when Scott left the show and was replaced by DS Ben Jones. While I haven’t seen any of these episodes, I’m going to venture a guess that Phase 3 (Post Scott) still has had some of the glory of its two former phases.

Now, for Phase Four (Post Barnaby), I have an ingenious solution for what to do with the loss of Nettles. He should be replaced by me and Clare and the name of the show should be changed to Mendocino Murders.

This will successfully bring new life and scope to the enterprise, and provide me with a job amidst this abysmal economy. Mendocino Murders is something Clare and I have been discussing for ages, and once years ago we commissioned and starred in a highly controversial detective play in which Clare played the inspector and I the suspect. Thus, we have plenty of experience. I suggest Clare should be the main inspector (she’s British, so it will be a fitting homage to Midsomer even though the show will now be set in California), and I the sidekick, but we can work all of that out in pre-production.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Looking Perfection in the Eye

And now for something completely different. Here, friends, I give you a video clip that changed my life. This is the very end of Third Man and yes I do recommend you watch the full movie, and no seeing the end won’t ruin the entire film. It stars the inimitable Joseph Cotton and the legendary Orson Welles. But really, this clip is the best part of the movie and – dare I say it – perhaps the most cinematically perfect ending of any film ever. It’s so rapturous in its gentle simplicity, so poetically tragic and succinct it brings me to tears. The score is inspired, the long-take cinematography gorgeous, the whole thing is utterly flawless.

To think that I first glimpsed this small wonder in – horror of horrors – my Clint Eastwood class in which my professor inexplicably showed it to us in an effort to make us appreciate Eastwood more, though it probably did the opposite by pointing out how flawed his films are in comparison. But from that moment on, I was a changed woman. I went home and found the clip on YouTube and spent months hunting down the ethereal and haunting zither music of Anton Karas. I had been touched like someone who had had a religious vision or whatnot, and I too felt like I had seen the light. I had witnessed perfection, stood eye to eye with it, perhaps even grazed it a little, and now was never to be the same.

So please, watch and savor the delight of seeing something so wholly perfect.

Too Much of a Good Thing

The past 24 hours have been regrettable on so many levels, one of which being that I woke up at the ungodly early hour of 7 (I typically don’t rise before noon) only to find that in last night’s compromised state I had fallen asleep with my head flat on my keys. That’s not great. I’m not even sure how that’s possible.

So what did I do at this impious hour of the morn? I tried to fall back asleep. Those of you who know me are aware that I can readily fall asleep almost at the drop of a hat. I’ve been known to pass out in classes, movie theaters (habitually), or even at the dinner table (this was a problem when I fell asleep during the second course of my friend’s graduation dinner). But for some reason, this morning sleep just was not – and is not – coming.

It was during this foggy hour – head reeling, stomach turning, eyes bloodshot from the unfamiliar morning light – that I turned to my old friend, Arrested Development, in hopes it would lull me gently back into the pillowy folds of sleep. As I’ve already established, this did not happen; something else, something infinitely more tragic and regrettable happened. I discovered I can’t watch Arrested Development anymore.

I’ve killed it. And it was quite possibly the best thing that ever happened to me. Discovering Arrested Development was like happening upon a secret group of best friends I never knew I had but who were mine and only mine. Nothing could come between us. They were always there when I needed them, waiting to make me laugh when I was having a bad day, or - as previously stated - soothing me into sleep when I needed to pass out. I mean, seriously, what other friend is that consistently there for you in a bind? (Other than a pet, which I am not allowed to have in my apartment.)

But now that my love affair with the Bluth family has been going on for years, and I’ve seen and re-seen every episode an embarrassing number of times (no, I won’t tell you how many), I find that I just can’t keep doing it anymore. It’s making me feel like I’m in a continuous cycle of humorous but demented depravity, and that’s not a good thing. And I feel bad turning my back on my old buddy, especially one that has given me so much: namely, someone to look up to and aspire to be like (Lucille Bluth), and monikers for my cats back in California (Buster and Lucille – I know, I did pick super names, thanks).

Granted, I have found new vices, new best friends – such as 30 Rock – but these Johnny-come-latelies will never replace or take away the beauty, the sheer brilliance, and phenomenal synergy which runs so abundantly in Arrested Development. Thus it makes me sad that while objectively I can still appreciate the miracle that is the show, I can no longer actively partake in it. And Arrested Development isn’t the first friend I’ve lost either – I also lost Clueless, the lunch specials from Thai Market, and the Bee Gees all from the same gluttonous overindulgence.

So I am issuing a warning. I must pace myself. As much as I love to passionately throw myself into things and embrace every inch of them, I must slow down. So I will be strictly moderating my 30 Rock intake from now on (if only that Alec Baldwin wasn’t such a gloriously wolf-like hunk), as well as perhaps my alcohol intake (even though I strive to live every day Like Lucille Bluth) to avoid more fates like sleeping on my keys or writing weird things on Kelly Rutherford’s IMDB message board as I did several days ago.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Werewolf Bar Mitzvah

Behold the unencumbered brillance that is 30 Rock. Ladies, gents and "freaky-deakys," I give you Tracy Jordan's masterful single from one of his albums. Watch, listen, bliss out.

Things I Hate: Magnolia Bakery

Those of you who know me are aware that I am trying to turn over a new leaf by thinking more positively about life. This has been working out pretty well so far, but today I find myself in a black mood. While normally I would shake it off by telling myself “it’s not a big deal” or “relax” or “just go drink it off”, today I am reveling and even justifying this black mood. Here’s my rationale: I’m not being negative about my own life (I still think I’m pretty awesome) – I’m irritated by the unbelievable idiocy of many of those who surround me. Today has been one of those tiresome days when the remarkable stupidity and sheer lunacy of mankind seems to be drawn towards me like the proverbial moth to a flame making it ever more difficult to assume the best about my fellow man. While I won’t bore you with the more personal of these irksome occurrences, I will enlighten you with a morsel I think we New Yorkers can all relate to (and hopefully all detest): Magnolia Bakery and its lemming-like followers.

Today I was peacefully enjoying the glorious weather in the Village when I happened upon that undeservedly packed sham that is Magnolia Bakery. As per usual, there was a crowd that less resembled humans than farm animals wrapping well around the block. I say this not to sound unnecessarily harsh but because these people vapidly queue up like lambs to the slaughter only to be shamefully branded with one of those pathetic little cupcakes which they then parade around the neighborhood like doltish, empty-eyed prized heifers showing off their first place ribbons. It was a totally disgusting human spectacle, the sort that – like watching a trainwreck – I couldn’t stop watching. I also couldn’t resist shouting “Overrated” to hopefully deter a couple of people who perhaps didn’t realize how meretricious these cupcakes really are. But none were deterred.

I finally was forced to stop my bloodthirsty exclamations after Jonathan told me that I was “being a douche.” Though I really don’t care what any of those people thought, I did feel slightly guilty. It was then that I decided to take my protest from the oral to the global realm via my blog. This way more people can read, understand and hopefully agree with my detestation of Magnolia Bakery.

My reason for hating Magnolia are twofold:
  1. 1. This is largely personal reason and isn’t a valid argument, but I think cupcakes suck. I don’t eat sweets at all really, but the reason isn’t because of the massive and repulsive amount of empty calories, but because I don’t like the way they make me feel. The only time I change my tune is when something really wonderful, delectable and rare is brought before me. Give me a piece of fattening, gourmet cheesecake, or a handmade chocolate ganache, and I’ll happily and guiltlessly indulge. But for the life of me I can’t understand the trend of stuffing one’s face with sub-par sweets. Things like Tasty Delight just baffle me because if you are going to eat something sugary (which in my opinion should be rarely), then do it right. Go for the good stuff, don’t eat mediocre shiz on a regular basis. And in my opinion, Magnolia cupcakes qualify as strongly mediocre. So next time you are going to grab a cupcake, look elsewhere – not only are Maggys 389 calories each, but they taste lame and aren’t really all that cheap!
  2. 2. The other reason is the hype. I hate hate hate when things are popular only because of media attention. We all know how the media can be responsible for spurning misinformed, generalized beliefs; one such culprit is SNL. Before the election, the show helped solidify a mass impression of Sarah Palin as dense and grossly irresponsible, which – while she clearly was – may have influenced voters who had no other basis of knowledge about Palin to vote against her. While it was people – not the media – who were responsible for electing Obama (thank God!), I don’t know how I feel about celebrity and media endorsements of such issues even if they do selfishly benefit my particular agenda. By the same token, SNL (along with that dastardly Sex and the City) helped plug Magnolia Bakery in its skit “Lazy Sunday,” contributing to the public’s unquestioning and fervent frequenting of the shop.
I urge you to be personally responsible for your own actions; thus, if you truly like cupcakes and think Maggys is actually the best, then fine. Go there. But otherwise, you owe it to your body and your soul as a not-completely-optionless consumer to go elsewhere in search for a fix of your sweet teeth!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Farewell, My Lovely

This is old news to any Top Chef fan worth their weight in black truffle oil but necessary nonetheless. This past Wednesday was a sad day because cheftestant Jeff – that cute little apple of my eye, that Dr. Chase resembling little Romeo, that culinary boyfriend of mine – was asked to pack his knives and go. In tribute to Chef Jeff, a limerick:
There once was a chef from Miami
who cooked with strange things like haloumi,
despite his sweet blond tresses
he never wore no dresses,
Oh Jeff, how we miss you already!
Jeff, that was a poor excuse for poetry, but it will have to suffice. Anyways, know that your memory lives on in we dedicated Top Chef fans, and that - amidst a sea of bald men (Colicchio, Young, Stefan), your pretty, blond mop top will be missed.

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters

Evidently my wicked ways have caught up with me for today I clearly evoked the wrath of some entirely mirthless god. I warn you, stop reading right now if you don’t want to relive the horrific, skin-crawling, nausea-inducing wretchedness of what occurred on this fateful, woebegone and cursed day.

The day started out fine enough. I awoke a bit hungover but blissfully unaware of the terror that lurked irrevocably around the metaphorical corner of my day. Still couched in the sleepy ignorance of the as-yet-untainted morning, I caught an F train and went back to my apartment. From there I puttered around for a bit (being lazily unemployed, I do quite a bit of puttering), perhaps whistling a few bars of one jaunty tune or another, still with no ominous feelings for what was to come. Then it happened: like the idiot who opened Pandora’s box, I moved my dresser and just like that my nightmare scuttled – literally – into reality.

It was a centipede of vile and epic proportions. It had a plethora of all too vivid sinewy, long legs and these absolutely disgusting weird feeler-antennae things emerging on both ends of its grotesquely lengthy body, giving the impression that it had two heads. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I googled “disgusting insect with long legs” and it came right up because I guess I’m not the only one who has been stirred into a tizzy by these little monsters. Someone under the alias of 3verlasting Hero even said in an off-topic video game forum that the centipede is one of the the two "scariest loking bug/animal[s] in the world" and I couldn't agree more. I took this picture amidst my freakout:

It was a fast little sucker too and so entrancing in its abhorrent disgustingness as it crawled out from behind the dresser that for a full 20 or so minutes I just stared at it not knowing what to do. Then rational thought finally intruded upon my still hypnotized mind. I decided it had to be either taken outside or killed. I tried to get a cup and piece of paper to trap it, but the thought of getting close enough to trap it was way to scary so I quickly abandoned that idea. Then I picked up a book and thought of squashing it, but – though I stood poised with book in hand for many a minute – I could not bring myself to do it. My reasons were two-fold: I really didn’t want to imagine the icky squishing sensation that would occur were I to fling the book at the mischievous devil, and additionally, I was so mesmerized by its profound, multi-legged ugliness that I halfway respected it.

So I did the third best thing, which was call my parents to ask them what to do in my time of crisis. Let me tell you now, they were entirely unsympathetic and I hope they read this. They told me I was being silly and my dad mocked me with his oft-invoked, shaming saying: “And you still think you’d be a good contestant on Survivor? You wouldn’t last a day out there!” He then chided me for waking him up so early in the morning (3 hours earlier California time) and hung up on me.

Somewhere during their onslaught of disgust at my wimpiness, the creature in question disappeared. One second it was on the ceiling, the next it was gone without a trace – it could have been anywhere! Driven near insane by the paranoid sensation that it was everywhere on my body all at once, I ran into my roommate’s room and hid there debating what to do. I couldn’t call one of my chivalrous, brave friends asking them to rescue me because most of them were at work, so I called my fellow unemployed friend Zander and asked him to talk me down from my highly distressed state. He was a total pro and was much more understanding than the rents, let me say. Finally we decided that the best course of action was a defensive one: escape! It was clear that – like Harry and Voldemort – neither the insect nor I could exist while the other survived. So I threw on a random assortment of clothes and ran from the house and was gone all day. I have only just returned now, and I’m still shaking in my mini-boots. I’m sure he/she is lurking in my bedding or in one of my drawers just waiting to send me into another state of apoplectic terror. Centipede be warned, you are messing with someone who next time may actually work up the courage to throw a book at you, or at least get someone more brave to do it for her. Either way, its war.