“The Taste” Gets Downright Gory

February 27, 2013

By Karen

I’ve sunk too many Tuesday nights (and blog posts) into Anthony Bourdain’s cooking competition, The Taste, to abandon it now. But it certainly didn’t bode well when ABC made Wife Swap, featuring 2 has-been reality bimbos, the lead-in to Taste’s new 9 p.m. slot. Even worse, one bimbo was talent-free Kate Gosselin, doing her best to destroy the other bimbo’s marriage. But that’s another post (which I’ll never write).

I think The Taste started the night with 10 contestants, and 3 would be doomed.

The show has only 8 weeks, and they wasted 2 weeks picking 16 freaking contestants so, inevitably, they now must dish out the bum’s rush in bunches.

So much for giving viewers a chance to build allegiance to anyone.

Another pair of “renowned” chefs I’ve never heard of, Frederick Morin and Dave McMillan, judged the immunity challenge. The bar for celebrity guest status has never seemed so low.

This week’s bold twist was to give the winner of immunity a pass on landing at the bottom, no matter how execrable the dish (which was how it played out last week for Gregg).

The night’s theme was guts, and Gregg literally “hogged” this segment by blowing up a pressure cooker trying to boil a pig’s head.

But for the 3rd week in a row, Ludo picked Gregg’s dish to compete. (It’s all about taste, remember? Destroying the kitchen has nothing to do with it.) And for the third time, GREGG WON FREAKING IMMUNITY.

Ludo continued to scream and swear at his team like he hates them — all except his lone female, who returned his goo-goo eyes, like it would get her anywhere.

But Gregg was just getting started with the drama. Cooking for the final challenge, he severed part of a finger (or cut it deeply, we never got a reliable diagnosis). But he soldiered on, and his dish turned out badly.

That’s when Ludo felt compelled to appear impartial, so he roundly bitched out 9-fingered Gregg for his very existence in front of the judges, displaying not only his towering lack of class, but also schizophrenia.

Tony’s team merrily drank its way through prep time, so perhaps it was no coincidence when he got porked in the judging. He lost Uno, who played it “too safe” with BOORRIINNG! shrimp heads, and Ninamarie, who doesn’t like cooking guts and couldn’t make liver delightful enough.

So Bourdain’s down to bitchy Diane, and Nigella’s still got her Mississippi trailer girl Lauren (the night’s sole survivor on the bottom).

Ludo and Malarkey have several apiece. For the record, Adam on Malarkey’s team was the 3rd one sent home.

Next week (which Tony called the “semi-finals”) has something to do with love, and 3 more will get cut.


Bourdain Finally Feels Pain on “The Taste”

February 20, 2013

By Karen

It had to happen: Anthony Bourdain had TWO team members (Mia and Diane) on the bottom. But if any judge deserved sympathy, it’s Nigella Lawson, who lost Huda and is left with only Lauren, the Mississippi trailer home cook.

Sandwiches were the theme, and we all found out how far some culinary hot-shots will go to over-think and muck up a sandwich.

Again, I didn’t know from Adam the two immunity guest judges, Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi.

Tony chose Diane’s pulled pork club sandwich to compete for immunity, but the judges declared it “messy” and “wet.”

Yeah, guys, that’s generally what good pulled pork is, unless it’s dry and inedible (or “unedible,” in Malarkey-speak).

Ludo Lefebvre picked Gregg’s seared tuna sandwich for potential immunity AGAIN. And Gregg won immunity AGAIN.

During the mentoring segment, I think Bourdain said of Ludo’s silly histrionics, “I wish I could understand him, but I don’t speak drivel.”

Really. If there’s any Frenchman who embodies a “cheese-eating surrender monkey,” it’s Ludo.

Karma was sweet in the next competition when Ludo voted Gregg’s sandwich his worst. But since Gregg had immunity, Ludo’s distaste was moot.

As the teams dwindle, I think mootness will begin to trump everything.

In the end, Tony seemed genuinely upset when he sent Mia home for baking (and allegedly burning) her bread.

Diane got a pass on her pork banh mi because her pre-made bread just expanded. But you kinda knew Diane wasn’t going anywhere. She’s found a niche in Tony’s sweet spot with the exotic stuff.

I was in and out of the room, so someone please fill me in. Did I see Diane weeping through some pathetic backstory intended to inspire empathy?

Next week, The Taste moves to 9 p.m., and from the previews, it looks like the challenge may involve guts and “unedible” animals parts.


Weight Watchers® “Almost-After” Pics

February 18, 2013

By Karen

In case you’re new here, I’ve been on the Weight Watchers PointsPlus plan since May 28, 2012 – 38 weeks. I’ve lost 45 lbs. and a few readers have asked for “after” pics, so here they are.

I’d still like to lose 5 more pounds and make it an even 50 (from 177 to 127), but that could take a while. I just came off an incredibly frustrating month-long plateau where pound 134 kept bouncing off and on and I couldn’t get past it, no matter how “good” I was.

But this week I finally broke through that wall and hit 132, so I’m feeling re-energized.

Without further ado, I’ll model for you some clothes I bought and wore just last summer. Seeing myself with them now, I can’t wrap my head around how big I’d let myself get…

As God is my witness, I'll NEVER be mistaken for a shower curtain again!

As God is my witness, I’ll NEVER be mistaken for a shower curtain again!

Before losing 11” in the bust (and still having plenty), I was beginning to worry about buttoning this shirt.

Before losing 11” in the bust (don’t worry, I still have plenty — I’m Italian!), I was beginning to worry about buttoning this shirt.

I thought these shorts looked like clown clothes when I bought them — but they FIT!

I thought these shorts looked like clown clothes when I bought them — but they FIT!

I’m mortified that I actually walked around a cruise ship last spring in those clothes.

I call this my “Jared from Subway” shot.

I call this my “Jared from Subway” shot.

Overall, I’ve lost about 34 inches. I’ve gone from size 18 and 2x to size 10-12 and medium/large (sizing is totally inconsistent).

As my sister says, "Valerie Bertinelli, eat your heart out."

As my sister says, “Valerie Bertinelli, eat your heart out.”

I don’t care what the foodies say. I’ve been on both sides of the fence now, and there’s no food delicious enough to EVER make being overweight (and the lack of attractive clothes and the way you ironically become invisible to people) worth it.


CNN Fecklessly Turns “Carnival Triumph” into Tragedy

February 15, 2013

By Karen

Throwing responsible journalism overboard, CNN dished so much misinformation and ill-informed opinion about Carnival Triumph, with Erin Burnett calling it the “horrific ordeal” of the “Cruise From Hell,” I think Carnival may have a defamation case against CNN.

In case you need it, background: Cruise ship Carnival Triumph had a fire February 10 on the last day of a 4-day voyage from Galveston, Texas, to Cozumel, Mexico, lost all power, and was towed by tugs back to Mobile, Ala., with 3,000+ passengers and about 1,000 crew onboard.

For starters, CNN incorrectly reported the fire was “on deck” when it was confined to the aft engine room and extinguished by the ship’s systems. The ship was never in danger of sinking although, when it drifted, the wind sometimes caught it broadside and made it list.

I had CNN on yesterday until midnight as the ship “limped” (their description) back to Mobile.

Even as their medical expert, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, repeatedly said contagious disease was a remote possibility from the lack of working toilets, CNN insisted on calling the ship “a floating petri dish” of illness.

Passengers who had working phones yesterday reported eating crab and lobster, but CNN kept urging them to describe the “horrors” of cucumber and onion sandwiches from the previous days.

When the ship was within spitting distance of land, surrounded by small boats, a bunch of passengers goofed with news helicopters by spelling out “HELP” with their bodies on the top deck. Others held signs scrawled on bed sheets.

CNN reported all this as desperate pleas for assistance.

Getting real, the worst seemed to be that passengers insisted on using nonfunctioning toilets to overflowing, and some people took dumps anywhere and created a disgusting mess for everybody.

I’m betting the resourceful passengers who created that tent city up top around the pool weren’t the ones shitting in corners.

As for reports of people hogging food, just walk by any cruise ship buffet any day. That’s “normal” behavior.

I’ve cruised 3 times on Carnival, including 2 sailings on Triumph’s sister, Carnival Victory. Last May I was on Carnival Glory. On formal night, a nearby group got roaring drunk and had a screaming fight while they puked in the carpeted corridor at 2 a.m. until Security arrived.

That’s what they do on Canival’s “Fun Ships.”

So I wasn’t surprised that the crew didn’t begin massive cleanup until the last day. They’d probably seen it all before and knew some passengers would just keep making messes.

As the ship came upriver approaching the dock, one brilliant reporter said, “We should see the bow first, then the rest of the ship is going to follow.”

REALLY? Dontcha want viewers to think it might fall apart in the last few yards?

CNN also tried to make a struggle out of passengers offloading their own luggage. It was only a 4-day cruise. The people I saw seemed to have what most airlines would deem carry-ons.

Donny Deutsch claimed Carnival owns “thousands” of ships (which it doesn’t), so they should compensate each passenger onboard with free cruises for life. Yeah, right.

Granted, passengers who had it worst were in inside (windowless) cabins on lower decks because it was dark, hot, and airless. But those are the cheapest cabins so, to be brutally honest, they got what they paid for.

The CREW live in even tighter quarters BELOW the cheap cabins, yet they were expected to continue working round the clock under the same conditions.

I was so glad to hear every passenger praise the crew. Even on a good day, their living conditions are Spartan, and their hours and compensation from the cruise line are inhumane.

If you want to fault Carnival for anything (beyond ongoing failures to communicate), it’s for not having a Plan B when the waste disposal system crapped out. (Couldn’t resist that one!) In fact, they should consider inventing special plastic bags that can be placed in inoperable ship toilets (like trashcan liners) that passengers can use, tie off, and place in proper receptacles in such an event.

If not for proper sanitation, it boiled down to a lack of hot showers, hot meals, lights, and power to recharge smartphones. BUT THEY WERE STILL ON A BEAUTIFUL CRUISE SHIP.

I don’t think you’ll see any victims of Hurricane Sandy shedding tears over the plight of Carnival Triumph. What these people “endured” was no worse than what millions around the world call “life.”

I still believe cruising is safer than just about any vacation on land, and my next one is coming soon — but not on Carnival.

If there’s any lesson to learn from this incident, it’s that cruise ships have become too big. Cruise lines need to stop brainstorming silly ways to make them floating amusement parks with the population of a small town, and get serious about planning contingencies for infrastructure failures.


Trying Not to Hate “The Taste”

February 13, 2013

By Karen

After 2 weeks of competition, Anthony Bourdain pointed out that his team on The Taste is the only one with no members gone, and no dishes ranked on the bottom.

But that’s not to say we’ve been allowed to see Bourdain do any stellar mentoring. In fact, he thoughtfully selected tongue and kidneys as his team’s ingredients for the immunity challenge, and seemed to drink his way through their prep time.

Sure, Tony, you love eating guts, but WTF?

Not surprisingly, no one on his team won immunity. Instead it went to Gregg, the arrogant cooking teacher on Ludo’s team who’s apparently the male bitch-on-wheels counterpart to Tony’s Diane.

I left the room briefly and missed the introduction of the 2 guest judges. Like Gabrielle Hamilton’s last week, their participation seemed gratuitous and negligible,  and I still don’t know (or care) who they were.

But I am figuring out that for a team to win continued mentoring from the guest judge is the kiss of death. This week Ludo’s team won it, and Ludo lost Shawn, whom Ludo personally and petulantly kicked to the curb because Ludo had promised to do so if Shawn’s food went unloved again, which it did.

So much for impartial decisions based on ONE spoonful of food.

This week’s theme was to pair food with wine and, once again, a home cook on Nigella’s team made the “sweet” mistake. She paired a Reisling with some berry dessert and got her ass handed to her for it, although she wasn’t sent home.

OK judges, we get it. Anybody who likes sweet is a total rube with a palate as refined as a slab of cement.

They’re down to 12 cooks now, and I still don’t give a rat’s ass who stays and who goes.

The only person I haven’t come to loathe is Nigella. Bourdain’s so overdoing the jaded world traveler schtick, I actually applauded Shawn when he bristled at having his food dissed by “a guy who hasn’t cooked in 20 years.” (I think it’s closer to 13 years, but whatever.)

What makes for lousy food TV is fleeting glimpses of entire meals crammed onto spoons before the judges wolf them down and discuss them each for a nanosecond.

ABC is boiling it down to 3 arrogant pricks (Nigella excluded) being capricious, and mostly condescending and mean, to hapless schlubs trying to eke out 15 minutes of fame.

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stick this out. The only annoyance missing from The Taste is Padma Lakshmi.


Why Chris Christie Should “Lose It”

February 11, 2013

By Cole

When Chris Christie ate a doughnut on Letterman last week, he claimed to be a really healthy fat person, and had everybody in stitches.

But the jollies disappeared when Christie told Bill Clinton’s former physician, Connie Mariano, to “just shut up” after she said she worries he’d die in office if elected president.

I agree Mariano was out of line speaking about someone who isn’t her patient. But let’s face it. The dangers of obesity are as proven as the dangers of smoking.

And they don’t call it “morbid” obesity because there’s anything funny about it.

Nationally, Christie has overcome the stigma of being a Republican by displaying common sense, directness, and a willingness to work with Democrats. He blew off campaigning for Mitt Romney to accompany Obama on a tour of storm-ravaged New Jersey, to cite just one example.

But if he blows this colossal opportunity to inspire the nearly 70% of American adults who are overweight or obese and do more to help the country get healthier than any garden Michelle Obama can ever plant, he probably doesn’t belong in the White House in 2016 after all.

All the guy has to do is stop making jokes and excuses and step away from the doughnuts.

Being fat has no valid defense. There are myriad excuses, some well-founded, but NONE of them make obesity healthy.

Christie should follow the lead of Mayor Kenneth Wright of Portsmouth, Va., who weighs 400 lbs. and took the opposite tack last week by announcing his intention to lose 100 pounds in a year so he can be a role model to Portsmouth’s 39% of overweight adults.

If Chris Christie could show us he can solve a problem as intractable as his girth, he’d have the Republican nomination — and probably the election — locked up.

Sure, the first few months will be embarrassing when the press catches him huffing and puffing as he gets moving. But men lose weight so much easier than women, he’d start improving quickly, and positive reactions would fuel his motivation.

And it would only get better.

I just don’t understand why he’s fighting it. Christie has nothing to lose by owning up to his weight problem, and everything to gain by losing it.

Besides, at Cats Working we say, if Karen can do it, anybody can…


“The Taste” Finally Gets Down to Business

February 6, 2013

By Karen

According to Eater, Anthony Bourdain’s ABC cooking competition, The Taste, lost 1.3 million viewers when it dragged out team selection over 2 weeks. It debuted with viewership of 6.1 million and took the time slot.

As a die-hard Bourdainiac, I resisted Betty White’s Off Their Rockers and stuck around last night to watch the game begin.

Tony’s all-female gang named themselves “Fierce.” As the first challenge got under way, Bourdain observed his cooks and said he was pleased to have no men and no “bleeping chest-beating.”

Despite claims of putting a fresh spin on food competition, the first challenge was to cook for immunity, the night’s theme was “comfort food,” and the cooks had one hour to prepare each dish.

But they introduced a “surprise guest judge” as sole taster for immunity – Gabrielle Hamilton, author of that dreadful memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter, that Tony claimed he wished he’d written.

Now Hamilton has the distinction of being TV’s first personality-free chef. Had she come across as any more of a nonentity, she would have been invisible.

Conversely, Ludo Lefebvre’s a certifiable asshole whose idea of mentoring is to order a team member to burn chicken skin and to panic and maniacally scream, “Mac and cheese, plate it, plate it, PLATE IT!”

In fairness, there WAS a twist. Each cook made a dish, but Hamilton only tasted one dish per team. So 12 dishes were prepared for the garbage.

Tony’s Ninamarie made a couscous Hamilton couldn’t identify (and in the next round, a chicken dish nobody could identify).

Lauren, the Mississippi trailer girl on Nigella’s team, won immunity with her chicken stew.

Lauren’s success earned for Nigella’s team mentoring by Hamilton for the big challenge, which 2 cooks would lose. The regular judges backed off so they wouldn’t know who cooked what.

In Tony’s kitchen, Diane quickly asserted herself as queen bitch, but then won the night when Tony and Nigella voted her Bi Bim Bap (whatever that is) best dish overall.

Mia’s dish reminded Tony of getting trapped in Beirut in 2006, which prompted him to tell his fellow judges he came right home and made a baby.

That moment couldn’t have been stranger if The Taste had suddenly turned into a musical, with Tony leaping onto the judges’ table to belt out a song.

Lauren insanely (with Hamilton’s mentoring?) made her first shepherd’s pie ever, which Nigella and Tony deemed “too cheesy” (is that possible?). Tony told Lauren, if not for immunity, she’d be gone.

Final judging was swift, but the contestants were all on camera in the background to hear the judges’ comments, but not see their faces.

The cooks were also the peanut gallery as 2 of their own (both home cooks) got the boot.

First to go was Micah from Malarkey’s team, who quit his job for the show. Next was Renatta from Nigella’s team, who dared make apple crumble with brown sugar, which Bourdain told her was a sin against palates as jaded as the judges’.

Slipping into Padma Lakshmi’s stilettos, Tony wielded the hatchet, but he did it swiftly, without insincere praise or faux empathy.

I predict a professional cook will win.

And I expect to see Jose Andres, Eric Ripert, Michael Ruhlman, David Chang, or perhaps Emeril turn up as future guest judges.


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