“The Taste” Leaves a Bad Taste

February 21, 2014

By Karen

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

And I lose 16 hours of my life I’ll never get back. (Well, 12-13. I DVRed so I could zip through commercials.)

Last night was the finale of Anthony Bourdain’s cooking competition, The Taste, and two of my three picks to win, Marina and Lee, made it in to the final 3.

The ultimate challenge was to prepare a spoonful each of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in 2 hours. All the cooks had the benefit of coaching by Jacques Pepin. Pepin had earlier picked Marina’s chicken testicles as the winner of a challenge, making her the first home cook to reach the finals.

During that first challenge, Marina was even gracious enough to help Bourdain and Lee learn to use a pressure cooker to prepare tripe, without missing a beat herself.

Eliminated in that first challenge was Jeff, one of the strongest cooks, for a steak. This shocked me because Louise served undercooked lobster but, once again, she skated through.

On what planet does underdone seafood trump a freaking steak??!!

What became the repeating chorus for the whole episode was, “Nobody who plays it safe and makes steak deserves to win.” Remember that.

Now, fast-forward to the ultimate 3-dish challenge.

The dishes were (by my simplified descriptions, omitting the aoli and ramoulade, etc., BS)…

Lee: (B) Parmesan flan with a quail egg and asparagus, (L) Crab cake, (D) Steak with pureed cauliflower.

Marina: (B) Egg McMuffin with a quail egg, (L) Pork belly spring roll, (D) Short ribs with kale

Louise: (B) Quail egg with tomato sauce, (L) Oyster po’boy, (D) Steak with crispy potatoes and red wine sauce

In the end, Lee lost, Marina came in second, and Louise won. With, basically, steak and French fries.

Nothing against Louise, but she coasted through it all being a relatively mediocre middle-of-the-pack cook. And in the final moments, Pepin stepped in and salvaged her breaking wine sauce.

Marina, on the other hand, was daring, wily, bizarre, cooking things no one had ever tried. She deserved to win. She was robbed.

And poor Lee. He sabotaged himself by going all gooey over fellow contestant Cassandra, who was in the audience for the finale. They even gave Lee and his lady a touching scene backstage, forcing Louise and Marina to watch the lovebirds suck face.

If this mess is renewed for a 3rd season, unless I come down with selective amnesia, The Taste is joining Top Chef as a show I don’t watch. Enough already.

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Time for Football to Come Out

February 18, 2014

By Cole

So this hunky defensive lineman at the University of Missouri, Michael Sam, announces he’s gay, and the football world goes into a tailspin.

Will Sam still get picked for an NFL team? Will other players tolerate him in the locker room? How will the fans deal with it?

Well, let a cat address the elephant in this room…

Football is already the gayest sport EVER.

Karen doesn’t know I occasionally watch football on weekends when she’s out running errands. But as a red-blooded, all-American tomcat, I have enjoyed rooting for my teams. The Missouri Tigers would be a college example, along with the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, and Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL.

And this is what I see…

Grown men prancing around in extremely tight, short pants that they must find so fetching, they can’t resist touching each other’s butts.

When they aren’t playing grab-ass, they spend inordinate amounts of time posing in intricate formations like chorus girls rehearsing some Busby Berkley extravaganza.

When someone manages to actually throw the ball, they all use it as an excuse to crash into another player and engage in full-body hugs before everybody flings themselves on top of each other in a heap.

And while they have a mass dry-hump on the ground, the crowd watching from the stands cheers them on.

Golf has its sissy outfits, and baseball has men swinging their bats, but neither can hold a candle to the gayness of football.

Football players are typically brawny and think they’re tough — as long as they CAN think — because the evidence is in that the sport scrambles some of their brains beyond recognition. It’s a high price to pay for a game that delivers 3% action and 97% snooze time (which is why cats like it).

But as Michael Sam proves, gay has no particular body type. If Sam does get in to the NFL, out-of-shape couch potatoes who waste endless hours following this feckless sport had better have their cardiologists on speed dial.

I predict that players they’ve idolized as ruthless killers on the field will start making some shocking confessions, revealing that the locker room has never been the testosterone-soaked sanctuary everybody thought it was.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But let’s face it. American’s have a worldwide reputation as silly prudes. Yet we’re obsessed with watching men engage in fully padded orgies — wearing helmets.

How much kinkier can you get?


Bourdain Flirts with His Final Frontier

February 12, 2014

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain’s final frontier is ocean travel. Sure, we’ve seen him chugging up fetid rivers, snorkeling, and catch a few stunt fish, but he’s never filmed an hour of TV on the ocean.

At the upcoming South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Anthony Bourdain is hosting “An Evening Aboard the S.S. Wolfsonian” with Azamara Club Cruises on February 21 at the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum. At $1,500 a plate, it’s already sold out, but the proceeds go to the Wolfsonian and the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, so it’s all for a good cause.

According to Azamara’s press release, this was Bourdain’s idea, and he got inspiration for dishes from the Wolfsonian ocean liner menu collection. He’ll be overseeing the dinner, prepared by Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, and other celebrity chefs.

Bourdain will share hosting duties with one of Azamara’s captains.

Didn’t Tony make at least one transatlantic crossing to France as a child, possibly on the Queen Mary? Unfortunately, true ocean liners have passed into history, and in his career as a globe-trotter, I’ve never heard Bourdain be anything but dismissive of today’s cruise industry.

Could that be about to change?

Azamara is a relatively unknown, more upscale brand of Royal Caribbean Cruises. Azamara has only 2 ships, and its sister lines most familiar to Americans are Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.

Azamara ships are smaller, and feature a casually elegant experience, with an English butler’s services available to suite passengers. Fares are higher, yet more inclusive than mass market lines (most alcohol is included), yet not as inclusive as top-tier lines like Crystal and Seabourn, who also throw in airfare and most shore excursions.

It’s far from the first time a cruise line has used a celebrity chef to embellish their brand. Jacques Pépin is executive culinary director for Oceania Cruises, another top-tier line.

Norwegian Cruise Line has adopted Cake Boss Buddy Valastro and Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian to design menus for its newest ships, Getaway and Breakaway.

And even Carnival has a celebrity chef — Guy Fieri. He’s perfect for the line that attracts the diners, dives, and drive-in set.

But I don’t see Bourdain planning Azamara’s menus. I see him as their spokesman.

Speaking of Carnival, who could ever forget Kathie Lee Gifford and Richard Simmons dancing on the decks, singing about “Fun Ships?”

If Azamara could get Bourdain to become the face of their more refined brand, he could potentially kick the whole industry’s reputation up a notch (well, not Carnival’s — he’s only human).

Bourdain could help the cruise industry shift the focus away from its ships being floating amusement parks, back to the time when a sea voyage was considered the most special way to visit exotic places.

I could see Royal Caribbean and Norwegian grabbing that life preserver, quickly following suit to distance themselves from the “Do Whatever — We Don’t Care” attitude they’ve foolishly promoted of late, to the detriment of their ships and their reputations.

But Azamara has one big hurdle ahead: They’ve got to get Bourdain on a ship.

I’d love to see a Parts Unknown episode filmed on Azamara. He’s always talking about wanting to make each episode unlike anything he’s ever done before. So…?

Wining and dining Bourdain is a good first move, Azamara. Keep it up.


GOP Says: If You Hate the Job You Have, You Should Keep It

February 10, 2014

By Karen

If you wake up every morning wishing you’d died in your sleep because you dread facing another day at your job — but you drag yourself to it anyway because you need the health insurance — Republicans think that’s exactly how you should live.

That’s the message the GOP is crowing loud and clear in their deliberate misreading from the CBO report that the Affordable Care Act will cut 2.5 million jobs over 10 years. They’re slavering at the prospect of employers tossing several million more workers into the gutter.

They’re thrilled to claim that Obamacare will trample the little guy, yet hypocritical enough to label it a bad thing, as if their own raison d’être isn’t to destroy the 99% in the name of further enriching the 1%.

Unfortunately, what’s they’re saying is all lies.

The CBO report actually says…

CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor.

People will cut back on hours, retire early, or start their own businesses because THEY DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT LOSING THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE.

Lack of portability is one of the most corrosive aspects of our healthcare system. Just for insurance benefits, companies have people on the payroll just going through the motions of jobs they hate. Have you ever gotten no help whatsoever from a so-called “customer service” rep? Yeah, that’s who I’m talking about.

Those miserable souls who are nothing more than deadwood on the payroll, contributors to workplace dysfunction, can now move on and be happy.

This one bona fide silver lining in the Obamacare mess has the GOP wallowing in a La-La Land fantasy of the death of the American workplace as we know it.

Just read John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Orrin Hatch all being quoted by Fox News. You can almost feel them drooling.

The bottom line is that employers never should have put themselves in control of anybody’s health insurance in the first place. Being employed and getting medical care should be mutually exclusive.

But hindsight is 20/20.

For all its many flaws, the ACA is taking the country in the right direction in breaking the link between healthcare and employment — for those who can get decent policies for a reasonable price on the exchanges.


Hooked on “The Taste” in Season 2

February 3, 2014

By Karen

The Taste has seen 4 weeks of actual competition, and I’m hooked. Bourdain, you magnificent bastard. I tried to walk away, but you pulled me back in.

It was a golden TV moment last week when Jacquelyn, that pink-haired POS from Nigella’s team, delivered her coup de grâce by walking off the set — and the show — leaving Nigella teamless. Nice way to repay Nigella for eliminating the clearly more competent Crystal so Jacquelyn could live to cook messily another day.

So now Nigella’s reduced to eye candy. Wasn’t her team also first to wipe out last season?

That’s my one peeve: does Nigella always have to look like Morticia Addams in jewel tones — long-sleeved, low-cut, and tight? It’s inappropriate for cooking and made her attempts to whip her kooky crew into shape seem even more futile than they were.

Even that crazy Sophia Vergara wannabe who was eliminated the first week accused Nigella of doing it out of spite because “Sophia” wore higher heels. I wouldn’t be surprised, after seeing Nigella draped across the backstage sofa as if she’s waiting for someone to peel her a grape, while the men all sit up like adults.

Another must-see moment was when Tony out-maneuvered Ludo with a well-timed can of Spam to win a team challenge. But then Tony had to screw up by using pasta to “go green.” I like the increased focus on mentoring strategies.

You had to cheer when that annoying home cook/blogger Audrey got eliminated after her teammates accused her of not cooking “up to their level.” At least it spared us any more of her delusions of blogging fame.

Ludo’s natural dickishness is being used to best advantage to heighten the drama between him and Bourdain. And Marcus Samuelsson is playing the wildcard extremely well.

And who could forget the sad little cross-team romance between Ludo’s Cassandra and Tony’s Lee? Ludo couldn’t resist flirting with Cassandra (who returned the favor). But in the end, Ludo’s passionate defense of her tasteless falafel couldn’t save her, so now Lee cooks in Cassandra’s memory.

I think my favorite is Ludo’s Marina. You gotta love a woman who sticks to her Asian ways right in Ludo’s face, puréeing pork and boiling beef with mad abandon, and it works. After her, I’m betting on Bourdain’s Lee to place, and his Shellie to show.

All in all, the loosened format does seem to allow Bourdain’s diabolical side to shine, and we know that’s always a good thing.

BONUS…

The Bourdains have new digs, a $3M+ double condo in New York City off Fifth Avenue. For that kind of money, they could have bought the governor’s mansion in Virginia. The Real eStalker published some information about it.

Here’s how the place was configured by a former owner. The bedrooms’ layout is pretty strange, and the galley kitchen is tiny. But it looks like they’ve got lots of room for MMA thrown-downs.

And here’s the actual listing. Tony should prepare himself for lots of mail, now that his address is splashed all over the Net.

Last week, Bourdain turned up on The View, but who I’d really like to see on the sofa is Ottavia, perhaps demonstrating a choke hold on Barbara Walters.

Andy Greenwald at Grantland did an entertaining hour-long audio interview with Bourdain recently that I recommend.

Tony and Ottavia gave a great joint interview to SB nation, where Tony confirmed he’s really embracing jiu-jitsu, and also that’s he’s working on a prequel to his graphic novel, Get Jiro!

I’ve enjoyed the vast majority of Bourdain’s “bus stops,” as he likes to call his various endeavors, but Ottavia never fails to add her special flair when she’s included. She’s becoming quite a personality in her own right.

PS: Congratulations to Bourdain and his fellow producers. The Producers Guild recently gave Parts Unknown the Outstanding Producers Award.


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