Monday, June 23, 2008

Amuse-Biatch Heterosexual Monday Queery: Which One of These Women Turned a Gay Man Straight?

The answer, possums, is, Both of them. Jane Russell did it for ole Howard Hughes (who reportedly imported Randolph Scott from North Carolina, only to lose him to Cary Grant), and Nigella Lawson has done it for us.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Black Hammer Strikes Again: Antonia Lofaso Tries to Eliminate Yet Another Competitor

Possums, we were as surprised as anyone to learn of Antonia Lofaso's deadly reputation as the Black Hammer. And now comes independent confirmation from Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic for our local rag, the LA Weekly. Gold recently served as a judge in a cook-off between Lofaso and Los Angeles chef Fred Eric at the Taste of the Nation benefit for Meals on Wheels, and this is what went down:

Lofaso, after raising her hands over her head to acknowledge the crowd, somehow brought her chef’s knife down into Eric’s hand, where it plunged almost to the bone.

It was not an intentional move, at least no more intentional than the Celtic knee that found its way into Lamar Odom’s groin in game five of the NBA finals, but while Eric went to get taped up, Lofaso set to work on her competition dish, sautéing mushrooms, pan-roasting duck. After 15 minutes had passed, Eric strode to the front of the stage, stripped out of his street clothes to reveal a Lakers uniform underneath, and announced that he was going to prepare a raw-food dish with the provided juicer. “Eat it raw,” he said.

The crowd groaned; Eric seemed doomed. Lofaso appeared to be almost done cooking, and her food smelled great. Eric, tossing poblanos and habaneros into the juicer like so many carrots, had barely started, and what was coming out of his machine looked like sludgy wheatgrass juice. But when the buzzer sounded, and the first plates were put in front of us, Lofaso’s fresh spring rolls turned out to be the sort of thing you can find at any Asian small-plates café in Los Angeles, competently assembled but without a special spark. Eric brought out one of the most beautiful composed salads I have ever tasted, small lettuces and bright vegetables and willowy stalks of wild asparagus arranged into a rustic still-life, a Cornell Box of a salad held together by a brilliantly spicy lime-chile vinaigrette. He had literally spotted his opponent 15 minutes and competed with one arm behind his back, and he still won a unanimous decision.

Nice try, Antonia, possum. Just remember for next time: do it when there aren't so many witnesses around. It's Law & Order: Criminal Intent 101.

Reunited and It Feels So...Meh

Some of you have asked, possums, and the answer is yes, we did watch the reunion special. And yes, we ought to have written about it yesterday, but frankly, we were still simmering a little from the bait and switch. For a couple of days at least, Bravo had been running promos for the reunion practically on a loop, during which the newly chipmunk-cheeked Dale Talde was seen sternly saying, “That is the one thing I am not going to talk about now,” or words to that effect. So of course, there is nary a sign of that statement, or the circumstances that prompted it, when the reunion actually airs. Not to put too fine a point on it, but WTF?

If we’re a teensy bit cross, it isn’t because we think, though we had hoped, that Dale’s statement (or the question that led to it) would have contained some earth-shattering revelation. Rather, it’s because the bait and switch manifests a lack of respect for the audience and (justifiable) lack of confidence in the show.

We’ve admittedly come a ways from the first season reunion, which included free-flowing alcohol, and the second season, when there was no reunion because of a well-based fear that first- or second-degree homicide might be broadcast on national t.v., but really, to paraphrase original chefbian Gertrude Stein, there was not a lot of there there.

And from the other clips posted on Bravo’s website, it appeared as though there was another reunion show, a more entertaining and revealing one, that, because of editing, we simply didn’t get to see. Mind you, the impression that we got from the reunion show that did air was that there was another more entertaining and revealing Top Chef: Chicago that, because of editing, we simply didn’t get to see. Look, we understand that with so much footage, and only around 40 minutes per show, editing choices have to be made; we’re just puzzled that so many of those choices fell on the less entertaining side of the line.

Perhaps this was the year of the woman, or the year of the chefbian, or perhaps it was decided that rampant if unconscious homoeroticism—er, “bromance”—was so last season, Howie-and-Joey. And yet. This is Bravo, for fag’s sake. How they could have resisted airing, “I’m not gay but I’d probably let him bang me,” is absolutely beyond us. Andrew D’Ambrosi as a power bottom—who knew? (It becomes even more entertaining when paired with another unaired clip from the season where Andrew talks about how Richard always comes in and takes charge, and he, Andrew, loves it.) Or Spike’s unconsciously revealing statement, “We’ll be boys forever”; yes, Spike, that’s exactly the problem, BFF or not.

Still, there were a few things we liked about the reunion special:

There was the moment when Andrew was told that viewers suspected he was smoking something stronger than cigarettes, and those naughty Bravo editors cut to Padma Lakshmi. That was the most lowdown, dirty thing on the show, and it was great. Eisenstein would have been proud, boys!

And how about the implication by Raggaydy Andy that Mark’s was a green card marriage to avoid having to leave the U.S., and Mark’s seeming concurrence? The “man soup” (or should that be “man stew”?) footage certainly won’t help his interview with the immigration authorities, will it? That’s how we think Mark would say it; the reunion made us miss his deadpan delivery all over again.

Having seen a copy of the application that contestants seeking to be on Top Chef have to sign, we understand how onerous the contestants' promotional obligations are; potential contestants sign away their lives. We remember the brouhaha over Harold Dieterle being forced to participate in that shticky, Season 1 vs. Season 2 cook-off thing that aired right before Season 3. He was busy with his restaurant, and did not want to participate, but, according to newspaper reports, his feet were held to the contractual fire and he had to schlep down to Miami anyway. As such, we had to smile when Richard Blais thanked Bravo for allowing him to participate via satellite from Atlanta, instead of having to miss the birth of his first child in order to schlep to New York to participate in the thankless reunion.

Well, Bravo, so much for our culinary boner.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Doing It for Zoi: The Return

So it turns out the finale took place during Lisa's girlfriend's birthday, and Lisa wanted to win so she could buy the girlfriend something nice with the hundred-thou. And it turns out Dan Barber has a personality and is adorable, and Richard is funny and geeky about Star Wars (shocker, that). So why didn't we get to see all of this stuff during the regular broadcast? For one thing, it might have livened up a rather pro forma finale. We rather suspect we didn't see it because, by humanizing Lisa and showing Richard as less of a victim, it detracted from the predetermined narrative arc.

Gay Network Contributes to Demise of Gay Relationship?

Exclusive! DSM-IV Releases Video Companion

For your reference, possums.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

“Top Chef” Shocker! Nikki Cascone Refuses to Serve a Hungry Raggaydy Andy!

So it's Monday night, possums, and Raggaydy Andy Cohen, Bravo's Senior VP of Production and Programming, and, as it happens, one of the producers of Top Chef, has just seen a "gut wrenching" play about the Iraq war. His gut having been wrenched, it was also in need of a little sustenance, and that's when disaster struck:

After the show, we wandered around Soho looking for a spot to eat. I guided us towards Prince Street and Elizabeth to the restaurant where Nikki Cascone from "Top Chef" is executive chef. It was only 10:25 and we were told the kitchen was closed. WTF? Do we live in DES MOINES or whaaaaayt?

Possums, we sympathize. What's the point of producing "the #1 food show on cable" if you can't even get a meal? And Nikki, Nikki, Nikki--we picture the Staten Island bouffant deflating atop her head as she realizes the magnitude of her faux pas.

And while we're on the subject of darling Nikki, a faithful and inquisitive Amuse-Biatch reader, N., wrote in with an intriguing possum query:

"I heard...that Nikki posed in playboy way back when she was very young.
Have you heard this or seen the pics? I'd love to find them but so far, no luck."

First of all, N., possum, it's understandable that, given our rather large collection of racy Padma pics, you would assume we'd be intimately familiar with Monsieur Hefner's work. Alas, we have not seen an issue of Playboy apart from the one our clearly misguided Secret Santa gave us during our freshman dorm gift exchange. And so we turn to the possums (especially those of you—you know who you are—with extensive collections under your beds). What say ye? For the record, we think it highly unlikely that a nice girl from Staten Island would do that sort of thing. On the other hand, Playboy is looking for Olive Garden "servers" to pose for a pictorial, so one never knows.

The Lisa Effect: Miss XaXa Turns the Other Cheek

Oh possums, and here she thought she was just going to be called fat.

Yes, indeedy, possums, Miss XaXa has discovered that she has a fan:

Dear Miss Xa Xa [sic],

I think that you should stay away from the Louboutins and save you [sic] money for an updated timepiece. You might also want to add a little color to your wardrobe and not shop the sale rack at White House Black Market for a while (black and white blouse-always v-neck-just [sic] a [sic] ever so slightly diffrent [sic] pattern). Oh darling, I almost forgot- how about updating the coiffer [sic]. Good luck- I hope to see some improvements soon. Chow! [sic]

Oh, possums, to be “read” by someone who appears functionally illiterate—the horror, the horror!

And where to start? First, a word about the “timepiece.” Miss XaXa celebrated her fortieth birthday in April, and ‘twas yours truly, possums, who in April sprang for that pricey little ‘piece as a suitable commemoration of the achievement. And now to be told, a mere two months later, that the time has run on the “timepiece”—the horror, the horror!

Of course, Miss XaXa was in hysterics—of the good kind, possums—at the realization that at least it’s a White House / Black Market employee doing the dissing. “D’you think I could use her employee discount?” she asked in between hiccups and sobs. You see, it was the very fact that she hadn’t got her outfit on sale that was most galling to the ‘Xa. The ‘ Xa is an equal-opportunity shopper and loves herself a bargain, and so the idea that just two weeks ago she paid full price at White House / Black Market for the dress is the worst insult of all. “D’you think I could get the difference back? I’d take a gift card.”

(And here we thought that “White House Black Market” had something to do with yellowcake uranium and 16 words; oh well, “diffrent” strokes for “diffrent” folks.)

One thing does puzzle us, though. What on earth is a “coiffer”? Is that like a fluffer? If so, we must get ourselves one immediately.

Oh, and while we’re at it, we should mention that the photos accompanying this post should also be considered responses to the possum who asked for XaXa cleavage and to the possum who worried that, since she never sees the dark side of the moon (i.e., Miss XaXa’s right side), Miss XaXa might be starring in her own version of the Joan Crawford weepie, A Woman’s Face. Think of it as Amuse-Biatch turning the other cheek, just for once.

UPDATE: Michelle Obama defends Miss XaXa. Watch at the 12:40 mark as Mrs. Obama confesses to getting her dress, fittingly (and fittedly) enough, from White House / Black Market.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rhubarb Bellini, She's Our Baby, Rhubarb Bellini We Don't Mean Maybe

Never let it be said, possums, that we don't listen to what you say. Ask and ye shall receive (well, within reason, of course).

You asked for the recipe for Stephanie Izard's rhubarb bellini, and we set out to get it. Miss XaXa wrote to Stephanie, asking how to make the rhubarb puree to be added to the champagne or prosecco, and this is the reply from Stephanie herself:

thanks for your interest in the rhubarb bellini. umm... i don't have the exact measurements but here's a quick guesstimate, 4 cups of chopped rhubarb 1 cup of sliced strawberries, 1/4 cup of white balsamic vinegar and half a cup of sugar and cook in a pot until tender then puree!

In addition, Stephanie confirmed that she will be participating in the Chicago Green City Market Chefs' Summer BBQ Festival on July 17 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Lincoln Park. Proceeds go to support the non-profit Green City Market, which, as you may remember, played host to one of this season's Quickfire Challenges. Other participating chefs who also appeared as guest judges this season are Rick Bayless, Paul Kahan and Koren Grieveson. So if you want to meet Stephanie, be sure to get your tickets.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Amuse-Biatch Photoessay: There's a First Time for Everything*

*by which we mean, possums, not just that Stephanie Izard is the first female Top Chef, but, rather, that for the first time in memory, while taking a photo with a cheftestant, Miss XaXa did not show cleavage. (And sorry, Google pervs, Stephanie didn't show any cleavage either.)

At the reception in her honor, held a few hours ago at Chicago's Le Passage, Stephanie Izard proved as charming, earthy, and unaffected in person as she appeared onscreen. Rather than manifest abject terror when faced with one half of Amuse-Biatch, Stephanie got into the swing of things and had a good dish with the 'Xa. (Mind you, the 'Xa had been rendered perfectly harmless by two (or three?) of the Stephanie-created rhubarb bellinis.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Judges Ask for Scratch Paper and Show All Their Work

From Zagat Buzz:

“…picking a winner sure wasn’t easy, Ted Allen told the Buzz at the James Beard Foundation awards. ‘This year, for the first time when we chose the winner, Tom [Colicchio] suggested as a part of making the decision we do some numerical models. It did help.’”

Very interesting, possums, n’est-ce pas? It suggests that the outcome was very close indeed, and that 30 Rock itself came very close to being dismantled brick by brick by angry Bravo viewers.

Silver, Not Bronze

Redemption and second place. It was the Dale Levitski story last year, and it was Lisa Fernandes’ turn this year. Congratulations.

“You’ve won the fucking bronze medal. Congratulations. There you go.”

Poor Richard. We really do feel sorry for him, and sorry that the above-quoted statement came back to haunt him thus. Miss XaXa believed from the very beginning that Stephanie would win ("I told you so, I told you so" has been ringing in our ears for a few hours now), but in our opinion, the title of Top Chef was Richard's to lose. And yet, as he so courageously admitted, he choked, and he choked up. Most choke-making of all is this detail from judge Ted Allen's blog:

The day after the finale shoot, waiting with [partner] Barry [Rice] for our flight, I saw Richard wandering alone through the airport in Puerto Rico. He looked dazed. And I felt so sorry for him. He was, of course, ever gracious to everyone after the battle, putting on a brave face with cast and judges alike for post-show drinks in Old San Juan (at 6 a.m., no less), congratulating Stephanie with complete sincerity, thanking the producers. But at the airport, in the clear light of day, it was obvious that the finality was hitting him. Nobody fights that hard for second place.

Or, in this case, third. Hélas!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Breaking News: Brian MFMalarkey Latest Victim in Attack of the Killer ToMFMatoes!

As you may have heard, possums, the killer tomatoes are upon us. The original love apples are now the subject of a warning from the Food and Drug Administration because of a salmonella outbreak.

The most recent victim is Season 3 cheftestant Brian Malarkey, since, as The San Diego Union-Tribune reports, “at the elegant Oceanaire Seafood Room downtown, diners this week will savor heirlooms fresh from a California farmers market instead of Arizona.”

Oh no! The horror! But there is more:

“At fine dining restaurant The Oceanaire Seafood Room, chef Brian Malarkey was also on the telephone yesterday, swapping out tomatoes grown in Arizona, another state not on the FDA list, for fresh-on-the-vine heirloom tomatoes from the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

Malarkey said he has had to make swift adjustments to menus before, as with the spinach scare in 2006. At that time, the restaurant substituted arugula for spinach in menu items from Oysters Rockefeller to salads.

“It costs us a little more, but when a (food) bomb like this goes off you take the extra step so your guests are comfortable,” Malarkey said.”

Again, the horror! Just imagine it—having to put up with “fresh-on-the-vine heirloom tomatoes” from one of the nation’s foremost farmers markets instead of eating tomatoes trucked in from out of state! What a horrible thing to have to do to diners! MFMalarkey, we feel your pain, possum.

News from the Department of Social Awkwardness

As you may remember, possums, last week’s elimination challenge in Puerto Rico was held at the Governor’s Palace and was hosted by the first lady, Luisa Gandara Acevedo, who made the briefest of appearances, just long enough for her name to flash onscreen.

Having seen the hostess, we wondered where the host was. We remembered having read about Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá in the newspaper recently, and when we went back and had a look, we began to get a better idea of why the governor may not have wanted to appear on t.v. with a whole pig.

From The New York Times, March 28, 2008, edition:

Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá of Puerto Rico, charged in a federal indictment…with campaign finance violations, denied any wrongdoing and vowed to remain in office and fight the charges. Among the 19 criminal counts he faces are tax fraud and using campaign money to pay for family vacations in Miami; Orlando, Fla.; and China; to pay for $57,000 worth of “high end” clothing; and to pay personal credit card bills….The indictment, from a grand jury investigation that lasted more than two years, also charged 12 associates of Mr. Acevedo on the island and in the United States mainland with participation in illegal fund-raising. Mr. Acevedo, 48, said he would surrender to the authorities on Friday. He faces up to 20 years if convicted on all counts, the authorities said.

Oh dear. Well, possums, you know what they say—pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Dining Out with Tom Colicchio

Sometimes, possums, any comments would be de trop.

From Grub Street's interview with Tom Colicchio and his wife:

Does a faux-hawk make you a better chef?
I don’t think it’s like a Samson thing, where your faux-hawk gives you strength. In fact, I don't think anyone who’s had a faux-hawk has won.

What about Hung?
I would not classify that as a faux-hawk.

So do shaved heads make you a better chef?
That’s just great. Men with shaved heads are always better. Just ask my wife. [To wife Lori Silverbush] Aren’t shaved heads great?
Silverbush: Much easier on the thighs.
Colicchio: [blushing and laughing hysterically] That was off the record!

Uh, uh, we wouldn't even know where to start. That, of course, didn't stop Miss XaXa: "So wait, what's the soul patch for?"

Travels with XaXa

From time to time, possums, a girl needs a pick-me-up rather than a pick-up, a little something to scratch that itchy place that Louboutins and Valium just can’t reach. Recently, I found myself in just that frame of mind, and so I did what any other Southern girl in my position would do—I called up my BFF, the lovely and game Miss R, and we went home.

Home in this case is St. Simon’s Island, located off the Georgia coast, equidistant to Savannah and Jacksonville, Fla., in a region known as the “Golden Isles.” St. Simon’s Island and its neighboring “sisters,” Sea Island and Jekyll Island, are not exactly off the beaten path, and yet somehow manage to be something of a hidden gem. That is the particular charm of St. Simon’s Island, what keeps me coming back time and again, and what makes me miss it when I am away.

Something else I miss is a mean and properly prepared martini, and so I always make it a point to head to my favorite restaurant and watering hole, J.Mac’s Island Restaurant and Martini Bar. J.Mac’s—and the handsome, bowtied fella of the same name who greets all comers at the door—exemplifies the spirit of St. Simon’s Island, elegant and full of charm, and yet warm and not the least bit stuffy. When Miss R and I walked through the door, there was Laurs, as usual, at the helm of the Martini Bar, ready to make a martini as mean, as mellow or as dirty as a girl is in the mood for, and he did right by Miss R and me.

Miss R and I then headed inside the restaurant for a meal that made for a truly memorable evening. The kitchen at J. Mac’s is headed by Chef Connor Rankin, who came fresh from a long stint as sous-chef at the renowned Matthew’s in Jacksonville, Fla., where he trained under Matthew Medure, an award-winning chef with a storied tenure at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island.

We began with Chef Connor’s superb spin on the classic oysters Rockefeller. I consider myself a bit of an oyster connoisseur, and have dined several times in the restaurant that created the dish—Antoine’s in New Orleans—and Chef Connor’s version was the equal of Antoine’s, if not actually superior. When a woman’s toes curl inside her Louboutins, that tells you everything you need to know. Miss R’s toes did their own share of curling during an encounter with a luscious lobe of perfectly seared foie gras accompanied by a blackberry and port wine reduction. The delicately flavored soft shell crab and the escargot with wild mushrooms, spinach, and a sherry and parmesan emulsion were standouts as well (and yes, possums, Miss R and I, like real women everywhere, have healthy appetites).

That healthy appetite served us well for what followed—seared Angus fillet with caramelized onions, Gorgonzola gratin and mushroom jus; pan-seared red snapper; and that night’s special, pistachio-crusted ivory salmon in a delicate mustard sauce, with the nuttiness and crunch of the pistachios complementing the buttery taste and texture of the fish, and the mustard playing against that same buttery quality. It was complex, sophisticated, and almost sensual, unlike anything I’ve ever had.

Chocolate and jewelry rarely disappoint, and since canary diamonds weren’t on the menu, Miss R and I knew that at least we couldn’t go wrong with the chocolate and hazelnut crunch soufflé with orange Grand Marnier crème anglaise. It’s wonderful to be proven right, and it was the perfect end to a superb and memorable meal.

Chef Connor’s friends are forever trying to get him to apply to be a contestant on Top Chef, and following that meal, Miss R and I were only too glad to add our voices to the chorus.

J. Mac’s Island Restaurant and Martini Bar
407 Mallery Street
St. Simon’s Island, GA 31522
(912) 634-0403

“Top Chef” Shocker! Colin Powell Ogles Padma Lakshmi!

A Noticeably Thinner Tom Colicchio on How to Outrun a Bear (Reputation)

We must confess, possums, that we are relieved our eyes are not deceiving us (always an issue when one's eyes are bigger than one's mouth). For some time now, at least since last year, we have noticed that Tom Colicchio has become less loveable--that is, there is less of him to love.

And now, brings us the crushing realization that we might be ever so slightly responsible:

I have to ask you how you feel about being what's known in the gay community as a bear.

Whatever! [Laughs] It's fine. I'm very comfortable with my sexuality.

How did you find out about your status there?

You get little rainbow-colored bear things. They just show up in your mail one day, and you know you're an honorary member. No, you know, I read the blogs. It's kind of funny. I think my wife found it one day. She e-mailed me and said, "Tom, guess what? You're an honorary bear!"

Did you know what that was?

Yeah, I knew what it was. I'm in the restaurant business. I've got plenty of gay friends. I get a kick out of it. But I took it as someone saying, "You need to lose weight." I started running after that.

Poor Tom. And oh the irony of it. The bear movement was in part supposed to tackle the crippling body fascism that plagues the Gays, but in Tom's case it has had the opposite effect. And to think we might have been unwitting agents of Muscle-leanies' Black-Teeshirts! Oh the shame of it! So, for the record--Tom, possum, we were not calling you fat.

And possums, do read the rest of the interview, where Tom pegs Ilan Hall as "immature" and discusses the pressure (or lack thereof) to crown a female Top Chef.

Amuse-Biatch Heterosexual Monday: Padma Lakshmi Reserves a Table with No Reservations

Thursday, June 05, 2008

More Horse's Ass Than Horse-Hung-Huyhn

Via Gawker.

Update: According to a comment on the original Gawker post from Heather Fink, the auteur of the, er, short film, Bravo has made the priapic Spike take a cold shower: "Sorry guys, the powers that be said I had to remove it for the time being. Oh the awesome power of the boner ..."

We wonder if "the powers that be" were the reason the YouTube video featuring Dale Levitski and Project Runway's Steven Rosengard was so swiftly taken down after we posted it.

Amuse-Biatch Photoessay: Antonia Lofaso’s Pigeon Peas ARE Fully Cooked, Thank You Very Much

With Friends Like These: Amuse-Biatch Presents the New Obama Girl

Tom Colicchio Hopes the Chicharrones of Logic Will Leaven Conspiracy Salad

From Tom Colicchio’s latest entry (one his best ever) on his Bravo blog:

Alas, we had to let Antonia go, which of course has brought a wellspring of vitriol from the theorists on our message boards. Therefore, I’m compelled to give my once-a-season response to those cynics out there who insist we make our decisions to manipulate the ratings. If I sound defensive, I think I’m entitled: Let’s just say we were the types of judges that, in exchange for scaling the breathtaking heights of reality TV, yielded to the producers directives, in order to play to audiences. Wouldn’t that mean we would have let Lisa go?

For the uninitiated: the bulk of the Top Chef season is shot over six grueling weeks some months before the show airs….While we’re shooting, I have very little contact with the contestants….We see tape of the chefs' interviews, and clips of them cooking, bonding, or fighting only after they’ve been cut into the final episode. It’s thus impossible for us to draw anything other than the most cursory conclusions about the chefs, much less figure out ratings that don’t yet exist, or who will eventually be "villain" or fan favorite.

If we had been able to somehow able to figure this out ahead of time and thereby act upon it, Tiffani would have been booted early in Season One (or Stephen, take your pick), Marcel would have never made it to the head-shaving incident, Sam would have won Season Two hands down on the female vote alone, and Tre would have stayed, despite screwing up, because he was such a likable and competent guy. In fact, we would have been compelled to ignore all of his subsequent mistakes because he had been such an able contender up to that point.

It seems that the theory-that-just-won’t-die has surfaced yet again because of Lisa, who has enraged people with her defiant, arms-crossed Judges' Table scowl. She’s clearly not as loved as some of the other chefs who have been sent packing, leading to the conspiracy theories: They kept her for the ratings! I can see why some take issue with Lisa -- she’s been called out on the carpet a number of times and somehow seems to hang on. I think Lisa, along with a few chefs from past seasons (Dave Martin and Mike Midgley are two that come to mind,) benefited from a phenomenon I call the "lucky-dog-who-keeps-skating-by-effect," in which a chef of decent, but not stellar, skills gets lucky and doesn’t screw up at precisely the moment that one of their more gifted opponents does. And since we judge each week’s Elimination Challenge on its own merits, we are operating each time under the assumption that everyone still cooking deserves to be there.

Possums, after reading this, we are tempted to believe that Tom shaves his head with Occam’s Razor.

Be sure, then, to read the rest of Tom’s blog, as he goes on to explain the whys and wherefores of Top Chef judging as it stands. If you’re still a cynic, think of the fun you’ll have using his words against the show the next time the judging (or, perhaps, the editing thereof) is inconsistent with the stated principles! (Say, for example, during the Scallopgate episode, where the Magic Voiceover (an editor’s insertion) at Judges’ Table recited how many times Spike and Lisa had been on the bottom, suggesting that cumulative performance does get taken into account.)

Amuse-Biatch Photoessay: “Top Chef” Hostess Padma Lakshmi Foils Series Sponsor Glad by Wearing Reynolds to Bravo “A-List” Awards

The Sous-Chefs Speak Out

“Commando-in-Chief” Tom Colicchio Mentions Antonia’s Ouster and Other Unmentionables

Tom Colicchio on Antonia Lofaso’s ouster: The decision was unanimous, “she just choked,” “it was telling…very few people were around her table…”

Tom Colicchio on even more, er, pressing concerns: he does not wear thongs, but may go commando. He prefers boxers to briefs because “I don’t like things clinging to me.”

(“He needs roomy unmentionables?” asked Miss XaXa, her eyes widening with glee.)

Also, he “can’t deal with clingy girls.”

Duly noted, Chef.

Amuse-Biatch Photoessay: Tygress, Tygress Burns Bright in the Forest of the Night, Frames Her Own Fearless Symmetry

Nights of Malta: Richard Blais Wins

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Antonia Lofaso: Wilo Weep for Me

Amuse-Biatch Photoessay: Miranda, Carrie and Charlotte Try to Ignore SaMANtha’s Sex Change

Amuse-Biatch Answers Possum Request

Earlier today, an anonymous possum pleaded, "Can we get some Stephanie cleavage?" Never ones to ignore our possums' pleas, we set to work. Alas, this, possum, is the best we could do on such short notice, but it does have the virtue of having been taken in Puerto Rico during the filming of tonight's finale. Enjoy.

Sigmund Freud Rolls in Grave as Drunken Groupie Answers Age-Old Question

As you may know, possums, once upon a time Sigmund Freud asked the most profound question in our history as a species: Was will das Weib? What do women want?

Sad to think that one answer to that might just be: Spike Mendelsohn.

To wit:

[Spike] Mendelsohn says the exposure for him [from Top Chef] was tremendous, despite the drunken groupie who climbed up the side of his apartment building one night. (He says he put her in a cab and sent her home.)

Straight women of America, enlighten us, please.

Scallopgate: The Final Words

Possums, as Spike Mendelsohn so amply demonstrates, some people just do not know when to shut up. The good thing is, it makes our job much easier; it leaves us with nothing to do but to present the evidence to you, possums. The conclusions practically draw themselves.

Here then, in the simplest version of compare and contrast, we have the blog of Top Chef culinary producer and former Season 1 cheftestant, Lee Anne Wong, and the most recent interview that Spike has done.

First up, Lee Anne:

Here’s the deal: This episode was all about partnering with Allen Brothers, a wonderful Chicago based meat and seafood company, well-known for its steaks….

The Allen Brothers tie-in to the Elimination Challenge was that they donated a bulk of the proteins for the challenge. Keep in mind, as the culinary producer, it’s my job to keep within my food budget for each episode, and the budget’s never as big as you think it is. I worked with Chef Rick [Tramonto]’s corporate chef, Greg Biggers, on making sure the fridge would be stocked with a plentiful variety of proteins and produce for our contestants to work with. However, Tramonto’s was not donating this product -- we had to pay for everything we requested and used. Chef Greg sent me his inventory list with current prices attached and I had to budget out what we could order and what could be donated. While this is not uncommon, I want you to understand why I got the scallops donated, rather than pay for 5 lbs of them. There’s nothing wrong with frozen seafood, but there were no scallops on Rick’s menu at the time, and if there had been, he certainly would not have been using frozen scallops. So all of this hullabaloo at the end of the day is MY fault. I knew the scallops were frozen, and besides the fact that they would be free, they may have been perfectly suitable in other applications, such as a seafood stew or sausage. It still doesn’t excuse the fact that Spike knew this also. He observed the quality of the scallops the minute he opened the bag and he STILL chose to use them. It was bad judgment on his part either way.

And now, here’s Spike [the questions are in dark red and italicized, the answers in green]:

At one point there were allegations that Bravo planted the scallops and that they wouldn’t be in Tramonto’s kitchen...


…And Bravo obviously says they didn’t do anything like that. Tramonto says they may have come in with another provider…

That’s B.S. I think we all know that.

Listen, Rick Tramonto does not cook frozen scallops. There’s no possible way that he has them in his walk-in. It would never happen. I mean, he knows what frozen scallops are and I know what frozen scallops are.

The misconception people got on the show is that I took scallops, looked at them and said, “Frozen scallops. Oh, my God, this is what I want to cook.” Which is not the way it went.


This is where my mistake was: I didn’t take the time to look at them, inspect them and see what I was getting. I just took it for granted that the scallops in this walk-in … last episode, everything’s going to be top-notch, they’re not really gonna screw with us. That’s where I bit it. From that point on, I knew that I had scallops and I had to use them. So, you see me talking myself into the dish. I was, like, yeah, “Frozen scallops, no problem.”

People get the misconception that I saw it was frozen scallops and I had no problem with that, which was totally not the case at all.


On Colicchio’s blog, he speculated that it came in with the Allen Brothers steaks.

Oh, yeah. The Allen Brothers have been dealing in meats for the past 60, 65 years. I’m sure they carried frozen scallops into the walk-in.

[laughs] I just love it because everyone online is calling it “Scallopgate.”

I read Tom’s blog, also. I was like, “Tom, you’re shooting yourself in the foot, kind of.” Why would they come in with Allen? They’re a meat purveyor. They haven’t dealt with seafood since the day they were born. Know what I mean? That was out of nowhere. Yeah, Allen Brothers decided to drop off a bag of frozen scallops that day.

So your bottom line is that you think the scallops came in with another purveyor?

My bottom line is that … listen, this happened a long time ago. I’ve moved on. I’m looking forward. I’m not the kind who looks back. I don’t want to bad-mouth Bravo or the producers. They’ve done so much for me. The whole experience and now my Good Stuff eatery and the launching of my new place, they’re throwing my name out there. But, you know, if I have to this one time, I will. Listen, it’s the top 5. Give us the best ingredients. Why the hell were those scallops in there? I don’t know how they ended up in there or why. I definitely don’t think they want to screw anyone intentionally, but that’s pretty much what they did. That’s not good stuff.

Well, possums, to us it looks like the shooting's on the other foot now.

In Wake of Final Primary, Superdelegate Amuse-Biatch Makes Fan Favorite Endorsement

Well, possums, it was quite a hectic weekend, we don’t mind telling you, at Amuse-Biatch headquarters as the Rules and Bylaws Committee (Miss XaXa and yours truly) met in a marathon session. Protesters wielding torches, pitchforks and frozen scallops amassed outside the gates of Withering Depths, our baronial seat, daring to brave the lashing rain of the Snarkshire Moors. Inside, Miss XaXa (ah, the importance of commas), having stood all day in her Louboutins, demanded to be seated.

Fortunately, following a well-lubricated, three-hour lunch, a compromise was reached.

Contrary to what you might imagine, the dispute was not about deciding between Richard Blais and Stephanie Izard, both competent and likable individuals. Miss XaXa argued (and continues to argue) that Stephanie is her favorite, the one she’d most like to take out for duck confit and wine. And yet, as likable as Stephanie and Richard are, there was another contender, and for the sake of blog unity we had to consider who had been the best for the blog. Who was the most fun to write about, who gave us the most material (just look at all the posts we wrote), who could not ever open his mouth without pearls—nay, entire pearl necklaces—of smarm falling out?

The choice was clear.

And so, sports fans—er, possums—even though we were not his favorite, he is ours. Amuse-Biatch is proud to endorse Ryan Scott for fan favorite.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

News from the Department of “Oh, That Explains a Lot”

From the interview that our pals at YumSugar conducted with Spike Mendelsohn:

YS: So you were pretty familiar with the show [Top Chef]?
SM: I had definitely watched the show. I had a couple friends who were on the show. [Season 2's] Marcel [Vigneron] was a good friend of mine from culinary school, and Harold [Dieterle] from season one I also got to know.