Thursday, November 30, 2006

Elia Aboumrad Bikini Shot


To the chaps (or fabulous lesbians) who have washed up on the frivolous, parterred shores of this blog after Googling "elia aboumrad bikini shot" (and you know who you are, bless your libidinous little hearts), this is the best we could do for you.

Note the way the steam rises over her heaving, nubile young bosom and that fabulous champignon-colored, asymmetrical-neckline top (sorry, Nabokovian pervs, we couldn't keep up the charade for more than a few words; we felt like David Gest kissing Liza, or Tom kissing Katie).
Note to Padma: this is how you do sexy and body-conscious without looking whorish in the kitchen. This, pace Raggaydy Andy, is how you "look as white-hot as possible while tasting and discussing food."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Amuse Biatch Denies Going on a Drunken Rampage in Malibu and Calling Padma Lakshmi "Sugartits"

Lord knows we love our Raggaydy Andy Cohen--Bravo VP, faygella & gay fella extraordinaire--in all his button-eyed, coy-grinned, scatterbrained adorableness, but sometimes we worry about him.

In today's installment of his blog, Raggaydy Andy takes aims at certain people:

"By the way, I for one am getting a little tired of the griping about Padma's clothes being inappropriate for the kitchen. We've got one of the few models who has written a cookbook and can speak with authority about food, so why not make the best of both situations!? Being Jewish, I was raised to believe that models who know about food should look as white-hot as possible while tasting and discussing food. Thus, I am hereby putting it out there that anyone who thinks Padma looks inappropriate just might be cloaking some form of anti-semitism in their comments and might want to look within instead of at Padma. By the way, there is a bikini top in next week's episode, which I was consulted about in advance and wholeheartedly approved. I'm just warning everybody. Change the channel if offended!"

Our first response to that is, Do two "by the ways" in a row leave you by the wayside? But that's just by the by.

We have looked within, and we've come up with several things. First of all, and not that it matters, but we're honorary Jews. Just ask our exes and our friends, who bestowed the title during a lovely ceremony at Nate 'n' Al's. Look at our birth certificate. Look down our pants. Look at our list of links on the right. Who else would even use the word "midrash"? (Well, perhaps Britney Spears in describing her symptoms after riding in Paris Hilton's Maybach with Lindsay Lohan and no underpants on. But we digress.)

Of course there is a great Jewish tradition that includes Maimonides, Spinoza, and Walter Benjamin, who indeed wrote that "models who know about food should look as white-hot as possible while tasting and discussing food." Pardon us for being legalistic and what-not, but the essential phrase is "models who know about food." Would you say that a model who can't even, despite repeated instruction, pronounce "amuse-bouche" knows about food? We thought not. Padma is thus not protected by rabbinical law from scrutiny.

Secondly, the rabbinical injunction is for such a model who knows about food, and who is thus above rubies ("Pshaw!" exclaims Miss XaXa. "Every woman is above rubies, though most are not above a diamond or two."), to "look as white-hot as possible."

And therein lies the rub. Take a look at the picture Raggaydy Andy posts with his blog entry. In legal terms, res ipsa loquitur. In American vernacular: bitch speaks for herself. Q.E.D., girlfriend.

Our complaint is not that Padma's clothes are inappropriate for the kitchen. We have known of people cooking in nothing but an apron and a goofy postcoital grin, so clearly we're not sticklers for chef's whites. Our beef is that Padma's outfits, almost without exception, are beyond bad-- knowingly, willfully, almost maliciously, fugly.

In that picture, Raggaydy Andy himself is the only one who looks good, in his pastel polo and Chelsea-toned forearms. But Padma? Those are the same black riding pants that make her look like a bowlegged Dickensian orphan with rickets. The pink top screams LPGA dyke. And the pigtails? A cross between a maid at Motel 6 and a pedophile's wet dream.

So bring it on, Andy. We can handle the bikini top. In fact, if you look at our archives, we've long been advocating for the return of the silver lamé bikini and the live lobsters. Can you make our dream come true?

Meredith Brody Pens a Love Letter to Tom Colicchio; We Pen a Love Letter to Meredith Brody

There’s a reason we’ve always loved restaurant critic Meredith Brody and have linked to her from the very beginning of this blog. Actually, there are several reasons.

When we lived in Los Angeles during our graduate school years, Meredith’s reviews in the New Times were the very reason we switched from the LA Weekly as free paper of choice.

Her reviews were more than mere critiques of restaurants and food. They were also autobiography, journal, memoir, and chronicle. They were eagerly anticipated, instantly devoured, and rapidly forwarded weekly letters from an ideal friend, a chatty, witty, casual, Miracle Mile Madame de Sévigné with a penchant for fried eggs, Joss Whedon, and Louise Brooks. In their tales of the twinned search for a good used bookstore and a good steak, her reviews gave us a portrait of life as a smart, literate, gregarious, omnivorous, cinephilic Angeleno/a.

Those reviews were also aspirational. The world they portrayed was the world we wanted to join when we grew up. And whenever she mentioned a movie or a book we loved, it reassured us that we might have a good chance to join that world, which required as passport good taste and sensibility.

We particularly remember the thrill, the frisson, of the day we took a break from reading the Nancy Mitford-Evelyn Waugh correspondence and went to get the paper, only to see that her review mentioned she was reading the Nancy Mitford-Evelyn Waugh correspondence. Or the silly grin of pleasure we had when we read that she took her godchildren to see one of our absolute all-time favorite movies in the world, the Audrey Hepburn-Albert Finney Two for the Road.

When we moved to Paris after grad school, her reviews were a sort of anchor. Even in Paris, they made us homesick for LA and Mexican food. And when we returned to California, her writing about France made us homesick for Paris and cassoulet. She’s good at that, convincing us that la vie est ailleurs.

And then the New Times LA folded, and she disappeared. We were disconsolate. We had always meant to write a fan letter, but desisted, fearing we would seem too stalkerish. And now she was gone (and to make it worse, we would never have the chance to taste the desserts at the now-defunct Chadwick, which she had so vividly described).

Well, she reemerged, albeit in San Francisco and writing for the SF Weekly, and all is right with the world again. And now she on occasion waxes nostalgic for Los Angeles and the delights of its delis, and we get to say, See? That’s what you get for leaving. But we would rather have her in San Francisco than not writing at all.

So why the long preamble? It’s more than our usual long-windedness. It’s that she’s done it again, given us that old frisson, by writing this week about Top Chef. Having watched the show, she went to Tom Colicchio’s ‘wichcraft in San Francisco to try Harold’s winning sandwich from last season, and trekked to Union City (!) to sample Betty’s renamed Tuscan Portobello Melt at TGIFriday’s. Much to our delight, though not to our surprise, she found Spice Rack’s dish, at least as executed by the Beer Bongs of the world toiling at TGIFriday’s:

“[a] sloppily made, soggy grilled cheese, aka Tuscan Portobello Melt, dripping moisture from its roasted onions and tomatoes, alongside an odd-handled cup of sludgy lukewarm sweet soup[,]…the worst meal I’ve (partially) eaten in some time. And not cheap, either: The sandwich is $7.99, making the (between $5 and $9.75) prices at ‘wichcraft, with demonstrably superior ingredients — resulting in something you actually want to eat — seem reasonable indeed.”

Please, please, Raggaydy Andy Cohen & Bravo, please get her as a guest judge. We'll even promise to stop calling you Raggaydy Andy.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Episode Six, Part 2: Catching "Flies" with Veenegar

When we last saw our cheftestants, five had won the Quickfire Challenge, namely, Sam, Cliff, Ilan, Frankie the Bull and Josette Eber. The five losers were in state of shock, Miss Elia Aboumrad foremost among them. Chef Colicchio liked her beef hash and her fruit salad, and yet she had ended up with the losers. She was especially puzzled and incensed because she tasted the dish by winner Cliff, and, as she says, “I speet out Cleef’s food.” Miss XaXa emits a low, throaty growl and says, “If it was Cliff, I wouldn’t…”

“Miss XaXa!” we protest, interrupting her. Clearly, the measuring cup got the better of us when we made the evening’s first round of sidecars.

The Elimination Challenge is to create a cutting-edge Thanksgiving dinner, which, as Carlos tells us, is both “oxymoronic” and “diametrically opposed.” Miss XaXa breathlessly whispers, “Can’t you just see him in wire-rimmed glasses and a thick, uh, volume?” We take Miss XaXa’s sidecar away and down it ourselves.

The losers will cook Thanksgiving dinner for Padma, Tom, and Gail, and guest judge Anthony Bourdain, and for the five winners. The idea behind this was clearly to amp up the Lord of the Flies atmosphere, and it worked splendidly. Trying to come up with a game plan for dinner in a cheftestant tribal council was as successful as those meetings in Lord of the Flies. Spice Rack revealed herself once again as a sort of Napoleonic terrier (we giggled during the Quickfire Challenge as the diminutive would-be dictator battled her lack of height and the gravitational pull of her breasts as she leapt up to reach cans of food in classic terrier fashion). She hijacked the meeting like Fidelia Castrata until Carlos defied her, grabbed a pepper mill and said, “I make a rule that nobody talks unless they have the pepper mill.”

“You know why they refer to the pepper mill as a Rubirosa, don’t you?” asks Miss XaXa. We blush and feign ignorance.

Carlos’ Rules of Order were damned. We thought of one of our guilty pleasures, cheerleader magnum opus Bring It On, where Kirsten Dunst says, “It’s not a democracy, it’s a cheerocracy.” Curse of the spirit stick and all, that’s how the situation played out. Generalissima Spice Rack shot down all the good ideas by arch-nemesis Marcel and everyone else. In the end, Beer Bong was assigned appetizers, Carlos a salad, Elia a soup, Marcel the turkey, and Spice Rack herself would do the dessert.

Elia tells us how deemoralized and deemoteevated she ees. She slinks away, sighing bitterly and dramatically about how instead of soup she would simply serve the judges “a shot of veenegar.” This concerns her pal Marcel, who warns her against “kamikaze action,” and confesses his fear that she will do something “suicidal.” Miss XaXa’s Carlos tells us his game plan for staying in the competition: “Middle, safe, is fine with me.” Oh dear. There’s that Bravo Foreshadowing™ again.

Elia goes shopping for plates and sauceboats, and gets to perform a few Hamlet-like soliloquies, with “To be or not to be” transformed into, “Ees there any point for mee too cook?” The others have gone shopping at the supermarket, and we get to see Beer Bong ask a question we thought would never come out of his mouth: “Do you have any fresh honeycomb?”

Carlos can’t find the queso fresco or the chipotle, and calls Elia. We wince a little, for, much as we love him, it’s clear that he is the one Cuban out of a hundred who doesn’t speak Spanish. Elia adorably refers to him as, “Carlitos,” and Miss XaXa sighs, then mutters something about “cutting that bitch.”

Meanwhile, the five winners are given the afternoon off, but before they can play, they have to go to the food bank and deliver the leftover cans of food from the Quickfire Challenge. Josette Eber goes for more sympathy by telling us about how she and her mother were homeless, and how important food banks were to them during that time.

All well and good and noble, but completely spoiled as a greasy-haired and self-satisfied Sam hands a turkey to a food bank worker, who obediently thanks him, and says how welcome the turkeys are, since they’re getting ready for the season. Now, the episode was filmed in June, so the notion of stockpiling turkeys for Thanksgiving is just ludicrous. Bravo made the poor man playact in order to get turkeys and canned food. Tsk tsk. As if that weren’t enough, we are subject to Frankie the Bull oozing smarminess about “giving back” to homeless people. We took a swig of eau de vie to get rid of the taste of oily smarm.

Undercover with Marcel Vigneron

Confidential to Marcel Vigneron, aka Mark Vines aka Madame de Pompadour, who, despite having a French name and working for Joël Robuchon (we hear he makes his employees take French lessons), is one of the worst offenders in the realm of pronunciation:

That was a nice interview you did with the TC2 Gals, and you came across as a decent whippersnapper, but we do have two comments.

(1) Grant Achatz is the chef at Alinea, not Alenis.

(2) When asked the perennial "boxers, briefs or commando," you say "all of the above, except tighty whities," which you "won't be caught dead in...." But the tighty whities you revile are briefs, which you say you wear. We're a little confused. Unless this means...could it be? Do you sport colored briefs? Or, God forbid, Underoos? We would ask for clarification. And anyway, we feel that in Marcel's case, the question was a tad underinclusive, since it didn't offer as one of the choices thongs from the International Male catalogue.

Amuse-Biatch's Handy Clip-N-Save Pronunciation Guide

Here at Amuse-Biatch we're not just about serving it up, we're also about serving (though we won't deny a fondness for dishes best served cold).

We have been asked why we harp on mispronunciations by cheftestants, guest chefs, and hostesses alike. We assure you that there is a method to our folie (and not just of the La cage aux variety). We do it not just because we're haughty, anal, obsessive compulsive, neo-Victorian, post-Carson Kressly mini-despots with a twinkle in our eye.

We do it because these are people who ought to know better, who are supposed to be food professionals, and that entails being knowledgeable about food. And we would feel a lot better if the people making our food knew enough about it to at least pronounce it correctly.

We won't make fun of our Aunt Lavinia for mispronouncing "amuse-bouche" at the Thanksgiving table. But when a self-described "egghead" polyglot married to a Booker Prize-winning novelist and possessed of a penchant for displaying her breasts to all and sundry repeatedly mispronounces "amuse-bouche," even after Chef Suzanne Goin pronounced it correctly in her presence several times, why yes, at that point, the yellow dogskin gloves come off.

And so, without further ado, and in the interest of service and avoiding further bloodshed, we present our handy clip-n-save pronunciation guide.

Amuse-bouche, pronounced (can you hear us, Padma?), "ah-MEWS boosh." Not "AH-moos." Not "ah-mew-SAY." "ah-MEWS boosh." Got it? Good.

Gelée, pronounced "zhell-AY," and not, as certain meringue-headed cheftestants who ought to know better insist, "jell-EE."

Lychee, pronounced "LEE-chee," a fruit of the soapberry family which, when mispronounced "LIE-chee," is known to cause lying, cheating, spasms of self-righteousness in flat-chested pastry chefs, and reality tv hara-kiri (yes, yes, bushido-heads, we know seppuku is more accurate, but we're writing for the masses here).

Offal, pronounced "AW-ful," and pronounced awfully by a couple of the cheftestants, one of whom, after pronouncing it "ah-FALL," suffered a fall from grace and was told to pack her knives.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Breaking "Newsies": Padma Lakshmi Offered Dual Role on "Deadwood" as Calamity Jane, Whore

Ok, bitch is just taunting us now. We complained last week that Padma's outfit for the Quickfire Challenge made her look like a bowlegged Dickensian orphan, but it's as if she didn't hear us at all. She showed up this week for the Quickfire Challenge wearing that, that, thing. Padma, luv, we may have spoken of Dickensian orphans, but we certainly didn't say, "Please, we want some more." Are we meant to be singing, "Boobs, Glorious Boobs"?

"Careful now," Miss XaXa warned us. "Go easy on the 'Oliver Twist' jokes or she might just mispronounce Fagin in your general direction. Look at what she does with 'amuse-bouche.'"

We decided that Miss XaXa had a point, as we suffer violent, antimacassar-rattling seizures whenever we hear Padma say, "AH-moose booj." It might well require laudanum and a bit of wood between our teeth (as well as an intervention by Rosie O'Donnell) if we were to hear her say that her outfit is from the "Faggin Ragamuffin" Collection by Viktor & Rolf for H&M.

"Very well," we said to Miss XaXa. "Maybe her outfit, that vest, and the shirt with those itty-bitty leg-0'-mutton sleeves..."

"If they're so small," interrupted Miss XaXa, "shouldn't they be called leg-o'-lamb sleeves?"

Feeling another one of our headaches coming on, we returned to playing with our netsuke collection and conceded the point. "Really," we continued, "the whole thing looks like it came from the Deadwood wardrobe department. It simply screams claim jumpers, mud, and moth-eaten buffalo pelts. She could be playing Calamity Jane."

"Judging by what's she wearing during the Elimination Challenge, and the way that Bourdain guy's looking at her," observed Miss XaXa, "she could be playing one of the whores, too."

"Padma puttanesca," we giggled, savoring the acid reflux of a bad joke.

"Anyway," continued Miss XaXa, "for my money, she looks like she was in that Disney movie Newsies. Remember? That musical about the newsboys? Kenny Ortega is an unsung genius. And by the way, have you noticed how lately you really sound like Stewie Griffin's prissier bachelor uncle?"

We fixed her with one beady brown eye. She has yet to figure out which of the two statements cut deepest. A genius, indeed!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Episode Six, Part 1: Uncanny

The episode begins with Spice Rack and Josette Eber lamenting the sudden drop in the show's estrogen level after both Josie and Marisa were eliminated on the previous episode.

Miss XaXa, however, disagrees. In her view, the net levels of estrogen have actually increased or at least remained even, since Josie was so butch that she created a dykerrific testosterone force field around her. As Miss XaXa put it, "She was more man than Marcel will ever be."

She doesn't seem to be the only one who holds this opinion. Several of the manly men cheftestants sit around mocking Marcel's business cards. It even looks like they've gone to the trouble of calling him a big bottom. On the back of one of Marcel's card there is a handwritten indication that seems to read, "Marcel Vigneron, the Non Top Chef." Miss Elia Aboumrad can't seem to understand why they all hate him so much. Sure, she says, he may be, ahem, "cocky," but she likes him. To us, the whole thing gives off the whiff of "Lord of the Flies" as rewritten by Jean Genet.

Marcel himself doesn't help matters by telling us, almost sounding like Sandra Dee in "Gidget," that it's like people got together, threw darts at a board and decided, "Let's hate him." This appears to warm Miss XaXa, who, harking back to her Texas roots, yells at the tv, "Don't worry, Marcel, honey. The higher the hair, the closer to God."

It's time for the Quickfire Challenge, and the cheftestants retire to the kitchen, where they are greeted by Padma in yet another ghastly outfit, and by mountains of tins, and the Tin Man himself, Tom Colicchio (yes, we sometimes think, "If he only had a heart..." but Miss XaXa replies, "Oh, I like him heartless, hard and shiny.")

Padma informs the cheftestants that Tom will be the guest judge, and she strains the joke of the head judge serving as the guest judge, as if it were some little mind bender worthy of Stephen Hawking. The challenge will involve canned goods, and Chef Colicchio tells them the object is to "take an unexciting ingredient and turn it into something fabulous." "Sort of like introducing Padma as the host," hisses Miss XaXa.

They have 15 minutes for the challenge, and the food preparation montage. Josette Eber makes an early play for the sympathy vote by telling us that she was homeless at one point and so is not "scared to cook out of a can." Our favorite part is when Chef Colicchio and Padma stand in front of Carlos to taste his dish, and he announces, with what we swear is a look at Padma, "Pasta puttanesca!" This means "whorish pasta" or "pasta, whore style." Given Padma's wardrobe during most of the season, we wouldn't be surprised if it were a sly reproach. And "Padma Puttanesca!" does sort of have a nice ring (we didn't forget that Padma allegedly speaks Italian and hosted a variety show on Italian television). But then we remembered that Carlos has been a gentleman from the first, and that he would never say anything of the sort, and we feel a little bad for thinking of such an allusion ourselves. Well, not really, but we thought we'd come off better if we wrote that.

In the end, Sam wins the Quickfire Challenge, and Josette Eber is upset because she thought that with her experience in out-of-the-can cooking and the sympathy vote for homelessness, she would be the winner. But then it turns out she is a winner. And Cliff. And Ilan. And Frankie the Bull!

Yes, indeedy, in an effort to up the "Lord of the Flies" atmosphere or replicate that Stanford experiment with the prisoners and guards, there are five winners, and thus five people with immunity, and the five "losers" will cook Thanskgiving dinner for the judges and the five winners. The fun is just beginning.

José-ing, Just Saying: José & Josette Eber

Friday, November 24, 2006

Day After Thanksgiving Edition: Things We Are Thankful For

Anthony Bourdain on Michael "Beer Bong" Midgely: "It's like Betty Crocker and Charles Manson had a love child, and he's cooking for me."

Anthony Bourdain on our chulo Chef Carlos' salad: "On a cruise ship, with Kathie Lee yodeling on the Lido deck, I'd expect my salad to look better than that."

What we're thankful for: that Anthony Bourdain is not a regular judge, or else we would have nothing to do, because (and we say this with fear and respect) the man is bitchier than we could ever hope to be.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Anthony Bourdain: "Astroboy Has Balls"

Miss XaXa's (Heartbroken) Second Reaction: Lettuce Entertain You

Oh, Carlitos, as Elia would say, please, please, please say it ain’t so!

Carlos, Carlos, Carlos, how can you ever show your beautiful face again anywhere near South Beach!?!

Seriously, if a gay man can’t deliver an acceptable tossed salad, we might as well throw in the towel, all of us...and...pack...our...knives...and...go!

After all this, will they even let you back in?

But that’s all right. You can always, and I mean always, put a chipotle pepper and queso fresco in my salad........

I will miss you! If I didn’t already wear black, I’d start wearing it in mourning. See you in the FTL!

Miss XaXa's First Reaction: Bearish on the Bull

Oh no he di'int!?!

Did our Frankie the Bull just go all “Al Pacino” on Marcel the Monkey's ass?

Oh yes he did!

Way to go, Frankie, picking on a boy half your size….and over the fact that you left your skanky toiletries in the kitchen!!

Che cazzo, Frankie…in the kitchen! Jeezus, just like my nonna told me, yet another Italian man you gotta clean up after! And Jeezus, Frankie, couldya lay off on repeat watchings of “GoodFellas”? You must be wearing a groove in them–those DVDs. You’re making us “Eye-talians” look real good! In fact, Frankieboy, guys like you are the reason some people still say “Eye-talian”…..

So yeah, pick on someone your own size.

I'm actually beginning to feel sorry for our little monkey! Perhaps Marcel is just a bit “Miss”understood?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Breaking News: Salman Rushdie Lays an Egghead

Once again, we begin by pointing out that we have exercised a great deal of decorum and restraint by not using the photograph of Padma Lakshmi naked and slathered in war paint.

However, as our legion of faithful readers (all three of them) knows, the restraint ends there.

Though we have a great deal of fun roasting her, we have become increasingly fond of Padma as hostess of this season of "Top Chef." Lawd knows she's an endless source of material; we haven't needed a scratching post for weeks now. But we especially love her when we don't have to do anything at all, when, like a self-basting turkey, she does all the work of roasting for us.

Take this Sunday's article in entertainment bible Variety devoted to fashion models turned entrepreneurs. (Inflation being what it is, it elevates Padma to "supermodel." Puh-leeze. Perhaps, since the article is also about Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks, they didn't want to make Padma feel bad, but really, if you ask us, neither Heidi nor Tyra counts as a supermodel either; that era died long ago, when George Michael had a career, and wearing a push-up bra and a pair of angel wings doesn't turn you into a supermodel.)

At any rate, the article is chock-full of quotes and observations so delicious, so orotundly vapid and pompous, that all we have to do is plate them, add a sprig of parsley, and present them for your delectation. This, we hereby do.

"She says she also picked up pointers from [Tyra] Banks when they worked together in Europe ('She taught me how to shade in my nose')...." Isn't it lovely to see that even back then, brush and powder in hand, Tyra was prepping for her role as mentor to America's Next Top Chef Hostess to Replace Another Vapid Child Bride of Paunchy Older Rich Guy?

"[Models] seek control when they get out of modeling. Martha Stewart started out as a model." Yes, we seem to remember her modeling a prison-knit poncho from the Camp Cupcake Collection.

"The self-described 'egghead'... writes a syndicated New York Times column on food...."
Egghead? Really? No doubt that's what drew Salman Rushdie to her. Oh, and when you look at the New York Times website, there is no mention whatsoever of Padma writing any columns. The Gray Lady tends to make Padma the subject of columns, rather than the author, such as the delicious takedown by Guy Trebay where he portrayed her as a limelight-seeking hustler.

"[S]he's not quite as ingratiating on camera as [Heidi] Klum and [Tyra] Banks.... But there's also a lack of frivolity about Lakshmi that is less populist and more serious-minded. When asked why she doesn't write about fashion or develop her own line, she cites an 'an academic interest in the subject but there's only so long you can go on about "buy this shoe or that purse,"' says Lakshmi. 'I'd like my contribution to the world to be more profound.'" It's statements like that one which make us want to bring out the naked war paint picture of the "less populist" People's Princess.

"Says [Bravo president Lauren] Zalaznick of Bravo's newly minted star: 'Padma is a deep thinker. She brings a more opinioned world view to "Top Chef" and to everything she does. People are drawn to her. The fact that she's incredibly striking looking doesn't hurt either.'" Ok, that's it; we're definitely bringing out the naked war paint pic.

Spitting Image

Normally, we try not to think of Rachael Ray.

We regard her in the same category of tragic unmentionables as Olestra and PCBs, pollutants and substances liable to cause what Frito-Lay, in a public relations coup, termed "anal leakage." We're annoyed by everything about the woman, from the extra "a" in her first name (a bugbear of ours) to the fact that she looks like she's walking around on stumps (Miss XaXa's pet peeve). But really, who isn't?

We always have to be careful around Iphigénie, our white Paraguayan parrot. The television alcove at Withering Depths is upholstered in hand-tooled aubergine morocco, and whenever Iphigénie hears that distinctive taxicab-horn voice as we're flipping around the channels, she flies into a rage and starts ripping out chunks of morocco. Such is the effect of Ms. Rachael Ray on the animal kingdom.

In moments of charity, we like to endow her with substance and self-awareness. We conceive of a previously unsuspected Rachael Ray, a sort of existential chipmunk (look at those eyes!) on a treadmill, performing a noble service to humanity by giving us 30-minute glimpses into the abyss of curdled perkiness and Kierkegaardian despair. Rachael Ray as memento mori, if you will.

Of course, such moments of charity are as fleeting as macaroons from Ladurée, and arise only after we have hit the bottle of (perfectly legal!) Swiss absinthe once too often. Nonetheless, we had one such moment last week, when we heard about the incipient Rachael Ray Sex Scandal. According to those unimpeachable bastions of accuracy and reliability, The National Enquirer and The New York Daily News, Rachael Ray's husband had a kinky, five-year affair with a woman he met outside a lesbian bar (!) and whom he paid to spit on him.

When we mentioned it to Miss XaXa, she quipped, "With her food, he must have plenty of practice spitting up." When we cleared up that he wasn't the one doing the spitting, she said, breaking into fluent headlinese, "Yucko!!! Rachael Ray Spitting Mad: Spittoon Hubby Loves Loogies, Lesbians."

Sure, we cackled. Sure, we guffawed when we read the woman's claims that Rachael Ray's husband paid her up to $500 per session, and that she virtually supported herself by spitting on him. But then we felt a completely unknown tingling in the general thorax area. Could it be...pity? We think it may well have been. We found ourselves saying, "Sure, she may be the Clydesdale horse of the Apocalypse, but that's still kinda rough."

And then yesterday, during an all-too brief respite from a particularly vexing weekend (Lady Chatterley didn't know the half of it when it came to stablehands, or, for that matter, stable hands), we chanced on an episode of "Iron Chef America" pitting Rachael Ray against Giada de Laurentiis. Well, that did it. We began frothing at the mouth, and when the Chairman intoned, "Today's secret ingredient is..." we hissed, "Boobs!" Then Miss XaXa began yelling at the television, "I speet on you, Rrachel Rray," and we decided it was time to mix another batch of sidecars.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Episode Five, Part 1: Shock and Offal

This episode begins with a toxic cloud of suspicion choking the bluebird of happiness that sprouted its delicate, crispy meringue wings after Team Black, composed of Spice Rack, Madame de Pompadour, and Frankie the Bull, won the Elimination Challenge after the Herculean task of convincing a group of overweight children at a fat camp to eat pizza and chocolate-peanut butter cookies. The subsequent accusations that Spice Rack had cheated by replacing Splenda with sugar in her cookie recipe resulted in no one being sent home and has tarnished the Black Team's victory.

Freshly bepompadoured and looking like Jerry Lee Lewis, and with the dramatic intensity of middle-period Lana Turner, Marcel tells the camera, "I was feeling all sorts of distraught and disappointed." What did we tell you about his retreat into a world of hair gel and alliteration?

We see Elia putting on mascara in front of the bathroom mirror (so that's how she gets her eyes so es-mokie) while Spice Rack, like a dental Lady Macbeth, tries to wash the taste of treachery out of her mouth at 500 rpm and tells us that she is not a cheater.

Then Josie, sporting the hairdo of a lesbian egret, takes us into her gap-toothed, Chicleted confidence. (As Miss XaXa relates, folks in the South say, "That girl could eat corn through a fence," whereas in France a gap in one's teeth is considered a sign of sexual voracity, e.g., Madonna). "Marisa and I have been really good friends through all of this. We're the only ones that really trust each other." You could almost hear the Bernard Herrmann music on the soundtrack. That, mes enfants, is called foreshadowing. That's the gun that's going to blow someone's head off in the third act. As previously noted, the Bravo editors are masterful at this, telegraphing plot points with the subtlety of Judith Regan-O.J. Simpson specials. To seal the deal, Josie and Tarte Titass are shown sharing what looks like (oh please, saints in heaven and the MGM pantheon, grant us the strength not to make a bad pun) a HoHo, but might be a plum, and will turn out to be the fruit that turns them out of paradise.

Haute couture scullery maid Padma greets the cheftestants in the Kenmore Kitchen to tell them about the Quickfire Challenge. She hasn’t even opened her mouth, and already we have a problem. The hair, through the overeager ministrations of a gay hairdresser armed with hot tongs and a grudge, is ironed so flat that it looks like Salman Rushdie slept on it. She’s back to wearing pink in the kitchen, though long-sleeved (even if unbuttoned to the third button), and she’s brought back those damned black bicycle shorts with riding boots again. We hate them not only because they’re preposterously unattractive but also because they give her the sort of bowlegged posture of a Dickensian orphan. We half expect her to break into a chorus of “Food, Glorious Food” or “Consider Yourself.”

And the make-up! We’ve refrained for weeks from talking about this, but the flat hair sends us over the edge. Padma, cara, would it kill you, just once, to wear lipstick a shade darker than Sheer Ambition or Unblushing Bride of Paunchy Postcolonial Pasha (available from MAC, with 1% of all proceeds going to fund Elton John’s ego)?

Padma is joined by guest judge Chef Michelle Bernstein, of Michy’s in Miami. The newest war bride in Jeffrey Chodorow’s culinary seraglio, Chef Bernstein used to be a dancer with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, and now stands in her wrinkled linen-dyed-to-look-like-denim dress with her hands on her ample hips. Tactful as ever, our chulo Chef Carlos says on his blog that Chef Bernstein, his “fellow South Floridian,” is—how does he put it?—“saucy.” You can tell that about her. She looks like a cross between Sandra Bernhard and Punky Brewster, and has the pugilistic intensity of Judy Davis incarnating Judy Garland on that tv movie of a few years ago. “You wanna piece of me?” her very stance seems to say. Miss XaXa also picked up on that half-drag queen, half-welterweight pose. “Raging Bull?” says Miss XaXa. “Try Raging Bitch.”

Padma announces that the Quickfire Challenge will be devoted to leftovers. Of course! Padma, how could we have had so little faith? That’s why you wore that heinous outfit. It’s leftovers. Of course! We keep forgetting that you try to dress for the theme. We’ll have to watch for the semiotics of your Quickfire Challenge outfits, like when the Washington press corps used to interpret Madeleine Albright’s brooches for hints to foreign policy.

The challenge will deal with offal, the “leftover” pieces of the animal after the flavorless filet mignon, etc., has been removed. The cheftestants must make a dish using one of the ingredients gathered for their gory delectation—pig trotters, lamb kidneys, beef hearts, fish heads, pig’s blood, veal tails, beef cheeks, honeycomb tripe, chicken feet, lamb hearts, veal tongues, and sweetbreads.

The food preparation montage isn’t going to have Eisenstein quaking in the great beyond. It’s rather a dull affair, with only two pronunciation clunkers, Josie saying, “OH-fal,” and Josette Eber saying, “ah-FALL.” Spice Rack tells us, “Marcel went for that pig’s blood. Kinda looks like a vampire, dontcha think?” We yawn and flick the ashes from the clove cigarette in our Syrian malachite cigarette holder.

Darling, is this really the best you can do? That whole cheating thing must really have shaken you up if you can’t come up with something bitchier, and we refuse to do your work for you. Bravo doesn’t help matters by throwing in cheesy F/X when she says the word “vampire.” Besides, it’s also unfair to those recappers who are really good with PhotoShop, as it deprives them of the opportunity to stick Marcel’s face in a photograph of Eddy Munster for fear it will seem too derivative.

Elia tells us that she’s going to clean the kidneys and sweetbreads she’s using, and tells us that sweetbreads are the glands of the veal, pointing to her neck to show us. It’s rather a sweet gesture.

It’s time for the judging. Tarte Titass tells Chef Bernstein that she’s made pappardelle and used the beef cheeks. Miss XaXa’s head turned violently toward the television. “Oh,” Miss XaXa explains, “when I heard her say ‘beef cheeks,’ I thought she was talking about herself.” We’re so amused by this that we forget to correct Tarte Titass’ pronunciation of “pappardelle.”

As Chef Berstein tastes, Miss XaXa says, “Is it me, or is she being bitchy to the female cheftestants and flirty with the men?” She chortles when Chef Bernstein breaks into a grin and purrs to Cliff, “The oxtail’s really good.” We decide not to pursue the implications of making such a statement to a beefy and attractive black man, and instead focus on something else. There was no mention of oxtails before, only veal tails. Veal is a young calf and an ox is an adult castrated male cow. Not the same thing at all.

Miss XaXa is chortling again, because Chef Bernstein is back to the oxtail: “I cook it everyday…” “So you’d know,” says Padma sycophantically. “Mmm…you would hope,” retorts Chef Bernstein in a sort of icy bitchiness that takes our breath away, as if to say, “Look, you vapid, social-climbing bitch, how dare you cut in on my monologue, interfere with my pick-up, and try to impugn my competence while appearing to do the opposite?” We wonder if Padma’s scar is tingling the way Harry Potter’s does when in the presence of Lord Voldemort.

In picking her least favorite dishes, Chef Bernstein tears into Josie, telling her that at a restaurant, such a dish would be sent back. Then she tears into Elia, telling her that the kidneys weren’t cleaned properly, that she made no attempt at a sauce, and that she made something that Chef Bernstein loves to eat hard to eat. Elia’s eyes are smoky, and not from the mascara, but from the flames shooting out. “Ees thees woe-man for real? I’m supposed to make keedneey taste like ah-leevs with a sauce?”

In the end, Chef Bernstein picks the dishes made by Cliff (surprise, surprise), Ilan, and Sam. In the end, the greasy Lothario, er, “hot diabetic,” wins, and we know exactly why. As he tells us, “I was excited about my dish. She was excited about the dish. Really excited to have immunity.” Sammy, we’re about to lose control, and we just can’t hide it.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

In Memoriam Marcel Proust

“And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray…my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of real or of lime-flower tea. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such things in the interval, without tasting them, on the trays in pastry-cooks' windows, … the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds….”
Swann's Way, by Marcel Proust, who died November 18, 1922, in Paris.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Boy Like That: Amuse-Biatch Tête-à-Tête with Elia Aboumrad

Elia, querida, do you remember that little tête-à-tête you had with Marcel in the firehouse where you counseled him on how he was going wrong?

Well, come sit next to us in the gray La-Z-Boy, because it's your turn. You know we love you, paisana, and most of the time you seem sweet, and caring and balanced (e.g., during that flamingo, stand-on-one-foot yoga move). But, frankly, what we saw in this week's episode worries us, and we need to talk. It's for your own good.

During the Quickfire Challenge, after having your kidneys Latina-dissed by Chef Michelle Bernstein, the Mexican spitfire in you came out, and you said, "Ees thees woe-man for reel?!" And then you did the patented Marcel eye-roll, and our heads went back into the antimacassars with horror.

Mind you, we totally understand how you might have felt. Chef Bernstein was kind of a bitch, coming in with her big Sandra Bernhard lips, Echo-Park-homegirl dark lipliner, frizzy hair, wrinkled linen dress, and a shit-eating grin that said "I get all the advantages of calling myself a Latina but none of the disadvantages that might come with actually having a Latin name or a dark complexion." (Girl, por favor. Shakira was right; hips don't lie.) We could see, dear Elia, that you wanted to throttle her like Thalia wants to throttle Paulina Rubio, in a curly-hair-pulling, Telemundo-worthy kerfuffle.

But the thing is, she kind of had a point. You did blow it during the Quickfire Challenge, and it didn't have to be that way, since you had a natural advantage going on. A lot of Mexican cooking involves offal, and you had the chance to hit it out of the park. For example--honeycomb tripe. Hello!? That's menudo, Mexico's national dish, Sunday-morning staple, and (not incidentally) hangover cure extraordinaire. Or veal tongue. Again, hello!? You could have come up with some great tacos de lengua. Even the kidneys you went with could have been turned into riñones en chilito, in a tomatillo and guajillo-chile sauce.

We get little Marxist thoughts in our heads. It used to be the case that rich people in Mexico never ate Mexican food because it was considered the servants' food. Real food could only be French. Darling, that's the very reason it took Diana Kennedy to come in and "rescue" the cuisine. Might your privileged upbringing have something to do with this? We wonder.

And, in fact, we've wondered ever since you chose to use red wine instead of tequila during the flambé challenge. Now, we're not saying that just because you're Mexican you have to use Mexican ingredients or techniques. Far from it. But it just seems like such a pigheaded waste to squander those ingredients or techniques when you could use them to your advantage. And you could have gone all Joël Robuchon with them.

But really, the thing that worries us the most is that you may be spending too much time with Marcel, that his arrogance and condescension might be rubbing off on you. We have no doubt that you learned the eye-roll from him. We see a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing going on. When your hair is pulled back and you wear those cute little retro eyeglasses, you're sweet, and thoughtful, and say adorable things like "Me, I lov pie. I theenk I’m a beeg keed somehow, yeah." But then when you hang around Marcel, take the glasses off, and borrow the mousse from him and puff your hair out, watch out!

Honey, he's trouble. That boy is sheer trouble. You need to stay away from him. We never thought it would come to this, but we're afraid we're going to have to appeal to a higher Hispanic authority, none other than Miss Rita Moreno in West Side Story. "A boy like that will give you sorrow, you'll meet another boy tomorrow, one of your own kind, stick to your own kind." By which we mean nice, heterosexual, non-alliterative, and not sprouting DSM-IV diagnoses from every gelled follicle.

Oh, and remember that moment during the Quickfire Challenge when you indicated on your neck where sweetbreads are located? Well, we think it may be just a mite ill-advised if what Spice Rack says is true about Marcel, and he is in fact a vampire. No sense drawing him a map, is there?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Posturing: A Photoessay

We're just wondering--were Padma Lakshmi and Chef Michelle Bernstein classmates at Miss Ernestina Thesiger's School of Deportment for Young Ladies? Though, to be precise, in the second picture, Chef Bernstein's posture doesn't seem so much a product of training and decorum as a precautionary measure to catch her breasts should they droop any farther. May we suggest a bra? It's the only way to ensure that one's sweetbreads are kept, in the words of Nancy Grace, locked and loaded.

But the ladies weren't the only ones suffering from Contagious Posturing Syndrome (CPS), as becomes clear in this photograph.We'll keep our eyes peeled in further episodes for signs that CPS is spreading.

First Reaction: The Nasty Bits

We like to think of this episode as an after-school special, where we learned about the importance of choice and consequence, caring and sharing, and getting a good lab partner.

We also learned that Gail Simmons did listen to Miss XaXa’s advice. She was the most fabulous woman on last night’s show, and we saw her in a situation that involved swinging and chandeliers…earrings, that is.

We learned that Tom Colicchio is pro choice, and that he makes a terrible beat cop and probation officer. For him, it’s all about the execution.

We learned that our sweet Elia has been hanging around Madame de Pompadour for too long and has started to pick up his eye-roll and his ‘tude. We’ll explain later in more detail, but we think that, as with much else involving Madame de Pompadour, it involves hair products and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

We learned that sweetbreads are neither sweet nor bread. In consequence, we learned just how tasty lymph nodes can be, so tasty that they gave Sam the win in the Quickfire Challenge.

We learned, much to our shock, that Frankie the Bull doesn’t like “subtle.”

We learned that Madame de Pompadour apparently drinks pig’s blood and may, in fact, be a vampire. Most importantly, though, he had an on-camera therapeutic breakthrough, and we learned about the traumatic prom incident from his youth that led him to retreat into a world of hair gel and alliteration.

We learned that Jennifer Coolidge is a cultural, perhaps even sexual, litmus test. Miss XaXa’s first reaction: “Jennifer who?” Beer Bong’s first reaction: “Stifler’s mom!” Our first reaction: “The hairdresser from Legally Blonde! Snap and bend!”

We learned that, for perhaps the first time in his life, Miss XaXa’s Carlos was forced to bottom, but that he can take it like a man. And a gentleman.

We learned from Chef Michelle Bernstein that, contrary to popular belief, dark lip liner is not a Latin girl’s best friend.

And finally, after Tarte Titass and Josie were sent packing (omigawd, a double execution!), we learned, for the second time this season, that butch girls do cry. (Confidential to Padma: We have it on very good authority that if you keep making the butch girls cry, the Lesbians will make sure you never get within sniffing distance of Stephanie Seymour. If we were you, we wouldn’t go out alone after dusk in New York. You might find yourself in a dark alley with Rosie O’Donnell and a dental dam. If you see a hulking figure in a leather jacket from the Broadway revival of “Grease,” run the other way as fast as your Louboutins will carry you. That’s not the kind of “pink lady” you’re looking to meet.)

Miss XaXa's First Reaction: Is That a Salami in Your Hair...

......or are you just happy to see me?

OMG! The mystery is finally solved! Why did I never see it before? Marcel is the Bob's Big Boy twin. The realization hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was distracted the whole time the episode was on.

And speaking of twins, the Wonder Twin powers weren't enough to keep Marisa and Josie (my Josie!) in the competition. They were both (surprise, surprise) eliminated. Marisa can now go back to her pole-dancing and ass-padding in San Francisco, but I'm really gonna miss Josie. The show just won't be the same without her be-Chicleted smile. And then...what did Elia say at the end about Josie? She wanted to go all the way!!! I can't believe that adorable lesbian was sent home before she'd even got to third base.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Telling It to the Judge: A Mystic Experience

Pssst! Gail!

Gail Simmons! Gail! Over here!

Hi. Gail--can I call you Gail? or is it Judge Simmons?

Who am I? Who am I? Well, honey, Miss XaXa is my name....and we need to have a talk...a serious talk, just you and me, fierce bitch to fierce bitch.

To sort of quote Whoopi Goldberg in her Oscar-winning performance, Gail, you in danger, girl!

In danger of what? Well, duh. Come went to can figure it out....I gave you a hint....Ok, ok, don't call security. Look, here's the thing. Gail, honey, I hate to break it to ya, but you look as pale as a ghost...a friendly Canadian ghost, but still a ghost. I mean, seriously. I saw you during the fat camp challenge last week in that skirt (we'll have to talk about that, too; honey, you do not need to be wearing an A-line), and I said to Charlus, "What in Coppertone's name is going on with Gail?"

You really need to do something about it, or we're gonna have to kidnap you and take you to the Mystic tanning booths. Think about it. I'm sure Bravo could spring for a couple of sessions.

And while I've got you here, let me just say that I could also see how uncomfortable you looked at that fat camp. I can't believe that Raggaydy Andy at Bravo did that to you. And by the way, maybe you should talk to a lawyer, because I think he's sexually harassing you. I mean, that interview he did with you on his blog, about joining the mile high club with him--harassing!

Considering your preferences, I'd say low to none.

Probably the chances would remain pretty low. I'm in a relationship!


OK, you too!

Look at all the dough that cookie got outta the old Bill O'Reilly falafel himself. Think about it. I know a lawyer.

So, anyway, not only is he harassing you, he also sent you to the fat camp for that challenge, and that was just plain mean. I mean, couldn't he see that you've gained some weight since last season, and that maybe you're not super ok with that? I mean, I love my gays, but they're super hung up on the whole skinny bitch thing.

You're a beautiful woman. You have great taste in shoes (we could share chacha heels!). And I couldn't teach you a single thing about how to execute a hairflip, or give an "Uh-huh" or "No, you di'in't" look. But you mentioned that you go to, like, a hundred of these tasting events a year, so, you know, maybe you could do the whole Ilan amuse-bouche thing and just take a bite of everything. Just saying. (And don't be influenced by that skinny bitch Padma--short shorts are never appropriate.)

That's ok, Gail. You can keep the handkerchief. My nonna raised me right. Anyway, next time you see Andy, whack him with a kitten heel. We'll be watching.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Episode Four, Part 3: Sugar and Spice Rack and Everything Not Nice

It’s the second day of the challenge, and we see Elia doing yoga yet again, this time to what the closed captioning tells us is “uplifting music.” This, as Elia lifts up her knee and arms. A visual pun, say you? Someone at the closed-captioning service is a regular Magritte.

Spice Rack comes out and starts distributing what she calls “morning kisses.” Miss XaXa says, “See? Told you she was Italian.” We don’t quite see this, but it’s certainly starting to look that way. Spice Rack even asks Madame de Pompadour, “Wanna morning kiss?”, the way you might ask a parrot, “Polly want a cracker?” Surprisingly, Polly does not refuse, and doesn’t even wipe his cheek afterward.

They’re back at the Kenmore Kitchen, and this time the nutritionists aren’t around, which, as Cliff puts it, makes one think that people are on the honor system. However, just as with thieves, there may be no honor among cheftestants. Sam tells us, “I saw hands just randomly squeezing olive oil,” which actually sounds rather erotic and European art-film-like to us, like Last Year at Marienbad meets Mostly Martha, or, perhaps, to steal a joke from James Hamilton-Paterson’s Cooking with Fernet Branca, like a candle-lit scene from Under a Tuscan’s Son. And yet, the Bravo cameras are unable to show us “hands just randomly squeezing olive oil.” We occasionally see squeeze bottles of olive oil, but no one is handling them, so just how valid is Sam’s charge? We are distracted from pondering this by yet another scene from Under a Tuscan’s Son, in which we are treated to a completely gratuitous and suggestive shot of Ilan and a zucchini.

In what will prove a momentous decision, Spice Rack opts to change the recipe for her cookies, reducing the number of egg whites and using sugar instead of Splenda. She figures that this will keep her team under the 500-calorie limit while fixing her meringues. This, despite the fact that the cheftestants were told not to deviate from the recipe approved by the nutritionists. At last the prep work is done, and they head up the PCH, as we Californians refer to the Pacific Coast Highway, making their way to Malibu and Camp Glucose.

There, they encounter Padma, who clearly thinks she’s on “Grey’s Anatomy,” since she seems to be wearing sand-colored scrubs with those hideous flip flops, a tank top, and a necklace from the Tom Colicchio Collection (available on QVC and from the International Male catalogue). Tom himself looks relatively normal, but poor Gail looks bloated and unhappy in a jeans skirt, tank top, those damned flip flops, and very little make-up. We’re unhappy, too. We normally love her because she’s like the Tilda Swinton Snow Queen in the Narnia movie, but with a little cruet of maple syrup for good measure. But in that get-up and without her make-up and high heels, she looks reduced, stripped of her bolt-throwing, almond-eyed Canuck goddess majesty.

Padma tells the cheftestants that each team must provide a representative to “sell” the menu to the kids, and while they finish prepping the meals, she goes off to get the kids. This allows Padma to do her People’s Princess shtick again, suffering the little children to come unto her. She walks into the picnic-table area with the pack of teens and tots, as if she had just rescued them from the Pied Piper of Hamelin, one child on either side of her holding her hand. Camp Glucose? More like Camp Saccharine.

Our stainless steel, hazelnut-sized hearts do go out to the children, though. Not only do they have to suffer the slings and arrows that this too, too solid flesh is heir to, but they also have to endure the indignity of sporting pink tie-dyed t-shirts. Bravo, it’s bad enough being overweight without having to look like a Deadhead, too. We would advise Raggaydy Andy to at least get them Bravo t-shirts in slimming black for next time.

Josette Eber sends out Beer Bong to be the team’s salesman and representative, since, as she says, he’s a big kid at heart anyway. (We always ask ourselves why this is supposed to be a good thing.) We give her credit for a nifty bit of reverse psychology. After all, if you took a look at Beer Bong and asked yourself, “Would I buy diet food from this man?” you might not get all that positive an answer. But she was counting on the kids’ thinking, “Ok, he’s a chunko, and clearly loves his junk food, and he did say there’s chocolate cake, so maybe the food will be yummy and fattening. Let’s order it!”

But she didn’t count on the second part of that thought. “Oh, wait, this is going to be on tv, isn’t? And Mom and her gaggle of Juicy Couture-sweated divorcée pals watch Bravo. So how is it going to look in Brentwood and Sherman Oaks if I’m up here in Malibu at a fat camp taking chocolate cake from a fat guy on national television?” And that’s where you lost them, Mia. Only five kids ordered the red team’s meal, while 15 ordered the black team’s pizza.

The pizza and Sam are both hits. Clearly already practiced in the art of being a sassy fat sidekick that will serve her well should she fail to lose weight at Camp Glucose, one fierce teenage girl earns our devotion by saying to her own sassy fat sidekick, “I wanna go marry the hot diabetic over there.” Then all the cheftestants get to be heartwarming by playing soccer with the kids.

Back at the Judges’ Table, Chef Goin pronounces Elia’s cheesecake the best of all the dishes. We were, of course, duly confused, since Elia herself had referred to it as a pie, but it certainly looked like a cheesecake to us. At any rate, the Black Team with its pizza was declared the overall winner and Frankie the Bull the individual winner. What struck us about this was that, at least based on the editing, it looked as if the pizza idea had come from Spice Rack while at the supermarket and arguing against Madame de Pompadour’s asparagus, but she told the judges that it had been Frankie the Bull’s idea. Truth or sportsmanship, it was nice of her. For his pains, Frankie gets the opportunity to collaborate with Chef Goin on the menu for one of the renowned Sunday suppers at Lucques.

The teams on the hot seat, fittingly enough, were the red and orange. Sam threw out vague accusations about people having squeeze bottles of olive oil, but refused to name names because “I’m not that guy” and “I’m not going there.” Josette Eber had no such compunctions: “I’ll go there.” She called out Spice Rack and the cookies that had miraculously improved after the addition of sugar. (Of course, as Chef Colicchio points out on his blog, “others insisted they had seen Mia add sugar to her cole slaw.” Hmmmm. Curioser and curioser, Ms. Wounded Animal.)

After much yelling from the cheftestants and much throwing up of hands among the judges, it is decided that no one will go home this week, but that the cheftestants will all be on probation. What did we tell you about the “Project Runway”-fication of the show? Yes, this is quite the anticlimax, though it may pay off in an extra week of suspicion and drama, or perhaps a double elimination at some point. We believe that Splenda won’t give us cancer, and we believe the show will improve. Might we be delusional on both counts?

Episode Four, Part 2: Suffer the Little Children

Following the Quickfire Challenge, it’s time for the Elimination Challenge, or, as Padma puts it, “It’s time for the knife block.” We get the merest frisson from this, since, when Padma says it, it sounds like, “It’s time for the wrack” or “It’s time for the Iron Maiden.” In this case, it’s merely a sort of Russian roulette meets The Sword in the Stone, with cheftestants pulling knives from The Knife Block to sort out which of four teams—red, black, orange and white—they’ll be on.

The first bit of high-camp drama, as it were, is not long in coming, for the television gods have decreed that the black team (natch) should have Frankie the Bull, Spice Rack and Madame de Pompadour on it. No one is more faux-aghast than Madame de Pompadour, who sucks in his cheekbones for that extra drama drag queen touch, when he finds out that he is going to be “accompanied by my arch nemesis, Betty.” Earlier on, we predicted white-cat-stroking Blofeld moments to come, and we were not wrong.

Actually, we’re thrilled, as we don’t think we’ve heard “arch nemesis” bandied about since the days of Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter (we may have left off one or two husbands, but, after all, we’re not Debrett’s or the Almanach de Gotha, or even Us Weekly; you should be thankful we remember this many of her married names). Truthfully, we think it’s a shared honor, with Spice Rack qualifying for “nemesis” and Madame de Pompadour a shoo-in for “arch” (how could he lose, when his eyebrows manage to be both arched and arch?).

The Elimination Challenge is to create a meal consisting of an entrée, a side dish, and a dessert, with the entire deal not to exceed 500 calories. The meals will be served to kids at a “fitness” camp called Camp Glucose. First, we groan. We guess the term “fat camp” is out, but really, is Camp Glucose the best they could do? After all, real summer camps are supposed to have apocryphal, Indian-sounding names, something like, oh, dunno, say, Camp Weighalotta? And then we sigh in regret. Kids and weight-loss issues? Where’s Emily when you need her? Oh the episode that might’ve been!

And they’re off to plan their menus and do the shopping, and we steel ourselves for another box of lychees or six-pack of beer, but no such luck. Carlos and Cliff, Sam’s teammates on the orange team, are excited to have Sam’s expertise in managing his diabetes. They decide to serve turkey meatballs, roasted corn and smoothies. Mmmmm, Miss XaXa sighs,
this team is all smoothies.

The black team, led by a beret-ed Beretta, er, Frankie the Bull, is already engaging in a little Alexis v. Krystle hair-pulling. Spice Rack nixes the idea by Madame de Pompadour (or, given his uxorious behavior in the earlier part of the episode, should we start calling him Madame de Beer Bong?) to serve the kids asparagus stalks wrapped in prosciutto. We can’t believe our luck. Two phallic dishes in one episode! However, cannier, more PG-rated, and non-pompadoured heads prevail, and the team decides to serve pizza, berry skewers and crispy cookies.

Returning to the Kenmore Kitchen, the cheftestants are greeted by four nutritionists, who are there to supervise the recipes in order to ensure that the 500-calorie limit is enforced. Once the nutritionists sign off on the ingredients for the recipes, the cheftestants are not supposed to deviate from those approved recipes.

The food preparation montage takes us to the red team, captained by Josette Eber, along with Beer Bong and Tarte Titass. They plan to serve barbecued chicken, coleslaw, and chocolate fudge cake. Josette Eber feels a kinship with Beer Bong, since they are both from California’s Central Valley and were both in the bottom of the Quickfire Challenge, which makes them tenacious and dangerous. After all, she tells us, “there’s nothing more dangerous than an injured animal.”

And we know exactly what she means. We remember the look she gave Chef Suzanne Goin when she was placed in the bottom three for the Quickfire Challenge; it was the same look she gave Ilan when he won the snail & frog legs challenge from her, the look that says, "One day, you will wake up in your bed to find me barefoot in your darkened bedroom and ready to do you in, Deer Hunter-style."

She not only gives great looks; she gives great soundbite. Advising her team on the ingredients for their recipe, she admonishes them, “And no extra pinches to grow any inches.” Just the sort of thing you might hear in a late-night infomercial directed at men, or on a Chi-Chi LaRue set.

During Chef Colicchio’s inspection, he asks the white team—Josie, Ilan, and Elia—why they’re serving pie, and she replies, growing more adorable with every episode, “Becoz I lov pie. Me, I lov pie. I theenk I’m a beeg keed somehow, yeah.”

Turning to Carlos, our other Latin loved, Chef Colicchio asks about the wisdom of serving smoothies while other teams are offering chocolate cake, cookies and beeg keed pie. Carlos, of course, has an answer: “It’s about learning a lifestyle. They’re at a fitness camp and they have to learn to eat smoothies and stay away from the chocolate cake.” Hey, Carlos, papi, we thought it was a life, not a lifestyle, but leaving that aside, we love it that you’re trying to make us miss Emily just a little less. That’s telling ‘em!

Over on the black team, Spice Rack is losing her cookies. Using Splenda instead of sugar for her meringues wasn’t a good idea, as Marisa explains in some talking-head thing about molecular structure, blah, blah, blah. Spice Rack’s meringues are falling flat, and Madame de Pompadour finds it impossible to resist making a metaphor of the literal: “Betty’s dish is plummeting, it’s just failing; in other words, Betty’s failing.” Ooh ah.

But then we think about it a little more, and the audacity of it takes our breath away. What was that bit Marisa mentioned about molecular structure? And who is it who’s all into “avant-garde molecular gastronomy”? And whose hair lets you know right away that he knows plenty about meringues? So who would be the best person to advise Spice Rack about the plummeting meringues? Verry shneaky, Mishtah Blofeld.

Chester Cheetah's Public Service Announcement for the U.S. Navy

Bravo has finally let us see a proper close-up of Beer Bong's Quickfire Challenge dish, in all its poxied, tumescent glory of "playful presentation." It rather does the trick, we think, and we silently vow that we will never again frequent the whores in Marseilles.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Episode Four, Part 1: Junk in Their Trunk

The episode begins so peacefully, with the native fauna waking up, that we feel as if the Peer Gynt Suite ought to be playing, with the Discovery Channel logo in a corner of the screen. Travel with us as we observe the native species in their habitat. Look, there’s Eliada aboumradia doing yoga. And Spicea rackia and Josetta eberia talking in their beds about how they have to kick it up a notch.

Hush now. Be very still; make no sudden movements. There, sleeping the sleep of the beached, is Beerus bongius. What, we ask ourselves, is the meaning of those curious tattoos on his lardo-smooth biceps? Could they be dolphins? Has anyone told him that tribal tattoos on biceps are like, so gay, dude? Have you ever seen a less tribal specimen in your life? And why is he sleeping on the couch? And wait. What’s that whisper, that suggestion, that merest scrap of blue near his head? Why, it looks like a thong.

We are reminded that on his very first day in the “Top Chef” loft, Beer Bong let it be known that his “wife” had packed a pair of her “panties” in his luggage. Beer Bong now tells us that he is “hurtin’,” that he misses his wife, and that he needs “a new pair of panties.”

Leaving aside the question of how anyone, let alone a supposedly married straight man, could refer to a thong as panties, Miss XaXa plunges into the fray. Miss XaXa, having gimlet eyes and firsthand (firstcrack?) experience of thongs, immediately pounces: “That thing looks awfully small. Could it be that….?” She trails off, and her nose wrinkles with distaste, and her eyes widen with dawning horror. Her voice, when it returns, is an octave higher. “Could Beer Bong actually have married someone hot?” Is the situation for women in California’s Central Valley so dire that even hot women have to marry specimens like Beer Bong? “Couldn’t they start importing men from Alaska?” Miss XaXa asks. “Look at that crap show Anne Heche is on. Surely,” she concludes, “even in Stockton things can’t be that bad.”

We whip out Occam’s razor, test it for sharpness on one of Madame de Pompadour’s hairs, then use it to come up with another theory. Maybe Beer Bong isn’t married. We remember some chaps from our varsity days who had photos in their rooms of women who were supposedly their girlfriends from back home, but the photos were decoys, because in one instance the chap was gay, and in the other, too geeky to get a girlfriend. We are now convinced that this is a decoy thong. Call us doubting Thomases if you like but we won’t believe until we see a marriage certificate. (Also, notice how people who really are married, such as Carlos or Josie, aren't depicting lying around and moaning that they miss Chuck and Caitlin.)

The one who does act like Beer Bong’s wife is Madame de Pompadour, who takes a pair of tangerine flip flops and repeatedly bangs them together above Beer Bong’s head, telling him it’s time to wake up and go to work.
It was like watching a hybrid of “The Bird Cage” and “The Honeymooners” starring John Belushi and Liberace. We squinted at the television to make sure that Marcel wasn’t actually wearing a house coat, house slippers, and a headscarf. What did we tell you about Beer Bong being a great argument for gay marriage? At any rate, Miss XaXa agreed that Marcel's gag was the best use of the has-no-reason-to-exist monstrosity that is the flip flop since the days of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. And oh the choice and delicious irony of the flip flop, emblem of the Dude, all that is wrong with American manhood, being used to torment its primary exponent.

Padma comes out to announce the Quickfire Challenge, which provides immunity for the winner, in the company of Chef Suzanne Goin of Lucques, A.O.C., and The Hungry Cat. Our “Lez is More”-dar immediately goes off. Now mind you, we aren’t saying that Chef Goin is actually a lesbian (we know she’s married to the beauteous Chef David Lentz of The Hungry Cat [we’d never make anything of the name, we swear]). It’s just that even Marcel looks butch standing next to Padma, and Suzanne is no exception. Let’s just say that she is lesbolicious and leave it at that. She was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 1999 (in the same class as Rocco diSpirito), and in addition to attending Brown University and the London School of Economics, she worked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Arpège in Paris, Olives in Boston and Campanile in Los Angeles. And she’s lovely and slender and has beautiful hair. And we wish we were lesbians. But we digress. Yet again.

Padma tells us that the Quickfire Challenge is about “attention to detail” and will involve the creation of an amuse-bouche. Padma, luv, if we may be so bold as to tap you on the shoulder….about that “attention to detail” business…first of all, it’s ah-MEWS-boosh (as in ah-MEWS-bee-yotch), not AH-moos-boosh. Oh, there, she said it again. Stop, stop, it’s hurting our ears. And second of all, since we’re paying attention to detail, what in fug’s name are you wearing? We were down with the whole slumming thing last week, but jeans yet again, and with a black suede vest that was stolen from John Stamos and the wardrobe department at “Full House”? Simply unacceptable.

Madame de Pompadour muses about an amuse-bouche (correctly pronounced) of oysters with apple jel-LEE (uh, we thought “jelly” was pronounced JEL-lee, and if he’s talking about gelée, it’s jel-AY, so, Mark Vines, what the hell are you talking about?).

The cheftestants set out to do the shopping for the challenge, but they don’t have far to go. The ingredients are in the room next door. In two vending machines! Mais non! Ce n'est pas possible! Is this supposed to give us the vapors?

Given the provenance of the ingredients, Beer Bong is singled out as the early favorite. As Cliff, our Valrhona Bear, puts it, “I’ve never seen a man put more crap into his body.” Well, Clifford, garbage in, garbage out, n'est-ce pas? Beer Bong himself wants “a frozen burrito and a pastrami sandwich, dude,” and proclaims a commitment to “keepin’ it Mike-style.” Madame de Pompadour observes with wry defeatism, “No oysters in the vending machines.” And Beer Bong, with no note of wryness but a symphony of defeatism, announces that he has reached a decision, “Screw this! Screw the Quickfire today.” Giving up, he buys Cheetos and Snickers, which we half suspect he is going to eat, as he did with the beer on last week's challenge.

It’s time for the preparation montage. We see Frankie the Bull in a BERET! Yo, Frankie! You forgettin’ your stereotypes or somethin’? Frankie, you are EYE-talian, and don’t you never forget it. Pepe le Pew wants his beret back; seems Che Guevara wants to borrow it.

Marcel tells us about making his amuse-bouche (correctly pronounced), and confesses that he prefers the “sweeter side” for the ah-mew-SAY. Um, Mark Vine, dude, seriously, don’t even like, try, to speak French. The plural of amuse, if you so choose to abbreviate amuse-bouches, would be "amuses" in any language, not "amusés."

Beer Bong makes a dish, a thing, consisting of a seemingly engorged Cheeto arcing from a round base of Snickers pieces. As our chulo chef Carlos puts it, “Mike’s Cheeto vending dish was the most phallic thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” And as we pointed out, Carlos knows from phallic.

As Marcel puts together his dish, the closed captioning service informs us that he is imitating the Muppet character Beaker, but we disagree. To us it sounds more like the Swedish Chef, or the faux French Valley Girl Chef. Ilan not only embodies, but also provides, a perfect definition of amuse-bouche: “An amuse-bouche is supposed to be something very small that you can just pop in your mouth or eat in one bite, that tickles your appetite.”

Spice Rack prepares a “fromage frittata chiffonade.” We wince and wrap our astrakhan coat more tightly around us, and our white Paraguayan parrot, Iphigénie, lets out a screech. Spice Rack, honey, neither you nor Mark Vine should tackle the furrin tongues. We, more than anyone, understand the temptation of alliteration, but really! Fromage is French, and it means “cheese.” Frittata is Italian, so why not say “a formaggio frittata”? You and Frankie the Bull are really doing your best for the Franco-Italian thing, aren’t you? (We won’t even get into the whole chiffonade thing.)

Elia has whipped up a chicken salad to be served on a mini-tostada made from a Dorito. A witty and smitten Chef Goin says to her, “You make a Dorito sound better with that accent.” Yet another pick-up line that is immediately going into our arsenal.

It’s time for the presentation of Beer Bong’s dish. Faced with a dish that looks like a sex-ed film on the dangers of syphilis, Chef Goin observes, with that quicksilver wit of hers, “You’ve got a playful presentation there.” “Yeah, it’s playful,” answers Clarence Thomas. No, wait, it’s Austin Powers. No, it's Bill Clinton. Ah, no, it’s Beer Bong. “Is it finger food?” she asks, clearly giving him the finger. Her sarcasm is like fleur de sel. Noting that it’s just Cheetos and Snickers, she delivers the coup de grâce. “It’s an ode to the ingredients,” she says as she twists the knife. And we are in love.

Carlos has made a mini loaf of cilantro, carrots, and sunflower seeds garnished with Squirt grapefruit soda and lime juice. Chef Goin pronounces it “nice and bright and clean, and tastes good.” Just like Carlos, purrs Miss XaXa.

Mia is another one who falls prey to the furrin tongue twister. She presents what she calls “la bocadita delicioso,” which she translates as “the little mouth.” Josette Eber, honey, we know that trying to hide weird things under a foreign name is a time-honored tradition, like hiding one’s peas under the mashed potatoes. But you’ve gotta be able to talk the talk. And let us tell you, “la bocadita delicioso” (we won’t even get into the whole subject and adjective gender agreement) does not mean “the delicious mouth.” Mouth is "boca," or, if you’re feeling cute, “boquita.” “Bocadito” means “morsel.” So, que tengas mejor suerte next time, Josette, delicious morsel that you are.

And she’s going to need all the luck she can get, as she is one of the bottom three. Joining her is—surprise, surprise—Beer Bong, whose fat carcass Chef Goin uses to make a chiffonade: “I get this vibe from you that you could not care less. And I feel like, you know, nobody kidnapped you to put you on this show to try to win against all these people who are trying really hard.”

Iphigénie falls off her perch in a dead faint and has to be revived with poire William. We, too, momentarily lose consciousness from sheer giddy joy. Did someone on television actually refrain from the stupid and illogical “could care less”? And did she just rip Beer Bong a new one? We decide right then and there to chain ourselves to the door at A.O.C. until Chef Goin declares that she believes in polyamory relationships and marries us.

The top three are Frank, Carlos and Ilan, whom she chastises because his dish is too sweet (the very problem with Marcel’s dish): “It’s like you guys have to walk past that pear nectar; you don’t need it in every dish.” Amen to that; the woman is a prophet as well as a goddess. She said what we’ve been longing to say for a good while (hey, Chef Ludovic Lefèvre, are you listening?). Our dreams of marriage are dashed. We’re just not worthy.