Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Next Food Network Star, Week Four

Nine contestants left.

This week, the show opens with Brianna saying she needed that win last week. She’s been good at hiding any doubts she may have about her abilities in the contest.

Next up, the finalists file into the Food Star kitchens, were they meet up with Bobby and Giada and a table filled with baskets of chili peppers. Bobby explains that he’s made a career out of working and cooking with peppers, and they require an able hand.

This week’s camera challenge is to cook with peppers and the winner will have their dish featured on the menu at Bobby’s Mesa Grill locations. Giada instructs them that they will present to camera and since the audience cannot taste their food, it will be the contestant’s job to describe the food in a way that conveys the flavor of the dish and brings it to life.

The mad scramble begins as these peppers are first come, first serve. Brianna insists she will be getting the Fresnos, because they are the only red pepper on that table. Serena says she’s tiny, so she just grabbed what she could, the Anaheims, and she has never worked with them before. Brad has Thai chilies, and Herb has yellow chilies, that he’s never used before.

The dishes are presented and the contestants are called to present one by one.

Paul is first. He has the Habañeros, and the presentation wasn’t interesting or compelling, but Bob gives him a B, which may be Paul’s best showing yet.

DAS’s plate is very attractive, an Albacore Tuna sushi, but he talks about not being a sushi kind of guy, forgetting to mention anything about the flavors of the pepper he chose. Bobby complains that he could have used any pepper, because it is just sprinkled on top, Giada’s observation is that it lacked imagination and Susie mentioned that lack of describing the dish.

Aria comes out with her huge smile and realized at the end that she didn’t even mention the peppers. The judges didn’t even taste the peppers in the dish.

Herb remembers to mention his pepper, but he has a hard time eating and describing his dish. The judges don’t taste his pepper, either.

Brianna’s confidence is apparent in this presentation. She made Creamy Chicken Kabobs and nails it, describing her peppers and earning positive comments all around from the judges.

Serena has taken the judge’s critiques to heart and has a more measured presentation of her Salmon in Papiotte with Anaheim peppers with avocado and papaya, but the food was deemed bland.

Tom presents “Southwest meets Southeast Asia,” ably describing his Pablano peppers. Bobby mentions that he can see this dish as an appetizer on his menu and Giada observes that Tom has come a long way. (Yay, big, scruffy dude!)

Aarti is worried that 30 seconds is not much time to describe her dish. She comments that the Food Network stars make it look easy, because she barely has seconds to say anything about the Serrano puree with her Smoky Steak. Bobby liked the dish, while Giada and Susie lament that she didn’t have time to describe.

Brad comes out and you can see confidence, but he becomes a robot when it’s time to describe his Satay. Bobby says his mouth is on fire because Brad uses his pepper with finesse, but Bob notices that he changes as soon as that ‘go’ signal is given.

The contestants file in. The bottom: Herb and DAS. Brianna wins, and says she’s going to fly to the Bahamas, then Vegas to see her dish on the menu!

(Is anyone besides me getting annoyed with that Cupcake Wars promo music?)

Next, it is Star challenge time. The contestants are introduced to three chefs: Jonathan Waxman from Barbuto (and Bobby’s mentor), Susan Feniger, owner of Cuidad, whom Aarti appears to know-she says she really looks up to Susan, and Eric Greenspan, owner of the Foundry on Melrose.

Jonathan talks about chefs being in the hospitality industry and pleasing guests. Susan says the challenge is about recreating the best thing they ever ate, while Eric instructs that the finalist will be reinventing the foods from these three chef’s memories and make it better.

In groups of three, the finalists will be competing against each other to cook their selected chef’s favorite dish. Jonathan’s is Lamb with potatoes, and Tom, Aarti and Herb are assigned to make it; Susan’s is Fried Chicken and Iceberg Lettuce with Blue Cheese and Serena, Brianna and Brad are challenged; Aria, Paul and Brad are charged with making Macaroni and Cheese and a juicy steak.

Thirty minutes to shop, 150 bucks to spend and they’ll be meeting at Susan’s restaurant, Ciudad, the next morning. They’ve got an hour in the kitchen. In the kitchen, we see Serena saying “behind’ at every opportunity, Brianna making chicken and waffles, and Brad worrying about undercooked chicken. Their presentations brought a lot of themselves to the table.

Each took Susan’s description of the dish being from her childhood and made something that was inspired by family. Serena’s got lost in the cultural translation, Brianna’s chicken was a hit (but the waffles weren’t) and Brad’s dish pulled it all together.

Now for the Macs and Cheese with Steak. Aria goes for Fajitas and decides to add Jalapeños to her Macs and cheese, DAS is ambitious with a pan seared Prime Steak with a berry relish, while Paul decides to make Pork Tenderloin to stand out from the other two.

DAS didn’t impress Eric, because he buried the steak in berries. Bobby is unimpressed that DAS doesn’t know what Prime means, and Aria didn’t impress with her Fajita/Mac and Cheese combo, while Paul backpedals his culinary POV.

The final group is presenting Lamb and Potatoes. Tom speaks about Jonathan being Bobby’s mentor and sticks to simple with a Spice Rubbed Lamb with smashed fingerling potatoes, Aarti goes for some Arabic Lamb Kabobs with Fenugreek potatoes. She impresses Bobby with making molasses from Pomagranite juice. Herb has nerves and he’s making a Rack of Lamb with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes. He burns his Balsamic reduction, which Bobby happens to witness.

Alas, Herb’s nerves are showing when he presents last, because Aarti and Tom both had great presentations, but the judges get a glimpse at his insecurities. The critique was that Tom wasn’t inventive, but it was solid, and Aarti really impressed the judges all around.

Judgment time: the nine file in for their critique. The Mac and Cheese group are up first, Aria did not impress the judges because it wasn’t flavorful. Paul’s risk did not pay off and he’s told he needs to be authentic. DAS’s berry sauce was a mystery and Bobby puts him on the spot by asking about the prime cut again.

Fried chicken group-Serena is told that her food didn’t impress, but the personal stories should keep coming, Brianna’s chicken was awesome and they loved Brad’s chicken.

Tom, Aarti and Herb. Tom’s lamb was underseasoned, but they loved his presentation and is dubbed ‘most improved’. Aarti’s food was well seasoned and inventive and is told she is a fierce contender. Herb is called out on the self doubt and he tells them about his demons. Susie tells him that they want him to share his warmth and magic, not the sadness from the past.

Aria, Aarti and Brad are the winners of their groups, so they are safe. Then, Brianna, Tom and Paul are told they’re safe. (Hey, Paul’s not in the bottom for a change!). This leaves Serena, Herb and DAS, who are asked to leave the evaluation room.

Each has a reason that compels the judge to keep them, but ultimately, one hasn’t progressed enough in the previous three weeks, and DAS is sent home.

Next week’s promo hints at tension in the house and mobile food vans.

Top four: Aarti, Brad, Aria and Tom
Bottom: Serena and Paul.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Kernel of Information

As is typical for me the past year, I'm in the process of writing a research paper for a Psychology class. Of course, I'm looking for a topic relating to Aspergers Syndrome that fits into the parameters for this class, Psychology of Learning.

The more I think I don't want to go down the Psychology path, the more I find things that lead me back to it.

When you live with a person on the spectrum, so much of each day is spent in thought about the spectrum that you can't help but gravitate towards it as a research topic. Seriously, a paper is assigned and I immediately think "Hey, it would be great if I can find a paper that supports this!," with this being any number of topics that would never have come to mind if it wasn't staring you in the face every day in the form of your child.

The admissions advisor I met last year was so dead on, not even knowing the particulars about my life. When I'd told him what my end goal was, he asked questions about what I'd done, what education I'd completed and observed that I could tie it together best with Psychology. "Plus, Psychology is probably the best lead in to the Masters program you want." He didn't even know about Game Teen or my experiences working in that field way back when.

So, when this semester's class syllabus listed a presentation and research paper, I knew I was going to do it on Asperger's and learning. To narrow it down, I figured it would be good to tie in my future learning and look for Computer Aided learning for students on the Autism spectrum.

There's not much out there. What there IS, though, makes me think that it is a topic that definitely could benefit from more study. If you remove the anxiety of social interaction from a child with Asperger's learning situation, how much more will they progress?

The papers I found have led me to a software program, then more studies on Asperger's and education in general and from there I thought about Game Teen's school and then the Masters program itself. From there, several dissertation topics spring to mind. A year ago, I couldn't even think of a one that hadn't been covered ad nauseum.

It's amazing how one little piece of information can grow into something so broad that I cannot help but want to explore the topic more and more. (and more and more)










Monday, June 28, 2010

A Week With The MacBook Pro

It's a cute little thing. In a nod to the Spanish class, it was dubbed 'mi manzana,' and that appears to have stuck.

There are things to adjust to, but nothing too terribly annoying. For instance, at first, I was having a hard time reading the screen. Yes, I know I need new glasses, but did I need the computer to point that out for me? By accident, I quickly found that command and plus enlarges the text. Yay!

There is no page up as I'm used to. There is a command combo for that as well, but I'm not sure what it is yet. That will come soon.

I was trying to type an assignment in Word. For some reason, I'd expected it to be identical, which it is not. It's fine, but you know how you get used to using something a certain way for (almost) twenty years? The functionality is identical, but the cosmetics are different. Like driving a different car.

A friend's husband works for Microsoft and she explained that there are two different development teams for the two platforms. That was the light bulb statement-of course things will be different if different teams are making them. It's easier to customize the Mac version, which I'm doing, little by little.

This model is equipped with a ten hour battery. Your mileage may vary, but after calibration, I'm getting about eight hours or so on a charge. Considering that that time includes surfing the 'net and playing a video or music, it's pretty sweet.

One of the things that annoyed me when I switched from the HP to the Toshiba is that I couldn't port over my iPod library. There are about a dozen CD's that I lost by leaving a car case behind at a wedding. (the DJs were horrible and the bride was getting upset.) So, I couldn't sync, and I couldn't transfer. However, because they are two Apple products, I was able to get a program and pull everything off the iPod and put it into my library.

I'm glad I got it now so I can get used to all that it has. There is a lot I haven't had the time to monkey with.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Next Food Network Star, Week Three

My apologies, the school work kept me from watching the DVR'ed episode until today. Ihrough a spoiler, I found out who was eliminated, so I wasn't rushing to see the episode. If you, however, have remained in the dark about the contestant who went home, you'll just have to wait a few more paragraphs.

The show starts at the house in the hills and Dzintra saying that being in the bottom was 'the worst situation I've been in my life.' Then, we see the remaining ten file into the Food Star Kitchen, with the prep tables lined with movie theatre boxes of popcorn.

Giada introduces Season Two winner, Guy, Fieri, who informs the contestants that this week's camera challenge is to create a dish inspired by classic movie genres. Each finalist pulls a card out of the popcorn box and finds what they'll be inspired by.

Herb-Mystery
Tom-Romance
Paul-Drama
DAS- Foreign
Briana-Comedy
Brad-Animation
Serena-Western
Aarti-Horror
Aria-SciFi
Dzintra-Action

They've got 45 minutes to cook, then present to camera with Bob, Guy and Giada tasting the dishes. During prep, we see Serena has jumped on Spaghetti Western, but she's terrified of presenting pasta to Giada, and Tom doesn't have a deep fryer for his Pomme Frites.

First up, DAS presents, with a voice over that he has to get over his issues with the camera. He seems very wooden and his 'Peace' sign off is way too somber for a guy who I'll bet is pretty animated when the cameras aren't trained on him. His dish is called 'Taco 101', while Giada states they're not very foreign. True point for California!

Brianna
says she wants to make the judges laugh because she has comedy, and she wastes the opportunity to get that category with a "Tempura Shrimp and Scallop Funnest." The presentation was flat talking about how she giggles when she buys shrimp, there was no amusement about the presentation of the dish, but Bob likes the flavor.

Aarti decides to ride the confidence wave and nails her presentation, saying that the thing that makes her amused in horror movies is how the victim walks past a painting and the eyes in it move, so she made a horror Meatloaf with Blood designed to look like an eye. The presentation is engaging, and Guy says that she's done the best of both sides of the challenge.

Brad is next, coming out with a huge smile that goes away when he describes his Salmon dish by stating "When I think of animation, I think big colors, lightness and he drew it into a fish" and his plate certainly had that with the orange of the salmon and some bright greens. Bob picked up on the smile issue and Guy loves the dish.

Tom comes out and the voice over is that he knows his dish (Chicken a l'Orange) is not an A plus, but his presentation was what appeals to me about the guy-he's a down home raconteur, talking about how when he thinks of romance, he thinks of France and of he and his fiance picnicking under the Eiffel Tower. The judges loved the presentation, but the food fell flat, Guy commenting that he was thinking he was having Chicken Chow Mein and Giada calling the side "Pomme Flats."

Aria is next and she is determined not to be critiqued as talking to kindergartners again. She presents her dish with a statement that when she thinks of SciFi, it's all about what lies beneath, so her dish is rice balls with a surprise inside. Bob says she's subdued this week, and Guy critiques that you told her to downplay her energy, and she gravitated towards the middle ground.

Next up is Paul, who says he doesn't know how to act any more, because he was first told he was too flat, then he was too over the top. His presentation still seems forced, talking about how a peppercorn steak makes him think of drama, especially when it's 'kissed with white truffle oil.' (Personally, that's not all that dramatic to me.) Giada observes that he's still too over the top and awkward in trying to figure out what the judges want on camera, while Bob says the strawberry sauce that the steak is served with (yuck) is too sticky sweet for the steak.

It's Serena's turn and she's so cute presenting how she married Italian flavors with Western flavors by making Spaghetti with Chili Bolognese Sauce. The judges love her energy, Giada says the spaghetti is cooked perfectly and she loves the combination of Chili and Spaghetti (hear that, Cincinatti?)

Herb comes in looking confident, but he blanks out on explaining why his Chorizo dish ties into his Mystery theme. Bob opines that this is 'not the Herb we've seen, while Guy says the dish seems to be missing a key element.

Dzintra says she's thinking don't overdo it. Her inspiration is adventure movies was Winding Car Chase pasta and she goes off on a tangent about writing letters to James Bond and she doesn't look comfortable. Food was deemed too sticky, with Guy's observation that it was "Peanut Buttery with a serious need for some jelly."

Cut to the three judges and ten contestants filing in before them. Paul is told he seems inauthentic, DAS is told his food didn't seem inspired. Aarti wins the challenge, with the comment that her presentation is flawless.

Guy announces that Bobby is in New York this week, so he's sticking around for the second challenge. The next morning, the contestants know they have to dress up for something really fabulous, and they're brought to the Highlands, a hot club, where there's a red carpet, paparazzi and their Star Challenge, where the judges want to see how they'll handle the spotlight. They're told not to forget to grab their swag bag because there is something special. Brianna does up diva, DAS keeps saying "What's happening, what's happening" over and over. Paul is too ramped up. Dzintra does pirouettes on the red carpet and she's too bizarre for her own good.

Part two of the challenge is that there will be a MGD after party for 150 in the very room they are standing in for Grammy award winner Colby Calliat. The contestants are paired by the color of their swag bags. Paul cops an attitude that he's paired with Serena, and he disses her home cook background, stating that he comes from a professional chef background.

The swag bags contain ingredients. They are asked to pull an ingredient out and the one in their hands will be used in a solo dish, but both ingredients will be incorporated into a collaborative dish with their partners. The teams are asked to state their ingredients:

Tom-Bananas and DAS-Red Cabbage
Brianna-Fennel and Herb-MGD 64
Dizintra-Mushrooms and Aria-Blueberries
Aarti-Taleggio Cheese and Brad-Dark Chocolate
Serena-Peanut Butter and Paul- Parsnips.

Five hundred bucks to shop and two hours to prep before the party. While shopping, Aria is not comfortable with the pairing with Dzintra. Brianna and Herb are 'Team Sexy,' which she comments that not only do they look good, they cook good, too. Brianna's solo dish is Pork with Fennel Chutney, Herb's is Beer Marinated Flank Steak with a Chimichurri Sauce (yum) and the collaborative dish is Bruschetta with a Beer Fondue and Fennel-Leek Ragu.

Brad talks about not being a dessert guy, so he and Aarti decide to put everything into savory and he thinks their dishes have to be perfect. Aarti says that their collaborative dish and Brad's solo dish are pretty ambitious to get done in the allotted time. Brad's making Chocolate Seared Pork, Aarti Taleggio Toast and the combined is Beef Skewer with Chocolate Sauce and Taleggio Cheese.

Dzintra's dish is Beef with a Wild Mushroom Gravy, Aria's dish is a Blueberry Napoleon and they've paired ingredients to make a Salad with Mushrooms and a Blueberry Vinegrette. Aria comments that they are not communicating, while Dzintra feels she has to justify everything she does. Aria says their styles do not flow.

Tom and DAS are rocking their partnership with a "Get R Done" attitude. Tom wants to use his bananas in a savory way, so he's making a Banana Avocado Mousse and DAS does Fried Pancetta Cabbage. They pair the ingredients in a Tempura Banana with Jerk Cabbage. It sounds crazy, but I'd try it. Tom says he may have overdone it on the Jerk seasoning.

Paul derides Serena's home cook status when describing their dishes, saying 'She's never cooked for 150 people.' Paul is making Shrimp over Parsnip Pureé, Serena's is Mozzarella en Carozza, and theiy collaborate on Tenderloin with Parsnip Slaw and a Spicy Peanut Sauce. Paul shows off by trying a knife trick on a bottle of soy sauce, the bottle breaks and shards went into the slaw. He's got to pitch it and start over.

While preparing their food, Serena was walking behind Brianna, who steps on her foot. Serena hears a snap, and her foot is turning blue, but she needs to keep going. (See, Dzintra? Even the home cook KNOWS this!) Time's up and then the contestants are introduced to Colby, who informs them she is HUNGRY.

Herb is schmoozing, while Brianna multitasks to get their plates done, so she can't be warm and energetic with the judges or guests. She couldn't even explain to the judges what the inspiration was for the dish. The judges love the collaboration, adored Herb's (I love Chimichurri and that looked awesome) and Bob loved Brianna's.

Brad says he's not pleased with their product, given the time constraints, but he feels he has to present it as if he LOVES it and Aarti is finally comfortable in talking about the food to the judges one on one. They try her dish and Bob loves how she took a traditional Italian dish and infused Indian spices, Brad's dish is missing the chocolate flavor and the collaborative dish was too tough.

Aria says she loves talking to people and it comes naturally, and Dzintra has nervous energy, telling guests they aren't getting poisonous mushroom. Dzintra doesn't like that Aria has engaged the judges and so she SHUSHES HER! She then goes on about how she's classically trained in France. Aria is stunned and the judges are dumbfounded, which Aria knows is not a good thing. They love Aria's solo effort, gag at Dzintra stating something about a hairball in relation to hers and feel the collaboration was not thought out. Meanwhile, every guest in the room is avoiding their station, probably because there was tension going on.

Next were 'Big DAS' and 'Big Sexy (Tom)' and they both have a rapport with the guests. Tom is nervous about their collaborative dish and Tom is hoping they love their personalities. The looks on their faces told the story-they were creative, but the jerk seasoning was too much. Bob loves Tom's Mousse, while Colby likes the Cabbage.

Serena explains to a guest that her dish is typical Italian comfort food, while Paul says they didn't have a plan for presenting. Serena is talking and schmoozing the guests, while Paul mocks her that she talks too much-in FRONT of the guests. She says she doesn't show it on the outside, she's in a world of pain. Their presentation is painful to watch. Colby says she hopes their food is better than the presentation.

Their solo dishes were horrible, but the collaboration is liked by all the judges.
After they all present to the judges, we Serena with an iced foot, trying to hold back tears-and she's taken out by paramedics. After the commercial break, we find that Serena's foot is not broken, but she is worried about the interactions with Paul.

Elimination time. Tom and DAS is told their collaboration was inedible, but Tom's mojo was in full force. DAS is told that his red carpet didn't have genuine appeal. Herb and Brianna, 'Team Sexy', were told they were the dream team. They loved the Flank steak, and Herb's personality. Brianna is told her food was fantastic and she was an expert chef, but the crowd was mixed on how she warm she is. They loved the collaborative dish.

Aarti looked nervous, but the judges tell her they love the way she infuses Indian spices into other cuisines. Brad is informed that his food and the collaboration were disappointing. He's overthinking his food and what he wants to do.

Paul and Serena were told they were 'Team Chaos'. They're asked about how they thought the collaboration worked and Paul digs in that he was hustling while Serena was taking a slow, measured, home cook pace. Susie tells him his behavior to Serena is extremely condescending, while Guy tells him that in the world of Food Network stars, there are a mixture of classically trained and home cooks-this is anyone's game to lose. Paul's dish was overcooked, Serena's was dry, but they loved the collaborative dish.

Guy asks Aria and Dzintra about their pairing and Aria is diplomatic saying "Sometimes we stepped on each other." and Susie says the Shushing made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Bob comments about how talking over Aria was disrespectful and Dzintra says that's not how she meant it at all. She was told by Bob that this shows she is insecure. They LOVED Aria's Napoleon. Dzintra's mushroom sauce was great but the meat was not liked.

Decision time. The winner of the challenge is 'Team Sexy,' so they're safe and can leave. Next, Brad and Aarti, then Tom and DAS are told they're safe. Bottom four are Dzintra, Aria, Paul and Serena, who are asked to leave the room while they deliberate.

Aria is 'moving to the middle', according to Susie. Guy says Dzintra is not comfortable in her own skin, Serena didn't serve good food and Paul still annoys. When they return, Aria and Serena are dismissed, and Paul is told he is................



safe.

Dzintra is going home.

I'm doing a happy dance, because she rubbed the wrong way from the beginning, with Paul being my next least favorite. Alas, my DVR cut off the next week's promo, so I don't know what's up tomorrow!

My top three: Aarti, Tom, Aria
My bottom three: Paul for being smarmy and condescending, DAS and Brianna only for not showing any personality when it matters.








Friday, June 25, 2010

Feed Me Friday

It looks familiar, doesn't it?

A familiar favorite took a left turn at Albuquerque. I got the idea to modify my home fries/steak hash routine by making Southwestern Steak Hash. It started with home fries, onions, and diced steak. Added cumin, cayenne and then Cholula and cheese.


Wait a minute, this is Ed's bowl-better add more cheese.


Apparently, I had the right idea. Ed and Chef both had seconds and were complaining there wasn't more.

I guess I need to make more steak so we can have leftovers this way again!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Studying Tips for College Students with ADHD

I've lived for many years with ADHD, diagnosed at the same time as Game Teen nine years ago, and managed fine. However, the demands of studying in college have made it clear that the time of leaving it untreated has come and gone.

In the meantime, a couple of things that have helped me get this far in college without blowing my grades:

*Ask the professors if you can record lectures. I started doing this with my Spanish class last semester and it makes a huge difference. Not only do I get more practice from doing drills while listening in the car, I have found that there are important things I didn't hear during the class the first go round. This semester, I'm recording both live classes.

*Flash Cards. Seriously, they are made for those of us with short attention spans. I had a test tonight that I wrote out all the terms the professor said to learn, then listened to the lectures to put the terms onto the cards. It helped me to retain info.

*White Noise. I have the iPod and iPhone set up with various white noise and it is my salvation while the kids are home from school and if I'm in the quiet study area at school and it's not so quiet. That's probably my worst issue with studying, not being able to tune out the extraneous conversations, video games or tv programs.

I also started getting up a few hours earlier than the kids to take advantage of that quiet time. It's a good feeling to have put in three hours on schoolwork before they are coming to me for all sorts of random things throughout the day.

I hope these tips come in handy for others in the same boat!







Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Random Observations From Dining Out

For almost two years, I've been doing secret shopping for a Florida based company. Mostly, it is bars and restaurants, with the occasional foray into other things. Primarily, though, I do restaurants at the rate of one or two a month.

The whole point of the exercise is to be the eyes for the business owner. Think about it-don't you dot your i's and cross your t's when the boss is around? By hiring shoppers to visit, they get the view that the average customer gets.

For me, it was a good side thing to do. I grew up around restaurants and spent all those years in retail. Things I tend to observe might be why the business has been in a slump-or why they've done better but didn't know why.

Yesterday was one of my worst. While there, a friend and I were talking about horrible dining experiences, because this ranked up there for both of us (and she doesn't do shops, she came along at my request.) So, some observations from the experience.

*If customers have one menus folded and pushed out to the end of the table, it either means they don't want to order food or that they've made their decision. But if one is folded out and the other person is actively looking at the menu when you take the appetizer order, it is a good bet they will be ordering dinner.*

*The time to ask if the appetizer is okay is soon after it's delivered, not ten minutes later, when it has been finished.*

*If someone is sitting at a table, presume that they are ordering dinner, don't say "You should have told me you wanted to order dinner" twenty five minutes after they are seated.*

*If you're the manager, delivering dinners to a table twenty four minutes after they're ordered (because the server is probably afraid that she ticked the customers off with the delay in asking for a dinner order), identify yourself as such and apologize for the delay, instead of just saying "is everything okay?" when you drop the food and run.

There's more, but that's the nuts and bolts. My friend commented that if this is the quality of service on a slow night, she is scared to think what the place is like on the weekend.

More importantly, there are a cluster of restaurants adjacent to this one, most are mom and pop's or smaller chains. We both have occasion to be there fairly regularly and were soured on the service and commented positively on the experiences at several of the competitors.

At least this time, I was able to provide feedback in a way that will help the company understand why their sales might not be what they expected...




Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Sign of a Good Recipe

When the menfolk fight over who will eat the leftovers, it's always a good sign.

For a month or so now, Chef has been nagging me to make a recipe he's seen on Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." One of the very first episodes was "My Favorite Obsession," on which Aaron Sanchez extolled the virtues of his mama's Arroz con Crema, which is served at her Zarela restaurant.

Zarela Sanchez describes preparing it on the show and Chef was hooked. Rice, sour cream, cheddar, roasted poblanos, onions, and garlic and it is a creamy, rich side dish that complements the heat of a traditional Mexican meal. I have to admit it sounded really good to me, too, but it spoke to Chef.

Sunday night, I had most of the ingredients (I was missing the onions and poblanos), but I made do with a can of green chiles. The kid has good taste-it was fantastic. It was also ridiculously easy to make.

When I was leaving the house yesterday, Chef and Ed were arguing over who got the leftovers. Apparently, it resulted in a draw. Tonight, Ed came in from work and was hungry. "Where's the Wonder Rice?"

I guess I will be making that one again soon!


Monday, June 21, 2010

El Segundo Clase de Español

Último semestre, yo tengé mi primera clase de español. Con base en mi clase de francés hacó mucho año en la escuela media, yo no creé qué ese clase seriá fácil.

Este semestre, yo tengo la segunda clase para mi grado de psicología. La profesora es más buena, así yo deseo tener más clases con ella.

¿Que pensaban que ese yo escribo un post sólo en español el año pasado?

(forgive my mangling of the prederitos, I just learned them!)


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tag Along

One thing that Game Teen does that makes me proud on a regular basis is his penchant for immediately putting his hand up at meetings when he hears the words "We need some scouts to..." Someday, it might be "...muck out stalls," but so far, if they want volunteers, he does it.

His brother, on the other hand, is more cautious about what he pitches in to do. Barbeque fundraiser? Sure thing, he's there. Event at the VFW? Sign him up. Standing outside, directing traffic? He'll pass.

However, Game Teen signed up to do it and Ed had to work, so Chef had to go.

He protested and grumbled that "Game Teen didn't put his name on the roster" (Game Teen went up to the scoutmaster directly-he hates writing anything) "It's going to be too hot" and "But I didn't say I'd do it." My response was to tell him that he also needed some community service hours.

We got to the event and their scoutmaster gave them hearty welcomes, an Assistant scoutmaster immediately took Game Teen over to a task they'd picked just for him and I headed a few miles down the road to the library for a few hours of quiet studying.

A few hours later, when I came to pick them up, I had one happy, smiling kid and one extremely hyper kid, eager to tell me about all the stuff he did and the neat stuff he had in his pocket.

And no, that wasn't the one who had signed up in the first place.

The ride home was spent explaining to Chef that his brother had learned something important very early in his scout career: If you give a little of yourself for a few hours, everyone shows their appreciation.

I suspect that there won't be any grumbling the next time he has to tag along!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Manzana

Many years ago, my circle of friends was full of techies. Early adapters, we all were. I sold computers, a few friends worked in the tech sector, others worked in television production. We all subscribed to the various magazines espousing the joys of new technologies.

It wasn't really a surprise when Bob showed up with a top of the line camcorder that recorded in three modes, when Joe had his first real job and got a four track mixing board (this is a guy who made a drum machine out of a piece of cardboard and pins!) and eventually, we all got computers.

Back then, Ed was dubbed 'Mr. Incompatible', for while everyone who had a camcorder owned a VHS based one, he bought an 8mm. We all purchased IBM clones, he purchased a Mac. At the time, Apple had a 10% market share-and a handle on most of the software that Ed coveted.

When we began dating, I was quite excited to purchase him a 3.5 floppy of Castle Wolfenstein for Mac the day it came into my store. Meanwhile, he was drooling over the NASCAR game that had just come out on CD Rom for PCs, one of the first games that was legitimately too big for a half dozen floppies.

He moved in, we had two machines side by side. He got used to the PC architecture and over time, the LC-II was outdated and replaced with a succession of IBM clones. He became adept at building his own machines, something you cannot do on the Mac side.
And so it was for a good ten years.

Then came the iPod.

A few friends online were raving about theirs, how it was great to have their whole music library on one handy-dandy little device. I had a serious case of "I want", even though the biggest one wouldn't come close to holding my entire CD collection. It would carry enough of it that I would be very happy.

Ed bought me one, and it was love at first insertion of those ear buds. Well, the earbuds had to go-they hurt. iTunes was intuitive and didn't crash the way most other programs were wont to do. A few months later, he revealed that he was convinced I would grow bored of that iPod and he'd get to load his stuff on it. So, nine months later, he got one of his own-a much bigger one than I possessed (mine's a 30gig, his an 80).

I wouldn't say I was a gung ho Apple fan girl, but they definitely made a product that I enjoyed, especially since all I had to do was buy a three dollar RCA jack to RCA jack cord at Radio Shack, and my music library and playlists were cranking in the car. (That worked out better than the free XM that came with the car, honestly)

Then came the iPhone. For two years, I REALLY had a case of the "I wants", because it was just too cool. Not practical for my needs, mind you, but it had all the things I would love in a phone.

I became a college student, I had issues where I needed to access the Internet and realized that a smart phone was the next step (to make a long story short). After missing a dozen extremely important calls when Jane was in the hospital and Ed's mom was newly ensconced in a nursing home, it was time.

It was even better than the iPod. The only quibble I've had is that it's kind of weird in how it imports music out of iTunes, not allowing you to select songs or even specific albums by an artist, but importing everything from the artist that's in your iTunes account. As a result, there were two Apple products in my handbag.

When I started thinking about the grad program, I wondered if it would be a good idea to make the jump to dual platform. Would it make me more marketable to employers when I finish that Master's degree? In conversing with the professor who is now my advisor, he affirmed that it isn't a necessity to be well versed in both, but depending on the route I choose, it might give me a slight advantage.

Thus, I decided that my graduation present to me would be a MacBook Pro.

Further thinking was that maybe it'd be a good idea to get it early, so that I could become comfortable with le difference between the two platforms. In addition, it'd give me some time to play with the software I intended to purchase for it, that is a requirement for students to own. One program is only Windows based at this time, but dual boot will make that a non issue.

So, for these reasons, I finally walked into the Apple store that has been enduring my episodes of drooling for nearly a year and walked out with this:



As I said on Facebook the past few weeks, I kept hearing a voice saying "Come to the dark side, we have Apples."

Now I do, too.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Feed Me Friday

When I asked Ed what he wanted for dinner, the answer I got was "not Chicken," which left the field wide open.

Plans to visit Land and Sea Market while I was in Brandon this afternoon were scrubbed because the weekly specials didn't appeal.

What to do?

Well, the trip to the local supermarket came up with some thin cut 'spanish steaks' and visions of fajitas danced in my head. Now they can dance in yours


This way works better, because Game Teen can have only cheese and meat, the rest of us can load up what we like. For instance, Chef will load up with cheese and Cholula and mine have a ton of onions.

The best part is that there are plenty of leftovers.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

All Sorts of Awesome

Take a catchy song from the 80's, add an actress who is in her 80's (and red HOT right now) and three creative dudes, and this is what you get!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One Letter Makes A Difference

When I'm completing my Spanish assignments, I tend to have Google Translate open in a window. One, so I can make sure I'm translating things properly when a new word crops up. The other is to see if what I write is generally correct-because I know that it is not infallible. (For instance, it doesn't translate gustar-like verbs properly)

So, this morning, I thought sentence was instructing me to listen more than once, if I wanted-but instead, I saw this:


The moral is that escuchar is not the same as eschuchar!



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bathtub

This morning, Ed walked into the living room with swim suit on and towel in hand. "Going for a swim, wanna join me?" For a half second, I thought of 6am swim practices and 60 degree water. Then I realized that we've had high nineties all week.

It was niiiiiiice.

Only problem is, Chef's radar got tweaked that Dad came in, asked me a question and then I got up! So, the relaxing swim in the pool became attack of the hyper kid.

It's okay, it was refreshing.

I could get used to this.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Next Food Network Star, Week Two

Week two, eleven contestants. Still a long way to go, and plenty of challenges to shake down who has what it takes-and who doesn't rise to the occasion.

First up this week is a challenge for all eleven finalists at the Food Star kitchens. Giada presents the plan-each of them will have one minute to prepare one part of her vegetable lasagna recipe to camera. If you're going to host a Food Network show, you must cook and talk at the same time. The trick is, if someone doesn't get their part done, the next person has to incorporate that into their challenge.

It was surprising that it was done without too many fumbles, but there were some missteps. Dzintra is a frenetic mess, Aarti didn't talk much, Serena talked too fast, DAS spent so much time squeezing liquid out of frozen spinach that Doreen has to catch up and she looks stressed out and mad on camera. Aria is the last and she talks like she's talking to a child. They get good constructive feedback-will they take it and learn from it?

The next day, all are waiting in the kitchens, which has a bunch of carnival foods on display and a Zoltar machine. Immediately, Ed and I exclaim "BIG!", but not everyone knows where the machine comes from.

In walks Duff Goldman, who tells them their challenge is to cook for 100 of his friends and he's shutting down the Santa Monica Pier to do it. Each person ponies up to Zoltar and is given a fair favorite 'fortune.' Duff informs each that the savory dish they prepare must be inspired by the item on their ticket. They've got two hours prep time in the kitchen ASAP, then an hour on site the next day.

As soon as I heard Root Beer Float, I immediately thought of Root Beer Pulled Pork. So did Doreen, who go it. However, she didn't have enough time to make fall off the bone pulled pork. Other chefs and the dishes they made:

Dzintra-Cotton Candy-Sweet and Savory Duck Sticks
DAS- Lemonade-Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings
Paul- Caramel Corn-Some Asian Noodle salad thing with the Caramel Corn on top
Aarti-Funnel Cake (which she has never had!)-Scallion Blini with Tandoori BBQ Chicken
Serena-Ice Cream in a chocolate dipped sugar cone-Marinara and Cheese Mouse in a Savory Bowl 'Cone'
Aria-Banana Split-Meatballs with Garlic Bread 'bananas'
Briana-Caramel Apples-Meatballs in a sweet sticky Asian sauce
Brad-Peanuts-Peanut Smoked Pork Loin
Herb-Lollipops-Salmon and Neufchatel lollipops with Wasabi creme fraiche
Tom-Churros-Fish Taco (not quite) with cabbage and a cinnamon aoli

The contestants were graded by the guests on their interactions as well as their food. Some feedback that was given:

Aria had left a tray of meatballs in the oven back at Food Star Kitchens and realized she wouldn't have enough. At the last minute, she had to make more on the Pier, so she lost the time she'd earmarked to check seasoning, but the judges and guests alike liked her charm and personality.

Tom's laid back attitude turned off some guests and the food confused the judges. If it's a taco, it should be in some sort of 'shell.' As Bob said "If your attitude to people is 'take it or leave it,' they will leave it every time."

Doreen is told that pulled pork must be tender, and she just seemed unhappy to the guests. They ask Doreen point blank what her vision is-and she can't give them a straight answer in evaluation, and she didn't at the Pier, either.

Dzintra was overly frantic and one guest was so turned off, she left. Even when presenting to the judges, she got off track and stopped preparing her dish-Bob had to tell her to make their dishes!

Brad's idea was good, the pork was tender-but he burnt the peanut shells he used to smoke the pork. It took him aback that his food sucked.

Herb's personality and health-conscious approach was a winner on the Pier. He talked up using Neufchatel instead of cream cheese to make it healthy. The judges are pleased that they're seeing the Herb that got selected as a finalist.

Brianna seemed to be phoning it in. The judges loved how she got the concept of the caramel apple, but we see several instances where a guest asked her a question and she didn't engage with them-she just nodded her head with the attitude of "you're bothering me" coming off her in waves.

DAS
was on his A game-he was charming, his food was good and he was confident about what he was doing. THIS is a guy I could watch, not the guy we saw last week. The judges loved his wings.

Serena nailed what she needed to do and was so happy to hear that they think her marinara was incredible. The girl can cook, can they get her to talk slower?

Paul's idea to put caramel corn on an Asian salad that had nothing to do it was a poor one-because it didn't even go with the salad. His patronizing tone with the guests also landed him in the bottom three.

Aarti
was the life of the party, laughing and enjoying presenting her food to the crowd-until the judges showed up. Then the nerves took over. Girl, we want to learn more about Indian food, you're charming and can cook. The judges loved the food, the guests love the food and someone needs to give you a boost of confidence.d

And the votes from the guests made it clear that Aarti was the favorite. She won the challenge and was safe. It was adorable to see her reaction. Six are told to leave the evaluation room (Aria, Serena and DAS are the ones I remember-I'll add the rest when I watch the DVR)

We come back to see Herb there and ask "WTH? They loved his dish!" No sooner do we say it then the judges tell him he's safe. We come to the bottom three: Paul, Dzintra and Doreen. One thing is for certain-the smarmy, patronizing dude never gets past episode five, so Paul's days are numbered-but he definitely wasn't the worst this week.

I posted on Facebook that Dzintra needs to go, she's darn annoying and thinks she's cute, and last week's cop out annoyed me because I think I'd much rather watch Alexis than her. Doreen is on my crap list because I keep typing Debbie-and that is not a good sign, my friends.

The verdict is in, and it's not what I expected, but it makes sense.

Debbie, er Doreen is sent home. It makes sense. Last week, she didn't do so hot in the first challenge "I looooooove butter", the second, where she ran out of time to dress her soup, this week's first where she had the angry furrow while doing her talk to the camera challenge and on the Pier-lousy food and no charm to make up for it.

Ten left and who's gone next week? Will Dzintra learn that she's not as funny as she thinks it is? Will Paul continue to be the smarmy dude? Will Serena be given a tranquilizer to slow down her talking?

Only the Shadow (and Food Network) knows...







Sunday, June 13, 2010

Back in Business

I am posting from my laptop. My current laptop, just so we're clear. There will soon be a trip to the dark side, but not this week. Soon.

It probably was clear that I didn't have my laptop, what with all the typos in the posts I've made in the past week. There will be some cleanup on posts in the next few days. Meanwhile, I am now running Windows 7 and it's, well, um, how do I say it? Quite mediocre. Guess I shouldn't be surprised by that.

Since several of you have been operating it longer than I have, I'm looking for some answers that (of course) Microsoft does not answer in their search or in the actual hardware features.

First, there's a hover feature that if your mouse points to something on a page for more than a second or two, it opens a new page. Freaking annoying, so I tried to shut it off. However, in my hardware settings, the activate hover over box is not clicked, but it's still doing it.

I'm having a similar issue when I type. I usually get the mouse pointer out of my way when typing, but for some reason, if the cursor is elsewhere in a text box, I'll be speeding along at my usual pace and all of a sudden, my text is inserted elsewhere on the page. WTH? Or my text doesn't show up in the text box, despite not moving the mouse or clicking to another box.

I'm also getting used to the way the status bar is laid out at the bottom and rebuilding my bookmarks, but the essential stuff is accessible. Well, except for MS Office, which I'll have to reinstall soon. I can't do the biology work without it.

Yeah, I installed NOD32 again. It was on the HP, but I went with what Toshiba offered on this one. Light is green, trap is clean and I apparently did a good job of removing all the AVSoft malware crap off my machine, but took out my WiFi drivers along with the crap.

Studying really sucks when you can't get online at home...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Packing My Files

Twenty years ago, I sold computers. 8088 Epsons, 286 Headstarts and 9 pin dot matrix printers. We didn't have windows- the Epson necessitated DOS skills, while the Headstart offered a graphical user interface, or GUI, that allowed you to navigate through your computer. Heck, the Epson didn't even come with a modem, but the Headstart had a 2400 baud that was considered pretty speedy.

Both machines came with 20 megabyte hard drives and in an era where games like Leisure Suit Larry worked within 300 k of code, and Wordperfect didn't even take up a meg, it was unfathomable that we would need more space.

I contemplated this yesterday as I was debating which external drive to purchase. 500 gig or a Terrabyte? Seeing how a single program produced today wouldn't even fit onto that 20 meg behemoth, the decision was easy. I bought the terrabyte.

As i sit here backing up files onto 4 gig DVDs, it is clear that not much besides 6 megapixel pictures would fit on that drive of old.

The external drive? It was purchased to back up files in preparation of repairing my laptop. Alas, the malware/trojan/whatever the heck it was did a number on a few things, so i was not able to do an easy backup. Instead, i am creating disc after disc of pictures. Damn, i take a lot of pictures.

Meqnwhile, i am crossing my fingerd that the impending Windows 7 install brings me back to a wired state. This pbone is great, but it is not a substitute fora computer...


Friday, June 11, 2010

Feed Me Friday

When we visited Busch Gardens last week, Game Teen made a request that we dine at a Tampa landmark. The crowd level at the park was not condusive to leaving for dinner, so i gave him a raincheck for the next time we ended up nearby.

This afternoon, we ventured over to pick up some medications, and the promised meal at Mel's Hot Dog came to be.

And it was good.

I enjoyed a Chicago dog, minus relish. Which begs the question: what do YOU like on a hot dog?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Make it Go Away!

Biology seemed easy enough, but I am flummoxed by where the carvon
molecules are, when ATP gets made and where the heck did those nads
come from, anyway?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Another Year Over

...and vacation has begun. Well, for the kids, anyway!

Now, we are the parents of a (quasi) high school student and a middle schooler. We watched chef's award ceremony this morning. Afterwards, we had the option of pulling him out for the rest of the day.

He decided to stay, because his teacher brought Alice in Wonderland for the class to watch. So, we have the kid who would rather stay in school than leave.

At ten, it is all about the party!

n

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Tutorial on Several Vodka Drinks

If you order a Bay Breeze, it should be a refreshing mixture of vodka, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice.

Grapefruit instead of pineapple is now a Sea Breeze. Orange juice replacing the grapefruit is now a Madras. Grapefruit and vodka is a Greyhound. Finally, cranberry and vodka has become the hip drink, the Cosmo.

In over a year of secret shops, i have been serve each of the above concoctions when i requested a Bay Breeze.

Tonight, the bartender got it right. Thank you, J!





Monday, June 07, 2010

The Next Food Network Star, Episode 1

It's that time again, Food Network's lineup during the summer includes their reality show, The Next Food Network Star. Those who watch the Network know that one of their biggest stars, Guy Fieri, was the winner of season two-so it can be a good way to find new talent who have great charisma, cooking ability and an idea of their own that's not already on the air.

Last night, rather than ending up on the phone with a friend, I got texts-gotta love the technology advances several of us made in the past year. :)

Shall we talk about the show? Here's what happened!

Bobby Flay introduces the show, what it's about and what the winners will do, then we cut to a house in the Hollywood Hills, where the twelve finalists (up from 10 in previous years) enter the house, a la 'Real World'. They are, in order of arrival:

Doreen Fong, who began cooking because she grew tired of her mom only cooking Chinese food. (She looks like Brenda Song, from various Disney Channel shows)

Aarti Sequiera, born in India and raised in Dubai, she is an attorney and food blogger who hasn't cooked professionally. Honestly, she's got a culinary POV that Food Network needs.

Paul Young, trained chef who did improv at Second City. Seven years experience as a chef, currently a waiter/bartender. Out of the box, he's confident he'll take out everyone and win this competition.

Herb Mesa
, personal chef, personal trainer and stay at home dad from Atlanta, Georgia. He'd love to do a show that focuses on cooking and fitness.

Brianna Jenkins, a caterer, who says she can be sassy and a drama queen. She went to cooking school in Paris and her bio annoys me, because she doesn't get Julia Child's name right.

Tom Pizzica, a currently unemployed executive chef. He looks like the guy you'd meet at a kegger, and seems comfortable in his own skin.

Alexis Hernandez, food writer, who wants to share all his knowledge about food with others.

Dzitra Dzenis, cooking instructor, who tells the viewers that she is quirky and is from Planet Dzitra. She started cooking when she was five.

Brad Sorenson, who opened his first restaurant at 22 (he's 25) and finds that people underestimate his cooking ability because he's so young.

Serena Palumbo, another attorney, who is not professionally trained, but she is accustomed to cooking for her family back in Italy (please, Food Network, we dealt with "I'm Korean" last season, let's hope this "I'm from Italy" is just because it's the first week!) She cooks Mediterranean home style, so food for a lot of people.

Darrell A Smith, a/k/a DAS, whose goal is to have a show for guys who can't cook. He's got confidence and knows he can cook.

Aria Kagan, a culinary instructor from Miami, she's a single mom and she just exudes 'fun' from the very moment we see her.

No sooner does Aria arrive than the finalists get their first challenge and they are whisked off to Food Star Kitchens in LA. In walks Bobby Flay, and they are introduced to the judges, Susie Fogelson, Bob Tuschman, and mentor for this season, Giada DiLaurentiis. Each speaks about what lies ahead for the finalists, with Giada telling them that seven years ago, Bob Tuschman contacted her after reading a magazine article about her-and the rest is history.

As it is NFNS, there will be raw chicken-it's a law. We get snippets about each of the finalists and their rationale for preparing what they feel best exemplifies them. Tom is overambitious, stating he's going to make gnocci-which is a time consuming process, even with cooked potatoes, but he has 45 minutes.

DAS is going to make a chicken roulade, filled with various herbs and spices. He finds that it's not cooked-and both Ed and I look at each other and ponder why the dude decided to roast it instead of broiling (it would have looked more appealing on the plate, anyway. Aarti also has raw chicken, but she doesn't discover this until a minute time is up. The rest of the dozen appear to be doing okay, no equipment issues or ingredient issues.

Now, a 30 second presentation of their dishes to camera and the four judges. Smart choice, as in years past, people have done well, then tripped up once the cameras arrived. Aria is first up and she's a ray of sunshine, talking about her love of growing up in Wisconsin farmlands and how it inspires her to cook with locally grown foods before time runs out. Her dish looks great. Doreen trips up on presenting her potatoes and chicken and has has to stretch her time, which she does with "I looooove butter." The judges say she didn't present well and the dish doesn't give them any idea of who she is.

Next up is Herb, who says he's just going to be himself, leading to a presentation of marinated chicken, potatoes and salsa to which he's added cilantro. He says that he's a lot like cilantro, either people like him or they don't. There were two "Yes, please" when they showed the beauty shot of Herb's dish.

Tom shows up next, and he's dragging out describing what he's made. They like his shaggy dog look. Dzitra describes her chicken napoleon much like she's got ADHD, but Bobby says 'she knows how to cook'. Serena created roasted chicken thai, and she was so nervous the presentation was poor, but Bob states the dish is feel good Italian home cooking.

DAS is next with a raw roulade and he's so embarrassed, he can't look them in the eye. Aarti's presentation great, which the judges loved but the food got a 0 for being raw. Paul came in and did a dry presentation and served food that didn't get raves-strange to hear he's been a stand up comedian.

Briana comes in and wants to show the judges she's fun, so she describes her 'sticky chicky wrapped up in a piggy' and used so much effort in coming up with a cute name that the presentation was blah, with her final statement being "I'm fun." Fun is not a culinary point of view, but Bobby likes her food.

Brad is next and does a ho hum presentation of what his dish was, not how it represented him, but the judges loved his chicken parm. Alexis is up next and he also described his dish in a way that came off as timid.

DAS was called out for the raw chicken, Tom for seeming like he doesn't really want to be there. Herb is commended for enthusiasm and food, then Aria for her youthful exuberance and great flavor. Then the twelve are told there is another challenge the next day. They were going to head over to Paramount studios in the morning to make promos for their shows.

Fifteen second promos with props are on the agenda and it's a good measure of how they think on the fly when it doesn't relate to food. Andy Fickman will film them, and the finalists get fifteen minutes to write the promo and pick props.

Brianna so does not seem to fit the persona she's trying to portray (and when she says prior to filming "We're grilling, we're chillin" I said to myself that Bobby Flay did that show a dozen years ago, babe!) The promo seems fake.

Doreen comes up and she needs a lot of takes because the promo doesn't show what she wants to do with the show. Dzintra doesn't seem to have a handle on what fifteen seconds is, spending too much time with a phone prop and then talks fast and loud. She walks off set saying "I want to have your babies," to which the others give her "WTF?" looks.

Paul's shows that the guy is used to improv, but the promo has an Anywhos and that drives me bonkers. Alexis is nervous as all get out, and seems so earnest, which will put people to sleep in a 15 second promo. Brad comes up with a bland presentation, which they quickly learned to add an action like cutting an onion to give him more life.

Tom comes out with a life preserver and a chef hat and that promo just jumped out of him. The guy made one that screamed "I'm your buddy who can hang with you and drink brewskis, but I know how to cook, too!" And Aria nailed hers in the first take, showing this lady means business, but she's got a big smile and a great show idea.

DAS's turn and he looks like he's swatting at killer bees while he talks-definitely not the 'cool dude' persona he wants us to know him about. Aarti's turn and her promo was okay, but Andy directs her that if your promo talks about giggling, you'd better giggle in it. At the end of her take, she jumps up and down because she's so happy.

Serena comes and sits on the counter, then looks like a marionette while she talks "I'm Serena and I'm from Italy" and she shoots her idol, Giada, the look of death when she is told she looks like a puppet. Meanwhile, it's looking like we have this year's "I'm Korean" replacement!

Herb's promo earned a plastic, phony smile and the energy the guy had the day before wasn't there. He's having a hard time with this challenge and it shows.

And note to Food Network, those commercials for Cupcake Wars inspire us to stay away.

When we return from commercial break, Giada tells the dozen that the second part of the challenge is that they will be split into two teams, headed by Aria and Herb, winners of the previous day's challenge. Each chooses their team and assigns a course to that person. The teams will be preparing a six course meal for a famous chef to be named later and have fifteen minutes to prepare their menu.

(The teams are Gray: Aria, Aarti, Paul, Dzintra, Tom and Brianna. Black: Herb, Brad, Doreen, Serena, Alexis and DAS. (and I think Doreen's days should be numbered because I keep typing Debbie)

The teams split, with some going to shop and the rest going back to the Food Star kitchens to do prep. We are shown Dzintra complaining of something in her eye, but she does keeps plugging away, saying "I'm the only one who can do this dessert" and then being informed that she should go to the ER. The other team does a first in NFNS shopping history-when Herb and Paul cannot find the veal that Serena said she would be preparing, they actually use a cell phone and CALL HER to ask what she'd like to substitute with.

The menus:
Gray:
Onion Foccacia with Sonoma Goat Cheese
Arrugula Salad with Lemon Herb Vinagrette
Dal w/Cumin Oil
Spiced Scallops with Potato Hash
Pork Tenderloin with Spaetzle
Lemon Sabayon w/Biscotti

Black:
Ceviche with Plantain Spiders
Potato Puree with Beet Reduction
Crab Salad with Guacamole
Pan Seared Salmon with Asparagus
Sunburst Squash with Escavage with Orange Chicken Scallopine
Beignets with Honey and Caramel

They go home after preparing, and Dzintra is STILL at the hospital, where she was until the others went to finish making their meal (note to self: Never, ever, go to the ER Dzintra went to.) She arrives in the restaurant kitchen and tells them she's there for moral support, because she's been told she should not cook for 24 hours because she scratched her cornea.

Have any of you ever done it? I did-and I got some opthamologic bacitracin and it was covered for three days with NO restrictions. She's worried about what they will be presenting under her name, when she should be concerned about the fact that she didn't make it.

Puck honed in on the hits and misses of each presentation. Brad was very nervous about the quality of his ingredient and ended up getting very high praise from Wolfgang, as did Aarti, who was offered a job cooking at Puck's restaurant.

Evalution time! Honestly, going in, I thought Dzintra should be eliminated, as she didn't cook her dish.

Gray team was first in the room and Bobby asks the six if they should eliminate Dzintra for not making her dish, and she grovels to the committee. Aria is told that out of the gate, she has a good chance. Brianna was told her dish had good flavor, but that she is not the party girl she's trying to portray. Paul was called out for overdressing his salad, not even smiling in his promo and told he needs to bring his humor pronto.

Tom was told that his dish was a little dry and asked if he hadn't been working on the dessert, would his have been more polished. He waffles, because he doesn't want to make the case against Dzintra. Aarti is asked why she appears nervous, and she says it's because she's afraid Bobby will hate her food. He loves it and Susie states that she has the most unique culinary POV and needs to have more confidence.

Team Gray wins challenge one, with Aria winning the challenge. Now it's Team Black's turn.

Herb is up first. His ceviche got praise, but his promo wasn't showing his personality, Doreen was told she was unprofessional, because she came in apologizing for not seasoning her soup.

Serena was told her food was good, but the promo was plastic. Alexis is told the food and the promo were bad, neither showing the person they see in front of them. Brad's food won raves, and what he puts on the plate is good. He needs to stop being timid when the camera is trained on him.

DAS was told he put too many ingredients in his food and that he's trying to hard to be seen as cool on camera, which is killing his chances to move forward. Brad, Herb and Serena are told they are safe and can leave. Doreen, DAS and Alexis are asked to leave while the three judges deliberate.

The judges deliberate and Bob expresses frustration with the fact that these are three people who show such promise, but they seriously faltered this week. They are asked to return and then DAS is told he is safe. Doreen and Alexis are told only one who is going on, and Alexis is told he is going home.

We see a few challenges that are coming up this season and it's looking pretty exciting.

I will say this. Food Network, I'm really happy we now have a DVR-that two hour program had numerous six minute spot breaks and this premiere probably was really just an hour of content. I'm thinking I may just DVR the shows and watch them at 10 pm!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

It's Baaaackkkk!

Sitting here, watching The Next Food Network Star and enjoying the chance to see what lies ahead on my favorite network.

Just like last year, there will be a recap every Monday. However, if you can't wait, Food Network is hosting a Live Chat every Sunday. It was pretty cool to be in it for a while, and have Susie Fogelson answering questions while the show was airing.

See you tomorrow!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Busch Gardens, Plus a Friend

Recently, I got a card in the mail from Busch Gardens that pass holders could bring a friend in free this weekend. So, I called my friend Meghan and asked if she wanted to head over to Tampa with us. She agreed, and we had a very hot, but fun, afternoon at the park.

Last week, Chef visited Busch Gardens with his best friend's family, and his mom got a great picture of Chef grooming the apes. Today, I got pictures of them eating what they groomed!

I love this little waterfall before the large Gorilla habitat.

There was a lot of fun to be made at the expense of some statues...

The reality of the Chiari is that there are very few rides I can still enjoy. Well, I can ride them, but now that I know where the headaches are coming from, I have to decide whether it's worth it. Meghan wanted to go on it, I haven't been on one of these in about 20 years, and we committed to it before realizing it went upside down. She commented that I might get a free neck decompression. That didn't happen, but it didn't give me a headache, so that's a good sign.

Chef's artistic photography. I liked it.

It was very hot today, and no doubt it was worse on these inhabitants. They all were just lounging or trying to find a way to stay cool. Can't blame them.

I rode a few things, and most of them failed the 'hurt my head' test, but now I know that they're definitely out. Hanging upside down, though, is okay. Go figure.

Thanks for spending the day with us, Meghan. That was a blast!

Friday, June 04, 2010

School, School and More School

In the past three days, I've been on two university campuses, a high school campus and Chef's school campus.

It's the end of the year for the boys and Chef enjoyed the 5th grade trip to Sea World today. The weather was great, he spent it with two of his buddies from class and he insisted I come pick him up, even though we live within walking distance of school!

The campus visit in Tampa earned us some meds for Game Teen, a copy of Windows 7 for me to restore my machine and a visit with a potential employer on campus. We'll see what the next month brings.

Yesterday, Ed and I sat in a room with six educators who all agreed with what we've been saying in IEP meetings for years. This IEP is the most thorough one we've received. It was suggested that Game Teen attend the high school with a one to one aide at his side all day long, so that he can reap the benefits of a large course offering and neurotypical students that can model appropriate behavior.

For now, we think the best place for him is among a class of his peers on the spectrum, so that he can see that Asperger's isn't an excuse to say he can't, that all these other students CAN.

They agreed with our opinion.

The holy grail would be to place him in a high school and for him to succeed. The reality is that perhaps four years among his peers probably will be far more beneficial than classes in computers and science.

We shall see.


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Green Skies Equals

For the third time in my life, I saw green skies as I looked out the window of the computer lab today. The two staffers had commented about how nasty it had become outside, and I commented that Holy Crap, the sky is green and that's what I've seen before tornadoes in the past.

Ten minutes later, in the middle of taking an exam, the power went out. It would remain so for nearly an hour. (A quick email on my phone to the TA got my exam reset and ready for when the power returned, as she was in St. Pete and experiencing better circumstances). The staffers and I chatted while we waited for the power to return.

Reports came from the facilities staff that quite a few light poles got knocked over just north of campus and it took out the campus transformer (the news reports got it wrong). Apparently, if power didn't return by 3:30, the powers that be were going to cancel evening classes. Another report said we did have a tornado just a half mile north of campus.

In all, fifteen light poles were taken out, a classmate reported seeing a BMW demolished by one of those light poles and many of my classmates had an extraordinarily long commute to school tonight. Thankfully, no one was injured.

Wonder if they'll consider storm shelters on the new campus?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Hosed

Not the thing to be dealing with when you have tests in online
courses...

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Here's Some Fun for You

While my nose is buried in seven chapters of various psychology books, to prepare for two tests in two days, here's a test for you:

http://cognitivefun.net/test/2

It's an example of the Stroop paradigm.

Have fun!