Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Power of Love

Hi Folks,

I thought the best way to end the year, or maybe start the new one, was with this image of two sisters reunited thanks to the power of love and friendship.

As you may have read here and elsewhere, my friend Keri Cahill has been trying to adopt a Russian girl named Anya, who is the sister of Keri's adopted daughter Nastia. Long story short, Anya's visa was denied in the 11th hour and we have been fighting ever since to get her a student visa. (You can learn more at our web site:

In the meantime, we have raised enough money through a grassroots effort to send Keri and Nastia over to Russia for a short reunion with Anya. As you can see from the picture, the girls are quite happy to see each other.

So thank you to everyone who has helped the effort in any way, and please keep up the work in 2010.

Happy New Year.

PS- 24 starts in a couple of weeks. Woo hoo. See you soon.

- Jack

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas: The Finale- V for Victory

Sorry I am so late with comments about the last two weeks of Top Chef. I watched the last two episodes on DVR and have just not been able to sit down and write my blog. I think part of the reason I put it off was that, deep down inside, this season was a little bit lackluster compared to others. Sure, it was a fun ride and I enjoyed it, but I did not connect with this year’s group like I have in past years. The line between good guys and bad guys was very blurred. You wanted to hate Mike Voltaggio for his arrogance, but you had to admire is creativity. Unlike Marcel, who may have been talented, but was still a jerk. Perhaps Mike I. was the Hung of this year, but he still was not as interesting. Jen was cute, and started off as a real firecracker, but her drive and her charm faded as the weeks went on. I liked her, but she was no Casey. The whole season was just not as compelling. But it was still pretty good.

When Jen was eliminated in the second-to-last episode, it was no surprise. I think everyone expected the brothers to make it to the finals. They were both great chefs, and that’s where the ratings are. It’s kind of like those ghost hunting shows. There are things that happen that seem like they could be real paranormal activity, but for the most part, I bet it’s mostly staged. After all, if nothing ever happened, you wouldn’t have a show. All along I felt that behind the scenes they knew the brothers would be in the final episode. And since Kevin was so strong throughout the entire season, it would have been a crime if he didn’t make it too.

So in the finale, as usual, the three chefs have to draw knives and they will be assigned a former contestant as a sous-chef. This is one of those elements of the competition that is really not fair. You come all this way, and on the occasion of the most important meal of your life, you may get pared with a bozo who can screw the whole thing up for you. But, ‘dems the breaks, and if you can’t take the heat, get out of the Top Chef kitchen. Unfortunately, my favorite, Kevin, was the unlucky one, and he gets Preeti and Ash as his partners. Ash is okay, but Preeti is more like a lead weight around Kevin’s neck than a helper. Meanwhile, Bryan gets Ashley and Jen, two people who are perfectly suited for this kind of role. Mike V. gets Eli and Jesse. I have to be honest, I did not even remember Jesse, and I wrote recaps every week about this show. I think, looking back, it’s because she dyed her hair blonde. And I was sad that Big Papi did not make the cut. I love that big lug.

The finalists were surprised when their mothers show up the night before the last event. Again, did the Top Chef people choose the Voltaggio brothers so that they could save on airfare and hotels by just having one mother for the two of them? (Am I over-thinking this?)

Tonight, which is December 16, 2009, they are showing a reunion show and supposedly we will hear which brother the mother was actually rooting for. If she says Bryan, I bet Mike V. throws a mushroom at her. (Or something that looks like a mushroom, but really is some other ingredient. He’s so clever.)

The night before, the chefs prep, and that’s where Preeti plays the iceberg to Kevin’s Titanic. You didn’t think anything could sink this guy, but before you know it, the band is playing on the deck.

During the prep, I had a feeling Bryan was going to win the whole thing. He had a good game plan, was playing to his strengths and seemed poised. Kevin was troubled, but you could not count him out.

When the cooking started, it became a rollercoaster. They had to add a dish inspired by their mothers, for one thing. Kevin seemed to kick butt with that dish. That does not surprise me, since he is a pro at home cookin’. Bryan’s first course was under seasoned. I am guessing that the judges don’t have a salt shaker at their table, because I would think in some cases, it would be better to let the diner add a little salt rather than risk over salting a dish. (For instance, I seasoned a batch of French fries today. I still would give the chef at the sports bar a thumbs-up for the meal.) Mike undercooked a prawn, and I thought that was a bad way to start off. But his fried broccoli seemed pretty cool. (I have never been a fan of the green stuff, and would love to try that.)

The second round was a mystery box, in which were ingredients that the chefs had to use. Kevin did pretty well with this one, but Bryan played it safe and once again was under seasoned. Mike V. was the big winner in this round.

The third round was chef’s choice, and Bryan hit a homerun with his venison. Mike V. lost points for a gimmick he did with mushrooms. (See? Mushrooms.) Kevin’s dish was just okay.

This race is getting hard to call. No one is pulling away.

The last course was dessert, and the Voltaggio brothers were much more comfortable with this than Kevin. Seems that a lot of Top Chef wannabe’s have trouble with dessert. Kevin makes a banana dish and plays the “B” card. He uses bacon, practically the equivalent to using PEDs in sports, except bacon is legal. But it can be an unfair advantage. But not this time. Kevin loses points for his dessert. Meanwhile, Mike V. over cooks his little cakes, and I thought he was all done. He undercooked a dish and over cooked a dish. But I really did think his dishes were creative and interesting this time. Bryan does the best with dessert.

So we head into the judges table and I pretty much thought Bryan would win. He was the safest of the three, had less highs, but also less lows. First Padma fakes us all out, including poor Kevin, when she calls his name, only to tell him he’s not Top Chef. That was a cheap shot.

It came down the Voltaggio brothers…. And the winner was little brother, Mike. I have to admit, I was surprised. But his creativity and boldness to lend themselves to the title of Top Chef. I do think Bryan is a better chef, and I think I would rather eat Kevin’s food. But I am always interested in what Mike V. has up his sleeve.

Mike was quite humble after he won, which was nice after all of his cockiness throughout the year. Something tells me you’ll be seeing a lot of Kevin and the Voltaggio brothers in food circles for years to come.

So that’s it for another season of Top Chef. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and thanks for reading my blog. I’ll be starting up on my 24 blog in January, and I will continue to write about other random things as they come to me. So keep an eye on Back-in-Jack, and feel free to leave some comments below.

Bon Appetite.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Inexhaustibly For Anya - Bring Anya Home

Hi Friends,

I know, I am late getting the lastest Top Chef blog up. It will get here eventually.

I have been busy with a few things, including helping out a good cause. Inexhaustibly For Anya - Bring Anya Home.

Keri Cahill of Massachusetts is attempting to save the life of Anya... a homeless orphan living on the streets of a Siberian Coal Mining town. It all began about 4 years ago when Keri successfully adopted Anya's sister Nastia. After the adoption, Nastia became aware of a sister living in Siberia that she only had faint memories of. It turns out that the two girls were in fact sisters, and separated when they were both lost into the orphanage system.

Anya is currently 18 and no longer eligible for adoption, and has been released from the system to the streets. She is trying so desperately to avoid being swallowed by the sex trade and drugs. With Keri's guidance from the other side of the world, they have been successful so far. As an orphan in Russia, you are not permitted to travel freely, and need government authorization to travel to Moscow. This process took Keri about 3 years. Anya is currently in Moscow and presented herself at the US Embassy fully expecting to get a student visa as she had all the documentation and enrollment forms for Salem State College. Her visa has been denied, largely based on a whim of an Embassy staffer.

We, Keri’s friends, have started a grassroots social media and letter writing campaign, and have gotten both Senator Kerry, and Senator Kirk involved. The process is currently in the works to approach Secretary Clinton through a contact Keri has in Washington.

We drastically need more exposure to this story. We have had television press on both the local ABC affiliate and NECN. The Boston Globe and the Salem Evening News have also done stories. For links and more details you can check and our Facebook page "Inexhaustibly For Anya - Bring Anya Home". Our Facebook group has over 2500 followers.

Please check out the web site and help out if you can. You can also follow us on Twitter. @bring_anya_home.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Times Keep a Changing

Growing up in Greenwich, CT, there were only two choices in town when going to the movies. The “Cinema” movie theater on Greenwich Ave. or the “Plaza”, down the hill on Railroad Ave. (Or your third option, you went to Stamford.) The Plaza was bigger and newer, and has since expanded into a three theater house. The Cinema was the smaller, older place. It eventually went to two screens, but it still had a more classic look and feel to it. And yes, perhaps it was a bit more rundown.

Well, I’m sad to say, the Cinema is gone.

I guess they could not keep up with all the new megaplexes and multiplexes that are popping up, as well as the countless other forms of entertainment out there, like HD televisions, home theater systems and Blu-Ray players.

They closed it down a while back. I wondered if they were just renovating it, but last night I drove by and discovered what had taken its place; an Apple Store. (See photo.)

It’s actually a very cool looking space, and I can totally understand why Apple would want a store on a road like Greenwich Ave. But I have to admit, it’s a little sad that the place where I stood in a huge line to see Star Wars with my dad in ’77 is now gone. I saw many pivotal movies there, from Animal House to Saving Private Ryan. I have great memories of my parents, friends and family there. It was a special place.

Let’s face it, this is nothing new in Greenwich, or anywhere else these days. No one who grew up in Greenwich can even recognize the Ave. anymore. There’s a Victoria’s Secret right next to the church. The old drug store with the soda fountain is now a J. Crew. Where Woolworth once stood, there’s a Sak’s Fifth Ave. And now there’s an Apple store in the old movie theater.

I know you can’t stand in the way of progress, and I realize that tons of people really enjoy their Macs and iPods. But somehow I don’t think an Apple store will resonate with the locals in quite the same way in which that old movie theater did.

Hang in there Plaza. We need you more than ever.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas, Ep. 12 (and 11 too.): Leaving Las Vegas

It took me so long to catch up on last week’s Top Chef that I did not have a chance to write about it. Sorry. Let’s take a quick look at last week and then quickly cover this week.

So first of all, did you see Padma on 30 Rock? She does a pretty good job on Top Chef, but if she were being judged on her acting like she judges food, I’m afraid she’d be packing her knives and going home.

Last week was big for me. Talk about things getting hot in the kitchen… when they revealed Nigella Lawson as the guest judge, and put her and Padma in pajamas for breakfast in bed, I nearly passed out. All we needed was Giada De Laurentiis and we would have had the holy trinity of food hotties all in one hotel room.

Last week was significant for a couple of reasons. First, Robin finally came to the end of her miraculous run. She was nowhere near the best chef, she had no friends or allies, and yet through hard work and a lot of luck, she outlasted a lot of other chefs who where technically more skilled than her.

The other noteworthy things were Eli winning the Quickfire and then narrowly escaping elimination in the end. Jen dodged a bullet as well. She is clearly deflated and out of gas. Michael V. won the day, with a chicken wing, of all things. Funny, this week he makes a crack about the simple food that Kevin makes, and yet he wins with just that sort of dish.

On to this week; it’s the last week in Vegas before the head to Napa for the finale. There was a lot of French lingo being tossed around. If you want to know the proper names of a lot of the stuff from this episode, look it up on the Top Chef site. I just want to concentrate more on what happened.

We meet guest judge Gavin Kaysen, who was part of the US team at this big French food competition. As I mentioned, I can’t spell it and don’t have time to look it up. One thing I have learned from Top Chef is that I really know very little about the food scene in America or the world. Each time they introduce a famous chef, I only know them if I have seen them on TV. Up until now, the most famous chefs I knew of were Dave Thomas, Col. Sanders, Ronald McDonald, Orville Redenbacher and Roscoe, the genius who married chicken and waffles.

The Quickfire involved wrapping a protein in a protein in a protein. Jen mentioned a turducken, which is exactly what I thought of. Yum. But no one actually made one. During this event we learn that Kevin and Eli were friends before Top Chef. I am not sure if I knew that. They both make home-style food and are a counterbalance to the more sophisticated Voltaggio brothers. And somewhere in the middle is Jen.

Jen makes a wise decision not to make a turducken, because the calamari steak dish she made actually wins the contest. This was huge for her. She has been fading fast these last few weeks, and she really needed a boost like this. As a bonus, she gets 30 extra minutes to cook in the elimination challenge. And she admits, she needs it.

The chefs have to create a pretty sophisticated meal to the panel of judges. Included in the mix is Thomas Keller, touted as something like the greatest American chef. Once again, I have never heard of him. The Elimination Challenge is based on the The Bocuse d’Or competion. Here is an explanation from its chairman’s blog, Andrew Friedman.

The Bocuse d’Or (the name translates to “Golden Bocuse”) was founded by the iconic French chef Paul Bocuse in 1987 and it’s the world’s preeminent cooking competition—an international culinary showdown that pits two-person teams (a chef plus a commis, or assistant) from twenty-four nations against each other every other year in Lyon, France. The Bocuse d’Or assigns the proteins (meats and fish) and the candidates pick their own supporting ingredients. Each team cooks for five and a half hours, then presents two eye-popping old-school-style platters (one fish and one meat; each usually features a centerpiece and a virtual army of garnishes) that are paraded before an international jury, then plated and served to the individual judges.

So our chefs have to do a play on that. It’s tough. It requires skill, precision and flawless execution. Kevin decided to try a method he is not that familiar with; su vide, which is French for "under vacuum". I was alarmed by this choice. I like Kevin and don’t want to see him go home for sticking his neck out too far. But he survives, and is actually criticized a little bit for playing it safe. I thought that was interesting.

Bryan and Michael make very ambitious plates and both fall a bit short…. but Michael more than his brother. One judge finds a bone in his meal and his flavor and execution miss the mark. I really thought he was going home. Eli seems to put out a decent plate, but his lamb is undercooked. And he loses points for poor slicing technique, as does Jen.

Jen puts out a good plate visually, but her fish is sliced and cooked unevenly. As a matter of fact, the whole dish is uneven.

From the way the judges were talking, I really thought Mike V. would be going him. He seems to have misfired more than anyone. So I was surprised when Eli was eliminated. I don’t know… I think the fix might be in. Something tells me Bravo wanted the brothers to be in the finals together. Kind of like the networks would have preferred Yankees/Dodgers to Yankees/Phillies for rating purposes.
Either way, Eli is gone. Another guy who lasted longer than I expected. He laid low until the herd thinned out a bit and then emerged as a sort of dark horse.

Meanwhile Kevin is the big winner. Whether he wins Top Chef or not, this guys is all set. He wins 30 K and will be on the US team for the 2010 Bocuse d’Or. That’s like making the All Star team in cooking.

Next time, it’s on to Napa Valley. And judging from the promos, everyone will have a new hairdo.

See you next week. Bon Appetite.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas, Ep. 10: I Gotta Take a Leek

I finally caught this week’s Top Chef on DVR. I had the chance to be out eating great food and chose that over watching people on TV cook food. So this week the chefs had to take a crack at TV Dinners. Although I watch a lot of TV while eating dinner, I have never been a fan of the traditional frozen TV dinner, so I was interested to see what they would whip up. To add to the fun, each chef drew a knife and got a TV show to base their dish on. I thought this was cool and was even more excited about this Quickfire Challenge. Unfortunately, very few of the chefs actually did much with the theme. Most of them weren’t even that familiar with their shows.

Here’s what they got and what immediately came to my mind:
- Kevin: The Sopranos- A great one. Make an Italian feast, feature something from the pork store and of course, some Capicola (gabagool). Kevin does meatballs. I doubt he’ll be the one to get whacked.
- Eli: Gilligan’s Island- This one is easy. Coconut cream pie, radioactive carrots & spinach and wash it down with some Spider Cider. Or The Skipper's favorite meal; a nice, thick, juicy steak. Eli admits he’s a bit young to really know Gilligan, so he does island themed macadamia shrimp. I can live with that.
- Jen: The Flintstones- Oh man, so much here. Obviously giant ribs, a bronto-burger, a bowl of Fruity Pebbles and any drink on the rocks. Unfortunately, Jen does not have any big beef to work with, so she does a lame chicken dish with little relevance to the show. Yabba dabba dull.
- Robin: Sesame Street- There are so many possibilities. Obviously cookies, but how about cooking a big bird? Or say your dish was brought to you by the letter “C” and make all foods that start with “C”. Also, make something with sesame seeds, for god sakes. While Robin does not know Sesame Street that well, she does at least make an attempt to link the color and look of her food to the show.
- Bryan: MASH- The first thing I thought of was mashed potatoes, which actually Bryan did. And I could not argue with his choice of Korean food. He does meatloaf & mashed potatoes. Henry Blake is yawning in his grave.
- Mike I.: Seinfeld- Perhaps the best one to get. So many funny possibilities. Mutton, mulligatawny soup, jambalaya, scrambled eggs with lobster, pretzels to make your mouth dry, Kenny Roger’s chicken, a Twix, Poppy’s handmade pizza… the list goes on and on. But Mike I. confesses that he never watched Seinfeld. WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I never really liked this guy and now I know why. I hope he gets kicked off tonight. He makes sausage and peppers. He could have won this event by simply saying at presentation: “No soup for you!”
- Mike V.- Cheers- Bar food comes to mind, which is what Mike V. does, but I would have at least served a beer in honor of Norm. I also would have done a Boston themed meal… maybe some chowdah or baked beans.

Jennifer and Robin end up as the losers, and Kevin and Bryan are on top. Kevin ends up winning, but as I said, I was very disappointed by the lack of relevancy the food had to any of the TV shows. Kevin also wins the honor of his dish being featured as one of the new Top Chef frozen TV dinners. It’s the brand his grandma buys, and he says he hopes someday she can buy one with his picture on the box. I like Kevin, but my god man, you’ve won a lot of money already on this show. Step up and buy the damn meals for your grandma yourself. What kind of grandson are you?

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs get to take over Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak restaurant at the MGM Grand. That night, the chefs eagerly plan there carnivorous platters, only to be surprised by guest judge Natalie Portman, who is a vegetarian. This throws a wrench in most people’s plans, but Robin is psyched because she is at home with vegetarian meals. Surprisingly, Kevin reveals that he and his wife take a vegetarian break each year. You’d never know it by looking at him. I guess potato chips and ice cream are not considered meat. His veggie break is probably why he’s still alive, after watching the segment where he eats everything in sight at the contestant’s’ dinner.

It’s apparent that there is no fight left in Jen. Her performance is starting to slide and each interview has her less confident than the last. The opposite is true of Mike I., who assumes that he'll keep moving on, no matter what he does.

I think my favorite part of this challenge was Tom Colicchio’s reactions to the dishes and the contestant’s explanations after words. A few words to describe it would be confounded, condescending, baffled, disgusted and annoyed.

The winners are Mike V., Eli and Kevin. Eli might have done better, but a judge got a piece of his lavender garnish in a bite and equated it to eating soap. Having tasted those soap ball decorations as a curious kid, I know how bad that can be.

Kevin ends up as the big winner again. He also wins a suite of GE kitchen appliances. Hey, maybe he can actually cook his grandma a meal or two now, instead of letting her eat frozen dinners.

When all is said and done, it’s Robin, Jen and Mike I. on the bottom. Mike I. was convinced he would win this challenge, but a pot of slow heating water drowns his hopes. He serves undercooked leeks. However, Robin seems to have finally written her ticket out of the kitchen. Not only does she attempt to cook two dishes she’s unfamiliar with, but she under serves her beans by three plates. Meanwhile, Jen has become Eeyore from Winnie the Poo. She practically concedes the contest at Judge’s Table.

Just as we all expected the knife to come down on Robin, a bomb is dropped instead. Mike I. is eliminated. The man many deemed as the wild card in this contest is gone. He’s shocked, Robin is shocked and so are the rest of us. Sure, he’s a cocky S.O.B., but Robin did not get all of her food served. Those must have been some bad leeks. Or maybe the judges just agreed with me that anyone who doesn’t watch Seinfeld should just pack their knives and get the hell out of the kitchen. In Seinfeld-speak, he’s just not sponge-worthy.

So Robin dodges a bullet and there is finally only one Mike that I have to write about.
See you next week. Bon Appetite.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas, Ep. 9: What a Revoltin’ Development

Top Chef picks up this week with the crew lamenting the loss of Ash. He may have not been the best chef, but he was a nice guy and a pleasant presence in the kitchen. But make no mistake, this is not just a kitchen, it’s a battlefield. Luckily, the Voltaggio brothers keep reminding us of this with their constant fighting. And as we will see, the battle has really only just begun.

The Quickfire Challenge was a tag team cook-off with a few twists. Each chef drew a knife, but only Jen and Mike V. got to choose the teams. This quickly turned into a playground game of kickball, where the cools kids were all picked first and one poor soul gets picked last. Naturally that soul was Robin, who was not surprised in the least.

The teams were, in order that they cooked:
Blue: Jen, Laurine, Mike I. and Kevin
Red: Eli, Robin, Bryan and Mike V.

Kevin and Mike V. batted clean-up and it was clear that both teams tried to put their stronger chefs toward the end of the line. But the Blue team wisely harnessed Jen’s organizational skills and had her lead off. It paid off, as she laid out a variety of ingredients and options and set the Blue team off in a good direction.

This was a great challenge. As I mentioned, there were a few twists. The chefs were not allowed to speak to each other, and they were all blindfolded until it was time for them to take their ten minute turn. Kevin brought up a good point when he mentioned that going last meant that you could possibly take the blame for the team’s poor showing. But he had nothing to worry about; the Blue team delivers a wonderful fish dish. The funniest thing was the way Jen set up a pot of oil for poaching the fish, and each chef reacted differently to it. At first Laurine thinks it’s there to fry the garnish before realizing it’s for poaching. Mike I. ends up dumping it and starts it over, and Kevin abandons it altogether. Instead he cooks the fish in butter. I like the way this guy thinks.

The Red team did not do too badly either. Eli leads off and gets some steak started along with some other things. Robin jumps right in and continues to build the dish. Then Bryan steps in and sets the stage for his brother to succeed. Mike V. jumps in, finishes the steak dish. It’s good, but the Blue team clearly pleases the judge more.

The Blue team also wins $10K that they can split, or let ride in hopes of winning $10K each if they win the Elimination Challenge. They let it ride. You can see the confidence beaming from the Blue team. Meanwhile, the Voltaggio brothers are seeing red.

For the Elimination Challenge, the battle breaks out into all out war. Restaurant Wars, that is. While Restaurant Wars is always a highlight of each Top Chef season, it was a bit of a letdown that this year décor would not be part of the contest. To me, that’s half the fun of this challenge. But they will still be judged on their food, menu and service.

- The Blue team names their restaurant Mission and the Red goes with a combination of their names; Revolt. I guess naming a restaurant is a bit like your golf swing. It’s easier to see the mistakes when you are watching someone else. I knew it was a “revolting” name and so did you. And so did the judges. But in the heat of the moment, they thought it was a keeper.
- Laurine and Ash volunteer to take the front of the house of their respective restaurants. This is always a sexy option, but it has often spelled doom for past contestants as you become the face of the losing team, and often the fall guy.
- When Eli decides to leave his shirt untucked, I cringed. Even as a mostly untucked guy myself, I know there is a time and a place to tuck, and this would be one of those times. The judges also mention it later on.
- The Blue team thinks they are being clever when they decide to skip dessert, since it is usually the dish that gets someone sent home. However, it’s pretty much the judge’s first complaint when they see Mission’s menu. I am still astounded by how hard dessert seems to be to so many accomplished cooks.
- While at the Restaurant Depot, Mike I. and Laurine playfully block Robin and Eli from getting out of the car, and eventually beat them to the sparkling water. This sets Robin off, and she playfully pushes Laurine. The push is just barley playful.
- Later, in the Revolt kitchen Robin nearly stages a revolt when Mike V. begins to hound her and actually starts to adjust her dish. Robin stands her ground but Mike does belittle her something good. Mike V. claims he has the biggest heart of the group, but he also has the biggest mouth, temper and ego. But Robin knows the old saying about taking the heat in the kitchen…
- The Mission group’s night quickly goes to hell as soon as the guests arrive. Jen falls behind on her dishes and Laurine is overwhelmed by the house. Laurine also forgets several times to explain the dishes to the judges. Tom Colicchio mentions that Lauine seems to be hiding, and also pins some the blame on her when subpar food starts to appear at the table. I sense trouble for her.
- The Revolt team may have friction in the kitchen, but Eli does not let that spill out onto the floor. His shirt may be untucked, but he is quite buttoned up as a host.
- It was obvious that the Mission team did suffer from a bit of overconfidence. However, the dark horse that emerged tonight was Robin. Her pear dessert was the big hit, from a menu that was considered the best in Restaurant Wars history. Not bad.

It was hard to tell who was going to go home this week. Kevin undercooks the lamb, Jen fails with two dishes and Mission’s food service is dreadfully slow. All indicators point to Jen being sent home. Except, I keep remembering Tom Colicchio’s comments about Laurine. She’s definitely the weakest chef on Mission, and they don’t want to let Jen go too soon. Thus it is Mission Impossible for Laurine, and she takes the hit for her team and is asked to leave. Note for future contestants; Hiding from the judges is not good move when you are the hostess.

Meanwhile, Mike V. is the ultimate winner from the Revolt team. He is also awarded the $10K that Mission had just lost. As he had mentioned, he has a big heart and offers to split the money with his team. However, Bryan refuses to take his money out of principle. Mike V. can’t buy his way out of inappropriate behavior with his brother. I love it. I have not seen brothers like this since Wolverine and Sabertooth. (If you happen to have seen the latest Wolverine movie, you know what I mean.)

This is setting up nicely, huh? It certainly will be a let own if both of the Voltaggio brothers are not in the final four. I’m sure we have nothing to worry about. I’m guessing they will be there along with Kevin and Jen, with Mike I. being the wildcard.

Next week things heat up, thanks to Star Wars hottie, Natalie Portman. In Top Chef language, I’d say she’s quite a dish.

Bon Appetite.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas, Ep. 8: Kiss Your Ash Goodbye

Things are heating up in the Top Chef kitchen, as the field is narrowing and there are fewer places for people to hide. This week, at the beginning of the show, we learn that Eli still lives with his parents and Robin does Pilates every morning. It illustrates my impression of these two. Eli is a spoiled brat and Robin has to work for everything she gets.

Mike V. reflects on his poor showing from last week and then confidently points out that even Babe Ruth struck out every now and then. (Perhaps all that flattery from Ash last week has gone to his head?)

When we get to the Top Chef kitchen, Padma introduces the guest judge, Charlie Palmer, a great American chef who has ties to both Voltaggio brothers. Bryan worked for him for 10 years and Mike worked with him for one year. The Quickfire’s theme this week was “pairing”. The chefs had to pair a dish with a selection from the Alexia frozen food collection. I had never heard of Alexia, and I’m afraid their advertising scheme worked on me. After watching this challenge, I not only looked them up online, but I have scoped out supermarkets in the area where I can find it. Some of those things sounded good, like those onions or BBQ chips. They even have spicy sweet potato fries, which I’m sure will appear in my dreams tonight. (Naturally, Padma will be feeding them to me in that dream, but that’s none of your business.)

The chefs go to it with mixed results. Kevin takes the fried onions and does a spin on the classic green bean casserole. Laurine takes a page from Dr. Lecter’s cookbook and incorporates fava beans into her dish. She should have paired it with a nice Chianti, if you ask me.

Jen makes pork chops, and quickly realizes that they are over cooked. That’s one of the differences between the better chefs and the rest. They tend to recognize their mistakes. How many times at judges table has Ash or Robin been surprised by the judges reaction to their food?

Sure enough, Robin, Ash and Jen end up on the bottom. Jen is there for poor execution while the other two simply made subpar dishes.

The top finishers are Eli, Bryan and Kevin. Eli scores his first win. I’m sure his parents are proud. Unfortunately, it was not a high stakes challenge, so he does not win any money, and he won’t be getting his own place anytime soon.

Then the Elimination Challenge is announced. The group will be cooking for the Pigs & Pinot event, which involves pork and Pinot Noir. I gotta tell you, if that Alexia food did not make me hungry enough, now they are working with two of my favorite things in the world. As a matter of fact, if I had written that song about “a few of my favorite things”, pork and Pinot Noir would definitely have made it into the lyrics. So would peanuts, baked potatoes, candy corn and mint chocolate chip ice cream among other things. But I digress…

After the contestant draw knives to determine which cut of pork they will use, they return to the house for the evening. Here, through the magic of video editing, we are treated to the non-stop chit chat of Robin and its adverse effect on the rest of the group. Kevin wisely stays out of the fray, but Mike I. and Eli’s distain for Robin is on display front and center. It must be weird for these people to watch the shows afterwards and see all the crap that is said about them behind their backs. If I were on this show, I’d be really careful about what I said about others… after all, all of these folks own really big knives.

- Bryan gets ribs, perhaps the most classic of pork dishes, but one that usually takes a long time to cook properly. His work is cut out for him.
- Kevin gets leg, and is thrilled to be working with pork. He even boasts a pig tattoo. This guy has the love. He comments that with his extensive experience with pork, it would be a major disappointment if he did not win this challenge. (Kind of like when Scarfy did not win the French cuisine challenge.)
- Ash gets tenderloin, perhaps the most delectable dish on the pork menu. When he takes advice from Mike I. and decides to serve a cold pork dish, I knew he was in trouble. Ash is clearly in over his head in this competition.
- Eli gets pork bellies, which always makes me think of Trading Places. Jen draws a wildcard knife and also chooses pork bellies. She wisely avoids a cut that’s susceptible to overcooking. She’s ready to redeem herself from her dry pork chops.
- Laurine gets pork butt and decides to make rillettes. Unfortunately, she does not properly prepare her dish and the judges compare it to cat food. To be honest, I can’t believe she survived this round.
- Robin makes pork chops, which are described as “slimy”. Unless you are cooking for the Adam’s Family, that is not a good word to describe your food.
- The brothers get into a tiff in the kitchen and Mike tells Bryan to go “F” himself at one point. The sibling rivalry is always interesting with these two, as is their loyalty when they are faced with an outside threat.

The top four turn out to be Mike V, Bryan, Jen and Kevin. It was Mike V. who compared himself to Babe Ruth, but it is Kevin who steps up to the plate and hits it out of the park. And, similar to Babe Ruth’s famous called shot, Kevin had pretty much predicted that he would win this challenge. Kevin also is awarded the honor of returning to Pigs & Pinot next year. I am seriously thinking of booking a ticket myself.

On the bottom we have the usual suspects; Robin, Ash and Laurine. I really thought this was it for Laurine, but when Ash starts talking he digs his own grave. He basically admits that he had second guessed himself again and had failed to execute what he calls “his food”. So Ash is asked to pack his knives and go.

Next week things continue to heat up as it’s time for everyone’s favorite, Restaurant Wars. I can’t wait to see how Robin does working in a team setting with this crew. As for me, I’m off to find me some pig and Pinot.

Bon Appetite.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Ep. 7: Ashes to Ashley, All Fall Down

Sorry this blog is late. I missed this past week’s Top Chef, but thanks to the miracle of DVR, I was able to catch it today. I think DVR is the best invention of the past 20 years, along with GPS and Lasik surgery. Now I can find my way home faster so I can watch television, watch my favorite shows at my convenience while skipping commercials and I can also see the TV a whole heck of a lot better.

So this episode featured Tyler Florence as the guest judge. Tyler is a staple on the Food Network. I always wonder the relationship between Top Chef and the Food Network is. Are they competitors? I mean, we often see chefs and personalities from one on the other, like Ted Allen, for instance. So what’s the deal?

This week we saw some contestants have to deal with tough breaks. In the Quickfire Challenge, it was Jen who had to deal with a tough situation. She was sick. But there are no sick days on Top Chef, so Jen just had to power through it. (I have to admit, if I was a judge, I would not be crazy about a sick person preparing my food. Is it rude to gargle with Purell after you eat?)

A slot machine was rolled out and each chef pulled the lever to reveal three keywords that would be the inspiration for each dish. One of the words that kept popping up was “Umami”, which I had never heard before. Rather than explain it to you, I have simply linked you to the Wiki entry on it. After reading it, I’m still not sure I fully get it. That’s why I eat more than I cook, folks.

Along with term Middle Eastern, Ashley got the words blue and cheesy, but did not use bleu cheese in her dish. I guess that would have been too obvious. Robin also got Middle Eastern as one of her words, and then was practically bitch slapped by Padma, who had to remind her that curry is not a Middle Eastern ingredient. We are all wondering how much longer Robin will last.

Eli gets the word Umami and proceeds to hog all of the mushrooms, but it does not matter. He still ends up on the bottom along with Robin and sick Jennifer. Meanwhile, Mike I, Michael V. and Kevin are the top three. Kevin ends up winning. His words were stressed, hot & spicy and Asian. (With those words, he should have been cooking for Jackie Chan.) Because it’s a high stakes challenge, Kevin get to choose a prize of $15,000 or immunity in the Elimination Challenge. He wisely chooses the money. For a guy who regularly finishes strong, it would have been nuts to pass up that cash.

The Elimination Challenge had the chefs drawing knives and pairing up in order to cook family style meals for the judges, who would provide them with unique bags of ingredients to work with. They also had to use a section of the contestant’s house to prepare their food. Eli snakes a spot next to the stove, similar to the way he hoarded the mushrooms earlier.

Jen is feeling better, as well she should be, because she gets paired up with Kevin. They make a dish with Kobe ribs and some kind of tomato sauce that just plain looks delicious.

Ash and Michael V. set up in the dining room with a variety of electric appliances provided by the good folks at Macy’s. It was pretty clear that Ash has a little crush on Michael, to the point where it eventually made Michael uncomfortable. (And me too.) Meanwhile, there was no love between Mike I. and Robin. He only took breaks from berating Robin in order to blow his own horn. Yet, it was Robin who knew how to work with Asian flavors, not him.

Michael V. and Ash are the victims of unfortunate circumstances in this round. The electric appliances they use cause continual power outages, resulting in the overcooking of their fish. As they battle the fuse box, Ashley and Eli attack some gnocchi and shrimp. Unfortunately, their shrimp ends up undercooked and their gnocchi is too salty.

So when it’s all said and done, the winners are Laurine/Bryan and Jen/Kevin. Jen and Kevin end up winning, with Jen being named the ultimate winner. She walks away with a $10,000 Macy’s gift card. I was happy to hear her say she’d at least buy Kevin a suit or something… since he did have a big part in her victory.

Then the losers were brought to judges table. Ash/Mike V. and Ashley/Eli are matched before the firing squad. Although Mike V. had served overcooked fish, he’s too good to send home this early. Besides, he did all the work while Ash set the table and made google-eyes at him the whole time. Then Ash goes into a monologue about how dreamy Michael V. is and even compares him to Michelangelo. (The painter, not the ninja turtle.) Ash basically says he held the brushes while the artist did his thing. Michael V. had to have gotten a Glenn Close/Fatal Attraction vibe at this point, judging from his uneasy reaction.

I had a feeling Eli or Ash might go, but I was wrong. Ashley is held responsible for the raw shrimp and salty gnocchi and is asked to pack ‘em up and go. I thought she would last longer than a few other people on the show. Robin and Ash in particular, seem to have dodged a bullet.

So now I am caught up on Top Chef, and you are caught up on my blog. I’ll see you next time.

Bon Appetite.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Movies I Always Watch: Deep Blue Seen It

Have you ever seen Deep Blue Sea? It’s ridiculous, but that doesn’t matter. It’s one of those movies I always seem to watch. It attracts me like blood in the water does a humongous, mutant shark.

When the trailer for Deep Blue Sea debuted, I was excited. As a huge Jaws fan, it looked as if there might finally be a good, new shark movie. God knows none of the Jaws sequels were any good. But Deep Blue Sea had potential; genetically engineered “smart” sharks wreaking havoc on a sinking, aquatic lab.

Okay, it seems absurd when you read that now, but when I first saw the trailer, with those cool, evil looking sharks and various, action packed cuts, I was psyched. As usual, the actual movie did not live up to the trailer.

Deep Blue Sea has some of the most ludicrous and memorable scenes in B-movie history, like LL Cool J hiding in an oven while a shark tries to ram through the door. Naturally, the gas is leaking too, adding even more danger to LL’s situation. Luckily, he keeps his Cool (J) and manages to escape and blow up the shark, thanks to the gas leak and his lighter.

Thomas Jane is the hero of the film, a shark wrangler whose trademark is swimming with the beasts, acrobatically avoiding their bite, grabbing their dorsal fin and riding them like a rodeo horse. I’d love to see this guy on the mechanical bull at Gilly’s Bar sometime.

Perhaps the most memorable scene involves Samuel L. Jackson, who before he was tired of those muther f-ing snakes on that muther f-ing plane, was tired of these muther f-ing sharks. Jackson has just finished giving an inspirational speech about survival, but is standing a little too close to an access pool and is devoured by a giant, animated shark that jumps out and gobbles him up. It is definitely the signature moment of the film.

The three best scenes are probably these:
1. The opening scene, where a shark attacks two partying couples on a boat.
2. When Stellan Skarsgård’s character gets his arm chomped off in the lab. (It’s proof that smoking is bad for your health.)
3. When Michael Rapaport’s character is gulped down by a shark in one fell swoop.
4. When Saffron Burrows’ character strips down to her underwear, uses her wetsuit as insulation and electrocutes one of the sharks in her flooded quarters. No one has ever looked sexier killing a shark.

The icing on the Deep Blue Sea cake is the song at the end of the movie. It’s by LL Cool J and it’s called "Deepest Bluest." The chorus constantly repeats the line, “My head is like a shark’s fin.” It’s hilarious, but I guarantee, you’ll find yourself singing it later that day. I wonder if this movie had been about a killer octopus instead, would LL have sung, “My head is like a tentacle?”

Here’s a link to the music video, which combines the cool footage from the trailer that I mentioned earlier with scenes of LL and some ladies doing some hard core, hip-hop synchronized swimming. It’s kind of like they combined Jaws with the "Mama Said Knock You Out" video and the pool scene from Caddyshack. You really have to see and hear it for yourself.

Deep Blue Sea opened the flood gates for the plethora of cheesy shark movies that are constantly running on the SyFy channel, like Malibu Shark Attack and my personal favorite, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.

Be wary. While real sharks are a natural hazard for surfers, the super sharks in Deep Blue Sea are a danger to channel surfers. If they catch you, they could kill your entire afternoon.

Oh no…
My head is like a shark’s fin.

That stupid song is stuck in my head. See? I told you.
My head is like a shark’s fin.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas- Ep. 6: Magically Delicious

I was so psyched for last night’s Top Chef because it featured Penn & Teller. I am a big fan. Their magic/comedy act is always great and their show B*llshit on Showtime is one of my favorites. (Thanks to BS, I find myself skeptical of just about everything these days.) But Penn & Teller would not appear until the second half of the show. First we meet guest judge Chef Michelle Bernstein, who apparently is no relation to that lovable family of bears. (Oh wait, they’re the Berenstain Bears. Never mind.)

This week opened with the chefs mourning the departure of Scarfy. To show solidarity, a number of them even don red scarves. There is also an overwhelming sentiment that Robin should have been eliminated, and many of the other chefs begin to ostracize her. But if you can’t take the heat, get the hell out of the Top Chef Kitchen… brought to you by the Glad family of products.

The theme of the Quickfire Challenge was Angels and Devils. Create a plate that showcases two dishes that exemplify good and evil. I immediately thought that if I was a contestant, I would make Devil Dogs and Angel Food Cake. Then I realized… that’s why I’ll never be a contestant on this show.

- Ash decides to make custard. You just knew he’d have problems with the temperature. Doesn’t he watch this show?
- Eli, Ashley and Jen all make scallops. Is it me or are there an inordinate amount of scallops made on this show?
- Big Papi makes Chilean Sea Bass. Padma complains that her serving had bones in it. Perhaps they were there part of another voodoo ritual. I think he’s gonna need some black magic to last on this show much longer.
- Robin’s theme is sugar, with her story of cancer survival as a backdrop. Eli is pissed that she plays the “C” card to elicit sympathy from the judges.
- Laurine is a miserable mess this week, practically making Stone Cold Jennifer look like The Joker. She’s not happy with the challenges and she hates Robin. (The chef, not Batman’s sidekick.)
- Ash, Bryan and Laurine are the losers. One of Ash’s custards did not set, so he only submits one dish. I don’t want to say I told you so, but…
- Bryan had tried to keep it simple with a play on the colors black and white, but in the end he was just seeing red.
- The top three were Mike V., Eli and the dark horse; Robin. And Robin wins. This makes many of the other chefs want to hang themselves with their red scarves.
- With Robin having immunity, you could practically see the bullseyes on Ash and Ron’s foreheads for the next challenge.

Finally, Penn & Teller enter the kitchen to introduce the Elimination Challenge. They do an amazing ball and cup trick and then deconstruct the same trick with transparent cups. The second time around is even more amazing. The challenge is to deconstruct a dish, which will be determined by drawing knives.

- Toby Young, the Dr. Evil of Top Chef is back at judges table. He’s the Simon Cowell to Gail’s Paula Abdul… Or should I say, Ellen?
- Stone Cold Jen pouts her way through Meat Lasagna. She even avoids Tom Colicchio when he makes his rounds.
- Laurine pouts her way through fish & chips. Robin’s constant chatter does not help matters.
- Big Papi is thrilled to get paella, but it’s clear he has no idea of the concept of deconstruction. He even asks Colicchio for advice… not a good sign.
- For me, I can’t help but think of George Costanza’s mother when I hear the word paella.
- When I was a kid, my mother always talked about how a pressure cooker could possibly explode. This week, I finally saw it happen. The duct tape holding Eli’s damaged pressure cooker just isn’t enough and it goes ka-blooey. Obviously Eli is no MacGuyver.
- Kevin has to make something called Mole Negro. I have no idea what that is, but I am familiar with its religious cousin, Holy Mole.
- Eli makes sweet & sour pork dumplings. The judges refer to them as bull testicles, a dish we learn that Padma has actually consumed.
- Mike I. tries to fake his way through Eggs Florentine. He fools no one.
- Ashley plays the “P” card and once again references her poverty stricken childhood. Perhaps she still can’t afford a comb?
- Ash gets Sheppard’s Pie and fails to deliver the potato element of the dish. That’s two dishes in one episode where he fails to deliver. I can’t believe he survives this round.
- Robin does not waste her immunity and serves up a repulsive clam chowder

The losers?
- Laurine, who only puts two chips on each plate.
- Ash, who substitutes mashed potatoes with an “Exorcist” looking pea puree.
- Ron, who does not deconstruct his dish, and manages to serve food which is both dry and soggy at once. Strike three! Big Papi strikes out and it’s his turn to pack his knives.

The Winners?
- Smile Jen, they loved your lasagna.
- Ashley, your pot roast boasted a wealth of flavors.
- Michael V. – Hail Caesar.
- And the winner is Kevin! Moley, moley, moley. He also gets some non-stick pans as a bonus. Maybe he should give them to Ron as a parting gift.

Okay, time for me to pack my knives and go. I’m off to find a place that serves Mole Negro. I just have to know what that tastes like.

Bon Appetite.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas, Ep. 5: I’m a Cowboy, on a Steel Pan I Fry

This week Top Chef opened with the contestants rising and shining from their beds. It was funny seeing Ashley first thing in the morning because she always looks like she just rolled out of bed, and this pretty much confirmed it.

Perhaps even funnier was Scarfy’s pajamas. His light blue tops and bottoms made him look like he was in hospital scrubs. It would have been great if they had opened this episode with the theme music to the show Scrubs, and when they got to the line about “I’m no Superman”, they could show Scarfy running around in his blue PJs, using his red scarf as a cape.

Anywho… each week it seems like the contestants don’t feel a lot of love from the judges. Well that would change this week, literally. The guest judge was Chef Tim Love. I can only wonder how many times this guy has said, “The secret ingredient is Love.”

First we had the high stakes Quickfire challenge, which would once again award the winner $15,000; however no one would get immunity this time around. The ingredient was based on a viewer’s poll in which cactus beat out rattlesnake. Freaking rattlesnake!! How great would that have been?

I could just hear the judges;
“This rattle is overcooked.”
“Mmmm, that venom marinade was really clever and tasty, but suddenly I don’t feel so good.”

So the chefs carefully descend on the table of cacti, trying not to get pricked while they prep. Most of the chefs are unfamiliar with the plant, except Mike I., who shares the secret of de-sliming a cactus; blanching it. (See, I learned something tonight.) The rest of the gang try a variety of things…
- Ashley makes cactus jelly donuts. Perhaps she would have won if she made crullers shaped like cacti, with sprinkles for thorns.
- Kevin made a pork tenderloin that was described as slimy. Should have blanched it, dude.
- Big Papi was leery of cactus because they are poisonous in Haiti. FYI, this guy has lived a harder and more interesting life than any of us. But he still finishes at the bottom.
- Scarfy uses tequila, another surefire ingredient, and ends up as a top finisher.
- Mike V. is one of the losers in this round. Will his temper and ego be his weakness or strength as the field narrows?
- Mike I. is sharp like a cactus, and wins the Quickfire. He needed that.

On to the Elimination Challenge. The gang must cook for cowboys. They head to Whole Foods to shop. It struck me that these people always seem to have such a better time shopping at Whole Foods than I do. Then it dawned on me… it’s because they are not paying.

Some of the chefs start buying pretty eclectic ingredients and I am thinking that they are missing the chuck wagon on this cowboy challenge. (For instance, Big Papi and Scarfy both make ceviche.) The group is then surprised when they are taken out to the desert and left to camp out in teepees. So they are cooking for cowboys, but sleeping like Indians.

Thoughts on the Elimination Challenge:
- Big Papi makes a voodoo barrier to protect his tent from snakes. Like I said, this man is far more interesting than you or me.
- Eli assumes the role of city slicker and whines about having to sleep outdoors.
- Mike V. assumes the role of kitchen slicker and whines about having to cook outdoors.
- While most of the other chefs bitch about the conditions, Laurine embraces it and happily cooks a hearty meal on the open fire. It’s the first time I really take note of her this season.
- I like Jennifer, but she needs to smile once in a while.
- Holy spoiled seafood, Batman. Robin makes a terrible prawn salad.
- Scarfy’s fish makes the judges sick. As a matter of fact, Tom spits it out. Never a good sign. He should loosen that red scarf, because he is choking.
- Robin, Big Papi and Scarfy end up on the bottom. Papi is there because he broke the golden rule; he made a second dish and it killed him.
- What’s with all of the backwards baseball hats? Is this Top Chef or Top Catcher?
- Mike V. (who harnesses his anger), Laurine, Ashley and Bryan end up in the winner’s circle.
- Bryan rustles up a cowboy win. It’s not just the desert heat, this guy is on fire.
- No surprise. Scarfy loses the challenge. We bid you adieu!! Pack your scarf and go.

Okay, it’s time for me to pack my knives and ride off into the sunset. Next week Penn and Teller magically appear as guest stars. I love those guys, so I am psyched.

Bon Appetite.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Ep. 4- The French Connection

Tonight the stakes were high on Top Chef as two chefs were eliminated instead of just one. That’s because they upped the ante on the Quickfire Challenge, giving the winner immunity and a seat at the table during the Elimination Challenge and the loser gets a seat on the next Greyhound bus out of Sin City. The secret ingredient was snails, or perhaps I should say escargot, since there was a French theme running through zee whole episode. Although I must admit I was rather disappointed that neither of my favorite French foods, French Toast nor French Fries, were represented at all tonight.

Naturally this theme gave Scarfy, zee French contestant, a home field advantage. It was a sort of birthday present to him, as it happened to be his 29th birthday. We got to see him celebrate by getting drunk, folding his red scarf into a pair of skintight swim trunks and prancing into zee hot tub.

Thoughts on the Quickfire:
- I have never eaten a snail, and I honestly still have no desire to try them now.
- Could Ashley swear a little more? Watch your French, girl.
- Robin did a take on bagels, lox and cream cheese with snail. I thought that was interesting.
- Jennifer seemed intimidated by the ingredient, but she nailed the snail.
- Mike I. went with a Greek take on snails and it paid off, putting him in the top three and redeeming himself temporarily from his poor showing last week.
- Kevin won again, using something called bacon jam as his secret weapon. Bacon jam… I love this guy. As I mentioned, Kevin got immunity for the next round. His biggest challenge was to actually clean himself up and dress nicely because he got to sit at the table and eat with a group of esteemed judges at the Elimination Challenge.
- Jesse, Ashley and Robin were the bottom three. In order to determine who went home, they had an Amuse-Bouche cook off. One bite to save your life.
- Turns out Jesse bit the dust with her one bite, so she packed her knives and left.
- When dismissing Jesse, Tom Colicchio missed a golden opportunity to say “Please pack your knives and escargot.”

On to the Elimination Challenge, where the gang gets to cook for Joel Robuchon, who is basically zee Michael Jordan of French cooking. Also at the table will be a virtual who’s who of French cooking. I may not have caught all of their names, but I’ll take my best guess as to who was there. I believe it was Marcel Marceau, Inspector Clouseau, LeBeau from Hogan’s Heroes, Pepé Le Pew and Jean-Luc Picard.

The chefs drew knives and paired up based on French sauces and proteins. Once again, Bryan and Mike I. were paired up. I was hoping Ash and Ashley would be a team so that they could say something like “Let’s kick some ash.” But that was not to be.

Thoughts on the Elimination Challenge:
- Big Papi explained that there is distain between Haitians and the French. I wonder if he spit in the food when the cameras were off.
- Big Papi cooked frog legs and all I could think of was The Muppet Movie. Ironically, his partner was Robin, which is also the name of Kermit the Frog’s nephew. (Anyone remember The Frog Prince?)
- Mike V. and Bryan sibling rivalry resurfaced, particularly in Whole Foods, where they rough housed in the isles like a couple of 10 year olds.
- Mike V. was paired with Jennifer, so you knew you had another strong team. I was not surprised to see them as finalists.
- Scarfy did very poorly. Not only did the French guy screw up a French Challenge, but he screwed up using bacon, the “can’t miss” ingredient. In French, they would call that “meessing zee lay-up.”
- Question: When a French guy is sad, does he sing zee bleus?
- Bryan helped Mike I. deconstruct a béarnaise sauce and they ended up in the top two. When it came time to give and take credit, Mike I. wisely did not divulge just how much Bryan had to do with his sauce. He obviously learned his lesson from the last time. To his credit, Bryan did not throw him under the bus either.
- Hector and Ash were a team, which was the biggest case of opposites being teamed up since Paula Abdul and MC Scat Kat.
- By sitting at the table and eating, Kevin got to see things from the judge’s perspective. I bet that helps him going forward.
- Bryan wins again. I am seeing the thoroughbreds pulling away from the pack as we round the bend. Kevin, Mike V., Bryan and Jennifer seem to be the strongest horses in this race.
- Hector had problems with cooking and carving his meat and that cost him big time. He was eliminated. I told you the steaks were high.

Okay, it’s time for me to pack my knives and go too. Next week the chefs are out in the desert. I wonder if they will have to make dessert.

Bon Appetite.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Ep. 3: Cooking Ain’t Preeti

Tonight I had to pinch myself to be sure I was not dreaming. For the Quickfire Challenge, the chefs were presented with a pile of every kind of potato imaginable… except maybe for Mr. Potato Head. As an openly admitted potato junkie, I could not wait to see what they would come up with for the Potato Challenge. (Or the Potatoe Challenge, as Dan Quayle might say.)

The guest judge was former Top Chef Master contestant, Mark Peel. I thought it was great that they had a guy named “Peel” as a judge for the potato challenge. It got me thinking of other potential celebrity judges; Laura Flynn Boyle, Jerry Rice, Dane Cook, Carrot Top, Irving Fryar, Mike Judge, Julie Strain, Meatloaf, Peter Pan and John Oates to name a few. But never Edward Burns… or Andy Dick.

Thoughts on the Quickfire:
- The chefs frantically attacked the spuds, because potatoes can be a time consuming food to cook. At one point, Kevin offers Preeti his blanching water, but somehow she ends up using Ashley’s instead. This does not go over well with Ashley and she is preeti upset. Luckily for Ashley, things boiled over and she ended up in the top three.
- Meanwhile, Michael I. (Mr. Know-It-All) decides to cook a potato risotto and informs us that risotto is in fact a cooking style, and not a rice. While I did not know that, the smug way he said it made me want to dunk his head in Ashley’s stolen, boiling blanching water. He’s preeti cocky.
- During the judging, I felt bad for Eli, who used shelled pistachios and still managed to serve Padma a shell. That’s nuts.
- Good old Jesse was up to her old tricks; making a good dish and then screwing it up. This time she added too much cayenne to her potato soup. Having done that myself, I was hoping it would come back and burn her.
- Big Papi made some kind of fish and rambled on about Bob Marley. Something tells me that guy's got some good herb in his spice rack.
- Ash made sweet potato ice cream. I winced when I heard him decide he was making a frozen dish. That always seems to be a dangerous move on these shows. So many times the dishes just don’t get cold enough. But give him props, they loved his custard. That’s cool.
- I realized tonight that Ash’s name is Ash Fulk. I was wondering if he is any relation to Gaylord Faulker.

Eli, Ron and Jesse ended up on the bottom and Jennifer won the Quickfire, giving her immunity.

Then a guy walked in and for a minute I thought it was Dr. Bellows from I Dream of Jeannie. But it was not. It was an Air Force colonel who informed the group that the Elimination Challenge would be cooking for 300 troops and their families at a nearby air base.

The group broke into teams and Jennifer assumed the role of Executive Chef. By the way, Jennifer kicked ass in this role. In A Bronx Tale, the mob boss Sonny is asked if he would rather be feared or loved. It’s clear that Jennifer would rather be feared. I love that.

- Once again, Kevin impresses me. He takes that unassuming, fat guy persona and couples it with real cooking expertise. He and Eli team up and make a southern pork dish that I was drooling at. Mike and Mike made a pork belly dish with mustard and peanuts that will also haunt my dreams tonight. And that chili looked good too.
- Poor Big Papi and Jesse were the last two picked when they made the teams. It was like a sad scene from elementary school when they pick teams on the playground.
- Big Papi and Jesse made a chowdah (that’s how it’s pronounced) which Tom Colicchio was pretty heartless and condescending about it. However, the crowd loved it.
- Mike I. decided to make a second dish. Wasn’t he paying attention when Ashley tried that? It’s never a good move. It’s a move that eventually landed him in the bottom three, by way of the winners circle. Once he admitted he had nothing to do with the pork belly and everything to do with the under cooked shrimp, he was all done. (Unlike his shrimp.) Tom Colicchio was right, he did treat it as a throw away dish. As I said before, Mike I. is preeti cocky.
- Michael V. wins the challenge, kind of like Eli Manning following up Peyton’s Super Bowl win with his own. Remember? Brian V. was last week’s winner.
- Laurine was also in the bottom group. Who the heck is she? I honestly had no recollection of her from the first two episodes.
- It sure was ugly for Preeti. It was a bit sad that the girl who told us that 9/11 was the event that motivated her to become a chef is voted off while cooking for the very people and cause that inspired her.
- I give Laurine and Preeti a lot of props for not throwing each other under the bus. I know it’s a competition, but they cooked as a team and they went down as a team. Could you imagine Marcel or Hung in that situation?

Well, it’s time for me to pack my knives and go. I’m off to bed, with visions of pork bellies dancing in my head.
Bon Appetite.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas: Episode 2 - Oh Brother

Often times a contestant will say “Oh crap” when it comes to the Quickfire Challenge on Top Chef, this week they all said it because a craps table was wheeled out into the kitchen. Each chef rolled ‘dem bones and whatever number came up determined how many ingredients they had to use on their dish. It seemed like most were hoping for something not too high and not too low, like a number in the neighborhood of eight.

We started to learn a lot about the group from this second episode and this challenge.
- The brothers, Brian and Michael, have an interesting relationship. Michael has sort of a Jan Brady “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” thing going about his older brother. During the Quickfire, Brian was quick to point out the Michael was possibly over complicating things with his liquid nitrogen antics, but lo and behold, it was little brother who won the challenge and the $15,000. Meanwhile, big brother was in the bottom four. So how does that taste, Marcia?
- Eve is ditz and if she was a character on Star Trek, she’d be wearing a red shirt. You had the feeling she’d be gone before long. It was no surprise that she was at the back of the pack again.
- Jesse seems to have real talent, but can’t seem to put it together yet. If she lasts a few more episodes, she might just become a factor, but she’s got to get her game on.
- Not exactly the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition for lady chefs this year. Jennifer, looks-wise, is probably going to be my Top Chef crush, but she does not have the personality to quite seal the deal yet. (Unlike like my girl Casey, who had all the right ingredients.) Thank goodness for Padma. (Love those boots.)

Then came the Elimination Challenge, which was to cater a bachelor and bachelorette party. They split into two groups, the boys and the girls. It was here that the other shoe dropped that I had been waiting for. There has always been a gay-factor on Top Chef, never more apparent than last year when they had a group called Team Rainbow. The gay-factor at times was so pronounced that I sometimes referred to the show as “Queer Eye for the Top Chef”. But that’s also part of the fun. Some of the most entertaining moments last year were when the gay men were eliminated and they sobbed their way through their exit interviews. (To be fair, some of the straight guys weeped as well.)

So we learned that a couple of the lady chefs are gay, and Ashley, the crunchy girl, started have issues with the concept of weddings and stag parties. Meanwhile, the men were thrilled to be cooking for the bachelorette party, especially when it took place poolside and all the guests were in swimsuits.

Here are some thoughts about the Elimination Challenge.
- Hector is a man’s man, and could easily have been a character in No Country for Old Men or From Dusk ‘Til Dawn.
- Cooking an octopus looks creepy. When that octopus went into the pan, it looked like a scene out of The Addams Family. (But it’s yummy.)
- Ron, the big lovable Haitian, will now be known on this blog as Big Papi. He’s the Ruben Stoddard of this season.
- A chicken wing is always a safe bet.
- I give Ashley props for trying two dishes, but she really dropped the ball with that second one. Jennifer warned her. I have a feeling Jennifer is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, but she seems to know what she’s talking about most of the time.
- That new Sandra Bullock movie looks like crap. (And I don’t mean the game.)
- I don’t know what to make of Eli, the guy with the glasses, but he reminds me of one of the guys on Big Bang Theory.
- Kevin kicks ass.
- Why do they force the chefs to sit in the supply closet while the judges deliberate? Is it so you can see the Glad family of products in the background?
- The men won. Then all the fat guys jumped in the pool while the thin guys condescendingly watched from the sidelines.
- I’d like to see where that bachelor party went after the show was over. They are in Vegas, after all.
- The new Jenifer Aniston movie looks like crap. (And I don’t mean the game.)
- Eve and Jesse brought up the rear again, along with Ashley and Preetty… or whatever her name is. It was no surprise when Eve was asked to pack up and go. It was a mercy elimination. She did not jump in the pool, but she was clearly in over her head.
- Marcia strikes back. Brother Brian comes back strong and wins the Elimination Challenge. Sure, it’s a more prestigious award, but I think Michael might have been the bigger winner, with that $15,000 Quickfire.

Okay, that’s enough for this week. I gotta pack my knives and go now.
Bon Appetit.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas: Ep 1 - Viva Las Vegas

Top Chef is back and this time around we’re in Las Vegas. They wasted no time giving the show that Sin City flair when a line of showgirls pranced into the kitchen. It’s clear we are going to be in for a lot of surprises in Vegas just from this first episode. I mean, a contestant won $15,000 on this episode and another won immunity by simple drawing a gold chip. Anything can happen this year.

I love Top Chef. I really enjoyed Top Chef Masters, but it lacked the drama and venom that Top Chef always delivers. This is my first season of watching Top Chef both in HD and with the benefit of DVR. The first thing I noticed was that Padma looks great in HD. However, thanks to DVR, my posts may not always be timely. Like this one, I finally watched the first episode almost a week late.

I have not learned all of the characters yet, but here are a few quick observations.

- Did Padma have a cold? Her voice was a bit husky.
- What’s with the red scarf on the French guy? Was that his branding strategy so that he would stand out from the crowd, or is he just paranoid that we won’t remember he’s French? I have cleverly nicknamed this guy Scarfy.
- I have not figured out who I like and who I don’t yet. I have not picked my Top Chef crush yet either… although the blonde who’s vice was drinking too much and then doing something stupid is a strong candidate.
- Did the girl who won the Quickfire realize that kissing Tom Colicchio is inappropriate? Of course, if I won a Quickfire, I’d sure try to kiss Padma.
- I did not like the chick with the tattoo on her neck, and I was happy to see her pack her knives and go.
- There’s a lot of tattoos and piercings on display this year. Free spirits or damaged goods?
- I did like the bearded guy who won. He seems talented and like he might be a pretty cool dude. But it’s early.
- I kind of want to try deep fried steak, even though it’s a waste of good meat.
- I am not sure what I think of the brothers yet? Is that one guy obnoxious or is he one of my favorites? I can’t wait until they have to face off in an Elimination Challenge.
- Wolfgang Puck was an awesome judge… he whaled on some of those dished, and if I remember correctly, he threw a donut across the dining room.

Well, I gotta pack my knives and go now. The next episode is on tonight. I’ll try to get another blog up as soon as I can.

Bon Appetit.

(If you want to be on the update mailing list, send me an email to

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Social Media Is Everywhere, But How Does It Affect Market Research?

Here's a quick recap I wrote on a recent social media event we hosted in New York.

On Friday, June 19, 2009, several experts on social media gathered at Advanced Focus in New York City for a panel discussion on social media and what it means for market research. In order to get a broad perspective of the subject, the panel was made up of people from a wide variety of industries including market research, technology, CRM and PR.

The panel members included:
Mike Rogers, Chief Brain - Brainloaf
Mike Carlon, Moderator - MarketVision Research
Tom H. C. Anderson- Founder & Managing Partner- Anderson Analytics
Susan Roth, Vice President, Online Qualitative – TNS
Leslie Campisi, Vice President & Partner - Affect Strategies
Rob Petersen, President - BarnRaisers Group

The event was sponsored by Brainloaf, an interactive/social media company based in Stamford, CT and Jack Campisi, VP of Client Solutions, hosted the two sessions.

While opinions varied on many topics, there were a number of interesting lessons gleaned from the day. As Tom Anderson would say afterwards in his blog; “…regardless of what social media means to me, to consumers social media can mean very different things to different people. These meanings/definitions/strategies can also change rather quickly for some individuals."

Mike Carlon summed up the day nicely for both the qual and quant sides of the fence...

“On the qualitative side, social media provides a new set of tools for gathering consumer insights. As consumers become familiar with blogs, social video sharing, and video based chats, moderators can use these tools to engage consumers using methods that seem "natural" to them. We agree that there will always be a need to conduct in person qualitative interviews but are excited about adding new tools to our tool box. On the quantitative side, the vast amount of "conversations" that consumer's have about brands and/or trends open up opportunities for insight mining using text mining. Large numbers of conversations can be mined for insight and trended over time. This seems like a natural fit for those tracking the impact of PR as well as buzz around new product launches.”

Coming from the technology angle, Mike Rogers helped explain the wide variety of tools available from the social media toolbox. But he was quick to add that before you choose your tactic, you must have a sound business plan and social media strategy. Otherwise you risk wasting a lot of time, effort and money.

So what was the final conclusion?
C'mon. This is social media. There are no FINAL conclusions. It's a constantly growing and evolving thing.

I guess it's safe to say that while there is a lot of common ground between social media marketing and social media for market research, there are also many significant differences. Social media for market research presents a unique set of challenges but also offers a very exciting new facet of communication and method of insight-gathering to the field.

To request a link to the video of the event, please visit

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

24- Season 7: 6 and 7 am – 24 Hours You’ll Never Get Back

6 am & 7am

You know, when I sit down to write these recaps I am always concerned about being funny, but after what happened tonight, I don’t feel any pressure. Nothing I write will be as funny as Kim Bauer flailing around with her arm on fire. Kim got her “Bauer On” tonight, and she wasn’t the only one. Both Kim and Agent Lohan sprung into action tonight, making me wonder if we might get a spin-off next year called Jackie’s Angels, with scantily clad Kim, Renee and Chloe taking orders from a now incapacitated Jack via a speaker phone. But who will be Bosley? Tony? Nah, he’s too dark. Aaron? Nah, he’s too quiet. I know… Janice.

Let’s get to tonight’s season finale. It’s 6 am and Jack has been forced to bust out Tony or the goons at the airport will kill Kim. Jack pulls a gun on Agent Lohan and even puts a slug in the other guard’s leg to show he means business. I’d love to know how many legs Jack Bauer has shot or stabbed in seven seasons. That’s Jack’s favorite method of administering a non-lethal wound. Jack lets Renee know that he is only doing this to protect his daughter right before Tony takes him hostage. When Tony did a similar thing in order to save Michelle a couple of seasons ago, Jack chastised him for putting his personal interests ahead of the mission. Mr. Bauer is now officially a hypocrite.

It turns out that Tony wants to use Jack’s infected body to reconstitute the virus. His gal pal Cara thinks that is a great idea, and even agrees with Tony when he suggests that he should get a promotion within the mysterious organization. Wait a minute… something is up with Tony. Is he really good, pretending to be bad? Or is he bad, pretending to be good after pretending to be bad? Maybe he a double, double, double agent, or a triple, reverse single agent, with a twist? I’m getting dizzy.

As the sun comes upon DC, Jack momentarily gets away and tries to kill himself in a pool of gasoline. That way the virus will be destroyed in the fire, but Tony stops him before he can light up. It seems the only person Jack Bauer has trouble killing is himself. (And that goes double for forgiving… more on that later.) They take Jack back to an operating area where a few doctors drain some of his spinal fluid to see if he can be used to make more pathogen. Meanwhile, Cara convinces Alan Wilson to meet with Tony and consider him for a bigger role.

Meanwhile, Ethan, the disposed Chief of Staff, returns to the White House to help Big Red retrieve the secret recording that will implicate Olivia in the murder of Hodges. Olivia gets out of her questioning session just in time to catch Ethan in her office and has him put into custody once she discovers the recording device hidden behind the picture on the wall. She has him detained and gets the disc from him. But Ethan was ready for her, and actually slips her a blank disc. Once he listens to the recording, he goes back and confronts Olivia. He tells her that she has to confess to her mother and then Madam President can decide what to do.

At the same time, Kim Bauer is still at the airport with the evil couple. Agent Lohan contacts Kim by phone at the gate and warns her. A shootout breaks out, and we never learn how the two bad guys manage to smuggle knives and guns into the terminal… especially on a day when we are told security would have been heighten because of the prior terrorist attacks. The woman is killed, but the guy slips away. It’s here that Kim’s “Bauer Genes” kick into gear and she ends up chasing the long-haired bad guy through the baggage areas and into the garage. Kim even yells “Dammit!” at one point, leaving no doubt as to whose daughter she is. When the bad guy’s car is shot at, it flips and catches fire. Kim knows they need that laptop to find her father, so she charges in and wrestles it away from the trapped bad guy. She emerges with the laptop and her sleeve on fire. As if she wasn’t the hottest chick on the show already, they have to go and light her on fire.

Alan Wilson is convinced to meet Tony face-to-face on order to see the medical report on Jack. He needs to determine Jack’s usefulness for replicating the pathogen. (I guess his email is down so they can’t just send him the file.) But in a moment alone, Jack learns Tony’s real motive. Everything he’s been doing has been to get himself close enough to Wlison so he can kill him. You see, Wilson was behind almost everything that has happened on 24… ever. He’s behind David Palmer’s assassination, he’s responsible for Charles Logan’s exploits and most of all, he is responsible for Michelle’s death. So Tony’s plan is to strap a bomb to Jack and blow Wilson straight to hell when he arrives.

You see Tony is a lot like Two-Face from The Dark Knight, except instead of getting his face burnt, he was killed and then brought back to life. He is a fallen hero so hell bent on revenge and justice that he will do whatever he has to, even if that means people will die.

Wilson shows up, but before Tony can detonate Jack’s C4 sweater vest, Agent Lohan swoops in on a chopper. Another fire fight ensues and now it’s Renee who starts channeling her inner Bauer. She hops on the side of a SUV and shoots her way to Jack. If they ever get married, their first song should be “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya”, because that’s just what she does. She leaps off the moving truck and tumbles right into Jack’s lap. Then she disarms his deadly sweater vest. My god, this girl is a catch. I bet she likes watching sports too. (By the way, just I spotted Annie Wersching, the actress who plays her, on an episode of Supernatural.)

Cara and Wilson manage to sneak off, like most bad guys do on this show. They see Tony and Cara calls him over. She embraces Tony but he shoots her, to her dismay. Once again, Tony steals a page out of Sean’s playbook from earlier this season. Sean also shot and killed his girlfriend, just before he shot himself in the side. Tony smacks Wilson around and then reveals that not only did he kill the love of Tony’s life, but she was pregnant with his son. Tony raises his gun but Renee and Jack show up and clip him with a gunshot. (I believe in the leg.) Tony reaches for his gun and gets shot in the hand. Tony and Wilson are taken into custody. It’s finally over.

No wait, not quite. We go back to the White House. At this point I had forgotten all about this plotline. The President’s husband seems to be in pretty good shape for a guy who was in critical condition a few hours ago. I wonder if he has that Wolverine mutant healing power. Olivia tells her mother and father about her shenanigans. Her father wants to cover Hodge’s murder up, but Madam President eventually decides to do the right thing and turns her daughter in.

We know the day is coming to a close when Chloe and Janice make peace. I think I will miss their battles the most in this off season.

Back at the FBI, Jack Bauer prepares to die, even without Indigo Montoya telling him to do so. Jack and Agent Lohan have a couple of close encounters, but Jack fails to use his last hours in the way that most guys would. No, instead of making sweet, sweet love to Renee, Jack meets with his new buddy, the Muslim Cleric and has a nice discussion about forgiving himself. (Because Jack Bauer doesn’t ask God for forgiveness, he forgives God, dammit.) Then he is sent into a coma to ease his passing. At last, the final curtain is about to fall on the life of Jack Bauer.

Meanwhile, Agent Walker goes to see Wilson before he is transferred. Walker is afraid the Wilson won’t talk and they may not get another shot at him once he gets his lawyers involved. So Agent Lohan takes matters into her own hands. The last time we see her, she incapacitates Janice and heads into Wilson’s holding cell with a look on her face that would make Tony Almeida proud. Jack may be infected with the pathogen, but Renee seems to have caught the torture bug.
But we’ll have to wait until next season to see what happens.

We end the season with Kim showing up at her father’s bedside. She insists that they attempt the controversial stem cell treatment. She knows the risks, but she’s willing to take it. If Jack dies there is no season eight and Elisha Cuthbert needs the work. Let’s face it; she hasn’t done much since Old School and The Girl Next Door.

So that’s it. Season seven is in the books.

I don’t know… once Starkwood was taken down and Tony went bad, this season got pretty darn silly, even by 24 standards. I’m still digesting it all, but I can’t say I am totally satisfied with that ending, But who am I kidding, by the time season eight rolls around, I will be as giddy as a little school girl. What did you think? Feel free to chime-in down in the comments section.

I hope you enjoyed reading my recaps. Now I have to think of other things to write about. Keep checking in between now and next season of 24 and please see the entry below for a little more on what’s going to be going on here at Back in Jack in the meantime.



Questions? Comments? Feedback? Drop me a line at or post a comment below.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ask Jack

If you have been a regular reader of my 24 blog, thanks a lot. Now that the season has concluded, I’ll continue to update the blog with my usual movie reviews, random thoughts and pop culture commentaries. But I need other things to write about, and I would love some ideas from you. So here’s what I propose… a new segment called “Ask Jack”.

Send me your questions, topics or subjects that you’d like to see me address. Want to know what I think of another TV show? Have a relationship question? Have a question about current events? Want to know the meaning of life? Go ahead and ask me and I’ll pick a few and address them from week to week. Use your imagination. Just keep in mind that the answers I give won’t necessarily be the right ones. More likely they’ll just be the first thing that I think of. We’re just trying to have some fun here.

(And I reserve the right to pick and choose what questions and suggestions I use. Tough darts… it’s my blog.)

So send your thoughts, suggestions, questions and ideas to and I’ll do my best to entertain you with my responses.

In the meantime, check back soon for my review of the new Star Trek movie and I may even chime in with a few thoughts about this season of American Idol.


Monday, May 11, 2009

24- Season 7: 5 am – Cat Fight Club

We are fast approaching the end of the day, and Fox is promising that the conclusion of this season of 24 will hit us harder than a head butt from Keifer Sutherland. Based on last week’s previews, we were looking forward to a big confrontation between Jack and Tony. While the two friends-turned-foes did come face to face, the real showdown tonight was between Janice and Chloe. And, meow, did the claws come out.

We pick up with Tony preparing Jabron for his subway ride. Tony continues to remind him that if he does not cooperate then his brother will get it. Tony outfits him with an ear piece that gets such good reception that it even works in the subway. Not once does Jabron have to say “can you hear me now.” Meanwhile, I have to go into my kitchen to check my phone because I don’t get bars in my living room. I need to get on Tony’s team so I can get on that phone plan. I bet they even have unlimited texting. They sure seem to have unlimited resources, because when Jabron gets to the subway and attempts to tell the cops what’s going on, he finds out that even the transit cops work for Evil Almeida.

Back at Jabron’s apartment, the guard continues to suffer from the neck wound that Jabron’s brother gave him. Jack is not one to let a gift like this go to waste. He refuses the bad guy morphine until he tells him all he knows about Tony’s plan. Then he allows just enough morphine to get the pain out of the goon's voice, so he can call Tony without raising suspicion. They put Chloe on the case to trace Tony’s location, which naturally raises Janice’s hackles. The pissing match begins as the two ladies attempt to one up each other. This is on the level of a Tyson/Holyfield battle, except with biting remarks instead of the actual biting of ears.

Chloe wins round one when she is able to pinpoint Tony’s location, but Janice rallies back when she is able to retrieve the target information from Tony’s damaged PDA. Finally, Chloe delivers the knockout blow when Janice demands a “thank you” and Chloe refuses to give any sort of validation. The winner and still champion, Chloe O’Brien. (And let’s face it, no one likes Janice.)

Jack and Agent Lohan ram into Tony’s van and take him into custody. Jack punches Tony a few times in the face, but Tony doesn’t seem to mind. Jack uses Tony’s cool ear phone to speak with Jabron, who is being sized up by a suspicious white guy on the train. (Thank you for the racial profiling lesson, 24.) Jabron eventually finds the bowling ball bag that Tony’s girlfriend hid under the seats and rushes it out of the station and into the eagerly awaiting hands of Jack Bauer. He might as well be the one to take the bag, since he’s already infected. Jack hightails it into a Hazmat truck and gets the canister into a safe container before it blows. The last time Jack did something like this he had to cut off his partner Chase’s hand, when he was dealing with that virus a few seasons ago. So this must have seemed like a walk in the park to old Jackie Boy.

Meanwhile, Kim Bauer is at the airport, where her flight has been delayed for a little while. Not bad considering the entire airline industry was paralyzed by Dubaku’s mid-air collision early that day. You’d think things would still be a little more chaotic. Meanwhile around here, if it’s a little foggy they close down La Guardia, JFK and White Plains for a week. Kim notices a guy who is seemingly stalking her so she joins a friendly couple in the terminal in order to feel safe. Unfortunately, the stalker was really an agent keeping an eye on Kim for Jack and the nice couple is actually in league with Tony and his group. The agent ends up getting choked in a bathroom stall by the bad guy, kind of like that scene in like in Austin Powers. I kept hoping for the bad guy to ask “Who does Number Two work for?”

Back at the White House, Big Red scolds Sherry Palmer Jr. (Olivia) for leaving the White House premises, but she turns on that old charm and seemingly wins him back over. It turns out that Olivia’s assassin actually did kill Hodges, because Fabulous Martin vouched for her. So now she has to pay the assassin and cover up the whole thing.

But you can’t fool our boy Aaron that easily. Big Red smells a rat, so he calls the recently deposed Chief of Staff so that they can get a hold of the office recordings that he suspects will implicate Olivia. We even get a Mike Novick reference during his phone call. Woo hoo!! On a side note, if you happen to catch the movie Star Trek: Generations, look for a certain, strapping red headed helmsman on the deck of the Enterprise at the beginning of the film. Think about it, Aaron has shared a screen with Captain Kirk and Jack Bauer. That’s pretty bad-ass, if you ask me.

Back at the subway station, all is well. Jabron is reunited with his brother and it feels so good and Jack is comforted by Agent Lohan, who hugs him and tells him he can finally rest. You have to excuse Renee Walker, this is her first day on 24. She doesn’t yet fully realize that you can never rest on 24. When you rest, bad things happen, like getting kidnapped by the Chinese… or getting a video call that tells you that if you don’t free Tony, your daughter will die. And the latter happens to Jack tonight.

Next week, it’s the season finale and Kim’s in danger again, although there is not a bear trap nor a mountain lion for miles.

Will Tony escape? Will Olivia bring down her mother’s administration? Will Jack live? Will Keifer Sutherland stay out of jail long enough to film another season?

Expect some of the answers and probably a few more questions before it’s all over.

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Drop me a line at or post a comment below.

Monday, May 4, 2009

24- Season 7: 4 am – Robert Tippet, We Hardly Knew Ya.

4 am

It’s four o’clock in the morning and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for Evil Almeida and that chick in the blouse.

The Islamic flags were hung with by the computer with care, in hopes that Jabron in a web cam would stare.

The people of DC were nestled all snug in their beds, except for Jack Bauer and the rest of the Feds.

Janice and Chloe, Lohan and Jack, had another crisis in a day full of crap.

The CTU server revealed no terrorist chatter, but Jack knew still that something was the matter.

Away to the window Tony flew like a flash, and made Jabron lie to the cops or his brother’s throat they would slash.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, Olivia dealing with a deadly queer.

Chloe works so hard, so lively and quick, but she knew in a moment that Jack must be sick.

Jonas Hodges is in custody, with pics of his dames, now Robert Tippet is his new name.

Agent Lohan's so fit, but her neck needed fixin', she looks like a dancer, but she's really a vixen.

Okay, that’s enough poetry. If I keep this up I will be up all night. Tonight on 24 Tony and his crew proceed to frame up Jabron, a Muslim fellow who cooperates in order to protect his brother. They make him film a terrorist message while they falsify his computer so it looks like he will be responsible for the pending attack.

Meanwhile, Jack figures out that Tony must be dealing with someone in the Muslim community, so he and Agent Lohan do some googling and that leads them to another Muslim dude who knows Jabron. This guy can’t imagine that Jabron is guilty, and Jack’s reputation has proceeded him, so he is not willing to help them. This is unacceptable to Jack, who ends up cuffing the guy and taking him along once Janice and Chloe locate Jabron’s real address. On the way over, Chloe tells Jack that it appears that Jabron is being framed and Jack uncuffs the other guy. The Muslim guy urges Jack to forgive himself, but Jack doesn’t have time for that. He has to stop Tony before he dies from the pathogen.

Olivia meets up with the Fabulous Martin, who ensures that he can arrange the hit on Hodges, but advises Olivia to walk away. Olivia gets the call from the assassin, who tells her to deposit money in his account and then he will do the deed. But Olivia has a change of heart and never makes the transaction. Instead, she is reunited with her father who is remarkably chipper for a man who was beat up, paralyzed and shot earlier in the day. (Didn’t they cut his finger off too? I can’t remember.)

Speaking of fast healers, Hodges seems to have recovered from his heart attack pretty well. He’s already being prepared to be moved into witness protection. He learns his new name will be Robert Tippet. His guard forces him to hand over his wallet and all other traces of his past life, but Hodges secretly keeps a picture of his wife and daughter. It appears like we may not have seen the last of Jonas Hodges. Perhaps he will be back next season for his revenge.

Or not. Hodges is blown to Kingdom Come by a car bomb. And the news of his death hits Olivia like a bomb as well. She’s in deep doo doo. In a panic, she calls Fabulous Martin, who this time is not in bed with anyone. He insists they speak in person instead of on an unsecure phone line.

Tony and his crew leave Jabron’s house, leaving a guard with his distraught brother. Jack and his team burst through the door and stun the guard with a flash grenade. The guard goes down, and the little brother smashes a mirror. This turns out to be more unlucky for the guard than the brother because he stabs the guard in the neck with a shard. Jack stops him before he can kill the bad guy, but now they are worried that their only lead may not live long enough to give up the details of the next attack.

Next week, Tony heads for the Subway, but he’s not looking for a five dollar foot long sandwich. He’s looking to do some damage. However, he may end up getting a taste of Jack’s gun instead.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Drop me a line at or post a comment below.