Top Chef All-Stars: cooking for Cookie Monster

Last night was a really interesting episode of “Top Chef All-Stars,” as the judges for the quick fire would be……Cookie Monster, Elmo and Telly from “Sesame Street.” How awesome and cool and what must have been really weird for the chef-testants. Richard pointed out that he has a 2 year old girl and in his house Elmo is like Elvis. The challenge? What else…to make cookies from scratch in 45 minutes. The winner would take home $5K. The least favorites were Richard (who made ice cream balls that weren’t really cookies) and Angelo, who made chocolate hazelnut cookies with a banana chocolate milkshake. The favorites were Dale (no bake potato chip/pretzel cookies) and Antonia (chocolate cookies) and the overall winner was Dale. Elmo joked that while Antonia’s cookies were delicious, they looked like “cow chips”….classic!

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RIP Lena Horne

The great singer, talented actress, and crucial civil-rights pioneer, Lena Horne, has passed on age 92. The Guardian has a very good obituary which summarizes her life and work.

Ms. Horne’s involvement in the movies was limited by racism — even the movies she appeared in tended to feature her in short musical segments that could be easily edited out for play in the South. Still, she made enough of an impression in two major all-African-American MGM musicals from 1943, “Stormy Weather” and Vincente Minelli’s debut, the musical religious fantasy, “Cabin in the Sky“,” that my favorite uncle always remarked that it was the first time he’d seen an alluring black woman on the screen. If it impacted my very not-black uncle that way, I probably can’t begin to imagine how it must have felt for countless African-American men and women.

Below, Horne shows she’s a natural on-screen with a humorous duet with an unlikely partner from “Cabin in the Sky” — easily my favorite scene from the movie. As the old joke goes, musically speaking it’s a case of “The Agony and the Ecstasy.”

That’s Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, best known as Jack Benny’s greatest comic foil, providing a huge musical contrast while being tempted to the ways of Satan above.

Below, we have Ms. Horne singing the song which became her signature number, and my father’s favorite all-time recording, I believe — from the 1943 movie of the same name and her only lead role until 1969, “Stormy Weather.”

David Hudson of the Auteurs has accumulated the reaction and notes on her passing. From it, I want to particularly recommend Sheila O’Malley’s remembrance. It includes a clip of Ms. Horne taking a lead in a “Sesame Street” duet of “Being Green” with Kermit the Frog that I found incredibly moving. If you consider what the song is really about, I don’t think it’s a mystery why I was so moved.

  

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Top Chef Las Vegas: more veggie tales

Last night’s “Top Chef: Las Vegas” on Bravo featured the remaining seven chefs facing more and more pressure. Some would respond while others would start to wilt, and we’re almost to final four territory (just where has this season gone??).

We began with a quick fire challenge as host Padma Lakshmi introduced Italian chef Paul Bartolotta, who has an Italian restaurant in Las Vegas and is known as one of the best in the cuisine. But oddly, their quick fire was not Italian-oriented. Instead, they each had to create a “TV dinner” style dish based on a popular show, drawing knives to determine who would be representing which show.

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Bullz-Eye’s TCA 2009 Summer Press Tour Wrap-Up: Cougars, Muppets, Vampires, and Gordon Ramsay, Too!

God bless the TCA Press Tour, where the television industry gives critics from throughout North America the opportunity to play with the folks who live and work in Hollywood. The tour allows us a remarkable amount of access to the stars, producers, directors, and writers of the various shows currently taking up residence on the various cable and broadcast networks. Yes, while I may spend 48 weeks out of the year feeling like a nobody, for those four weeks – two in the summer, two in the winter – which are taken up by the tour, I’m at least made to feel like I’m a somebody. (Really, though, I’m not anybody.)

This was the first time the summer tour had been held after Comic-Con rather than before, so there was a certain amount of grumbling about the fact that the fans were getting a certain amount of information that would’ve ordinarily gone to the critics first, but it must be said that the networks did a pretty good job of pacifying us. And, besides, aren’t the fans supposed to come first, anyway?

Although the content that I managed to accrue during the course of the tour will continue to come your way for quite some time to come, what you see before you is a summary of the highs and lows of the event, mixing stories you may have already read on Premium Hollywood with many that I simply haven’t had a chance to discuss yet. As ever, it was a heck of a good time, full of the kind of moments that leave me grateful that I managed to get that journalism degree from Averett College back in 1992, pleased as punch that Bullz-Eye and Premium Hollywood have given me the opportunity to cover the tour, and, most of all, that there are lot of great readers out there who seem to enjoy the tales I bring back from these strange TCA adventures that I’ve embarked upon.

Let’s get started, shall we?

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TCA Tour: The “Sesame Street” gang helps me be a cooler dad

As of today, it’s been just under a week since I last saw my daughter, Ally: she turned 4 on July 25th, we had her birthday part on the 26th, and on the 27th, I flew out to L.A. for the TCA Press Tour. I know she’s weirded out by Daddy not being home, but she takes comfort in the fact that I invariably bring her home some sort of swag, be it a PBS Kids tote bag or a towel trumpeting Robin Williams’ new stand-up special. Sometimes, however, you feel like you have to do a little something extra to make sure you’re staying in her good graces in your absence, and this morning provided me with the perfect opportunity.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of “Sesame Street” (and, boy, doesn’t that make you feel old), some of the residents of the “Street” paid us a visit, and in a moment of inspiration, it occurred to me that maybe they wouldn’t mind saying “hello” to my girl for me. It’s not the same as having Daddy at home, but at least these three videos will put a smile on her face ’til I get back…

  

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