Monthly Archives: June 2008

“So then I went into a strip club with a lesbian…”

Not that I’ve never been to a strip club. Nor have I rarely experienced hanging out with a lesbian. But I have to admit, merging the two events is highly recommended.  As Ferris Bueller would say, “It is so choice. ”  Seeing as DC is chock full of lesbians and a pretty lengthy list of strip clubs, I would hope that all of you could go out and enjoy yourselves as much as I did.

Let me back up and explain the circumstances a little more. One of my closest friends in DC is a lesbian, and her week-long birthday celebration has just been winding down. We had a boisterous dinner at Ella’s, home of the best sangria I’ve had in town, and I polished off about two carafes by myself. From there we headed up to northern Dupont and started partying at a lesbian bar. Much as the oxymoronic phrase indicates, it became more difficult than most of us predicted, as the crowd was eclectic to say the least. After throwing back a few shots and taking some laps around the bar, my lovable lesbian and I got a little bored. Then came her stroke of genius – “You wanna go see some strippers?” How could I say no? We told the rest of the party we’d be right back and walked downstairs to Royal Palace, the place where strippers go to die.

We meandered on to the down stairs club, got our ID’s checked, and ordered two Miller Lite’s for our table (at $7.50 a piece, we weren’t about to ask about any other drinks). Then came the judging. There were a lot of creepy old men staring into nether regions, and the lucite platforms inspired an entire conversation. Since we’re nerds and went to nerdy schools and live in DC being nerds, we had a philosophical discussion on empowerment versus sexism. Did the women stripping feel like they owned the sexual objectification of their bodies in a post women’s lib world? Or was I right when I postured that there was no empowerment in owning objectification, that using their bodies for money simply breeds misogyny in the work place? Eventually we settled down and just soaked in the sleaze of our absolutely disgusting surroundings. There were much better times to philosophize on the lives of strippers. In that moment, on the birthday of my favorite lesbian, we just needed to enjoy the shady nudity.

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Why I Got Fired

As all six of you who read this know, I have been a server and host at a restaurant in DC for the past year or so. I’ve worked there full time since last August and, after quitting my other full time job, only there since around Thanksgiving. For almost a year, I’ve dedicated around 50 hours a week to setting the place up, closing it down, providing quality service to our patrons, and training about half the current staff who works there and even a few who don’t. I predate current management there by five or six months. That said, I was fired today as a result of a particularly heinous incident last Friday night.

The manager on duty was Dickensian in his malice and downright petty in his machinations. He rode people he despised like dogs, usually the young and hard-working servers, and heaped praise upon his chosen favorites, who were slackers and ass-kissers for the most part. Not to make this a racial issue, but he tended to favor other African-American staff and belittle the Caucasians. The Hispanic staff he treated like nothing more than dirt. He was known for covering his own ass, throwing staff under the bus whenever it suited him, and doing anything in his power to make himself look good, be it giving away free drink and dessert or humiliating staff in public.

This monster was working last Friday night and was riding people like there was no tomorrow. For the most part, he was leaving me alone because I was one of the most qualified staff and he knew I don’t normally take well to pricks using me as an example. He laid off me for the entire night, only using his power to make me close the restaurant when he knew I had a double the next day in order to piss me off. I barely thought anything of it and went about the routine of taking care of my tables. Our kitchen closes at midnight, and at twelve, I had two tables to speak of. They were both friendly, well-behaved, and quite courteous. As 12.01 rolls around, I see him seat one of my tables. Desperate not to show my anger, I greeted the guests with a friendly smile and reminded them that the kitchen would be closing soon so they should be getting their orders in quickly.

As I checked on my other tables, my boss approached me and berated me in front of other staff and my two other tables, demanding to know why I hadn’t sent the late table’s food back yet. He then walked over to the table – a quiet, shy, non-threatening Hispanic couple – and literally screamed at them to hurry up and make their order. He said to them, “You have to decide what to eat immediately,” and quickly sat down with a table of white, homosexual patrons. If this table had been the table with which he had been sitting (which was not only unprofessional but completely against company policy), he never would have raised his voice. If this table had been white, and especially if they had been good-looking and gay, he would have bought them drinks, dessert, or even discounted their meal. Alas, they were not. And they were humiliated.

I walked over to the table, apologized for his behavior, and took their order. As I walked their menus up to the front, a single man walked into the restaurant. I told him that I was to sorry to say that our kitchen was closed since it was well past twelve, but that the bar down the street was still serving food. He thanked me and went on his way. At this point, my manager came up to me and, again, in front of several other staff, belittled me for turning away the customer. He informed me that we had not closed yet and that, in the future, I should ask him before telling someone we couldn’t serve them. This was where I lost it.

I demanded to know why this was the case when my quiet couple that he had sat late was taken to task for not ordering quickly enough. I wanted to know how he got off screaming at me and my customers because our schedules didn’t meet his exact whim, and why after he had just finished yelling at a two top, he thought I would willingly seat another table. He responded that it didn’t matter what anyone thought, he was the boss and he was just doing his job. He literally said, “I can do whatever I want.” As the entire restaurant and staff watched, I laid into him and openly mocked him for his ridiculous double standards, unnecessarily childish behavior regarding the previous table, and offered him to seat another table in my section that had just walked in.

I was suspended later that night and informed today that I no longer work there. The entire staff agreed with me. And by the way, the table that he sat late were in tears and asked me if there was any way I could pack up their dinner to go.

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Score One For Women

This week’s episode, while not exactly being the most exciting finale (season three probably has them beat there), was still a blast to watch.  I’m sure the end results certainly didn’t hurt with how I viewed the episode, but overall, this season showed some real skill in the kitchen, and while it was obvious from the beginning who the most talented were, the challenges were still inventive and impressed me throughout.  Wednesday night started out with Steph discussing how much she wanted a female winner for the season, and was definitely pushing into overkill territory.  The Bravo editors aren’t as seasoned as, say, people who work on Survivor, and they aren’t as nuanced in their story arcs or personality development.   However, most reality editors know that there are some times where you can bring up an idea so much that it bridges the line between inevitability and simply setting everyone up for a fall.  This is what I like to call overkill – Steph had discussed a female winner for so long that everyone either thought she was going to win or worried she wouldn’t since the editors had made it so ridiculously obvious the entire season.  Note to Bravo editors – learn the art of subtlety.

Blais goes on to discuss how Lisa has a horribly negative attitude and can’t lead anyone for shit.  I’m glad someone is tactless enough to talk shit about Lisa, because I feel like Steph and Antonia were just too nice to call her out on her bullshit immaturity and whining.  In other news, this was the episode where I realized I had been spelling “Blais” wrong for the past three months.  Lisa talks about how she’s fully aware that Steph and Blais dominated the challenges this season and she had only won one Elimination Challenge.  And yet, and this is admirable, she still was certain she had a legitimate shot at winning the thing.

The Top Three walk up to the final challenge where Padma and Colicchio wait for them.  Three excessively prominent chefs stand to the side of the host and head judge – April Bloomfield of Spotted Pig, Dan Barber of Blue Hill, and Eric Ripert of Le Bernadin.  The final challenge is simple – create a four course meal of your choosing and follow the classic progression – fish, poultry, red meat, and dessert. The fact that they emphasize that dessert is required and Steph freaks out about it is my first clue that she won’t be sliding through this final test easily.  Each sous chef is accompanied by a plethora of proteins, and the chef with the most Elimination Challenges is supposed to pick first.  However, Blais tied Steph last week and they stand at four victories apiece, so the knife block is brought out with two knives.  Blais, being the Southern Gentleman that he is, lets Steph go first, and she picks the knife with the number one on it.  She picks Ripert, Blais chooses Dan Barber, and Lisa is stuck with April.  Lisa tries to play it off as if she wanted April and shills out some empty girl power praise, and Spice Girls fans the world over squirm with discomfort.

Dinner will be black tie for 9 diners – I instantly start to work this puzzle.  You obviously have Tom, Padma, Gail, and Ted.  I figured that this season would follow on last season and use the sous chefs from that challenge, so Eric, April, and Dan are fair game.  But the last two were a mystery to me – surely not Antonia and Spike.  And there have been three past winners, whom they already used in a past challenge, so that’s out, too.  Moving along, Lisa wants to use her menu to showcase Asian flavors and her background, especially in Vietnamese and Thai food.  Blais wants to show his journey, from classic techniques to molecular gastronomy.  Steph is basically just trying to show her style and her flavors.  In the three hours that the chefs have to prep, we see Steph try to explain how she wants Ripert to filet her fish, which is hilarious.  Then we see Blais try to make Tabasco ice cream from liquid nitrogen to garnish his oysters, which sounds intriguing but most likely disgusting.  Finally, we have Lisa talk about how much she loves April since they get along so well, and how she doesn’t cook as well when she’s stressed.  Not only is this statement ridiculously obvious, but I feel like it’s a non sequitur in the sense that Lisa always seems like she’s stressed.

The next day begins with the chefs walking into an empty kitchen.  Colicchio enters to let them know that the sous chefs have not and will not be showing up to work today and they have to finish the final four hours of cooking themselves.  Steph doesn’t seem too fazed, and Blais scores points with me with the classic restaurant phrase “No show, no call, no job.”  Steph talks about just staying organized and making it through the rest of the challenge.  Lisa starts to discuss her food some more, and says that her food is very similar to her personality – “big, bold, spicy, sweet, salty, sour.”  The last one I would definitely agree with, but sweet?  Seriously?  Did you forget bitter?  Or maybe rotten?  Putrid might work for you, too, kiddo.

Blais is using the banana scallop for the third time in this competition, and Steph is still freaking out about her dessert.  I feel like she’s either gonna rock the dessert or it will be her major stumbling block.  Colicchio comes in to gauge all three of them, and he says it could come down to Steph’s dessert.  This is when I start getting anxious.  The commercial break screams in like a banshee and the final poll is “Who should be Top Chef?” My obvious choice would be to side with Steph, but I am intrigued to see how America falls into play.  When the commercial break ends, the final two of the nine guests are revealed to us – Alfredo Ayala, chef and owner of Delirio in Puerto Rico, and Tim Zagat, CEO and cofounder of the Zagat survey.  Holy.  Fucking.  Shit.

First course is as follows –
LISA – grilled prawns with chili basil sauce and crab served with homemade potato chips.
STEPH – seared red snapper over truffled clam and asparagus broth with asparagus salad.
BLAIS – scallop with mango and pineapple vinegar.

The initial judging seems a bit muted. though the prawn is deemed to be almost overly spicy and Steph’s dish is praised as delicate by Alfredo.

Second course is as follows –
LISA – tom kha gai soup with dumpling.
STEPH – sealed quail breast over lobster ravioli with mango lobster sauce and quail egg.
BLAIS – guinea hen, chicken egg, foie gras, and spring vegetables.

Everyone at the table is in love with Lisa’s soup and discusses the universal wish for seconds.  However, Steph’s quail is cooked perfectly, although Tom starts to bitch about the leeks on the plate.  When Gail blindly follows, like usual, Tom is utterly baffled by her presence at the table.

Third course is as follows –
LISA – wagyu beef with chayote and cucumber salad, hot sauce, and garlic chips.
STEPH – medallions of lamb with maitake mushrooms, braised pistachios, and blackberry and olive tapénade.
BLAIS – pickled radishes, mirin broth, and pork belly.

Pickled radish has most flavor in Blais’ dish, but the technique is genius.  Disagreements abound at the table on these dishes, as some praise Lisa’s sauce, while Eric reminds them that they had basically just seen it on the prawns.  Gail appreciates the acidity of the salad that Lisa used.  For Steph’s dish, she has successfully recreated the pistachio and the olives surprisingly work quite well in the mixture of flavors.  The entire table loves Steph’s dish.  Colicchio says, “Richard’s dish just needs work, Lisa’s dish is just pedestrian, Steph’s dish is full of surprises and it works.”

Fourth course is as follows –
LISA – black Thai rice pudding with lime and mango créme, taro, and coconut.
STEPH – ricotta poundcake with tropical fruit and banana créme.
BLAIS – banana scallop with bacon ice cream.

Lisa has chip issues, but overall they like the dish.  Dan likes the dish that Blais made and the table agrees that they like the flavors.  Steph has an okay dish, but the flavors are unrefined.  The table doesn’t think it’s horrible, but it’s certainly not good.

Once everyone arrives at the Judges’ Table, the discussion of the real nit and grit starts.  The scallop from Blais was too bland, and some people think the sauce from Lisa’s prawn was too spicy.  Everyone loved Steph’s appetizer, and Gail noted that the fish was cooked perfectly.  On the second dish, Blais said maybe he would take out the foie gras.  Gail basically mentioned that the dish was overwhelming, and the integrity of each portion was lost since the flavors were so mixed up.  Lisa created a phenomenal soup, and had everyone at the table coming back for more.  Steph had a good course, but Tom bitches some more about the leeks, their irrelevance, and how he thinks they weren’t even cooked.  Steph’s look of bemusement is heart breaking.

The third course has some real meat to the criticisms, with no pun intended.  The judges want to know why Blais didn’t try to sear the meat to possibly create a crispy skin, and Blais responds that he thought it would compromise the integrity of the meat.  Look, I totally respect Blais and what he’s trying to do here, but it’s not like he’s fucking campaigning a pork belly for President.  If the judges think it would make the dish better, it’s worth considering.  Lisa’s beef was barely seared, but Tom still criticizes her use of the Kobe, saying that she executed her cooking poorly.  The dish overall was unbalanced, and the sauce she made threw them off, with some calling it too sweet.  Steph’s lamb was cooked perfectly, and her braised pistachios AND blackberry/olive tapénade blew their minds.  She was literally full of surprises with this dish.  The fourth dish was her downfall, though.  Tom didn’t like it too much, and the banana créme was unidentifiable; overall, the dish was a miss.  Lisa, surprisingly, did quite well with her dish.  Despite the table’s overall tepid reaction at first, the judges seemed to like her dessert more in hindsight.  Padma went so far as to call it delicious.  She also called out Blais on his bullshit of using the same dessert dish three times in the competition, even though she only caught this as his second.  His response?  A flustered “it was a different variation” excuse.  Hey Blais, they’re not morons.  Try not to act like a tool when they call your bullshit.

Steph finishes up by apologizing for her mistake of a dessert, Lisa still talks about how awesome she is, and Blais admits that he choked and seemingly removes himself from consideration.  The judges agonize for what is clearly hours, because they don’t actually come with an answer until the morning birds are chirping.  They go through some bullshit course by course decision, but it basically only shows that Blais isn’t really a contender.  At this point, I’m completely terrified that Lisa could actually win this season and end my life  as I know it.  I write down that Steph won the poll of Who Should Be Next Top Chef with 60 percent of the vote and my notes stop there

The reason?  Steph won and I was literally jumping up and down in my living room, screaming at the top of my lungs.  I was so ecstatic for her, so legitimately happy for her, that I didn’t even care about taking notes.  I remember Lisa being upset, and Blais crying about losing, but both doing so gracefully and admirably.  I remember Dale talking to Blais, champagne being passed out, Steph doing an adorably awkward jig.  But not much else.  And I don’t really need to remember that much else, because my favorite and my episode one pick won the entire show.  I picked the winner the first two seasons, and in the third, my pick won second place.  But it never felt as good as this.

Here’s to one hell of a reunion and a great fifth season…

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Bronze Medal?!

I thought I was mad when they sent Dale home.  I thought that would be the most unjust elimination this season, as I was certain there would be no way Spike or Lisa, the no talent ass clowns that they are, could make it to the finals.  And I was halfway right, with the Ultimate Douche Spike getting cut in the final five.  Then last week’s episode crushed my dreams, as Top Chef is known to do.  They sent home Antonia, easily in the top three of talents from this season.  My heartbreak would continue through the week, but watching this phenomenally talented woman get set home certainly set the tone.

The episode opened with the Golden Three arriving to the aeropuerto in Puerto Rico and looking genuinely excited to see each other.  Lisa shows up last with her new Flock of Angry Seagulls haircut and basically ruins everything, especially when she initiates the most awkward group hug in the history of humanity.  Blaise makes it quite clear that Lisa is the least talented of the finalists and doesn’t really even deserve to be there.  The top four make their way to the Quickfire Challenge and meet their guest judge for this round – Wilo Benet from Pikayo restaurant, who apparently embodies Puerto Rican cuisine.

Wilo teaching us about true flavors – since most chefs are known for utilizing fake ones.

Padma explains that the Quickfire Challenge is to create two frituras – a fried snack known mostly in Puerto Rico but also ubiquitously throughout Latin America.  Both of the two frituras have to feature plantains as an ingredient.  I don’t know if any of you have had plantains, but they’re basically the bastard cousin of the banana.  The banana may be the sweet, social, fun-loving one, but plantains encapsulate the bitter, bland, and boring relative that you all know.  It actually is a challenge to utilize plantains in anything that resembles good flavors.  Steph creates tostones with seared tuna and pork and a shrimp fritter with a brown butter, lime, and basil sauce.  Antonia has crispy oysters with cilantro plantain jam and a fried yellow plantain with a spicy slaw.  Lisa offered tostones with pan roasted duck and mango papaya salsa and the sweet plantain, red onion, and chorizo fritura with chutney slaw.  Finally, Blaise presented pork meatballs with plantain sauce and green plantain chips with ripe plantain salsa.

The bottom two were Antonia for her mediocre decoration and her slimy jam.  Blaise also faltered because of his dry meatball (that sounds gross in so many ways) and his raw plantains tasting too….raw.  Steph, on the other hand, did a great job with two balanced dishes and great portion sizes.  Lisa had well executed tostones and Wilo enjoyed her food, as well.  Ultimately, Steph wins the challenge – her first Quickfire win!  Her advantage will be revealed at the Elimination Challenge, but for now, they Final Four are guests at a party that Wilo has thrown in their honor.  They basically mill around and bitch about how nervous they are and how eager they are to get into the kitchen.

The Elimination Challenge is introduced by Tom and Padma at the Governor’s Mansion in San Juan.  They will be preparing food for a garden party hosted by the Governor with 100 VIP’s and chefs of Puero Rico.  At this point, Colicchio reveals an entire pig; each chef has to create at least two dishes from a pig they will be given.  As always, they’ll also be getting some help – Dale, Nikki, Spike, and Andrew walk in.  Lisa interviews about how much she hates Dale and then adds that Andrew hates her after she threw him under the bus.  Basically, she realizes that everyone hates her because she’s such a miserable person.

At this point, Steph’s advantage is finally delivered.  Steph will be able to assign the sous chef’s for all of the contestants.  If someone like Spike had won this, he would have attempted to purposefully undermine and sabotage the other contestants by pairing them with clashing personalities.  Steph shows her true character and level of awesome by putting people together that she’s fairly confident will work well as a team. She chooses Dale for herself, gives Nikki to Antonia, Spike to Blaise, and Andrew and Lisa.  Dun dun DUN.

The chefs have to butcher their pigs while the sous chef’s run to the market to purchase produce and other ingredients.  Lisa discusses how she wants to only use authentic Puerto Rican flavors instead of the Asian cuisine that she’s actually comfortable with.  Blaise points out that the challenges aren’t there for you to change your style.  “Don’t play their game, play your game,” he urges, adding that using your strengths in each challenge is the way to play the game.  Don’t create a new game at the last minute because you won’t last long.

Some hilarity ensues as Andrew attempts to speak Spanish and fails miserably.  Later Blaise points out that Lisa is Chief Thunder Cloud and brings misery every where she goes.  This is possibly the most obvious statement anyone has ever made on this show.  The chefs have two hours to prepare after the sous chef’s get back, and five hours the next day before the final party.  As they begin to leave at the end of the first day, the camera focuses on some pork that Dale and Steph left out.  My heart immediately begins to suffer from palpitations at the thought of Steph going home this round.  Luckily, being the prodigy that she is, Steph and Dale come up with a back up plan to replace the pork bellies that were clearly not safe to use.  Here are each chef’s final dishes:

STEPH
Pork satay on sugar cane skewer with miso almond sauce.
Coconut braised pork with black plantain pancake.
Tropical fruit and prosciutto salad with chicharrones (crispy pork skins).

BLAISE
Fresh ham with local beans (um, throwaway dish, anyone?)
Pressure cooked pork belly with pickled watermelon.
Pork ribs with Malta and soy glaze.
BBQ pork shoulder with braised greens and mango.

LISA
Citrus braised pork belly with potato and plantain mash.
Adobo roasted pork, black bean, and onion tostone.
Pork filled yuca rellena with pineapple mojo.

ANTONIA
Honey pork belly with pickled sweet pepper salad.
Curried pork with pumpkin and yuca.
Pigeon peas with pork sausage.

The poll this week asks who should pack their knives and go.  Skipping ahead in time, my answer meshes well with the rest of the nation, as 91% of us agree that Lisa should take her nasty hair and crappy attitude and get the fuck off the show already.  When we come back from commercial, it’s quite clear that Steph and Blaise did well while Lisa and Antonia had issues.  Blaise did a great job with simplifying his dishes whereas Steph utilized great flavors in hers.  Blaise is declared the winner, and as a prize, he is gifted with a 2009 Toyota Corrola, which is pure insanity.  I’m actually really happy for him, as long as he gets a car seat for his matching brand new baby girl.

Lisa is quintessential Lisa in front of the Judges’ Table, and gets excessively defensive about her dishes.  Tom calls her out on going Puerto Rican instead of using Asian flavors, but she claims that her dishes were strong and there’s no reason that she should be in the bottom again.  Gail notes that her plantain and potato mash was overwhelmingly sweet and that Lisa focused mostly on garnishes and sauces and not the pork itself.  Wilo adds that the tostone was unbalanced.  On the other hand, Antonia had peas that were undercooked and they said that all three dishes were on one plate, so it was difficult to distinguish the dishes from each other.  In addition, her dishes were apparently the least sophisticated of the four finalists.

Then comes the shock that I wasn’t expecting.  I thought Lisa was much worse off than she apparently was, as Antonia is asked to pack her knives and go.  I literally scream out in anger against my TV.  Antonia had undercooked peas and made an admittedly stupid mistake in plating her dishes together, but Lisa’s food was unbalanced, unfocused, and overseasoned.  There were problems with every single one of her dishes.  And yet the beautiful Antonia is sent home.  Then, as the top two Golden Chefs meekly congratulate Lisa, she has the audacity to whine and complain about how no one bothered to pay attention to her.  At this point, I can safely say that I hate her and love Blaise as a result of his response.  “What did she expect?  I don’t understand, you won the effing bronze medal.  Congratulations.  There you go.”

Absolutely gorgeous, Blaise.  I love it.

Next Wednesday, we finally have a winner.  And I sure hope it’s Steph.

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“But Brutus says [she] was ambitious/And Brutus is an honourable man.”

My response to RJ Eskow’s obnoxious, gloating, and grating Letter to a Clinton Supporter:

“I understand why you supported her. But why would you allow yourself to be played as a pawn for a Washington power couple’s personal ambitions?”

It’s this kind of doublethink that pissed a lot of Clinton supporters off. Ambition? He was already a President. They are millionaires. Clinton said he never thought he’d be in politics again until his wife decided to run. Are you honestly convinced that they did all this, went into debt, traveled the country, forsaking their home lives for over a year just for personal ambition? And when did you become a psychologist anyway?

To Clinton supporters, ambition is running for President without having been in a national office for a single full term.

I don’t expect anyone running for President lacks ambition. But to say that the Clintons are ambitious and we’re delusional to support them since all they care about is themselves betrays a disconnect in your reasoning. Bill and Hillary Clinton have done more good for the world with their little fingers than you will ever do in your lifetime and that Obama can only hope to match in his. We know them, much better than Obama’s mouth foaming true believers, many of whom were children in the 90s. We also know they can win.

Say they’re ambitious, fine, but what does that make Obama? We know he’s no saint, and we’re tired of him being cast as one.

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