Month: January 2014

Recap: Top Chef Maui Wowie

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Here we are in beautiful Maui!  Considering I’m watching this in 20-degree Boston weather, I’m pretty jealous.  The contestants have been away from each other for a while, and although it’s only been a week since I’ve seen them, I feel emotional seeing them “again.”  Maybe it’s because Top Chef does this little montage leading into Hawaii.  I know that Shirley and Nina really deserve to be here, and I’m even feeling good about Nicholas.  One man who definitely deserves to be here is Louis: with 8 Last Chance Kitchen wins, this guy definitely earned his way back in.  Oh also, Padma looks FABULOUS.  Who can pull off a halter jumpsuit like that?  Only Padma.  Okay, let’s cook!

The Hawaiian Quickfire is all about Spam!  (30 minutes)

  • Shirley makes a deconstructed spam masubi with span-infused rice, nori, and cucumber slaw
  • Louis makes a spam mousse with garlic, chives, scallions, snap peas, beech mushrooms, and togarashi
  • Nick makes spam broth with pancetta, seaweed, dried shrimp, clam juice, and quail egg
  • Nina makes breadfruit and teriyaki spam croquette with sour orange and mango slaw

Hawaiian guest judge Sam Choy announced the Quickfire winner— Nick!  He gets ten thousand bucks for the win.

One more hurdle between the cheftestants and the finale.  The chefs must create a dish using canoe crops for a party in their honor.  Literally, their pantry is a canoe paddling in as Padma announced the challenge.  Tom drops a bomb: this is a double elimination challenge, and only two will go to the finale.

The chefs get to work.  The canoe crops seem to be a lot of cool island-y things like coconut, taro, and moonfish (opah).  The chefs worry that they will have similar flavors in their dishes.  Nicholas is doing something obscenely complicated again, taking the game plan of getting as many canoe crops into his dish as possible.  The chefs pack up for the day to resume cooking tomorrow.  The scenery is actually beating out the food for me in this episode… mainly because tastevision isn’t a thing.

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It’s the day of the party, and the chefs are working outdoors.  Tom comes around to check on everyone and let’s them know the winner of this round with have an advantage going in to the finale.  He doesn’t tell them what it is, but of course they all want it.  Then the skies open up and it starts to rain.

“Who’s the one to beat?  Mother nature is the one to beat!”

Then the rain stops, the music picks up, and I’m so ready to see everyone’s dishes!  Tom’s back with Padma, Emeril, and a suddenly 7-months pregnant Gail!  Gosh she looks amazing too— radiant in red!  Now it’s time for the judges to taste.

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Inconsistency in cooking seems to be a problem with Louis’s dish.

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Gail seems to like this opah better than the previous.  Everyone agrees that Nina’s is beautiful and delicious!

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There is a bit of debate about the jalapeño here, but Tom and Gail think it works.

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Shirley’s pork is well cooked, but Tom thinks it’s too sweet.

Hey, the TV’s back for the Hawaiian stew room.  Judges table commences, and everyone is called in.  Everyone is so confident at the judges’ table, and you can see the teary gleam of pride in all of the judges’ eyes!  Everyone comes out talking about how that was the nicest judges’ table ever.  But only two can go on to the finale.

After the commercial break, our four cheftestants stand in front of the four judges.  Emeril announces the winner: Nicholas!

“I think I just made it to the finale!”

Padma asks Louis to pack his knives and go.  I’m genuinely sad for him, because why wouldn’t you be?  But I really think these two ladies deserve it.  Padma also asks Shirley to pack her knives and go.  Padma says this in the saddest way I’ve ever heard.  I’m actually almost crying watching Shirley go, but that means joining Nicholas in the finale is NINA!

So the final showdown is Nick v. Nina!

My money is on Nina, but Nick’s been on SUCH a role lately.  Who do you think will win the title of Top Chef?!

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Wishlist: Gadgets & Gizmos

I absolutely love to shop.  With both Christmas and my birthday behind me, I’ve got a couple extra bucks just burning a hole in my pocket… or iphone, which thanks to mobile banking is where I imagine my money lives. With their big price tags, tech gadgets are the perfect splurge items.  Here’s my list of tech goodies that I absolutely don’t need, but I’m thinking about impulsively purchasing.

WiiU [Retail: $299.00]

IMG_4777This is probably the least practical purchase I could make, but arguably the most likely.  I’m a Nintendo girl, raised with a Super NES in my bedroom.  Aside from the original Nintendo Entertainment System, which came out before I was born, I’ve owned every system Nintendo has put out.  WiiU, although a commercial failure, might just be par for the course with me.  Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is absolutely calling my name.  The straw that will certainly break the camel’s back is the Legend of Zelda franchise:  if a new Zelda title comes out exclusively for WiiU, the system is mine.

Jawbone UP [Retail: $129.00]

IMG_4778I’m desperately trying to be a more active, healthier person.  I just love to eat so much.  I also hate to run so much, but I made a big effort in 2013 to change that and hope to continue that this year.  I’ve been eyeing the Jawbone UP for years, inspired by my favorite Youtuber iJustine, who reviewed one in 2011.  Jawbone UP appeals to me as the sleekest of all wearable fitness bands.  The newer, UP24 offers wireless syncing through bluetooth for $20 more, but I’d be afraid that would drain my battery.  I could totally rock a Jawbone UP, and getting to pick a color is always a bonus!

iPad Wireless Keyboard [Retail: $129.00]

IMG_4780I love my iPad, and often bring it with me in lieu of a laptop for weekend trips and overnight stays.  While I typically use it to stream Netflix or Hulu, I’d love to be able to do some writing on it as well.  I purchased the Pages app as soon as I got my iPad so I could write on the go, but the touchscreen keyboard is just not conducive to long form writing.  The wireless keyboard would effectively turn my iPad into the word processor I crave.  A kid in my grad school class a couple years ago had one of these and seeing the way he used his iPad to take notes was enough to convince me that this is a necessity!

Olloclip [Retail: $69.00]

IMG_4784Another iJ-inspired addition to my wishlist, the Olloclip attaches to your iPhone and turns your camera into either a macro, fisheye, or wide angle.  I absolutely love photography, and tend to use my iPhone more than my camera simply out of convenience.  The Olloclip is much less expensive than purchasing a fish eye lens for my camera.  This gadget sure could help me step up my instagram game!  I’ve been looking at the original 3-in-1 design.  There’s a newer 4-in-1 option as well that offers an additional macro lens… for apparently the same price?  That warrants further investigation.

 

new iPod [Retail: $149.00 – $249.00]

IMG_4779This one is tricky territory.  A new iPod has been in my thoughts for a while, but I’m just not which model makes sense.  I have a functional, 80 GB iPod Classic.  I mean, won’t play video for some reason, but I don’t really need it to.  It’s kind of scratched and the click wheel is a little cracked, but whatever.  I’ve been eyeing the new iPod nano for a while– I’ve never had a colorful iPod before!  It’s cute, super portable, and has a touchscreen for simpler scrolling.  The downside is at 16 GB, I’d have to be very selective with what I put on there.  My other option is a new iPod Classic– a newer, thinner version of what I have now.  I mean, it is basically the same thing I have now, click wheel and everything, but at 160 GB, I never have to worry about filling that baby up!

So, lots of options!  With rent due soon, there’s no guarantee I’ll indulge my whims and pick up anything on this list, but a girl can dream.  You tell me: is there anything on this list I absolutely have to have?  Is there anything missing from this list that I should be lusting after?  I’ll keep you posted on any big gadget purchases!

Flooded

Buffy feels my pain.

Buffy feels my pain.

Last Saturday, a water main burst below my building, causing the basement to flood.  The whole building was evacuated for two days.  Forty families were left to fend for themselves and find a place to sleep in freezing Boston weather.  Needless to say, this was an inconvenience, and I was pissed.

Two things were lucky about Saturday.  I decided to get up early that day, as my cousin was visiting Boston and I was hoping to hang out with him.  I was showered, dressed, and out when the evacuation occurred.  Normally on Saturdays, you might find me on my couch without pants on and with my hair in a messy bun.  Imagine firefighters knocking on the door and demanding I evacuate like that.  Not pretty.  The second fortunate occurrence was that my parents had come into the city that day, and I was having lunch with them.  We reached my building just after the alarms had gone off.

With people and dogs all out on the street, the fire department told us we would not be returning home that night and we should make other arrangements.  They shut off the water, electricity (all the electrical equipment under water in the basement), and heat.  They let us go back in to quickly pack a bag.  Because my parents were with me when this happened, I spent the weekend at their house.  I had to throw out a refrigerator full of food, but at least I didn’t have to shell out $200 a night for a hotel room.

If I learned anything from this experience, it’s that I am incredibly inflexible, and don’t handle setbacks well.  I hate not being in control of my situation.  I was put off, put out, and fed up.

For solace, I turned to TV.  I don’t know if my evacuation situation has ever happened to any of my favorite characters.  They are rarely evacuated from their homes, as said homes serve as the main setting for their shows.  Often, they’re trapped inside for one reason or another— a storm, a blackout, etc.

The night before this happened, I had watched the Adventure Time episode, “Evicted!”  I didn’t know that the very same thing would happen to me the next day, with the city of Boston as Marceline the Vampire Queen.

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Really, I felt the people that could best empathize with me were the characters of Friends.  I was reminded of poor Phoebe and Rachel, who return home to find there had been a fire in their apartment.  They are forced to move in with their friends while repairs are underway.

And here's the napkin...

And here’s the napkin…

Maybe Chandler would understand.  Remember The One with the Blackout?  While my electronic door lock wouldn’t work without power, Chandler couldn’t get out of the ATM vestibule.

At least he was stuck in there with Jill Goodacre.

At least he was stuck in there with Jill Goodacre.

And finally, the sitcom example of getting stuck in their apartments, everyone remembers the epic fight Ross and Rachel had after they were “on a break.”  Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, and Joey are all in Rachel’s room, unable to come out and disturb the couple’s private conversation.

And they had to resort to eating wax.

And they had to resort to eating wax.

I feel like the Friends would be there for me in this time of need.  I’m lucky that I really did have people here for me, and a place to go.  At the end of the day, no one got hurt.  Hopefully I can learn from this: learn to relinquish control and roll with things that I cannot do anything about.

For now, I’m just happy to be home!

Fast Forward: Lost Girl

I admit it: I am obsessed with Lost Girl.  This show is just so well done, you guys!  After a successful Netflix binge, I have consumed all of the first three seasons.  That’s where Netflix ends, but the fourth season started back in October.  For those of us in America, season four just got underway in January.  I am happy to report that I am caught up by American standards!  If you’ve consumed all of what Netflix has to offer, here’s what you missed, the quick & dirty version.

Lost Girl's lost again; Hale & Dyson investigate.

Lost Girl’s lost again; Hale & Dyson investigate.

S4E1: In Memorium— With Bo sucked into the wanderer card, nobody realizes she’s gone.  In fact, nobody has any memory of Bo at all.  The only person who realizes something’s wrong is Aife who just knows in her heart that she had a daughter and would’ve named her after her own mother.  Vex has apparently kidnapped the Morrigan, claimed she’s dead, and taken her place as Morrigan.  This episode features a lot of dancing (Ksenia Solo showing off some skills), a lot of really disturbing character dynamics, and a red-headed Doctor Lauren who has run away from the world of fae.

Oh, and Kenzie buys some fae magic from the Druid.

Oh, and Kenzie buys some fae magic from the Druid.

S4E2: Sleeping Beauty School— Memories of Bo restored, Dyson goes in search of Tamsin, who was the last person to see Bo.  He finds her, reincarnated.

A little different than you may remember her.  And hearts.

A little different than you may remember her. And hearts.

Little Tamsin makes this episode an absolutely joy, let me tell you.  Trick delivers the news that Bo is not on this plane of existence.  We do finally see Bo (all of Bo, as in not just her eyes) in this episode; she’s apparently in Kansas during the twister before The Wizard of Oz goes to color… maybe not, though.  Lauren does an alien-autopsy (of the fae variety) in the diner at which she’s been masquerading.  Hale admits he has feelings for Kenzi.  Dyson does some dimension jumping of his own to find her, by standing in front of a death train with a girl named Eddy.

And last night’s episode, S4e3: Lovers. Apart. — Eddy the elemental and Dyson are on the plane-traversing train.  Bo, having succubussed her way out of Kansas or whatever, is running in the woods into a fairytale castle/cottage thing.  A family comes home, caught off guard at Bo’s presence… so the disgruntled teenage daughter knocks Bo out with a frying pan.  Aside from the bump on the head, Bo is having trouble remembering shit and also not draining people of all their chi and killing them.  Back on the soul train, Dyson uses his wolfy nose to find where Bo once was.  Eddy/Clio explains that if Bo jumped without an invitation or anchor, she’s probably going crazy.

The Morrigan’s back, Elle Driver style.  (She gets another eyeball before the episode is over.)  A body-jumper terrorizes the family in the woods and Bo faces off against it.  Dyson shows up in time to help and take Bo home!  We might have just found out that Lauren’s real name is Karen.  She cheats on Bo, then her chick double-crosses her.  Mostly, this episode sucks ’cause there’s no Kenzi.

Too bad Clio had to go.  She was fun.  Don't double-cross Bo.

Too bad Clio had to go. She was fun. Don’t double-cross Bo.

So now you’re caught up too!

Catch “new” episodes every Monday on Syfy.

Girls Recap: Dead Inside

IMG_0177This was a very interesting episode, and very aptly named.  Though Hannah-centric, it focuses on very negative aspects of Hannah’s character.  The good: Jessa plays an interesting part, finally!  The bad: Shoshanna only has like, one line.  Anyway, here’s what went down:

We open with Hannah running late to a meeting with her editor, David.  While she waits in reception, a panic spreads through the office around her.  High-heeled women do little runs down the halls, covering their faces and whispering.  The receptionist answers the ringing phones, “That’s all I know; we don’t know anything yet.”  Hannah’s editor is dead.  Back in her apartment, after Jessa treats us to her non-linear description of time, Hannah explains the turmoil to Adam, “everyone comes in thinking it’s a normal day–” (Jessa: “what is a normal day, though really?”  She’s shining, finally!) and then completely makes it about her– “and no one even began to tell me what was next for my e-book!”  Adam completely calls her out on it.

Marnie works out, listens to some psychological self-help recordings, and makes a very minimal smoothie.

Hannah defends Gawker as a news source after she reads that David was found floating face down in the Hudson.  Shosh commends her own bandana collection, while she and Jessa talk about death.  Adam is worried about Hannah’s reaction to death.  With good reason.  Hannah tells Ray she feels nothing about David’s death.  He too feels Hannah’s reaction is a problem.  She takes advantage of his offer to leave work anyway.  Throughout the episode, we see Hannah use the death of her “friend” to get sympathy from everyone around her.  It’s the first thing she mentions, followed directly by how she doesn’t care.

Jessa makes an attempt to visit the resting place of her friend Season, who passed away.  (She calls is a tomb, then a sarcophagus.  Welcome back, Jessa.)  She finds out that Season is not dead, but had told this to Jessa, an enabler, to break away from her own drug habit.  Confronting Season does not go well for Jessa; she storms out spouting bitter words.

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Marnie, upset as Ray spreads her Youtube music video, gets fired from Grumpy’s; “Fancy people want me!”

Caroline takes Hannah and Laird to like, run and play in a graveyard.  She makes up a heart-breaking story about a dead cousin called Margaret, then makes fun of Hannah for not reacting.  Laird cries, even though he knows the story is fake.

We end with Hannah and Adam, sitting on a stoop.  Hannah makes a fake emotional plea about David; “it always takes me a long time to process my emotions.”  She then uses the same Margaret story Caroline just made up to try and convince Adam that she feels, and I expect, to elicit more sympathy.  Now that, Hannah, is a major problem.

Top Chef Recap: Leaving New Orleans

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Oh my goodness, sad!  I have loved New Orleans– between Top Chef and American Horror Story: Coven, I absolutely need to visit this city.  I can’t believe season 11 is almost over.  When’s season 12?!  Anyway, on to our last challenge in New Orleans.

The top four, Shirley, Nina, Nicholas, and Carlos, head into the Quickfire to see Padma standing with Tom and Gail.  Padma announces that this is to be a two part Quickfire and the winner gets a Toyota Corolla.  Gail’s part of the challenge is to make one perfect bite on a cocktail fork in 20 minutes.  Only two will move on to Tom’s part of the challenge.

  • Carlos comes up with grilled mango with shrimp and chile glaze
  • Nick prepares beef deckle with aged balsamic and a purple potato chip
  • Shirley has made seared steak with with black pepper cherry and crispy onions garnished with mint
  • Nina’s dish is shrimp with potato aioli & pickled shallots

Gail was impressed overall, but her favorites were the men: Carlos and Nicholas.  These two move on to Tom’s part of the challenge.  (Shirley don’t care; she already won a car!) He wants them to showcase either the a pepper or an eggplant.  The have to race to get which one they want.  Carlos wants the eggplant, but Nick sprints for it and wins.

  • Carlos makes roasted red pepper soup with fennel, basil, and onion.
  • Nicholas cut his eggplant to look like a scallop and roasted it with sesame seed sriricha tahini.

And the winner of the Quickfire and the Corolla is: Carlos!

Padma announces the finale location: Maui, Hawaii!  Emeril comes out to announce the challenge: what has the city of New Orleans given to you?  The winning dish goes on the menus of all of Emeril’s restaurants in New Orleans.  That night, the cheftestants get to have dinner at Emeril’s flagship restaurant.  At the chef’s table.  With Emeril cooking.  No big deal.

The next day, the cheftestants get cooking.  Emeril, Tom, Padma, and Gail sit down with Andrew Carmellini, Grant Achatz, and Top Chef Masters winner Douglas Keane.  Nina is the first to serve.  She forgets to put her malfatti on the plate.

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Tom says, if the challenge is to work New Orleans into what she does: mission accomplished.  Good thing she did forget the malfatti, because the dish did not need the ricotta.  Nicholas is up next.

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Nicholas yells at his servers for good measure: do not sauce on the fish; sauce next to the fish.  But okay, this looks bomb.  Everyone loves the broth, but the fish is a bit flat.  Maybe they should have sauced on it.  Next up, Carlos.

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Surprisingly, Carlos’s seafood tamale works.  I think the judges were surprised too.  Chef Keane thinks it’s a great, creative concept.  Shirley is the last to serve.

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Shirley’s dish, with its holy trinity, achieves its goal.  The judges feel like they’re floating down the bayou eating Chinese food.  And then we’re on the final judges table in New Orleans.

Nina and Shirley have the top two dishes!  The winner, whose dish will appear on Emeril’s menu, is Shirley!

Carlos is ultimately asked to pack his knives and go.  He still has a shot in Last Chance Kitchen.

I’m psyched that two women are off to the finale in Maui!  Especially two who have been so consistently strong throughout the competition; these are truly the top contestants in my eyes.  Can’t wait to see what Maui has in store!

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A Diamond is Forever

A little something different today– I definitely wanted to use this blog to talk about more than just TV, and the opportunity arose nicely this week.  I’m a Boston resident, and this city offers many opportunities to support the arts.  On Tuesday, a few friends and I went to an event celebrating the 5th anniversary of Love Letters, a column in The Boston Globe.  This event featured author J. Courtney Sullivan and her newest novel, “The Engagements.”

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My friend Chelsea is a huge “Love Letters” fan, so we went to see its author, Meredith Goldstein, who was moderating the conversation with Courtney.  I love hearing authors speak, but I didn’t know anything about Courtney’s books before this week.  To me, “The Engagements” was not a title that drew me in.  I love weddings as much as the next girl, but I don’t particularly like romantic comedies, and I didn’t picture myself reading something with that title.  When she talked about the book, however, I was instantly enthralled.

A lot of research on the diamond ring went into this novel– the advertising and marketing that made a diamond synonymous with engagements.  The novel follows the story of several different couples in different periods of time, connected by one diamond engagement ring.  I couldn’t wait to pick up a copy!  Lucky me: we were given raffle tickets upon entering, and mine was drawn to win “The Engagements!”  I snagged Courtney’s signature on the way out.

I’ve moved this novel up to the top of my reading list.  I recently started a new goodreads accounts, abandoning the one attached to my old college email address.  There’s not much on it yet but a few favorites and recent reads, but I’d love to connect there!  And of course, I’m always open to new book recommendations.  Find me, as always, nikkisee.

More arts/literature/Boston/real life posts to come!

And tomorrow, back to TV with a Top Chef recap!