Monday, February 25, 2013

The Taste - Part II Review

So last week I gave you a review on the Audition part of The Taste. I wanted to give you the run through on the second part: what happens after each chef has a team? And what does that look like? 

Every judge starts out with four impeccable chefs that they hand-picked. Or almost hand-picked: in other words if more than one judge pick the contestant, then the contestant gets to pick in which kitchen (and under what tutelage they want to be under).

So last week was a theme on sandwiches. They deviated from their plating on a spoon *gasp* because quite frankly, plating sandwiches on a spoon doesn't quite work. So they went for small sandwiches - almost like a high tea party, but hold the tea ;)

This part of the competition deviates from The Voice. The judges on The Voice have to pitch their teammates against each other find the best vocalist on the team to represent the judges' team in the semi finalist round. However, what happens on The Taste is that every team member under the judge's kitchen cooks to the same theme during the group competition. Then there is a taste test within each kitchen to put the best dish to compete amongst the other kitchen. There are guest judges that come in to make the call. In this episode it was Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi who were tasting the four sandwiches put out by each kitchen.

The chef that wins the best taste amongst the four kitchen gets immunity - meaning during the cook off later, he or she can't get kicked off her spot. Everyone is drooling for that immunity! In some kitchen, they have the complete team of 4 going (ahem Chef Bourdain) but some like Chef Nigella Lawson are not so lucky and only have two chefs to represent. But in the end, Gregg from Chef Ludo's kitchen wins it all with his smart tonna sandwich (or sashimi grade tuna) with mayonaise (made of tuna). Sounds delish if you ask me! But then again I love me some ahi-grade tuna and I could care less if the guy has an attitude or not, as long as he can cook. I'll eat your food any day ;)

So after that, the individual elimination round starts. They are eliminating two chefs on the last episode. In this round, everyone is out to safe themselves, and the only one who can afford to do a lackadaisical job is the chef with immunity (Greg in this case!). Whatever they cook up will be served in a blind taste test, and each judge will award a "best taste" and a "worst taste." The caveat here is that the judges don't know who cooked what and they might be eliminating their own members off the kitchen. Yep - that is how Nigella lost one of her own teammates. What does make this whole review round interesting is that the judges face stage up, and the contestants are all standing behind them on a platform above them hearing every word they say - so they hear what is being said about each of the dishes as well as their own. But the judges again don't know who made what.

It's still the sandwich theme and I was happy to see a huge diversity of sandwiches. Anything from something ethic like lamb on a naan, down to roast beef with a jus. 

I was extremely proud that Lauren was able to get such great accolades from Chef Bourdain for her Mediterranean Lamb on Naan. She knew he liked ethnic and ethnic is how she made it - lots of garlic and great seasoning for the meat. I think this chef has it all to take Chef Nigella's kitchen all the way to the end! And that's ok. Cause in the end, Chef Nigella just need one chef to bring it all home. Lauren is also quite likeable with her bubbly personality and ready to learn from her mentor.

If I were in that kitchen, I'd make a banh mi, or as Chef Ludo called it a "banh mi ni" - was that a clever play on panini? Either way Chef Bourdain jumps in and says "you mean banh mi." Ha! So what is this? A banh mi has some delicious pork or pork belly, and perhaps liver or head cheese, a bunch of nice crisp pickled vegetables, such as carrots & turnip that have a nice acidity, topped with some fresh cilantro and chilis to give it a nice spice. All this is nestled between a delicious crisp piece of baguette - a tradition that came about when the French colonized Vietnam. So it's not unusual to have this interesting "fusion" tradition. In my opinion it has the right balance of texture, taste, exploding flavors and would make any one eating this feel quite happy. 

So when Diane went about to make this, I was super excited about her choice. Unfortunately the praises fell flat because she chose the wrong bread - making the whole sandwich a little heavy and "too bready". Oh dear... but I was rooting for this sandwich.

Then there were a few girls that had the guts to make their own bread. Uno made a steamed bun - smart, isn't it - which received high praises. It gave her an extra edge to stand out. With some attempts like Mia, it, however, backfired, when she grilled her bread and it tasted too much like charcoal. Also, don't talk back to the judges? Just take up ownership of your mistakes and move on...but that's ok, because the judges moved on without her. *sigh*

Then there were those that were "thinking outside the box" or "outside the bun" (which made me think of Taco Bell's slogan, but I digress). Sarah went all out with her oyster tacos idea and it worked for the judges. What a relief that chefs are giving credit for going big and daring.

However smooth, there is always room for big mistakes under such pressure. Unfortunately Huda was going for a chicken pesto sandwich, which sounded quite lovely. The only problem it was raw, and that's a big no no. Salmonella, anyone? But those cost mistakes is what sends even good cooks home, and she gracefully accept their decision. She even owned up to the camera that if anyone had served her raw chicken, she'd send them home too. Poor Huda, which means Chef Nigella is down to one chef: Lauren (no pressure here!)

I could go on and on and give you a play by play, but that's not the point here. let me just say there are a few chefs that will be on my to-watch list: Uno for her creativity and her solid understanding of flavor, Gregg for his technique and his overwhelming food knowledge, Diane for her go-getter attitude (she's not going down with a fight), and my personal favorite Khristianne.

It's really about the contestants, so even thought I would love for Chef Bourdain to take it all home or I would like to see Chef Nigella sweep it all with her one lone chef standing, I will have to root for Chef Malarkey, because Khristianne is on his team.

Yep, I think Chef K has what it takes to go all the way. If you made me call it today, I'm placing best on this star.

Who are you placing your bets on? Leave them on the comments, and if you were right, I will send you a little something :)

So who is watching The Taste on ABC Tuesdays 9|8c? I hear it will be offaly good...yes pun intended, because they will be working with offal. Check back on the ABC site for any episodes that you may have missed!

    Thursday, February 21, 2013

    [Little Tangles] Challenge #7 - Hey

    Hi everyone - where does the time fly? Last I checked we were celebrating Love and now we're two weeks into our next challenge at Little TanglesWe're putting a nice twist into our themes this week and challenging you with a Sketch. Anyone who knows me knows that I can't follow one to a tee. I kind of use them as a good starting point for inspiration. How do you use sketches?

    While you ponder that question, I'm currently in the warm, but rainy, city of Houston. I'm so excited to have escaped the cold, brutal New Jersey weather, which is where my inspiration for the colors of my card came from. The idea of escaping to warm weather and warm colors. Anyone else ready for spring? ;)

    So here goes nothing...put your sun glasses on, it came out quite bright (can't say I didn't warn you ;)

    Stamps: (Kindness Matters, Little Tangles) Neat & Tangled
    Paper: (Paper Basics Card Stock - Smokey Shadow, Hibiscus Burst) Papertrey Ink; (Dots & Stripes) Echo Park
    Ink: (Versamark) Tsukineko; (Perfect Match Pigment Ink - Freshh Snow) Papertrey Ink
    Embellishments: (Stamp 'n Stuff Embossing Powder - White Opaque) Stampendous!; (Stickles - Diamond) Ranger; (Artists' Color Acrylic Series 1 - Titanium White) Utrecht; (1 1/2" Circle Punch) Marvy Uchida

    I wanted to shabby up my pink card stock and break up the stark, saturated color. So I just brushed on some white here and there. I was so sure that I was going to use washi tape on this sketch. I even had picked out perfectly matching ones for this color scheme, but as you can see, it didn't make it on the card. Sometimes the creative process just has to run it's course, doesn't it?

    The rest of the card was created by putting together this cute telephone on circle that I punched out. I wanted to give the phone a little something extra and decided to glitter it up. Although Diamond Stickles is suppose to be clear/transparent, it has a nice golden tint. Hence I needed a yellow dots & stripes strip to balance everything out. 

    The grey Little Tangles stamp is suppose to repeat the Smokey Shadow grey from the telephone, but I always have problems photographing that card stock. It always comes out near black. If any photo experts out there have some advice, I'd love to hear from you!


    Hope it inspires. There is tons of other good stuff by the Design Team to stop by the other girl's creations. And in case you need more incentive to bust our your creative supplies...A free stamp set is at stake...

    One lucky challenge winner is going to get two sets of goodies. So jealous...
    A few helpful things to remember:
    • Challenge ends Mar 3, 2013, 11:59p EST; Check back on Mar 5 for the winners
    • Prize is ONE Neat & Tangled Stamp set of your choice to a random player
    • Neat & Tangled stamps are not required on your entry, but we would love to see you use them. If you would like to use some Neat & Tangled products but haven't had a chance to buy any, we have a couple of freebies on the Little Tangles site. Enjoy!

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    The Taste: Tuesday at 8|7c on ABC - a new TV Addiction?

    It's another season for new TV. And just like fashion, TV follow trends: crime solving shows, dramas, reality TV shows that showcases talent, knowledge, athleticism, or some other aspect of a person. Why? Because the American folks wi99ill watch anything that allows them to vote for an underdog, or allow them to fall in love with a character (likeable or not), or allow them to root for those to follow their dreams (because we like to live vicariously on our couches through others).

    Remember House? Or Sherlock? They aren't exactly "like-able" characters by definition; yet, the characters are complex enough that we want to keep watching. They keep us intrigued. But they are fiction - something we have to keep watching to see if we can relate.

    Then there is reality TV - the 5 minute clip where they take us into their house or life to show us who they really are: a home maker, a real-estate broker, a student, who gives it all up to follow their dream. That dream may be to become a singer, a chef, a designer. Who doesn't want to follow that American Dream?

    This brings me to a new TV show that's currently 4 episodes in: The Taste (check your ABC network listing for times, but I believe it airs Tuesday - heck I watch most everything on Hulu now).

    I believe it has just the right amount of recipe for people to fall in love with this show: it contains a little bit of drama (i.e. the competition) for excitement; it contains the personal insight (i.e. the clip of who they are and what they had given up to be here and what winning would mean to them) for tugging at your heart strings; and finally just the right amount of characters on the judges panel (i.e. Simon Cowell vs Paula Abdul, Bruno Tonioli vs Carrie Ann Inaba, Christina Aguilera vs Cee Lo vs Adam Levine).

    So the premise of this show is similar to The Voice - just substitute the talent of singing with the talent of cooking. There are some deviation to this analogy, but let's just go with it for now.

    Part 1: The Audition
    A bunch of people try out by cooking that one dish that they believe they can wow the judges. So this sounds like Masterchef, or Top Chef, or any other cooking show, right? Nope - not this one. The Taste has a few interesting caveats that could work for or against the contestants. But the end result is similar to The Voice, and that's to get onto one of the judge's teams (or kitchens).

    First, they are required to plate their entire dish on a spoon. Each judge is suppose to be able to eat a spoonful and then decide if they love it or hate it. No re-taste, no second spoon - just one. The problem is that they have no idea what they are eating. In one of the shows, one of the guys served up mole. But one judge was expecting satay. That backfired on the poor guy. It's also intriguing how these stellar top of line chefs keep guessing at the proteins: was that fish? a tuna? seabass? halibut? It just goes to show that a spoonful isn't very much - and it goes all so very quickly. And if these top chefs with impeccable palates are guessing at the ingredients...? well enough said, you get the point.

    Second, the plating is on a spoon. One extra drop of too much acidity or too much oil, or a pinch of too much salt, and it could all go south. Or worst, you don't pick the best part or the right proportion (i.e. too thin, too thick) of the protein to highlight in that spoonful. Plating in this small tiny thing seems to be its own challenge. If you see the plates that they plate (for the camera) - it looks completely different.

    Third, the taste test is blind. They don't see the chef or cook until after they tasted their dish and locked in their "Yay" or "Nay" vote. So sometimes after the chefs or cooks describe their dishes, the judges actually get it and regret making their "Nay" choices. I personally felt like they let a few good ones go that would have made this a more neck-to-neck competition. But ultimately they lock in their "Yay" or "Nay" according to that one bite, and not according to how fine-looking the contestant is, or what story (sometimes sob-story) they had. If more than one judge votes "Yay" for the contestant, then the contestant gets to pick which team they want to be on.

    So I keep mentioning the judges. Who are they? let me just say that this line-up would leave me starstruck if I were ever to meet them. These are four, top dogs in the restaurant industries: Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre, Brian Malarkey. And they each have their own personality, some completely opposites from one another. For example, Ludo is very passionate, Nigella is very poised and calm. Makes for great television drama if you ask me ;)

    I mentioned earlier that The Taste reminded me a lot to The Voice, but it doesn't quite work the same. Here is why:

    There is no reference point in The Taste. When the judges on The Voice listen to someone perform, they do often recognize the song, so they have a reference of what it should be. For example, if someone sings "I Will Always Love You," the judges will know it's that Whitney Houston song and will rate if they did the song justice with the contestant's own version. However, as already mentioned, The Taste judges often struggle in identifying what dish or ingredients are being presented to them. There is no reference for what this dish was suppose to be, so they can't be judged on creativity (a good plan) vs execution (how well it represents the plan). They only get judged on execution...

    Judges "yay" or "nay" is nor transparent on The Taste until the reveal. On The Voice, the judges will know who said "yay" to the singer. So the judges can compete with one another for someone to be on their team. On The Taste, the votes are locked in secretly and are only revealed to one another during the same time it is revealed to the contestant. This takes away from some of the "well if you're going to bid, then i'm going to bid too" competition amongst the judges and, imho, takes away some of the drama between the judges ;)

    That's all the review I have so far for now. The shows has a second part past the audition, but I will get to that later. Check out Episode 4 here. It's the most recent episode on ABC's website.

    So I watch way too much TV. But my excuse is that it's the background stuff while I craft, or fold/iron laundry. So what do you think? Will you give this a watch? If so, leave me your comments on here...

      Monday, February 11, 2013

      [Uniko Studio] February 2013 Release

      Good morning, everyone! I'm finally home. Thanks for Snowstorm Nemo I got grounded in Austin for an extra night. But we were booked on a 625a flight out of Austin and thankfully everything went according to plan in Houston. I even saw 16 other United crew members on our fight being flown into Newark to help with the backlog. Looking at all the news blurps, it looks pretty crazy in the northern states. 

      But I'm happy to be able to get this post up and going, in time to join my other teamies on the Uniko Studio release. Let's get started, shall we? 

      Uniko Studio is releasing 2 wonderful clear stamp sets: Labels Love: Birthday and Bright Butterflies.


      And we are releasing four digital papers this month: Bright Butterflies Additions collection, Big Birthday Wishes, Classics Spring, and Eclectic Mix Spring.

      Since I'm a little short on time and my printer wasn't cooperating, I didn't have a chance to make anything with the digital products, but I hope to get something with these lovely papers out soon.

      Today we're hopping through the design team. I hope you are arriving from dear Nicki's blog . If not, feel free to start at the beginning to see all the inspiration here.

      My first card uses Bright Butterflies. It's a cracking set with gorgeous butterflies. I was inspired by the thought of spring.

      You Are Simply the Best
      Stamps: (Bright Butterflies) Uniko Studio
      Paper: (Paper Basics Card Stock - Rustic Vintage Cream) Papertrey Ink; (Dear Lizzy: 5th & Frolic) American Craft; (Crica 1934) Cosmo Cricket
      Ink: (Jenni Bowlin - No. 11 Brown Sugar; Tim Holtz Distress Ink - Antique Linen, Vintage Photo) Ranger
      Embellishments: N/A

      I found this gorgeous pink paper in my stash that exemplified Spring to me. So I decided to stamp off a few butterflies in some light distress inks to give it a little more interest and depth. The butterfly is stamped off in brown and fussy cut around it. This was actually quite easy - even with the lovely embellished edges on the butterfly wings it was not a problem. A quick bit of assembling and lastly I distressed the pink paper with some Vintage Photo. Easy peasy, if you ask me.

      My next card is a fun little happy birthday one. Good thing this set is being released, because I should be mass-producing a few to send off to friends.

      Happy Birthday
      Stamps: (Label Love: Birthday) Uniko Studio
      Paper: (Paper Basics Card Stock - Aqua Mist, Smokey Shadow) Papertrey Ink
      Ink: (Perfect Match Pigment Ink - Vintage Cream) Papertrey Ink; (Memento - London Fog) Tsukineko
      Embellishments: (Stamp 'n Stuff Embossing Powder - Clear Detail) Stampendous!; (D-Clip: Birds) Midori; (Decorative Tape - All Is Bright) My Mind's Eye; (Sketch Gray Polkadots) Freckled Fawn; (Pretty Pearls - Pink) Amuse

      I started out wanting to clear emboss some vintage cream over a smokey gray card stock. I love the combination, and then I kinda got stuck. After looking at my color choices, I decided aqua was a safe way to go, so out came the washis, the card stock, and so on. I also had these great clips in all types of shapes lying on my desk - so for good measure I popped a little bird one on there for birthday. Last I added a string of pearls to help with the different lines on the card. A little different from my usual style, but I kinda like it.

      Happy Birthday

      Hope you feel inspired. Also just a quick reminder that Bev is going to draw a winner to win the entire February release - it's a huge win isn't it? In the meantime, I'm sending you off to our last stop - talented Stacey.

      Here the whole list for easy navigation ...
      I hope you like what you're seeing. I certainly can't get enough of those butterflies...

      Thursday, February 7, 2013

      [Little Tangles] Challenge #6: Valentine's & Love Challeng

      Hi everyone - just sneaking in a little post while I'm on a business trip. I'm kicking it around in Austin, TX, this week, and I'm hoping I get to fly back on Friday. There is suppose to be a snow storm coming through the northeast and I hope we'll be able to get in.

      Today at Little Tangles we are celebrating the month of: Valentines & Love.

      So I hope you'll be able to make something inspiring that is heart-themed, heart-felt, or heart-warming. Like how I snuck those words in there? ;)

      I made a window card and backed the inside with a washi & glitter tape heart. And I was enamoured by the aqua, red & black color combo. 

      Stamps: (Kindness Matters) Neat & Tangled
      Paper: (Paper Basics Card Stock - White) Papertrey Ink
      Ink: (Memento - Tuxedo Black) Tsukineko; (Jenni Bowlin - No. 3 Chili Powder) Ranger; (Perfec Match Pigment Ink - Hawaiian Shore) Papertrey Ink
      Embellishments: (Impression Plate - Woodgrain; Baker's Twine - Red) Papertrey Ink; (Stickers - Black) Basic Grey; (Glitter Tape) American Crafts; (Washi Heart Cloud) Freckled Fawn; (Nestabilities - Classic Hearts) Spellbinders

      I felt inspired by a bunch of garlands that I have been seeing in my embellishment stash. So I decided to create my own. I love the little circles from "Kindness Matters," which I stamped off, glued to some Baker's Twine and embellished my card with.

      To give the card base a little more texture I ran a woodgrain impression plate through my Big Shot. I know the picture doesn't really show it well, but if you squint hard, you can see the lines (at least that's what I tell myself).

      Lastly the sentiment is just a dive into my alpha stash. These are some Basic Grey micro letters. Perfect size for this card.


      I hope you'll stop by the other girl's creations. And in case you need more incentive to bust our your creative supplies...A free stamp set is at stake...

      One lucky challenge winner is going to get two sets of goodies. So jealous...
      A few helpful things to remember:
      • Challenge ends Feb 17, 2013, 11:59p EST; Check back on Feb 19 for the winners
      • Prize is ONE Neat & Tangled Stamp set of your choice to a random player
      • Neat & Tangled stamps are not required on your entry, but we would love to see you use them. If you would like to use some Neat & Tangled products but haven't had a chance to buy any, we have a couple of freebies on the Little Tangles site. Enjoy!
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