Tasting Notes: Dallas ‘Top Chef’ alums pair food with booze

Top Chef - Season 10

The Grape on Greenville Avenue is teaming up with Dallas’ Four Corners Brewing Co. for, not a wine dinner, but a beer dinner on Tuesday, Aug. 9. The Grape’s chef de cuisine — former Top Chef candidate Danyele McPherson — will devise a menu to showcase several craft brews. The cost of the four-course meal is $55 and includes, of course, the beer. Reservations are required  at TheGrapeRestaurant.com or calling 214-828-1981.

Then on Wednesday, McPherson’s fellow Top Chef alum John Tesar at Spoon hosts his own take on a wine dinner, with one dedicated to bubbly. The champagne dinner — with wines from Ruinart — will feature five courses (including dessert) on April 10, starting at 6 p.m. The cost is $125, and reservations at 214-368-8220 are recommended.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘Work of Art’ season 2

“Happy families are all alike,” Tolstoy began Anna Karenina; “Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

I think that sort of applies to the current slate of reality competition shows. Pretty much they all follow the same format: An “initial challenge” (reward on Survivor; quickfire on Top Chef, etc.) that typically comes with a built-in advantage; an elimination challenge (the heart of the competition), usually on a ridiculously tight schedule; judges sniping about why this gown made in 45 minutes completely out of trash bags is not runway-ready; then a panel where the winner is selected and the bottom three are singled out; interviews are sprinkled throughout with the contestants pointing out each others’ flaws.

The only thing missing from that description is the actual talent involved. That’s where Tolstoy comes in.

There are competition shows about hair-cutting, cooking, fashion designing, dancing, singing, extreme traveling and wilderness abilities; but none are more peculiar for a contest than making art. (Maybe writing a novel; the problem is, it would take years to film.)

It’s almost a boondoggle if you think about it: People’s taste may be subjective, but at least on Project Runway you’re weighing dress against dress; on Work of Art, starting its second season tonight, you might be comparing photos with sculpture with graffiti with performance art and painting. On Top Chef, contestants may literally be comparing apples and oranges, but here, it’s watermelons and race cars.  If there is a more esoteric enterprise, I can’t imagine it.

Which is not to say Work of Art is a meaningless exercise, although even more than Nina Garcia, the taste levels of the judges are at least as puzzling as the execution of the contestants. When China Chow drones on that one artist’s style recalls Keith Haring, she acts as if there could be no greater insult to a gallerist than reminding someone of someone else. Since when did Michael Kors design a dress that didn’t have some predecessor in history?

The highfalutin nature of the show means that it really fits in the Bravo stated profile better than, say, any of the Real Housewives franchises (remember when Bravo had opera?). It challenges you a little to consider what art is, and how creativity is funneled in different ways. It’s a show meant for a sophisticated urban audience. (Sarah Jessica Parker is one of the producers, as if it could have been called Art and the City.) There’s a slightly self-congratulatory aspect to it, as if you feel more cultured in evaluating artists without the bother of going to an actual museum.

So how “unhappy” is this show? Artists are temperamental folks, and pretty arrogant, but part of the fun is seeing how their egos are shaped by the others’ around them; and even some of them allow their libidos to influence their styles and their affections for other contestant.

Work of Art is no better or worse than most competition series, but I do enjoy the creative process being given equal time to all the bad behavior on TV. If that’s patting myself on the back, so be it.

Premieres tonight on Bravo at 9 p.m.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Margaret Cho, Andy Cohen to headline Out & Equal’s Workplace Summit in Dallas

If you didn’t know already, this year’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit happens right here in town. It’s gonna be huge. But then we just found out who the keynote speakers are and were kinda blown away.

Instant Tea has learned that the celebrity roster for the Workplace Summit will include actress Meredith Baxter, trans actress Candis Cayne, comedian Margaret Cho and Bravo’s Andy Cohen. OK, Cohen sometimes drives me nuts on Watch What Happens Live, but he’s kind of a big deal. The dude isn’t just a talk show host, he’s also Bravo’s senior veep of original programming and development.

So, go to the summit because of the work O&E does, but definitely stay for the primo gay celebs willing to come here for the event. Now that’s some A-list.

The summit will be Oct. 25–28 at the Hilton Anatole. To register, go here.

—  Rich Lopez

‘Real Trainwreck of New Jersey’ starts tonight

I am an openly gay man who proudly admits: I do a lot of kinda gay stuff (watch the Oscars, shop at Barneys) and a lot of very gay stuff (you know, the sex part), but even I have never been gay enough to get into The Real Housewives. I have caught random episodes, and I know who NeNe is (and that she is insane), but actually paying attention, week after week, to pampered ladies obsessed with clothing bitching about each other? If I want to see that, I’ll go to JR.’s during happy hour.

Still, I do get the appeal — I really do. Everyone on the shows is so into herself, apparently ignorant of how unsympathetic and interesting she must seem to everyone who doesn’t have a chemical dependency to the botulinum toxin, that it can be perverse fun, like the circus freak show. But only in small doses.

I do watch enough of the series as part of my job to recognize that each city represents a different Bravo demographic: Orange County is rich white folks; New York is rich Jewish folks; Atlanta is rich black folks; Miami is rich Hispanic folks. And New Jersey? Well, the Italians, of course.

Of course, we already got to see this series, when it was called The Sopranos. Or Jersey Shore. The characters are the same: Blowsy women in overteased hair. Joi-see accents thick enough to hold a chunky marinara. Goombah men with shady businesses who are either fat and balding or short, muscular and balding. (Apparently, all that extra hair on the women has to come from someplace.) OK, granted, some of those goombahs are pretty hot in that drunk-guy-crashing-a-frat-party-“You think you’re better than me?” dangerous way. But how do you put up with it? (I’ve never watched soap operas, either.)

Season 3 of New Jersey begins tonight with the disappearance of one wife (Danielle), the additional of another, Melissa (sister-in-law of Teresa; Teresa’s brother, Joe — one of the hotties), and unaccountably nasty feelings among them. It’s violent, trashy, foul-mouthed and ugly. But I did enjoy it.

But every week? Well, with Joe doing drag and getting a bathing suit in future episodes, maybe. I don’t wanna have to give back the toaster oven.

Premieres tonight at 8 p.m. on Bravo

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Thintervention’ has Dallas connection

Former DVTV contributor Gus Klein gave me the head’s-up about a Dallas connection related to the new series Thintervention with Jackie Warner, which just started airing on Bravo.

Turns out the self-described “hottie and the hippo” — an overweight gay guy (the “hippo,” pictured) is one contestant seeking Warner’s physical training so he can reduce and look as good as his “hottie” boyfriend — used to be Dallasites.

“Miguel Rossy [the hottie] was a V.P. in finance at Brinker,” Klein informed me. He met Bryan Donovan [the hippo] and were here one year before heading out to L.A.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

News: Football, Armistead Maupin, Bravo, Iowa, Dave Salmoni

Road Gay Chicago philanthropist Martin Gapshis dies at 63.

Maupin RoadThe most-anticipated LGBT books of the fall season.

RoadMatthew McConaughey reappears to hawk cologne.

RoadApple censoring Gaga tweets?

RoadDan Savage on gay rights progress: "So here's where we're at: everyone who cares about gay issues is mad at the Democrats. The homophobes are angry because the Democrats suggested that they might do something about gay rights; gays and lesbians are furious with the Democrats for failing to do something—failing to do anything—about gay rights. Since doing nothing pisses off the gay haters just as much as doing something, perhaps the Dems should've have done something and won the enthusiastic support of someone. Heckuvajob, gang."

RoadJensen Ackles looking mighty fine playing some shirtless soccer.

RoadDave Salmoni is a single man again.

RoadAlan Cumming, Audi, and Brittany Snow to be honored by Point Foundation.

Beef RoadThe Wall street Journal investigates college football teams eager to show off their beef.

RoadLil Kim says she is not playing Atlanta's Black Gay Pride: "Lil Kim says a 'psycho lunatic' has been representing himself as her booking agent and conned the promoters out of ,000. She also said there was no way she could show up to perform now."

RoadLourdes gets walk-on role in Madonna film.

RoadResearcher: Weight loss in straight women and gay men driven by competitive instinct. "Li said that, evolutionarily speaking, it would have been good to remain young and nubile-looking as long as possible to attract mates. "These findings support the idea that the ultimate explanation for eating disorders is related to intrasexual competition," the study reads. Interestingly, the effect was cancelled out for straight men and lesbian women, though no reason for the anomaly was offered in the study."

RoadOn that note, lasagna sandwich anyone?

RoadMetro NY takes on moob shame.

V RoadLady Gaga and Marc Jacobs pair up for V.

RoadGay Iowa lawmaker Matt McCoy: Boycott anti-gay radio host Jan Mickelson's advertisers.

RoadAndy Cohen on Bravo's sexuality: "I always saying we’re bi, but I think it’s kind of how I view myself being gay—it’s just one of things that I am. So Bravo may or may not be gay, but I think there’s a lot of other things going on. I think for the gay people on Bravo, it’s one of the things that they are—they’re not on Bravo because they’re gay." 

RoadGay teen saves swimmer's life.

RoadSF Weekly names their top 10 closeted conservatives.

RoadGay journalists to face union picket line at SF convention this weekend: "The San Francisco chapter of Pride at Work, an LGBT labor group affiliated with the AFL-CIO, joined the city’s hotel workers union, Unite Here! Local 2, in calling on NLGJA to honor the union-initiated boycott of the Hyatt in an effort to win a long-delayed union contract for hotel employees. 'Although NLGJA understands the importance of collective bargaining and recognizes that worker actions are not to be blithely ignored, it is simply impossible at this late date for us to move this year’s convention to another hotel,' NLGJA President David Steinberg said in a statement."

Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Is gay-friendly Bravo getting political … and dissing the gays by skipping marriage ep?

Every morning before work, I watch two consecutive episodes of The West Wing on Bravo. For the most part, the episodes are aired in chronological order, meaning in about two-and-a-half weeks you get an entire season condensed, all before coffee. Occasionally, only one episode will air for reasons I don’t get, or a rare episode will come out of order (one I recall: the post-9/11 “special” that aired two eps late), but they always air.

But not this week. And I wonder if political sensitivity might be the issue.

Bravo is an extremely gay-friendly network, airing shows like Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (who talks constantly about her gays), and with gay contestants and judges on virtually every reality show. But this week, they skipped one episode. And there is no sign they have plans to air the missing episode in the near future. And that episode is about gay marriage.

The graphic below from IMDB.com shows the ep Bravo skipped. I started to wonder whether the reason for the break in protocol has something to do with avoiding some hot-button topics in light of the recent Prop 8 news. And if so, why Bravo, of all networks, would chose this episode. After all, The West Wing is a political show about many real-world issues. Why pick this one now, with their history? Maybe we oughta ask Bravo to explain.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PREVIEW: ‘Real Housewives of D.C.’ is another round of ‘Lifestyles of the Bitch and Shameless’

My review of the new season of Flipping Out will appear in the print edition Friday, but Bravo has been debuting its new seasons and series all week … too many to do at one time. As the newest Real Housewives incarnation — set in Washington — debuts officially this Thursday, I figured I’d preview it here.

Truth be told, I am not a regular watcher of the Real Housewives franchise (which, last year, led Lisa Lampanelli to question my gayness), so it’s difficult to compare for the faithful. As a practical matter, I don’t see what makes the pampered bitches on all these shows “real” at all. They deal with tragedies such as which 4-star hotel to stay in and how to hire a nanny for when the kids are home from boarding school. How about women looking for work at McDonald’s and bailing junior out of juvie? That’s the show I wanna see. But I digress.

The Real Housewives of D.C. is probably no better nor worse than the others, although it has the added pressure of being about my hometown area. So when Mary, in the opening scene, declares herself a “native of Washington” then admits to living in suburban Virginia, you know they have at least captured the pretentiousness of those who think of themselves as elites. That’s pretty delish.

But then, you have to endure them doing the same Lifestyles of the Bitch and Shameless shtick over and over again. Polo matches. Fashion shoots. Birthday parties. More bleached hair than a Lauderdale salon on top of waifishly thin but ageing and dress-inappropriate social x-rays. The entirety of the show, and all these shows, is how artificial they seem. You don’t believe a word of it, and even the catfights feel scripted. (A biometric lock on a closet? Who really paid for that?)

My tolerance for watching on TV people who I wouldn’t care to talk to in real life must be too low. I don’t get why people are addicted to these shows. If you do, maybe you can explain them to me. Yawn.

Premieres on Bravo Aug. 5 at 8 p.m.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones