BANTER BLENDER #98: Forty-Five Minutes of “Barefoot Contessa” Chat

Calling all “Barefoot Contessa” fans. This week’s “Banter Blender” is devoted 100% to Ina Garten — from her recipes to her friends and everything in between. Ben Mandelker (bsideblog.com) and Andrea Nawalanic hash it all out as they share their favorite meals, their fondest memories, and some of their most honest criticisms about the Food Network superstar.

Along the way, there’s also stern criticism of Food Network’s current direction and also talk of Sandra Lee and The Pioneer Woman.

If you watch Food Network or simply have a passing interest in Ina Garten, this episode is for you. Be sure to use GOOD headphones. How fun is that?

And remember to use the promo code 199banter at checkout with GoDaddy.com to get a new .com for just $1.99! Some limitations apply. See website for details.

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WATCH WHAT CRAPPENS #87 & 88: Double Dose This Week!

Exciting news in the world of Watch What Crappens. We recorded to podcasts this week, the first of which with YouTubers “Your Reality Recaps.” Here’s the official description of the first episode:

On this very special crossover episode, the Watch What Crappens crew (Matt Whitfield, Ben Mandelker and Ronnie Karam) join the gang from YourTVRecaps for a loud, laugh filled rundown of the Real Housewives of Orange County season finale. Jon Richardson, Michelle Nieves, and Eric Curto are some really funny people and great new friends. Thanks for the laughs, guys!

Matt dropped out of this one early due to internet failure, but don’t worry. There’s a part two that will be posted later with more RHOC plus RHONJ and the Princesses challah waster of a finale. Come back later today for that one!!

Find the YourRealityRecaps crew on their YouTube page (http://www.youtube.com/YourRealityRecap).

After the jump, check out episode 88, which we shot with VIDEO. OooooOOOOooooh….
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Ina Garten’s Greatest Musical Hits (via Instagram)

Why should you follow me on Instagram? Because every now and then I do something stupid like the video above, which serves as my latest ode to Ina Garten. (The last few notes of the medley are frustratingly cut off. Use your imaginations…)

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Who Will You Vote For On ‘Food Network Star?’

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Well, the latest great season of Food Network Star is rapidly drawing to a close with viewers getting to select a winner on this upcoming Sunday’s show, and for the first time ever, I must admit that I truly like all the final contenders. If you haven’t watched last night’s episode, beware: spoilers ahead…

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Sizing Up The ‘Food Network Star’ Contestants

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It’s hard to believe, but we’re on our eighth season of Food Network Star, and this year, the competition began a little earlier than usual, premiering last week in the middle of May. Our old friends Bob Tuschman and the incomparable Susie Fogelson are back, as well as the show’s mainstay of mentors — Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, and GIada De Laurentiis. However, this time around, things are a little Voice-y. Flay, Brown, and De Laurentiis each mentor a team of prospects who go head to head in a variety of challenges (so far we’ve seen a Restaurant Wars-esque battle and a NYC food tour). Each week, the winning team receives immunity, while one person from the other two teams is selected to battle it out for a reprieve. This means cooking a signature dish (often with some sort of twist), presenting it to camera, and then finally pleading to “The Network,” which is the imposing new name given to Bob and Susie.

At its heart, Food Network Star remains the same show, and even with the format changes, it still remains one of the best reality competitions out there. Of course, what truly sets it apart (aside from the icy presence of Susie Fogelson) is knowing that the winner of this series will soon be a regular on Food Network, and as such, we as the audience feel rather empowered in forming our opinions about these people (thank goodness that this season will allow for a viewer’s choice). Since one of these jokers will soon be joining the ranks of Ina, Alton, and, gulp, Aaron McCargo Jr., I feel like it’s important to take a look at the field of contestants and assess their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a look, shall we?

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How To Fix ‘The Barefoot Contessa’

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for the past few years knows that I absolutely love Ina Garten and her show, Barefoot Contessa. Back in the day, the series, which airs on Food Network, focused on Ina assembling some sort of casually sophisticated meal for her friends, many of whom tended to be gays with fixations on things like flowers, the color orange, or old windmills. It was a perfect mix of good food and light narrative. How bad can that be?

Over the years, Barefoot Contessa has developed a quiver of buddies that have become utterly endearing to us viewers. There’s Ina’s adorable husband Jeffrey, there’s best bud Frank, the wily TR, dapper Miguel, sweetly fussy Michael, ornery Barbara Lieberman, choreographer Susan Stroman (affectionately known as Stro), the ladies of Calypso, lovable assistant Barbara, and of course the one and only Anna Pump. These are just a few of the many faces in Ina’s Hamptons universe, and one of the main appeals of Barefoot Contessa is watching Ina interact with this Simpsons-esque stable of characters — all while teaching us great recipes.

Somewhere along the way though, things began to change. Her theme song went jazzy, the term “Back to Basics” was appended to the show, and guest stars (not guest characters) became the norm. The show slowly moved away from endearing vignettes and instead refocused on a regrettable new feature, “Ask Ina.”

Don’t get me wrong: I still love Ina with all my heart, but it’s time for an intervention with the producers. We need to get Barefoot Contessa back on track. After the jump, a few humble suggestions for Food Network…

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Sandra Lee Curses, Is Fun

Sandra Lee, Food Network star and First Lady of New York, has many detractors. Most assail her utterly disgusting recipes (Kwanzaa cake anyone?) and others her sing-songy delivery. Well, Sandra Lee haters, we now have more grist for your mill. Outtakes of the flaxen cook attempting to get through a shoot have surfaced. They’re replete with cursing and boob clutching, and quite frankly, the video actually makes me like her. If this were the Sandra Lee we could see on TV — all boozy and foul-mouthed — I’d be all about it, despite her dubious recipes. What do you think?

The video has already been taken down from YouTube and Vimeo; so catch it on Eater while you can…

Eater LA: Here’s Sandra Lee Swearing in ‘Semi-Homemade’ Outtakes

Thanks JASH.

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Chef Francis Dimitrius of Villa Blanca Talks to B-Side Blog

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Lisa VanderPump isn’t the only person at Villa Blanca making a splash on TV. The restaurant’s executive chef Francis Dimitrius recently appeared on Food Network’s Extreme Chef, the show which tasks chefs to brave the elements and concoct a meal in just thirty minutes. Francis, who Lisa VanderPump told me on Sunday was almost a cheftestant on Top Chef, has luckily survived his stint in the wild and recently answered some email questions from me about theExtreme Chef, Villa Blanca, and the Housewives.

Check out the interview after the jump…

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Meet The Next Food Network Stars!

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It’s summer time, which means we’re already three episodes deep into one of my favorite reality shows ever, Food Network Star (née The Next Food Network Star). So far this seventh (!) season has been pretty excellent, but could we really expect anything less from something involving the inimitable Susie Fogelson? The cast is wide and varied, and with any luck, we’ll actually wind up with a winner we’ll want to watch — something the show has yet to achieve for me. Sure, Melissa D’Arabian is aiight, and Aarti Paarti is genial enough, but I’ve yet to set a season pass on my DVR for a winner’s program (certainly not for anything involving Aaron McCargo Jr.).

With the season still young, let’s take a look at the cast — both those remaining and eliminated — and see who we want to win, who will win, and who just full on are terrible. Analysis after the jump

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