Top Chef’s Ilan: Sizzling Hot!

ilanI know, I know, the series finale was filmed months ago and there’s nothing actual real about reality TV, but I’ve been awaiting the last competition of Bravo’s Top Chef with bated tastebuds.

It’s down to the last two culinary contestants, and even though arch-enemies Marcel Vigneron and Ilan Hall have both shown themselves to be talented, childish young men who can both wield a mean knife, it’s more about drama than dish by now.

I’ve always been a fan of Ilan, the swaggering NuYorcian kid with the Hebrew name, in spite of the nauseating liver dipped in chocolate fiasco. Even after last week’s playground tactic of offering up his head-shaving partner Ilia as a sacrificial lamb to accuse Marcel of cheating, I still prefer him over the bouffant-headed, socially-inept, staggeringly clueless Marcel.

Anthony Bourdain (just read the new book — delicious) calls Ilan a “manipulative, conspiratorial, vindictive, weasely little shit,” but adds those are “[h]ardly impediments to a career as a chef.”

Yup, we’re rooting for Ilan over here in Yenta kitchen (where the newly unemployed El Yenta Man will be preparing a fricassé of frozen burritos and with carrot stick garnish) though the much more powerful snarkers at Best Week Ever wholly disagree.

Of course, it might just be easier on the digestive system to just read the spoilers boiling up all over the Web — I think I’ve already aligned myself with the winner.

I only Date Circumsized BoysI’ve been logging Jewishy t-shirts for going on three years now (go ahead, peruse the shmatas) and every time I think there couldn’t possibly be any more, something, er, pops up.

This doozy from That’s Jewtastic serves the purpose of weeding out unsavory penises characters before they’re even within smelling distance, which makes it a perfect gift for your favorite bat mitzvah girl. And of course, favorite gay Jewish porn star Michael Lucas.

Divine Aspirations And The Trailer Life

trustmansI met some amazing folks while the kids played in Forsyth Park yesterday. The Trustman family is from Santa Cruz, CA (Californians always recognize each immediately, ditto for Jews; there was no one else around on this particularly frosty afternoon and that CaJew radar magnetized us almost immediately) and was visiting Savannah as part of an eight-month, cross country epic RV adventure. David and Tiffany have been on the road since September with their two kids, Eli and Olivia, tooling around America in their killer house-on-wheels (I didn’t get a tour, but Tiffany says she has a full kitchen on board.) The kids are receiving a phenomenal education by way of museums, aquariums, rustic trailer parks, fine restaurants, shack bbq joints and local color while their folks plan each day at a time. Some life, eh?

The Trustmans obviously have some serious cash to fund this enterprise (not to mention keeping two homes in NoCal) and it would be easy to write them off as trustafarian yuppies. But their vibe was so genuine, warm and open to the glory of the universe that it would only my own envy coloring them anything but blessed people. Their kids were delightful and polite, and the parents eager to share stories and ask me about mine. However, David didn’t have favorable things to say about Savannah on his blog; then again, neither do I much of the time. I’m surprised that I feel defensive about this, but I do live here now, and I want other people to confirm that it’s not too bad a place. I guess when you have the luxury of bailing out on to some other roadside paradise, you can take your opinions with you. *sigh*

I want to state here that the Yenta family has high designs on a similar adventure when the children are a bit older. While I don’t know exactly how, the Trustmans have shown me what is possible when you have a dream. Our RV might end up being a little older and funkier, and we’ll likely have to budget meals (Guess what kids? Fish sticks again!) instead of eating at Food Network stars’ restaurants, but the gift is in the freedom. Sheesh, if we don’t find a house soon, it could be sooner than later…

Safe travels to all you families out there on the road!

The Hulkster’s Kosher Education

Poor Hulk Hogan. I have a soft spot for the ex-pro wrestler, having spent many an 80’s afternoon on the sofa with my little brother watching him battle Rowdy Roddy Piper. Good times, bro.

Like any smart pop icon, the Hulkster has parlayed his former successes into a reality show, showcasing his role as a charmingly clueless husband and dad (why do all the tough guys die and move to the suburbs?) to a buxom wife and two over-indulged teenagers. He and his Aryan-looking family have recently moved to an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Miami, and in this clip attempt to bond with the locals by offering up fresh-baked cookies door-to-door — non-kosher cookies that no one can eat. Undaunted, the new neighbors decide to throw a barbecue that meets the needs of the street. Hilarity ensues as the family debates what “kosher” means: The Hulkster keeps insisting its pickles; it takes an African-American grocery employee to set the family on the path to halachic enlightenment.

This is about eight and half minutes long and IMHO, worth the time. The Hogans ignorance is wholly endearing in a good-natured, American way, and the family does a service by broadcasting the experience to the rest of this shockingly under-cultured country. After all, how many TV-zoned suburbanites think “kosher” is only the line in a Clash song?

Hat tip to Jewlicious.

613 Plus 1

coverThere are some Jewish mothers out there who make the rest of look like lazy slobolas: Since overseeing the fabulous teen zine J-Vibe and revving up the sassy, smart blog Jewesses With Attitude all while raising a two-year-old, all-around balabusta Michelle Cove has launched yet another new project that will surely enrich the edutainment of the Jewish people.

614, an online mag to promote “fresh ways of thinking about Jews and gender worldwide” sponsored by the Hassadah-Brandeis Institute, was just born at the beginning of the month — and it’s a perfect read for busy Jewish women and the people that love them. Short, digestible essays from experts and scholars revolve around a common theme, like January’s focus on the origin of Jewish names and how they affect how we feel about ourselves. The crisp format appeals to those of us with challenged attention spans who nevertheless want to know more about the modern conversations around Jewish identity, and you can peruse the whole journal without putting the evening’s dinner in jeopardy.

And speaking of names, aren’t there 613 commandments? What’s the deal with the extra? Of course, being clever and thoughtful, Michelle has named the zine quite carefully: She writes that “the idea of 614 is not that there is one commandment missing. Rather it is about the idea there is always room for innovation and exploration.” She adds that “Jewish philosopher and Holocaust survivor Emil Fackenheim (1916-2003) had the idea of adding a specific 614th mitzvah: the preservation of the Jewish people.”

With all the concern about intermarriage, assimilation, suffocation by Christmas and other dangers to Jewish life, 614 has the right idea to ensure that we Jewish mamas and papas keep on keepin’ on: It’s not some grand committee of rabbis who can stave off our fears, but the small conversations that take place in kitchens, chat rooms and comment sections. Read on, sisters and brothers!

assraelisWhile some of you might find it fabulous that there’s a skin flick shot on location in the Holy Land starring all local talent, at least one rabbi is not cozying up in front of the HDTV.

According to, Rabbi Yehuda Rosenbaum of KOF-K Kosher Certification has sicced his lawyers on the producers of Assraelis — not for bad acting or thin plotlines, but for something like copyright violation. You can see that the DVD cover of the film sports KOF-K’s official halachic stamp of approval — a stamp only Rabbi Rosenbaum has the authority to give. And while it may all be kosher meat in the money shots, the lawyers say they will sue if TightFit Productions doesn’t cover its assraeli immediately.

Oren Cohen of TightFit, likely the kind of Jewish guy your mother does not want to see at the Shabbat table, assures that he will change the cover to appease the rabbi before next week’s release.

Damn Do-Gooder

From today’s JTA: A Canadian Jewish leader saved a white separatist who was attacked by protesters at a Halifax hotel. Jon Goldberg, head of the Atlantic Jewish Council, was attending Jared Taylor’s Jan. 16 speech on the costs of racial diversity and integration in North America. Aside from Goldberg, only protesters and journalists attended Taylor’s speech.

In a longer article published by Canadian Jewish News, Goldberg said he was there peacefully to hear Taylor’s message and figure out how to confront it, and added that the American Renaissance editor would “probably die if he knew a Jew saved his neck.”

Taylor does indeed describe himself as a white separatist, as opposed to a white supremacist, which he defines as a person who wishes to rule over others. He is very careful to disassociate with hatemongers as not to tarnish his Ivy-League credentials, though a white pride group promoted his Halifax appearance on their site. But I agree with my man Abe Foxman and the ADL: Taylor’s genteel brand of “rational racism” still stinks like the gutterpunk kind.

Wear Your Grief On Your…Wrist?

kaddish bandsI guess we have cancer survivor Lance Armstrong and his yellow “Live Strong” campaign to thank for the ubiquity of colored rubber bracelets. You can order any color with any slogan you want on these inexpensive accessories, and I predict they’ll soon squeeze out magnetic car ribbons as the preferred American method of advertising one’s favorite cause.

Given their versatility, it certainly makes sense that someone would create Kaddish Bands, a black silcone bracelet stamped with the words of the Mourner’s Kaddish. The black bendels serve a blessed purpose by reminding those in grief of their obligation to recite Kaddish, and they’re a lot more subtle than a shredded pocket or a cloth armband. Some people have begun passing them out at funerals instead of the traditional prayer cards, though I can’t imagine my own bubbie being thrilled at this when it’s her time. “What? No rhinestones? Feh.”

While I find rubber bracelets chillingly tacky — and I abhor them even more when they’re stacked up on the arm like some homage to S&M — I appreciate the sentiment, especially since the company pledges 10% of its business to emergency services in Israel. Just as long as no one’s wearing them on the same wrist with their “I Love Yu-Gi-Oh” jobbie.