RuPaul's Drag Race season 9 recaps

The shadiest Drag Race recaps on the web. Get ready to death drop, queens!

The Bachelorette Australia recaps

One woman, 14 desperate men, mucho LOLs. Oh, and Osher Gunsberg.

The Bachelor Australia recaps

Sequins, spray tans and sex - it's season 3 of the world's stupidest dating show.

RuPaul's Drag Race Season 8 recaps

YASS, HUNTIES! Every episode of season eight recapped for your reading pleasure. Let's get sickening!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Australia's Next Top Model Recap: Season 7, Episode 8

In a shocking departure from previous episodes, this week's installment begins with Simon(e) bitching about someone.

This time it's Rachel, who continued her ever-improving Keira Knightley act to win best in show at last week's Amateur Impressionists Awards in the "Actresses You Want to Punch" category.

"Hmm, Rachel looks just like some sort of movie star, but who?"
"Um, WHY isn't anyone paying attention to ME?".


After discovering that the lovable HayleiLovesRealityTV has been kicked off YouTube for the heinous crime of uploading Australia's Next Top Model episodes for desperate expats like me to watch, I have spent the last hour trying to find another copy of episode 8 to watch on the web.

Fortunately, I have located one. I'm not going to tell you where it is, in case the internet police get to it and burn it, but have a random picture of Simon(e) to celebrate:


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Australia's Next Top Model Recap: Season 7, Episode 7

A bit of deja vu to kick off episode seven, as Simon(e) declares she's happy Neo got booted off last week because she never really liked her anyway. Cluey viewers will recall Simon(e) said the same thing about Alissandra last week. So basically watch out if Simon(e) doesn't like you, your days in the model mansion are probably numbered.

Yet another thing she has in common with Alex Perry.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Balthazar, SoHo

Petstarr braves the hipsters to sip a crappy latte in Soho. Hold her. Tightly.

80 Spring St

Cappuccino (Petra) - 1.5
Caffe au lait (Greg) - 1

What is the BCACB? Click here for an explanation.

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SoHo is very cool. It is not, as one New Yorker described to me recently on Twitter, "an outdoor mall for the people of New Jersey". (Actually I guess it literally IS, as it is indeed outdoors and I'm sure that there are probably people from New Jersey there, but I'm sure he meant it in a condescending way and therefore, it ISN'T.)

It IS the kind of place you would expect to find a decent espresso. However, still burning from the Museum of Natural History disaster, Greg and I were less than enthusiastic about sampling one. Surely it was safer to wait until we got home to our beloved espresso kettle?

But among the fashion forest of skinny jeans and Wayfarers (by the way, it is illegal to even set foot in SoHo without at least one of these items, unless you are heading there to BUY one of these items, in which case you need to have your passport stamped at the NoHo border first) we kept noticing one other popular accessory - a cream-coloured take away coffee cup with old fashioned writing on the side.


Just like the old saying goes - "When you're lost, find a hipster and follow it home". So we grabbed the nearest cream-coloured-cup-carrier and soon found ourselves at Balthazar, a bustling, uber-popular lunch spot on Spring Street off Broadway. I'd like to describe the inside of the bistro to you but I can't beyond saying it was "rather French", as I was concentrating too hard on not being crushed to death in the lunchers' mosh pit. There must have been at least 30,000 people in there, and maybe three waiters, all of whom were extremely pissed off (so the French theme was very authentic). The source of the cream-coloured cups was nowhere to be seen.

Tossed out onto the footpath like characters in one of those depression-era cartoons, we were lost, coffeeless and alone – until we noticed Balthazar's tiny bakery-slash-cafe next door, and the horde of cream-coloured-cup-carrying 20 somethings coming out of it.

When you're over 30, Wayfarer-free and caffeine deprived, there's nothing like a whole room full of croissants to lift your mood. Balthazar's pastries are simply amazing – madeleines so moist you don't even need to dip them in tea, lemon meringue pie so tart your mouth waters just thinking about it and pain au chocolat so... well, look, no one can fuck one of those up.

There is a reason the French are known for their pastries. However if Balthazar's barista's efforts are anything to go by, there is also a reason they are not really known for their coffee.

In fitting with the Parisian theme, the coffee at Balthazar tasted like heated up samples from the Seine.

If you look closely, you can see used berets and bicycle parts floating past.

Tasteless but for a burnt, bitter twang, the coffee came in gigantic cups (even though we ordered smalls), meaning the coffee-to-milk ration was something like 1:85. For this we were grateful – the less of this French bong water the better.

Greg declared his "undrinkable" and angrily ditched it at the nearest bin, narrowly missing a teen in skinny jeans.

I drank half before giving up, but decided to award an extra half a point for presentation – the cups really ARE nice, and they come with a nifty closeable lid. Which is handy for when you're angrily ditching your latte at a bin and don't want to splash anyone.

In summary: Balthazar coffee, c'est le merde.

For more BCACB, click the "American Coffee" link below.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

American Museum of Natural History

Trust a museum for dinosaurs, cool space stuff and science. Not coffee.

The American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th St
Cafe on Level 2
AREA: Upper West Side

Cappuccino (Petra) - minus 1
Caffe latte (Greg) - "how low minus can we go?"

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What is the BCACB? Click here

The American Museum of Natural History has a lot of amazing things in it. There's a full, genuine skeleton of a tyrannosaurus rex. There's a lifesize model of a blue whale that hangs over people's heads. There's a planetarium that takes you on a 3D trip through the universe narrated by Whoopi Goldberg (this is better than it sounds).

What isn't so amazing however, is its coffee. If you could call it that. If you were blindfolded and handed a cup of AMNH coffee and asked to describe what it was, the most generous person might name it as a sample of soil deposit from the "Agriculture through History" exhibit on level one.

Sadly I was so emotionally disturbed by the hideousness of this so-called coffee I forgot to take a photo of it, but you might be able to get a feeling for what it was like in this photo below, which Greg took as I "enjoyed" my cappucino:

"Is it midwestern clay, low ph?"

This coffee was, to put it mildly, the worst thing I have ever let past my lips since birth. And that includes the time I ate a caterpillar when I was three.

Our biggest mistake was ordering it in the first place. Had we been paying attention and not thinking with our "Australian" brains (ie: stupidly assuming that every coffee shop actually serves coffee), we would have noticed the machine that AMNH assistant Lashawnda was using was not an espresso machine, but rather an industrial sized dripolator with buttons on the front marked CAPPUCCINO, LATTE, ESPRESSO.

If the definition of "cappuccino" is "cup of nasty brown water with foamy pond scum on the top" then Lashawnda should win the barista of the year award.

We each had two miserable sips, then decided life really was worth living after all so decided not to finish. Also, we hadn't seen the whale yet so suicide seemed a bit premature.

AMNH is currently renovating its main cafe on the lower level so perhaps coffee may improve there in the future. But I wouldn't bet on it. Take a thermos.

Think Coffee, Union Square

A caffeine desperate Petstarr heads to Think Coffee and finds a slice of heaven. A cup of heaven. Whatever.

Think Coffee
123 4th St, between 12th and 13th
AREA: Downtown

Cappucino (Petstarr) - 4
Caffe latte (Greg) - 3.5

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What is the BCACB? Click here

I arrived in New York City on a Tuesday night at 10.30pm after 26 hours in transit and many, many airline coffees. I don't want to overstate how unpleasant this sort of treatment is, but I think it's similar to some of the techniques they used at Abu Ghraib.

Waking up on Wednesday feeling like something out of Dawn of the Dead (and I'm not talking about the arse-kicking, baseball bat wielding zombie killers, I'm talking about the... oh right, you get it), my beloved could see that caffeine was in order. Fortunately he had been in New York for a month before me and had already sussed out a local place that served coffee the way we understood it. This type of coffee is now referred to by both of us as "Australian Standard". It is difficult to come by here, as you will see in future posts.

But for now - Think Coffee. Wondrous house of hot, steaming, frothy Joe, of perfectly expressed beans and warmed milk.


You can't really tell from the photo above, but Greg's caffe latte was approximately the size of A FISHBOWL. This is not a good thing, and contravenes Australian Standards section C sub section 18.1 - coffee shall not be served in oversized or "novelty" cups or mugs. Any coffee referred to as a "mugacino" is forbidden.

Apart from this small infraction, Think Coffee's espressos were highly commendable. Just like home, in fact. The cappucino came without any chocolate dust and I couldn't see anywhere to add it, but it's possible I was still delirious from 26 hours of Qantamericanairlines coffee and missed it.

The atmosphere of the cafe itself isn't anything to write home about (or blog about, for that matter) and it's the type of place where you line up to order and stand and wait to collect (no table service). But for a grab-and-go Australian Standard coffee, this is a good place to start.

As you will see in future BCACB posts, Think Coffee is in the minority when it comes to cafes that actually know how to use an espresso machine.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Introducing the Bland Canyon American Coffee Blog (or BCACB)

As regular readers of the BC will know, last week I moved to New York.

(Sorry, I couldn't find a way to share that nugget of information without sounding like I expected a high five or some sort of award, so I just came out and said it. Don't click away in disgust, you'll see it's kind of pertinent to the rest of the column.)

Having lived in the USA for all of two weeks I can confidently say there are some things Americans do really well, and other things that have me hankering for the nearest Qantas flight back to blighty.

For instance, Americans are brilliant at shopping. Their population is so great, all clothes come in at least 20 sizes ensuring you'll find the perfect fit, and everything's on sale ALL the time. Not only that, when you've found a Michael Kors top reduced from $110 to $70, a shop assistant will then thrust a SPECIAL VIP DISCOUNT TODAY card in your hand and it will come down to $5.99.

Plus, American clothing shops let you take as many items into the fitting rooms as you like. Having been trained in the Australian “Don't even think about taking more than six items into that cubicle with the broken door and no mirror, missy” retail model, this was a revelation. (PS: Australian retailers, wake up – if you let people try on more, they will probably buy more.)

Americans are also very good at fresh produce. My local supermarket has more varieties of salad than one person could manage in a lifetime, and you can buy a punnet of blueberries for $2. Not to mention bananas at 99 cents a pound. (How much are bananas in Australia these days? Are they still $50 each? Sorry about that.)

But cheap bananas and discount designer duds will only get you so far. One day, you're going to want a latte. And that's when you'll discover the one thing they do very badly in this country. Coffee.

Wander into any cafe or deli in Australia and order a coffee and I reckon 90 per cent of the time you'll get an espresso, lovingly steamed out of an Italian machine, milk warmed and frothed.

Do the same in America and you're most likely to receive a cup of scary brown water that came out of a dripolator at some point in the morning and has been sitting in a glass pot on a hotplate for the last seven hours. Yes, a dripolator. Australia disposed of them in the 70s – I think they all migrated here.

Satan's coffeepot.

This is the standard American coffee which you will get everywhere unless you remember to specifically ask for an espresso. Many an Australian has been caught in the following trap:

"Can I have a flat white please"
"Do you mean a white coffee?"
"Yes, I suppose so."

Seriously, if this is the crap Central Perk was serving up to Joey, Chandler, Rachel, Monica, Ross and Phoebe in every episode it's amazing any of them stayed Friends long enough to make a series. Coffee of the type served in most American cafes is more likely to create enemies.

Sadly, ordering an espresso is not a guarantee of a decent coffee either. Of the six cafes I have tried in New York so far – all of which proudly displayed a big shiny machine complete with "barista" and walls full of packets of organic, hand-harvested beans - only one has produced a coffee like what I'm used to at home. It's like they've all imported these fancy espresso machines and forgot to read the instruction manuals.

Weirdly though, Americans love this stuff. There are coffee shops on every corner, and you can't walk two metres without seeing a local striding along clutching a paper cup. I feel like the little boy in The Emperor's New Clothes – one day I'll leap out into the street and shout "PUMPKIN SPICED LATTE IS NOT PROPER COFFEE!" and the spell will suddenly be broken.

In the meantime, I plan to document every coffee I drink in this country, WITH PHOTOS, so you may be spared the pain of drinking heated up bilge water.

Want to read them? Click the "American Coffee" link below or in the category menu to the left - they'll all be grouped there, with more added regularly.

* An edited version of this article was first published in the Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on September 18, 2011.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Australia's Next Top Model Recap: Season 7, Episode 6

This week's episode begins in a manner that calls the words "pot", "kettle" and "black" to mind in no particular order, as Simon(e) declares she never liked recent departee Alissandra because "She was always saying stupid dumb things".

This from the girl who claimed she couldn't do a "futuristic" runway walk because "we're not in the future yet".

Can you see the kitchenware dancing in the background?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Australia's Next Top Model Recap: Season 7, Episode 5

This week's recap starts with an apology, by me, for being so tardy. I mean, it's not like I've moved over the other side of the world and am in a totally different time zone and can't watch Australian TV anymore or anything. I'm truly sorry that this is two weeks late. (Not least because it's 11.30pm and I'd rather be in bed and I'm only doing this now because I've had an attack of the guilts.)

But anyway, here it is - episode 5, in which models, hair and pants all go flying out the window and someone arms Dawson with a pair of scissors. Scary.

So episode 5 gets off to a thrilling start with all the modelettes sitting around in the living room staring at each other. Oh, and there's some rain. That's literally all that is happening in their world at this moment. Elsewhere, dictators are falling, cities are burning and rare animals are becoming extinct - but here at Model HQ it's all two minute noodles and reverse cycle air conditioning. Luckily there's a Sarah Mail to inject some excitement into the proceedings.

As usual it's cruelly cryptic, giving no hint as to what the modelettes will be doing in their next challenge - with Sarah only saying they'll need to reach the "dizzying heights" of becoming a model. WHAT COULD SHE MEAN?

Perhaps a spot of rock climbing?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Excuses, excuses...

You may have noticed that the last two Australia's Next Top Model recaps have gone AWOL. As indeed, have I.

That's because I moved to New York city last week, and therefore have been distracted by bagels, hotdogs and "cups o' cawfee". And knishes:

What is a knish? We may never know.
And no, that's not a giant popped collar, it's a shadow.

So anyway, that's my excuse.

The good news, for the three of you who care, is that I'm planning to do them both soon. I'm also going to launch a new part of my blog dedicated to reviewing coffee here in the Big Apple, which so far has been surprisingly terrible. More on that later...


Friday, September 02, 2011

Australia's Next Top Model Recap: Season 7, Episode 4

We start this week's episode with a quick rundown of what happened last time, just in case you've forgotten how they all rolled around a swimming pool in giant inflatable balls. Speaking of forgetting - it's a good thing they eliminated Cassy last week, as it seems all the strain of working with inflatable props caused her to forget how to spell her own name:

Exhibit A.