Go, Do, Be.


New Crop of Food TV

By: Chris Greacen - 10/09/2008
A chilly sunrise greeted us this morning, it's the second of the Bay Area's three winters. Like the first one in August, this is a false winter (we'll likely have a brief summer in early November when the Santa Anna winds stoke the wildfires (and the surfers)). Still, the chill reminded me of impending bumpercrop of pomegranates, figs, and of course the harvest up in the valley,

This particular false winter also makes me think about the new crop of TV programming, specifically food shows popping up with the new season.

'Spain... On The Road Again' is Spanish road trip that has more in common with soap operas on daytime TV than Kerouac. Just look at this synopsis:

"Mark's moods swings and insatiable appetite have the road trippers stopping often as they head north to Galicia. While in Ribera del Duero wine country, Mario grills milk-fed lamb in a vineyard. While staying at a traditional county inn, Mario's competitive edge emerges and he and Gwyneth race Mark and Claudia on the Camino de Santiago, a historic pilgrimage route. Back at the inn, Mario and Gwyneth cook dinner while waiting for Mark and Claudia to get back."

What works:

  • The Bittman/Batali combination is always fun.
  • Claudia Basoles: she's lovely.
  • The foods: they get to eat off the beaten trail.
  • Batali reminiscing about his childhood experiences in Europe.

What doesn't work:

  • The gang is going to seem way out of touch if they don't switch to motoring around Spain in hybrids. They swing a little too far down the bonvivant scale at times.
  • The soundtrack: an ibericized-version of Willie Nelson's on the road again. Again and again.
  • GP's food conflicts: won't eat meat but is still hungry all the time.

I like Alton Brown's Feasting On Waves for a bunch of reasons. Back in my youth I had my own Caribbean experience, so this show brings back a few memories.

What works:

  • Alton's always good for some foodie fun.
  • getting way off the beaten trail and connecting with people
  • The way the show seems like one giant boondoggle. I imagine the pitch: "yeah, we're taking the whole crew down to the Caribbean to tool around on a few sailboats. We'll film the whole thing and you can edit it together for a few episodes. Oh yeah -- you'll need to pay us too."

What doesn't:

  • The hand held camera-action is a little nuts. Are they trying to share the seasickness experience?
  • They kinda seem rushed. Relax mon! Take it Island speed.
  • The relentless soundtrack just won't, well... relent.
  • The color and haze of the picture. Did the salt ruin all the gear? Why does it seem like we're watching this through gauze?
  • Lay off the lat-lon stuff, ok? Seems Alton's penchant for gadgetry extends to the handheld GPS too.

Let's see if I can borrow a scene (sorry about the autoPlay, can't seem to stop it) // initialize player var snap = new SNI.Food.Player.VideoAsset('vlp-player', '25055-VIDEO');

Gourmet's Diary Of A Foodie has turned out to be my favorite show of the moment. Another Zero Point Zero production. ZPZ produces Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations show. D.O.A.F. uses some of the same 'local experts' that have helped No Reservations get the inside scoop on foodie goodies.

What works:

  • Awesome variety
  • good in-depth kitchen time with some amazing chefs (Grant Achatz, José Andrés, many others)
  • great insiders! Gourmet's connections have really opened up some interesting doors in these episodes
  • Local connections: Plenty of action in the bay area, plus I've come across s(e.g. Saw an episode about Jersey Cow butter that looked so fresh and good, then came across fresh jersey cow butter at the ferry plaza farmers market).
  • The demonstration sections: they bring technique and flavor into reach.

What doesn't work:

  • those disembodied hands wailing on a computer keyboard to into each episode are a little freaky.
  • Need more episodes! Looks like there are only two seasons.

Maybe I can borrow an episode for a bit:

I'm missing shows too of course. I haven't seen this Bourdain thing called At The Table. Yet. We're probably due for another excellent Top Chef series any month. Can't wait to read along with the amuse-biatch blog (often as entertaining as the episodes it covers). Of course, there hasn't been another installment of Daniel Boulud's After Hours (one of my all-time favs.). Chef Boulud, please return soon, we miss you!

Edit: Uh, so I stupidly forgot to mention on more great show that's started a new season. Stupid because this is probably my motivation for putting this post together.

Check, Please! Bay Area dished out a few new episodes to start its thrid season. This locally produced show's winning combination involves inviting 3 people to introduce and compare their favorite restaurants. The discussion and food porn are usually a lot of fun.

What works:

  • Love the local focus. We watch and cheer for our favorite restaurants, debate where we'd take people, and add new destinations to our list.
  • Leslie Sabracco keeps the conversation lite and fun. She's an expert with wines and drinks and usually brings an interesting factoid about a restaurant's wine list.
  • The series has a bunch of good stuff online. In addition to each broadcast there are blogs, restaurant profiles, flickr streams, embeddable videos.
  • Broadcasts are in true HD.

What doesn't work:

  • The DVR ends up recording everything because they never signal when an episode is new.

Hey look, they've moved all their videos onto YouTube.

I suspect someone will export this formula to the other restaurant-rich markets.

What restaurant would you bring to the show?