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Aug 6, 2007 08:24 PM

Bourdain and Zimmern in New York

I was dubious about the Gonzo and Kojak lovefest when I first saw the promos. This turned out to be less painful than I had suspected.

First of all, Zimmern has got to stop his hero worship. He wasn't really obsequious or subservient, just a little too ga-ga that he was with AB.

The bizarre food part was pretty good, better than I thought. The deli part I enjoyed. The tete a tete with Bourdain was interesting. Going to Red Hook and to the food stalls by the soccer field was cool, very timely too because the park district is changing the licencing of the food stall proprietors. They had been working on an infinitely renewed temporary licence and that is illegal, they now want the vendors to pay big bucks for a long term licence. The vendors thinks it has to do with gentrification. The pupusas looked great though.

The bit with the artist was dumb I thought, and very very staged. The biker bar was cool though, I would want to hang there for a bit.

The bit on bug eating was interesting. I wouldn't enjoy all of that, especially the cockroaches. After that, he nearly faints at the sight of the durien! I guess everyone has got a weakness.

The Chinatown segment wasn't really bizarre at all. Nor was the bit in Brighton Beach.

When the lovefest resumes in the Egyptian restaurant, that was my favorite part. Bourdain doth protest too much. he was trying to say that he doesn't philosophize in his show. I think that is BS, philosophize he does, very much and very often. I enjoyed that part of it.

The essay on the death of the esoteric in New york was heartfelt and contrived. IMHO.

I wanted to try Prune after seeing him suck out the bone marrow. Oh, and the grilled sheeps head looked delicious.

Overall I got the idea that they were trying to prop up Zimmern's show with Bourdain, kind of having Bourdain give his blessing. I didn't think the show was that bad, it got itself a second season, so why the incessant plugs?

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  1. I also enjoyed the crossover between the two shows. I agree Zimmern seemed a bit star-struck when with Bourdain, but in his position, I'd probably be the same. Initially, I thought the interaction of the two hosts seemed a bit forced and uncomfortable, like at the beginning of Bourdain's show where they "run into" each other in Brighton Beach. However, I feel they sort of hit their stride at the Egyptian restaurant which was my favorite part of the two episodes. That was in Astoria, correct?
    I also find it veyr humorous that Zimmern will pop a whole cockroach into his mouth and marvel at how wonderful it is flavor wise and texturally, but almost loses it on his shoes when faced with a durian. I did love his segment at the Russian deli counter. I may have to seek that place out when visiting the area in Sept.
    Overall, I was not disappointed and am glad I stayed up for it. If I have any criticism at all it is for the staged nature of some of Bourdain's scenes. Granted, not everything can be off the cuff, but don't make Bourdain try to act. He is not an actor and has plenty to say and is plenty entertaining without having these bizarre scripted moments, in the instance of this episode, in the back of taxi cabs. It's certainly not enough to deter me from the show though.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ArikaDawn

      I was in heaven. My 2 favorite shows crossing over. Having said that, I don't think Bourdain really likes Zimmern (does he like anybody?). Best line was when Zimmern left and Bourdain said "I give him one season". Several times Bourdain nicely said shut the $%^&* up. Going to Jersey for bugs was ridiculous. Have to question the Carnegie as the best deli. Famous Fat Dave didn't get a chance to plug his tours or make any recommendations-he knows NYC food better than either of the hosts. I enjoyed the segment at Jewel Bako with the live lobster sashimi probably filmed before the chef went to 15 East. Prune looked great-will have to revisit and I keep meaning to check out the Spotted Pig except it's always too damn crowded. The Red Hook and Astoria segments were pretty good and I have a client who owns a Russian restaurant in Brighton Beach who has promised me a tour. That M&I Russian deli looks great though there are similar places I've been to in Rego Park in Queens. The Times Square segments were lifted from Tony's books but were funny anyway-"where are the track marked prostitutes, the chicken hawks, the crackheads?" Instead of Gray's Papaya he should've had pizza somewhere-perhaps Difara's?

      1. re: guttergourmet

        "That M&I Russian deli looks great though there are similar places I've been to in Rego Park in Queens"
        The places in Rego Park are good, but a drop in the bucket compared to M&I. You owe it to yourself to make the trip.

    2. I love the Red Hook Ball Fields, but it's hard for me to view any of the food items they profiled - huaraches, ceviche or pupusas - as being "strange" or "bizarre". They may be exotic to those who have never tried them, yeah, but not nearly on the same level as tarantulas on a stick or gigantic crunchy roaches. I feel the same way about the stuff he had a Carnegie Deli, but I realize that that's because I grew up with stuff like tongue, gefilte fish and chopped liver. A great many people have probably never even heard of these food items, so, fair enough. Zimmern hit his stride more out at the place in Jersey and at Congee Bowery. I couldn't help but feel that he blew a big opportunity by not hitting Flushing's A Fan Ti, which specializes in organ meats such as Kung Pao Testicles and Lamb's Eyeballs (Ironically, it was Bourdain who wound up eating a sheep head).

      I agree that Bourdain's show hit its' stride at Kebab Cafe - no surprise there. As is the case with a lot of his episodes though, I felt that the Taxi Driver theme and Tony on the flying trapeze was forced and weak compared with the sincerity and substance he gives the food segments. I really think he missed the boat with Famous Fat Dave, the Hungry Cabbie, who has built a reputation on taking passengers to the far ends of the city for great food (Plus, he has a background in pickles, and is a genuine NYC character). What could have been an interesting ride with Dave turned out to be Taxi Driver shtick and a trip to Gray's Papaya.

      I realize, though, that my criticisms are due precisely to my feeling that both of these shows have raised the bar. Overall, I liked both shows. Lots of good stuff there. I knew that no show about NYC, my hometown, could manage to nail it in any comprehensive way. But both hosts get the essence of it.

      1. It was pretty gratifying to see CH faves on these shows...ballfields, Ali's, Brighton Beach. I liked both shows. It was great to see Ali presented as a master chef who really inspired Bourdain. The Brighton Beach segments did a good job of presenting that wonderful food scene. I am ignoring the insect eater in NJ...he should have hit Ironbound instead.

        Wasn't it amusing, though, that both of them professed their ignorance of Queens, while noting that probably the most diverse and authentic foods from around the globe can be found there? Both of these guys travel everywhere but don't put in the effort to get to know what we have right here. But then, that is CH's job, not these TV guys.

        Fat Dave knows Queens food...but they presented him as someone who just knows where to take rifle practice and get HOTDOGS on the UWS??? I wonder if he and AB didn't hit it off so well or what was the deal there.

        1. I thought AB came off very protective of his favorite joints, as if shielding off tourist "As seen on TV" invasions, he mumbled most names of the restaurants and hardly gave out locations of the places, except for the NRA place. As if saying "Sorry, kids, do your own homework, or be doomed to bad chain food". The closing scene was especially poignant - good food but for insiders only - which is fine with me who lives in NY (I know places where I can get good grilled sheep head), but probably not appropriate for a show on the Travel channel....

          1. Something about AB makes him one SEXY man... boy it would be fun to have dinner with him one night. The marrow and the Egyptian place were my favorites.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Ela0427

              Sexy, yes, in a way....I've always like him, but at this point he's just a tad bit too in love with himself for me to imagine having fun with him at dinner. It wouldn't be interactive. Some people you find appealing it's just better not to meet.

              1. re: suse

                I completely agree, Suse... best to admire them from a far. AB is sexy though, in a skinny, smoky, better w/ clothes on kind of way.

              2. re: Ela0427

                That marrow looked incredible! I'm making a trip to NYC in a few weeks and I'm thinking I might have to stop by for some of that goodness. Seems like a very cool place.

                I would have given anything to have had dinner with those 3. So awesome!

                And I agree...there is something about Bourdain that is a weird way! lol

                1. re: Elyssa

         was Prune where they went and had the bone marrow etc correct?

                  1. re: Elyssa

                    Yep. Let us know about it. We live vicariously, for now.

                    1. re: Phaedrus

                      I wonder how often they change their menu. Because I just went online to check it out and there was no bone marrow in sight!! :( Maybe they see it more as a cold weather type of comfort food.

                      But you should check out their menu online. Very fun and creative. Brunch even looks great.

                      1. re: Elyssa

                        I looked at the menu yesterday and marrow bones were there. Weird.

                        1. re: ArikaDawn

                          Prune is good but Blue Ribbon in SoHo is where I go for my marrow fix.

                          1. re: guttergourmet

                            I think Blue Ribbon is mentioned as the late-night chef spot in the book Heat. (Either that or one of the Nasty Bits essays by Bourdain). Another place high on my list.

                            Btw...I might need to look at the Prune menu but I didn't see if when I looked earliert today and I thought it said June or July 2007 menu. Maybe I missed it. It looked AMMMMAZING on the show though.

                  2. re: Elyssa

                    Maybe it's the confidence.. or all that food talk must be great foreplay.