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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 sexy...in a weird way! lol

                1. re: Elyssa

                  Btw...it 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.

                2. Yeah it's funny that of all things that he has eaten.. the Durian Fruit is what crosses the line. I would have considerably more trouble eating a lobster that is still "alive." But then again, I have never tried the Durian fruit.

                  1. It seemed to me that they did this to prop up Zimmern's show. I honestly do not get this guy. He just isn't my cup of tea and doesn't seem very well informed. He just irritates me, and that is why I do not watch his show. That said, I love Bourdain, so I tuned in. I did tune away for the bug-eating segment, though. I loved the tour of New York. For someone who lives on the other side of the continent, NYC is as exotic as many foreign lands.

                    1. I just finished the show early this afternoon in my office. I enjoy both and while I agree that the interplay between the two was a tad contrived and did come at Bourdain's expense -- the market stall conversation over grilled huaraches was practically a freestyle rap battle with Zimmern not giving any quarter -- the show was very entertaining and informative. That said, I'm so not a fan of eating anything alive after having witnessed it a few times in Hong Kong and watching that poor, disemboweled spiny tail wither and suffer while people enjoyed his insides was disconcerting. To his -- and likely, his producer's and the network's credit -- Zimmern at least addressed it.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Kris P Pata

                        Yeah that was unappealing, especially the way Lamb kept pinching its eyes to get it to move. It seems to me that the point of seeing the animals alive is to know that they are as fresh as can be...but eating one while the its other half is still sitting there moving just seems sadistic.

                        1. re: kenito799

                          I agree but also thought that they addressed it appropriately. Reminds me of the "dancing shrimp" dish I had in Hong Kong many years ago where you put the live shrimp in alcohol before cooking them. Again, it's about freshness and lack of waste and gratitude and appreciation to the animal. Otherwise you start down the slippery slope of the anti-foie gras lunatics and before you know it we're all vegans.

                          1. re: guttergourmet

                            believe me, nothing will cause me to slip down that slope...

                        2. re: Kris P Pata

                          Maybe I'm just messed up but when I saw that scene I thought immediatly that my father and I have to try that restaurant the next time we are in NYC.

                          Why my father? Because he's the only one crazy enough to try all that stuff with me!

                          Yes I feel bad and so on...but its an experience unlike any other and they were respectful of the animal and used all its pieces. In my book that's important. (Ok maybe pinching the eyes over and over is not so respectful but you don't have to do that).

                        3. This was misleadingly titled and promoted. It was really an episode of Zimmern's show followed by an episode of Bourdain's show, both set in New York, with mutual cameos.

                          I liked the Bourdain episode fine fine though it could have used more food and less taxi driving and stadium.

                          Didn't watch Zimmern's except to fast-forward to Bourdain's cameo, interesting to see Red Hook having read about it but Bourdain's better without the annoying sidekick.

                          16 Replies
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I think that Bourdain is a terrific and engaging writer, so I cut him a lot of slack, even if he no longer cooks and is a tad filled with himself. I dislike the entire premise of Zimmern's show. It reminds me too much of all those contrived "reality" shows where a cast is "marooned" on an island or in a fancy loft somewhere with an entire TV crew, pretending to be "interacting" spontaneously. I don't get much out of watching someone eat a variety of insects and innards that, to me, are gross. "No Reservations," OTOH, appeals not only to my food interest but to my wanderlust as well.

                            And I too could have done w/out Bourdain pretending to drive a sparkling vintage Checker cab. Puh-leeze,

                            1. re: ClaireWalter

                              If insects and innards are not your thing, so be it. I'm sure a lot of people can relate to your sentiments. But I don't agree that the premise is contrived. The show is trying to shed light, not just on different foods, but on the concept that different cultures- or, in some cases, subcultures - have different perspectives pertaining to what is edible. In the episodes I've watched, I think that has come off - it's not just about what Zimmern will or won't eat. (Don't forget, too, that Bourdain has eaten his share of innards).

                              1. re: Polecat

                                I agree, Zimmern is not the most charismatic host but the shows I have watched have been pretty respectful of the food cultures. The Trinidad episode that they have been airing was very good, and showed local people who are known as really good cooks preparing the "weird" ingredients. He also showed very non-weird and delicious looking foods, too. I would love to try a lot of the stuff he showed!

                                1. re: kenito799

                                  Agreed, I wasn't very fond of him at first (probably thanks to Travel channel's endless repeats of the inaugural episode in Asia), but he sort of grew on me with his subsequent episodes. I liked his episode in Taiwan, and the fact that he made a point to visit aboriginal cuisine of the island. His open-mindedness and willingness to try things that even his local guides wouldn't touch make him more endearing. Even on the NY episode he was more comfortable with duck feet than his friend's chinese wife and more comfortable with caviar than his childhood friend with clear russian roots (judging from his last name). Bourdain's part-European upbringing and NYC roots could be a bit intimidating to people between two coasts, but Zimmern's Jersey roots I could see be more close to the rest of the folks in this country. As his Russian friend and he joked at the end of the show, Zimmern rose up the food chain from Oscar Meyer bologna, so there is a lot of hope to many out there...

                                  1. re: welle

                                    Bourdain is from northern NJ and Zimmern is from NYC.

                                    1. re: welle

                                      Zimmern might be more accessible but he and Bourdain have almost identical backgrounds--born in NYC and raised in NJ...

                                      1. re: kenito799

                                        Andrew was raised in Manhattan. He said so several times.

                                        1. re: southernitalian

                                          I thought he said his parents were...sorry! Bourdain was raised in Englewood.

                                        2. re: kenito799

                                          Bourdain first got interested in food when he spent a summer with his French aunt and uncle.


                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            yes, from his book I got an impression they usually spent their summers in France as he was growing up... I thought Andrew kept saying Jersey - especially when he brought his Japanese friend to Chinatown, he mentioned how everytime the got to Manhattan they'd try to go there. Friend's wife, however, grew up around Chinatown they said... I must've missed the part he said Manhattan - I got an impression of strong Jersey ties, coz when he visited the bug farmer in Jersey he said he grew up around there. I also remember him saying at the beginning of the show when they came to Redhook bar, that NY was his adopted home now. my bad.
                                            anyway, my point is Anthony likes to throw French words around and drop big names like Le Bernardin, he references back to NY a lot - his whole persona gives out that NY vibe, IMO... Watching him is like watching Seinfield - NYers have an advantage of getting inside jokes/references

                                            1. re: welle

                                              I believe that in the beginning of his show, he mentioned that he was born on the UWS, specifically, somewhere along West End. The only reason I even remember this is because I lived there for several years. I have really grown to like his show.

                                    2. re: Polecat

                                      Of course the premise is contrived; if the goal were only to chronicle a wide range of "exotic" foods and food cultures, I doubt there would be a show. It's mostly about watching what might happen to this soft white guy doing exotic things, with a frisson of spectator glee. While there's reality, on display, and some iof it informative and interesting, there's no adventure or bravery in this package at all. We accept the dissonance between "real/unmoderated" and "staged and junketed". The shows are only watchable for me to the extent that they portray other cultures with knowledge, care, some modesty, respect, and a touch of self-aware humor. Otherwise, you get the fiasco that was Mario Batali's Italy series--a clownish and insulting waste of time.

                                      1. re: obob96

                                        I liked Mario's Italy show except for his idiotic sidekick. Any show that exults over lardo is my kind of show.

                                        1. re: guttergourmet

                                          oh yeah, now I remember it, I saw it only once. that sidekick guy was like mario's moronic aler-ego who knew nothing about food but was just as gluttonous as mario. Really weird and yes, i never watched it again.

                                          1. re: kenito799

                                            I think he is the same guy that plays the French Chef on Good Eats. His name was Rooney on Mario's show. Yeah, kind of a gnome on caffein effect.

                                            1. re: Phaedrus

                                              i like that the travel channel airs these shows back-to-back. to me, they are two different ways that two very different guys travel the world, soak in the local culture and eat accordingly.

                                              andrew zimmern is accessible and congenial. how can you not like a rotund, jolly bald guy that's open to try anything? i like that his face shows whether he is truly enjoying or loathing what he is eating. he doesn't use culinary jargon. he simply says whether it's good, what the texture is like and what it reminds him of. i like that it's not just about eating bugs, brains and testicles, but that he tries to seek out the local flavor.

                                              bourdain, on the otherhand, offers such a raw and frank overview of the areas he visits. his focus is not only on the food, but he gives you a glimpse of how the locals live and thrive. and for that, i don't think that you can really compare the 2 shows, but it's a nice balance to each other.

                                2. What's the name of the sushi restaurant they went to on the show with the live lobster? My father is thinking about actually joining me for dinner there sometime this winter (we might try to replicate parts of the show because he was reallllly into the food at Prune) but is this place well known or is it a secret type place?

                                  4 Replies
                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Really? I skimmed through a 2nd time and couldn't find it. Maybe I'm missing it but can someone post the name again? Thanks!

                                      1. re: Elyssa

                                        "I enjoyed the segment at Jewel Bako with the live lobster sashimi probably filmed before the chef went to 15 East. "
                                        - guttergourmet Aug 07, 2007 07:32AM

                                  1. is it just me - but last night I enjoyed Zimmern's show and was really bored by Bourdain's? I could not care much about life of privileged helicopter riding paolitas...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: welle

                                      I watched Bourdain's show this morning and actually enjoyed it. I've spent some time in Sao Paulo with privileged Paulistas, and what impressed me was that, with the exception of the place they went to at the beach, they actually spent a lot of time at what appeared to me to be non-fancy restaurants, which, frankly, I've never been to there. (Never ridden on a helicopter there though either.)

                                    2. I wish Bourdain would just talk about food instead of playing soccer games or complain about everything. He thinks he is too cool. I couldn't believe he said Zimmern is a tv guide and that he should only talk about food.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Monica

                                        From what Bourdain has said on the show and in print, he'd be happy to talk only about food, it's the Travel Channel that comes up with all the photo ops.

                                        1. re: Monica

                                          Though the video of that maitre d'hotel playing soccer in his scivies was priceless.

                                        2. It was a good cross over. though I fail to see the "star struckness" in AZ you all see. AZ does seem more accessible. AZ alos seems like he would be more fun to party with and go places though. I am a member on his site, which is a pretty inovative website, CUDOS to his web team. I like AB general jeans and beer attitude. Pretty cool though he sometimes portrays an elitest aire. I would buy him a beer or two if he ever came to Chi town.