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Mar 13, 2012 07:55 PM

WGBH Boston developing ethnic restaurant show

I know about this only because I received an e-mail request to participate in a survey to choose the program's name. So I assume it will not air for some while yet. The description was to the effect that chefs/owners of locat ethnic spots will be interviewed, and the hallmark dishes of their respective homeland's cuisines explained/demonstrated. One of the titles being considered is Hidden Gems, which I hope is not selected, since it sounds too much like Phantom Gourmet's
"hidden jewels".

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  1. I wouldn't mind seeing them drop the term "ethnic", either.

    3 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      Dough-nuts? I told you, I don't like ethnic food!

      1. re: Luther

        "Iis that one of those Hispanic restaurants? Because I don't like Spanish food. I got sick from Taco Bell once."

      2. re: MC Slim JB

        Ugh, same. Will they feature an Eye-talian restaurant, maybe?

      3. They need to talk to me, because I've studied The Adventures of Baron Ambrosia more than anyone and I can do just a good a job as discovering "ethnic" places in Boston.

        1. I got that survey and thought all the titles were terrible. None conveyed what WGBH said the program would be about.

          1 Reply
          1. re: peregrine

            I agree - i received the email, saw it, and thought - oh no... this does not bode well.

          2. The show is to be about Latino venues only, which IMO is regrettably restrictive. It will be called Neighborhood Kitchens, and debuts Sunday, June 17, at 6:30 p.m.

            16 Replies
              1. re: greygarious

                Limiting to only one ethnic food is indeed restrictive. Wonder why they would do that.

                OTOH, they said they will provide "definitive information about authentic Latin American cuisine". I like my ethnic food to be *authentic*, instead of Americanized or "fusioned". Most ethnic restaurants in Boston cannot live up to that expectation. Perhaps the program will enlighten me.

                1. re: eatntell

                  There is no such thing as "one Latin American food" -- even for the same dish "arroz con pollo," its prepared very differently between the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America. TV shows revolve around the "talent" and I would guess that was a key factor in focusing it on several different cuisines from Latin America. There certainly are a number of "Latino" restaurants which haven't been discussed on chowhound in the area, although based on some of the hints they give in the text they probably won't stray too far. However, if they do something interesting and the "talent" isn't just annoying, it could be better than other local shows which cover all sorts of cuisines and show their host's total ignorance about all of them.

                  1. re: itaunas

                    Update: As an example of one thing which could be interesting, is the UMass Amherst World Crops program has seeded the local planting of some ethnic crops (Latino and also Asian) which you can find at farmers markets in season. Several of the cultures mentioned are represented with those crops, some unique to one country (maxixe/Brazil) and others more general such as calabaza. So they could bring some of those ingredients and have the chefs prepare them in a regional way, assuming it was filmed in the right season. Likewise there are other ingredients that some hounds are familiar with, but not so the general population -- culantro for instance which is used in Cuban/Caribbean cooking (and to a lesser extent in Brazilian). We also have some fresh and a number of dried and pickled peppers, where the general viewers could be educated that not all of them are hot and each brings a different flavor to a dish (a lead in to both Mexican and Peruvian cooking for instance). I don't have high hopes, but if they can do "Latino" and do it well, its more interesting than covering a number of cuisines or the fusion cooking that eatntell mentions.

                    1. re: itaunas

                      I have the impression that some of the staff for this show (I'm acquainted with one of them) would know "ethnic" is, at best, not a very useful word. I'm hoping that the "definitive" "authentic" "ethnic" ad copy is maybe from the marketing department and not reflective of the production team.

                      That said, I've been fascinated, uneducated, and self-teaching about Somerville's Brazilian and Salvadorean food places for years, and I'm excited to have an educational source beyond wikipedia.

                      I've definitely wished for a chinatown-style tour guide who could teach us about it (hint, hint, itaunas)... or even some flashcards like some guy did a few months ago so awesomely for the H-Mart food court.

                      1. re: enhF94

                        BTW, if you click on the banner it leads to a blog for the show so that might be a better overall example of what the show will cover instead of the ad-copy.


                        1. re: itaunas

                          Tomorrow will be the third of the six installments of this uninspired show. So far, no new finds, just publicity for well-established Boston restaurants. Slipshod editing, too - in at least three places in the blog, Casa Romero is called Cafe Romero. I would have tweeted to alert them to their error, but after clicking the Twitter link, Twitter responded that there is no account under the handle given for the show.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            The inattention to detail continues. Today's show was on Lydia Shire's Scampo, in the Liberty Hotel - because the executive chef is from South America and worked his way up, starting 25 years ago as a dishwasher. The graphics of one of the dishes included the misspelling of "mozzarella", omitting a "z". Beacon Hill is a neighborhood, and the hotel there has a kitchen, but that's hardly the sort of venue the show's title brings to mind. Ms. Shire had a lot of onscreen time.

                      2. re: itaunas

                        The program is NOT about "one Latin American food". Their definition of Latin cuisine covers a wide range.

                        "For example, one week we may visit a Mexican restaurant in East Boston or a Cuban bistro in Jamaica Plain. The following week we may visit a Venezuelan eatery in the South End or a Brazilian café in New Bedford."

                        But we definitely won't see sushi, or gyro, etc.

                        1. re: eatntell

                          It was your post which said "limiting to one ethnic food" and I don't agree with that statement because there are a number of different cuisines (and cultures) in Latin America, so you have helped make my point. Obviously they overlooked many of the area's strengths from other continents, but ideally it was a conscious decision based on what they could do well. I also think there are regional latino specialties in the area which are not Americanized -- not certain how you would Americanize "cuy" for instance?

                      3. re: eatntell

                        i am being pedantic, but all cuisines add new techniques and new ingredients; i prefer something be good than "authentic." And who is to say that there is a dish is authentic; all food is in the process of transition.

                        that said, Rick Bayless seems to be able to carry off a show on just Mexican cooking.

                        1. re: eatntell

                          According to the promotional segment that aired during WGBH radio's afternoon news, they will be talking up the Americanizing of Latin American foods. It sounded as though this was being viewed as a plus, rather than compromising for the sake of getting more customers in the door. I don't think you can fault an owner or chef for putting some lowest common denominators on their menu. How many Chinese restaurants could stay profitable without
                          crab rangoon and pupu platters?

                          1. re: greygarious


                            It takes a well honed palate developed over a long period of time (like growing up with) to detect and appreciate the "authenticity" of a dish. Even if a restaurant has the ability and will to get all the ingredients (from afar) and the knowledge to prepare them, they would still need customers who can appreciate the difference to be profitable. An authentic ethnic restaurant can only survive in an area with lots of customers of that ethnicity. As an example, NYC, SF, Vancouver, etc. all have many more authentic Chinese restaurants than Boston.

                            Similarly lacking in Boston are "authentic" regional food within the US, such as Southern BBQ, fried chicken, soul food, etc. The Sox had to order from Popeye's! (and now Sweet Cheeks?)

                            1. re: eatntell

                              one of the problems is one of scale. if you want a fair comparison of food to population size, dont compare boston to mahattan which has a population more than twelve times the size of boston, compare it to columbus, ohio. when you travel to other cities of comparative size, i t think we do quite well.

                              that said, there is surely room for expanding our too provincial tastes (which is remarkable considering our population of students).

                              but then, they are always broke

                        2. re: greygarious

                          Cazuela Bostoniana might have been a good title for the show, then.

                          1. re: Karl S

                            re: gregarious: zzzzzzzzzzzz........

                        3. The premiere episode was interesting mostly for the very brief footage of the South End, including an aerial view and the info that it is the largest Victorial architecture neighborhood in the country. The rest was in and about Orinoco's original location, with little mention of the Brookline and Harvard Square satellites, and no mention of price points. Prep of several dishes was shown. The chef described his creations as "Nuevo Latino cuisine", which he defined as Americanized Latin American. Successful and growing since 2006, this place is certainly not a Hidden Gem or Jewel.