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Crumbs - 1/31/07
Wednesday, January 31, 2007 | posted by Mike

This is where I usually write something witty or interesting. Not today.



The Great and Powerful "Times" Has Spoken

Gordon RamsayIn what may officially be the final nail in the coffin of Gordon Ramsay's New York adventure, The New York Times, in the person of Frank Bruni, has weighed in today with a two star (out of four) review of Gordon Ramsay at the London. Now, I don't read the Times every day, but the hole-in-the-wall Mediterranean joint down the street from TVFF.com Headquarters got three stars, so I'm guessing this is bad news.

As we've heard in many places before, Bruni just finds it...dull.

The chef Gordon Ramsay has a British television show called “The F Word,” an American television show called “Hell’s Kitchen” and, by all accounts and appearances, the kind of foul mouth and foul temper those titles suggest.

You might expect his debut New York restaurant to be brash and any of its shortcomings to be attributable to audacity, not timidity.

You’d be wrong.

The meta-reviewing (i.e. reviews of Bruni's review) is also in full swing, with Bloomberg, New York Magazine and Gothamist chiming in and pointing out that Bruni is echoing what has been said by just about anyone else who has offered an opinion on the restaurant.

And so, it looks like Gordon Ramsay's British invasion of America was more "Dave Clark Five" than "Beatles."

While we're on the topic of Frank Bruni...he also reviewed Top Chef, which runs its finale tonight. (Thanks for the tip on the TC review, Stacey!)



"Bake 'n Cake Tattooed Across the Knuckles of His Hands..."
Tuesday, January 30, 2007 | posted by Mike

Usually, I only give the Food Network Newsletter e-mail a passing glance. It's typically chock full of advertisements for Rachael Ray's knife set, links to recipes I'll never get around to making and promos for upcoming shows that I already know about. Today, however, I did notice that there is a new sweepstakes run by the Network in conjunction with Jane magazine that looks like it will be a lot of fun for the winner.

If you are the lucky lady who is selected (not sure if that "lady" part is a requirement or an indication of Jane's demographics), you'll have a chance to hang with Duff Goldman and his crew and recount your story to the readers of the magazine.

You could spend a week at Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, home to Food Network's hit show Ace of Cakes, where you'll learn all about what it takes to create extreme cakes.

Then, you'll tell the world about your time with baker/owner Duff Goldman and the gang when you write about it in the pages of Jane!

The entry page, which is on the Jane website (and offers you 60% off the newsstand price if you subscribe!), features an image of some of the staff from Charm City Cakes and a close-up of Duff with "bake" and "cake" tattooed across his knuckles, a depiction which, in my opinion, is about one or two more uses away from officially becoming cliche.

I do get the tattoo joke, though it's already been done by The Blues Brothers. Of course, really, it has to be done as a joke, because nobody is as big a badass as Robert Mitchum.

Oh...and a big TVFF.com pat-on-the-back to the first commenter who identifies the band and song referenced in the title of this post!



Review: "Dave's Dinners"
Monday, January 29, 2007 | posted by Mike

Congratulations to Dona from Dallas, our winner in the Dave's Dinners Cookbook Giveaway! Thanks again to everyone who sent in an entry for our contest. We wish all of you good luck on the next giveaway (there will be another in a few weeks for a different cookbook...stay tuned). Of course, if you didn't win, there's always the link on the left to Amazon.com, where you can order it through the TVFF.com Store (more about that a little later).

The themes and attitude behind Dave's Dinners are very similar to the approach that author Dave Liberman brings to his television show, Good Deal with Dave Lieberman. On the show, Lieberman brings his personal chef know-how and adds to it a budget and time consciousness that will appeal to younger audiences who want to entertain but who have limited funds and a tight schedule. Lieberman includes recipes for dishes that will be crowd-pleasers (or couple pleasers) and he does it with ingredients and techniques that are more basic than what you would see in other books. However, don't think that there aren't some good, aggressive and interesting flavors involved.

The recipes in Dave's Dinners span an entire evening's worth of entertaining (from drinks to desert) and come literally from around the world. You'll find a meatloaf recipe, but there is also tikka masala in there, so it will work for you whether your tastes are "comfort food" or "world cuisine."

The book is broken down into eight sections: Drinks and Finger Foods, Salads, Soups, Poultry, Fish, Pasta, Meat and Desserts. The most unique section is the first, which includes a number of syrups (rosemary, ginger, lemongrass, etc.) which can be used in mixed drinks, including the ones provided in the book. Party food and appetizers, including our favorite: Mini Moroccan Lamb Burgers with Lemon Yogurt Sauce (see my photo on the right and the recipe at the end of this post). My version used a baguette rather than the brioche indicated in the recipe (not by choice...the usually reliable Wegman's was out). As Lieberman explains in the intro to the recipe, lamb "is one of the greatest bargains out there because the meat is so flavorful and juicy." He's right about that, and I have a greater appreciation for ground lamb because of this recipe. The additions of ground cumin, cinnamon and coriander (grind it yourself if you can!) brought a wonderfully vibrant flavor to the burgers. The yogurt sauce provided a nice cooling contrast and lent it a authentic Mediterranean flavor. I'd happily serve them at a gathering, and I absolutely plan on making the burgers again (maybe stuffed in a pita with some lettuce, red onion and tomato).

Lieberman assumes that the reader has a limited set of skills and always warns when a specialized piece of equipment is needed. For example, he gives a description of how to put together a make-shift double boiler for the pasta that we tried, Creamy Lemon Almond Linguine. The dish was a nice variation on an egg-based dish like carbonara, with the pungency of the lemon substituting for the pork. One quibble...as someone who goes very authentic with my carbonara (see Mario Batali's recipe...no pre-cooking of the eggs at all), the sauce turned out just a little too "custardy" for my liking. I fixed it with a bit of the pasta cooking water.

The book's attention to details when it came to techniques was at times strong and at other times a bit lacking. With the Roasted Chorizo and Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Over Rosemary Black Beans, Lieberman warns you to "protect the chorizo and tomatoes from drying out too much by tucking them underneath the chicken." As we found out, this is valuable advice, as the sun-dried tomatoes that weren't under the chicken came out of the oven looking something like a charcoal briquette. The Carrot Mash Cake with Cream Cheese Icing that Mrs. TVFF.com made, however, didn't include any icing instructions, which would have been nice.

Dave's Dinners is squarely aimed at introducing novice chefs to a wide variety of flavors. It captures Lieberman's youthful exuberance by presenting dishes that provide interesting tastes without scaring off someone who might not feel comfortable diving into some of the more complex, specialized cookbooks out there. The photography provides enticing images and Lieberman's introductions get you excited and eager to get in the kitchen.

Mini Moroccan Lamb Burgers with Lemon Yogurt Sauce

I like making mini versions of things as finger foods. No exception here. I think ground lamb is one of the greatest bargains out there because the meat is so flavorful and juicy. The point of the sauce is to be tangy and refreshing to contrast with the rich flavors of the lamb burgers.

For the Mini Burgers
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
About 20 grinds fresh black pepper
2 garlic cloves, pressed

For the Lemon Yogurt Sauce
7 ounces plain yogurt, preferably full fat
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, plus more lemon zest for garnish

1 Loaf fresh brioche bread

Preheat the oven to 500F.

Make the burgers: Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and work together until they are fully incorporated.

Roll a tablespoon of the mixture into a 3-inch ball and then flatten into a round burger about 1/2 inch thick.

Place the mini burgers on a nonstick baking sheet and bake about 7 minutes, until evenly and well browned.

Make the sauce: Stir together the yogurt, lemon juice and zest in a small bowl. Season to taste with a couple of pinches of salt.

Cut the brioche into 1/2-inch slices, then use a small glass to cut as many circles as possible, about 3 inches in diameter, from each slice. Place the bread circles on a baking sheet. When the burgers come out of the oven, slip the bread in for just a couple of minutes to toast lightly. Watch the bread carefully, or else it will get too dark very quickly.

Place the mini burgers on top of the cut brioche. Top with a dollop of the lemon yogurt and garnish with a good pinch of lemon zest.

Makes about 30 burgers.

Excerpted from DAVE'S DINNERS by Dave Lieberman. Copyright 2006 Dave Lieberman. All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold.



The Next Food Network Star Will Be...

The Next Food Network StarIt's that time of year again! We have a full rundown of the contestants for the new season of The Next Food Network Star. Madeline over at my other hangout, Edible TV, has a story up with a full list, which I've helpfully cut and pasted below. Be sure to check out her article, though, for some info on the winner of the online voting and how Madeline caught a whole bunch of flak when she got into a discussion in the comments section of a previous post.
Vivien Cunha, 39 (Winnetka, CA) Chef and actress
Amy Finley, 32 (La Mesa, CA) Caterer and freelance writer
Josh Garcia, 25 (Havelock, NC) Chef de Cuisine
Tommy Grella, 33 (Methuen, MA) Certified Financial Planner
Colombe Jacobsen, 28 (New York, NY) Private chef and exercise instructor, also the FoodNetwork.com finalist
Paul McCullough, 36 (Los Angeles, CA) Private chef and caterer
Patrick Rolfe, 32 (Lake Forest Park, WA) Chef
Michael Salmon, 52 (Brooklyn, NY) General Manager of two New York-based restaurants
Rory Schepisi, 30 (Vega, TX) Restaurant owner
Adrien Sharp, 29 (Jackson, MI) Domestic Uniform Delivery and part-time local TV host.
Nikki Shaw, 38 (Manhattan Beach, CA) Caterer and wife of former LA Lakers player, Brian Shaw

My thoughts? Well, there's the token "older guy" (Michael) that has become a bit cliche on cooking shows and someone (Tommy) who looks like he has no formal experience in food, which they like to throw in to make people like you and me think we should be doing something more in our kitchens than Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Although the contestants here can get a little on the annoying side, they don't nearly evoke the kind of anger and loathing that Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen competitors do. Of course that's because FN is looking for someone who is both likeable and can cook.

Reality TV Magazine, which ran the original piece referenced in the Edible TV post, says that we can expect a new season of TNFNS on June 3 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Personally, I'm rooting for the wife of the former professional basketball player because that's the kind of person who could really use a break in life.



Last Chance to Win "Dave's Dinners"
Friday, January 26, 2007 | posted by Mike

I'd like to wish a Happy Friday to everyone and thank you all for making this the biggest week in TVFF.com history, with yesterday being our busiest day ever for traffic. I'd also like to thank the guy at Food Network who accidentally ran that McDonald's slide during Iron Chef and Rachael Ray for being the subject of rumors, because our stories on those two topics have been bringing in many new faces.

I just wanted to remind you that you have one more chance to enter for the Dave's Dinner giveaway. One lucky winner will get a free copy of the cookbook. Folks who have been entering all week have a better chance, but it only takes one entry to come away with the big prize. Be sure to send in your e-mail by midnight on Sunday, January 28th for your chance to win!


Chat with Sara Moulton About the Super Bowl

Sara MoultonEveryone knows that Super Bowl Parties are about one thing and one thing only: FOOD! Occasionally, there is an interesting football game going on in the background, but my Eagles won't be playing in this one, so I'll be more interested in chowing down.

Of course, the big game is also the time of year that a lot of electronics retailers remind you how much better that football game would be if you had a nice, new high definition television and surround-sound system. This year, Best Buy is teaming up with TV food celebrity Sara Moulton to present a chat session on Monday, January 29th from 2:00-3:00 EST at AskABlueShirt.com.

The chat will cover the best of both worlds, with Sarah giving you advice on topics such as how to make the perfect chicken wings while the technology experts tell you how to hook up your high-def cable. (Free advice from TVFF.com: Be sure to wash your hands first. Buffalo sauce and electronics do not mix.)

She will be joined by a Best Buy Blue Shirt expert who can answer consumers’ questions about upgrading their home theater just in time for Super Sunday.


AskABlueShirt.com is a site sponsored by Best Buy that hosts chats to help consumers with their tech questions. Along with Sara Moulton, they'll be reaching out to a much broader audience with expert advice on hosting a great party.



Become a Tester for America's Test Kitchen
Thursday, January 25, 2007 | posted by Mike

Chris KimballWell, to be more precise, you can become a tester for Cooks Illustrated, the people behind America's Test Kitchen.

TV Food Fan reader Elaine from New Jersey wrote in to point us to a neat feature on the Cooks Illustrated website where you can sign up to become part of their army of testers. The program is called "Friends of Cook's" and it gives members an opportunity to try out new recipes and give feedback on what worked and what didn't, which helps the folks at the magazine get closer to that "perfect" recipe for which they always strive.

Before any recipe is published, we send it out to Friends of Cook's, who test it at home and answer a simple online questionnaire. Our "Friends" are not paid--they buy their own ingredients and cook the food on their own time--but they get to sample our recipes before they're published in the magazine and they help us make sure our recipes really do work.

This is not a marketing gimmick or promotional message. We really do want to know how our recipes fare in your home with your cookware, your oven, and ingredients from your local market. All we ask is that you tell us what you really think of our recipes. If you would like to become a Friend of Cook's, e-mail us at friendofcooks@bcpress.com.

I haven't signed up for it yet, but I'll probably give it a shot since it seems to be a fairly low-pressure club and I can always use an idea for what to make for dinner.

From the magazine's (and show's) standpoint, this is a great idea. Everyone is always talking about the "wisdom of crowds" and the value of repeated testing with a number of variables, so you would think they'll be able to come up with a recipe that works best in the widest variety of home kitchens.

No word on whether Chris Kimball will show up at your house to tell you your Chicken Pot Pie stinks, though.



Review: Dinner: Impossible
Wednesday, January 24, 2007 | posted by Mike

Robert IrvineReality and competition shows are funny things. They can be enjoyable on one of two levels. They really only work as either a guilty pleasure or a truly interesting and involving narrative. That point was reinforced on Wednesday evening as I switched over from the American Idol selection show (i.e. the one with the horrible singers) to Dinner: Impossible.

In everything that we've been hearing about Dinner: Impossible, the key point that keeps coming up over and over again is how "real" it is. Now, in this day and age, it's easy to be suspicious when someone tells you that a reality program is "real." However, once you accept the contrived situation in which the producers place Robert Irvine, it's easy to buy into the authenticity of the action itself.

The show obviously borrows heavily from the Mission: Impossible idea, complete with a "your mission, should you choose to accept it" intro and the countdown timer. On one hand, the graphics that accompany much of the onscreen action can be helpful at sorting out what has been finished, what still needs to be done and how much time Irvine has before his deadline. On the other hand, the ubiquity of the graphics and the beeping of the countdown (a la 24) can be a bit overwhelming at times, so they would do well to dial it back a little bit.

The main attraction of the show is, of course, Robert Irvine. For someone with limited on-screen experience, he does a very good job. It's fun to watch him work in the kitchen and he seamlessly moves between work and addressing the camera with interesting and helpful hints. You'll learn more about cooking from Dinner: Impossible than you will from most challenge or reality shows.

When the first episode (the wedding) began, I had one immediate thought: I know where that church is in Princeton! The second thought I had was: There's a really good bar right down the street from there.

The episode challenged Irvine and his two assistants (both named George) to cater a wedding on little notice and with extremely limited personnel resources. He quickly demonstrated his executive chef credentials by whipping the reception site's staff into a fully functional kitchen. In doing so, he highlighted the difference between himself and Gordon Ramsay, perhaps the most logical point of comparison on television right now.

While you know that Ramsay has the long-term success of his students in mind when he criticizes, it can sometimes be hard to tell by his actions. Irvine, though brusque with his staff at times, always comes across as a stern teacher rather than a tyrant.

About the Georges...I can't tell them apart yet. I'm not sure how many episodes it will take before I can. But, frankly, I'm not certain that it's important that I ever get there. Of course, with the success of the supporting cast on Ace of Cakes, it will be interesting to see if their "characters" are explored more in the future.

The wedding episode did a good job of outlining the process and format of the show, but the topic is nothing that we haven't seen as a challenge on Top Chef. The second episode of the evening, however, illustrated the potential for the show to be something more intriguing.

Now, I will admit that he could have cooked ramen noodles and I probably would have enjoyed the episode simply because he was at a Philadelphia Eagles game and had to cook for the GREATEST FANS ON EARTH! (Full disclosure, when I tailgate at the Linc, I'm usually down and around the corner from where they were.) But putting Irvine into a fun and unique situation and giving him complications like depriving him of food and the means to cook it gave the show an interesting hook that the first scenario lacked. A preview commercial that ran during the episodes that showed him having to cook a period meal promises that there is more in store when it comes to the interesting challenges.

The key to the ongoing success will be coming up with intriguing challenges that show off Irvine's skills (both culinary and entertainment) in future shows.

Also, Irvine will obviously need to do a better job in the future of assessing his surroundings then he did during the Eagles episode. At one point, he asks a crowd of tailgating onlookers, "Who's got beer?!?!" Silly Robert...I don't think there was anyone within earshot who didn't have beer on them. And, yes, I am aware that they were taping this at 10:00 AM.



Crumbs - 1/24/07

I want to thank you all for making the week so far some of the highest-traffic days in TVFF.com history! Although overall traffic has been through the roof, only 5% of our visitors have submitted entries for the Cookbook Giveaway. Now, somebody is going to win a copy of Dave's Dinners, and you have as good a chance as anyone. So, make sure you're sending in the recipes. Also, everyone who has sent in a recipe should have gotten a response (only one, I'm only replying to your first entry). If you haven't heard back from me, let me know at mike@tvfoodfan.com and we'll figure it out.

On to other business. Ideal journalistic protocol states that you should correct a factual error in a location with as much prominence as where the error was originally made. In this space last week, we recommended that you go to the fantastic site deglazing.com, which is run by Nicky. It has been brought to our attention that, despite our reckless use of the pronouns "he" and "his," Nicky is in fact a woman. We regret the error.




Completely Unfounded Rumor Alert: A Rachael Ray Tirade

Rachael RayIt's a well known fact that, if something appears on TMZ.com, it has to be true. Right? I mean, all those stories about Tara Reid and Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan gave me so much respect for their journalistic integrity.

Well, today they're delving into the seamy underbelly of food TV with a report attributed to the always-popular "sources" that Rachael Ray made some extremely unflattering (and racially charged) comments about her boss Oprah Winfrey, throwing in some insults about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for good measure.

The incident allegedly happened at a mall restaurant after one of Rachael's book signings. The article says it was on December 3, "2005," but either that's a misprint that should read "2006" or this is something that is being conveniently dredged up now that her show has led to greater exposure. (The story was posted this morning)

They sat in a booth in the far right rear of the restaurant. Ray ordered fish and complained to the table it was dry. She was also drinking red wine and lots of it -- one source says a minimum of four big glasses.

We're told Ray became "extremely loud and aggressive," and began dissing Oprah. Sources say she told the group about a portrait of Oprah that sits in the lobby of Harpo Productions in Chicago. It's from the movie "Beloved" and shows Winfrey's back, enhanced with scars. She's also wearing a skirt from the slavery era.

Back at the table, sources say Ray launched into attack mode: "Why is she wearing slave drag? She obviously has problems being black."

I'm not necessarily recommending it, but you can follow the link above to the full report, which includes the full run-down of the insults, including some language you probably wouldn't want to share with your pre-teen kids.

Not surprisingly, Ray's representatives completely deny that she said any of those things, and claim that others who were at the meal back up her story.

Of course, with unattributed sources on one side and blanket denials on the other, unless there is an audio tape floating around, we'll never know the absolute truth. Those with an axe to grind will likely believe she did it (although, I have to say, that's completely out of character for her). Personally, I would strongly caution putting too much faith in a report with such flimsy reportage.

I will say that one commenter on the board provided the most insightful commentary, though:

That is totally disgusting.
What a horrible thing to do . How could she have red wine with fish. Gross.



Reader Review: Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza

Have I mentioned lately how much I love posting material written by our readers? This isn't just because I'm lazy, although I am. I also think it's great because it makes this site a little bit more of a "community."

With that in mind, we'd like to thank Jason Windsor from Greensboro, NC, who made a visit to Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles and passed along the pictures and the review below. It sounds like Jason did a great job of capturing the experience. Anyone else who has been to Pizzeria Mozza and would like to share their thoughts, please feel free to use the comments section below.
Pizzeria MozzaHaving been a fan of Mario Batali for at least a couple of years, I was excited at the prospect of getting to visit his new pizzeria in L.A. while in Southern California for the holidays. My girlfriend and I decided to try the new restaurant the day after Christmas. We arrived at the Pizzeria Mozza around 11am, due to the fact that we couldn’t find any info online about its hours or even if it had opened to the public yet. The building is divided in half, with one side being the Pizzeria Mozza, painted completely in Mario’s signature orange, and the yet-to-be-opened Osteria Mozza, the upcoming fine dining restaurant, painted black. After a phone call, I learned the restaurant opened at 12, and while there were no available reservations (reservations for lunch on a Tuesday?) there were two large bars that featured full food service. It was recommended we come back a little before opening, since lines tend to form for the two bars. We returned around 11:45, and were only the second party in line. By the noon opening, there were easily thirty people in line behind us.

Pizzeria MozzaThe doors opened, and we found two very comfortable stools at the bar. The dining area is fancy without being ostentatious, the kind of place where you’re meant to enjoy yourself without worrying about being stuffed, and features more of Mario’s burnt orange color palette, from the aprons the wait staff wears to the orange Gerber daisies on each table and behind the bar. The orange is noticeable without being garish, and works well as a signature color for the restaurant. The dining area was about 800 square feet, featuring bars along two walls, and about twenty small tables.

We were presented with complimentary breadsticks, tall and crispy with a hint of parmesan, which were quite good. Deciding not to order alcohol so early in the day, unlike many of our fellow guests, we opted for a Coke and a Diet Coke. I only mention them because we were served a small glass bottle of the soda each, which I noticed seemed to be from another country. I asked our bartender/waiter about them, and he said they only serve Coca-Cola from Holland, shipped here especially for Mario’s restaurants. I was aware that soda in other countries is vastly different than soda here, where they opt for sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup, and use less carbonation. The result is a soda that I would buy by the case if I could. My girlfriend agreed.

Speaking of our bartender/waiter, he was among the best servers I’ve ever had. He answered all of my silly questions about the restaurant without showing the slightest bit of annoyance, all while mixing and serving drinks to the twelve or so other patrons at his bar. He stayed very busy, but seemed to enjoy himself and was very gracious to all of us, as were the rest of the staff.

The place setting doubles as a menu, nearly all in Italian with very little explanation. I recommend learning some basic Italian food terminology if you don’t like having to ask the waiter lots of questions. We started with the Buffalo Mozzarella and Prosciutto de Parma appetizer, which ended up being a lot of food. The mozzarella was very light and airy, almost like ricotta cheese. It was very good, but proved to be too much food for an appetizer. I would recommend it for a party of three or more to split, unless you really like fresh mozzarella. The prosciutto was excellent, but there wasn’t much of it, considering it was an $18 appetizer.

I ordered the pizza margherita and my girlfriend ordered a mushroom and fontina pizza. They were “personal” size and cut into quarters. The dough was very airy and soft and the crust bubbled up so high around the edges that the tops of the bubbles were burned. This was the only negative to me, due to the bitterness of the burned dough detracting from the overall sweetness of the pizza. The ingredients were obviously top-notch, and were liberally added. The sauce featured some very sweet tomatoes, and the cheese on my pizza was more of the fresh mozzarella featured in our appetizer. There was almost too much basil on it for my tastes, but basil-lovers will appreciate it. My girlfriend’s mushroom pizza had very large chunks of mushrooms held inside the melted fontina. The pizzas tasted great; very clean-tasting with virtually no grease or oil.

Pizzeria MozzaThe menu also features panini sandwiches and other rustic staples of Italian cuisine. The prices were reasonable, I thought, with each of our pizzas priced around $12. The appetizer was $18, and I would probably skip it next time as the other appetizers seemed just as good from the descriptions and were more reasonably priced.

We enjoyed our visit. There was a line outside the entire time we ate, with people coming in to fill the seats as diners vacated. I would definitely go back, next time opting for one of the salads or panini, as I personally didn’t find the pizza alone very satisfying. Getting there a little before opening is recommended, as is taking advantage of their valet service. We parked ourselves in the hopes of saving the five dollar valet fee, only to get a parking ticket that raised the cost of our lunch from $60 to $110 and rendered us the latest victims of LA’s cryptic parking system. So, the ambiance and staff get an enthusiastic thumbs up from me, while the food itself gets a reluctant thumbs up.



All of a Sudden, I Could Go for a Filet-O-Fish
Tuesday, January 23, 2007 | posted by Mike

The always-great Genève of Genève's Kitchen checked in with us today with promises to be more active on her blog (sorry to put you on the spot, G!) and a link to the video which you can see below. It's from an episode of Iron Chef America and the clip has been making the rounds, as evidenced by the nearly 125,000 views of the clip on YouTube. Now is probably a good time to check it out if you haven't seen it.

There are a number of commenters on the YouTube post that are calling it a fake and some decrying the split-second McDonald's slide as a devious attempt by Mickey D's, the Food Network and the Illuminati to trick you into going out for some McNuggets. Most likely, someone somewhere bumped a button in a control room and what you're seeing is the result.

I'm decidedly not in the camp of the conspiracy theorists. For one thing, it's not really a subliminal message if you can clearly see the advertisement, which is the case with this spot. And, secondly, there has never been any evidence that it works, going all the way back to the "seminal" study in favor of it. I'm guessing that McDonald's, already sporting a bit of a bad reputation over the healthiness of its food, wouldn't chance something like that.

However, if anyone over at Food Network would like too clear his or her conscience and admit to placing the subliminal spot, being on the "Grassy Knoll" or placing coded messages in famous paintings, you know where to find me.



I Am Well Fed!

Well Fed NetworkNo, that's not a commentary on my cooking abilities.

I'm extremely proud to let you know that TV Food Fan is no longer the only place on the web that you can find my ramblings on the world of food and food television.

After weeks and weeks of intense negotiations (not really), I've begun writing for the Well Fed Network as a contributing blogger. For the most part, you'll be able to find my stuff within the Edible TV section. My first story, a recap of an interview with some of the Top Chef contestants about host Padma Lakshmi, is now up on the site.

Not familiar with Well Fed?

The Well Fed Network is a compilation of blogs focused on informed, high quality, food-based content. We endeavor to provide our readers with reliable information and opinions with a strong level of trust.

TV Food Fan will continue to be my home base and you should keep coming back here six or seven (or more!) times a day. I will sometimes be posting similar entries on both blogs, but you'll also be able to find some exclusive posts over on Well Fed, so be sure to check them out often.

You really should bookmark or add a feed from Edible TV, Well Fed and any other section that catches you eye -- they have sections on wine, coffee & tea, cooking for kids, healthy cooking and a ton of other areas. Since most of you are general foodies in addition to being interested in food TV, it's a great resource.


Duff Goldman, Chief Agitating Officer
Monday, January 22, 2007 | posted by Mike

Duff GoldmanEveryone has their own management style. Some bosses are your buddy. Some are stern and demanding. And then there is Duff Goldman.

From all appearances, Duff runs Charm City Cakes like Robin Hood ran his band of Merry Men. When you're watching Ace of Cakes, you know that work is getting done, but you still marvel at the amount of goofing off that goes on. Just like any other workplace, the tone of the office is set my the person in charge, and nobody will ever confuse Duff with Bill Lumberg.

So, how does Duff get the job done? An interview with All Your TV sheds a little bit of light on the subject. Check this out:

It's funny, I get bored when things are going smoothly, but I love working under pressure.

That got me thinking. Last week's episode included segments were Duff threw a hand grenade into the operations of the kitchen twice. The first was a minor one, when he decided to implement his "blue tape" project tracking system, which received a less-than-appreciative response. The second incident was when he lost the keys to his van, tore the place apart, made a huge production out of going to have new keys made and then promptly found the missing key once he returned.

Now, I'm not going to claim that Duff lost the key on purpose or that he didn't have a good reason to introduce his new color-coded way of doing things, but I think Dr. Freud might have had something to say.

Of course, being an agitator who gets "bored when things are going smoothly" doesn't make Goldman a bad manager. Some workplaces, particularly those that rely on creativity and that work under tight time constraints, thrive on a little chaos. Of course, the key to this is to make sure that you have employees that are able to respond under that pressure. Duff has spoken on a number of occasions about how he hires friends and people who he likes to hang out with, so I'm guessing that he attracts the kind of people who can work hard, play hard and deal with the curve balls that he likes to throw.

Anyway, next time Duff does something that throws the Charmers into chaos, just keep in mind that it might just be part of Duff's plan for success.



Cookbook Giveaway Begins Today!

This is just a quick and friendly reminder that the TV Food Fan.com Cookbook Giveaway begins today. Here are the instructions in case you missed them.

You should see today's recipe over there on the right side, under the picture of our giveaway, Dave's Dinners.

Send in your entry to mike@tvfoodfan.com. Rest assured that I won't spam you to death...all e-mails will be held in the strictest of confidence and deleted once the contest is over.

Good luck!

The True Lives of the Food Network Hosts
Sunday, January 21, 2007 | posted by Mike

Sometimes, when people are talking to me about this site, I'm asked what my favorite kind of posts are. Simple answer: The ones I don't have to write.

Chip from Milwaukee, one of our readers, has sent along some good stuff in the past. After seeing our post about the "sheltered" life of Giada De Laurentiis, Chip decided to take a look at the real people behind our favorite Food Network shows. Actually, I suppose it's more of an guess about what they'd be like if they were "normal people" like you and me.

It's good stuff and I hope you get a kick out of it like I did. Thanks, Chip!

Rachel: That great, friendly neighbor right down the street from you in the middle class neighborhood who is always having people over and has all the kids hanging out at her house (‘cause she’s the cool mom.) If you need anything, Rach will be there for you. Drives a Mini-Van.

Emeril: The guy with the big screen and the big bar in the basement where the guys gather to watch the game and drink beer. He makes great chili and ribs and is a member of the beer of the world club. He is popular with everyone. Drives a Ford Explorer or Jeep Liberty.

Tyler: Ditto, just a younger crowd. Drives a Toyota Tundra.

Bobby: The guy who is always yelling at the kids to get off his lawn. He’s probably a decent guy, he just seems cranky and misunderstood. Drives a Ford Expedition.

Paula: The mature next door neighbor your wife visits to complain about you and talk about Oprah and General Hospital. Always has cookies and fudge available for the lovelorn. Drives a Toyota Camry or Nissan Utimia.

Giada: Lives in a gated community in a big house far beyond anything you’ll ever own. Drives a Ferrari.

Sandra: Ditto, except her house is larger and she’s a snob. Drives Lexus LS or GS.

Ina: Giada or Sandra’s neighbor except she doesn’t act like it. Drives a Beemer or Mercedes.

Michael: Either neighborhood, but the house is immaculate. Drives a Subaru (which is also immaculate.)

AB: He’d probably be my favorite neighbor. He’s weird just like me. But what a great conversationalist. And he owns a pong game! Drives a restored ’72 Nova or a Jeep Wrangler.

(I didn’t include Mario for fear my wife would run off with him.)


TVFoodFan.com Cookbook Giveaway - "Dave's Dinners" by Dave Lieberman
Friday, January 19, 2007 | posted by Mike

Dave's DinnersThe folks at Hyperion were nice enough to send us a copy of Dave's Dinners by Dave Lieberman. We're working our way through a bunch of the recipes and we'll have a review of the cookbook up next weekend.

We're thrilled to let you know that we're going to be giving away a copy to one lucky TVFoodFan.com reader. And the best part (for the site's traffic) is that you'll have up to five chances to win!

Here's how it works: Each day next week, starting early on Monday, January 22nd, there will be the name of one of the book's recipes in the box on the right side just below the banner.

You enter by copying the name of the recipe and sending it in an e-mail to mike@tvfoodfan.com. Every day that you come back and send another e-mail with the new day's recipe, you get another entry into the drawing. The final day's recipe will be available until Sunday at midnight. All e-mails must be received by 11:59 PM on January 28th.

See the details below and, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me at mike@tvfoodfan.com.

FINE PRINT: Everyone is eligible. The drawing will be conducted by a impartial third party. Entries are limited to five per person. Saying nice things about me or the site in the e-mail, although greatly appreciated, will not improve your chances of winning.

I will take care of shipping the book to the winner within the United States. International entries are welcome, but I may ask you to kick in the difference between domestic and international shipping (Paypal accepted).

Please don't send in your postal address...I'll contact the winner via e-mail and we'll take care of shipping at that time.



TVFF.com Interview: Marc Summers - Part 2

Thanks for coming to TVFoodFan.com! The whole interview is now available. Enjoy!



TVFF.com Interview: Marc Summers
Wednesday, January 17, 2007 | posted by Mike

We watch a lot of the Food Network here in the TVFF.com household. Some of it is "appointment television" and some of it is me tuning in every now and then on weekends and during the evening. But there is one show that I watch nearly every day. Right after Mrs. TVFF.com and I finish up our nightly Jeopardy! (don't laugh), we switch over to Food Network for Unwrapped. The show, which stars Marc Summers, provides a glimpse behind the scenes of some of your favorite foods and is the kind of show that will teach you something new almost every time you watch it.

Of course, many of us have been familiar with Marc Summers since his days hosting Double Dare on Nickelodeon. But Summers has been in the television business, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, for over thirty years. His next project with the Food Network is producing the upcoming Dinner: Impossible, starring acclaimed chef Robert Irvine and debuting on Wednesday, January 24th at 10 PM.

Mr. Summers spoke with TVFoodFan.com about his involvement with the Food Network, the challenge of producing a television show and what's in store with Dinner: Impossible.

Despite his presence on the Network these days, Marc Summers wasn't necessarily looking to get into food television. His move from game shows and talk shows to the world of food TV was a combination of both necessity and opportunity. "I had a good run at Nickelodeon and Lifetime, but I was out of work," said Summers. Fortunately, Judy Girard, with whom he had worked at Lifetime, was named vice president for programming and content development for Scripps Networks. Discussions with Girard led to a show called It's a Surprise!, which debuted in June, 2000.

According to a Cable World article from that month, Surprise was, "a weekly show in which viewers are invited to send emails, pictures and videos to coax Food Network to attend their surprise party -- and then bring it to life." If you're having trouble remembering it, you're not alone. "The surprise was that nobody was watching the show," said Summers. Focus groups may not have liked the show, but they liked Marc Summers.

The Food Network saw another opportunity. It had taped a pilot of a new show called Unwrapped with Marc Silverstein, who would go on to host The Best Of. Summers said that he immediately saw the potential of the show, claiming that, "it could be what Biography is for A& E…the voice of the network." After an initial rocky start, they moved Unwrapped to Monday at 9 PM. Seven years later, it's still on the air.

Summers calls working at the Food Network, "the greatest job in the world...it's perfect from management on down." He says that he also gets along well with the other on-air personalities, possibly because, "I don’t compete…I'm the last host left on Food Network that doesn’t cook."

It's the rapport that he has developed with the network's on-air culinary talent and his own time in front of the camera that has also brought Marc Summers success as a producer. His production experience goes back almost twenty years to Double Dare, and has resulted in the creation of his own production company, Marc Summers Production, Inc. Just as his move to the Food Network came about partly out of necessity, his foray into production reflects another reality of the television business. "At some point in your career, you get older," said Summers. "The more experience you get, the less they want you on camera."

Summers, however, has been able to gain that experience while at the same time staying on camera, providing him with an understanding of the creative process and the logistical structure necessary to put together a show like his upcoming Dinner: Impossible.

We've had a couple of posts over the past two months about Dinner: Impossible. The first gave us a little bit of information about the show, including the premise, wherein acclaimed chef Robert Irvine must "overcome culinary obstacles and deliver a delicious meal before his time runs out." The second article featured a look behind the scenes from the perspective of someone involved in one of the episodes. As you may remember, it also included a photo of producer Marc Summers with a rubber chicken. Other than posing with goofy props, what does he do as the show's producer?

Summers said that he's responsible for the overall production, and that, "the buck stops with me." This includes hiring the show's staff, finding and working with a below-the-line partner on the production and coming up with a star for the show. Although Robert Irvine was a well-known chef with an impeccable pedigree of cooking for presidents and queens, it was an in-person appearance that Summers saw that sealed the deal.

Two sources had approached Summers about the possibility of a show featuring Robert Irvine. Interested in the prospect, Summers saw Irvine perform in front of a live audience. Although you may think that someone who used to cook for the British Royal Family would be stuffy and stodgy, Summers found him to be highly engaging, a trait he believes will translate to a connection with the Dinner: Impossible audience, saying that Irvine is a, "unique and interesting person who is going to shine." After having worked with Irvine during the taping of a number of shows (and having tasted his cooking), Summers is even more effusive in his praise: "Robert is a dream to work with and his food is amazing."

At the time of our conversation, I had only seen the first round of commercials for Dinner: Impossible...those that featured Irvine walking and talking in front of a black background. Since the interview, however, they have begun running a new commercial (which, unfortunately, isn't among the previews listed on FN's Video Center) that really emphasizes the fact that Irvine has no idea what his challenge will be prior to the start of the show. It also shows a laughing, more engaging Irvine, perhaps to dispel the myth that all British reality stars are humorless, stern and intimidating. In all, we think it's much more effective than the previous spot.

Of course, a star and a production crew are only two-thirds of a show. Summers needed a hook for the show that would put Irvine in a position to show off his abilities while giving the audience a rooting interest. The result was a show premise in which, according to the Food Network's site, "Robert (with the help of his two sous-chefs, George and George) is thrown a new culinary curveball and the team must figure out a way to solve their challenge before time runs out."

As the head of production, it is the responsibility of Summers and his team to come up with a new scenario for each episode. According to Summers, the process is a collaborative one, with ideas coming from staff pitches, input from the Food Network and from Summers' own ideas. Some of the ideas for the show come up by chance. Although he couldn't share with us the premise, he did say that one idea for an episode that is about to tape came to him by overhearing a fellow passenger while traveling from New York to Philadelphia on a train. Business cards were exchanged and a chance encounter will end up as an episode.

It's easy to be jaded about the "reality" of today's reality programming. Everything from fame-seeking contestants to meddlesome producers have created an atmosphere around these shows that makes one question whether what they are seeing is the real deal or not. According to Summers, that won't be a problem for Dinner: Impossible. "It's true reality...nothing is fake." Despite the fact that the scenarios undoubtedly require a tremendous amount of logistical planning and pre-production, Summers said that Irvine, "has no concept of what the challenge is," and that everything is done in real time.

For someone who never went to culinary school, Marc Summers has played a considerable and noticeable role in the success of the Food Network. And it's a role that you can expect him to continue to play. As you can imagine, producing a television show is a lot of work, and Summers has been traveling non-stop, taping new episodes and preparing the show for its debut on January 24th. As if that wasn't enough, he also just taped 14 new half-hour episodes and a special episode of Unwrapped. So, his fans can rest assured that they'll be getting to see plenty more of Marc Summers very soon.



M'm! M'm! Duff!

With Ace of Cakes gearing up for Season 2, promotion for the new episodes (beginning tomorrow, January 18th) is also going into overdrive.

There is a piece over at food network addict that talks about the show's big push of online advertising and the partnership with YouTube.

Ace is also joining up with Campbell's for a promotional campaign. I'm still not absolutely sure what connection there is between Ace and Campbell's (umm...they do make Pepperidge Farm), so I'll leave that to smarter marketers than myself.

Hmmm, this post seems a bit skimpy. I think it could use some....MANTHORNE!

We've talked about our man-crush on Charm City Cakes sous chef Geoff Manthorne before. And, judging by the number of people who come to TVFF.com via a Google search on him, plenty of you like him, too.

(ed. note: Ummmm....disregard the info below...Yuengling comes from Pottsville. Of course, none of this makes Geoff or Yuengling any less cool.) The clickable cast photo currently on the show's page makes me like him even more (is that possible?!?). Go ahead, click on his photo and check out his hometown.

You have to love any place that brings us both Mr. Geoffrey Manthorne and Yuengling.



Crumbs - 1/17/07

As I recently mentioned, things are busy...busy...busy around here. You'll get to see why starting tomorrow. Be sure to check in for a very special two-day feature. Then, you'll definitely want to stop back later on Friday to check out something that will keep you coming back every day next week. Can't tell you why, but I will say that it will make one lucky TVFF.com visitor glad he/she came to the site!

I want to tell you about a cool new site that I just started reading. Nicky of deglazing dropped me an e-mail to tell me that she's a fan of TVFF.com and to let me know about his site. Well, I took a look and now I'm a fan of deglazing! The site covers a wide variety of food-related topics including techniques and gadget reviews (hey, it's my citrus reamer!). Of particular interest to all of you will be the "Food TV Face Off" series, which features a competition between similar recipes from two TV chefs to determine the winner. Check out Garten vs. Lieberman in a rice pudding battle.

Nicky's writing is interesting, entertaining and extremely prolific, so you'll want to bookmark the site or add it to your newsreader. I did!

On to crumbs...

  • Plenty of coverage of Dinner: Impossible's Robert Irvine -- here, here and here.

  • By the way, Inky, thanks for spoiling the outcome for us: The Philadelphia Inquirer has a short story about Bobby Flay being in town for a macaroni & cheese Throwdown at the Reading Terminal Market in Philly. (Spoiler Alert)

  • Rachael Ray's talk show will be with us through at least 2010.

  • And here's an editorial sticking up for Gordo against American food critics.

  • Apparently, Guy Fieri likes the Cook-N-Dine teppanyaki-style cooktop.



Frog Net
Tuesday, January 16, 2007 | posted by Mike

Here's a fun little story about the influence of food television. And -- what do you know!?! It has a personal tie-in for TVFF.com.

A couple of months back, I mentioned that I was going to dinner at The Frog and The Peach, regularly cited as one of the best restaurants in New Jersey. As often seems the case these days when I go to a nice restaurant, I got and enjoyed the duck. And every time I get it, I have to resist the urge to say, "I'll have the roast duck with the mango salsa."

The Courier News lets us know that the restaurant is trying to add a little bit of entertainment value to the cuisine that they're serving. What better way to pass the time while waiting for your food than to watch it being prepared in the kitchen via a high-definition television?

The Frog and The Peach in New Brunswick has placed two high-definition televisions at the bar, which are connected to two cameras in the kitchen. The televisions show food as it is being prepared live in the kitchen.

Betsy Alger, owner of The Frog and The Peach, says “Frog Net,” short for Frog Network, brings the excitement of the kitchen into the dining room.

Diners will get a chance to follow their meal as it makes its way through the kitchen.

We have one camera focused on “the line” where the hot food is prepared. Another is on “the pass” where the finishing touches are added to the plate before the food leaves the kitchen.

This sort of thing reflects the "food TV effect" in a way that goes beyond the fact that people are interested in watching people cook on television. The Food Network and other food programs have created a culture of foodies who are knowledgeable enough about cooking to want to take a more active role in both their cooking at home and their dining while in restaurants.

Something like Frog Net gives them a chance to become more involved in the dishes they're about to eat. They recognize the ingredients and the techniques that they've seen on television being used on their meal, and they get the gratification of getting to see and taste the results right away.

This sort of understanding and appreciation is a valuable marketing tool. Think about a winery that sponsors guided tastings or a craft store that hosts arts & crafts classes. In each case, the attendee gains knowledge or experience that makes them more likely to become a recurring customer in the future. In effect, food television is creating that same kind of knowledgeable, experienced customers, much to the benefit of people like restaurateurs and specialty food purveyors.


Giada De Laurentiis Leads a Sheltered Life

Thanks to my efforts to get caught up on Rome (which I wholly recommend) before the second season debut this weekend, I didn't get to watch much of Giada's Weekend Getaways. In fact, I only caught a few minutes of it during a replay on Saturday. Thanks to that and some behind-the-scenes stuff going on here at TVFF.com (more on that later in the week), we regret to inform you that there will be no formal review of Giada's Weekend Getaways.

I did catch a little bit of the South Beach episode, though. It was pretty good. Giada was her usual perky self. They found some stylish and cool-looking locations. They ate food that looked delicious. She drove around in an absolutely adorable car. And, of course, all of the people she met along the way were beautiful.

Which brings me to my point: I don't think Giada knows any ugly people.

Seriously, have you ever seen her next to an ugly person? I haven't. In fact, I once saw her at a book signing near TVFF.com headquarters and I have to say it was a pretty attractive crowd.

We've all seen the friends and family that she invites over at the end of Everyday Italian...attractive. And those people she visited on her trip to Italy...attractive.

And then there's her husband, Todd. Have you seen him? TVFF.com is not at all afraid to say that he is a fantastic looking man. Oh, he's also a clothing designer for Anthropologie. For all of the guys out there, that would be like being married to a cheerleader who is also a massage therapist.

All of this is reinforced in Giada's Weekend Getaways. Friend after friend is better looking than the last. The funny thing is that it's not some fantasyland lifestyle that you see with someone like Martha Stewart, where everything is just so perfect and in its correct place. That always comes off as artificial. It's much more natural than that.

And maybe that's the scariest part. I honestly just think she doesn't know any unattractive people.

Giada can no longer go through life without being exposed to the ugliness of ugliness. Someone needs to stage an intervention.

I think it will go something like when those activists in The Truman Show keep trying to show Jim Carrey's character that his world is a facade. Someone will pop out from behind a bush and yell, "It's all a lie! Ugly people exist!!!!"



A George Duran Appearance and -- Programming Scoop or Typo?
Monday, January 15, 2007 | posted by Mike

George DuranDo you live near Humble, Texas? Are you also a fan of rodeo and BBQ? Is it possible to live near Humble, Texas and not be a fan of rodeo and BBQ?

According to a release on Kingwood.com, George Duran, the star of Ham on the Street, will be making an appearance at the 2007 Rodeo and BBQ Cook Off at the Humble Civic Center Arena. The big event will be held on February 9 and 10, and you can find out more info about that at the Humble BBQ Cookoff website.

"Interesting," you say, "but what does this mean to me? I don't live in Texas!"

Included in the release is this little tidbit:

On Friday and Saturday, the Food Network will be at the Humble Rodeo BBQ Cook Off filming "The Secret Life of…" with host George Duran. "The Secret Life Of…" is a half hour television series on the Food Network. The show takes an amusing, lighthearted look at the history of foods we all know and love. Host George Duran, host of one of the Food Network's most popular shows "Ham on the Street", will compete in the Humble Rodeo BBQ Cook Off.

There are two interesting things here:

  1. They manage to use the word "host" three times in the span of 38 words.
  2. George Duran isn't the host of The Secret Life Of..., Jim O'Connor is.

Unless, of course, the Humble BBQ Cookoff people know something we don't!

Actually, it's probably nothing. I did a little searching around and found an older article, which mentioned an appearance by both Duran and a crew shooting B-roll for The Secret Life Of..., and that might be the case here. It's not uncommon for a video crew to piggy-back on another crew's shoot to save costs. However, it doesn't look like HOTS and TSLO are from the same production company, so I'm really not sure.

I've sent this matter along to the TVFF.com Research Department. In other words, I'll sit around and hope someone who knows more about it drops me an e-mail at mike@tvfoodfan.com.

UPDATE: A big thanks to commenter "foodfreakster" for point out that Duran is, in fact, going to be hosting TSOL. I had looked around the FN site but he/she pointed out a blog entry which confirms it. Once again, the TVFF.com Research Department rises to the occasion.



"Giada's Weekend Getaways" Premiers Tonight
Friday, January 12, 2007 | posted by Mike

Giada's Weekend GetawaysThe Food Network is kicking off the weekend by kicking off Weekend.

We made a mention of Giada's Weekend Getaways a little while back and the new program featuring GDL will make its debut this evening at 9:00 PM. It's a travel show with Giada going on a weekend getaway to one location or another, hitting the local scene and, no doubt, spending quite a bit of time sampling the cuisine.

I will say that the number one thing that people coming to TVFF.com want to know is what kind of car she's "driving" in the commercials. Not being a car guy, I didn't know. Someone over at Yahoo! Answers asked the question and judging by the picture on the page they link to, I'd say he might be right that it's a "Austin Healey either late 50's early 60's, the model I would guess is a 1959 3000 mark I." Credit to "red_drifter" for making the call.

The show itself is getting a bunch of notice in the press, listed in a number of publications' "What's New on TV" round-up and here in the Miami Herald, where they give a run-down of the local South Beach locations that Giada will be visiting on one of tonight's back-to-back episodes.

In other Giada news, Adam over at Giada Fan has a a couple of new posts up, so be sure to check it out when you get a chance.



Food Network -- Too Profitable?!?
Thursday, January 11, 2007 | posted by Mike

Food NetworkI just blew your mind, didn't I?

I know that this sort of "inside baseball" financial and business stuff is interesting to a grand total of three or four of you, but I get a kick out of it, so here you go.

We've made quite a few mentions over the past few months about the continued, strong performance of the Food Network and its sister-networks like Home & Garden, DIY, etc. Now, from an entertainment industry standpoint, "strong performance" means lots of viewers, as reflected in the ratings that programs post. But, from a business standpoint, "strong performance" is much more closely tied to advertising revenue. Of course, having a lot of viewers (particularly the more affluent viewers who are attracted to these types of networks) means that you can charge more for your advertising, so it's all related.

The fact that advertising revenue for Food Network has been very good is welcome news to the folks at Scripps, the parent company of FN. Scripps has quite a number of media holdings in addition to FN, including a number of (mostly) smaller newspapers and the Scripps Howard News Service. They're also the people who sponsor the Spelling Bee every year, so that's nice.

As you undoubtedly know, newspapers are not nearly as profitable as they used to be. Thanks to cable news and, now, the Internet, fewer and fewer people are getting their daily information from print newspapers and the advertising revenue has dropped accordingly. So, now there is speculation (fueled by comments at a recent conference for investors) that Scripps may be looking to get out of the newspaper business, preferring to focus on the more profitable cable television networks (among other holdings). Forbes has the low-down. According to one analyst:

"We would also note that some investors are hesitant to own the stock due to the newspaper business, regardless of the faster overall growth rate."

Of course, the "faster overall growth" is due, in part, to the job that Food Network has been doing at attracting, building and retaining its audience. And, as the Network continues to create a more robust online presence, it will see larger and larger growth in the revenue from online advertising, adding to its profitability.

So, Food Network Watcher, this means that you're a key part of Scripps' business plan. And, we're guessing that since you're a Watcher and you're online, you're even more important to them.

That (and the fact that tomorrow is Friday) should put you in a good mood, right? Nothing like a feel-good business story!



Crumbs - 1/10/07
Wednesday, January 10, 2007 | posted by Mike

First off, I'd like to thank Tanya Wenman Steel, Editor-in-Chief of Epicurious.com, for mentioning and linking to TVFoodFan from her blog, epi-log. We're glad she enjoys the site and, since Epicurious.com has long been one of my favorite sites for food and recipes, the mention is doubly exciting. Hopefully, we'll keep up the good work and land ourselves a spot on epi-log's coveted "Food Blogs We Like" list!

And, of course, I'd like to welcome everyone who is coming to us through the link on Epicurious. Feel free to take a look around, bookmark us or subscribe to our RSS feed and become part of the TVFF.com community.

One bit of housekeeping...Blogger.com (i.e. this site's hosting service) has been a bit under the weather lately. Over the past day or so, it has knocked us and some other food bloggers down, but we're not out! If you ever have trouble getting directly to us, remember that you can usually get to TVFF through a Google search. And if that doesn't work...hang in there and we'll be back up once we put the hamster powering the site back on his wheel.

OK...on to Crumbs:

  • More bad press for Gordon Ramsay's NYC restaurant, here and here

  • According to Variety, Rachael Ray is still sitting on top of the rookie talk show field.

  • Mario Batali is all about the gnudi.

  • Dinner Impossible will kick off on January 24th with back-to-back episodes according to TVFF.com's favorite FN exec, Bob Tuschman.

  • Rocco DiSpirito cooked lunch for some high school kids who won a canned food drive contest.

  • And Sandra Lee helps out with a coat drive in New York City.



"EVOO" -- Not a Rachael Ray Invention?

Rachael RayUh oh. If you thought the Rosie O'Donnell/Donald Trump feud was the war to end all wars, watch out for the simmering battle between Rachael Ray and the folks at Pompeian Oil.

So, what's the big deal? Apparently, Pompeian is taking issue with the fact that "EVOO," which was recently added to the dictionary, is being cited as a Rachael Ray invention. They helpfully point out that there are plenty of olive oil-related acronyms out there and that they may have more of a claim to them than some Janie-Come-Lately food celebrity.

Bill Monroe, the CEO of Pompeian, a 100-year-old olive oil company, is known throughout the olive oil industry as the "King of All Olive Oil" or "KAOO." His renown is because Monroe made extra virgin olive oil a household word two decades ago when he introduced Bertolli olive oil to the nation and then revolutionized the industry with its line extensions: "POO" (pure olive oil) and "ELOO" (extra light olive oil). Monroe did all this and founded and chaired the NAOOA (North American Olive Oil Association).

Not enough for you?

"EVOO was coined a long time ago, maybe as early as 1916 according to one contributor to the American Dialect Society," stated Monroe. "In fact, Google has over 130,000 references to EVOO that don't refer to Rachael Ray. There's even an EVOO restaurant that opened in Massachusetts in 1998. And there are numerous scientific papers such as the Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society article from May 2003, which examined 'the effects of two monounsaturated fatty acid-rich oils, extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) and high-oleic sunflower oil (HOSO), on platelet aggregation' in women."

Fascinating stuff, really.

Fortunately, you're reading this on the website of an expert! I studied Communication in college and actually took a class called "Semantics," in which we studied why we use the words that we do. So, I can say with full authority that this is a deeply, deeply stupid and pointless argument.

First of all, I don't know that Rachael has ever claimed to have invented "EVOO." Secondly, this whole thing is being stirred up not in a news article but in a press release issued by Pompeian, which officially makes this a manufactured controversy.

Of course, that press release got this knucklehead to devote 445 words to the topic, so MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Seriously, the nice thing is that we're having a such a public discussion about olive oil, an ingredient that was relegated to "ethnic" cuisines not that long ago. Say what you want about Rachael (and I know you will), but she's getting people in the kitchen and has them thinking about ingredients like EVOO.



Hi, I'm Mike and I created TVFoodFan.com as a place where you can come to get the latest news and views about what’s going on in the world of culinary television.

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