Those of you that tuned in to tonight's episode of Amnesia may have thought to yourselves: "Hey, Chris Cognac looks a lot more female than he does on Food Network."
Never fear, dear readers. Your eyes aren't failing you.
We have it on very good authority that his show was moved to March 14th. Tonight's show actually featured a woman who lives in the city where Chris walks the beat on a daily basis, so I suppose there was a nice bit of coincidence right there.
I will say that, based on my personal experience, this sort of thing happens. My taping was originally slated to be the debut episode, but they bumped someone else ahead of me when they won the whole shebang (we took five out of six -- I think -- in the bonus round). Obviously, when you have a new show, it's nice to be able to give folks a taste of the fun of running the table. Not sure if that's what happened in this case, though, so you'll have to tune in and see how Chris does.
As for me, March 14th means I'll have to rely on the DVR again next time. Why is that? All in due time.........
Just a quick reminder to tune in tonight to your local NBC affiliate and check out Chris Cognac on the new game show Amnesia. I think it's on at 8 p.m. here in the Eastern time zone but, as they say, check your local listings...
We'll be running around, but our DVR is already set!
Been busy busy busy around here on account of the day job. That included an extremely early morning for me today (don't ask...just go ahead and feel bad for me). And, what greeted me when I switched on the TV while getting ready this morning? It was America's Test Kitchen, with Chris Kimball approvingly looking on while they made reduced-fat chicken parm. (It got a thumbs up, in case you're wondering.)
From some of the discussion around here, you may think that I would not be a fan of the show's "no nonsense" approach to food, but I enjoy the geeky fun of it and, frankly, they come up with VERY sound recipes that get rid of the personal touch some chefs like to (needlessly, often) put on a dish. These are tried and true recipes that just work.
And how do they get to this point? Well, they always say that this innovation or that technique worked well for "our testers." As appealing as the image of a hanger-sized room filled with lab-coated food scientists is, it turns out that that the whole testing process is a bit more realistic than that. Those testers are regular people just like you and me.
Or, more to the point, just like my friend from work, who was recently enrolled as one of the ATK testers!
She's a big foodie and we chat quite a bit, so I'm getting a bit of a close-up look at their process. And I can say that there really is a lot of "testing" going on, with the army of testers being given recipes and instructions to provide feedback. She's having a blast trying out the new dishes.
I've also been able to see that they take quite a "scientific" approach to this. When a recipe they sent out to the testers apparently came back with bad early reviews, they let those who hadn't made the dish yet know to skip it and try out a substitute. Who knows...maybe we'll get to see this described in a future episode of the show.
Me? I'm just hoping they put out a call to "sign up a friend" soon.
You may remember that I went on (and on) about my post-Valentine's Day trip to the nifty Philly tapas restaurant Tinto. I then completely bailed on my responsibility to you, dear reader, to let you know how it all went.
Well, since this is a food TV blog and not a food blog, I will spare you my overwrought prose and pedestrian viewpoint and leave that kind of thing to the pros. I will, however say that the food was fantastic and the table we got was a blast, since we were right next to the Plexiglas-enclosed kitchen. Trust me...any real foodie who gets to watch top-notch professionals in the kitchen IMMEDIATELY want to run out and join a culinary school.
Our menu for the evening:
Sliced Serrano from the Charcuterie
Duck confit, black cherry, bleu de basque spread...a sort of open faced-sandwich
House-made potato chips & smoked paprika cream
Baby squid in squid ink with crab bomba rice (like risotto)
Lamb loin kebabs, eggplant, bacon, sherry jus
Shrimp and rabbit paella
They were all good-to-great...the only bad part was that the best item on the list, the duck confit, came first. It would have been nice to save that for towards the end.
My my count, that's 7 separate animals: pig, duck, squid, crab, lamb, shrimp and rabbit. Not a bad showing for a night's work.
How many of those types of protein would you have tried? To tell you the truth, not that long ago, I probably would have limited myself to just three: pork, crab and shrimp. The rest were too "exotic" or "unknown" for me and I probably would have gone for the familiar chicken or beef. But this openness (and I know that eating lamb doesn't really qualify me as brave) has really been brought about by watching food shows, becoming more familiar with ingredients and actually seeing someone enjoy them.
During a time when we're seeing more and more focus on easy-to-prepare dishes on food shows, it's good to remember that programs that introduce you to unfamiliar ingredients and that probe deep into authentic ethnic cuisines can be supremely rewarding.
In case you haven't noticed, we're in the thick of awards season. Speaking of which -- how have I made it this far without some sort of milkshake reference?!?!
Anyway, to mark the occasion, Anthony Bourdain and his buddy/Internet landlord Michael Ruhlman are trotting out "The Golden Clogs" which will recognize...well, just go check them out. Any of you who are venturing down to Florida for the Food & Wine Festival should probably go ahead and reserve your spot at the ceremony right now.
The list is full of good stuff, particularly for those of us who follow food TV pretty closely. They take shots at just about everyone (including themselves) and even manage to be au courant with a timely dig at Robert Irvine.
I do have to say that my favorite is The Alton, which recognizes individuals "For being on Food Network and yet, somehow managing to Not Suck." They show some love for Giada, and include Duff and Ina. I'm thinking that their lack of ubiquity has a bit more to do with (a) Duff being so muchbetter in an unscripted environment and (b) Ina's steadfast refusal to hop on the L-I-Double R (HEAVEN FORBID!) than anything else, but it's good to see them get a shout-out.
Also getting a shout-out...Philadelphia (kinda). Foobooz (a fantastic food blog that all of our Delaware Valley readers should be checking out) points out this nomination:
THE CHEF'S CHEF AWARD Also known as The What's a Publicist? Award for the chef who continues to make the kind of food other chefs like, while flying largely under the national radar
Nominees: Scott Bryan for Veritas and now -- some place in Virginia; Mark Vetri for Osteria and Vetri in Philly; Paul Kahan for Blackbird and Avec in Chicago
Foobooz picked up on the same thing that I did, namely that this comes after Bourdain took a jab at Philly last time he was in town. I think he referred to it as a two-horse town (Perrier and Starr), so giving Vetri some attention is a well-deserved step in the right direction!
(Thanks to Rene for reminding me to write about this.)
It's been a busy couple of weeks around here, and today was no different. Up before dawn, riding the rails to Washington D.C. for work and then back home again. So it's always nice when my TVFF life gets a little easier.
Case in point, today I get to write about food personality/man-about-town/all around good guy Chris Cognac and his upcoming appearance on Amnesia, a game show hybrid of a quiz show and This is Your Life.
Those of you with good eyesight can see him pictured on the screen capture above. Those of you without good eyesight can click on it for the full-sized version. Or, better yet, you can check out a preview on NBC's site. Click on "Sizzling Memories" in the center box to see Chris in action.
OK, Chris...I'm talking to just you now: The Sizzler? Really? At least I took Mrs. TVFF out for Thai on our first date. Granted, the chef must have known that I was out on a first date, because he fell in with the heat.
But I'm with you on those monkeys. Those things are freaky.
Despite my rapidly decreasing affinity for Dennis Miller (loved him on Weekend Update, hated him on Monday Night Football), the show looks like it could really be fun. It debuts this Friday, the 22nd at 9:00.
Chris let us know that he's going to be appearing on the second show, which will air on the 29th, so go ahead and set your DVRs now.
I'd be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to let you know that Chris isn't the only one who has taped an episode of a game show before its launch and then ended up as the second episode broadcast. Yep...you're going to want to click on that image below and behold the full glory of a 7th-grade version of yours truly on Nickelodeon's Think Fast.
Credit for the headline goes to reader/food blogger extrordinaire Nicky, who kept me on my toes with the latest news today. Nicky is great -- not only because she sends along info -- but also because she adamantly refuses to compromise the food-related content that she's creating despite my constant efforts to get her to cater to the lowest denominator. (Sorry...inside joke. Somewhere, Nicky is laughing.)
First there was the news that Martha Stewart bought Emeril Lagasse. Or something like that. OK, she doesn't actually own Emeril, but her umbrella organization, Martha Stewart Omnimedia Inc., purchased the rights to Emeril's shows and branded merchandise.
The New York-based media and merchandising company founded by domesticity maven Martha Stewart announced on Tuesday that it bought the rights to the Emeril Lagasse franchise of cookbooks, television shows and kitchen products for $45 million in cash and $5 million in stock at closing.
The final price could rise to up to $70 million if certain benchmarks are achieved.
Not a bad haul for someone whose flagship show just stopped taping. We kid...I'm sure that Emeril and his plethora of signature items (everything from pasta sauce to pots an pans) have a very profitable life ahead of them.
Hmmmm...Oprah has Rachael and Martha has Emeril. How long until Martha and O show up at Kitchen Stadium with their culinary hired guns for a media-marketing grudge match?
The other big news is that Food Network launched a new online video series with Adam Roberts, a.k.a. The Amateur Gourmet. According to the release:
Launching today at http://www.foodnetwork.com/fndish, the intrepid Adam Roberts INFILTRATES Food Network's hallowed culinary halls to find out what really goes on BEHIND THE SCENES at the popular cable network in THE new online series, The FN Dish. From reporting almost live from the 2008 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, to cooking with newly-crowned Iron Chef Michael Symon at his Cleveland restaurant Lola, and chatting up Rachael Ray at a network shoot, Adam tackles it all. Food Network fans unite for a fun-filled ride, spending time with your favorite shows and stars off the air!
You can check out the first episode below (sorry about the auto-play). It's pretty fun. Despite the fact that he's an obvious neophyte to video (us bloggers aren't good with human interaction, even when it's just a camera), Roberts is charming and has a quick wit.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention two things that I discussed in my look at Food Network and the Internet late last year. First, when it comes to blogging, I mentioned Roberts as a great example of how they went outside to get some fresh content. They're going back to him again and that's great news.
Secondly, I griped about the lousy video interface. The GREAT news is that the video series features a brand new player that allows you to jump around in the video, has a full-screen option and allows embedding in blogs and other pages. The ability to comment and rate the videos round out some nice social aspects. About the only thing I'm not seeing is the ability to subscribe to these as a podcast, but that may be dictated by the fact that it looks like most of the videos are already up and there will be less in the way of an ongoing series. Regardless, fantastic job all around.
Another Food Network Personality's Resume Embelishment?
Monday, February 18, 2008 | posted by Mike
This time, it's Robert Irvine.
At least according to a report in yesterday's St. Petersburg Times. The article comes at the story from the angle of two restaurants that Irvine was looking to open in St. Pete which, according to the article, won't be happening any time soon.
It is now three months past the planned opening. Look through those windows, past the giant posters of chef Robert Irvine, and you'll see a dirt floor, exposed pipes, lonely ladders.
The piece goes on to describe the legal and verbal wrangling that has been going on between Irvine and some locals who contend that the owes them money and that, well, he's been generally insufferable since coming to town.
Obviously, this is not good publicity for the star or the Network, but it all takes on a different angle when the reporter starts to delve in to Irvine's resume. In a line of questioning that couldn't have been welcome at the Network considering the JAG situation from last year, a number of points from his bio are challenged. Namely, his B.S. degree, his claim to have worked on the wedding cake for Charles and Diana, his recognition by the British crown and his time at the White House are all questioned to one extent or another. Be sure to check out the article for his responses.
As to the comment from the Food Network, a post on the gossip site TMZ links to the St. Petersburg Times article and adds this quote from FN:
"It's unfortunate if Robert embellished the extent of his culinary experiences," said a Food Network rep. "We are investigating the matter and taking the necessary steps to ensure the accuracy of all representations of Robert on Food Network and foodnetwork.com."
With Irvine's extensive and impressive resume a featured part of the show -- indeed, a large part of the program's opening sequence -- this can't be good news. The last time the Network said they were "investigating the matter," we were only a few days away from watching a former military man walk the plank. What will the future hold for this retired member of the Royal Navy?
As for me, I took advantage of the day home from work to do "Take 1" of my pizza experiment, referenced here. The results were...mixed.
The good news is that the quarry tiles, recommended by Alton Brown, worked well. Actually, perhaps a bit too well, as they got so hot that the actually burned the bottom crust a little bit. I'll try it at a lower temperature next time.
The peel, which I got as a gift for Christmas, worked wonderfully once I put a sprinkling of corn meal to help "grease the skids" for getting the dough in to the oven.
I'll give it another go some time soon and let you know how it turns out.
Once again this year, I'll be celebrating the event by not attending. Other vacation plans are in the works this year...more on that later.
But, yes, the festivities will run from the 21st to the 24th. You can see a full run-down of the events on the site. The prices for many of the sessions are a bit...steep. Wow, actually. Looks like I won't be playing golf with Ming Tsai any time soon.
One cool TVFF tie-in, though. At one of the soirées, the Wine Spectator's "Best of the Best," it looks like there will be a whole bunch of big name chefs (including Masaharu Morimoto, who is scandalously listed for his NY location instead of his original Philadelphia restaurant). Included in that list is one Chef Jose Garces, at whose Tinto I'll be dining at tomorrow night!
You'd do well to read about Garces (here's his bio), particularly if you're in the Philly or Chicago area. He's opening a place in the Windy City soon. Don't fret, Philadelphia...he'll be opening Chilango -- which will focus on the cuisine of Mexico City -- in University City later this year.
You may very well be thinking to yourself, "Hey, isn't a bit strange that a company that sells books is giving them away?" Well, maybe, but the rapidly-emerging model for those who sell media is that it's helpful to give consumers plenty of latitude to check out the product.
Sure, you can get a free electronic version of the book. But it's not like we're the Jetsons or anything...laptops and terminal computers are not so ubiquitous that we all have them in our kitchens. People are still buying books. And what better way to get someone to buy your product than to let them take it for a spin. It works for cars!
And, if you think about it, it works for music, a good equivalent for books.
For the sake of argument, let's all just forget about the whole Napster episode. That was more about the industry not having a business plan that could deal with electronic media and a groundswell backlash against what consumers saw as greedy music companies.
Have you ever had a friend burn you a CD of a band that he or she liked? And you listened to it and probably looked in to the band a bit more. Chances are, you ended up buying the next album or went back and bought some of the old ones. Maybe you even went to a concert. Perhaps you convinced a friend to come along and, after they enjoyed the show, you burned them a CD. And on and on...
Anyone who is looking at selling media these days will tell you that the time is gone when you can zealously control the product once it's out of your hands. It will be those who best use these networks who will have the greatest success.
In case you didn't already know, Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching. Other than the fact that it's held on February 14th each and every year, the most obvious way of getting the hint may have been from the not-so-subtle change in the programming on food television programs during the past weekend and upcoming week. What would that change be?
Of course, it's the non-stop running of shows dedicated to desserts, chocolate and assorted other sweets. I haven't managed to catch an episode of Unwrapped this week, but I'm sure the topic was, in no particular order, how Hershey makes its chocolate, how Godiva makes its chocolate, how Ghirardelli makes its chocolate, how Lindt makes its chocolate and how Russel Stover makes its chocolate.
Nothing says "I love you" as much as demonstrating to your one true love that they are stuck with you for life no matter how fat you become.
OK...I like a sweet treat as much as the next person, but for me the really exciting eating is of a more savory variety. Fortunately, we won't be exchanging candy in the TVFF household. Instead, we'll be heading out for a meal at Tinto, one of Philadelphia's top restaurants and the newer of the two establishments run by chef Jose Garces, whose Amada is one of our all-time favorite meals.
Coincidentally, my buddy PhilaFoodie featured one of Tinto's dishes in a spotlight post just yesterday. I'm taking that as a good omen that I'll be enjoying my trip to this Basque-style tapas and wine bar.
Reports of Deglazing.com's Demise...Greatly Exaggerated?
Thursday, February 07, 2008 | posted by Mike
All of you regulars know that we were big fans of Nicky's Deglazing.com. She always came up with great posts and even better video tutorials. You also know that we were pretty bummed when she retired the site. But...like the phoenix rising from the ashes...a new video! This one is on making pizza dough, a timely topic for me since I picked up those quarry tiles and plan on getting moving on my own "at home" pizzas.
She also has a post or two with some great photos from a "new project" and she's soliciting feedback. We can't wait to hear more about it!
For Those of You Who Find the Television Channel a Little Too Fast-Paced: Food Network Magazine?
Tuesday, February 05, 2008 | posted by Mike
There has been news loating around about Food Network starting a magazine. Thanks to reader and commenter Mrs. L, who runs the very cool Pages, Pucks and Pantry food blog, for writing and asking about it, thus getting me off my butt about commenting. From a post:
According to a well-placed source, the project in question is a new food magazine to be published in partnership with the Food Network. Like previous TV-to-print adaptations Hearst has housed -- ESPN The Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine and the ill-fated Lifetime -- the title would carry the Food Network's brand and be published as a joint venture, in this case between Hearst and Scripps, which owns the channel.
Truth be told, I never seem to have the patience to subscribe to and regularly read a magazine. They invariably stack up until I end up tossing them...I'm more of a "doctors waiting room" sort of magazine reader. But, hey...someone is reading these things.
Magazines can be profitable -- albeit volatile -- undertakings. How will this one fare? The blogger at the post doesn't think much of this venture:
Will this one be a hit like O or a bust like Lifetime? The source, noting that Hearst is not the first publisher Scripps approached with the idea, predicts the latter. The problem is that the network's personalities aren't an automatic part of the package. And of course Ray, possibly the network's biggest star, has her own magazine, as does Paula Deen. "All you really get is the logo," says the source.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the blog making this prediction is, in fact, run by Hearst competitor Condé Nast.
What do get when you give a new show some primo real estate in the middle of your Saturday morning cooking lineup? By the looks of it, you get yourself a hit.
"Down Home with the Neelys" became the highest-rated series debut in the five-year history of Food Network's popular "In the Kitchen" weekend block after its Saturday, February 2 premiere (11am ET/PT). The new show, featuring Pat and Gina Neely, African American restaurateurs from Memphis, TN who create approachable Southern BBQ comfort food, was watched by nearly 2 million people.
A record number of female viewers went "Down Home with the Neelys" making it the highest-rated program among women 25-54 on ad-supported cable during its time period. The show earned a 1.1 rating and 700,000 viewers among women 25-54. It also ranked second among adults 25-54 with a .8 rating, averaging 870,000 viewers.
As I said, the overall numbers undoubtedly benefit from the fact that it was debuted in the middle of some of their most popular shows, but the stats are certainly impressive nonetheless. This is particularly true when you consider the fact that, unlike debuts of shows with existing FNpersonalities or, say, the winner of TNFNS, Down Home didn't come to the table with a pre-existing audience.
Time will tell if the show is able to sustain these numbers (particularly if it is moved to a different time), but it's off to a very good start.
You may or may not be aware of this, but there was a pretty big football game that took place yesterday.
Actually, to say it was a "game" is a bit of an understatement, as the Super Bowl has now become a mega-event that works its way into a number of facets of our lives, as evidenced by the "stock up for the Big Game" sales at the grocery market and the intense scrutiny that the commercials receive.
And so it should come as no surprise that other shows are taking advantage of the one weekend a year where everyone is a football fan. Mlive.com, a site that covers Michigan, has a post up about a spot that aired on Rachael Ray's talk show which featured a cook-off among current and former NFL players.
Rachel Ray Show, February 1: The Super Bowl is Sunday ... but first three gridiron greats are going head to head in Rach's kitchen! Only one will win and superstar chef Mario Batali will be the judge.
Going toe-to-toe(-to-toe) with former Giants running back Ottis Anderson and Jets tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Harrington whips up a batch of his baby back ribs and creamy corn potato mash. Delish!
Being a pretty big football fan, I'm a little more interested in this from the non-food perspective. In case those names don't look familiar to you:
D'Brickashaw Ferguson - Plays offensive line for the New York Jets and may possess the greatest first name in sports.
Ottis Anderson (caution: noisy site) - Was the running back for the Giants teams that won the Super Bowl during the '86 and '90 seasons. He had the nickname of "OJ," which was cool for a running back during the 1980s. These days...not so much.
Joey Harrington - Joey is the main reason for the post on this Michigan site, since he was a disastrous #3 overall pick for the Detroit Lions. He's since moved on to Falcons, where he was a disastrous choice for the suddenly Mike Vick-less Falcons (Harrington was benched during the season).
If you click through to the post itself, you'll see a picture of Joey Harrington in his Falcons jersey. You'll recognize him because he looks like a 13-year-old. Coincidentally, he also plays quarterback like a 13-year-old.
Bobby Flay Looks to Imporve His Record in the Delaware Valley
Friday, February 01, 2008 | posted by Mike
Apparently not content with his current record in the City of Brotherly Love (you'll remember his Cheesesteak and mac & cheese Throwdowns), Bobby Flay was back in TVFF's backyard for a couple more competitions, according to local media reports.
He ventured to Collingswood, New Jersey (about fifteen minutes from where I grew up) to face off over grilled cheese:
South Jersey got a shot of television glitz and glamour Monday as celebrity chef Bobby Flay came to the Pop Shop for a grilled cheese-making contest for a future episode of the Food Network's "Throwdown! With Bobby Flay."
Flay squared off against Stink and Connie Correia Fisher, co-owners of the popular Haddon Avenue eatery whose menu features 31 varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches. For the show, which is scheduled to air in the spring, the Fishers pitted their Calvert sandwich against Flay's creation, dubbed the "Five B" by one of the invited guests at the taping.
Really?!? I've never heard of this place, but I may need to check it out if they're sporting 31 types of grilled cheese!
And that wasn't his only stop. I guess the producers figured: "Since we're down there anyway..." He stopped by Drexel University to battle it out with soft pretzels:
Cameras rolled last Sunday in the Drexel Hill store. Pretzel Boy's John Howe and Tim Dever were dispatched the next day to Drexel's culinary school for an hour of shooting in front of about 50 hospitality and culinary students and faculty.
Then Bobby Flay walked in.
No, sneak attack.
Flay challenged the Boy's boys to a pretzel-making contest for his Food Network series Throwdown!
You've heard us talk quite a bit about local Philadelphia food specialties, particularly the cheesesteak, TastyKake and scrapple. But the soft pretzel is another local favorite. A product of the city's German heritage (hey, we have a section of the city called "Germantown"), the figure-eight shaped pretzels (you'll know them if you see them) are tasty and dirt cheap.