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Crumbs - 2/28/07
Wednesday, February 28, 2007 | posted by Mike

By now, you've all heard about my current headaches over being dropped by Google. A number of you have written or commented with you support, and I really appreciate it. It also dawned on me today that, just a few months ago, I would have killed for the type of traffic I've been getting the past few days. And, to look at those numbers and know that these are all visitors who know the site, enjoy it and keep coming back makes me feel even better about things. Once everything is worked out with the search, we'll be right back where we were before...if not better!



Ina Crocker?
Tuesday, February 27, 2007 | posted by Mike

I was walking out of my local Kitchen Kapers recently and something caught my eye.

You might not know what Kitchen Kapers is (I think it might be a local chain), but it's a kitchen equipment store that also has things like cookbooks and gourmet ingredients. What caught my eye was some boxed cake mixes with the "Barefoot Contessa" logo on it. I thought to myself: "Self, I should really write something about this on TV Food Fan!" Needless to say, I completely forgot about it.

Now, Nicky over at Deglazing managed to remind me of the (fairly) new line of products and test one of them, saving me from actually having to bake something. I kid...always plan to do some baking but never quite get around to it. Once we open the new TVFF HQ and there is sufficient counter space for Mrs. TVFF's stand mixer, I hope to get a bit more active on the baking front.

So, how does Nicky feel about Ina Garten's new cake mix? Looks like a bit of a mixed bag. The short answer is that it came out tasting pretty good, but you're going to pay for the quality. Also, it kind of looks like you might as well just download one of Ina's recipes off of the web and use your own ingredients since it's not just the Duncan Hines "dump and stir" method. Of course, if you don't feel like going out and buying a whole bag of confectioners sugar, maybe these are a nice balance between "easy" and "quality." Be sure to check out Nicky's post for the full-rundown.

If you're feeling up to giving Ina Garten's products a try, you can order them from Amazon through the TV Food Fan store.

Also, if you're a fan of Nicky's demonstration videos, be sure to check out her hilarious bloopers reel. I took the liberty of embedding the video below. If you like what you see, you should be a regular at Deglazing.



Food Network Awards: Best Enjoyed From the Comfort of Your Own Home
Monday, February 26, 2007 | posted by Mike

All of you who follow the world of food television online probably know that the South Beach Wine and Food Festival went down this past weekend in Florida. We made a mention a little while back about the Festival in general and the Food Network Awards in particular. Jacob over at food network addict has been down there for the festivities and he seems like he's having a good time.

There has also been some great coverage of the event by a blog called The Hungry Man, run by the Palm Beach Post. He recounted the Burger Bash on the first day of the event and had a nice summary of the appearance by Anthony Bourdain, which included pretty much all of the stuff that you would expect from Tony. But the big scoop was a little background on the big, televised Food Network event at the Festival, the Food Network Awards. After having to sit through about 7.5 hours of Academy Awards last night, I understand that awards shows can take a long time and that there is always the chance of a couple of foul-ups. But when there is a post with a title like "Food Awards Gone Awry," I think you can guess where this is going.

It’s hard to say what the organizers were thinking when they put this together (and then had the audacity to charge the public $80 a ticket to attend — the event was one of the few SoBe ones not to sell out). Begin with the fact that the show was being taped — in other words, it was live to tape. But someone must have forgotten the live part.

Between all the stops and starts for sound and lighting cues, the technical glitches (Emeril actually had to re-present an award after the show was finished because he mispronounced something) and the general confusion, it took about three hours for the show to be done (and I believe it’s only a 90 minute broadcast — it’s slated to air April 15). If you add in the fact that most of the crowd arrived well in advance for the “red carpet” deal (which, believe it or not, featured food mascots like Tony the Tiger and KFC’s Col. Sanders), that meant people were there for four to five hours.

I know that I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know, but making television can be a long, tedious and, frankly, boring process. "Getting everything right" often requires multiple takes and long hours. Unfortunately, when you put on a show with the expectation that it's a "live to tape" event, it's tough to have them sitting around while they figure out how to properly light Alton Brown's hair. We've all seen enough awards shows to know that none are perfect and that, often, some of the best moments are born out those happy accidents. On the other hand, I don't think we really want to hear Duff Goldman and Robin Miller stepping on each others' lines.

Anyway, we'll be treated to a much tighter version of the proceedings. And, of course, it will be shown on the day that your taxes are due, so any escape from the soul-crushing feeling of having to hand thousands of dollars over to the government will be welcome.



Is Giada De Laurentiis Coming to Your Town?

While I try to climb my way out of Google Purgatory...

We've mentioned that Giada De Laurentiis has a new cookbook, Everyday Pasta coming out soon (which you can pre-order from the TVFF store over there on the right!), and what is a book launch without an accompanying signing tour?

Thanks to our friends over at Giada Fan, we know that GDL will be making a number of appearances in the coming months, and that a few of them will be in the general vicinity of TVFF HQ. The appearances are set for the first two weeks of April and include bookstores in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Minnesota. For the full list, with dates and specific locations, check out the post.

Like I said, one or two of them are near me, but I'm not sure if Mrs. TVFF will let me go to a second GDL signing appearance. After all, I've already been allowed to go to one, which is what actually kicked off this whole food TV blogging thing. You can check that out in another post from last year over at Giada Fan .



Google Hates Me
Sunday, February 25, 2007 | posted by Mike

This post is for the six or seven of you out there reading this.

Actually, that's a bit of an overstatement. But traffic has fallen off a cliff the past few days, thanks to some monkeying with Google's rating systems. The new system has, for reasons that escape me, completely removed TV Food Fan from the Google listings. As you can imagine, we get quite a bit of traffic from Google searchers, so I'm scrambling and trying to get things right.

No worries...I will still keep up with regular posts. But I might be a bit less prolific than usual.


New "Hell's Kitchen" Coming on June 25th
Thursday, February 22, 2007 | posted by Mike

Sorry for the mental holiday today. Plenty of posts over the past few days + other stuff going on in the TVFF.com household = no energy for posting. But I managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat with a late-night post. And it's good news for all of your Gordon Ramsay fans.

We knew that another season of Hell's Kitchen was a sure thing, but now we know when we can expect the new episodes. An article on Reality TV World has word that the cooking/mental abuse competition series will be coming back to Fox on June 25th.

The post also has some information about an American version of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, which features considerably less yelling.

The show continued its success last summer, prompting Fox to order an American adaptation of Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay's other British series, in January. While Kitchen Nightmare was scheduled to production this month, Fox has yet to announce when or even if the series will join Hell's Kitchen as part of the network's summer lineup.

Stranger things have happened, but I would be surprised to have two food-themed reality shows on Fox at the same time, let alone two food-themed reality shows starring Gordon Ramsay. I know that television executives aren't necessarily known for their restraint when it comes to formulas that work, but we could rapidly develop a case of Gord-overload with two hours a week of Chef Ramsay.



Crumbs - 2/21/07
Wednesday, February 21, 2007 | posted by Mike

Lots and lots of stuff going on right now, so I present to you only the choicest cuts in this week's Crumbs.

  • Another article on the public's love/hate relationship with Rachael Ray.

  • UK amateur chefs...this is your big chance. Gordon Ramsay is looking to recruit punching bags for another season of The F Word.

  • Lidia Bastianich will be in Sussex County, New Jersey on March 15th. Despite its relative proximity to TVFF HQ, we will be unable to attend. If you do, let us know how it goes.

  • Duff Goldman made a cake for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the shape of a hockey puck. You can check it out here. Of course, most cakes are already in the shape of a hockey puck, so I'm guessing this wasn't Duff's most challenging project ever.

  • Rocco DiSpirito cooked lunch for a Columbus, Iowa high school that won a national can drive.

  • And Rocco's nemesis, Jeffrey Chodorow, doesn't like The New York Times' Frank Bruni.

  • Jamie Oliver meets the Prince of Wales.



First Photo: The Rachael Ray Wax Figure
Tuesday, February 20, 2007 | posted by Mike

Sometimes, we like tracking down a story, pouring our blood, sweat and tears into it. Other times, we like it when someone reads our post and sends us stuff. This is one of those times.

You can click on the picture over there to see the full-sized Rachael Ray wax figure. As we said in the first post, the figure is wearing a pair of a pair of "farylrobin brown boots." Mrs. TVFF is the shoe expert in the family, not me, so I didn't actually know what that meant. Now I do!

The photo features Wax-Rachael posing with Faryl Robin Morse, designer of Farylrobin Footwear and maker of the boots pictured. The image was taken at Rachael's studios last week, and you'll be able to see the figure (and Ms. Morse) on tomorrow's show. Morse is also partnering with Endless.com to provide audience members with a special surprise, so be sure to tune in to see what that is. Plus, John Stamos is on the episode, and if Uncle Jesse can't get you to tune in, I don't know what can.

If you like the boots, you can get yourself a pair over at Zappos.com.



It's So Lifelike...You Can Almost Smell the EVOO

We all know that it can be tough to score tickets to a taping of Rachael Ray's talk show, but you still might be able to get a chance to see the culinary star on your next trip to New York City. That is, of course, if you're willing to settle for a wax stand-in.

Madame Tussuad's New York, which I've walked past many times but never even remotely considered entering, will be unveiling a wax figure of Rachael Ray. Aiding in the festivities will be Ms. Ray herself, leading to the inevitable side-by-side photograph and the HILARIOUS "the wax one is on the left" captions. Can't wait for that.

Not only will the figure be Rachael's spitting image. The museum will also be adding an installation to exhibit Rachael in her native habitat:

Rachael’s wax figure stands in a replica of the brightly colored kitchen from her hit syndicated daily daytime show. The figure holds a coffee mug and is wearing a red wrap dress, brown tank top, horseshoe diamond necklace and tall farylrobin brown boots. Madame Tussauds visitors will be able to get into the kitchen and stand next to and take photos with Rachael’s figure.

The whole event will be taking place tomorrow, February 21st from 5:30-6:00. We'll see if we can track down some photos of the festivites. As always, anyone who manages to get their picture taken with Rachael (either the real one or the replica) and would like to share it, be sure to send them along to mike@tvfoodfan.com.



Dave Lieberman Is a Bud Man
Monday, February 19, 2007 | posted by Mike

What's up with Food Network personalities and beer companies these days?

First, we had Alton Brown hooking up with Miller Lite, much to the dismay of -- well -- just about everyone.

Now it looks like FN's favorite "young and hungry" chef is a little "young and thirsty." According to an article in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, Dave Lieberman will be contributing content to an Anheuser-Busch website. Actually, to be more accurate, Dave will be part of the "Here's to Beer" website, which you can check out at www.herestobeer.com. According to the Post-Dispatch article:

The country's largest brewer began the campaign last year in an effort to promote beer in general rather than market its own brands. A-B set up a website, www.HeresToBeer.com, and ran a series of television ads.

If you like beer (and who doesn't!?!?), you should check out the site. It isn't tied to any of the A-B brands and it spends quite a bit of time talking about the types of beer that aren't even made by the company. There is some good stuff there.

This sort of awareness advertising isn't that uncommon with other industries or even with other foods (think about the "Beef...It's What's for Dinner" campaign), where the idea is to raise general awareness about a product without pitching a particular brand. My guess is that the folks at A-B sensed a gap in the credibility of beer when compared to more "respectable" drinks like wine.

Beer aficionados (such as myself) know that beer has as broad a range of tastes and nuances as wine and that, just like wine, there is an art and a science to matching the proper beer with food. This is covered in the "Beer and Food" area of the site, and it brings us to Dave's involvement.

Dave Lieberman, a Food Network chef, will appear in video clips, dishing out tips on combining beer and food.

While we're on the topic...there will be more beer-related TV Food Fan info coming down the pike soon.



PETA's Lobster Protest Photo: Even Better Than I'd Hoped
Saturday, February 17, 2007 | posted by Mike

I wish I could run the photo of the lobster protest here in this post. I really, really, really do. I wasn't able to entice a member of the TVFF Army to spend a lunch break getting the pictures for me, so I'm just going to have to point to this post over at Gothamist, which features a user-submitted photo from the "protest."

I don't usually like to use scare quotes around a word like protest, mainly because I do think that people who take time out of their life to make their point known deserve some measure of respect. Frankly, most of us can't be bothered to tear ourselves away from our 24X7 Bald Brittany Spears coverage to protest anything.

But the big, goofy grin on Mr. Lobster may not convey the level of seriousness and gravity that the PETA folks had hoped.

We did do a bit of reading on the various message boards that covered this subject and I was glad to see that there was a particularly robust debate among the foodies on the topic of whether or not the incident constituted abuse.

Look...if you're going to eat any animal, you have to come to grips that the pig, cow, chicken or whatever meets a less-than-pleasant end. But chefs like Alton Brown point out that these are animals with feeling and that, since they are giving themselves to become our dinner, we owe them a certain amount of respect on how they are slaughtered. Where that line is -- what constitutes inhumane treatment -- is a legitimate question.

The fact is that Chef Bowles did something that is probably done by a thousand chefs in a thousand kitchens. But he did it on national cable, and that means it suddenly became an issue.

I don't know the "right" way to cook a lobster. I don't really think that anyone does. But I'm glad that Iron Chef America pushed the discussion to the forefront.



Basketball Jones

We really, really wanted something embarassing to say about Bobby Flay's appearance at the NBA All-Star Celebrity game. Unfortunately, the only "big story" to come out of the whole things is that New Orleasns Saints running back (that's football, for all of you non-sports people) managed to sustain a minor ankle injury during the game. We did manage to track down a team photo that included Bobby, which you can see below.

Needless to say, we also felt compelled to include a phot of Carrot Top. You know...whenever I see Carrot Top performing, I laugh. Of course, it's the very definition of "laughing at" rather than "laughing with," but I'm guessing that Mr. Top will take any laughs that he can get. The photo below is funnier than any of Carrot Top's routines.

(Click both to enlarge)



Lookin' Good: Mario Batali Has a New Website

When it comes to websites, TV chefs possess a somewhat spotty record. Some are pretty darn good and some could use some work. Seriously, if Giada doesn't do something with hers soon, I'm going to redesign it for her.

Although Mario's old site was nothing to sneeze at, the new one, which launched recently with a complete redesign and some neat new features, is a real cut above. The new look was designed by a web firm called Whiteboard Labs and features a black and (shocker!) orange color scheme and content that covers Mario's appearances, books, restaurants and endorsed products, as well as general information about Italian cuisine.

A press release from Witeboard announcing the launch of the site give some details on some of the new parts of the site.

His Web site, as with all Whiteboard Lab-created sites, has progressive features, such as a tour of Italy and music picks.

In the virtual Italian vacation, visitors can explore the country by region. No passport required; thats because Whiteboard Labs engages cyber travelers with an interactive map and listing. So, with one click, visitors can discover details of a regions native wines and foods, along with a favorite recipe by Batali.

The Web site goes beyond food and wine pairings with a trifectta of sensory pleasure. Whiteboard Labs allows visitors to voyeuristically download Batalis favorite music tunes.

OK...we'll talk about a couple of the new sections in an upcoming post or two, and I will particularly want to take a look at the music that Mario recommends.

But the Explore Italy section is especially interesting. Users can click on the regions of Italy, get some photos and a description of the region, along with common ingredients, recipes and regional wines, which you can also purchase. The writing features Mario's usual flair for language, and if he didn't write all of it himself, his agency did a great job of capturing his voice.

Just as we did when Tyler Florence rolled out his new site, we at TVFF give Mario a big "thumbs up" for having a site that captures the personality of its subject, along with some technology and content that gives the visitor a reason to come back time and again.



Anthony Bourdain is Expecting a Tiny Curmugeonly Gourmond
Friday, February 16, 2007 | posted by Mike

Sorry about the spotty posting in the past day or so. I could lie to you and tell you that I've been busy doing something to improve the site. Instead, I'll just go ahead and admit that I passed out on the sofa last night until Mrs. TVFF came home. She pointed me in the direction of the bedroom and that was it for me.

Most of the online conversation that goes around about having babies involves either Rachael Ray or Giada De Laurentiis. I'm guessing it is all part of the larger celebrity baby thing that everyone gets all revved up about.

But the latest news on food celebrity offspring comes from a slightly more unlikely source: Tony Bourdain.

Celebrity Baby Blog (no, really) has a report that chef Anthony Bourdain is expecting his first child. He dropped this bit of information on the Fresno Bee, which would explain why this Jersey boy is getting his info from Celebrity Baby Blog instead of straight from the horse's mouth.

Tony's very excited to be a dad. He said,

I'm absolutely thrilled and taking it very seriously. I'm thrilled, delighted, excited and just dancing on the ceiling.

As the kind of dad he thinks he'll be, he said,

Maybe I'm being a bit naive, but I always loved the idea of raising a little wild child. You know, somebody who grew up playing with Vietnamese kids and Indonesian kids. I love the idea of a kid who grows up speaking both Italian and English and maybe a little Bahasa. You know, a street smart, tough little ragamuffin with sunburned hair who suddenly shows up in the American school system with kung fu skills and multiple languages.

Little Known Fact: Lil' TVFF got straight As in his elective kung fu classes in high school.



Rachael Ray's Talk Show Is Doing Just Fine, Thank You Very Much
Thursday, February 15, 2007 | posted by Mike

Hey, it's been a while since we've checked in with a post about one of our favorite food TV bloggers, Madeline over at Everything Rachael Ray.

We at TV Food Fan pride ourselves at covering the world of culinary television and bringing some depth to your enjoyment of this type of programming. But, when it comes to covering the exploits of Ms. Ray, TVFF is a kiddie pool and ERR is the Pacific Ocean.

Sometimes we're on the same wavelength, like when we both ran a story on the proclaimed stability of the Ray-Cusimano union.

But the great thing about ERR is that she keeps tabs on ALL aspects of Rachael's career. Case in point is today's update on the ratings success of Ray's talk show. First, she points out that Rachael has outlasted all of her fellow rookie gabbers:

Rachael Ray's talk show is the only one left standing from this year's freshman class. She started the season with three other syndicated talk shows: The Dr. Keith Ablow Show, The Megan Mullally Show and the Greg Behrendt Show. All three of her companions have now been cancelled.

Now, it may not be the world's greatest accomplishment to beat out the woman with the annoying voice from Will & Grace and two guys I've never hear of before.

But Madeline points out that Rachael is also holding her own agains the veterans of the talk show wars:

She is the only one with decent ratings among the new talk shows, but all the daytime talk shows are taking hits these days. Here's a list of the ratings so you can see how Rachael's doing:

Oprah: 9.5 million viewers
Dr. Phil: 7.212 million
Live! With Regis and Kelly: 4.832 million
Maury Povich: 3.537 million
Ellen Degeneres: 3.374 million
Rachael Ray: 2.903 million
Jerry Springer: 2.543 million
Montel: 2.47 million
Tyra Banks: 1.978 million
Martha Stewart: 1.839 million
Megan Mullally Show: 1.041 million
Greg Behrendt Show: 1.046 million
Dr. Keith Ablow Show: 1.442 million

Hey...she's beating Jerry Springer and she doesn't even feature "Who is My Baby's Daddy?" fistfights. Way to go Rach...don't ever compromise your high standards!



ATTENTION NYC TV FOOD FANNERS! February 15th: Someone HAS to Get Us a Picture of This
Wednesday, February 14, 2007 | posted by Mike

OK. I don't ask too much of you. Check out some ads now and then...maybe buy something from Amazon through the TV Food Fan store. But I am going to put a request out there for any readers who will be working in New York City tomorrow and who have a digital camera and some free time around noon.

PETA is apparently not happy with the Food Network for a recent episode of Iron Chef America. The show obviously uses a lot of meat, buy the on-air dismembering of two lobsters has them boiling over (sorry, had to do it.) I don't remember seeing the scene, which is described in the press release as: "[Chef Graham] Bowles tore the tails off two live lobsters and broke the animals in half. According to reports, the suffering animals continued trying to walk after they had been dismembered." Yeah, not the most cuddly image. Apparently, the key issue here is that lobsters are thought to more sensitive to pain than other animals and that their trip to the great stock pot in the sky should have been handled a bit more humanely.

I'll let you all debate the merits of that issue. What is not up for debate is the fact that PETA's planned protest is sure to be nothing less than hilarious.
Accompanied by an activist dressed as a giant lobster and holding signs that read, “Iron Chef: Mean Cuisine,” PETA members will protest Graham Bowles’ torture of two live lobsters on Iron Chef in front of the Food Network’s headquarters on Thursday.
Now, if there was any way that I could tear myself away from prior commitments (i.e. work), I'd be there. But someone is going to have to step in for me.

The whole thing is going to be happening at lunch time tomorrow, February 15th. Someone MUST be working close enough to the Food Network offices (see the details below) to make a run to the event and give us a first-hand account (with pictures, preferably). Go get that story, my little cub reporters! Then drop me a line at mike@tvfoodfan.com.
Date: Thursday, February 15
Time: 12 noon – 1 p.m.
Place: Outside the Food Network headquarters, 75 Ninth Ave. (between W. 15th and W. 16th streets)



Crumbs - 2/14/07

You can think of this as my Valentine gift to you. And, yes, I did get it at the last minute, like a box of Russel Stover from Rite Aid.

  • A behind-the-scenes look at Iron Chef America from the Chicago Tribune.

  • The cast of America's Test Kitchen will be making an appearance in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on February 23rd-24th.

  • And Alton Brown will be in Cincinnati on March 3rd. Note for this and the previous entry: TV Food Fan readers are welcome -- no, urged! -- to attend these kind of events, take pictures and share the experience with rest of the group. E-mail the info to me at mike@tvfoodfan.com.

  • According to Bon Appetit, everyone likes Giada De Laurentiis.



Rachael Ray and John Cusimano Are Doing Just Fine, Thank You Very Much
Tuesday, February 13, 2007 | posted by Mike

Rest assured, Rachael Ray fans and celebrity couple followers.

You might remember the mishegas that went down a while back with some tabloid reports about Rachael's husband. If the allegations were true, things wouldn't have been looking up for the couple. But, you can put your mind at ease, according to a Los Angeles Daily News interview with rocker Cusimano. Apparently, things are going so swimmingly that he and his group will be stopping by her show for a performance.

Forget those tabloid stories that link domestic maven Rachael Ray's husband, The Cringe frontman John Cusimano, to another woman. That's the word from Cusimano, who wants us to know those tales are not even a fly in the soup for him and his wife.

"It is what it is, and I guess it's part of the job description, so we ignore it," says Cusimano, who celebrated a one-year anniversary with Ray last September. And it appears she's standing, er, cooking by her man. "We'll be performing on Rachael's show shortly after our new album comes out, probably around March 1," says Cusimano of The Cringe's new CD, "Tipping Point," scheduled for a Feb. 20 release.

Yesterday it was sports...today it's celebrity gossip. Only the finest news coverage here at TV Food Fan!

As I was banging away at this entry, I had Tasty Travels on in the background. I do have to admit that I haven't been catching many episodes of the show, but her delivery and overall demeanor seemed "toned down" from the usual Rachael-level perkiness. Is this a regular thing on the show? If so, I like it!

Unfortunately, not "toned down" was her makeup. Mrs. TVFF was not impressed.



Nelly Passes to Bobby Flay for Three. Yes!
Monday, February 12, 2007 | posted by Mike

Some times TVFF gets news from the Associated Press. Some times we get it from The New York Times. This story comes to us via a news dispatch from Weirdsville.

Tune in to ESPN at 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday, February 16th to see what Bobby Flay looks like in shorts and a tank top.

If you follow sports at all, you know that an All-Star game is never just an All-Star game any more. There are days and days of fan festivals, skills competitions and the like, and the fact that the NBA is holding their All-Star inLas Vegas this year only adds to the hype and hoopla.

In addition to the dunk contest and the 3-point shooting contest, the NBA has been including a celebrity game featuring stars of stage, screen and, apparently, kitchen. NBA.com has the news:
Academy Award™-winning actor Jamie Foxx (Ray) Grammy™ Award-winning entertainer Nelly, Academy Award nominee Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile), actor David Arquette (“In Case of Emergency”), actor James Denton (“Desperate Housewives”), and the Food Network’s Bobby Flay (“Throwdown with Bobby Flay”) are among 18 celebrities who will compete in the McDonald’s NBA All-Star Celebrity Game presented by 2K Sports, in association with T-Mobile USA, as part of NBA All-Star 2007 in Las Vegas.

Now, what's weird about this whole thing isn't the fact that Bobby is playing in a celebrity basketball game. He appears to be in pretty good shape (although standing next to Mario on Iron Chef America will make anyone look svelte) and very well may possess, ask the kids say, "mad skillz." What's truly crazy about this whole thing is that Bobby won't be the red-headest redhead on his own team. I can just hear the announcer now:

"And starting at small forward...from the University of the Improv...Carrot Top!"

That's right. Prop comedian extraordinaire Carrot Top will be one of Bobby's teammates. February 16th can't get here soon enough.



Chef's Story: First Review is Up

A long while back, we had a preview of a new food show coming to PBS in the spring. Chef's Story, which will debut in April, is "a 26-part television program modeled after Inside the Actor's Studio" and will include probing questions of today's top chefs in an attempt find out what makes them tick and how they got to be the successes that they are today.

It's been more than six months since that report and word is now starting to trickle in about the show. This is not surprising, considering it will be debuting in about two months.

We thought: We like food and we like Inside the Actor's Studio, so this should be pretty good, right?

Well, J.M. Hirsch has an syndicated review of the show up and it's pretty much like you would expect, Inside plus food minus James Lipton. And he kind of likes it.

Copies of two episodes were circulated to the press (but not, ahem, TVFF...producers can reach me at mike@tvfoodfan.com), one of which features Food Network celebrity Bobby Flay.

Despite my skepticism, I found myself drawn to the program. It was genuinely interesting to hear Flay tell his nothing-to-something tale and discuss his philosophy of food - "If you like bland food, you can't eat at my restaurants."

And because Flay was one of the Food Network's early stars, he offered some humorous stories about the network's somewhat creaky start, including the time he had to shoot 42 half-hour episodes in about a week.

Hirsch does point out one of the issues with host Dorothy Hamilton, which seems to echo similar complaints about thesp-o-phile James Lipton.

Hamilton obviously is well-versed in her subject matter (she also has food writer Peter Kaminsky fielding so-called pre-interviews), and her clout in the food world no doubt helps pull in some of the bigger guests.

But at times she verges on starry-eyed; and there is the occasional urge to shake her and beg her to ask something a bit deeper than which dish Flay regards most fondly.

Again, Chef's Story will premiere in April on PBS, which means that you're on your own trying to figure out when it will be airing in your neck of the woods.



Anthony Bourdain Has a Few Thoughts on the Food NetworkYou know, Anthony Bourdain should really learn to speak his mind...
Friday, February 09, 2007 | posted by Mike

You know, Anthony Bourdain should really learn to speak his mind...

If you give chef Bourdain an outlet, you're almost certainly going to get his candid, honest opinion on whatever topic he's thinking about. Today, he has the outlet (in the form of a guest blogging stint over at Michael Ruhlman's site) and he has some thoughts on what's good and what's not so good about the Food Network, and he wasn't afraid to name names.

His post, which runs under the title "Nobody Asked Me, But..." gives a full rundown of many of the big names on the Network and an accompanying paragraph containing his thoughts on each. Or, as he puts it, "Some thoughts on the Newer, Younger, More Male-Oriented, More Dumb-Ass Food Network."

Basically, he likes Mario, Alton and Giada. He feels that complaining about Rachael is no longer worth it. I might be mistaken, but I don't think he likes Sandra Lee.

SANDRA LEE: Pure evil. This frightening Hell Spawn of Kathie Lee and Betty Crocker seems on a mission to kill her fans, one meal at a time. She Must Be Stopped. Her death-dealing can-opening ways will cut a swath of destruction through the world if not contained. I would likely be arrested if I suggested on television that any children watching should promptly go to a wooded area with a gun and harm themselves. What’s the difference between that and Sandra suggesting we fill our mouths with Ritz Crackers, jam a can of Cheez Wiz in after and press hard? None that I can see. This is simply irresponsible programming.

Now, I know about the whole "Rachael Ray Sux" group. From the coverage that they get, you would think that Rachael is the most reviled person in food TV. But, if you look around on the web, the one person that really gets everyone's toque in a twist is Sandra Lee. If it's not the pre-packaged food and the over-the-top tablescapes, it's the constant presence of cocktails on the menu or the "Stepford Wife" references to her appearance. I know that the whole Semi-Homemade thing is a bit of cottage industry these days, but I would put the vitriol she draws up there with the criticism of either Rachael or Martha.

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News Flash: Giada De Laurentiis Likes to Wear Nice Clothes
Thursday, February 08, 2007 | posted by Mike

Food Network Chef/Resident Clotheshorse Giada De Laurentiis turned up today with a short profile in USA TODAY centering on her fashion sense and timed to coincide with her trip to New York for Fashion Week. More specifically, it deals with her love of designer Gilles Mendel and his J. Mendel line of clothing, which De Laurentiis says is one of her favorites. (Does Todd know this?!?!?)

Oh, and you ladies will love this part: Giada says that she has a lot of trouble finding clothes, claiming that, "I have a difficult time with clothes." Fortunately for her, J. Mendel fits her like a glove.

I have a hard time getting clothes that fit right, and for some reason the pieces I have from him, it's as if he sculpted them for me."

Mendel is modest. "I love to hear that," says the French clothier, who has dressed Heidi Klum, Laura Linney and Kyra Sedgwick.

All of you Giada-philes out there will definitely want to check out the short piece, which also features a photo of Ms. De Laurentiis trying on some of the new duds. There is a reference to Giada's fashionable family heritage, but this time it doesn't refer to her grandfather Dino. Instead, Giada got her start in the world of fashion with her grandmother, actress Silvana Mangano.

"She was an Italian movie star, and she used to go to all the high-end ones, like YSL. She took me a couple of years in a row, and I must have been 10. We'd sit in the front row and pick things out. It's so chic and sophisticated. It's so elegant."

TVFF will actually be in NYC today and not too far from the Bryant Park location of the whole Fashion Week festivities. Although we aren't particularly hopeful, we'll keep our eyes out for a petite Italian chef in nicely-fitted clothing.



Social Bookmarking Feature: Can You Digg It?

Another look at one of our new features.

The kids these days...they love them some Web 2.0. Even if you don't know it, you do, too.

In case you're not down with the lingo, "Web 2.0" is the term that people are using for some of the more "interactive" and "social" aspects of the Internet. Blogs, wikis, MySpace and a whole bunch of other stuff like that. (Anyone out there with teenage kids or older should feel free to blow their minds by telling them that you're a regular blog reader.)

One of the more popular applications that falls under this heading it social bookmarking. These services, with names like Digg and del.icio.us, allow users to find information on websites, save the page to their personal accounts and share the things they think are interesting with others. Theoretically, you would see a cool post on TVFF, save it to your bookmarking tool and the way you tag it (with terms like "food" and "TV chef" and whatnot) would allow other users with similar interests to find it, too. I use both services from time to time...they're not for everyone, but dedicated users swear by them.

And this brings us to those funny little pictures at the bottom of our posts. Those icons, including the little guy with the shovel (Digg...get it?!?!) allow users to click on the image and save that particular post directly to their account, no cutting and pasting of the URL. So, if you're a user of any one of these services, please feel free to share the things you think are interesting with everyone by making full use of those links.

If your service is not among those pictured, you can click on the "Other Services" for the one that you use. If you're a regular user and have a particular service that you think should be added to the icon list, be sure to let me know in the comments and I will have it added.

I hope that you find this new feature useful and that it helps you get even more out of your trips to TV Food Fan!


Mario Batali: Download Recipes for a Good Cause
Wednesday, February 07, 2007 | posted by Mike

Falstaffian chef Mario Batali is interested in more than just fantastic Italian food and having a rip-roaring good time in the clubs, bars and night spots of the big city. Mario is partnering with fellow celebrities, including Giada De Laurentiis, to help fight hunger by helping you...fight your own dinnertime hunger.

According to an interview on Gothamist, Batali got a bunch of his celebrity friends to submit pasta recipes for a charity cookbook.

Mario Batali, Iron Chef, TV personality, cookbook author, and restaurateur sat down with us at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria in Greenwich Village to discuss his latest philanthropic project -- a cookbook with recipes from celebrities, including the likes of Kristen Davis, Ashley Judd, and Harrison Ford. Mario paired up with fellow Food Network chef Giada De Laurentiis to edit the recipes. The cookbook is free and available online at CelebrityPastaLovers.com. Each time the book is downloaded, Barilla pasta will donate $1 to America’s Second Harvest, or one of its local branches, up to $100,000

OK...I don't know about you, but Harrison Ford has never struck me as someone who spends a lot of time cooking spaghetti. But, hey, you never know...maybe his time with Francis Ford Coppola doing Apocolypse Now rubbed off on him.

It might well be that Tyson Beckford's submission is actually Tyson Beckford's personal chef's submission, but I can vouch for both Mario's and Giada's recipes (they come from Molto Mario and Everyday Italian), which are quite tasty.

And, of course, you get to do your part by simply downloading the PDF, so it sounds like everyone is a winner here. You can get the cookbook at Barilla's website.



Crumbs - 2/7/07

This is what I came across while I pondered the dilemma of Lost and Dinner: Impossible both airing at the same time. I need TiVo.

  • Mediabistro.com calls Rachael Ray's outfit at The Heart Truth's fashion show, "unfortunately muu-muu-esque."

  • Gordon Ramsay is reportedly upset about the "personal nature" of the critical reaction to his New York restaurant.

  • Giada De Laurentiis thinks you should serve bellinis at your Oscar party.

  • Charles E. Scripps, the former chairman and grandson of the founder of the Food Network's parent company, died at the age of 87.

  • Will Mario Batali be recruiting the staff for his next restaurant from your local fire station?



Alton Brown Seems Like the Romantic Type
Tuesday, February 06, 2007 | posted by Mike

If you've tuned in to the Food Network's "all chocolate all the time" lineup this week, it has probably dawned on you that Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching. Normally, I can deal with their theme weekends when they do things like "cookouts" for Independence Day. But seven days of chocolate don't really lend themselves to anything more than, well, desert, so I'm a little out of luck. I enjoy eating desert, but don't particularly get a kick out of cooking it.

So, chocolate, love and all of that other stuff are the order of the day, and that apparently also goes for the items on sale on the Food Network's online store. We think that Alton Brown is the kind of guy who would never forget to buy flowers and candy for his wife (note to self). If your significant other has a sweet tooth, then Alton might be able to help you take care of your Valentine's gift this year, too.

DVDs of Food Network shows are often advertised using those little pop-up "bugs" in the lower right corner of the screen during broadcasts. One show that I always thought would be the most useful to own would be Alton Brown's Good Eats. You can obviously pick up the recipes for most of the dishes prepared on the Food Network. But no program spends more time discussing, explaining and demonstrating the various techniques involved with cooking than Good Eats. The ability to back up the tape and see exactly how it's done could come in handy.

Just in time for Valentine's the Food Network has come out with a three-DVD set of the best of his desert themed shows called Sweet Somethings.

Not only is Alton Brown a sweet tooth, he’s a brainy sweet tooth, so you can be sure his new “Sweet Somethings” 3-DVD set will satisfy both your thirst for knowledge and your cravings for dessert! Alton explores a myriad of sweet topics, such as growing your own sugar crystals, cooking with sugar cane, making homemade candy, whipping up a homemade "instant" chocolate pudding mix, and more. Recipes include Burned Peach Ice Cream, Peanut Butter Fudge, Yeast Doughnuts, Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix, and many more.

The set appears to only be available at this time on the Food Network store, so no link to the TVFF Store for this one.



TV Food Fan Store

Another in our series of posts centering on TVFF's redesign.

In the post below about Lidia Bastianich's new cookbook, you might have seen a mention about how you can now buy the book from the "TV Food Fan Store." Your reaction was probably something like: "The what?"

One of the fun things that we've added to the site with the redesign is an Amazon.com storefront with books, kitchen equipment and gourmet foods that we think will be interesting to you, our readers. We make plenty of mentions about new cookbooks, general foodie books, ingredients and techniques during our posts about food television. Now, we're able to link directly to those products in the post and on the right side of the main page. In addition, you can click on the box in the upper right to browse a whole bunch of other items, including tons and tons of cookbooks from TV chefs. You can browse the full listing by clicking on the navigation on the left side of the store.

And, just because something isn't listed as a featured item doesn't mean you can't get it from us. You can search all of Amazon.com's listing from the box on the right or by clicking on the "Go to Amazon.com" link in the storefront. We get credited for those purchase, too.

You get your items from Amazon.com or one of their partners. This means you have the security of shopping from a trusted company, plus you get the low prices and free shipping (on purchases over $25...check the fine print) and no sales tax (again, check the fine print). Plus, it gives you a chance to support TV Food Fan because we do get a nice little referral fee!

So, if you see something that catches your eye, or if you just need to order something from Amazon.com, we hope you'll consider shopping through the TV Food Fan Store.


A New Lidia Bastianich Cookbook Coming in April
Monday, February 05, 2007 | posted by Mike

I've said on a couple of occasions, both here on TVFF and in personal conversations about food and cooking, that the one cookbook in my home that I use more than any other is Lidia Bastianich's Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen. The ingredients are available at any decent grocery store (at least here in the more heavily Italian Mid-Atlantic area) and the recipes really do an excellent job of capturing the whole ethos of the Italian-American cuisine. Couple this with her television series, which effectively teaches techniques and the kind of "touch" you can never quite get from a book, and there might not be a chef on television who does a better job of educating an audience.

Lidia's cookbooks are also companions to her thoroughly enjoyable PBS television series, and her new cookbook is no different. Lidia's Italy, which will be available in the spring, will include all of the recipes from the series of the same name. According to Lidia's website:

Lidia Bastianich, the beloved doyenne of Italian cooking in America, gives us her most practical cookbook yet. In Lidia's Italy, the incomparable Lidia takes us on a gastronomic journey through her native land. She explores the regions that have informed her cooking over the years - from Sicily to Friuli, Tuscany to Treviso, and Trieste to Istria, where Lidia spent her childhood. In addition, her daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali, an art historian, shows us some of the nearby cultural treasures of Italy that she and her mother have come to love. There is something for everyone in Lidia's Italy, the companion cookbook to her new public television series of the same name.

Whereas her previous cookbooks focused on Italian-American cuisine and family cooking, the regional cooking in the new cookbook will prove to be a departure for Bastianich. Little known fact...Lidia's home region of Istria is actually now in Croatia. So, I guess that makes her hands-down the top Croatian chef on television! (Ed. Note: Please see comments)

You can pre-order Lidia's Italy from the TV Food Fan Store by clicking on the image at the top of the post. Amazon.com reports an April 10 shipping date.



Our New Look

I mentioned that we'll be posting on some of our new features, and today I want to mention the whole new look and feel of the site.

First off, I would like to thank everyone who has passed along their thoughts, either in the form of comments to the initial post or in e-mails sent to me. I truly appreciate your comments, and I'm thrilled that so many of you like the new look. I wanted to go with something that, frankly, appeared a bit more "professional" (whatever that means) while still reflecting the sense of fun and lightheartedness that we've always tried to bring to the site. Plus, we've come to think of the chef's knife as part of our motif, so it meant a lot to bring that along from the old site.

The job couldn't have been done without Misty, who did a fantastic job designing our new look. She asked me what I wanted, listened and then came up with something that incorporated everything I needed on the site but also featured an interesting, exciting and fun look that I never could have come up with my myself.

Again, if you have any thoughts about the new look or (heaven forbid!) come across any problems or errors with the new layout, be sure to let me know.


Awesome...Emeril in a Tuxedo!
Sunday, February 04, 2007 | posted by Mike

(Ed. Note: Anyone who sent an e-mail to me at the mike@tvfoodfan.com address over the past day or so and didn't get a reply should re-send the message. A small SNAFU caused by the redesign has been corrected and that address is now fine to use.)

It might not be the Oscars or the Golden Globes, but this February will see the debut of something called the "Food Network Awards" at the upcoming South Beach Wine and Food Festival. The initial announcement, which came out back in October, invited users of FoodNetwork.com to vote for a winner in categories like "Favorite Comfort Food" and "Most Deserving Recipient of Jeffrey Steingarten's Scorn" (or something like that).

A press release from the folks at the Food Network gives us a glimpse at the star-studded lineup of attendees. And, best of all, the whole she-bang will be hosted by one Emeril Lagasse. Doing their best Joan Rivers impressions will be Marc Summers and George Duran, who will be working the red carpet and asking the celebs "who they're wearing." Will Giada give her clothing designer husband Todd Thompson a shout-out?

The guest list features a roster of all of the top Food Network personalities:

Alton Brown, Michael Chiarello, Paula Deen, Giada De Laurentiis, George Duran, Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, Emeril Lagasse, Sandra Lee, Dave Lieberman, Robin Miller, Rachael Ray, Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh, and Marc Summers.

But the star power will not be limited to good looking people who can cook. There will also be good looking people who, as far as we know, can't cook.

Academy Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones and Golden Globe nominee Aaron Eckhart will attend and present during the ceremony. Zeta-Jones and Eckhart star in the upcoming romantic drama No Reservations from Warner Brothers, premiering nationwide July 27. Directed by Academy Award nominee Scott Hicks, No Reservations tells the story of two Manhattan chefs who challenge the boundaries between rivalry and romance.

Also appearing will be musician (and Philadelphian) G. Love, a.k.a. the guy who sings that "Hot Cookin'" song that they've been using on the Food Network commercials for their nighttime lineup.

You'll be able to watch the festivities, which will be taped February 23rd, on the Food Network on, Sunday, April 15th at 9 PM ET/PT.

Of course, if you're going to be in SoBe and you have some money burning a hole in your pocket, you can take in all of the action yourself. The ceremony will take place at the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts in Miami Beach from 9:30-11:00pm on February 23rd. Tickets can be purchased at www.sobewineandfoodfest.com, or (877) 762-3933 and are $77.50 each.



Welcome to the New TV Food Fan!

Don't worry...you're not in the wrong place! It's the same old great TV Food Fan, but with a brand new look and some cool new features.

I've been hinting at some big changes for the past few weeks, and now you can see the payoff for all of that work. The original look and feel of the site was always meant to be a placeholder...something to get the site out there and establish a presence. Over the first six month or so of the site, we were so focused on getting the content to where I wanted it that we didn't put in the kind of time necessary to upgrade the look of the site.

Now I think we have a site with looks to match the quality of the content.

There is a little more under the hood with the new site, and we'll have a couple of posts during the coming week to tell you a bit more about the new features we're implementing. I think that they'll make your use of TV Food Fan even more enjoyable than it was before.

Of course, this is the Internet, and that means that every website is a work in progress. If you have any thoughts, suggestions or comments, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at mike@tvfoodfan.com.

Again, I truly hope you're as excited about the new TV Food Fan as I am!

Redesign Highlights:
Part 1: Our New Look
Part 2: TV Food Fan Store
Part 3: Social Bookmarking Feature: Can You Digg It?

Did The London NYC Hotel Scrub Gordon Ramsay's NYT Review?
Friday, February 02, 2007 | posted by Mike

Gordon RamsayOn of the joys of traveling for work is waking up in the morning and having the USAToday delivered right outside my door. I like it because I get my news exclusively from cartoonish graphs and full-page, colorful weather maps.

But the guests at The London NYC hotel, the home of Gordon Ramsay's New York restaurant, were in for a rude awakening the other day when they reached for their complimentary copy of The New York Times.

Word comes to us from a scoop at Eater.com via a subsequent post at Boing Boing. According to someone who knew a guest at the hotel on the day that the review was in the Times, the Dining section was suspiciously missing from the morning's edition.

"As it happens, my husband had a business lunch there today. The meal was precisely as described. The only unexpected thing: all of the Dining sections had been taken out of all of the newspapers in the hotel. Gone, done, vanished."

I'm not exactly sure what they were hoping to accomplish by doing this. Likely, anyone who had reservations wasn't about to cancel them due to Frank Bruni's disappointing review. And weren't they aware that someone was going to say something about this and that they'd come off looking petty and foolish? This is a case where someone at the hotel who handles their publicity should have stepped in and told them to leave it in the paper. The restaurant and the hotel are not going to live or die by the review being read by the couple of hundred guests in the rooms. They will, however, take a hit for looking like a goofball.



Mr. TVFF.com: Lazy or Busy?

OK, I'll admit that the past week hasn't been my most productive when it comes to the number of posts here. Of course, we all know that it's about quality and not quantity, though, and I was pretty happy on that end.

But back to the question of productivity. I can assure you that my spotty posting record is, in fact, not a result of laziness. Rather, it has been caused by something that will be apparent to you when you all come back next Monday. You are coming back on Monday, aren't you? Of course you are!

OK...I must go now. I've already said too much...


Sara Moulton & The Super Bowl, Take 2
Thursday, February 01, 2007 | posted by Mike

Are you kind of bummed out because you missed the online chat with Sara Moulton that we mentioned last week?

Well, no need to fret, because the event was rescheduled! Due to the always-popular "technical difficulties" (don't even ask TVFF.com about Blogger acting up earlier today), the chat was a no-go last time and has been rescheduled.

It will be held on AskABlueShirt.com tomorrow, February 2nd, at 2:00 pm EST.

If this is your first time hearing about the chat:

You may be wondering: What's new and different about this chat?

Sara Moulton, Executive Chef of Gourmet Magazine, Food Editor of ABC's Good Morning America and formerly of the Food Network will be our special guest during the chat, offering entertainment and menu tips for folks hosting Super Bowl parties. She'll be paired with a Best Buy Blue Shirt who will be available to answer questions on upgrading your home theater in time for the big game.



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.

Contact Us at: mike@tvfoodfan.com

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