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This One Goes Out to Alton Brown
Friday, September 28, 2007 | posted by Mike

As you can probably imagine, we read A LOT of very similar articles as part of our media-scouring duties. Plenty and plenty of local publications that run profiles of this or that TV food personality. To be honest, it can get to the point where I get the urge to skip many of them. Of course, then I'd miss little tidbits like this.

As we all know, Alton Brown has a real talent with the camera and that he used to be a cinematographer. What you might not have know is that, according to a profile in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he was the director of photography on the video of the R.E.M. song, "The One I Love."

And so, I send you off into your weekend with the video of the song, released in 1987 on the album Document.



Crumbs - 9/26/07
Wednesday, September 26, 2007 | posted by Mike

Another week scooting by. You'll all be happy to hear that my Friday night excursion with PhilaFoodie was a blast, and that I'm looking forward to making him my personal culinary sherpa, guiding me through the moutain range that is Philadelphia's restaurant scene. As an added bonus, Marisa -- all star Slashfood blogger -- also came out and meeting her was a real treat.

OK, enough about my personal life.

  • The Post-Intelligencer thinks Giada and Gordon have style.

  • Speaking of Seattle, two local chefs get call-backs on for TNFNS.

  • Robert Irvine, a former military man himself, cooks for the Air Force.

  • The Australian ladies love Jamie Oliver.

  • But he insists he's not looking to buy the British restaurant chain Little Chef.

  • Guy Fieri is apparently under the weather.



Gordon Ramsay Gets Serious Tonight on Larry King
Tuesday, September 25, 2007 | posted by Mike

For all of the yelling, ranting, raving and raging that you can usually expect out of Gordo, tonight's appearance on Larry King Live promises a significantly more subdued and serious Ramsay.

Judging by a commentary on the CNN.com website, Ramsay will be on the show to promote his work work speaking out against and raising money for awareness of abuse. The appearance will be at 9 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

Now, I know that some of you are probably scratching your heads and asking how someone who regularly heaps abuse on contestants can be an advocate for awareness of domestic abuse. Take a look at the commentary to hear about growing up with an abusive father. I guess that may explain some of the temper issues...



"Kitchen Nightmares," "Hell's Kitchen" Provide Valuable Lesson on Meatheads
Monday, September 24, 2007 | posted by Mike

Specifically, that meatheads from Long Island are more obnoxious than meatheads from New Jersey. Score one for the Garden State!

I don't have a lot to say in the way of a review for Kitchen Nightmares. For the most part, it's not quite as ridiculously over the top as I had feared. Ramsay is even more confrontational as he is in Hell's Kitchen, but the fact that he's out there on the restaurant owner's turf means that they're actually able to fight back a little bit. And fight back was exactly what Peter, the meathead/part-owner of the restaurant in the first episodes, tried to do.

Of course, I bring up the whole meathead thing because I pronounced that Vinnie, one of the contestants on this season's Hell's Kitchen and resident of New Jersey, was in fact a meathead. Well, Peter puts him to shame. You can check out the videos on the show page if you would like some evidence.

I hate to ruin it for you, but everything turns out well in the end, of course, with the owner realizing the folly of their ways and submitting to the tutlage of the master. I'm guessing the real draw on a week-to-week basis will be to see whose grease trap is the most clogged.




Speaking of Macaroni and Cheese…
Friday, September 21, 2007 | posted by Mike

Hope you’re all enjoying an early start to your weekend! I’m actually going out for drinks and a bite to eat with PhilaFoodie this evening, so that should be a lot of fun. I’ll leave you with this little digression:

Just like a junkie who moves into an apartment on skid row, I’m truly fearful about the impact on my waistline and wallet that will be caused by the proximity of the TVFF Philadelphia Branch Office to a Trader Joe’s market. I went in the other day with the intention of “just looking around,” which turned into picking up “just one or two things,” which turned into a bag-load of groceries which I had to lug on the train ride home.

It goes without saying that any serious foodie who has a Trader Joe’s in his or her area should be making regular visits. But it was a decidedly non-foodie item that made me laugh and, ultimately, ended up in my basket.

Regular readers know that I have a couple of low-brow weaknesses – most notably, Taco Bell. Another is Kraft mac and cheese, the virtues of which have been stated in song more eloquently than is possible here. Of course, I’m fully aware that, no matter how much I may like it, it’s not the most healthy lunch option.

Well, leave it to Trader Joe’s to alleviate my concerns by carrying Organic Shells and White Cheddar, the packaging of which boasts that it is certified organic and that it contains “No Preservatives / No Artificial Flavors or Colors.” They also recommend low-fat milk in the directions, so that’s nice.

OK…since I made you sit through this little digression, I suppose that I owe you my thoughts on if it’s any good. It’s a deal. Look for a review of Trader Joe’s Organic Shells and White Cheddar in a future post.


You Never Know: My Random Encounter with a Food Personality
Thursday, September 20, 2007 | posted by Mike

It’s weird…I don’t know whether the fact that I run TV Food Fan heightens my “Spidey Sense” when it comes to matters related to food entertainment or if the fact that I and people around me randomly come across things related to the topic. Hey, it might just be the fact that food TV is so popular these days, you can’t help but happen upon it fairly regularly. Regardless of the reasons, I had one such encounter this weekend.

I’m not the most proactive gift buyer in the world. I do try to at least think things through in advance, so I’m not grasping at straws at the last minute, but the actual purchase often takes place late in the game. (Note to self: Less than one month to Mrs. TVFF’s birthday, and I don’t think that a shout-out on this site constitutes a “gift.”)

So, there I was stopping to pick up a gift for my father’s birthday while actually on the way to the cookout/party. Since my parents recently bought an ice cream maker, I wanted to pick up some whole vanilla beans to go with the ice cream cookbook that I had already purchased. After swinging and missing at the nearby Williams Sonoma, I figured I would stop at the Kitchen Kapers in Marlton, which was actually on the way.

When Mrs. TVFF and I got there, we were surprised to see that the store was using its kitchen/demonstration area for an appearance by locally famous/Oprah endorsed/Food Network semi-regular Delilah Winder, proprietrix (pretentious, I know, but I love that word) of Delilah’s in Philadelphia. You might know her for her appearances on Throwdown and Food Network Challenge, both of which featured her macaroni and cheese, which you might have heard was proclaimed by Oprah the best in all the land.

She was demonstrating a dish – presumably the macaroni and cheese, since she was saying something about al dente, I believe – to a small group of customers. It’s a shame there was such a light turnout (frankly, the store probably doesn’t receive a large amount of random walk-ins, as it’s in a traffic-heavy shopping center), because Delilah really is an engaging presence and a fun personality. Obviously, she’s on Food Network’s radar, as witnessed by the multiple appearances, and she has the Oprah seal of approval, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of her in the future.

Unfortunately, the family gathering prevented me from staying and watching the event. Who am I kidding??!?!?!? Unfortunately, the family gathering prevented me from staying and sampling the dish. Of course, her restaurant in Reading Terminal Market is only about ten blocks from the new TVFF Philadelphia Branch Office, so I’ll be able to run on down for a long lunch and get some collards to go with the macaroni and cheese.


Crumbs - 9/19/07
Wednesday, September 19, 2007 | posted by Mike


  • Here be a story about a new line of Crocs clothing, as well as a video of Padma!

  • Well, shiver me timbers, Robert Irvine will be making an appearance right near TVFF HQ!



QB Mario
Tuesday, September 18, 2007 | posted by Mike

TMZ.com usually relegates itself to covering Hollywood (i.e. Lindsay Lohan), so it was a bit surprising to catch some footage of Mario Batali on their site today. They had a nice laugh about it because of Mario's lack of...ummm...closing speed, as a football scout would say. Frankly, I'm glad he's not running around. Blacktop Football + Crocs = High Ankle Sprain.

Man, I hope that Coach Schiano doesn't see this video.



Like/Don’t Like: Macy’s New Commercial
Monday, September 17, 2007 | posted by Mike

We’re thrilled to see that Nicky over at deglazing.com is back up and running after a reasonably long hiatus, which was caused by all of the work she’s doing on her new house. We dropped her a note to catch up and she mentioned that she got a kick out of our “Like/Don’t Like” feature, which we dreamt up, became enamored with and then promptly forgot about. That, by the way, is my M.O. for a great number of things…it’s amazing that TVFF is still running.

So, what has elicited the necessary pro and con reactions to warrant a Like/Don’t Like post? That would have to be the new commercial from Macy’s, which I saw for the first time during last night’s Emmy Award telecast.

Without further ado…

Like: Appearances by television food personalities Martha Stewart and Tyler Florence. Frankly, I think that Martha was probably the highlight of the whole spot, with the food/home authority lampooning her demanding and precise reputation by taking nearly the entire length of the spot to get her merchandise arranged perfectly. I’ve always criticized Stewart for being overly fussy, and it’s good to see her demonstrating a little self-awareness and humor. We’ve been seeing more of this since her stint in the Big House. Coincidence?

As for Tyler, he did what he does best, which is “being Tyler Florence.” Now, I hate the completely inane notion of “he’s a guy I’d want to have a beer with,” especially when we’re talking about politicians. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my President to be my buddy, I want him or her to have a firm grasp on the subtleties of foreign affairs and the intricacies of economic policy. I would, however, want to sit and chat over a drink with someone who can talk intelligently about food while still being relatable. That’s Tyler’s personality in a nutshell, and it comes through again, even in his short appearance here.

Don't Like: They can’t all be winners and, although he acquits himself better in the spot than does Jessica Simpson, Emeril Lagasse doesn’t do it for me. The commercial veers into the same territory that Emeril Live does, which is that it edges up to the point of “too much” and then takes one step over it. The main problem is that we only get to see Emeril’s furrowed brow, as he chops some sort of ingredient. Great. That’s the serious, focused Emeril that we all like and that is closer to the real thing, or so I’ve heard from someone who had met Emeril before he became “Emeril.” But we can’t see exactly what he’s doing until…

This is where it goes all Swedish Chef, with bits of food flying up in the air. Does that sort of thing really happen? I have no doubt that it does. Did it really happen in this instance, with the camera just happening to capture it? Possibly. Does it remind us of the cartoonish side of Emeril’s programs that we’d like to forget?


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"Feasting on Asphalt" Season 2 Comes to the End of the Road
Thursday, September 13, 2007 | posted by Mike

Sorry for the slightly long-winded nature of this post, but I have some extra time on my hands, thanks to my commute home, riding the rails up the scenic Delaware River.

Compared to last year, I didn’t provide as much commentary on this season of Feasting on Asphalt. There were a couple of reasons for this.

The first was the questionable decision to show the first run episodes on Saturday nights. I’m sure the programming folks knew what they were doing, but I caught a grand total of zero episodes during their initial showing.

The second reason was that I think this season was much more…well, maybe “repetitive” isn’t the right word. It’s just that the path that Alton Brown took up the river basically kept him in the Mid-West, and it lacked the diversity of the first season’s ocean-to-ocean trek. If the first season was a cross-section of the food nation, this was more of an exploration of the depth and richness of a somewhat similar region. Both are compelling exercises, but the dynamism of Georgia-to-California just grabbed me more than the Louisiana-to-Minnesota run that was built around the consistent theme of the Mississippi. The first season showed the diversity of the cuisines, while the second reflected many of the commonalities, not surprising when the migration of people along the river played such a large role in the development of the Mid-West’s food and culture.

The differences between the seasons reminded me of the differences between Mrs. TVFF and me when we go to a museum, particularly an art museum. When we go together to places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA and The Philadelphia Museum of Art (now just a healthy walk from the new TVFF Philadelphia branch office!), we have different strategies on how to enjoy these potentially overwhelming structures. I like to see as much as I can, experiencing it all and sacrificing the time it takes to deeply scrutinize the pieces, which is her preference. Maybe that comes from the fact that I come to art largely from a layman’s perspective (although I would humbly submit that I’m quite knowledgeable for a layman) and she comes to it from the point of view of an expert, considering I lured her out of a career in studying art history with the promise of a life of wealth and fame as the wife of a part-time blogger.

I would argue that neither method of taking in the information is better than the other, but rather that we each have our own way of appreciating and enjoying things. Both made for enjoyable, albeit different, seasons.

But there is one thing that both seasons of Feasting on Asphalt possess that anyone can enjoy. What’s the worst part of any great vacation? Having to go home, of course. Both seasons end on a high note, with the caravan soaking up their destination and reveling in the events that brought them to it. There are no images of them packing up and trudging home, unpacking dirty socks and dreading the return to work on Monday morning.

And who wouldn’t want to go on an adventure like that?



"Top Chef" Contestant Josie Beaten in Apparent Hate Crime
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 | posted by Mike

You all know that we certainly enjoy the "lighter" side of covering the world of food entertainment. But, from time to time, real life creeps in on our escapist pursuits.

Mrs. TVFF forwarded me a news story that describes the incident, which took place in Sea Cliff, New York:

A Miami woman who was a former contestant on the reality show "Top Chef" was beaten by attackers yelling anti-gay slurs, her lawyer said Tuesday.

Josie Smith-Malave, a lesbian who was featured on Season 2 of the Bravo channel show, was among a small group of women asked to leave a Sea Cliff bar over Labor Day weekend, lawyer Yetta Kurland said. About 10 young people followed the women out and began screaming anti-gay epithets, spitting on them and then beating them, Kurland said.

Fortunately, it sounds like she and her sister, who was also beaten, are OK, although one of them "received injuries to the head." There is currently an investigation underway, and the victims' lawyer is calling for the attackers to be prosecuted on hate crime charges.



Crumbs - 9/12/07

Well, I started the new job on Monday, and it's just great. We're going light on the crumbs today, mostly because I'm tired. That, and the 124 unread items in my inbox are just too intimidating to actually wade through.

Philadelphia Food Update: Lunch at the Continental Midtown with a new friend from work. Thumbs up for the Rad Na Thai Noodles.

  • A recap of the Hell's Kitchen auditions in Denver.



Then Again, Maybe Not
Tuesday, September 11, 2007 | posted by Mike

Yeah, I know I'm about the twelfth blogger to write about this, but here it goes anyway.

Remember when we proclaimed an end to the Mario Batali era at Food Network? Well, that might not have been 100% accurate.

We got a note today from Spooneroonie, who is such a great source of info that I should just let her post here when things get too busy for me, who pointed us to an online TV Guide article that says that Mario isn't splitting with Food Network.

We went to the man himself for confirmation. "Not true!" Batali tells TV Guide emphatically. "I’m taping two episodes of Iron Chef America in a few weeks. I’m the best Iron Chef, why would I quit? And why would I threaten the network? Molto Mario’s been out of production for two-and-a-half years. [Reruns still air weekly.] We have a fine relationship."

Well, that's pretty emphatic. Of course, we did point out how this was a bit of a no-win situation for both Batali and Food Network if it was true that he was leaving, so I'm guessing Mario's and Food Network's people thought the same thing.



Here's Your Big Chance
Monday, September 10, 2007 | posted by Mike

Did you spend the last season of The Next Food Network Star staring at the events taking place on the screen and thinking to yourself, "Hey, I could do that!"

Well, it's time to put up or shut up, because Food Network is holding open tryouts beginning tomorrow in five cities.

According to a press release:

The network is currently conducting a nation-wide talent search and encourages both professional and amateur chefs to apply. Applicants have until Friday, October 12, 2007 to send in a three minute audition tape explaining why he/she should be Food Network’s newest star. Applications and contest rules can be downloaded from www.FoodNetwork.com starting Tuesday, September 5. In addition, contestant hopefuls can also apply in person at one of five open-call auditions that will be held around the country. Applicants should bring an application, photograph and resume and/or bio to the auditions, which will allow them to meet with network casting directors.

As someone who, once upon a time, actually got a spot on a game show (no, I'm not kidding) at an "open" casting at my middle school, I can tell you that you need to bring all the energy and personality you have with you to the tryouts.

If you think you have what it takes, both from a culinary standpoint and personality-wise, and if you live in one of the five cities, have at it. Check out the dates and locations below.

Seattle, WA – Tuesday, September 11th from 10am-4pm
Hotel Andra (Ballroom)
2000 4th Ave.

New York, NY - Monday 9/17/07 from 11am-4p
Food Network Studios
75 Ninth Ave. (Chelsea Market)

Los Angeles, CA - Monday 9/17/07 from 10am-4pm
Chefs, Inc.
10955 West Pico Blvd.

Las Vegas, NV - Tuesday 9/25/07 from 9am-3pm
David Burke Las Vegas
The Venetian Hotel-Resort-Casino
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South Ste. 108

Minneapolis, MN - 10/9/07 from 10pm-4pm
The Chambers Hotel
901 Hennepin Ave



Arrivederci, Mario!
Wednesday, September 05, 2007 | posted by Mike

In a bit of news that will shock absolutely nobody, Mario Batali will no longer be part of the Food Network family. (Which reminds me that I need to set my Out-of-Office message to let everyone know I'm leaving my job on Friday!)

That's right, as if the paring down of Mario's presence on the Network wasn't enough of a clue, the other show dropped with the termination of Batali's role on Iron Chef America. The New York Post has the details.

Sources said that network executives told the spotlight-loving chef last month his multiple shows, which includes the long-running "Molto Mario," would not be renewed and that he would no longer be competing in the popular "Iron Chef America" series.

"He said that if his shows weren't going to be renewed, then he wasn't going to do 'Iron Chef,' " said a network insider. "And then they essentially said 'ciao.' "

The article clearly postulates that the "spotlight-loving chef" doesn't feel like he needs the Network any longer, but it also raises the compelling point that a show on the most widely-consumed food entertainment outlet in the country still brings with it quite a bit of notoriety and money.

While it is true that Batali has certainly earned his credentials and is, by now, a restaurant institution in New York City, a large part of success in such a competitive environment is publicity and "mindshare," two things that are certainly boosted when your face pops up a couple times a week on television.



Ingrid Hoffman Interview

No, no...we didn't talk to Ingrid. We've been a bit busy lately and, truth be told, we're kind of lazy.

But our friends over at YumSugar spoke with her, and they have her comments on her success on the Food Network and her thoughts on Latino cuisine.

Check it out!



The Persistence of Memory
Monday, September 03, 2007 | posted by Mike

Sorry for the long layoff, but holiday weekends only come so often...

Remember that trip I took into New York City a week or so back? The one where I went to the Museum of Modern Art and then for dinner at Spice Market?

Well, something happened there that got me thinking a little bit about food television and the restaurants run by our favorite food celebrities.

I was walking through the permanent collection at MoMA, which I had seen a number of times before. Still, it's an unbelievable museum and it features a treasure trove of well-known and important pieces including this one, this one, this one, this one and this one. So, it's not uncommon to see someone taking a photo of one of the paintings.

What caught my eye was a young woman taking the picture of a small placard on the wall, a placard which wasn't next to any of the paintings, as you might expect. After she walked away, I went over to see what it was that so interested her. On the placard was a small black-and-white image of Salvador Dalí's The Persistence of Memory and a couple of paragraphs explaining that the piece had been sent out on loan as part of an exhibition and that it wouldn't be returning to the museum until 2008.

I wondered why the woman had taken the picture of the placard. Sure, I was slightly disappointed that the piece was not there, but I had seen it on previous trips. (Although the painting has been depicted and parodied many times, it's still a fascinating piece. It's also very small, at 9.4 X 13 inches.) Did she take it so that she could be sure to include it in the photos she showed her family, as a way to explain the lack of a photo of this iconic piece? Did she do it to satisfy a friend, who told her to make sure she saw "the one with the melting clocks?" Or is she a Dalí fanatic...maybe in NYC for a vacation...who was despondent over coming all this way, only to find out that the Holy Grail for Dalí lovers was instead in London?

My unchecked imagination turned her into a life-long Dalí fan who had studied every book on the artist, knew every piece like the back of her hand and saved up a year's wages for a trip to New York to finally see The Persistence of Memory in person for herself, an experience she had dreamed of for years. She was so devastated that she had to take a photo of the sign, just to convince herself that this was really happening.

OK, I was getting carried away. Most likely, she just thought it was funny that museums lend out their artwork.

But the tantalizing third possibility got me thinking about the meal that I was having later that night at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Spice Market. I didn't know anyone who had eaten there, and the reviews from online diners were mixed. (I have officially stopped trusting reviews on sites like Citysearch, regardless of whether their positive or negative.) And yet I was eagerly anticipating the meal because of the reputation of the chef. But wasn't I setting myself up for the same disappointment as the woman in the museum if the food wasn't all that I had imagined it would be?

And isn't this doubly true for television personalities who own and run restaurants? We watch them as they prepare presumably mouth-watering dishes on television, imagining what they would taste like as Jeffrey Steingarten raves about their culinary skills. But we can never truly know unless we get a chance to sample the dishes in real life. And, even then, the meal is likely prepared by someone else, even if the celebrity happens to be in the kitchen that night.

I've had the chance to taste food that "came from" celebrity chefs, and all three were very good. My dinner at Les Halles was delicious, but certainly wasn't prepared by Anthony Bourain. My breakfast at the Downhome Diner was also great, and Jack McDavid was in the kitchen, though I'm not sure if he handled my dish. And I had a couple of bites of food cooked personally by Lidia Bastianich, which was fantastic -- although it had sat around for quite a little while before I got to it.

So I've been lucky. I've been satisfied with my meal each time.

But what happens when reality doesn't meet our expectations?

What happens when we got to the restaurant expecting a transcendent meal and, instead, find our unrealistic expectations unfulfilled?

What happens when we go to the museum expecting a masterpiece and, instead, find a sign on the wall telling us that our timing stinks?


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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