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I Always Thought It Was the Water
Friday, April 25, 2008 | posted by Mike

Why can't you get decent pizza on the left coast?

It was that question that led to a phone call to Mario Batali, according to a post on Gothamist. The big guy chalks up the superiority of NYC pizza to, well...I'll leave the reasoning in Batali's original language:
New York’s old pizza ovens “capture the gestalt of beautifully cooked pizza.”
OK, back from looking up "gestalt" yet? Good.

I don't know about all that, but I will say that one of the major frustrations for me when trying to replicate recipes from TV shows or cookbooks -- particularly dishes from foreign and "exotic" cuisines -- is a lack of access to uncommon ingredients that are necessary for an authentic taste. And this is coming from someone who lives half way between two of the biggest cities in the country...imagine what it would be like for someone out in the boondocks.

Case in point: I made a killer Thai green curry paste last weekend that finally had the kind of flavor that I've only been able to get at a Thai restaurant. The difference? The fish sauce (which is pretty widely available) and shrimp paste, which necessitated a walk down to Chinatown.



Thursday, April 24, 2008 | posted by Mike

Barack Obama finally eats a cheesesteak at Pat's (and, thankfully, not at the xenophobic idiot, Geno's) and tallies over 65% of the vote in the Pennsylvania 2nd Congressional District (i.e. Philadelphia).

Obama's ability to keep the net loss to ten delegates (better than the 16 Chuck Todd was using when showing how dire Clinton's situation is) means the party's pretty much over with the pledged delegates.

So, when all is said and done, I think it's safe to say that we can credit the Philly cheesesteak for an Obama nomination.

Obama Consolidating His Foodie Base
Monday, April 21, 2008 | posted by Mike

Can there be any doubt that Barack Obama is the choice of the foodie voter? We knew he had Oprah in his corner, and now it appears he may haver her protege, as well. According to a Washington Times blog:
Has Rachel Ray chosen hope as her main ingredient for the presidential race? I've learned she will interview Obama and his wife Michelle today on the campaign trail.
Glad to know our political fates are being determined, at least in part, by daytime talk shows. Swing by Everything Rachael Ray, who I'm sure will have more on this. While you're there, be sure to congratulate Madeline on the new addition to her family.

In other food news, the Plain-Dealer is reporting that Iron Chef Michael Symon will be taking over for Robert Irvine on Dinner: Impossible.

Symon is stepping in at "Dinner: Impossible" after Food Network got egg on its face after it was revealed by the St. Petersburg Times in early February that host Robert Irvine exaggerated a wee bit on his resume. Like that bit about cooking for England's royal family. And being friends with Prince Charles. And being a White House chef. And having a college degree in food and cooking from the University of Leeds. And being a knight.

The format of the show won't change. Symon won't know where he's going until he gets to the airport and won't know his cooking mission until he arrives at the site, and will have 12 hours to finish the mission.

I was a little surprised that they kept the format going with Symon, figuring that they would just kind of let it slip away and then come back with a similarly-themed program, slotting in whatever new chef they wanted. But the story notes that D:I is the Network's third highest rated show, so I guess there's no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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The Coveted TVFF Presidential Endorsement Goes To...
Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | posted by Mike

...Barack Obama!

How did we arrive at this decision? Well, first there was our pronouncement that his "opponent" for the Democratic nomination was toast. Sorry for the snarky "opponent" thing, but the race is mathematically over and it's kind of sad that the only people who seem to have not noticed are her and her staff, along with the media propping this thing up so the have something fun! to talk about instead of actually doing their job. The only chance she has now is to somehow poach the nomination, which I'm sure will do wonders for her already lousy 54% negative number.

Why not McCain? For that, we go to our DC/Philly food blog buddy, endless simmer:
As The Huffington Post reported yesterday, not a single one of Cindy McCain’s “family recipes” featured on the McCain website were actually original recipes, but instead cut-and-pasted versions of FoodNetwork.com recipes from Rachael Ray and Giada! Oh, Cindy!
Lesson to everyone: Don't plagiarize. It's just too easy to get caught in the age of Google.

Were going to throw all of TVFF's political weight behind Obama, although we're still a bit miffed at his steadfast refusal to eat a chesesteak.

So, there you have it, TVFF Nation. I expect you to all vote with your stomachs!

Second Season of "Shopping with Chefs" Starts May 3rd
Monday, April 14, 2008 | posted by Mike

Sorry for the long break this weekend. Life has been busy and I spent a good portion of my free time convincing my new Macbook to play nice with my wireless network. I thought I had it figured out, but then it had problems today. It's looking good for now, but we'll see...

Anyway, you all know that I'm a big fan of Shopping with Chefs. My admiration for the show goes way back, and I can assure that it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they also fed me very well. But, hey...that didn't hurt.

When I first got my DVR, I added SwC as a subscription and was able to quickly catch all of the episodes. Looks like it's time to fire up the DVR once again:
Beginning Saturday, May 3rd at 2pm ET, FINE LIVING NETWORK will present all new episodes of its original series Shopping with Chefs (series airs weekends at 2pm ET). Co-hosts David Myers (chef owner of Los Angeles’ eateries Sona and Comme Ça and the patisserie Boule) and Jill Davie (chef de cuisine at the Santa Monica hotspot, Josie and a former competitor on FOOD NETWORK'S The Next Iron Chef) employ their culinary expertise as respected chefs to help viewers navigate the vast world of kitchen essentials. Each weekend, the two help the time-starved, chef-at-home cook better by shopping smarter.

The newest batch of episodes served up by FINE LIVING will cover kitchen gadgets and food that ranges from the obvious to the obscure including, shopping for scallops, cauliflower, asparagus, pies, olives, gelato, chile peppers, mushrooms and home herb gardens. Viewers will learn how to choose the right crepe maker, slowcooker, food processor and milkshake mixer and get tips on picking out the perfect refrigerator and cooking range. And just in time for summer, Myers and Davies will share their secrets on what to buy in order to fire up the grill and have a sizzling outdoor entertaining experience, from outdoor "smokers" to margarita makers!
Check out that original review for my full take on the show. After having seen all of the additional episodes, as much as I get a kick out of the gadgets, gizmos and appliances that they cover, the ingredient shopping trips are what really sets the show apart for me. Few other shows (Good Eats being one of them) go to the trouble of educating the viewer on perhaps the most important part of good home cooking -- the fine art of choosing quality ingredients.

On so many cooking shows, there seems to be an aura of perfection when it comes to the ingredients. World-class vegetables and fantastic proteins just "appear" in the celebrity chef's kitchen. Being able to see how to separate the wheat from the chaff goes a long way toward your and my ability to recreate these dishes in our own homes.



Special Offer on "Feasting on Asphalt" DVD
Wednesday, April 09, 2008 | posted by Mike

Speaking of a new Feasting on Asphalt/Waves (scroll down to my last post)...

The folks at Food Network were kind enough to send me a complimentary copy of Alton "Scourge of the Unitasker" Brown's Feasting on Asphalt, The Complete Second Season: The River Run on DVD. It's like they knew I just installed my brand new kick-ass surround sound system! That BMW bike is going to sound awesome coming out of my subwoofer.

But their largesse is not limited to just my copy. You can get a piece of the action, too. They're offering a special discount for TVFF readers. You can get a 10% discount on the DVD of The River Run (regularly $29.95) by going to www.FoodNetworkStore.com, running a search for "Feasting on Asphalt the River Run" and using the code C93837 when you check out. Those of you who act quickly (i.e. one of the first 1000 to buy the set) will also get a free map of Alton's trip.



Upfronts: It's That TIme of Year Again

I'll be honest that my radar for the "New York" scene isn't what it used to be. Frankly, it never really was, but it's that much worse now that I spend my days in Philadelphia. An example: I used to always know when upfronts were being held. (Click the link to see my post on last year and to read about upfronts if you're not familiar.) I wasn't in advertising myself, but I did have my desk on the same floor as my old company's advertising department, so I could count on those days being gloriously neighbor-free!

Anyway, I'm not as plugged in, but fortunately Broadcasting & Cable is and they have a nice roundup of Food Network's presentation at the event. What piqued my interest?
Food Network is adding another cooking competition show to TV’s mix. Chopped will pit four contestants against each other to find the nation’s top sous chef.
After the extremely enjoyable Next Iron Chef, this looks like it could be another good blend of top-of-their-games food pros and fun-for-everyone challenges. It will be interesting to see how the "sous chef" aspect makes this different than the shows like Iron Chef and Top Chef, which stress both technical proficiency and the kind of creativity we expect from a top-tier culinary genius chef. I know I'm simplifying these roles, but I'm pretty sure there's a point in there somewhere.

And that wasn't the only good news for sous chefs everywhere:
New talent coming to primetime includes Anne Burrell, Mario Batali’s sous chef from Iron Chef America, who will answer viewer e-mails;
We told you about another installment of Feasting on Asphalt -- this time in the Caribbean -- and that was confirmed.

Be sure to check out the B&C article for a few more new shows.



How Is Rachael Ray Like Hillary Clinton?
Tuesday, April 08, 2008 | posted by Mike

For one thing, the latest math isn't very kind to either Hillary or Rachael.

Hey...I'm not really one to criticize the sartorial decisions of others, but WOW, Rach!



Lidia Bastianich to Be Honored at Upcoming NYC Gala
Sunday, April 06, 2008 | posted by Mike

No posts last Friday as a result of me wanting to take my birthday off and spend it doing what I do best...drinking and eating. A couple of pints at The Black Sheep off Rittenhouse Square and then dinner at Vietnam over in Chinatown, which was very good. Anyway, back to work...

Those of you who don't own a tuxedo may see the world "gala" and get nervous, but having been to a couple of these soirées in my time means I see the appeal of getting all gussied up and spending a night out on the town. And if you can get to see a legend of Italian cuisine at the same time? Even better!

Bpeace, an organization that "help[s] women in regions of conflict and post-conflict start businesses," will be honoring Bastianich at an event to be held next month in New York. You can check out the details below.

Coming herself from a location of change and conflict (post-war Istria, which was ceded by Italy to Yugoslavia after the Second World War), Bastianich's successful restaurants make her an outstanding example for a group that wants to promote entrepreneurship among women.
Third Annual Bpeace Gala
Wednesday May 14, 2008, 6PM
Capitale, 130 Bowery, New York, NY
Festive Attire

The Bpeace Gala on May 14th in New York City is a fun and festive event and our most important annual fundraising activity. Funds raised keep our offices in Kigali and Kabul open and provide field grants and training to the Rwandan and Afghan female entrepreneurs in our program.

Our goal is to net $200,000 through table and ticket sales, live and silent auctions our very successful "Fund a Cause" moments.

There are lots of new highlights this year, including a new venue - the fabulous Capitale in New York City - a CNBC-TV host - and a special honoree who is bringing her friends and family to support Bpeace.

Cookbook author, Public Television Host, Chef and Restaurateur Lidia Bastianich is receiving our first Bpeace Economic Impact Award recognizing the businesses her family has built and the ripple effect they have produced in terms of jobs created, business partners who have prospered, with the result that thousands of families have fashioned a better future for themselves and their children. This directly mirrors the effect we wish for Bpeace activities - that our Rwandan and Afghan Associates build strong businesses that foster peace, prosperity and stability in their communities.

The evening will include cocktails, dinner, silent and live auction. Tickets: $500.00




Scratch THAT One Off My Lunch List
Thursday, April 03, 2008 | posted by Mike

In addition to the good memories and photographs that I brought back with me from London, another result of the trip has been a severely overloaded DVR. To say I'm "behind" is an understatement. In all likelihood, I'll be able to watch the whole run of John Adams in one fell swoop since it will have aired in full by the time I get to it.

And so, with this in mind, you'll understand why I didn't catch the debut of Hell's Kitchen. Philly ex-pat The Hungover Gourmet also has a great recap of the first episode...be sure to check it out. Anyway, it turns out that there is a local Philadelphia connection. It also turns out that things didn't start off so hot for the Philly boy. According to an entry on the Daily News' gossip blog, his "innovative" dish actually induced vomiting from Gordon Ramsay.
It may be a good thing that Matt Sigel cooks only breads and pastries at the Radisson Warwick and Tavern 17. His fine cuisine skills turned the stomach of Chef Gordon Ramsay on Tuesday night's season premiere of Fox's "Hell's Kitchen." Ramsay puked after sampling the signature dish of Sigel, a Pine Hill, NJ resident, a plate consisting of venison, diver scallops, shaved white chocolate, capers, and quail eggs.
First off, the guys if from Pine Hill, which is about ten minutes from TVFF's boyhood home. Dude, that's no way to represent South Jersey!

Secondly, I walk past the restaurant where Sigel works (Tavern 17) EVERY MORNING on the way to the day job. Frankly, it's always bugged me a little. Here's why.

One of the popular trends over the past few years has been the rise of the "slider" -- mini-sized versions of full-sized sandwiches. It started with burgers but quickly went upscale. Let me be perfectly honest with you and let you know that I think the trend is ridiculous.

For one thing, there is one and only one slider. For another, if you have something delicious, why do you make it smaller and serve me three of them? This is especially true of burgers, where making them smaller makes them more likely to dry out.

Then there is the name. It's just not appetizing. And so, when I see a chalkboard outside Tavern 17 while my stomach is still adjusting to the waking world and it advertises the "Slider of the Day" -- and it's crab and brie -- ugh.

To be fair, I've never ventured inside and it may very well be the best restaurant in the city. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I'll be able to make it past that slider.

And if I ever see a venison, scallop and white chocolate slider on that chalkboard, I'm going to have to change my route.



Foobooz Gets Some Face Time on Food Network
Tuesday, April 01, 2008 | posted by Mike

You may remember a post a while back in which I told you about Food Network coming to Philadelphia for a soft pretzel battle. As we said at the time, soft pretzels don't get the fanfare of other local favorites like the cheesesteak and TastyKakes, but they are certainly a Philly Favorite.

(They're also a great way to keep co-workers on your good side. About once a month, I run out of the office and come back with twenty pretzels. Everyone loves it. It's money well-spent.)

Anyway, the Throwdown aired and a local blogger, Kirsten Henri, from the fantastic Philly foodie site Foobooz was one of the judges.
Yes, that was me on Throwdown! with Bobby Flay on the Food Network last night. And yes, that was me NOT voting for the Philly version of the soft pretzel, but for Bobby Flay’s surprisingly delicious alternative. Before you rabid localists start a petition to get me thrown out of the city on grounds of culinary treason, take in the whole tale.
You can get the whole story, which is really interesting. I always find it so fascinating how much goes on behind the scenes when filming television shows...even "reality" shows like this.

Oh, and Kirsten's right -- there's no way cheese sauce is an authentic Philadelphia add-on. That's wrong...just wrong.



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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