I hear you were very upset with me after seeing the promo for this show, which I filmed recently with your Daddy and his friends. You saw me take Daddy’s guitar and smash it against a tree and I’m sure that was upsetting. That this was in fact a not so subtle homage to the early works of John Landis and John Belushi is something you could have hardly been expected to know, ANIMAL HOUSE having been released long before you were born, and I apologize. Continue reading: DESERT SESSION: A Letter to Josh Homme’s Daughter »
It all began with Ferran Adria in more ways than one. It was because he reached out to me in 2001, invited me to come see him (in spite of the fact that I had written unflatteringly of him in Kitchen Confidential) that my partnership with zero point zero production began. It was because he agreed to throw his life, his restaurant, his workshop and creative process open to our cameras that we began our first venture in independent television production. It was because of him–and Food Network’s lack of interest in an El Bulli show–that Chris Collins, Lydia Tenaglia and I went out on our own, reached into our pockets and funded that first bare bones trip to Spain to shoot what later became the film (and subsequent episode of No Reservations), “Decoding Ferran Adria”. It was Ferran, who, truth be told, became the impetus for our show, now in its 7th year. And it was Ferran who was responsible for my meeting Chef Jose Andres when he showed up at an early screening of the film as his US representative. I can well remember Jose standing up at the end of the film and announcing to the audience his approval. It was a very proud moment for me. In those days, when Jose’s mouth moved, it often seemed that Spain was speaking. That kind of generosity should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever known or worked with Ferran Adria or his brother, Albert. They have always shared, never clung jealously to their hard won creations. And once again, in spite of the world world banging at their door, looking to get one last meal, one last interview, one last meal at their legendary restaurant, once again, they opened their lives to me. Continue reading: A BEGINNING. AN END »
Growing up in New Jersey back in the bad old days of American gastronomy, “Italian” food inevitably meant the same thing, wherever you found it: deep fried, breaded and pounded veal cutlets, swimming in red sauce with a raft of gluey semi-melted cheese on top, overcooked spaghetti, usually pre-prepared in large batches, rinsed of its starches in cold water, reheated and then indifferently topped with a ladle of the same red sauce as above. Enormous, bready meatballs, fragrant with dried oregano, baked ziti the consistency of caulking compound.. Continue reading: THE RED SAUCE TRAIL »
Say what you want about Castro–(we CAN, after all, Cubans not so much)–he managed, through design or neglect, to keep Havana beautiful.
Run down, crumbling, many buildings barely habitable–even the national baseball team has to play during the day because their stadium lights are broken and the country is too poor to fix them. Where things barely work, where time is arrested, where a failed ideology wheezes along on life support long after its inventors and sponsors abandoned it–at least, at least Havana is un-****ed by time. Where Moscow and St Petersburg brim with newly uglified buildings, malls, and the old cookie cutter concrete blocks leftover from the workers’ paradise, Havana looks like a shabbier but still gorgeous version of its older self. When it all changes, as it surely shall, I hope Havana’s waterfront, the malecon, the old hotels, the facades, the Nacional, the Tropicana, the cars–they remain–at least in appearance and design–the same. I’d hate to see fast food signs, the boutique hotels, bottle service, frat bars and canary yellow Lamborginis of the douche side of Miami. When everybody’s wired and connected and chatting freely, watching 500 channels of cable and voting their minds, I hope the mojitos don’t start coming in sno-cone form, the old neighborhoods dug up for golf courses or water parks.
It’s easy, I know, to over-romanticize the unspoiled. Especially when “unspoiled” means “poor”. But look. Look.
Whatever your politics, however you feel about Cuba–look at tonight’s show and admit, at least, that Havana is beautiful. It is the most beautiful city of Latin America or the Caribbean. Look at the Cuban people and admit that they are proud and big hearted and funny and kind–and strong as hell, having put up with every variety of bullshit over the years. On these things, I hope we can agree.
You can say that we are deliberately tackling a tired and well worn format for the sheer challenge of seeing if we can make it interesting and possibly even useful. We are well aware that many of the meals and experiences on No Reservations are, frankly, impossible to duplicate. The upcoming last meal at El Bulli show being a particularly extreme example. The crew and I got drunk one night and said, “hey, let’s make Samantha Brown’s show! Only….different…and good! ” unlike No Rez, you will actually be able to do the stuff covered on the show. And unlike other shows of the genre, you might actually want to. We were very pleased with the techniques show—which was also a very classic, well travelled and restrictive format. We managed to make that fun and interesting and put our own stamp on it. So why not this? It’s faster, more democratic and more caffeinated than No Rez. But just as obnoxious.
The ’66 T-Bird roared across the high desert somewhere between Morongo and Joshua Tree, sliding mushily across lanes as if guided by some reptilian death wish. Turning the wheel was like trying to slalom with an oil tanker, each time it would be a few long, long, and occasionally terrifying micro-seconds before there was any acknowledgement that there was anyone at all in control. In the narrow, twisting passes and draws, charging the wide, aquamarine colored beast down the road without hitting the dividers felt like dropping a squirming rat down a drain pipe. One could only hope he came out the other end. Continue reading: HAVANA CLUB…and LONELY T-BIRD »
Reportedly, there are about 4 million requests for reservations per year at EL BULLI, inarguably, the world’s most innovative and exciting restaurant. Only a few thousand are accommodated. There have been about as many words written on the subject, most of them focusing, understandably, on Ferran Adria, the chef, and on the wildly creative and forward thinking techniques and presentations he has introduced each year to the world. A snarky, sour grapesy, but not entirely untrue piece on slate.com recently described a writer’s syndrome called IAAEBAYD (or something like that): I Ate At El Bulli And You Didn’t; a common malady that infects most of the writers, myself included, who have been among the tiny minority lucky enough to have eaten at El Bulli—much less been given access to the people behind it. Invariably, the author points out, every article about El Bulli has to contain a passage describing the twisting and treacherous road from the nearest town on Spain’s Costa Brava to the remote cove where the restaurant is tucked away at one end of a mostly unpopulated beach. Continue reading: WHERE THE ROAD ENDS »
This year’s James Beard Awards self congratulatory goat rodeo/awards ceremony/chef shakedown is built around the theme of “The Ultimate Melting Pot”. Presumably, this will mean that at the mammoth food tasting, in which chefs from all over the country are dragooned into providing bites of food from chafing dishes and hotplates (for free), there will be a “multi-cultural” theme. Perhaps there will be a heartwarming video tape presentation, celebrating our brothers and sisters from around the world– a Benneton commercial, depicting cooks of many lands. But I seriously doubt you will see an increase in the number of Mexicans present. Or any other of the nationalities who comprise the backbone, heart, lungs, blood and muscle of the hospitality industry this organization claims to celebrate. I won’t be there to find out. Though nominated–along with Eric Ripert–for our limited run radio show, TURN AND BURN, I would sooner attend a Renaissance Fair in Hell. It would seem wrong, after all, given that I’ve been loudly peeing on this organization at every opportunity for years, to change my tune, now that I’m nominated for something. Maybe when they make para-legal advice for Mexican cooks a priority-or take a loud, persistent stand on the people doing so much of the actual cooking in this country, I’ll change my views. Till then? Screw ‘em.
Continue reading: THE MUMMY’S TOMB…AND OZARK NOIR »
The Vienna episode marked a temporary return to what many believe I do best:
Getting stupid-ass drunk, shoveling heavy food into my gob, making embittered dick jokes and generally careening around an unfamiliar city. A journey of discovery so to speak. I don’t know. I know I had I had an unexpectedly good time making the show, that Vienna was a pleasant surprise—and that it was particular delight working again with veteran producer and good friend, Tracy Gudwin. Continue reading: THE MORNING AFTER »
I admire people who live by their principles–even when I don’t agree with them. I don’t much like communism, particularly the soul crushing evil done in its name through much of history, but I have a romantic’s soft spot for an old Bolshie who took to the hills as a young man, believed in their heart that they were liberating their people from oppression (particularly if whoever they were fighting against was a uniquely bad bastard). Perhaps this will explain my visceral loathing for Daniel Ortega–seemingly the President For Life of Nicaragua, a guy who, clearly, has two sets of principles. One for the Nicaraguan people–and one for himself. My detestation of Nicaragua’s Maximum Leader is exceeded only by my admiration for its people who deserve so much better. Continue reading: NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS »