Bizarre Foods America, your time has come. The need for Americans to see themselves as we really are (talking ‘bout you Kardashians!), the desire I have to make the unfamiliar familiar, and the bloodlust for the type of insider information that is actionable makes this the best season of Bizarre Foods ever. I mean really, how many of you went to Maun Botswana and from there to the Aha Hills like I told you to? Now there are no excuses, especially since we kick off the series in the Twin Cities– the place I’ve called home since 1992. I leaned on lots of friends and family, former and current colleagues to make this episode happen, and couldn’t be more thrilled with how it turned out.
Minnesota winters can be brutal (but I still love ‘em). The summers, on the other hand, are unparalleled. We filmed most of this episode in July– at the height of our growing season. Folks here don’t take a single sunny day for granted, and from May-September, you’ll find Minnesotans outside biking, running, walking, fishing, or swimming. Chefs take full advantage of ingredients grown locally (sometimes even in their own backyard); diners love eating al fresco. Most Minnesotans are nudists. Look for the gratuitous montage shots of some of our favorite hidden beaches near end of the show.
Our hotdish cook-off at the Uptown VFW was one of the most fun segments to film. My wife and son were there, along with my in-laws.
Molly brought her 85-year-old grandmother, Arlene. She’s the mother of 12 boys (yes, you heard me right!) and relied heavily on these types of no-fuss hotdishes for the better part of her cooking life. Grandma Mogren has hung up her apron strings for the most part, so Molly offered to whip up her grandma’s Pizza Hotdish recipe for her. Slaving over boiling noodles and a hot oven sans AC when the heat index hit 105 degrees… that’s a labor of love.
As for other entrees, you won’t believe the things people submitted. Maybe it’s my jaded New York upbringing, but I don’t think lime Jell-o, olives and cottage cheese should ever go together. Ever. Oh, and I can’t wait for you to meet Lola, whose extreme cleavage slightly upstaged her Jell-o salad. Play a game at home when you watch this act and let me know if you can tell which of the ladies who made Jell-o are hammered. Answer: Most of them.
But let me just say in complete honesty that the best moments of this show, some of the absolute best moments in the history of Bizarre Foods, wound up on the cutting room floor.
Anyone who has ever eaten hot dogs at The Gopher Bar and Tilia can imagine how that little ‘compare and contrast’ moment played out. (the ones shown above are from Tilia, by the way).
The guys at Travail surprised me with “Durian Eight Ways”– meaning eight bite-sized courses featuring one of my least favorite foods. I was simply stunned, and props to Bob who made four separate durian desserts. They were so well executed that I almost forgot they were made with durian… almost. We also failed at capturing Dusti, Molly and Beth (the ladies from my office) talking ad nauseum about the “hot kitchen staff at Travail.” Apparently these gals can’t resist the tatted up, bandana-wearing young chef type. I am seriously worried about them.
My day at the Hmong market– I loved the green papaya salad so much that I served it at my 50th birthday party.
Manning the kitchen at Haute Dish and slinging the special I came up with– Andrew ZImmern’s Offal Hotdish (though I loved it, diner’s mixed reviews leads me to think it won’t be back on the menu any time soon).
Doug Flicker blowing my mind in the kitchen at Piccolo. The man is a genius.
I felt like a total badass fishing for garbage fish with a cross bow, even though my aim was abysmal. And look at the lake at night. Heaven.
Checking out the Twin Cities budding food truck scene. They legalized it last year in Mpls (and can still only be downtown for whatever dumb reason), and I couldn’t be happier. I was very sad we only visited one truck.
Two words: Juicy Lucy. Whether it’s at the 5-8, Matt’s Bar, the Blue Door Pub or at home, we love those suckers here. Just try to not burn your mouth on molten hot cheese.
And these are just a few highlights from the Bizarre Foods America premiere. Watch it Monday, January 23 at 10|9C on Travel Channel.