Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bourdain: Turns Out, I'm Still Bitter crabs. Nuclear blue crabs from the Hudson.

Last night, as we wrapped up the newest episode of No Reservations, in which Tony travels up the Hudson River, I realized something: I am not going to get over Bourdain's shabby treatment of Baltimore. It's permanently colored the way I watch his show.

Apparently Bourdain doesn't care what people in Baltimore think of him, anyway. Last night, while picking crabs with a couple of old-timers from a Hudson River town that's inconveniently nestled next to a nuclear power plant, he took the opportunity to mention that the crabs were better than anything in Baltimore and that they should be anyway, since New York is, of course, better than Maryland.

You know, I like New York and I like a lot of New Yorkers. But that attitude? Annoying and unjustified.

Plus, the crabs were totally underseasoned. And Bourdain didn't even really know how to pick them, even though he used to live here.

My issues with the episode didn't start and stop with the Bmore references, either. While I like Michael Ruhlman and everything looked pretty, I wasn't that impressed with the food.

I'm sure the food served in CIA instructor Chef Pardus' backyard tasted good, but I was sort of put off by watching a bunch of displaced Manhattanites eating banh mi - and I was definitely put off by Pardus' 10-going-on-40 daughter, who apparently has never heard the words, "Don't use that tone of voice." I'm sure she's a smart little girl, but, um, a tad insufferable? I got the impression that every adult in her presence has praised her for being adorable and funny. To me, though, precocious does not equal adorable.

(Now I feel mean for criticizing a 10 year old, especially when it's really her parents' fault.)

The final scene got to me, too. Bourdain had dinner with Bill Murray, who I love, at a restaurant near New Paltz. Walking into the restaurant, Bourdain mentioned that as a general rule, the quality of the food at a restaurant is inversely proportional to the quality of the view. I agree - and considering how much time I've spent eating out in Annapolis, I know what I'm talking about.

Bourdain insisted that the food at this restaurant defied that rule. I'm sure it did. But it still wasn't interesting enough to warrant a spot on the show. No groundbreaking creativity, no unique local flavors - just your standard fare upscale cuisine (which I started complaining about back in 2006). It looked to me like the real draw of the restaurant was that the owner's friends with Bill Murray. I get that he's a big star and everything, but isn't No Reservations supposed to be above that sort of thing?

The show did have some bright spots, though. The salty dog marina bar looked great, the sausage-making guy was inspiring, and I loved the sailing scenes. In fact, I think somebody on the Severn needs to get on that floating food cart thing. (Anchor in between the bridges - you'd be out of the way and you'd get traffic from all parts of the river.)

Overall, though, the episode disappointed me in tiny ways along the way and it didn't hang together as a whole - the overriding theme was weak. The Hudson River might be a beautiful, fantastic place to eat. But that show didn't really sell it to this Maryland girl.

[Photo credit: Travel Channel]


Erin said...

Kit - I couldn't agree more with you about No Rez and my feelings toward it since the Baltimore episode. I don't even really watch it anymore! Is that childish? Perhaps. But I will not stand for getting the "slum edit" whilst other, um, shining cities get the "quirky" edit, you know? Glad we're on the same page!

Kit Pollard said...

That makes me feel better! And I really don't think it's childish. I can't watch it anymore without wondering what the producers missed when they were shaping the story.

Jen said...

I didn't see the episode, but wasn't Bourdain knocking Baltimore in Kitchen Confidential? It's been a while since I read it and of course I can't find my copy. But he talked about working here, and I think how unimpressed he was. I remember liking the book, but that part got me all defensive!

Steve said...

I'm with you, Kit. The Baltimore episode has me assuming that he similarly shortcuts all of these other cities as well. It's a gimmicky, bullshit show in my opinion. Now, Man Vs Food on the other hand is fantastic.

Kit Pollard said...

Steve - agreed. I love Adam.

Jen - he DID knock Baltimore in Kitchen Confidential...of course, while he was in Baltimore he was doing heavy drugs. Seems like maybe he should consider that in his judgment of the city, but whatever!


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