- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Will Harris
t always strikes me as odd that my first experience with Andrew Zimmern, a self-described “chef, food critic, and dining columnist,” came not via a viewing of any of his various television appearances but, rather, through an in-person encounter.
Last summer, Zimmern was a participant in a luncheon sponsored by the kind folks at Discovery Networks, and as a method of pimping his new program, “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” he greeted the attendees as they entered the room, offering them the opportunity to taste things like cheese-flavored mealworms or salt-and-vinegar-flavored crickets. As a dedicated journalist, I stepped up to the plate – no pun intended – and did indeed pop a few of these little buggers into my mouth and, although they were never destined to be a nation-sweeping taste sensation, they really weren’t half-bad. Mind you, they weren’t really half-good, either, but, still, I left the proceedings giddy with anticipation for the premiere of Zimmern’s series, an emotion aided in no small part by the clips of the show which were aired during our meal.
Granted, most of the foods that pass across Zimmern’s palate will prove decidedly less than appetizing to the average America, but the show is thoroughly fascinating for those who can disassociate their stomachs from what they’re watching on the screen. Adjectives like “gamey” and “gelatinous” trickle forth from Zimmern’s lips way more than can possibly be healthy, yet he remains enthusiastic throughout. Only rarely does he concede that something hasn’t exactly tickled his taste buds, and even when that happens, he always immediately launches into a well-practiced speech about how he respects the locals’ right to enjoy it even if he doesn’t.
Given that the show airs on the Travel Channel rather than the Food Network, it’s unsurprising that Zimmern attempts to provide a certain amount of general travelogue information along with his exploration of the cuisine of each reason. There’s also a Pop-Up Video aspect to the show, with random facts about Zimmern’s various menu items, as well as the country he’s traveling through. Every episode is a fun and educational trip, whether you’ve been to that particular locale or not. Indeed, Zimmern’s visit to New York City makes for one of the most enjoyable hours, with your humble host teaming up with his culinary buddy Anthony Bourdain. It’s particularly funny when Bourdain makes the embarrassing admission that he’d be able to traverse Singapore better than Brooklyn, having never before been to the latter, but it’s ever funnier when, upon Zimmern’s exit, Bourdain shakes his head at the camera and says, “I give him a season.”
Oh, come on, Anthony: you know darned well that your man Andrew has one of the best shows on the Travel Channel. If you’ve never seen it, though, we don’t want to ruin the fun of “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” by giving away too many of the meals that he tries during his adventures. Still, we have to offer particular props for items like baby squid (served in their own ink), bull testicles, pork-stuffed frogs, giant coconut worms, guinea pig, yam- and cheese-flavored ice cream (served on a hamburger bun), and – yes! – an entire roasted sheep’s head (and we’re talking up to and including the eyeball). Mmm-mmm good!
You’ll want to buy this for all of your friends who fancy themselves gourmet chefs. The only caveat: the next time they have a dinner party, don’t ask what you’re eating until after you’ve already swallowed. Trust us, it’s just better that way.
Special Features: None. Now, normally, I’d only dock a DVD set half a star for the omission of bonus materials when the regular series is so good, but there’s a flyer within the set that trumpets how the official website for the show contains video outtakes, photos, and Zimmern’s culinary rules. So, clearly, there is bonus material, but no one could be bothered to transfer it to the DVD. Talk about a slap in the face to the fans!