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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
he last time Bullz-Eye checked in on the ongoing “Bizarre Foods” line of DVDs was way back when Will Harris reviewed Collection One. Much has changed in that time, at least as far as the public awareness of Andrew Zimmern and his crazy travelogue goes. Pretty much anybody with cable or satellite TV has stumbled across the show a time or two, and they were either instantly converted or instantly turned off by the entire affair. “Bizarre Foods” is a polarizing series, and even the toughest hides will find themselves occasionally sickened by some of the goings-on. But just as often, Zimmern stumbles across fare that looks pretty damn appetizing. This mashup of the grotesque and the mouthwatering may be what keeps the faithful coming back for more.
The 13 episodes contained in this set are collected from the fourth and fifth seasons of the show, and as is to be expected, Zimmern trots all over the globe searching for fare that’s off the beaten path. What I didn’t realize when I accepted this assignment was that this collection features my personal favorite episode, which is “Texas.” That’s because I live in San Antonio. His trip to the Texas State Fair in Dallas, in which he gorges on all manner of deep fried goodness made me want to plan a trip to the next one. I’ve never been. I’m just not a State Fair kind of guy, but Zimmern sure makes me want to amend that possible oversight. He then trips down to Houston to visit NASA, and try out various astronaut foods. Few appear appetizing.
He bypasses Austin completely and heads for the Texas Hill Country where there’s so much good food to be found that this episode alone must surely have had some people rearranging their summer vacation plans. He dips into San Antonio ever so briefly to check out the Liberty Bar, which is a standby for all S.A. locals and a must-visit for tourists. The Lib stood proud and tilted (no joke) in its location on Josephine Street for about 25 years, until there were problems with the lease and it was forced to relocate down onto South Alamo. So it’s nice to have this tiny video documentation of Liberty Bar in its original location, and yes, the new location serves up the very same goat cheese with piloncillo and chile morita sauce that Andrew can’t get enough of in this episode.
His trips to Buenos Aires, Baja, Mexico and Puerto Rico are also three great installments for anyone looking for fine dining. Buenos Aires is apparently the place to go for beef. Seems as if people there love beef so much it’s difficult to get them to eat any other meat! Baja, Mexico is the place to go for seafood. I’m a seafood freak, and this episode really had the stomach juices churning. If you’ve never had Mexican seafood, you are missing out something hardcore. And Puerto Rico is just jam-packed with foodie goodness.
So where’s the bizarre you ask? Well, most of the aforementioned episodes have plenty of bizarre going on. I mean, at the Texas State Fair he has deep fried Coke! But if you’re looking for bizarre and disgusting, this set does not disappoint. I’ve gradually learned to really dig Thai food over the years, but the episode in which Zimmern visits an area of Thailand known as the Isan region is so full of thoroughly disgusting foods that it may have severely set back my appreciation of Thai cuisine. Nothing will prepare you for the scene in which a family slaughters a calf and begins chowing down on its uncooked carcass out in the field. Just revolting. Then there’s the grilled rat and silkworm grubs later on down the road. There are also trips to Arizona, the Australian Outback, Seoul, Korea, Tokyo, Bangkok and Mongolia.
Really, though, when I think back on this set, what stands out the most is the heads. Zimmern must dine on at least a half a dozen different heads throughout the course of this set: cow, sheep, and tuna are three of them. There’s nothing like watching the head of an animal brought out to a table, then seeing its jaw cracked wide open so that Zimmern and company can begin sifting through it and commenting on all the different flavors. The man always has to go for an eyeball. Look, I’m a fairly adventurous eater, and in fact “Bizarre Foods” has made me even more so over the years, but I have to draw the line at faces. It just doesn’t do it for me. But Mr. Zimmern? More power to you. Keep on truckin’ and doing what you do. The Travel Channel just wouldn’t be the same without you.
Special Features: There are no special features per se, however the set does feature two specials, although they’re presented along with the regular programming. “The Survival Special” features Zimmern dropped off in the jungles of Mexico where he must survive for 24 or 48 hours or somesuch. It’s about as stimulating as an episode of “Survivor.” Given that there’s a camera crew following him around the entire time, he certainly doesn’t appear to be in any danger. The other is the “Kid’s Special,” which is just made of clips from other episodes, when he met kids from various places around the globe. It sure would be nice if someday they’d include some outtakes or other stuff we didn’t get to see on TV, because you just know with a show like this, there’s loads of extra footage laying around in a vault somewhere.