Leather Storrs: How TV Influences our Changing Food Culture
Thursday, July 02, 2015
But that guy ain’t nothing compared to THAT Guy… Fieri.
He’s a monster. A culinary Godzilla, frying everything in his path, intent on smashing things together and covering them with cheese!
Now there’s an enemy worth worrying about. He must be stopped! He is going to crumble our reputation like bacon bits!
Or maybe not.
Hating on Fieri is easier than poopooing the ‘Couv or finding a fixie.
Look chef, we get it. You make your own kimchi, grow food on your roof and your kid’s got a cleaver tattoo. You’ve worked hard to draw a clean, straight line between the source of your food and the mismatched plates on which you serve it.
You are part of the movement in our profession that features thoughtful, better educated, politically active people who are intent on showcasing their region with sustainable products and artisan techniques.
The Power of Food TV
Bully for you! But how, exactly, do you think we got from Emeril, who is an old guard, white coat, big restaurant kind of guy, to where we are now, with DIY, chef-driven houses piloted by tatted, cheese-making philosopher/butchers?
Food TV, that’s how. And old Guy, with his heavy metal bro shtick is the tsunami of food TV. He’s Nascar. Red State. He’s accessible. He’s fun.
“A rising tide lifts all boats.” The increase in attention, interest and knowledge about food, due mostly to armchair chefs, is good for all of us!
The food network helps customers learn the lingo of cuisine and it makes them interested in chefs. It makes people willing to try funky stuff and validates the increased cost of artisan items. It pays for us to go to food festivals in awful places like Hawaii and Aspen and it gets our names out there so people will buy our books.
Guy didn’t make that happen, but he sure helped. Alton Brown is nerdy. And effete. And a little snooty. Can you see him signing some woman's breasts with a sharpie?
There is a lot of dirt between here and Brooklyn, and the majority of it is planted with corn and soybeans.
The rest of the country couldn’t (and doesn’t want to) live like we do in the Northwest. Eating fussy and organic is time consuming and expensive and the only garden most folks want is the Olive one. But that doesn’t mean that things aren’t changing. Walmart sells organic food, Applebee’s is freshing up their menu and the first lady is pushing sustainability and seasonality in schools.
Guy knows you think he’s an ass, and that’s OK - turn off the TV. But realize (and hope) that some kid in Topeka is going to be spurred on to learn more about food than what she sees on “Guy+Rachel=Calories!” Understand that America’s love affair with seasonal, hand-made food is in its infancy.
We’re gonna kiss some frogs on the way, but then… let’s cook em.
Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s Best Comfort Food
Breakfast in a Jar, Bistro 22, Cranston
The relatively new Bistro 22 is part of the re-birth going on in Garden City, in Cranston. Many new shops and restaurants have opened in the last year and this may be the best of the lot. Bistro 22 is an American style bistro featuring local ingredients and creative dishes. It is the perfect stop to re-fuel while shopping or it is worth its own trip. The dish we chose has become a staple of our visits: Breakfast in a Jar. Slowly braised beef short rib is served along with diced potato, bacon, a poached egg and a little truffle juice. The whole thing is served in a small jar and accompanied by buttery, thick cut toast. Combine all the ingredients on the toast and it is a pretty perfect bite. 22 Midway Rd. 383-6400
Boeuf Bourguignon, Pot au Feu, Providence
If you are looking for the latest fad or newest dish in town, Pot au Feu is not the place for you. Owner Bob Burke likes to say that if a recipe isn't 300 years old, they're not interested. There is no more representative dish of French cuisine than Beef Bourguignon. A humble cut of beef is seasoned and slowly braised until tender and flavorful. The Pot's version features large chunks of beef braised with red wine and herbs until tender. It is served with their potato gratin and all that delicious broth makes for perfect French bread dipping. And hey...it was Julia Child's favorite! 44 Custom House St. 273-8953
French Onion Soup, Chez Pascal, Providence
There is something comfortable about a perfect bowl of soup. On a chilly afternoon or evening, it can be the perfect partner to a good read or your favorite TV show. On cool, October nights, we like to head over to Hope Street, in Providence, and check out the perfect French onion soup at Chez Pascal. This bistro classic features slowly braised onions with beef and chicken broth, sherry, a French bread crouton and melted cheese. It is baked in the oven and is served bubbly and melty and satisfying. Chez Pascal uses Gruyere as their cheese of choice...and we totally agree! This cheese has the perfect combination of flavor and melt. 960 Hope St. 421-4422
Cottage Pie, Buskers, Newport
Don't let the name fool you...this is a delicious Shepherd's Pie. Buskers is that perfect Irish pub you've been searching for and more. A "Busker" is a street musician or performer and we would happily sing for this supper! This is comfort on a plate: ground beef is combined with medley of vegetables including carrots and corn and peas and topped with their delicious house mashed potatoes and gravy. It is all baked until the top is crisp and brown. These flavors are classic and comforting and executed very well here. It will take the chill out of your bones for sure. 178 Thames St. 846-5856
Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese, Siena, Smithfield
As much as the Cottage Pie spoke to the Irish in us, the Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese speaks to the Italian in us. Too often Bolognese has been reduced to a homogeneous dish that falls short of what the creators intended. Not so at Siena. This is everything Bolognese should be. The Tarro brothers, long ago, brought their delicious interpretation of Tuscan food home to Rhode Island and this was the dish that hooked us. Sirloin steak, pork and pancetta are all cooked together in a tasty tomato sauce until the truly become part of the sauce. It is then tossed with tagliatelle pasta and topped with the classic Parmigiano Reggiano. Mangia! 400 Putnam Pike, 349-4111
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