Saturday, October 14, 2006

Overlooked Cooking Shows

With the glitz and glam of the FoodNetwork (I've only had cable for a year and I'm new to Rachel Ray and Alton Brown), I've overlooked some good PBS-broadcast cooking shows. Here are two of my new favorites:

Mexico: One Plate at a Time. Rick Bayless, a linguist-turned restauranteur in Chicago, travels through Mexico discovering the culture through food. Then he returns to his home kitchen and recreates dishes for us. No tricks, no shouting, no glam. This is more than tacos and burritos--but the recipes are still fairly simple.

Rick tends to get too intimate with the camera, kind of snuggling up to it and cooing. He also has a habit of rolling words around in his mouth like an olive before actually getting them out that gets tiresome if you're watching a few shows back-to-back. He's pulled a Jacques Pepin and brought his daughter into a few of them, even listing her as "co-host" in the final credits. I could do without her perkiness, and I'm grateful whenever he sends her off to set the table.

The website needs some serious focus. I've directed you to the cooking portion:

Entertainment: 4 of 5
Informational: 5 of 5
Ease of Recipes: Easy
Would I Make these recipes at home: I have and I'll continue to.
Would I want this person at a party: Maybe. There's a little schmuck factor. He could be the guy that thinks he's God's gift to the world. Or a close talker. On the otherhand, he might be fascinating. But more likely the kind of guy to talk all about HIM.

America's Test Kitchen. There's the tall dorky guy with glasses. The thin blonde chick. The less-thin blonde chick (my favorite) and the dumpy dorky guy without glasses. And then the forgettable guy. Sounds like a team made for tv, right?

Actually, the show comes together pretty well. They make at least two recipes, showing the best way to do it, with what ingrediants, and why. They test out all sorts of approaches and versions, and let us know what works. Talk about lessons learned.

Then, they go to the testers corner, where they do a "consumer reports" taste-test, with the tall dorky guy playing along. Vinegar, white rice, mustard...he gets to try all sorts of yummies that I wouldn't bother with, just getting the cheapest.

Also, they go through kitchen tools, telling us what's the best for the price. I like that--because often the most expensive is just as good as something mid-range.

I'll try their Cincinatti Chili tonight maybe, depending on the price of ground beef. While I haven't tried one of their recipes yet, they look good.

Watch you don't put an "s" at the end of their website URL. You'll get a virus-loaded site. Here's the right one:

Entertainment: 3.5 of 5
Informational: 4 of 5
Ease of Recipes: Easy to moderate
Would I Make these recipes at home: Maybe, though I haven't yet
Would I want this person at a party: Maybe. They are all pretty normal. No egos involved. They might actually be a bit dull.

No comments: