Food Trip

Risë at Hanks Oyster Bar

Risë at Hanks Oyster Bar

Risë Birnbaum

(ZPR) – I’ve never ever considered myself a foodie…until just recently.  Yes, I watch every Food network and just about every bizarre food show on TV and cable.  There’s more chopping coming from my TV than news, drama and comedies combined.  It’s just my way to chill.  But when I get home at nine and haven’t eaten, I make myself either a pb&j (with any jelly handy) or Bumble Bee white with oil on toast with thick stripe of Hellmann’s mayo (my mom’s fave brands leaked into my world). Continue reading

Without Z There are No Zombies

Put a stake in it vampires, you’re done, ‘cause Zombies have taken center stage.  Wassup with our never-ending love of zombies?  I know its Halloween and all, but I can barely click 10 stations in any direction without stumbling across one of those lurching, rotting creatures just dying for a taste of (my) liver.  I mean this is no Food Network challenge.  This is a bunch of very hungry, post-apocalyptic dudes looking to tear you and me from limb to limb and eat us carpaccio.  They’re not big on roasting.

I admit I watch The Walking Dead.  I don’t exactly know why (but it might have something to do with the hunky sheriff Rick).  I like seeing the special effects and watching the gang of humans squash the zombies like bugs in all kinds of novel ways.  There are picks and machetes and bayonets (yup the b word again) and poles and arrows and axes…you name it and this gang uses it to put the zombies out of their ever lovin’ misery.

Zombies have been around for a while.  I know this for a fact.  There’s the Night of the Living Dead which forced me to use a nightlight well into my 20s, Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later for starters.  And now with almost a full moon and Halloween, the streets will be teeming with them.

I’ve always found it interesting that these kidney-eating monsters don’t really move that fast.  I mean, a snail has a chance at a get-away if the zombie gets a taste for escargot.  So, all ya really need is to avoid their bite while you drill them with a nail gun.  If you’re bitten, you’re kinda screwed cause then you’ll turn into a zombie, too, and shamble around in very dirty clothes looking for your next al dente meal.

And if you see some tonight, or some other night, walking in slo-mo and dripping blood?  Got two words for you — RUN FAST.

Chew On This

Q:  What was a chef called 10 years ago?

A:  Unemployed

But, boy has that changed.  Thanks to The Food Network and shows like Iron Chef, Chopped, Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, The Barefoot Contessa and names like Giada, Bobby, Guy, Marcus and Alton, food has hit the big time.

I first noticed Iron Chef about 10 years ago when I was probably one of the 12 viewers watching.  I found all the slicing, dicing and shots from above the boiling and broiling mesmerizing.  And then when the judges got to taste all the meals and hear the reasoning behind the cooking, that iced the cake for me.  I liked the show so much that I forced my editor at that time to put a story on Iron Chef in Amtrak’s new onboard magazine we published, “Arrive.”

The PR industry has caught on pretty quickly, recognizing that an effective way to reach moms is through cooking.  So, we book celebrity chefs on TV to whip up something delicious on set to promote a book, a new TV series, an ingredient, a restaurant or even a set of knives or blender.  We do it because it works.

TV shows still love live demonstrations and now with live webcasts, sponsors are able to invite target demos to see a demonstration live, and then archive the video to capture even more eyeballs.  And, if we tease the segment with some video on you tube or other social media sites, audience numbers will go through the roof.

And then there are radio or online promotions where winners can cash in on gift certificates to Whole Foods, a set of dishes or pizza for a year.  The station numbers go up when there are contests, and listeners love it, so everybody wins.

I’m amazed that I can watch Guy Fieri zoom from kitchen to kitchen tasting, testing, touching and teasing and love it time after time.  Sometimes I even watch the same episode two or three times.  The dude is so mediagenic.  From his white moussed hair to his smart-ass one-liners, he really knows what to do and say in front of the cameras.  And when he finally takes that huge bite when the cheese is melting and the sauce is dripping and the meat is smoking…that’s money.

Pigging out: Food trends and PR

A public relations professional couldn’t have done it any better. When I was a kid, skirt steak and hanger steak were the tougher, chewier, cheaper cuts of meat. End of story. Somewhere along the way, those cuts of meat got hip (though still chewy) and more expensive (supply and demand).

And then there’s the pork story. The other white meat has never been so trendy. Not only are Americans eating more pork than ever before, they’re eating it “from snout to tail.” So how did pigskin go from the field to the plate? Television shows!

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Not sure what’s wrong with me.  I work hard, travel, have a daughter, friends and a loving maltese (Moose), yet I’m addicted to reality shows.  I should probably tattoo Bravo or Food somewhere on my body or at least see if they’re publicly traded.

I come home from work, make Moose and myself dinner and then start clicking away.  Anthony, Bobby, Heidi, Isaac, the NYC preps and the Real Housewives (no matter where they’re from) have become my new best friends.

Yes, I read the news and even have a stack of magazines (unlike Sarah Palin) and paperbacks on my nightstand, yet I am drawn like a magnet by the guy who eats goat guts and the doc who lets himself get bitten by bugs head to toe.  I’m amazed by the spoiled brats in NY who constantly talk sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll (wonder which colleges are actually accepting them).  And I get hungry when Flay does his throwdown and nauseous when Adam scarfs down 12 pizza with extra cheese.  Yet I stay glued to the screen.  Kinda like a train wreck.

What is it about reality shows that reels me in?  Don’t I get enough reality watching one disaster after the next every day in the news?

I’m trying my best to figure it out and I think it’s watching real people do outrageous things that turns me on.  It happens in the news, too, but by the time I see the news it’s usually over and done.  With reality TV you’re not quite sure what will happen.  So, I find myself rooting for Adam to down the last pastrami sandwich with fries or the NYC prepster to toss his hair and say something totally obnoxious or the hotties in Miami to go clubbing all night.  When they do something like that, I feel a touch more normal.  Is that normal…who knows?  All I know if that when Anthony Bourdain goes to Vietnam and rants about the food and the booze, I wish I could be by his side.  So, while Tony gets plastered, I stay plastered to my plasma. 

Will I be able to free myself from my reality habit?  Probably, but it might take a 12-step program and RA (reality anonymous) meetings. And at the moment, I’m just having too much fun.