Unique Eats

Review: Sugar High

I have said it more than once.  I’m tired of dessert oriented shows.  I know that a lot of people dig them but for a savory guy they just don’t cut the mustard.  As humorous and charming as Adam Gertler is I really can’t get into Kid in a Candy Store.  I love Cooking Channel’s Unique Eats but it’s spin-off Unique Sweets bores me.  The same for Top Chef  and Top Chef: Just Desserts.  And don’t get me started on Cupcake Wars (worst show on TV).

Sugar High DuffThe one dessert show that I did like was Ace of Cakes which wrapped production last winter.  Let’s face it, Ace was the best and everything that’s come out since is trying to capture the magic at Charmed City Cakes.  But I didn’t dig Ace because of the mind-boggling cake sculptures, although they were cool, I liked it because of the staff at the bakery.  They were very interesting and funny people, devoid of onscreen drama.  Especially the adorable Katherine Hill. Purrrrr.

When a friend at the Network hipped me that Duff had a new show coming out I approached it with mixed feelings.  I, like most Food Network viewers, like Duff a lot.  He is one of the most recognizable stars in the food TV universe and one of the most likeable as well.  But at the same time it was sure to be just another dessert show.  Duff is great but it was his interaction with his staff that made Ace so much fun.

Imagine my surprise when I watched the premiere.  Duff makes an extremely good food/travel host.  It was still Duff, but there is a polish and professionalism to his voice-over narrative that makes him exceedingly approachable.  It isn’t silly nor over the top.  All of the voice-over work is so good it makes me wonder why he hasn’t made a career out of documentaries and commercials.  The voice was Duff, but then again it was someone new.

Then came the interaction with each featured vendor.  There was the old Duff. The joking, the crazy laugh, the quirky sense of humor; it was all there.  So now we have the best of both worlds.  The new, mature host Duff and the old, playful, cake blower-upper Duff.  What a terrific blend.

But what about the content?  It’s still just dessert right, glorified bowls of sugar?  Not for me it wasn’t.  The producers have done a great job of lining up vendors with personalities that compliment the host’s.  It made me care about desserts.  In fact, I’m adding Venice Beach’s Schulzies Bread Pudding to my “must do” list on my next trip to LA.

108 bread puddings?  Are you kidding me?  To me bread pudding is the perfect dessert food.  It can taste like whatever your favorite desserts is.  It’s easy as all get out to make, makes use of left-over ingredients (gotta watch that food cost) and it has tradition.  It has all of the things people look for in a great dessert – complexity of flavor, contrasting textures and luxury that can only come from sugar and saturated fat.  If you ever see me on a reality cooking competition you can bet my dessert course will be breading pudding.  Or Key lime pie.

Okay, back on topic.  I cannot believe how enjoyable I found the show.  Would I like it better if it were Ribeye High?  Probably, I never get tired of seeing a perfectly cooked medium-rare piece of meat,  That being said, I’ll be tuning back in to Sugar High and for me that’s high praise, especially for a dessert show.

Sugar High airs Fridays at at 10:30pm/9:30c on the Food Network.

COOKING CHANNEL JUNE HIGHLIGHTS

Press Release from the Cooking Channel:

Ben Sargent Hosts First-Ever Seafood Series: ‘Hook, Line & Dinner’
New Episodes of ‘The Originals with Emeril’ and ‘From Spain With Love’
Season Premiere of Kelsey’s Essentialsand Summer Kicks Off with “Grilling Week”
NEW YORK – May 16, 2011 – Cooking Channel sizzles into summer with a series and season premiere along with countless new episodes of fan-favorite shows. New primetime series Hook, Line & Dinner reels viewers in on Tuesday, June 7th at 10:30pmET/7:30pmPT as host Ben Sargent teams up with local experts to secure the catch of the day and cook it up in the best seaside kitchens during this one-of-a-kind seafood-focused series. Emeril Lagasse highlights the country’s most iconic restaurants in new episodes of The Originals with Emeril on Thursdays at 10:30pmET/7:30pmPT, and Annie Sibonney continues her culinary trip through notable Spanish regions in new episodes of From Spain with Love on Saturdays at 9:30pmET/6:30pmPT. “Grilling Week”airsSunday, June 12th – Saturday, June 18th from 8pm-11pmET/5pm-8pmPT and features grilling-themed episodes of Cooking Channel favorites, while CookingChannelTV.com offers the ultimate burger guide for summer grilling. And, Kelsey Nixon returns for season two of Kelsey’s Essentials on Saturday, June 25th at 2:30pmET/11:30amPT. Join the Cooking Channel conversation on Twitter and Facebook.
SERIES PREMIERE
By bike, boat, car or surfboard, Ben Sargent embarks on the ultimate coastal road trip in his primetime Cooking Channel series, Hook, Line & Dinner. From Florida and Louisiana to California and Oregon, Ben uncovers the country’s best seafood joints and regional specialties while taking viewers on the awesome journey from sea to table. Crab shacks, lobster pounds, and chowder houses – to Ben, they’re more than just places to get a hot meal. They’re hangouts for eccentrics, where locals swap stories and fishermen share tales from the sea. In each episode, Ben visits a new coastal locale where he teams up with the expert locals to secure the catch of the day, and then he follows that catch straight to the best seaside kitchens.
  • Premieres Tuesday, June 7th at 10:30pmET/7:30pmPT – SERIES PREMIERE! – “Bayou Country”
Ben’s first stop in Bayou Country is Bayou Sorrel to meet fisherman Carey Carline. Next, he heads to Breaux Bridge, the ‘Crawfish Capital of the World’ to visit Crazy ‘bout Crawfish and try his hand at making crawfish etouffee. Then, Ben’s off to learn how to boil purged crawfish at Cajun Claw and then finishes his trip with a visit to Café des Amis for Cajun catfish.
  • Premieres Tuesday, June 14th at 10:30pmET/7:30pmPT – “Miami & the Everglades”
Ben travels the Miami River aboard Lord of the Tides en route to Biscayne Bay to help harvest spiny lobster, and then he completes the ultimate sea-to-plate experience by sautéing lobster Cuban creole style at Garcia’s Seafood Grille. He whips up ‘down-home style’ frog’s legs at Coopertown Restaurant, and last on the adventure, Ben heads to sea with Lee Noble of Leebo’s Rock Bottom Bar to highlight South Florida’s other famous crustacean – the stone crab.
  • Premieres Tuesday, June 21st at 10:30pmET/7:30pmPT – “Charleston, South Carolina”
Ben discovers Charleston’s current culinary renaissance with the region’s rustic Lowcountry cuisine and its seemingly timeless union with all things fresh and aquatic. He begins his journey at Bowens Island Restaurant, a local marsh-side oyster house. Then he heads to Husk in historic downtown Charleston for pan-seared sheepshead fish, and prepares stuffed blue crab at T.W. Graham & Company in nearby McClellanville.
  • Premieres Tuesday, June 28th at 10:30pm ET/7:30pm PT – “New Orleans”
Ben travels to New Orleans during Mardi Gras and joins shrimper Brian Drury for the catch before whisking the crustaceans into the kitchen with Leah Chase of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, where they specialize in creole gumbo. Then, Ben travels south of The Big Easy to meet Jacques Leonardi of Jack-Imo’s to blacken fish fillets New Orlean’s style. Finally, Ben journeys to the Mississippi Delta to get a first-hand look at oyster beds nearly a year after the oil spill before heading to Castnet Seafood to make a giant oyster po-boy.
FEATURED SERIES
  • Premieres Thursday, June 2nd at 10:30pmET/7:30pm PT – “Atlanta”
Emeril ventures to Atlanta to visit Mary Mac’s Tea Room for spicy Cajun shrimp and grits, the Busy Bee Café for fried chicken and Horseradish Grill for char-grilled Georgia mountain trout, braised greens and fried green tomatoes.
  • Premieres Thursday, June 9th at 10:30pmET/7:30pm PT – “New York”
Emeril heads to New York to visit Il Vagabondo for their world-famous Veal Parmesan, King Yum for butterfly shrimp and savory Wonton Soup and Keens Steakhouse for their popular Porterhouse steaks and timeless mutton chops.
  • Premieres Thursday, June 16th at 10:30pmET/7:30pm PT“Chicago”
Emeril discovers culinary charms of the Windy City when he visits The Berghoff for a Reuben sandwich, Twin Anchors for Chicago-style ribs and creamed spinach and Gene and Georgetti’s for “garbage salad” and “Chicken Ala Joe.”
  • Premieres Thursday, June 23rd at 10:30pmET/7:30pm PT – “Miami”
    Emeril explores three original establishments in Miami: Joe’s Stone Crab for tasty Key Lime Pie, Casa Larios for “fried cow,” and Tobacco Road for smoked ribs and chicken.
  • Premiering Thursday, June 30th at 10:30pmET / 7:30pm PT – “New Orleans”
Emeril returns to New Orleans to stop by Casamento’s for its fresh oysters, Café Du Monde for beignets and Antoine’s for Oysters Rockefeller and Baked Alaska.
From Spain With Love
  • Premieres Saturday, June 4th at 9:30pmET/6:30pmPT – “Paella: Tradition in a Pan”
Annie explores all aspects of the traditional Spanish dish – paella. She visits a family in La Mancha to pick saffron and later talks to the “Queen of Saffron,” Chef Maria José San Román, at her restaurant in Alicante. She ends her journey in Barcelona, where everything – including paella – is done with a twist.
  • Premieres Saturday, June 11th at 9:30pmET/6:30pmPT – “Madrid: Dusk ‘til Dine”
Annie starts her evening in Madrid at the historic Mercado San Miguel in the heart of downtown Madrid and later enjoys the local street food of the city. Annie savors a fantastic multi-course dinner at El Fogon de Trifon, and ends her evening with an early morning treat of hot chocolate and churros.
  • Premieres Saturday, June 18th at 9:30pmET/6:30pmPT – “Preserves: Keeping the Flavor Alive”
Annie feasts on locally-sourced conservas (canned food) at Quimet y Quimet in Barcelona. She then prepares traditional dried salted cod (bacalao) in Bilbao and explores a range of meat smoking techniques in Catalonia. She also prepares chicken and vegetables in the traditional escabeche style.
  • Premieres Saturday, June 25th at 9:30pmET/6:30pmPT – “Seafood To Die For”
Annie helps female clam diggers of Galicia gather clams before the tides come in and later risks the dangerous surf off of Spain’s “coast of death” in search of percebes (goose barnacles). She enjoys a Galician-style octopus party and works alongside Chef Marcelo Tejedor to cook local seafood in his restaurant in Santiago de Compostela.
SEASON PREMIERE
Kelsey’s Essentials: Season TwoPremieres Saturday, June 25th at 2:30pmET/11:30amPT – “Summer Desserts”
Kelsey whips up delicious desserts including Chocolate Peanut Butter and Banana Icebox Cake; Sugar Cookie Crust Pizza; Watermelon, Ginger and Lime Granita; and Cucumber, Meyer Lemon and Lavender Granita.
ON-AIR “GRILLING WEEK”
Grilling Week: Sunday, June 12th – Saturday, June 18th from 8pm-11pmET/5pm-8pmPT
From healthy hamburgers and scrumptious sides to thirst-quenching libations and delicious desserts, Cooking Channel gets grilling with tasty themed episodes of fan favorite shows offering up expert tips and techniques perfect for summer entertaining.
Premiere and encore episodes of series and specials include: BBQ with Bobby Flay; BBQ Boot Camp; BBQ Circuit; Bitchin’ Kitchen; Ciao America; Eat St.; Everyday Italian; Food(ography); From Spain with Love; Giada’s Weekend Getaways; Hook, Line & Dinner; The Originals with Emeril; Two Fat Ladies; Unique Eats; and United Tastes of America.
ONLINE
From bison burgers and bacon-wrapped meatloaf burgers to crab burgers and Aussie chicken burgers, CookingChannelTV.com has the perfect patty to satisfy every craving, including exclusive recipes from Food Network Kitchens, Hungry Girl’s Lisa Lillien, Fan Fave Chef Kevin Gillespie, and Kelsey Nixon from Kelsey’s Essentials. CookingChannelTV.com also offers up a rare gem: a burger recipe from legendary chef, Julia Child.
NEW EPISODES
In addition to the above series, new episodes of hit Cooking Channel series air throughout June.
Chuck’s Day Off:June 5th, June 12th, June 19th and June 26th at 11amET/8amPT
Eat St.:June 14th, June 21st and June 28th at 8pmET/5pmPT
Unique Eats:June 5th, June 12th, June 19th and June 26th at 10pmET/7pmPT
Unique Sweets:June 19th and June 26th at 10:30pmET/7:30pmPT
David Rocco’s Dolce Vita:June 4th, June 11th, June 18th and June 25th at 1:30pmET/10:30amPT
From the Kitchens Of…:June 12th at 10amET/7amPT

7 Questions with Caitlin Zaino

Caitlin Zaino The Urban Grocer

As Food Network ventures further and further into the realm of reality TV and away from its foodie origins the folks at Scripps are making sure they do not alienate their original fan base.  The Cooking Channel was created so that those of us who watch food TV for the food still have TV to watch.  That is not a backhanded compliment, Food Network is insanely successful with the format they have now and there is no shame in following that path.  I am genuinely thankful that they gave us both networks.

For the Foodie, the Cooking Channel is like the hip new coffee house in town.  All the cool people hang there; it’s the to place to see and be seen.  Some of my favorite food shows are found there like Everyday Exotic, Chuck’s Day Off and Unique Eats.  These shows are geared towards the hardcore foodie.

Vying to enter that lofty place is The Urban Grocer.  According to the Cooking Channel it is a, “tour of the best, freshest urban food spots.”  Host Caitlin Zaino, “is on a quest to discover the most innovative, cutting edge foodstuffs.”  That’s a tagline I can get on board with.

The Urban Grocer is based on Zaino’s highly successful food site of the same name.  The site states, “Founding Editor, Caitlin Zaino, manages the Urban Grocer with immense support from a growing team of contributors, designers, digital strategy kids, interns, and finance brains. Together, this dedicated bunch is working zealously to develop and expand The Urban Grocer publication and brand. In March 2011, The Urban Grocer launched it’s own Supper Club, designing and hosting closed-door and pop-up dining events.”

I personally love that both networks are starting to realize that their next generation of Food TV stars are already honing their craft on the Internet.  Aida Mollenkamp, Aarti Sequeira, Ree Drummand and now Zaino have earned their stripes blogging about food before leaping into our DVRs.  This is a trend that I would love to see continue.  Seriously.

This weekend Cooking Channel premieres The Urban Grocer but first Caitlin Zaino answers 7 Questions.

1.    How old were you when you first started to cook?

Caitlin Zaino The Urban GrocerAbout 5 years old. I learned how to cook – like so many – in the kitchen with my Italian grandmother and I was hooked from the moment I began. I remember the first thing I made too: stone soup. By the time I was 7, I had created a pretend restaurant in my parents home called “The Little Blue House,” and each Sunday morning I would cook huge brunches for my family. I did that for way too many years. Once I stepped into the kitchen, I never left. And I’ve been enthusiastically cooking and chasing food since.

2. When did you decide that you could make food your career?

I always knew it was my passion – obsession even – but was told by a lot of “older” people that it was only a hobby. So while also keeping food in my life, I went on to get my undergrad and grad degrees in political science and the social sciences. I started working at the UN about 6 years ago and realized, not too far into it, that I was spectacularly bored and the only place I was ever truly happy was in the kitchen or talking about food or writing about food. I had worked on the line, hosted a radio show on food, and freelanced as a food writer for years. About 2 years ago, I decided to take the plunge and do it full time. Now, in addition to hosting and producing The Urban Grocer television special, I’m also the Founding Editor of my online magazine of the same name (The Urban Grocer) and I am conceptualizing, managing, and cooking supper club events too.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

As cliché as it is, Julia Child has always been a massive inspiration. Less for her French cooking, then her place as a strong woman in the kitchen and everything she’s given to the gastronomic world. I also am mad for Jamie Oliver. I remember seeing him on TV as a kid and thinking, if this guy can be so cool and cook, then I want to be just like him. I’ve always admired his career and still take massive inspiration from what he’s done and how he’s evolved.

4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?

Well, I’ve tried out what I thought I could be doing – i.e. working in the world of international relations. I have been a big traveler my whole life and I love learning about new cultures so the international world really struck a cord with me. And if I weren’t so adverse to turbulence, I would have loved to be a flight attendant too and travel the globe!

5. What is The Urban Grocer all about?

The Urban Grocer is all about featuring the most cutting-edge, innovative foodstuffs from around the world’s hippest cities. It’s about showcasing the amazing young talent and pioneering industry players – from chefs to sommeliers to food writers – who are creating new waves of spectacular things in food from restaurants to boutiques to bars, bottles, designs, art, photography – basically, any one that is doing something really exciting and fresh in food! And it’s all tailored towards a young urban audience that is into exploring the many facets of gastronomy and creativity.

6. What led you to start The Urban Grocer Supper Club?

I had read a lot about pop-ups and supper clubs and always found it fascinating, but when we were filming The Urban Grocer television special in Buenos Aires, we went to this one closed-door restaurant called Casa Felix. It is run inside the home of a young, slow-food loving chef named Diego Felix. Spending the day with him, in his kitchen, getting a sense of his passion and love for food, and seeing that he did it all within his home and not within a formal restaurant setting, made me feel like I could do that too. I realized, I didn’t have to work on the line to cook for people or to conceptualize dinners where music, art, and design would be brought into the mix. I guess, it’s sort of like “The Little Blue House,” 2.0.

7. What’s next for Caitlin Zaino?

What I’m most looking forward to is the airing of The Urban Grocer on the Cooking Channel (premiering April 10 at 8pm ET/ 5pm PT if you’re asking!!). I can’t wait to share all of the amazing experiences we had in Buenos Aires with the Cooking Channel audience. I’d love to be able to do more of that and to explore different cities around the world, showcasing the incredible young talent that is driving a new culture of cooking. And I’ll continue to cook for my Supper Club, while also pushing forward the website. I’d love to see that grow more as well and to delve into different forms of online and offline media. So, in brief, a lot!!

Review: Unique Eats

I finally got a little quality time with the Cooking Channel so I am attempting to review several of the shows I have not seen.  This time I’m watching Unique Eats.

Unique Eats on WannabeTVchef.comI really, really like this show.  The formula is quite similar to the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate, but it takes that idea to another level.  Best Thing was already one of my favorite shows but I think it just dropped a notch after checking out Unique Eats.

Where Best Thing is a series of interviews with culinary movers and shakers discussing one item from one restaurant that they love, Unique Eats features a gaggle of foodies discussing the same eatery and what they find intriguing about it.  Each episode is themed, Small Plates, Meats, Comfort Food, etc. with each cheflebrity pontificating about what they respect about the chosen purveyor.  These gastronomic round tables are made up of foodies, food writers, chefs and TV personalities.

Here’s how the network web site describes the show:

Unique Eats spotlights America’s most exciting and revolutionary restaurants. It’s the first look and the last word in everything extreme in food today. The locations range from high-end dining rooms to casual neighborhood treasures, and even roving eateries with no permanent addresses. We seek out the most amazing examples of modern dining across America.

The editing, the sound quality, the cinematography and especially the venues featured are the very essence of what food television should be.  If you prefer your food oriented programming to be about food rather than drama then you really need to watch Unique Eats.  As an added bonus, there is a place on the Cooking Channel web site that will help you plan a Unique Eats road trip.  Put that on your bucket list.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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