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New Year's Resolution: Watch More "No Reservations"

Welcome back, folks, to the 2007 edition of Televisionary. I'm now just back from the tropical paradise that is the Big Island of Hawaii and ready to start another year of highlighting my favorite television series... and perhaps making a few choice scathing remarks at the ones that don't quite match up to my expectations.

It's New Year's Day, a day for all of us to recover from the previous evening's debauchery and what better way to do that than with the launch of the third season of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel? For those of you not immediately in the know, Bourdain is the enfant terrible of chefs/travel writers/food writers, a recovering addict and unrepentant bad boy famous for blowing the lid off of what was really going down in the kitchens in his bestselling book "Kitchen Confidential." He's a sarcastic (and at times caustic) personality with a genuine love for food, from fine cuisine to street food to what's traditionally thought of as peasant food, offal and all. He's a god among foodies and he's back on the Travel Channel with a slew of new episodes.

No Reservations is not your average food/travel show. For one thing, Bourdain (or Tony as I like to call him) isn't your average host; he's prone to making snide comments as often as he is effusive ones and he's sincerely jaded and pessimistic about some of the places that the show's producers send him to. But give him an artisanal sausage or some much-sought-after delicacy (say, geoduck clams in the Pacific Northwest) and he's in heaven. Tony is a food explorer, a Cortez of cuisine, a Magellan of munchies... you get the idea.

The Travel Channel was kind enough to send me two upcoming episodes to review of this third season of No Reservations, which launches tonight. This season, Tony will travel to such diverse locales as Ireland, Ghana, Namibia, the Pacific Northwest (i.e., Portland and Seattle), Russia, and Los Angeles. On tonight's episode ("Ireland"), Tony travels to the heart of The Troubles, namely formerly war-torn Belfast, the site of numerous bloody skirmishes between the city's Protestants and Catholics. Since the signing of the Good Friday Peace Accord, Belfast has become, quite surprisingly, a city on the move, a new culinary star in the new Europe and Tony embarks on a quest to explore the burgeoning scene in Belfast, attempts to get a handle on the divisive relationship between feuding Catholics and Protestants, and visits a heartbreaking sight at the wall, now covered with graffiti echoing sentiments of peace, that runs through Belfast.

It's a moving and intelligent sequence that shows both humanity's capacity to destroy as well as to create and a reminder that bloody war is not the domain of far-off lands, but perhaps even in our own backyard. But this is a food show, after all, so bring on the grub: at white-hot Belfast eatery Cayenne, lobster-chicken wontons in lobster jus with tomatoes and spinach; Irish beef fillet with wild rice potato pancake and Asian herb salad; Irish lamb with potatoes and kimchi. It's a blend of fresher than fresh Irish ingredients and some Asian fusion influences, resulting in a mix of cultures that's not unlike the cross-cultural mix that Ireland has become in recent years.

After Belfast, Tony heads out to the Republic of Ireland, where he encounters a Dublin that has exploded into a modern metropolis in the last ten years or so (after all, there's a reason why U2 opened their famous Clarence Hotel there). Unsurprisingly, Tony encounters a burgeoning culinary scene, some rough-and-tumble rugby, and the freshest fish you could ever imagine at King Sitric. (Just take a look at those razor clams, prawns, periwinkles, and lobster.)

Plus, the mere sight of gastronomic god Anthony Bourdain wearing a lobster bib is enough to send anyone into paroxysms of laughter. Seriously. Which might just be the perfect antidote following a rough night of New Year's Eve partying.

"Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" airs tonight at 10 pm ET/PT on the Travel Channel.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: How I Met Your Mother/The Class (CBS); Heroes (NBC); Parade (CW; 8-10 pm); America's Funniest Home Videos/America's Funniest Home Videos (ABC); Wicked Wicked Games (MyNet)

9 pm: Two and a Half Men/The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS); Heroes (NBC); Supernanny (ABC); Watch Over Me (MyNet)

10 pm: CSI: Miami (CBS); Heroes (NBC); Supernanny (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

9:30 pm: Old Christine.

I can't tell you why I like watching this traditional sitcom, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus is like a warm blanket of coziness after a long Monday. On tonight's first season repeat episode ("Supertramp"), Christine decides to compete with ex-hubby Richard by getting back into the dating game again.

10 pm: Anthony Bourdain: No Reseverations on the Travel Channel.

It's the launch of new episodes of No Reservations, just in time for 2007. On tonight's episode, Tony travels to Ireland where he explores the rift between Catholics and Protestants in Belfast, samples some truly fresh fish, and uncovers a new wave of creative Irish cuisine.


Anonymous said…
OMG! I almost forgot that No Reservations started tonight! Thanks for the reminder!!!
Rachel Rubin said…
so did you watch it? i thought ireland was an interesting choice as his first show of the season. not as edgy as what he usually does.

the show was awesome though. i want some irish cheese! my thoughts about it are in my blog post about tonight's show. would love to know what you thought.
Jace Lacob said…
Hi Rachel,

I actually saw the Ireland episode a few weeks ago, courtesy of the always fabulous Travel Channel, who sent me the "Ireland" and "Pacific Northwest" episodes to review.

While a little less edgy than say "Bourdain in Beirut," for example, I think it was a good choice to begin Season Three and hopefully lured in some viewers who might ordinarily be put off by Tony's, er, shall we say vinegary commentary.
Yay! More Tony! I can't wait to see the new season. Especially the Pacific Northwest episode as I'm from Portland. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he makes of my home town!
Anonymous said…
Ever worked in a real kitchen with people who were unduly influenced by Tony Bourdain? They're complete assholes--yeah, let's cook while drunk, torment the rest of the staff, do lines after work and come in late, and make disgusting sexual remarks to both men and women, and then blame others when we fuck up the dinner. Hey, that's cool! That's rock 'n roll cookin!

Yeah, and it's too bad you're only making $12 an hour as the line cook, eh?

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