Bon appetit, Judge Jason Panella!
Some of us cook. Some of us grow. All of us eat.
Let's get this out of the way first: the framing convention of Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie is always silly and often irritating. Each episode is held together by a narrator typing away, as if he's blogging. Because that's what foodies do, I guess? The show's opening features the same typing hands obnoxiously banging away at a laptop, as if they belonged to a toddler trying to make as much noise as possible. Thankfully, you can skip past this opening (and the subsequent TIAA-CREF commercial) and get to the good stuff. And it is good stuff—very good stuff.
Gourmet magazine's entry into food television foray, Diary of a Foodie is as much about amazing food as it is about the people who love it. The 20 half-hour episodes of the show's second season cover a variety of topics from either a geographical perspective (experimental cuisine in Hong Kong, for instance) or from specific thematic perspectives (molecular gastronomy, the effect of aroma in eating, and creative approaches to grilling). Each episode is approached from the perspective of the people steeped in food culture: food writers, cooks, farmers, restaurant owners, and average people who just love food. These people, many of whom show up on multiple episodes, are uniformly interesting and really help bring the show to life. Episodes tend to bounce around between several points of interest, and moments are never wasted. Admittedly, I'm a foodie, so some of the episodes were easy sells: the fantastic bread-focused episode, for instance, had me at â€śbread.â€ť But the show also digs into some areas that didn't interest me initially (like the fishing industry or the food culture of New Zealand) and totally changed my mind.
Episodes also take quick detours into the Gourmet test kitchen, where various cooks whip up some recipes based (often loosely) on the episode's topic. While these sections are usually pretty cool, some of actual minutia of cooking is glossed over so quickly that trying to actually replicate what's happening on screen is almost impossible. Thankfully, the Gourmet website has lots of recipes of the food shown in each episode.
For the most part, the show looks great; there are lots of unexpected beautiful shots in each episode, from the countryside in Tuscany to the warm glow of Hong Kong at night. Like a lot of WGBH-produced PBS programs, though, this standard def show usually ends up with a letterboxed effect on HD TVs, so be warned going in. The LPCM-encoded stereo track sounds fine, with dialogue and music loud enough in appropriate spots. The three disc DVD set has no extras, which is disappointing.
Despite the goofy show framework, windowboxing issue, no-frills release, Diary of a Foodie Season 2 is a beautiful and savory exploration of people and the food they love to eat.
A heaping tablespoon of not guilty.
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