TV food personality Andrew Zimmern scouted out Seattle for his latest episode of “Bizarre Foods America,” which will air on the Travel Channel Monday night. What sorts of disgusting degustations did he dig up?
Some of his Seattle finds were par for our usual TV-show courses, like hauling up geoducks and experimenting with a $20,000 Slayer espresso machine. (“This looks like it could put a man on the moon!”) The extra fun came with a trip to the Modernist Cuisine laboratory for dishes like infusion-of-everything-bagel-in-a-glass, and a bucolic journey to Sea Breeze Farm, where Zimmern ate cheese and charcuterie… and… raw cow placenta…and…fresh chicken blood. Most touching, to me, was his shift teaching students to prepare ox hearts and sweetbreads at Fare Start, giving sound advice and support to cooks who have faced some of the same hard knocks he has in life.
I asked Zimmern a few questions about his travels here. I fear I may have insulted him when I asked if George Page of Sea Breeze, whose farm work I have appreciated myself in the past, was punking him by offering up the glass of just-slaughtered chicken blood. I was just struck by the gleam in Page’s eye… and, I guess, maybe the idea hit my own “bizarre” trigger in a way the other Sea Breeze thirst-quencher, a glass of colostrum, did not. Here are his e-mail answers and his kind words about our lovely city:
Q: For Seattleites, a good chunk of the foods you tried out don’t strike us as particularly bizarre. (OK, cow placenta, yes. But not ox hearts and Slayer coffee and geoduck.) Is that how it works in most cities you’ve seen, that the weird stuff is only weird to newcomers?
A: “That’s how it works all around the world! What’s common in Uganda is strange to us here in Minnesota. And vice versa. Cultural relativism is what its all about.”
Q: Fresh chicken blood? Really? Is there any chance that George Page was putting you on there recommending it so highly?
A: “I can’t imagine why? Unless he is a hurtful and rude man, and I saw him as inspirational and a real thought leader on the issues of the day confronting everyone in their food choices. Additionally, it’s a common practice all around the world. And delicious, although warm blood seasoned with minced onion, cilantro and lime is my preferred style. I am surprised you asked that re George, and I am curious as to why.”
Q: I was touched by your interactions with the great Farestart crew. What brought you to them, and how did you wind up guest-cheffing instead of just dining?
A: “Anyone can dine. I was in their shoes once and I wanted to cook with them and experience their world. And I wanted to teach them something about cooking with offal so that they could take another recipe out into the world with them.”
Q: You seemed to enjoy just about everything you tried on the show. Anything you ate here that you didn’t care for?
Q: Where did you eat in town that *didn’t* show up on the show, and what did you think of it?
A: “All over. And I am not sure what version of the show is airing since we make two shows, one domestic and one international cut. But Canlis is one of best restaurants in America, and I think Jason Franey is a superstar. Also Serious Pie is a fave, Walrus and Carpenter, and about 20 little ethnic dives that fed me very well.”
What do you think, Seattleites? Have you eaten where Zimmern ate, and would you call your meals bizarre?
Photo of Sea Breeze Farm (no placenta consumed on that trip) by Courtney Blethen/The Seattle Times