I love travel shows, especially ones that are food oriented. That’s what I turn on to unwind at the end of the day. And of course it’s fun to watch an episode on Italy, for instance, prior to traveling and make plans to eat at some of the favorite spots highlighted. Chasing TV food is what I call it.
I have visited a few of those places but with mixed results. On a recent trip to Motovun, a scenic hilltop town in Croatia, our small group sat outdoors and enjoyed attentive service and a wonderful meal at Mondo Kunoba, a restaurant featured in an episode of No Reservations.
I also enjoyed a delicious bowl of a chicken in a rich broth on a quick stop to visit “The Lunch Lady” in Ho Chi Minh City featured on a travel show.
But other experiences have been disappointing. In an episode on Rome, Bourdain sat at a table outside an unnamed restaurant eating Cacio e Pepe, literally “cheese and pepper,” a simple pasta dish with pecorino cheese served up in a parmesan bowl. He made a point of not divulging the location.
But after a few minutes searching Google Earth, I spotted the piazza in the background and found the name of the restaurant. On a visit to Rome, I headed there for dinner only to find everyone had had the same idea. I made a reservation and returned the following evening. Again every table was full of American tourists and almost every plate that came out of the kitchen was—you guessed it—cacio e pepe.
The food was good but not better than what I’d made at home and the service suffered from the rapid growth experienced after the show aired. Overcrowding, a loss of ambience, and quality all suffered from too rapid growth.
As you can probably tell, I’ve done my fair share of chasing tv shows. What I’ve learned is that it’s okay to hit the hotspots but you can make your own discoveries.
One of my favorites was a Vietnamese pancake place in Hue. Our group had the place pretty much to ourselves and everything we ordered was delicious. The owner and his daughter stopped by to visit with us, and we learned about their family and the history of his small restaurant. Great food and a fun local connection; I can’t wait to go back.
One big takeaway
My big takeaway is this: Instead of going where the travel experts go, DO WHAT THEY DO. Watch the shows, be inspired but take time to do your own discovery. Go out on your own. Find out what you like. There is a lot out there to enjoy and the satisfaction you find in discovery adds to the experience.