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Friday, April 22, 2011

Tony Bourdain-- The Boston Massacre

Tony Bourdain in High School (Right)
I knew that Author, chef and host of The Travel Channel's NO RESERVATIONS Anthony Bourdain had visited Boston to prepare an episode of his show back during the winter so I was I excited to see it when it aired last week.  I was not ready for the vision of Boston that Bourdain and his crew was going to give us.

To say the show highlighted the worst things of Boston would be an overstatement, but it certainly didn't make the Hub look like anything I'd recognize.  Although I love South Boston the stereotype of the loud mouthed drunkard Red Sox fan is akin to having his episode set in North Carolina highlighting the tireless pickup trucks and missing tooth rednecks rather than the society folk he chose to associate with during that particular episode.  Why Bourdain and his team chose to stay only in the most working class sections of Boston escapes me-- and South Boston is home to a virtual Museum row of Galleries offering all manner of art and culture-- as well as some truly amazing restaurants.

When Bourdain visits an area he often travels with a local to help guide him through uncharted waters, his choice for this episode was a guy named Mike who used to be in a band I've never heard of which was famous for getting banned from all the clubs they played-- notable as well was that Mike seemed unsure of the area he was showing Bourdain which made perfect sense since he's actually from Hingham.  Mike's personality was non-existent and Bourdain is at his best when he's teamed with someone a little more enthusiastic for the job-- his episode in Romania accompanied by his Russian friend Zamir is the best of the show's run.

I thought the piece on the pair of former boxing champions opening a youth center in the heart of Southie was great-- those two gentlemen represented the best of the boxing world--something I know first hand-- but when he went candlepin bowling and a drunken local shouted at him from three lanes over that "Jeter wouldn't do that!" I knew things were taking a turn for the worse.

Boston is a city of diversity and culture, home to world-class theater, restaurants and museums.  No it is not New York, but it's not Yonkers either and that's exactly how it came across, more like Jimmy Fallon playing the obnoxious Red Sox fan on SNL.

Tony visited Michael's Deli in Brookline because Howie Carr recommended it-- only a few doors down is the much superior Zaftig's which offers a New England slant on the New York Deli.  Down the street from that is the amazing Coolidge Corner Theater which is a throwback to classic Hollywood movie palaces.  But all of these places are in Brookline, not Boston.  If the team wanted to get a taste for the burroughs around Boston why not visit Central or Harvard Square in Cambridge?

Over in Boston proper-- which Bourdain and his folk seemed to ignore-- is the incredible one of a kind Betty's Noodle Diner at 250 Huntington Ave, which combines Asian and Spanish cuisine in a way that no place in the Northeast does.

Betty's Noodle Diner
There are also a dozen notable and unique restaurants in the Newbury Street/Copley Square and Theater Districts.  Completely ignored was Boston's Chinatown which is a landmark and features some innovative and amazing dining experiences.  And nothing on the North End?  Would you go to New York and not show the Empire State Building??

Bourdain's show is different from all the other similar shows because he is a writer on the caliber of Chandler or Hemingway-- writing often near poetic verse to accompany the footage we're seeing.  This episode seemed to be written while nursing a hangover.

Much like my choice of photograph from Bourdain's High School days being an unfair representation of the noted author, there's a lot more to Boston than the stereotypical loud mouth ball fan-- it's a shame that NO RESERVATIONS decided to phone this one in.