Food Network Maraton: 3:30-4, Molto Mario

IMG_1.JPG

Thank God. Just when I thought I’d hit bottom comes “Molto Mario.” This is, in my opinion, the best show on the Food Network. It may not seem that way at first. The first few times I watched this show I wasn’t particularly charmed by it; in fact, I found Mario to be a bit abrasive. To be honest, what really made me give it a second chance was the New Yorker profile of Mario that came out a few years ago. Before then, I didn’t realize what an accomplished chef he is; now I realize that he’s responsible for some of New York’s greatest restaurants.

And of course among those restaurants is my favorite restaurant in the world, Babbo. So watching Mario cook on TV is like watching the secrets of your favorite movie revealed.

He starts every show with a history lesson. You learn about the region he’s cooking from and the significance of the dishes he’s going to cook. Today’s region is Latzio (sp?) and he explains that distance from the equator informs the style of cooking since Northern regions have different climates and therefore different ingredients from more Southern regions. He goes way more in depth and it’s difficult to keep up. This is Food TV’s version of a master class in cooking.

I tried to capture verbatim his explanation of pancetta: “They take the pork belly, they take it off the bone, they season it with salt, rosemary…each butcher has their own style…they allow it to sit there for 6 to 12 days, and they’ll roll it up or they’ll leave it without rolling it up.”

Of course even that, I couldn’t quite get it all down. Mario offers up such an abundance of information that your mind can barely keep up with your eyes as you take in all the beautiful things he’s cooking.

He’s such a wonderful mentor. He’s telling us now to find our own butcher and fishmonger; “they’re holding the coolest stuff for their regular customers. I beseach you to find a real butcher, not to go to the mainstream grocery stores where the meat’s wrapped in toilet paper beneath a piece of plastic.” Ha! Actually, when I get to New York I plan to do just that. Anyone know any good butchers in Chelsea?

Now he’s talking about buying fresh, local food. “Anyone who’s had a strawberry that was picked that day and kept at the temperature it was picked at and not refrigerated—it’s like having sex.” I like sex! I plan to eat many strawberries when I get to New York.

Now enunciation— brus-sketta, not bru-shetta. “Bru-shetta is somebody who didn’t understand the letter C.”

Of all the shows I’ve watched so far today his is the one that makes me most want to cook right now. Everything looks so delicious. And do-able! I mean when Tyler Florence cooked this big block of beef before it looked yummy but I’m still terrified of all it involved. Here, Mario’s slicing and dicing, sauteeing and stirring and it all looks so easy. Too bad all my kitchen equipemnts on a table ready for the movers.

“When you’re cooking food you want to look at three things: the flavor, the texture, and how it looks.” Got it! God, there’s so much good advice you might as well watch the show yourself.

Meanwhile, his guests are usually a kooky mix. Sometimes there’s celebrities–Jake and Maggie Gyllenhall, Mario Cantone–other times, food workers. Today there’s a batty woman with vintage glasses and red hair and a scarf around her neck. She keeps interrupting with loud questions and I think she’s getting on Mario’s nerves.

Anyway, if there’s one show I’d advise you to watch on the Food Network, this is it. You’ll learn molto.

8 comments

  1. You’re close, AG, the region is spelled “Lazio” and is, in my personal opinion, the second best regional cuisine of Italy, after Tuscany (of course, my family is from there, so I might be biased).

    Molto Mario is second only to Good Eats in terms of my favorite cooking shows. Alton Brown is my hero, and Mario Batali is right up there after him.

    I’ve eaten at Babbo, and at the time I did I had no idea who Mario Batali was. I only remember the best veal I’ve ever had in my entire life. Not a bad choice at all. If I lived in New York, I’m sure I’d go there often.

    Have you tried any of Mario Batali’s other restaurants?

  2. I have to agree that Alton Brown is my favorite as well as my hero. I think that I’m partial partly because he’s from Atlanta—and shops in Atlanta so I know where to go—and partly because he makes everything fun. I have to admit though that I think that his recipes are harder than he lets on. He must be a mighty fine cook to make everything look so easy. I look forward to hearing what the AG says about Good Eats…

  3. Molto Mario is my favourite show on Food Network – although like you, it took me a couple of viewings to warm up to it. The way he combines a bit of cultural history and kitchen wisdom is brilliant and fun. Have you checked out the Babbo cookbook? I highly reccomend it.

  4. In regards to your Chelsea question… have you ever been to Chelsea Market? http://www.chelseamarket.com/ They have everything from Amy’s Breads (don’t miss the prosciutto twists) to a fishmonger and a butcher. Ronnybrook has a store if you need a good dairy fix, and Buon Italia has a great selection of Italian staples. I’ll admit Fat Which brownies are not my favorite, but the marketing (as well as the chocolate aromas wafting out of the store) always pulls me in. Great wine store for a quick bottle or two to accompany dinner.

    We’ve been teaching a friend to cook, and usually pick everything up from Chelsea Market. If we need something else, there’s always the enormous Whole Foods at 7th and 24th.

    Incidentally, there’s a fantastic mexican/asian grocery called Kitchen Market at 8th and w. 21st. They have a small restaurant next door, but we’ve never gotten a chance to eat there. We’ve been cooking out of Rick Bayless’s cookbooks on and off lately, and bought two huge bags of dried chiles from Kitchen Market for a song.

    Feel free to ask me any NYC food shopping questions… I’ve got lots of favorites. :)

  5. Welcome to NY! Go to Otto, Mario’s new restuaurant, an upscale pizzeria, on 8th Av,around the corner from Washington Sq. I went with friends visiting from Memphis so it was a real culture hoot. Food was good, not great, service fabulous, and the whole place was a lot of fun.

  6. I have to say, my favorite show is Good Eats. I am using all the self control I can muster not to go online and buy every damn episode on DVD.

    And why do I love Alton Brown and Mario? Because they’re big dudes, and if you’re a dude chef, that’s a requirement in my book. However, I love that Sara Moulton is a little wisp of a thing, and you just KNOW girlfriend can pack it away. She rocks.

%d bloggers like this: