August 8, 2020

More Reality Shows of Note on Netflix

How is Netflix getting me to consider programs I would not normally watch? When I open the app, a show trailer starts playing above the list of selections. The clips are engaging, upbeat and often pique my curiosity. How else to explain my current viewing selections: “Love On the Spectrum,” “Restaurants on the Edge” and “Sugar High.”

I have been a fan of “Sugar Rush,” a cooking competition using sweet ingredients. When I exhausted those episodes, Netflix automatically cued up a related show from the same producers, “Sugar High.” Stone-cold professionals compete to make sugar creations that delight the tastebuds and the eyes. Much like sculptors and glassblowers, the chefs skillfully fashion shapes using ingredients like sugar, isomalt and paper wafers. I would not have the heart to destroy these artistic creations by eating them, however.

“Restaurants on the Edge” is a bit sleepy in its pacing, but features scenic restaurants in different countries that need help with their menus, decor and promotion.

Three restaurant gurus arrive in the area and find local beverages, food stuffs and decorating ideas to refresh the dining establishment in question. The show tries to defy the adage that the better the view, the worse the food.

“Love on the Spectrum,” an Australian documentary series, introduced me to young people who are autistic and in search of what we all want: love and romance. Cian O’Clery, the series’ creator and director, films men and women as they openly discuss being “on the spectrum.” We watch them go on first dates and interact with their families. The show accomplishes something rare as we feel genuine empathy for young couples who have found love and for those still searching for romance. “Love On the Spectrum” finds the balance between documentary and reality show which impels you to keep watching. At just five episodes, the series leaves you wanting progress reports on all of these endearing people.

During these stressful times, Netflix has carried many serious scripted shows, but I am keeping my streaming subscription because they are offering fun, reasonably intelligent programs that emphasize food, fashion, art, travel and love.

Romanesco Broccoli

I am now a big fan of the chartreuse-colored vegetable called Romanesco Broccoli, a cross between cauliflower and the green stuff Bush #1 did not like. I first encountered this cruciferous vegetable at Whole Foods where the distinctive fractal shape drew my eye.

The dictionary calls the shape of the head a logarithmic spiral. Romanesco Broccoli is no recent hybrid; it’s been grown by the Italians since the 16th century. Whatever it is, Romanesco is a most beautifully architectural vegetable.

The taste is slightly different than either broccoli or cauliflower with a crunchy, delicate nutty flavor. I have tried it raw with dips or steamed it as a side dish; both are delicious. Buon Appetito!

“The Final Table” on Netflix

In my quest to be lightly entertained, I parceled out one or two episodes nightly of the cooking competition, “The Final Table,” on Netflix.

Teams of two culinary professionals from Europe, Asia, Australia and North America are tasked with making signature dishes from different cuisines. Single episodes each feature culinary nods to India, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Italy, Japan, France and the United States.

The first round of dishes are judged by three people from that particular country — two celebrities and a food critic. In the episode’s second round, called The Final Plate, teams must fashion a dish highlighting one ingredient, and judged by a celebrity chef from that evening’s country.

The Final Table

One team is eliminated per show with the series winnowing down to four competitors who compete against each other for the honor of being seated at a table with the nine celebrity judges.

I did not fall in love with this show immediately, but if you like food and restaurants, you may want to persevere. Throughout the show, clips highlighting famous chefs and competitors, alike, are fascinating. Learning about different cuisines and ingredients is another benefit.

For local bragging rights, Chicago’s own Grant Achatz is the celebrity chef representing the United States. His restaurant, Alinea, and other world-famous dining establishments mentioned in the series now go on my dream dining list.

Netflix Lured Me Back with Light Entertainment

After months of being a non-Netflix subscriber, I was lured back with the promise of new episodes of favorite shows.

Queer Eye has to be one of the most uplifting shows in TV Land right now. The rebooted series has breezed through four Seasons of 8 episodes each in U.S. states like Georgia, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, with a one-episode season in Australia and a four episode run in Japan. For Season Five, the Queer Eye make-over team is in the Philadelphia, including one candidate from the Jersey Shore.

David Collins, producer of the original series which ran for five seasons from 2003 to 2007) has brilliantly adapted the concept for a new generation of viewers. As much as I liked the previous incarnation, the Netflix reboot has even more heart as the Fab Five tackle redos for men and women from all sorts of cultural backgrounds.

I love all five of these guys: Bobby Berk on design, Tan France on fashion, Jonathan Van Ness for grooming, but I especially love the emotional insight that Karamo Brown brings and the food love that Antoni Porowski evokes. This is my kind of show when I need the world to seem like a happier and safer place.

If you want something even more goofy and light, you might consider The Big Flower Fight. Netflix has taken the reality competition into the floral arena. Teams of two use flowers, grasses and evergreens, as well as man-made and organic elements, to create animals, dresses, thrones, mobiles and fairy tale scenes.

The Big Flower Fight has much in common with The Great British Baking Show which is amply represented on Netflix. Food, fashion and flower competitions are entertaining stress relievers and Netflix is providing lots of fun options.

Organic Hibiscus Tea Bags

Just a short note about FGO Organic Hibiscus Tea Bags.

I am always looking for herbal teas that have real flavor without caffeine. FGO boasts being eco-conscious, their product being raw from Egypt. Even the brown paper package containing 100 tea bags seems good for the environment.

The sweet and tart tea made with hibiscus flowers is purported to support digestive health, lower blood pressure and combat chronic inflammation. I drink this delightful tea because it also tastes good.

https://www.amazon.com/Organic-Hibiscus-Eco-Conscious-Lined-Kraft/dp/B07ND51YPC

Caviar and Chow-chow to tickle your taste buds

In my quest to keep my palate amused, I have been experimenting with yet two more new food products, chow-chow and caviar.

When I first saw the term chow-chow in a food column, I thought, what the heck is that? My husband whose mother was from the south informed me it is a Southern condiment which is basically a pickle relish.

Being raised in the Tater Tot Casserole belt of the Midwest, this pickled condiment was unknown to me. I am now enlightened and a fan of chow chow, especially the varieties sold by Mrs. Campbell’s.

The sweet southern version of chow-chow I bought features cabbage, vinegar, sugar and red bell peppers. Other recipes can have red and green tomatoes, carrots, beans, asparagus, cauliflower, peas with some southern varieties being exclusively made with cabbage. Chow-chow may vary according to U.S. regions such as Northern, Southern, Pennsylvania or even Canadian. The name chow-chow may be a nod to the relish’s European origin as “chou” means cabbage in French.

The relish is great with hamburgers, mashed potatoes, hot dogs, fish cakes as well as egg, tuna or chicken salads.

I had a Proust madeleine moment when a memory of my aunt’s caviar pie appetizer dish popped into my head. Doubting whether my local grocery store would carry caviar, I summoned an Amazon page of caviar in glass jars. Sticker shock hit me with many selections being over a hundred dollars. Thankfully, I found a Black Lumpfish caviar product billed as Iceland’s Finest; a mere $22 for three small jars.

Creme fraiche, toast points, hard boiled eggs, finely chopped onions and lemon are some of the traditional accompaniments to caviar, but you can add it to pastas, risottos, soups and sauces as long as you do not cook the delicate fish eggs. You must add caviar as a condiment after the dish is already cooked.

If you are adding alcoholic beverages to your little indulgence, you can serve ice-cold vodka shots, crisp champagne or a dry white wine. Prost and Bon Appetit!