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'Bizarre Foods' paints unsentimental portrait of Baltimore

The Baltimore Sun

That's a relief.

The last time a Travel Channel food show featured Baltimore, everyone was royally annoyed.

But Andrew Zimmern's “Bizarre Foods America” show has a different agenda than Anthony Bourdain's “No Reservations,” which baked Baltimore into an unsavory “Rust-Belt” pie back in 2009.

Baltimore came across better, and more accurately, on the Baltimore and Chesapeake Bay episode of “Bizarre Foods” that premiered on Monday.

“Bizarre Foods” works so well because Zimmern is genuinely interested in what he's experiencing but also sensitive to a city’s feelings. He manages to present positive stories and images without sugar-coating. He shows the wealth of food in Lexington Market but the grit, too. And, his look at Baltimore's a-rabs was appreciative but not sentimental.

If there were few surprises on the episode, it’s because Zimmern had already revealed the subjects the show. When he came to Baltimore last July, Zimmern used social media to let fans know about his visits to the J.M. Clayton Seafood Co. crab-processing plant in Cambridge, to Shin Chon Garden and Lotte Plaza in Ellicott City and to Lexington Market, Five Seeds Farm, and Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore.

Those locales were featured prominently on Monday's show. Along the way, Zimmern met, chatted with and worked alongside muskrat-skinners, eel-fishers, crab pickers and a-rabs. These people get to be themselves, and they appear to enjoy being in Zimmern’s company.

Only in the B-roll footage, those quick vignettes interwoven through the narrative, did “Bizarre Foods America” disappoint.

Seriously, water taxis?

Repeat airings of the “Bizarre Foods America” Baltimore and Chesapeake episode are scheduled for Monday at 8 p.m., Tuesday at 3 a.m. and Saturday at noon.

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