My favorite part of traveling is the food, and everyone who has gone on a trip with me has left the food plans in my capable and overeager hands. With the current situation, both traveling and eating out have been much trickier to navigate – and if you do either of those activities, make sure you’re taking the necessary precautions and being safe when doing so. Scouring Instagram and watching food-related media is the most I can do in the meantime to satiate any cuisine wanderlust, but I’ve exhausted many of the options already out there. I’ve taken to rewatching episodes of “The Great British Bake Off” because my impatient self is used to binge-watching the seasons on Netflix. Fortunately, Eater, the food and dining network of Vox Media, comes in the nick of time to provide fellow foodies a taste of what international culinary experiences were like pre-COVID-19.
“Eater’s Guide to the World” on Hulu offers quick bites of dining destinations in seven 30-minute episodes, showcasing a range of eateries and the local culture in locations such as Costa Rica and New York City. It’s not the most unique food and travel docuseries out there, but the show is still a comfort to watch and offers a healthy amount of food content for the soul.
Comedian and actress Maya Rudolph offers colorful narration to the culinary adventures viewers are taken on. Her humorous commentary pairs well with the more lighthearted tone of the show (with the third episode titled “The Ass Crack of Dawn in New York City,” you can tell Eater doesn’t take itself too seriously). Sometimes, per her comedic style, Rudolph draws out some cringey bits, however they’re not enough to distract from the main attraction: what’s on people’s plates.
From what I’ve watched so far, I appreciate how “Eater’s Guide” manages to showcase a solid number of restaurants, each with a fair amount of screen time and attention, all within the half-hour running time of each episode. We get to see the owners, the kind of food they serve, and their place in the community and food scene. Not only does each episode explore the restaurant scene in a location, but it presents a particular theme about eating. For example, “Cultural Crossroads in Casablanca,” takes a look at traditional foods while “Taking Off in America” features unique eateries worth checking out right beyond major airports. “Jungle to Table in Costa Rica” and “Planting Roots in Tijuana, Mexico” explores the all-encompassing cuisines of the local cultures while the New York and Los Angeles-based episodes explore the fusion of cultures in their food scenes.
I enjoyed all of the locations that each of the episodes featured, however “Dining Alone in the Pacific Northwest” definitely resonated with one aspect of my eating style. At first glance, I assumed it was going to be about safe eating in the pandemic. Instead, the solitary dining experience “Eater’s Guide” featured in the region was akin to the cultural expectation in Japan. In Japan – which the episode discusses with the chef Mutsuko Soma and her restaurant, Kamonegi – it is socially acceptable to dine alone, whether for convenience or to more fully experience the food. As someone who eats her food fairly slowly compared to her fellow diners in an attempt to savor and appreciate the food, I can certainly get down with that becoming more socially acceptable. Sure, I enjoy social dining as much as the next person, but in the current climate, let’s bring solo dining back.
“Eater’s Guide” isn’t groundbreaking, but it isn’t trying to be. It offers a spot of entertainment, escapism and good ol’ food to lust over as you plan your next trip for who knows when. You can binge the season pretty quickly, then get back to looking at Yelp reviews of restaurants you’re hoping to visit in the future (or is that just me?).
Other food film favorites: “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” “Worth It” on Buzzfeed, “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” “The Great British Bake Off” (which I’ve mentioned one too many times), “Chef’s Table,” “The Big Family Cooking Showdown,” “Ugly Delicious”