By Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Media Services
5:03 PM EST, December 27, 2011
To television viewers, Andrew Zimmern of "Bizarre Foods" is known as that guy who'll eat anything. And he'd like Americans to give it a shot too. "Open up and expand your horizons, people!" said the James Beard Award-winning chef and author. "I am unable to comprehend a place on the planet where the food is 'too different.' If you don't eat fish and you are in Japan, there is plenty to enjoy."
Born and raised in New York, Zimmern, 50, lives in Minnesota with his family. The latest incarnation of his series, "Bizarre Foods America," debuts this winter on the Travel Channel.
Q: What is your favorite vacation destination?
A: Any beach that's sparsely populated. I spend so much time traveling — in cities, on safari, on treks through jungles — that I am always most desperate for peace, quiet, tranquility on a beach somewhere with my family. We rent houses a lot, typically in Hawaii, Virgin Gorda (British Virgin Islands), Mexico or Puerto Rico.
Q: Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A: We go to the Four Seasons in Palm Beach as often as possible. It's easy to get to, has a great beach, a great kids program and is perfect for a long weekend of unwinding. Just as often we will go for a shopping and eating weekend in New York City. We love the Ritz on Central Park South or the big apartment rooms at the Ace Hotel. That place has the best stocked room fridge in the United States of America, and I can eat at the Breslin every night, if I am snowed in.
Q: During your travels, what have you been offered to eat that you just couldn't bring yourself to chew and swallow?
A: The only thing I have ever refused was a bowl of chaat on the streets in Delhi. Chaat is something I eat regularly all the time, but on this occasion they were using some brown water coming out of a cracked public spigot to moisten the little snack bowls. Eating it would have meant a week in the hospital, so I passed.
Q: Are people in other countries grossed out by things we consider normal?
A: Argentinians hate peanut butter, and many tribal peoples in Africa feel that cheese is way too horrifically textured to be worth eating. They wonder why we let milk spoil and then dry into tiny little squares and eat it.
Q: What are some of your favorite cities?
A: In America, I like visiting Portland, Maine; Charleston, S.C.; Fayetteville, W.Va.; Austin, Texas; and Santa Barbara, Calif. New York City is my favorite city on the planet. Abroad, I like Venice, Cape Town, Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.
Q: Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?
A: In the Aha Hills of Botswana, I lived with a tribe for a few weeks and had the most unforgettable travel experience of my life. The people were kind and honorable and spiritually fit.
Q: What are your favorite restaurants?
A: I can list hundreds and never stop. Mugaritz (mugaritz.com) in San Sebastian, Spain; Yu's Family Kitchen in Chengdu, China; Kau Kee in Hong Kong; Uchiko (uchiaustin.com/uchiko) in Austin, Texas; Alinea (alinea-restaurant.com) in Chicago; Scotts BBQ (thescottsbbq.com) in Hemingway, S.C.; Husk Restaurant (huskrestaurant.com) in Charleston, S.C.; Museo del Jamon (museodeljamon.es) in Madrid.
For more from the reporter, visit jaehakim.com.
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