Just when autumn’s chill makes eating al fresco much less enticing, and the reality of even going out hangs in the balance, here comes Hulu with a vicarious thrill to make foodies’ eyes and mouths water. The docuseries The Eater’s Guide to the World (}★★★★☆) is only a tiny bit cruel in how it rubs our faces in the many delectable possibilities of eating out in places we likely can’t get to these days. But this 7-episode odyssey searching out choice samples of local cuisines compensates kindly with tastes and sights you can sense through the screen.
If we can’t travel the world, we’ll always have Paris — or in this case, Casablanca, the alluring destination of the season’s second episode. Drawing inspiration from stories previously published on the food and dining website Eater, each episode leads viewers on a culinary tour of a different city or region. Starting in the Pacific Northwest, the show, narrated by Maya Rudolph with tongue planted firmly in cheek, travels to Tijuana, New York City, L.A., Costa Rica, and several spots in between, including the trip to Morocco’s biggest city.
Highlighting Casablanca as a cultural crossroads, the episode exemplifies the series’ knack for uncovering sides of these cities non-locals might seldom see. Surfers Saad and Fatima take the Eater’s Guide crew hunting for the freshest seafood at the Marché Central. Per local custom, purchases can be taken swiftly to a nearby grill or oven master to be cooked to order and served on the spot. Later, a pro skater dips into snails in broth at a stand by the seashore, while Moroccan pop culture icon and trans trailblazer Noor shows off her pick of the town’s top specialty, tagine. The casting and cuisine labor somewhat to present the most contemporary view of a place with centuries of history, yet the message never feels overbearing. Every lovingly photographed bite registers sincere passion for savoring food and life.
Across its seven-course meal of episodes, Eater’s Guide hits a breezy rhythm of chefs, farmers, food-sellers, restaurateurs, artists, designers, entertainers, and cool, young urbanites sharing their personal, hand-picked suggestions. It’s akin to getting keen advice from a hip, well-traveled friend who knows all the best places from Memphis to Marrakech, and never appears too concerned about how much anything costs. That being said, all price points are fairly represented, from delectable-looking street-cart tacos to the $240 kaiseki menu at L.A.’s 7-seat, Michelin-starred sensation Hayato.
Although the series devotes much footage to watching culinary masters at work, and, on occasion, throws in detailed instructions for preparing certain drinks or dishes, it’s not a cooking show. In fact, some segments digress far down roads having little to do with food. But each installment tells a story, perhaps most completely in episode three, “The Ass Crack of Dawn in New York City,” a search for what’s cooking “in the hours between last call and first light.” Drag Race queen Miz Cracker leads one delightful segment, ending a night of performing in Hell’s Kitchen with a late-night dinner at Empanada Mama with girlfriends Jan Sport, Juicy Liu, and Izzy Uncut.
In a tight 30-minute exploration of what sweets and savories are being served at 5 a.m., the show also provides a telling look at the lives of the people who are out and about at that hour. A rewarding gastronomic achievement, The Eater’s Guide to the World emphasizes the connection between food and culture, people and the places they call home. The Tijuana episode specifically emphasizes the impact of those who have found a new home, catching up with immigrants like Osaka native Toshi, who devises a stunning new sushi menu every night at Baja Omakase. Haitian immigrant David serves up succulent sea bass ceviche at a street cart, and transplant Mirtha turns out divinely-inspired seafood delicacies out of a stand she’s operated for twenty years.
“The food I sell on the streets is better than any restaurant’s food,” Mirtha boasts, and you’ll believe her. You’ll also want to dig into many of the Eater’s Guide offerings, and for further research, the show helpfully provides titles of the original Eater articles in the closing credits. What’s missing, however, are post-COVID updates on the myriad establishments shown in the series, including D.C.’s own Trinidadian jerk wings joint Cane. Many of the restaurants surely have struggled this year — like Hayato, which reportedly still delivers their coveted bento box, but has yet to reopen for in-house dining — but the series, filmed pre-pandemic, makes no allusion to the challenges they’ve faced. Here’s hoping the Eater’s Guide boost benefits them all, as well as the lucky diners who will next chow down on their delicious dishes.
Eater’s Guide to the World is available starting Nov. 11 for streaming on Hulu. Visit www.hulu.com.
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