Most recently we watched as Bourdain floated up the Amazon in search of "the last frontier of modern gastronomy" increasingly aware that the idea for this trek might well have been a bit of a practical joke conceived by Ferran Adrià and his mates. In an obvious perma-filth from pain in his lower back, he did rather pointedly encounter a cluster of wild geese at the end of this Herzogian quest. ("Canadian ducks" observed his guide.)
Bourdain had spent most of his time at Adrià's fabled three-star eatery in a fanboi daze. At the end of the meal José Andrés was red in the face and blubbering, but by then they'd consumed a number of solid state cocktails, wine, champagne and some gin and tonics, the latter surprisingly standard-looking in their preparation. The best moment of this paean to El Bulli occurred when a little plate of baby octopuses was placed in front of the intrepid chef and he announced a need to take a picture of it "so I can look at it later and touch myself".
His long overdue trip to the Philippines turned into an extended disquisition on why these islands and their gastronomic treats are not more well known on the international scene. I've never been (too complex from a cartographic point of view?) but I did try a delicious Adobo in Costa Rica last year, at San José's commendable Tin Jo. I have to say I do like the idea of these dampas that Tony visited in Manila; part market, part open-plan restaurants, where you buy the ingredients for a meal over on one side, and then watch as they are fried up in front of you on the other.
Colombian grub appears to be no great shakes meanwhile. Think of the stuff on the typical Guatemalan menu with the largest quantity of saturated fat...and add more grease. Even on the coast, where you's think you can hardly go wrong with lobster and red snapper etc., there's an awful lot of deep frying going on. That said, Bourdain did get led up to one little culinary Xanadu in the hills above Medellín called Quearepaenamorarte, where the resident chef concocted a dreamy little cornless tamal, filled with fish and shrimp embedded in a masa made from plantain, milk and coconut.
Bourdain's exploration of Cuban restaurant food was not altogether encouraging either. OK, it's not going to be like the USSR in the eighties, but some ingredients are scarce and the food culture seems to be as rigid and conservative as it (mostly) is here in Guatemala. The biggest issue is one of mood and morals however. As Bourdain put it: either you are subsidising the locals' dining via the semi-private paladares or you are gorging yourself in state-run restaurants which very few Cubans could ever afford.