Channel Eight Is Enough: If you watch public television's KAET-TV, you've probably seen enough promos for its new cooking series, Savor the Southwest, to think you've already sat through all 13 episodes.
The shows are hosted by Barbara Fenzl, a local food maven who has run Les Gourmettes Cooking School for 16 years. She has also authored a best-selling cookbook, Southwest the Beautiful, a 1994 nominee for the Julia Child Cookbook Award.
Seven of the 13 guest chefs hail from Arizona, and I previewed their shows.
The most entertaining is RoxSand Scocos, whose eponymous restaurant is as good as ever. She's passionate about fresh, local organic produce (and a great deal less enthusiastic about meat). She whips up mesquite flour crepes filled with onion and leeks that wouldn't be out of place on her restaurant menu.
Chuck Wiley, who oversees the restaurants at The Boulders, zooms in on a motorcycle. Then he puts together a meal so good- looking you'll start involuntarily drooling: achiote-basted rack of venison, roasted veggies and green chile cornbread.
Janos Wilder, whose Tucson restaurant recently moved into new digs, is also impressive. He focuses on native heirloom vegetables, which accompany a blue-corn-crusted sea bass with salsa fresca.
Cafe Terra Cotta's Donna Nordin teaches viewers how to make mole, infused with the flavors of Mexican chocolate, coffee and chiles. Her chocolate taco dessert is no slouch, either.
Lenard Rubin, who oversees one of my favorite restaurants, the Marquesa, weighs in with a complex Southwestern barbecue paella that requires enormous amounts of time and energy. If you're like me, you won't be able to sustain even for five minutes the fantasy of ever doing this in your home. But the mix of chicken, chorizo, mussels, shrimp, clams, corn, black beans and rice, which requires, at various times, an oven, a grill and a paella casserole, is a feast for the eyes.
Robert McGrath, chef/proprietor of Roaring Fork, does some campfire cooking. Learn how to pan-fry the trout you've just caught. (The secret: Use vegetable shortening.) Back in the studio, you'll see him make his signature green chile macaroni.
And Vincent Guerithault demonstrates how to make tortillas. Then, he uses them as the basis for an appetizer (Southwest omelet), main dish (seared tuna sandwich with cilantro pesto) and dessert (banana raspberry tart).
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If I've got one complaint, it's about why a series dedicated to Southwestern cooking keeps telling us how to tone down the chile flavors and intensity. I wish someone would have had the courage to say, "If you don't like chile heat, stay out of the Southwest kitchen." But I guess you can't market a cooking program for the white-bread masses on that premise.
The series premieres on Saturday, March 27, with Robert McGrath's episode, and ends with Vincent Guerithault's appearance on Saturday, June 19. Chuck Wiley runs on April 17; Donna Nordin on April 24; Janos Wilder on May 1; Lenard Rubin on May 15; and RoxSand Scocos on May 29.
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