Bam! by the Bay: Emeril Checks Out S.F. in Debut of New Show
The original bam!-tastic O.G. Food Network veteran, Emeril, just debuted a new show, The Originals with Emeril, on its sister Cooking Channel network. Last night's show may have been a premiere, but there was nothing new-school about it. While everyone else on TV is looking for the new hot restaurant, Emeril is traveling from city to city, focusing on what is still standing and still slinging. The first episode took him to our beautiful city by the bay so, of course, SFoodie was watching.
Cooking Channel Emeril Lagasse chats with Buena Vista Cafe's Robert Freeman.
The episode begins just as you'd expect: bridge shots, Emeril on a cable car, words and phrases like "progressive" and "one of the oldest cities." Within the first few seconds it becomes clear that we're about more than just sourdough (duh!), leading to the inevitable "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Cue Emeril: "If you wanna be taken seriously in this town, you gotta be in business for at least a century." Good to know.
First stop on this local odyssey: Swan Oyster Depot, which was established in the 1890s. We learn that it started as a fish market delivering by horse-drawn carriage, and the seafood is still packing patrons in like sardines. We get a behind-the-scenes look at the Swan employee visiting Pier 45 in the wee hours to pick up the freshest catches. The same family has run this place since 1946, a big family with six siblings, their kids working the kitchen. Emeril wants in on that, so for a day he's one of the family: shucking some of the 1,200 oysters Swan serves daily and working the 20 stools and line out the door, all with no computer system.
Gil Riego Jr./SFoodie The scene at Swan Oyster Depot at the dawn of Dungeness season.
The second stop is the Buena Vista, and we ain't talking no social club. Emeril is on the hunt for one beverage and one beverage only: Irish coffee. The Buena Vista opened in 1891 as a saloon for local fishermen to drink whiskey. It's withstood earthquakes big and small, and still has a mystery bell -- did it summon working girls from upstairs to come on down and get busy? Maybe. Facts pop up, Pop-Up Video style. Apparently, "Meet me at the B.V." is a popular phrase in our city. The B.V. was the first place to bring Irish Cream to the states, and the recipe has not changed one bit over the years: coffee, Tullamore Dew, and real cream, from a recipe perfected by some old local dairy owner and former mayor (the cream is aged for 48 hours, lightly frothed, and contains 38 percent butterfat. Bartender Paul Nolan has been there since 1978 and claims to have made more than three million Irish coffees. He and Emeril have a coffee-making duel and, duh, Paul smokes 'em.
The last stop is our favorite oldest restaurant, Tadich Grill. We knew it was old, but California wasn't even a state when this place opened, making it the oldest continuously run restaurant in the Golden State. Bartender Paul gets a split screen with his doppelgänger, Robert De Niro, then Emeril strolls back to the kitchen for a cioppino and Hangtown Fry cooking lesson. Next, a lot of talk from diners who reveal they're here to mark their deceased fathers' birthdays, celebrating with dad's favorite cioppino. Also, the owners talk about more than one regular who named their baby "Tadich." The connections here go deep.
We have to say that, though we approached with skepticism, The Originals with Emeril softened us up. We get why the places the bam!-master visited are special, and we loved learning their history.
Meet us at the B.V.