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Crawling with Andrew
Andrew Zimmern catches up with Lady Chablis (photo: Tim Rutherford)

THE PHONE call was like most I get from TV food shows: “We’re looking for a few good story ideas in Savannah. Can you help?”

Sure, I’ve got lots of good food story ideas, but food TV is about entertainment, colorful characters and mass appeal. Sometimes the food falls to the wayside.

That wasn’t the case with the host and crew from Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Over a handful of days, they covered lots of ground, from fishing with Sallie Ann Robinson on Daufuskie Island to cracking crabs at Teeple’s Seafood in Thunderbolt.

I was Zimmern’s companion for the food crawl portion of the shoot, where the host and a local foodie troll for chow at local eateries. Of the dozen or so locations I recommended, Zimmern’s team chose three: Angel’s BBQ, Teeple’s Seafood and Polk’s Produce, and Marandy’s Soul Food for the food crawl.

At Angel’s, Chef Andy Trice treated us to a tasting of his exotic, housemade hot sauces and loaded a plate with his smoked pulled pork, beef brisket and chicken. Zimmern endured the hot sauces like a veteran, but this is the guy who has eaten a host of slimy, stinky and otherwise disgusting foods.

Fans gathered at every stop, and Zimmern patiently posed for photos, signed autographs and chatted.

Pulling into Teeple’s, Zimmern spied neighboring Polk’s Produce and beelined for the big display of scuppernong grapes. A decision was made to include this in the shoot and off we went, munching our way through tough–skinned scuppernongs and boiled peanuts.

We regrouped at Teeple’s where Gail, the manager, cooked up a huge platter of local crab, steamed some oysters and assembled a Lowcountry boil filled with sweet Georgia shrimp.

Then, on to Marandy’s. The guy in front of us in line turned to Zimmern and said, “If you were fatter, you’d look like that guy on TV who eats weird stuff.”

Zimmern took the guy in stride, laughing and poking fun with the guest, a guy named Donameche who works at Crystal Beer Parlor. Later, the dots were finally connected — but I still don’t think Donameche is a fan.

Chef Cynthia handled the glare of lights like a veteran and filled the table with solid home cooking. Our plates of pork neck bones and beef ox tails were perfectly braised. Greens were still bright and crisp. Her legendary red velvet cake got a decadent eye roll from Zimmern — as did a thick, beautifully caramelized piece of sweet potato pie.

Seven hours after we began, we took our last bite, but Zimmern had a full breakfast in before we began and still had to indulge at Elizabeth on 37th.

Even after that, Zimmern still says, “I’ve got the best job in the world.”

This episode of  Bizarre Foods is expected to air in March 2012.