As finding regional delicacies has become something of a safari on the Food Network and the Travel Channel, references to them are now evidently a mark of one-upmanship with hip TV writers. Nothing shows your mastery of a milieu like dropping the right name, and some of Middle Tennessee's gems are popping up on shows that don't even take place in these parts.
Above is a clip from one of the must-see shows of the moment, David Simon's Treme, a sauna with New Orleans atmosphere as steam. In this scene, the restaurant chef-owner played by Kim Dickens (a Vanderbilt alum) gets a surprise dinner visit from real-life celebrity chefs Tom Colicchio, Wylie Dufresne, David Chang and Eric Ripert. Alas, the clip ends before a shout-out to a Bites favorite, as the Village Voice's Fork in the Road points out:
Colicchio, is, unsurprisingly, the most natural in front of a camera and gets the majority of the lines, while Ripert is effortlessly telegenic and Dufresne and Chang hover in the background. Deciding that "we can't out-New York a bunch of New York chefs; we lowball 'em," Desautel serves them sweet potato and andouille shrimp soup, rabbit kidneys skewered with lardons of Benton's bacon, and sweetbreads and crawfish over grits. Although nola.com notes that Desautel's character is "prone to romantic errors of judgment," she displays excellent acumen when it comes to menu selection.
Benton's bacon, the pride of Madisonville, Tenn.! (Apparently the hat tip doesn't end there: According to my co-worker Jack Silverman, the chefs all chime in and praise Benton's product.) You can ask Simon and co-creator Eric Overmyer about it yourself at the Nashville Screenwriters Conference next month.
Sadly, we can't find a clip of another cool culinary shout-out. Longtime Scene contributor Randy Horick passed on the tip that last week's episode of the FX drama Justified — a cool Elmore Leonard-derived crime series with Timothy Olyphant as a modern-day marshal relocated to western Kentucky — had a hostage-negotiation plot that actually pivoted upon the prompt application of Prince's Hot Chicken. We'd love more details, at least until we can catch the reruns.
Any guess as to what the next one might be? Maybe the Smoke Monster will turn out to be a big juicy whiff of Martin's Bar-B-Que.