Andrew Zimmern is no stranger to D.C. The fearless host of “Bizarre Foods America” comes here multiple times a year to visit Travel Channel’s headquarters in Chevy Chase. So he wasn’t surprised by the “bizarre” foods he ate last summer as he filmed a D.C.-based episode for the season 7 premiere of his show (Mon., 9 p.m., Travel Channel).
For others — Washingtonians included! — the episode will be eye-opening. “A lot of locals are just now discovering the depth and breadth of Latin food, African food, Asian food in their own town,” he says. “The rest of America is just now understanding what an international food scene Washington, D.C., represents.” We asked Zimmern to heap more praise onto our city’s culinary scene.
What were some of the highlights of shooting in D.C.?
I got to spend a couple days with my friend Jose Andres. I cooked in two of his restaurants with him. And I got to check out the food truck scene. Washington has a much more vibrant food truck scene than most cities and the quality is very high. I got to kill snakehead. Of almost all the invasive species in America, this is the one that should most obviously be on every restaurant menu in the nation.
What other dining experiences here stuck with you?
Eating in the Salvadoran community. My friend took me to a restaurant called La Chiquita [in Takoma Park], which was superb. Restaurants like La Chiquita, that are off the main drag, are unknown to most of the Beltway crowd. They’re missing out on really spectacular, fresh food.
What else can we expect to see in this seventh season?
I got to spend a lot of time in the South this last year — Mississippi, Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, all throughout Kentucky.
After so many years, what keeps you excited about hosting the show?
The joy that I get is spreading the gospel about exploring culture through food. For example, being able to tell the story about the Houston food scene through the eyes of Indian and Vietnamese immigrants. I don’t think most people even inside the city of Houston understand how vibrant the Indian community is in that town. I think that’s fun.
On his trip to D.C. last summer, Zimmern feasted on snakehead. Was it gross? Hardly. “Snakehead is very firm, with white flesh. It’s extremely clean. Texturally, it’s almost like a slightly more delicate version of monkfish. Depending on where the animal was taken and what time of year, the flavor can vary from clean with a slight sort of vegetal taste to much like catfish. We ate it at The Source, and I also ate it on my friend’s boat.”