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October 25, 2014

Feasting On Asphalt: The River Run - DVD Review

by Richard Keller, posted May 2nd 2008 6:24PM

Alton Brown is a unique commodity on Food Network. In an environment where most of the action is in front of the stove or above the cutting board, Brown's Good Eats takes us beyond that. Sometimes it's to the origins of the food or the recipe; other times it's into the science of how all of the ingredients of a particular combination of foods work together. He does this with a bit of nerdiness, a bit of hipness, and a good amount of humor.

When he took his love for food on the road in the first Feasting on Asphalt it produced a very successful mini-series that showed the non-corporate side of America's eateries. It also showed us some of the small cities and towns, and their personalities, that we don't normally see off of the interstate at our Applebee's booth.

Now, his second series of Asphalt is out on DVD. While not as fresh as the first series (and, what is the second time around?) it is still a fascinating look into the America that has been nearly forgotten as the corporations took over the country. You'll want to savor this journey because, frankly, that's about all there is in this 3-DVD set.

Where the first Asphalt series crossed the country from East to West, the second series, subtitled The River Run, began at the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana and ended where the river ends -- Minnesota. Along the way they dined on alligator, homemade pie, Russian hamburgers, homemade donuts, and various forms of beef, poultry and fish. They also partook in some New Orleans barbecue, Louisiana barbecue, Memphis barbecue, deep-fried barbecue, smoked barbecue, and, did I mention, barbecue. Well, when in Rome...

In addition to all of this feasting, Brown and his gang visited an alligator and turtle farm, toured the mouth of the Mississippi via helicopter, took a canoe and barge trip, visited a motorcycle shop making a replica of Elvis' last bike, and, at least with Alton, got tattooed. While these were interesting segments they tended to slow down the show and shift the focus away from the whole concept of the series -- finding the eateries and food shops off the beaten path of America's highways. Granted, the side trips were inevitable in an area so colorful and diverse as that bordering the Mississippi.

The 3-DVD set that contains the series (which could have been a 2-DVD set if they wanted it to be) is nothing spectacular. Which makes it a bit shocking to see that it is going for nearly $40! Each DVD contains a pair of deleted scenes from the series which are a bit dull. As a good portion of Asphalt focus on the local personalities that Alton and his friends meet it comes as no surprise that some of these scenes were not included in the original run of the series.

The other three "bonus" features, which are on all three DVDs, are not really bonuses at all. The biography of Alton Brown, which I thought would have featured highlights of Brown on his Good Eats program as well as other venues, was a simple text screen informing the user on items that we could probably find on Wikipedia. The other two "bonus" features were previews for other Food Network programs and a slide featuring information on foodnetwork.com. Needless to say, the DVD department over at Food Network really needs to beef up their product.

If you are an Alton Brown fanatic then The River Run will be a nice set to add to your collection. However, if you are just an admirer of Alton and his shows, you may want to wait until June and record the re-broadcasts on your DVR. It will save you a ton of money.

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