Five things to know when planning a Washington, D.C. vacation

Chances are that a lot of the visitors to the Nation’s Capital this week are visiting town for the Rally for Sanity, March Against Fear or the Marine Corps Marathon. Combine this with Halloween, which already draws record crowds to places like Georgetown’s M Street for annual parties, and you can assume that D.C. will be experiencing significantly higher-than-average traffic this weekend.

Here are five things you need to know to blend in – or at least assimilate – during your stay:

1. Learn how to ride the Metro. Properly.
Nothing annoys locals more than tourists who don’t know how to ride the metro. Make everyone’s lives easier by putting enough money on your fare card (or investing in a plastic SmarTrip card if you’re planning on using Metro parking) and by familiarizing yourself with a Metro map before visiting. When using the escalators, follow the cardinal rule: walk on the LEFT and stand on the RIGHT.

2. The Mall is not a shopping destination.
The National Mall, where, if you’re visiting for the Rally or March, is where you’ll spend most of your time, is not a shopping plaza. Do not expect a visit to Nordstrom or the Gap to be on your itinerary. Bounded by the Capitol on one side and the Washington Monument at the other, this grassy stretch features many Smithsonian museums, but very few shops (unless you really like gift shops, in which case we’d suggest the one at the National Gallery of Art — it’s quite good).

3. Pay attention to traffic rules.
One way streets, traffic circles, and strange parking restrictions? We have lots of those. Pay attention when driving, and by all means stay off your cell phone. Not only is talking whilst driving illegal, but attempting to snap a photo on your iPhone while navigating Dupont Circle is likely to get you or that innocent bicyclist into an accident.

4. Dress … appropriately.
Yes, D.C. gets a lot of flack for its lack of fashion sense. But that doesn’t give you an excuse, dear tourist, to trudge along in your “I heart DC” hoodie and Obama-emblazoned fanny pack. Nor should you sport six-inch hooker heels. We are not New York – runway models will not be discovered on the street. We are not Seattle – grunge is not cool. Think classic with a touch of prep and you’ll blend right in.

5. Leave the politics at home.
This one may seem strange, particularly with midterm elections fast approaching and a Rally or March to attend. But please, don’t engage the locals with your opinion of how Obama is amazing, or how you wish Sarah Palin would be our next President. We live and breathe this stuff daily, and chances are … we know more than you. Unless you’d like to listen to a 15-minute diatribe of statistics, quotes, and overtly partisan speeches … keep your opinions to yourself. Or at least among your fellow tourist bretheren.

Ask Gadling: Your name/nationality/religion/race makes the locals hostile

In a perfect world, every place would be friendly and welcoming to foreigners, no matter their background or lifestyle. However, history, politics, religion, and just plain ignorance means some countries can be hostile to certain travelers based on race, faith, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender. While careful consideration should be given before traveling to potentially hostile countries, you may be limiting yourself if you choose not to visit a place for fear of being unwelcome.

Travel is a key part of increasing tolerance and understanding and can make the world a smaller place. Don’t let stereotypes, rumors, or the past color your opinions without getting every side of the story and researching the reality of a place. Laws may be loosely enforced, popular sentiment may only reflect a vocal minority, and individual people can always surprise you with kindness.

View more Ask Gadling: Travel Advice from an Expert or send your question to ask [at] gadling [dot] com.

Just because a country doesn’t roll out the red carpet to greet you, doesn’t mean you won’t be welcome and comfortable. My husband is an American citizen born in Russia, and his passport lists place of birth (his old passport read Leningrad, USSR). While he hasn’t set foot in his homeland in over 30 years, just the name on his passport can cause issues with countries with complicated relationships with Russia. On a recent trip to Bosnia, we were detained for several nerve-wracking minutes at Passport Control while they scrutinized his documents and asked questions about our purpose in Sarajevo. The same thing happened in Bulgaria, where they spoke to him only in Russian while he answered in English. Both times, we were eventually let into the country with some semblance of a smile, but any apprehension was soon overcome by the hospitality of the locals proud to show off their cities.

If you plan on visiting a potentially hostile country, there are a few precautions you should take to ensure you are safe and at ease.Be informed
Before making travel plans, get a basic historical and cultural perspective by checking out country profiles on the State Department’s website, Wikipedia and Wikitravel, and travel guidebooks. Local English-language newspaper websites and blogs can provide more current intel on the political and social environment. Read a few different viewpoints if possible to understand multiple sides of an issue. The more you know about how events have fed into opinion, and how foreigners are treated in real-life scenarios, the better equipped you can be to handle it and make decisions about your trip. Know what topics are considered taboo or contentious so you know what to avoid talking about with locals.

Find a safe haven
While we travel to get to know unfamiliar places, it can be comforting to have a safe and accepting place at the end of the day. Seek out a woman-owned hotel in Morocco, or a gay-friendly guesthouse in Beirut. Some travelers may want to consider an group tour for additional security and convenience, organized by locals and experts who understand the customs and attitudes of the country and how best to navigate them. When you arrive, register yourself with the U.S. Department of State and share your plans with friends and family at home.

Stay under the radar
While in the country, respect the local culture and behave accordingly. While I may not wish to wear a hijab or headscarf, visiting a conservative Muslim country is not the time to protest or start debates about women’s liberation. If you are gay, public displays of affection should be discreet or totally avoided, particularly in countries where homosexuality is frowned upon or illegal. If you are a different race than the majority, you may be an object of curiosity or sometimes harassment, but racism towards travelers is generally fairly mild. Keep your passport and travel documents on you at all times and be patient and forthcoming if questioned by any authorities.

Have you traveled to a country where you felt unwelcome? Have you been surprised with the open-mindedness of strangers? Leave us your story in the comments.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Ivy Dawned]

Gadling Q & A with Daniel Edward Craig, author and hotel consultant

Daniel Edward Craig shares a name with the current James Bond, and like 007, he’s a world traveler and a man of many hats. He’s taken a career in hotel management and a keen ear for storytelling and parlayed it into a murder mystery book series, an engaging industry blog, and a hotel and social media consultancy. Here he tells Gadling about his history in the travel world, who’s providing the best social media content for travelers, and what’s next in hotel trends.

Tell me about your history in the hotel and travel business.

I’ve worked in hotels off and on for about twenty years. I started on the front desk at the Delta Chelsea Inn in Toronto and went on to work for a range of hotels, from big-box to boutique, in positions ranging from duty manager to vice president. Most recently, I was vice president and general manager of Opus Hotels in Vancouver and Montreal.

What title do you think best captures your profession these days

These days I work as an author and hotel consultant. I left Opus at the end of 2007, shortly after my first novel was published, to complete the second and third novels in the Five-Star Mystery series. Now I am working on a fourth book as well as various consulting projects for the hotel industry, ranging from social media strategy to executive coaching. I also continue to write my blog and articles about the hotel industry. It’s been a rough few years for hotels, and I think we could all use some levity, so in my writing I try to take a lighthearted look at issues.

Do you think you’ll ever go back to managing a hotel?

I hope so. Hotels are my first love; writing is secondary. As a hotel manager, I feel fully engaged and at my best, whereas as a writer all my neurotic tendencies come out. Writing is a solitary profession, and I’m better as part of a team. Once I finish my current book at the end of this year, I’ll decide what’s next, and that could very well involve a return to hotels full-time. I’ll always write, but after a year of 4:00 AM mornings and late nights, I promised myself never to write books and manage a hotel at the same time.

What are you most critical of as a hotel guest?

I’m extremely service oriented. I’ll cut a property a lot of slack if it isn’t my style or if facilities are limited, but bad service can ruin my trip. In particular, I dislike overly scripted, apathetic service. I love a hotel with originality and a lot of life in the lobby. And I look for soul, a combination of design, culture, clientele and spirit, that intangible feeling that I’m in the right place. That’s why I prefer independent boutique hotels – it’s easier for them to do these things well.

What’s your favorite hotel?

Don’t make me choose! It depends on my mood and the nature of travel. I was just in Chicago and was blown away by the new Elysian Hotel. If I’m relaxing or working, I like the Four Seasons. I can’t always afford to stay in them, but I will splurge on a drink in the lounge and will hang around until I’m asked to leave. My favorite is the Four Seasons Georges V in Paris. But I also love contemporary boutique hotels. I’m a city boy, and when I feel like socializing I want to stay in a hotel with a scene, like the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, the Mondrian in Los Angeles, and the Clift in San Francisco. XV Beacon in Boston is also one of my faves.

Given the many social media experts today, how do you stand apart?

I’d never call myself a social media expert. Who can keep up? I’m a hotelier first, who happens to know a lot about social media and reputation management. Social media allows me to combine my two professions as a hotelier and an author, because essentially it’s about storytelling. Social media touches every department in a hotel, and as a former general manager I understand the interplay and interdependence involved, and to rise above individual departmental interests to develop a strategy that benefits the hotel as a whole.

What hotels/travel companies do you think are doing social media “well”?

I think there are a number of hotel companies that do certain aspects of social media well, but nobody is doing anything particularly innovative. HKHotels in New York are doing a great job of reputation management. Best Western runs a good Facebook page. InterContinental Hotel Group makes great concierge videos. The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee manages Twitter well. Red Carnation Hotels in London and Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver have good blogs. Joie de Vivre Hotels does great contests.

Hoteliers are great storytellers, and with all the comings and goings of guests we have a rich resource of content to draw from, and yet this isn’t translating to social media. A lot of hotel content is trite and uninspiring, and most of the voices sound the same: perky and vaguely annoying. Hotels can learn a lot from online reviewers, who spin the best stories, with strong points of view, hooks, humor, trivia and facts. I think there are huge opportunities for the hotel industry, and I’d love to help a hotel become the social media hotel in a given destination.

What made you start writing murder mysteries?

I always wanted to write, and naively thought that writing a mystery would be fun and easy. They say write what you know, and at the time I was working as a duty manager, so I set it in a hotel. Ten years later, Murder at the Universe was published. For me it was a one-off, but my publisher liked the idea of a hotel manager who writes mysteries set in hotels, so they contracted me to develop it into a series. Since then I’ve published Murder at Hotel Cinema and Murder at Graverly Manor.

After three novels, I started to get bored with my protagonist, the hapless hotelier Trevor Lambert, and all that whining. And there could only be so many murders in his hotels before people started suspecting him. The book I’m finishing up now is non-fiction, an irreverent insider’s look at hotels, written for travelers.

What do you see as the next big trends in hotels?

Mobile is huge. Increasingly, people are researching, booking and recommending travel via smart phones. Social media will grow as people continue to bypass travel journalists and hotels for travel information in favor of travelers, friends and social networks, all from the palm of the hand. When it comes down to it, however, above all hotel guests still want comfort, convenience and value. They just have much larger audiences to air their grievances to when they don’t get what they want.

What’s next for you?

After I finish the book, I’ll put book writing on hold for now and will continue to work on hotel projects, to blog, and to write articles. I’m starting to book quite a few speaking engagements in 2011. My platform as an author and hotelier is quite unique, and social media reputation management are hot topics. If I find a good job with a progressive hotel company, great, but until then I have no shortage of things to keep me occupied.

Read all about Daniel Edward Craig, his books, and his blog at his website,

A conversation with Joe Diaz, co-founder of AFAR

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year you’ve heard of AFAR media and their new magazine that’s currently making waves around the travel industry. As one of the few companies to risk starting a print publication in a transitioning media landscape, there’s plenty at risk in this endeavor, but the strategy runs deep at AFAR and the innovation is plenty.

Earlier this month, Gadling’s Editor in Chief sat down with AFAR co-founder Joe Diaz to catch up on new developments at the startup.

Grant Martin: Congratulations on the success of Afar to date — how are things settling in for you as the co-founder of a major publication?

Joe Diaz: Things are going well. We have the opportunity to work in media in such an exciting and evolutionary time. AFAR has entered the game at an opportune time. Others call this the “bottom” or “worst time ever” to start a media company. Obviously, we see it another way and believe that the demands of today’s consumers were not being met in the travel space. Judging from the success of our launch it looks as though AFAR is fulfilling the desires of today’s experiential travelers. Our magazine launched with much success and I’m really excited about the upcoming launch of

GM: Right, your magazine is only a small part of the Afar portfolio with a large portion of Afar Media set to unfurl on the web in 2010. How is that progressing?

JD: The entire team is really excited about the launch of, a social network meets social search site that gets people like you to answer questions you have about travel. We are headquartered in San Francisco for a reason and that reason is We plan on entering our beta in late June of 2010. We are now beginning to invite well-heeled travelers and members of the tech community to join us in shaping and improving the site. I encourage you to “try out” for our beta at

Although we see our site as a revolutionary progression in the online travel space, our platforms always drive back to our company’s core values. In this case, it’s all about connecting travelers to other travelers, locals and businesses in ways that fit their individual way of traveling.
GM: So upcoming components of will be socially interactive. How will it be different from, say, Facebook or Dopplr?

JD: will differ from Facebook in terms of the approach. Facebook is effective when you want your “friends” to answer questions that you might have about anything in particular. When traveling, how many of your “friends” have been to the places you’re thinking about going? Then take the number of friends that have been there and ask yourself, “How many of them like to travel the way I do?” Probably not that many. We think there is a whole community of like-minded travelers that you should be able to tap into to give you recommendations that fit your psychographic.

GM: AFAR events is another branch of AFAR Media that’s kicking off this summer. What have you guys got planned around the country?

JD: We are planning an launch party in San Francisco for late September/early October. Stay tuned!

GM: Going back to the magazine that we all know so well, you recently made some editorial changes at the top. What motivated these changes?

JD: Things evolve and change over time and as a company we need to adapt to those changes. The initial launch of our company required a different approach than the stage we are currently in. AFAR is a media company and although the magazine is an important part of our strategy, it was time to move away from magazine-centric thinking and really embrace an audience of experiential travelers rather than any one single platform.

GM: And you’ve been getting some pretty big names in that industry involved — we just saw our friend David Farley off the Belarus on a top secret mission for you guys. Who else have you got coming down the pipeline?

JD: Yes, we’re acquiring top-notch creative talent for the magazine. It’s exciting to see writers like David Farley, Susan Orlean, Andrew McCarthy, and Tim Cahill working with us. I think it speaks to the uniqueness of AFAR and this magazine’s ability to talk about travel in a real way. Photographers who get shunned from other travel magazines because they like to photograph clouds hanging over those white, sandy beaches…no problem. AFAR likes clouds.

Talking Travel: Andrew Zimmern discusses bizarre foods

Andrew Zimmern is best known as the host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. But before he was traveling the globe eating glands, connective tissue and anuses, he was an acclaimed chef, writer and expert in Chinese cuisine. The new season of his Travel Channel program premieres later this month and, in anticipation of that, he chatted with us about a wide range of topics.

When we started our conversation, Andrew was in an editing room helping his producers identify meats from an episode filmed in Argentina. He pointed out thymus glands and sweet breads as easily as you or I would point out our friends in a photograph. During the rest of our discussion, we touched on subjects ranging from his iron constitution to the American culinary psychology to just how educational his television program actually is.

So what are Andrew Zimmern’s favorite foods? What is the one thing that he absolutely cannot stand eating? And what other Travel Channel host does he have a not-so-secret crush on? Andrew Zimmern shared it all with us.Mike Barish: Most people know you as the guy who eats crazy things. But what are your creature comfort foods? Are there simple things that, at the end of the day, just make you happy?

Andrew Zimmern: Oh god, yes. Black licorice; really, really, really good cinnamon lollipops. I’m a nice Jewish boy from New York. Matzo ball soup or chopped chicken liver or brisket or something like that is my go to meal. I have a 5 year old boy. I have a rekindled love affair with Cap’n Crunch. That I thought died with my college pot smoking, freakazoid days.

MB: It’s common for people to say, “This tastes like chicken.” Is saying “x tastes like chicken” the lazy way to describe wild foods or do you notice similarities in the way certain things taste?

AZ: I will tell you that frog has more in common with chicken just as iguana has more in common with chicken, snake has more in common with chicken. It’s all of those reptiles fall into the “taste like chicken” category. The reason is that they are very lean, white fleshed meats with a fairly benign flavor. Chicken has a deeper, richer, better flavor than those animals because the lack of fat in those animals. Fat is flavor in many instances. Those reptiles have a very thin, tinny sort of flavor that halfway through the chew the flavor evaporates. There’s nothing left. It’s how blindfolded I would always be able to tell I’m eating a reptile. I think that generations of people said, “oh, what’s it taste like?” “Kind of like chicken.” Now it’s a joke. “Tastes like chicken.”

MB: Do you think people actually dislike a lot of the things that you’re eating or they just can’t get past whatever psychological block they have?

AZ: No. Well it’s certainly more the latter, but I will also tell you that the biggest reason is the 3rd item: they’ve never tried it. When I’m in Chile, and I’m with Mapuche Indians and we bleed out a lamb, and they stir some lime juice and cilantro and onion into fresh lamb’s blood and take a spoon and pass the bowl around while it’s still warm, that’s hardcore. I don’t know who gets to have that experience. I’m sure people are shocked. I was shocked, and I was there. I knew it was coming, and I was shocked. What I do for people is that I can sit there and show them with pictures and tell them with the sound of my voice what the experience is like and what’s happening.

I think that a lot of people practice contempt prior to investigation.

MB: Where do you think that fear comes from and have you found that it’s uniquely American?

AZ: Oh it’s not uniquely American at all, although the rest of the world is more familiar with being more open-minded. Our country is the only country in the world, let’s just talk about food for a second, that eats from the center, expensive cuts of the animal regardless of how much money you make. We just come up with different grades of meat to separate the steaks that poor people eat from the steaks that rich people eat. It’s ludicrous. All we do is porterhouse and strip loin and rib eye. We don’t eat the hooves and the head and stuff except when we grind them up and put them in hot dogs and don’t tell people what it is. We eat boneless, skinless chicken breast. We take shrimp and throw away the head and the shell, where all the flavor is, and freeze the meat from the tail and worship that as if it is some kind of iconic ingredient. We’re the only culture in the world that does that. It’s completely backwards.

But there are adventurous Americans, yes?

AZ: I think the best news in the whole world is that recently there has been a spate of reportage, I’ve even blogged about it, Tweeted and Facebooked about it, of all the different people who are taking pictures of their foods or documenting their food life.

MB: The food porn.

AZ: Correct. Flickr has a billion pictures that people download every year of what they’re eating. I think it’s the greatest thing in the whole world because people get on the internet and are like, “Oh my god, that’s tongue? That looks good.” That many people can’t be wrong.

I find it really interesting when I’m in China, donkey is a very common meat. It’s as common as beef or lamb, especially in the region that Beijing is the central hub to. Donkey meat is delicious. If Americans tasted it blind, it would be the most popular new meat in our country. It’s lean, it’s delicious, it tastes like veal, it cooks like beef, the skin is edible, it’s just glorious. It’s a certain species of the smaller donkey, and it’s just amazing. It is delicious. We can’t get people to eat goat in this country.

MB: Right, right. Would you say the biggest hurdle for people is the psychological, the taste or the texture?

AZ: The biggest issue with America is the psychology of it. I was in Thailand, and a lot of places that I travel to, the people eat bats. Here in our country, our kids are brought up with vampire mythology and Halloween mythology where bats represent disease and scary things and all the rest of that. If we didn’t have those messages in our culture, we would be eating foods like bats (assuming that there were edible ones around).

MB: Do you look back at the popularity of Fear Factor in the last decade where eating those things was seen as a challenge that merited winning thousands of dollars? Is that the psychology?

AZ: No, I think Fear Factor was the result of the net of it all. They were playing off our difficulties with psychology. What bugged me about Fear Factor – and believe me at one point before I had my job on Travel Channel and that show first came out, I was like, “I could win that show. Are you kidding me?” – they preyed on the worst fears in our psychological profiles. Not only did you have to eat the worms, but you had to lie in a coffin covered with them. You know what I mean? Those kinds of jeopardy shows where they put you in a difficult situation, I think, exploit that psychology. The fact that people had such a problem with it proves the point I’m making.

MB: Everybody watches you eating all these foods and most of the time having no problem eating them, but how is your GI tract afterward? What has caused you the worst bowel difficulties after the fact?

AZ: What a delicate way to phrase that question.

MB: I did my best there. Thank you.

AZ: I was given the job of hosting this program because I actually lived that way. All they had to do was send the TV crew with me and send me to a couple of more exotic places that I couldn’t afford to go or had time to go on my own. I say that to answer that question because by the time I got to filming my adventures, I had already been around the world a dozen times. I had never gotten sick. I don’t think if I was a person who had a lot of food-borne illness issues, etc. that I would even say “yes” to the offer. I don’t get sick. I’ve built up some resistance. I’ve eaten enough things in enough places. I even drink the water in countries where I tell other people not to.

I’ve had two nights in the last five years where I’ve been up all night sick, wrapped around the toilet. Both of those nights were in U.S. cities after eating seafood that when it went down my mouth, I was like, “oh that’s a bad mussel” or “oh that clam may come back to hurt me.”

MB: Anthony Bourdain takes the piss out of you fairly frequently on his show and in interviews. Do you guys have a good relationship? What do you think about him lobbing jabs at you every now and then? Is that a sibling rivalry relationship?

AZ: Yeah. It’s so funny. I think it’s also that those kinds of things are the most reportable, funniest bits. We both give each other a lot of crap in our shows. I think he’s been lucky enough to say them under circumstances where the lighting is better, and it fits within the context of what they’re doing. I’m always yelling at my editors and producers, “God, I said that funny line.” We both give each other a lot of grief in our shows. That’s very much sibling oriented. We’re very friendly off-camera. Last time I was in New York, my wife and I were with Tony and his wife. We’re friends.

MB: What would you say is more detrimental or more dangerous for people: eating things that you eat or the amount of fast food that Americans regularly eat?

AZ: Not even close, the amount of fast food. Not even close. I go to a lot of sporting events with my son. We’ll be sitting there, and I’ll get recognized and somebody comes up to me and they’re eating a hot dog or a bratwurst because we’re in Minnesota. They say to me, “I can’t believe some of the stuff you put in your mouth. How can you eat that barbecued pig snout?”

My response to them is, “when I was in the Philippines, and they butchered that pig and took the snout and grilled it, steamed it and grilled it again, chopped it up and made that snout hash and I ate it, that meat had never seen the inside of a refrigerator. It had never seen pesticides. It had never seen growth hormones. That was fresh, gorgeous porky pork the way God meant it to be eaten. And it was delicious.

The pork that you’re eating, sir, is ground up, it’s five years old. It was liquidized. It was ammonia-ized. It was food processed.It was loaded with filler and chemicals, and the government says they don’t have to tell you 25% of what’s in it. What’s worse? To me, it’s not even close.

The diet of the average American is universally mocked and ridiculed for good reason. Our culture has created a part of a food life for many Americans that is unconscionable. Our show is entertainment, but there is a very graspable message in Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern that I think is the most important message of anything we do.

MB: And what’s that?

AZ: When you broaden out the number of, for example, protein choices in your life, and start eating little fish as opposed to the American way which is just tuna, salmon and halibut and shrimp, when you start to eat 20 different types of red meat, not just two, you then spread out your choices and you ease pressure on farms and take away the power of these giant multinationals that now produces 75% of our food in this country. You actually level the playing field, and you’re eating more, in the words of one of my idols, Michael Pollan, “you’re eating foods that your grandmother would recognize.”

MB: Do you think that some of the goofiness and schtick of your show leads to people to not realize that it is as educational and enriching as other programs? There are educational principles to your show, but because you’re in a loud shirt and you’re kind of yucking it up, people go, “oh it’s just shock for shock’s sake.”

AZ: Yes. I couldn’t agree more. I do that, I wouldn’t say purposely, yeah I would. I do that purposely. When I first pitched this show to Travel Channel, I knew that I wanted to do a show that was 80% entertainment and 20% message and not the opposite because if I did the opposite in that day and age, I wouldn’t have gotten the larger audiences to tune in. The greatest success of my program is that kids, parents and families are addicted to it. I know that in my heart that there is a generation of kids who have watched me since day one who are more open-minded eaters. I think the impact of shows like my show, like Tony’s [Bourdain] show and others like it, in ten years from now is going to be even bigger and more manifest because I think there are a lot of people, and I hear it all the time, the kids didn’t eat vegetables and they made a game of it – Andrew Zimmern would eat that. I get hundreds of those letters a week and emails. It’s very powerful.

Plus, we have a kids’ special that’s coming out this coming year that we made awhile back that people are just going to fall in love with. It allows us to tell that message with a bigger exclamation point at the end of the sentence.

MB: Is there anything that you won’t eat either because you just don’t like the taste or texture? Is there anything that you were more than willing to try and after the fact said, “Okay, good. I tried it and I never want it again”?

AZ: Walnuts.

MB: Really?

AZ: I hate them.

MB: Why?

AZ: I’ve tried them a million ways. They just don’t agree with me. They got a bad aftertaste. I eat every other nut on the planet.

MB: But not walnuts? So nutcrackers in the Christmas stockings for you?

AZ: No, can’t stand them.

MB: Another Gadling writer, Aaron Hotfelder, wrote an open letter to you when your show started its second season. It basically said, “I love the show. I love what you do, but every place you go, you’re the only person wearing shorts.”

AZ: Correct.

MB: So, what’s with the khaki shorts?

AZ: Oh my god, that’s hysterical. What happens is, and I’ll just give you an example. You go to Morocco and you’re in the desert. Yes, it is hot and all the rest of that stuff, but you have to remember that I have to carry trunks and trunks of gear and clothing and equipment when I travel. We’re gone 2-3 weeks at a time shooting multiple shows. I’ll be in Alaska one week and then in the deserts of Morocco the next. Television is not a fancy business. I don’t have stylists and handlers and all the rest. It’s me, a producer, a couple of camera guys, a driver, a scout, a PA to carry some gear and maybe a security guy in a dicey area to watch the equipment. So it’s basically a process of elimination: what can I use that I can transport the easiest with the most people? So that’s really what it comes down to. Second of all, when you’re working 18, 19 hours a day and you’re in vans, you go for comfort. So it’s also a comfort thing as well. I just find it really simple. The other thing that we actually talk about and think about a lot is that we have enough distracting stuff on the show. Leopard print type pants and white go-go boots is not – as much as I love to be an individual – it’s maybe a little too distracting. It really is.

I never had to answer that question. It’s a very good one. It’s just because it is easy to travel with, easy to clean and has good pockets.

MB: Are you familiar with the game Fuck, Marry, Kill?

AZ: Yes.

MB: Okay, so Fuck, Marry, Kill and the 3 candidates are: Tony Bourdain, Samantha Brown, and Bear Grylls.

AZ: Oh my god. Oh my god. Well Tony I would marry. Absolutely in half a heartbeat. I’ve made no bones about it. Samantha is a very dear friend of mine, and both of us are very happily married, I would definitely make a run at her if we were both single. She is just an absolute pistol, and I just admire the heck out of her. I adore her. I have very publicly said that I have a huge crush on Samantha. Yeah, so that’s a no brainer. The funny thing about Bear is that if I didn’t know him, I would have obviously put him in the kill category. I love his show. I watch his show. I’ve recorded it since day one. I just think he’s fantastic. But he’s even nicer in real life. He’s one of the nicest, most genuine, good human beings, and I’ve gotten to spend a decent amount of time with him. He’s just a gem of a human being. So I would rather not fuck, marry or kill Bear Grylls. I’d rather just hang out with him.

The fourth season of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern
premieres on the Travel Chanel on April 26 at 10:00pm E/P.

Photo courtesy of Travel Channel.