Last night Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations treated us to one of the few Christmas specials worthy of our 60 minutes. Candy canes and claymation this was not; Travel Channel’s resident chef/bon vivant channeled his inner Hunter S. Thompson to deliver a manic journey of a man at wit’s end, at year’s end (which happens to be the worst time to be at wit’s end).
We began as Bourdain got kicked out of his own home and trudged to New York City’s uber-cool Ace Hotel, his clothes in a garbage bag (also known as the Angelina Bindle). The dreamscape that ensued was less It’s A Wonderful Life and more Fight Club, featuring, why not, Christopher Walken. And because no acid-fever dream is complete without some tunes, we were also visited by Fucked Up, Norah Jones and the Vegan Black Metal Chef. Here’s what we observed.
1. Norah Jones singing about poop in Catalan? Norah Jones singing about poop in Catalan.
In the strangely scatological episode, Bourdain tried to recreate a typical meal from biblical times and was quick to note that back then, you had your eating hand and your shit-wiping hand and you did not want to confuse the two. Bourdain then stopped at a Catalonian restaurant, wherein he was taught the region’s Christmas tradition of Tio de Nadal, or shit log. Basically, it’s an anthropomorphic log that kids hit to make it poop almond nougat bars, or something. The show featured an informative cartoon carol (with Norah Jones on the vox) but it did littleto clear anything up. Our Christmas songs may be annoying, but at least they’re not about dropping heat.
2. What Anthony Bourdain considers a sad, lonely night, we consider a top-five life moment.
Bourdain soaks his sorrows alone with whiskey, a plate of oysters, a Santa bobblehead, and a private Norah Jones performance of “Silent Night” in the Ace Hotel lobby. Blah for Bourdain, but make no mistake, in that situation we would pee ourselves just a little. After seeing Norah Jones give a yeoman’s effort in this episode, and then factoring in her work with Jack White and Danger Mouse on Rome earlier this year, she’s officially cool. We take back everything we’ve ever said about her adult-contempo output.
3. Cooking tofu is slightly badass if buttressed by chainsaw riffs and a double bass drum assault.
In his hotel room, Bourdain tuned in to a cooking segment by the Vegan Black Metal Chef. The demonic cook took a break from praising Satan to chop vegetables with “blades of justice” on a Pentagram and confirmed that we’d like to see these two go knife-to-knife sometime soon.
4. A Fucked Up ending to a fucked-up episode.
Bourdain stumbled into the hotel room of his Travel Channel rival Samantha Brown. In a truly inspired performance, the perky host transformed herself into a disheveled shut-in, and proceeded to shoot our host point blank. Rather than force feed himself hospital cafeteria slop, Bourdain mainlined some painkillers before flatlining. Next, we drifted off into an empty theater, David Lynch style, where Fucked Up was giving a patently screamy rendition of “Jingle Bells.” Maybe next year, Bourdain can get Norah Jones and Damian Abraham to duet on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”