by Liz Rothaus Bertrand
As the weather turns cooler, it’s the perfect time to grab a cup of hot cocoa (or, heck, a glass of wine) and explore the world. Skip the lines at the airport for now and tune in instead to the delicious Netflix (formerly PBS) series, “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having.”
Hosted by Philip Rosenthal, creator of the Emmy Award-winning series “Everybody Loves Raymond,” the show chronicles Phil’s adventures as he hops from one part of the globe to another, following his stomach and the good counsel of local chefs and friends.
The series is a feast for the eyes as Phil visits cities like Hong Kong, Barcelona and Paris and explores each place through its food and related microcosms, like markets, restaurants and even rooftop gardens. Each séjour provides an intriguing “taste” of daily life and culture, whether Phil is sampling a pungent century egg, trying innovative tapas, or watching a bizarre dinner theater where gourmet food is part of the show.
One of my favorite episodes takes place in Florence, Italy, where Phil winds through the narrow streets and magnificent plazas searching for the city’s best gelato. We go behind-the-scenes and watch as eggs, milk and sugar are lovingly churned together at Vivoli, a third generation family business, and how a spoonful moves Phil to tears of joy.
My husband and I were able to visit this remarkable gelateria, tucked away on a tiny side street, last summer when we traveled to Florence for our 10th wedding anniversary. Finding the place that Phil recommended became our own personal quest and it did not disappoint. The flavors were pure, the gelato light and creamy. (And I have no regrets that we “accidentally” ordered 5 flavors apiece — the price and portions getting a little lost in translation.)
Knowing that many of the places Phil visits are within reach, for those of us lucky enough to travel, is part of the show’s charm.
Another enjoyable highlight of every episode is the host’s Skype calls home to his parents in New York to update them on his trip. The apparently impromptu calls, which occasionally catch his parents in their bathrobes or with a slightly unmade bed behind them, are both funny and touching. As his mother compares a dish Phil has just tried to an old family recipe or his father reluctantly tries a Tai Chi move at Phil’s prodding, the whole experience leaves us with the impression that Phil really is a lot like the rest of us and, by extension, we too can travel the world in much the same way.
As you might expect from this comedy writer who is constantly cracking jokes, the tone of the show is light. Although the humor occasionally teeters on the hokey, its spirit overall remains genuine and accessible to everyone. This show is definitely one the whole family can enjoy.
If you love food and travel, give “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” a try. It’s an entertaining way to see the world and share vicariously in the company of renowned restaurateurs, famous faces and family friends who guide Phil through his culinary adventures.
Liz Rothaus Bertrand teaches French at The Language Academy of the Carolinas. She hopes to learn proper Italian someday to help satisfy her gelato craving.