This week Tony traveled to Newfoundland, where he dined outdoors, tried his hand at hunting, and kissed a dead fish. Stand-up comic Jennifer Neal and Roads & Kingdoms co-founder Nathan Thornburgh recap the episode.
Jennifer Neal: Newfoundland—New-Fun-Land. I think the name of the place is misleading. I was really interested to see what kind of misadventures they’d get into, and then I just watched them, like, sit outside, eat and drink a bunch, and make out with seafood.
Nathan Thornburgh: I get it. There’s an understatedness about it right from the beginning. Jeremy Charles is an understated dude—I spent a little bit of time with him a few years ago, in Charleston of all places, and he’s interesting. A lot of chefs have big personalities, and that’s not really his style. But right when they opened up this episode, he says, “I just want to go outside and be able to jig a fish or shoot a moose.” I don’t think I’ve ever said any part of that sentence in my life. I don’t even know what it means to jig a fish.
Neal: What does that mean? Is he going to ask that fish to dance? I would hang with him—but maybe not in Newfoundland.
Thornburgh: Newfoundland has a reputation of being isolated and outside the Canadian mainstream, and I would bet the predominance of the sort of old, shanty-singing Caucasian mariner culture is something that is still very pure, for better and for worse.
Neal: It made me think about how their accents weren’t what I think of when I think of Canadian accents. They sounded a little bit Irish…
Thornburgh: So they’re out there fishing early on. Jeremy Bonia says that cod is back, and it must be true because Tony actually seemed to catch one. Although, looking closely at that scene, the fish that he was holding wasn’t moving.
Neal: Are you saying he had a stunt fish?
Thornburgh: Stunt cod. No. I’m just saying it was pretty still. It’s hard to look at a scene where Tony catches a fish because it goes against everything I know about him. He just doesn’t catch fish on this show. Anyhow, no drama—just a lot of cod getting caught.
Neal: That’s very typical of Newfoundland. No drama.
Thornburgh: Tony did this thing in his narration where he says they’re headed out for what we’re told is prime moose hunting. Immediately, you know he’s not going to shoot a moose. Then they introduce the famous stunt moose, which was somehow procured without having been shot on that hunt, and they have this odd, fascinating cookout on the beach. What did you make of that scene?
Neal: You mean like the canned foie gras?
Thornburgh: And the bearskin on the sand with the big comfy armchairs.
Neal: It was very Hatfields versus McCoys.
Thornburgh: I was thinking that looked like pretty good barbecue.
Neal: The canned stuff wasn’t really doing it for me.
Thornburgh: Fair enough. And then they shoot guns.
Neal: I did feel less guilty watching them shoot here than in West Virginia. They’re just shooting clay pigeons in the air, because that’s what you do when you live in the middle of nowhere.
Thornburgh: The hypothesis of this episode is: Here’s a place that is remote. The water is full of cod. Restaurants can serve any kind of game that the chef just went out and shot.
The next part of the episode starts with some fishing, but most of it takes place at Jeremy Charles’ restaurant, Raymonds. If there’s a stronger restaurant endorsement in this entire season, I would be shocked. Tony seemed quite happy.
Neal: This was the most exciting part of the episode for me. That seafood tower— I was like, break me off a piece of that.
Thornburgh: Then there was the boot leather–like swim bladder they made a chicharrón out of.
Neal: That was a feat of culinary science. I’d never heard of anything like that before.
Thornburgh: How do you get the idea to cut the swim bladder from a cod, salt it, store it overnight, and deep-fry it until it puffs up like a chicharrón and serve it with whelk? This shit was just next-level.
Neal: He really did beat that piece of food into submission.
Thornburgh: Tony does not like a big-deal, sit-down, white-linen dinner. He has said that before: There’s no way he wants to go to the best restaurant in town. But Tony is obviously totally fired up to be sitting in that fancy dining room and eating this food—that caught my attention. I was like, I guess this is for real. Raymonds in St. John’s must be a different kind of place.
Neal: If he was that excited about a fancy restaurant, then it might be worth making a food pilgrimage.
Thornburgh: Saint Pierre and Miquelon—it’s weird that Saint Pierre and Miquelon is French territory. It’s like this geopolitical hiccup. I’ve always been somewhat interested in going there, but I feel like I don’t have to go there anymore. It looks super sleepy, and I’m not sure I’m feeling it. What’s your Saint Pierre and Miquelon feedback?
Neal: I did not know there was a piece of Europe in Canada! Technically, it’s not in Canada. I was thinking I need to go there. I need to see what this place is like. I want to see that one accordion player and check out that blackberry tart. Are you going to put the recipe for that on the website?
Neal: Do you know why they call it a Jiggs dinner?
Thornburgh: I don’t know, but that pâté made out of sea urchin that they had in Saint Pierre and Miquelon seems like an excellent thing. I think it might have that rich kind of sea umami without the textural challenges.
Neal: Even talking about that pâté right now is making me drool a little bit because it did look phenomenal. That was the perfect combination of country and hillbilly and bougie all rolled into one.
Thornburgh: They later go to the Big R restaurant, and they have fried bologna and boiled beef in gravy before they go ax throwing.
Neal: I just can’t help but think this is what happens when a whole bunch of, maybe, heterosexual men get together and lock their women in the dungeon. It’s just the most primitive manifestation of masculinity. The only thing they’re missing is, like, crushing beer cans against their skulls.
Thornburgh: What did you think of the “Screeching in” ceremony?
Neal: The fish-kissing scenes? I think if you could put all the various STDs in the world into one petri dish, that fish’s lips would probably encompass all of them. I mean, it made the rounds. It’s kind of endearing, I guess.
Thornburgh: That can of cat food that they lit on fire and called Newfoundland steak and made everyone take a bite of? It was sort of like a Newfoundland tradition but also like what the bros do to freshmen pledges, you know? I never had the chance to rush a fraternity, but the scene got me as close as I need to get. Although, f*** it, I like it. It is kind of endearing.
This conversation has been edited and condensed.