LYONS — There was nothing “bizarre” about the food that Travel Channel star Andrew Zimmern sampled in Lyons Tuesday.
Unless you consider a Zweigle’s white hot dog or Cornell-style chicken barbecue outrageous fare.
The cable television star, known for eating some of the strangest foods on the planet, was in the Wayne County town on Tuesday as part of taping for an installment on the Travel Channel focusing on the Erie Canal’s 200th anniversary.
The Canal Corporation’s Bill Sweitzer recommended that the company that produces “Bizarre Foods” and other Travel Channel shows starring Zimmern talk to one of the area’s premier canal historians and enthusiasts, Bob Stopper of Lyons.
They took Sweitzer up on it.
Stopper said show producers were in the county for parts of two weeks taping and photographing Wayne County canal scenes for the show, which is expected to air in September. They were at a number of other spots on the Erie Canal as well during several days of shooting.
On a chilly-but-sunny Tuesday, Zimmern himself was in Lyons, taking a canal packet boat ride from the dry docks off Route 31 and up to Newark and back.
High waters fed by seemingly endless rains spiked plans to have Zimmern take a canal boat from the old Richmond Aqueduct at Montezuma, Cayuga County, to Lyons.
Instead, he arrived by mini-van at the dry docks, where he hopped on a Mid-Lakes Navigation canal boat hosted by Peter Wiles Jr. and sister Sara Wiles.
Later, after getting a ride on a Canal Corp. vessel going east to Lock 27 in downtown Lyons, Zimmern stopped for a hot dog at the nearby Caboose hot dog stand. Later, he enjoyed a chicken barbecue hosted by the Lyons Fire Department.
“He was one of the most personable people you’d ever want to meet,” said Stopper. “It was just so interesting to talk with him.”
At the Caboose, Zimmern homed in on a white hot dog, after his host explained the differences between whites and reds (whites have more pork). Zimmern ate his with hot sauce, mustard and some sauerkraut.
Stopper reported that he loved it.
Later, the Travel Channel star sampled the classic firemen’s chicken barbecue. The meat was marinated in a sauce created by a Cornell University professor and then cooked over an open fire.
Zimmern called the chicken-flipping gear the “turney gurney.”
And he loved the chicken as well, said Stopper, Ever the appreciative guest, Zimmern remarked that he would eat a dog at the caboose and the firemen’s chicken every day if he could.
After dining with guests and fire department members, Zimmern was presented with a vial of peppermint oil, courtesy of Dobbins Drugs. Lyons, as many know, was at one time the peppermint capital of the world. Zimmern told folks on hand that it still holds the title and should celebrate its history.
Stopper is excited to see the episode. He and other members of the local Erie Canal Greeters group will get a sneak peak prior to its Travel Channel premiere.
He thinks the show will be a great boost to Lyons and the county tourism effort.
“The whole thing was wonderful,” said Stopper, who noted that the show’s production team was very friendly and willing to take suggestions. “It was an experience of a lifetime.”