Cocktails before dinner
Posted 08 January 2002 - 06:06 AM
My questions are:
1) Is this proper behavior for a professional restaurant critic who is employed by the city's largest paper and has a significant impact on the restaurant business?
2) Despite the enjoyment factor brought about by a pre-dinner cocktail (especially a cocktail as high in alcohol as a martini), does it actually impair one's ability to taste food and wine?
3) If it doesn't impair the ability to taste in a general sense, does it impair the ability to taste subtle nuances in both food and wine?
4) Is there any journalistic code of ethics or rules for restaurant critics, and if so, would this be a violation.
For me this is a real problem. It would be akin to finding out that Robert Parker gargled with Listerine just prior to rating wines blind.
Any thoughts or comments on this are much appreciated. I am considering a letter to the editor on this, but want to be as well informed as possible beforehand.
Posted 08 January 2002 - 09:43 AM
Its equal parts of Campari, Gin, and sweet Vermouth.
Posted 08 January 2002 - 10:03 AM
Monsieur Fat Guy? Just exactly what triggers the ethics chip implanted when one takes the Vows and receives the Holy Expense Account?
ron johnson, my sympathies. I would just not read her reviews. Or if I felt strongly enough, write to the editor and make my points clear.
Posted 08 January 2002 - 10:48 AM
one could argue that her impaired palate is more keen than someone else's non-impaired palate. and there's probably no way to prove otherwise.
Posted 08 January 2002 - 01:43 PM
Posted 13 January 2002 - 11:29 AM
Posted 14 January 2002 - 07:23 AM
Where is the Fat Guy's response? I would like to know if he ever drinks a glass of chilled straight vodka just before tasting food for a review?
Posted 14 January 2002 - 08:53 AM
There's been some discussion of the profession of food/restaurant reviewer elsewhere on this site. One thing that's been mentioned is that few publications afford a reviewer the budget to make return trips and that few reviewers ever make the four or five visits that are required to get a fair opinion. Few reviews are written with enough knowledge of a restaurant as is. It's just not that important to a newspaper and I assume to its readership. With that in mind, we can ask, as you did, how much can we expect from the field. My guess is that we're underserved but can't expect much more.
My guess is that straight vodka or alcoholic cocktails would not be part of Shaw's predinner habit unless he was reviewing a Russian restaurant. I'm not sure if that makes him a better critic, or just one that's subjectively interesting to me. As I mentioned, if the average reader is one who has a martini before, or during, dinner, he's served well by reading someone with his tastes. If you believe a reviewer's job is to instruct as well as write about what he eats, that's another story. Maybe we should go back and review that other thread where I believe one poster said a reviewer's job is to sell newspapers. He's hired on the basis of appealing to the readership, not improving their taste.
I think your reviewer is failing in some objective way, but not enough people care and in the end, if your taste is better than the reviewers or your standards are higher, you're on your own, or dependent on a subcommunity of friends and local food lovers you trust.
My recollection of your posts here gives me the impression that you've been to NY on several occasions and have traveled abroad. How are the local restaurants and do they warrant closer inspection than currently given? Don't get me wrong, I enjoy traveling and am saddened that eating out is much less fun when I leave NY. I wish every interesting region could match S.F or at least Seattle, but it's rare to come across pockets of restaurants that can make my day. In many places, one is lucky enough to find the Anthony Boudain ideal of good company and lots of alcohol.
Posted 14 January 2002 - 09:21 AM
As for relying on a subcommunity of friends and local food lovers as you state, we are lucky to have a forum for just such a purpose. It can be found at Louisvillehotbytes.com. If you would like to find out more about the culinary scene in a smaller city in the South, I encourage you to check it out sometime.
Robin Garr, an individual who is widely known in the wine community as a critic, taster, and writer, makes his home in Louisville and hosts the forum. When our newspaper was owned by the Bingham family (and consistently ranked in the top ten papers in the country) and journalistic standards meant something, Mr. Garr was the wine writer and food critic. Now that our paper is owned by a large corporation and the only standard is the bottom-line, we now have a vodka swilling idiot reviewing our restaurants. Her lack of knowledge of food in general is only trumped by her outright ignorance of wine and her aforementioned habit of having a martini to begin a review. A habit which, incidentally, is annoyingly described in great detail in each of her columns.
Alas, I believe you are most correct when you state that although she is failing in an objective manner, her readership doesn't care.
Posted 14 January 2002 - 10:13 AM
(Not that I think either is appropriate for a fine dining experience.)
Posted 14 January 2002 - 10:53 AM
Posted 14 January 2002 - 11:32 AM
Tommy: I was waiting for you to take offense. At least someone out there is championing the cause for inebriation. Cheers!
Posted 14 January 2002 - 12:08 PM
And are we being snobbish about cocktails? A glass of champagne or kir before a meal isn't said to impair the palate, although they are going to work on the receptors in just the same way a martini does. The real danger, of course, is getting loaded before you eat, which may still not affect your palate, but is going to have predictable effects on your memory, concentration and judgment.
Smoking, I believe, is different. Smoking has a marked anaesthetic effect on the cilia (little hairs in the respiratory) system. I do not know whether tobacco smoke anaesethises taste receptors too, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if it did - it's pretty toxic stuff. The anaesthetic effect would doubtless be reversible, but might last a while - until the next cigarette, for instance.
Finally, while I don't dispute Bux's point that smokers/drinkers may have good palates, I would raise a sceptical question about how one can tell. Person A may appear to have a better palate than person B, but actually only be much better at describing their experiences than person B. In other words, it is their verbal skill which is better -their palate may be no better or worse.
Posted 14 January 2002 - 12:28 PM
Posted 14 January 2002 - 03:21 PM
Posted 14 January 2002 - 06:37 PM
Posted 14 January 2002 - 07:43 PM
And yes, quitting smoking enhanced my tasting abilities for 20 years longer. The not-Drinking anymore had the same effect. Maybe not tasting food better, but enjoying it more!
Posted 14 January 2002 - 09:00 PM
Posted 15 January 2002 - 10:08 AM
So, if I have given offense, /me seppuku.
Posted 15 January 2002 - 12:00 PM