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Tom Sietsema's Online Chat


lizziee
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I actually think Tom has a fair degree of diversity in his recommendations, not only in DC proper for 20008 zipcode snobs like me, but for larger Washington area as well.  I also don't see how recommending a place equals promoting it, unless an untoward amount of gushing is involved. He has to recommend SOME place, no?

I think Tom has a 'usual suspects' list that he trots out. How many times can he recommend the Little Fountain, for example, in Adams Morgan? Or 2 Amy's? Or the whole Johnny's. Bucks, Cashion's, Colorado Kitchen crowd?

And by promoting, I mean the column he does in Wednesday's food section-The Weekly Dish-he promotes (usual suspects) Ann Amernick and Frank Ruta's Palena, and Andy Shallal's new venture, also getting in a plug for Mimi's. Maybe someone else should write those columns, so that Seitsema doesn't have to parrot what is basically a press release for the chosen few. Then, at least, his critical distance could be maintained.

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doubt Seitsema's honesty, innocent until proven guilty and all that, he DOES seem to recommend the same places over and over. But I think that is more a function of DC's size (small), rather than Tom's crookedness or laziness; or perhaps it is simply a result of the personal relationships he has built up in this (small) town.

Your response is ludicrous. Washington is the fourth largest Metropolitan area in the United States. If we include Baltimore we are the third largest, ahead of Chicago behind only New York and Southern California. With all due respect I assume you have moved here from elsewhere-you should give us a bit of respect for what we have become. We are no longer the little burg" that you may have once thought we were.

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" doubt Seitsema's honesty, innocent until proven guilty and all that, he DOES seem to recommend the same places over and over. But I think that is more a function of DC's size (small), rather than Tom's crookedness or laziness; or perhaps it is simply a result of the personal relationships he has built up in this (small) town. "

Your response is ludicrous.  Washington is the fourth largest Metropolitan area in the United States.  If we include Baltimore we are the third largest, ahead of Chicago behind only New York and Southern California.  With all due respect I assume you have moved here from elsewhere-you should give us a bit of respect for what we have become.  We are no longer the little burg" that you may have once thought we were.

So then please explain why he highlights the same places over and over? He is obviously honest. He is certainly not lazy.

Incidentally, I have lived in DC for 20 years and know something about the growth of this town. Perhaps, as a resident of Adams Morgan, I don't think of DC as a "metropolitan area", but as a city. A cozy little city.

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So then please explain why he highlights the same places over and over?  He is obviously honest.  He is certainly not lazy. 

Can you name anyone who doesn't recommend the same places over-and-over again? If someone asks me, "where should I go for a good hot dog?", I'm going to whip out my laundry list of four or five places. Look at this forum, with hundreds (yes, hundreds) of readers, and you could name the favorites here on two hands: Palena, Firefly, Eve, Corduroy, Nectar, etc. Why don't you start some threads about some of your favorite places in town? I was thrilled when someone started chiming in about Madam's Organ. Where are the threads about Cashion's, Nora, Pesce? Ollie's Trolley? Tivoli? Obelisk? Shamshiry? Paolo's? Equinox? Dragonfly? Ginger Cove? DC Coast? Moby Dick? Bob and Edith's? Why aren't there hundreds of comments about The Inn At Little Washington? (Yes, yes, I know, none of us can afford to eat there, but still...) There are a hundred more restaurants that could each have their own thread here, and I'm not going to start them, either, even though I've been to 'em all. And this is just Washington DC. Let's not forget that this forum, in theory, is DC & DelMarVa. Logistics prevent me from personally straying too far into northeastern Maryland or Delaware on a regular basis, but where are our posters from Baltimore? Dover? Frederick? Wilmington? Hagerstown? Ocean City? How about it, newcomers? Start some threads on new places and let's diversify. And if you're lurking here, and haven't signed up as a member of eGullet, then why don't you? C'mon, sign up, send me a message letting me know you're here, and I'll make sure you find this place as welcoming as your own family room, sitting in your rocking chair, curling up with a glass of cognac, and reading a great book in front of a warm fire. Okay? Okay! What are you waiting for? Do it! And please let me know you're here.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I think Tom has a 'usual suspects' list that he trots out. How many times can he recommend the Little Fountain, for example, in Adams Morgan? Or 2 Amy's? Or the whole Johnny's. Bucks, Cashion's, Colorado Kitchen crowd? And by promoting, I mean the column he does in Wednesday's food section-The Weekly Dish-he promotes (usual suspects) Ann Amernick and Frank Ruta's Palena

Danny--strong first posts--and welcome. Where I diverge slightly from you is when you write that "reviewers have a self-interest in associating themselves with, and promoting popular restaurants and chefs." I think traditional mainstream newspaper reviewers who wish to retain their national credibility and viability have a self-interest in getting it right first--being fair and reasonable--and if that means praising a "popular" restaurant or chef--so be it. There are usually broad reasons why a chef wins a Beard award--and many chefs you have mentioned have won or at least been nominated for a national Beard award, broad reasons why a restaurant is nominated for a national Beard award, why popular places are, well, popular and stay in business rather than close/reopen under a new guise/ close again or lapse into bankruptcy. Would you prefer Tom not recognize this and intentionally go the other way--failing to view the local talent as other trusted critically aware voices outside our area view them? That wouldn't be fair to the two Anns--Amernick's been nominated multiple times as Beard best pastry chef and Cashion won our region's best chef last year, nor to the other restaurants on your usual suspect list because if you read around eGullet--you'll find that many of the savviest palates here also enjoy those suspects. If we were in Tom's shoes we'd likely mention some of those as often as he does as well.

"Popular" chefs have usually demonstrated a wide range of talent and skill in and out of the kitchen for several years before they start getting known. Zaytinya, which I helped open by the way, was one of 5 places nationally nominated for the Beard best new restaurant award--none of Jose's other restaurants ever got that nod--that meant a lot of out-of-town voters (chefs, food writers, the powers that be) came here, tried it and were suitably impressed. Tom knows everyone from Marion Burros to Michael Batterberry to Russ Parsons to Rich Melman to Paula Wolfert to Rick Tramonto to William Rice and on and on will eat there and that the writers, at least, will write about it, too. Where I think the pressure may come into play is when such a critic, if he is to be truly honest, has to take on a city's culinary sacred cow--and many I suspect take the graceful way out--they just don't talk that much about a revered local chef, they stop mentioning that chef's restaurant and if they don't have anything good to say, they just talk about someone else instead. Good luck trying to pin that on Tom--because of his chats an astute reader can usually figure out who Tom is down on at the time, and who he feels needs "to pick it up a notch."

My sense is there's been too much mention on eG lately about the "role" of the Post, and Tom in particular, not promoting "DC" enough as if that is their job--promotion. It isn't. Being a critic is not being part publicist--it's not a positive-advocacy-only position and if it is an advocacy position--it's to advocate how you alone see things as the critic--fairly, reasonably, rightly or wrongly. A critic who cares about how he is viewed in the larger "food community" knows that people in the know, chefs, writers, editors from other cities will come here--will read his reviews--and then go to the places with a little buzz, to the new places of the hot chefs and too some older less buzzworthy restaurants of the chefs they maybe haven't heard too much from lately. Tom better get it right because these people know food--and he's going to be interacting with them for decades to come. And with media now at our fingertips--with communities like eG chronicling things quickly and clearly and debating at a higher level than ever before--Tom is under more pressure, not less, to get it right. He is being discussed in real time--and in many cases his opinion is following the opinions of other very savvy observers.

If Tom is recommending the same places over and over again (and I'm not saying I agree with that perception--I think he goes out of his way to mention under-performing or somewhat flawed places that mean well all the time) it just may have nothing to do with Tom himself: it could be because we as a food town aren't as competitive and don't have the depth as other major food towns like NY/Chicago/SF etc. We do have several elite chefs and restaurants which can hold their own in any city-to-city matchup--but what we don't have yet is enough depth and growth and synergy which true competition tends to drive chefs forward. I got into that issue a little bit on the other thread--the is DC a world class food town thread--here:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=57689

To make your case, you'd have to come to the table with chefs and restaurants who are out-performing the likes of Jose/Michel/Fabio/Cashion et al, out-performing the likes of Zaytinya/Palena/Nectar/Eve/Maestro/Citronelle/Two Amy's/Jaleo/Ray's the Steak/Colorado Kitchen et al and realize that whatever list you put together someone else is going to have a different "usual suspects" list of who they feel get mentioned more or less than they should. Favorites can be fickle and fleeting--and I guarantee you everyone reading this thinks Tom over- or under-appreciates some restaurants with which they have familiarity.

I think you are on stronger ground questioning whether Tom doing that Wednesday Food Section piece is somehow in conflict editorially with his mission as critic--and I come down on a different side than you, albeit respectfully. Sometimes this Dish is promotional in that it seems like info culled from a press kit--but sometimes he uses this space to break a story for his readers, like Nectar closing. What's happening recently is we're finding out about these things on eG first, but then 799,000 of the 800,000 Post readers aren't here, yet, so perhaps some of this info seems old to us but is brand new to most readers and Tom is doing a vital culinary public service by sharing this info in this space. Let's also not forget that there is precedent for a smaller Weekly Dish type column--the NYTimes has done something similar where the critic can choose to weigh in on a significant new place--with a kind of mini-review or introductory menu commentary--long before such a place would be eligible for a full formal review. I haven't heard of anyone presenting this as a conflict of interest for the Times critic to do. Where you may be on stronger ground is saying hey, I wish Tom would cover all this "press release" chef changing jobs, places closing, new places opening in his chats--and be more critical in the Weekly Dish--give us more opinion and more early reportage on how new places are doing. THAT opinion I think might be shared by many here on eG.

But where even that might be a hard sell for some of us is we take Tom as a total package--we lump the formal reviews, his post cards, his chats, his Weekly Dish, his "Favorites" guide--all together. It's his body of work. Someone has to share the press kit stuff with us--and if the Food section editor is not going to prioritize that--and set aside space for that--it's a good thing Tom does. But the fact that the Food section may not devote enough editorial and feature space to, say, the opening of a restaurant, is not on Tom. That's not within his control.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Steve-Thank you for your healthy response. I was merely attempting to discuss with an earlier poster who mentioned Tom's repeated recommendation of Zaytinya, for every suggestion-nice place for a cocktail?, Zaytinya. Nice place for a pre-show bite?, Zaytinya, etc. I've already stated my opinion of Zaytinya, I like it; but I was attempting to analyze why he kept recommending it. I believe you hit it right, and this is what I said in different, and perhaps not as gentle words, when you stated that DC may not have the "depth" of other cities.

Also, yes, I believe it is part of a critic's job to promote his own industry-not that it is unethical, but it really makes no sense to participate in the food industry unless you think it has worth, no? To do otherwise would be pretty cynical. I like Tom's thrust, but I think his writing is too often pedestrian and dull, and I guess part of a critic's job is to entertain as well as enlighten.

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Logistics prevent me from personally straying too far into northeastern Maryland or Delaware on a regular basis, but where are our posters from Baltimore?  Dover?  Frederick?  Wilmington?  Hagerstown?  Ocean City?  How about it, newcomers?  Start some threads on new places and let's diversify.  And if you're lurking here, and haven't signed up as a member of eGullet, then why don't you?  C'mon, sign up, send me a message letting me know you're here, and I'll make sure you find this place as welcoming as your own family room, sitting in your rocking chair, curling up with a glass of cognac, and reading a great book in front of a warm fire.  Okay?  Okay!  What are you waiting for?  Do it!  And please let me know you're here.

Cheers,

Rocks.

I'm fairly new to egullet and am from Wilmington.I'd be glad to post on the restaurant scene up here if your interested.We are only a 30 minute drive from Philadelphia, so my guess is most Wilmington egulleters post and read the Pennsylvania forum.

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I'm fairly new to egullet and am from Wilmington.I'd be glad to post on the restaurant scene up here if your interested.We are only a 30 minute drive from Philadelphia, so my guess is most Wilmington egulleters post and read the Pennsylvania forum.

I bet you're right! I grew up in DE & still visit my parents regularly up there. Sometimes I post about DE restaurants on this forum (most recently my visit to Deep Blue in early November), but I think the Delaware crowd (especially northern DE) identifies with Philly much more than DC -- go Eagles!! :biggrin:

"What, after all, is more seductive than the prospect of sinning in libraries?"

Michael Dirda, An Open Book

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And by promoting, I mean the column he does in Wednesday's food section-The Weekly Dish-he promotes (usual suspects) Ann Amernick and Frank Ruta's Palena, and Andy Shallal's new venture, also getting in a plug for Mimi's.  Maybe someone else should write those columns, so that Seitsema doesn't have to parrot what is basically a press release for the chosen few.  Then, at least, his critical distance could be maintained.

I'd argue that his Weekly Dish is a news column, not a promotion. He's privy to a lot of restaurant news that he doesn't get to share otherwise, and obviously he picks the most interesting and/or worthy stuff out of that pile of press releases. I don't think it compromises his objectivity at all.

Amanda

Metrocurean, a D.C. restaurant and food blog

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  • 5 weeks later...
Washington, D.C.: Tom, Who are your favorite food writers in town? In the Nation ?

Tom Sietsema: I love reading just the EMAIL I get from Phyllis Richman, my predecessor. And I wish Don Rockwell, the moderator on Egullet, had a regular gig. He's very astute and funny. Todd Kliman from the City Paper is someone else I always enjoy reading.

Richman, Rockwell, Kliman and Sietsema. Good company. Sounds like a white-shoe law firm.

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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So we know that Sietsema exists. And after this week we are pretty sure that Rocks is an actual person. But has anyone ever seen the two of them together :hmmm:

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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So we know that Sietsema exists.  And after this week we are pretty sure that Rocks is an actual person.  But has anyone ever seen the two of them together :hmmm:

I've never actually seen either of them together or apart. So I'm still not sure I believe either exists. But I do get a lot out of their insights into DC dining.

Although one is a little more twisted than the other - or maybe just one of them has a better editor.

Bill Russell

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So we know that Sietsema exists.  And after this week we are pretty sure that Rocks is an actual person.  But has anyone ever seen the two of them together :hmmm:

I've never actually seen either of them together or apart. So I'm still not sure I believe either exists. But I do get a lot out of their insights into DC dining.

Although one is a little more twisted than the other - or maybe just one of them has a better editor.

Ah, but how do you know that there's two? There is a reason they are never seen together, you know.

Maybe Rocks IS Sietsema?

Resident Twizzlebum

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Arlington, VA: Why do certain guests at Ray's the Steaks receive special treatment, while others do not? I noticed some parties received complimentary Hot Chocolate with their checks, but our table and the table next to us did not. I know that members who identify themselves as being posters from a certain messageboard get special treatment, but is it really necessary to do this?

Tom Sietsema: Well, membership has its privileges and I'm guessing that the recipients of the freebies were regulars.

No good deed EVER goes unpunished. What about memememememememeeeeeee? Wankers.

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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I can hear the world's tiniest violin playing in the background...

And it's a chatter deprived of hot chocolate crying bitter tears as he stumbles out of Ray's.

Love the subtle "get a clue" response from Tom. Love it love it.

Resident Twizzlebum

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I find it astonishing that one restaurant, Ray's the Steaks, is constantly singled out for criticism week after week.  He ought to just stop taking questions about Ray's.

Perhaps the "anonymous" complaints are really just Michael's way of trying to keep the hordes at bay? :hmmm:

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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I bet this weekend dozens of tables will be screaming "I'm from eGullet, too.  Where's my hot chocolate?"

Shouldn't it be <Mr. Howell Accent>We are part of The Society. Where is my hot chocolate. </Mr. Howell Accent> :cool:

Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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Yes, I would find it demeaning to be described merely as "a poster on a certain message board" (had I been one of the recipients of the comped hot chocolate), when we are now a society devoted to upholding the culinary virtues, and therefore worthy of whatever that gets us wherever. :wink:

Edited by FunJohnny (log)

Oh, J[esus]. You may be omnipotent, but you are SO naive!

- From the South Park Mexican Starring Frog from South Sri Lanka episode

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Yes, I would  find it demeaning to be described merely as "a poster on a certain message board"  (had I been one of the recipients of the comped hot chocolate), when we are now a society devoted to upholding the culinary virtues, and therefore worthy of whatever that gets us wherever. :wink:

Well, I ain't that poster child...

...

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