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NYT Articles on Food, Drink, Cooking, and Culinary Culture (2002–2005)


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Any ranking should expire after a year.  I would think that any food critic could easily re-evaluate a highly ranked place once a year. 

In NYC? So in essence, there are at maximum 52 restos that the NYT reviewer could keep tight tabs on? That would barely account for the number of high profile openings each year, plus Daniel, GT and a few other standbys. Clearly too tight a ship to keep for just one reviewer.

Which of course is more an argument for two reviewers than for cutting back, but we know what economic times are like now....

I am specifically talking about the top-ranked places, the 3 and 4 star ranks. Surely these places can be reviewed at least once a year? These are the restaurants that are consistently in the minds of those who care, so why shouldn't they get scrutinized more often.

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Any ranking should expire after a year.  I would think that any food critic could easily re-evaluate a highly ranked place once a year. 

In NYC? So in essence, there are at maximum 52 restos that the NYT reviewer could keep tight tabs on? That would barely account for the number of high profile openings each year, plus Daniel, GT and a few other standbys. Clearly too tight a ship to keep for just one reviewer.

Which of course is more an argument for two reviewers than for cutting back, but we know what economic times are like now....

I am specifically talking about the top-ranked places, the 3 and 4 star ranks. Surely these places can be reviewed at least once a year? These are the restaurants that are consistently in the minds of those who care, so why shouldn't they get scrutinized more often.

But if you take those 15 or 20, that means you can't review more that 30 or so new places each year (unless you have two reviewers devoted to high-end places)....in a place with as much turnover as NYC, that means you have no room to devote to (a) high-profile places that are flops or (b) low-profile places that overachieve....

Jake

Jake Parrott

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Bringing new and rare spirits to Washington DC.

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What should happen is that the reviewer will periodically eat at the top-ranked places, even though they may not be writing a review. If these meals are consistent with the former review--no problem, no new review needed and the place can be safely skipped for a while longer. If the experience differs substantially from the published review, the place may be worth some further attention. If further attention bears out that things have changed, write up a new review. This approach allows the stars to stay relatively current without wasting review space on places that are consistent from year to year.

(The same process should apply to lesser-ranked places that garner some reputation for having improved...)

Whether or not this actually happens is a different matter entirely. I really have no idea as I just read the paper.

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If these meals are consistent with the former review--no problem, no new review needed and the place can be safely skipped for a while longer.

What, you mean "Diner's Journal should have a real purpose? What a concept!!! :smile:

Jake Parrott

Ledroit Brands, LLC

Bringing new and rare spirits to Washington DC.

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But if you take those 15 or 20, that means you can't review more that 30 or so new places each year (unless you have two reviewers devoted to high-end places)....in a place with as much turnover as NYC, that means you have no room to devote to (a) high-profile places that are flops or (b) low-profile places that overachieve....

additionally, the top places like daniel and jean-georges are the least likely to go through any huge change over one year. while it would be ideal to read a review of daniel at least every 2 or 3 years, evey year seems excessive, and unnecessary.

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the top places like daniel and jean-georges are the least likely to go through any huge change over one year.  while it would be ideal to read a review of daniel at least every 2 or 3 years, evey year seems excessive, and unnecessary.

Down here in DC, the Post tries to strike a happy medium by reviewing all new places, but twice a year, publishing a "dining guide" in lieu of a review, to collect new impressions on "standard" places...this means sacrificing only 2 reviews instead of 15 or 20...hear us, WG?

Jake Parrott

Ledroit Brands, LLC

Bringing new and rare spirits to Washington DC.

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Down here in DC, the Post tries to strike a happy medium by reviewing all new places, but twice a year, publishing a "dining guide" in lieu of a review, to collect new impressions on "standard" places...this means sacrificing only 2 reviews instead of 15 or 20...hear us, WG?

good idea. but i wouldn't blame bill grimes. i'm pretty sure he doesn't set editorial policy. but you probably know that. :wacko:

Edited by tommy (log)
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I can't speak with authority on William Grimes's behavior patterns, but I'm fairly certain that he does dine periodically at all the four-star places with exactly the purpose described above by Jordyn. But what do you expect him to find? We know the Daniels and the Le Bernardins can produce four-star food. The only way they'd earn a demotion is through inconsistency, and this just isn't something the Times critic is ever going to be able to detect -- he's far too recognizable for that. Anyway, I don't think there's a heck of a lot of disagreement about the four star restaurants. It's just that, without actual Grimes reviews of half of them, he doesn't have what I would consider a serious corpus of reviews. It seems to me that in the first year of a new Times critic's duties, that critic should review all the four-star restaurants -- not so much for the purpose of changing their rankings, but rather for the purpose of establishing that critic's benchmarks. When you get into the three-star category, though, it's just not possible to keep tabs on all of them -- the ranking has become too diluted. In any event, when it gets down to the second-tier, it is not the mission of a newspaper reviewer to maintain a database. The newspaper reviewer's mission is to keep tabs on the new places. That all the reviews now get assembled into online databases and books is unfortunate, because the reviews aren't written for that purpose.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I would think that the 'diner's journal' space would be a good place to write up the places that are just being visited periodically. Thanks for the perspective, fat guy. Instead, the diner's journal has turned into a place where grimes provides a mini-review before the real thing.

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But what do you expect him to find? We know the Daniels and the Le Bernardins can produce four-star food. The only way they'd earn a demotion is through inconsistency, and this just isn't something the Times critic is ever going to be able to detect -- he's far too recognizable for that.

I think that this point is right on the mark, but it also refutes the notion (as to some extent our off menu thread did as well) that a kitchen is unable to provide a special guest with preferrential treatment on short notice. (The classical argument for this goes something like this: the sauces have already been made the meats already selected so in fact there's nothing much the kitchen can do to make the meal for a VIP any better--if that were the case, wouldn't Grimes have to experience the inconsistency that Fat Guy alluded to in his discussion of Daniel on one of the recent recommendation threads?) Sorry for the digresion, but i think the point is worth noting.

Also, one wonders if maybe Grimes wasn't recognized at Atelier as they are clearly producing 4 (and certainly 3) star food in a corporate though still luxurious dinning room with an ambitious if overpriced wine list to match. :hmmm:

edit because i thought of something and of course because i can't spell. my grammar remains hopeless however :biggrin:

Edited by ajay (log)
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I think you guys have complicated something that seems very simple to me. Restaurants should be awarded stars based on what type of dining experience they offer. The Mario Batalli restaurants should be ranked as follows;

Otto - Good

Lupa - 1 star

Babbo - 2 stars

But if you take the bias that NY Times diners have for restaurants in the upper middle, they will score them;

Otto - 1 star

Lupa -2 stars

Babbo -3 stars

I can buy into either of those methods. But what I can't buy into is that Otto is the same level of dining experience as Lupa. Lupa has cooked food for god sakes and Otto really doesn't. That is exactly the kind of thing that needs to be differentiated through the star rating system. A pizza place typically should be rated Good or 1 star. To push it beyond that, it would have to have world class pizza. Pepe's or Sally's, now those I can see giving two stars to because you are talking about pizzas that are among the best in the world. But unless you wrote a review of Otto that said, this pizza is at the same level as Sally's or Chez Black in Positano, which Grimes did not do, because his headline says "A Pizzeria Where You Can Skip the Pizza" there is no basis to say that the discrepency between Otto and Babbo is merely a star. It is at least 2 stars if not more.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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I think that this point is right on the mark, but it also refutes the notikon (as to some extent our off menu thread did as well) that a kitchen is unable to provide a special guest with preferrential treatment on short notice.  Sorry for the digresion, but i think the point is worth noting.

The issue is baseline consistency, not preferential treatment. A reviewer can detect preferential treatment on the order of special dishes, suck-up service, and larger portions of luxury ingredients. A reviewer at Grimes's level is not likely to be influenced by that sort of thing -- it may even backfire. What a reviewer can't detect is a poorly executed dish that he wasn't served. As I said, there's no real debate that the kitchens at the top places can put out four-star meals when they execute properly. But if customers are showing up at these restaurants and getting sub-par food and service, that's going to be very hard for a recognized reviewer to catch. Thus, the check-up visit fails as consumer protection.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think you guys have complicated something that seems very simple to me.

You must be the guy I was thinking of!

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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A pizza place typically  should be rated Good or 1 star. To push it beyond that, it would have to have world class pizza. Pepe's or Sally's, now those I can see giving two stars to because you are talking about pizzas that are among the best in the world.

Where are these places, Steve?

How may stars do you think DiFara's deserves? And what about if nothing but the food affects the rating (i.e. no demerits for the dumpy place).

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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William Grimes would never review Sally's, Pepe's (both in New Haven, CT), or DiFara's. That's Eric Asimov's job in the "$25 and Under" column. The star-rating system is intended to apply to "fine dining" restaurants and becomes particularly strained when applied to "cheap eats" establishments. The stars are without question awarded for the whole package of food, decor, and service, and do not reflect -- in any critic's calculus -- a pure examination of food. Even if they did assume food only, there could be no four-star pizza, because the stars also presume a hierarchy running from haute cuisine down to bistro food (and parallels in the cuisines of other ethnicities). There is no such thing as a four-star bistro, period, no matter how good the food is, because the top rankings are reserved for haute cuisine restaurants. Note that in the New York Times system, every one of the four-star restaurants is not only fancy, but also French. In a system designed for rank-ordering fine-dining restaurants based on a Francocentric culinary model, it's quite difficult to accommodate pizzerias.

At the very least, if the Times insists on continuing forever this ridiculous system, it should do a better job of explaining itself. Currently, the stated policy is:

WHAT THE STARS MEAN:

(None) Poor to satisfactory

* Good

** Very good

*** Excellent

**** Extraordinary

Ratings reflect the reviewer's reaction to food, ambience and service, with price taken into consideration. Menu listings and prices are subject to change.

This is an entirely meaningless explanation. We've done more on this thread to explain the system -- and we're just getting started -- than the New York Times has done in its own pages.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Pan - I was under the impression that the Times had a category between one star and no stars that wasn't a negative category. Like recommended. I guess I was wrong. They use one star for good. So under their system, DiFara's gets one star. But under my system, because it isn't a formal enough place, I would rate it "Recommended" In fact I would still give Otto one star even though the pizza at Otto is crap. That's because, as I was trying to say before, the stars should communicate the level of dining experience a place offers. For the rest you need to read the text. Transposing that methodology onto some of you favorite haunts, Congee Village gets one star (maybe two because I am not that familiar with the food) and New York Noodletown gets recommended. But if NYNT had such unbelievable food that they had lines out the door at all hours of the evening, that might warrant a rating of a star.

What I am trying to say is that the stars reflect some unique combination of level of dining experience plus quality of food. But it's weighted heavily on the side of level of experience. The Times would probably be better off saying something is recommended or one star, and then adding something like an asterisk next to it to designate that the food is unique in that category.

Fat Guy - William Grimes should have never reviewed Otto either. That's part of the problem. The Times fell for the marketing that Batalli/Bastianich did and treated what is really an under $25 restaurant like it was one of the big boys. Otto is really in the pizza place catagory when it comes down to it and shouldn't be treated any differently then a place like Sally's. It makes no logical dining sense that salumi and antipasti of marinated vegetables and marinated raw fish should be the predecessor in a meal that revolves around pizza and Grimes shouldn't have been suckered in by that part of it. What he should have said is "where's the beef?" and jettisoned any review.

Only those restauranteurs would be able to get away with a (flawed) concept and sell it to the Times for two stars. If I might add, if you read any of the Italian guidebooks. There is a standard already in use to review pizza places. They are typically segregated into a separate section along with more formal cafes and places like enotecas. And if they are lumped in with serious restaurants, their scores are well below the top restaurants. And we are talking about some of the greatest pizza places in the world where they use real dough. Grimes has muddled this clear delineation in favor of communicating what upper middle class diners that originate more then five miles from Otto might find appealing when they enter Manhattan.

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William Grimes should have never reviewed Otto either.

That is correct. It should have fallen to the "$25 and Under" critic, who also it so happens would have done a better job. Eric Asimov is quite expert in pizza, having written several of the definitive articles on the subject. If a fine-dining restaurant serves the occasional pizza, that restaurant should still be in the Grimes universe. But if a restaurant is built around pizza as a central concept, there is no excuse for Grimes to review it. It's not on his beat.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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You're preaching to the choir, my man. I don't think it should get any stars. It's a pizzeria. It shouldn't even be reviewed by the guy who gives the stars. Even accounting for all the other food served there, I see it as a one-star situation at best -- but I still don't see any reason to put it on the star continuum.

This is not the first time a restaurant has been misallocated as between the two reviewers. Somebody needs to set some clearer policy guidelines that aren't so slavishly dependent on price and that instead acknowledge the style of restaurant under consideration.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Otto is really in the pizza place catagory when it comes down to it and shouldn't be treated any differently then a place like Sally's. It makes no logical dining sense that salumi and antipasti of marinated vegetables and marinated raw fish should be the predecessor in a meal that revolves around pizza

Does Sally's offer 400 - 500 different bottles of Italian wine?

At one of my favorite pizzerias in Rome, you start with anitpasti of marinated vegetables, assorted salumis, proscuitto, etc. and then get served your pizza, so...

In its context, I feel Otto deserves 2 stars...

To listen to most of the foodies on egullet, one would think that the only pizza place in all of New York City worthy of anything is DiFara's...I've had a good slice on Father Demo square (whatever the hell the name of the place is), a decent pie at John's on Bleecker, a great pie at Lombardi's, a very good pie at Totonno's (on the UES, no less - dining with Arthur Schwartz), a pretty good pie at Carmela's (in Franklin Suquare), etc. etc.

Christ, I've even had good roast duck at Tang Tang, on 76th and 3rd.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Anyway, I don't think there's a heck of a lot of disagreement about the four star restaurants.

Lespinasse.

Are you saying the restaurant isn't capable of delivering a four-star dining experience when everything goes right? If so, that's a ridiculous contention. Or are you saying that you had a bad meal there, or that it's inconsistent? In which case, please see my comments above.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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