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Gawker reports today (http://www.gawker.com/news/great-moments-i...a-la-197279.php) a restaurant review from the Indianapolis Star entitled "French Taste: Ooh La La" that said among other things:

"The menu has many words in French, my undergraduate minor. But it's been a while, so I asked a waitress for a few interpretations. It's lucky I did. Otherwise I might have accidentally ordered goose liver pate as an appetizer."

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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That sounds exactly like the Indiana I am from. My hometown newspaper does a "iron chef" challenge in the paper ever two months where they ask two "chefs" what they would make out of 5 ingredients. Now granted there are no chefs back home in my opinion so I decided to try my hand at it and write in my menu. The food writer had me call her to explain my dishes that i threw together.

Ingredients that had to be used.

Carrots

Mushrooms

Shellfish

Chocolate

Pasta

Starter

Chilled Carrot Ginger Soup

Orange, Soy, Star Anise Foam

Entree

Butter Poached Lobster Tail

White Chocolate Chai Emulsion, Morel, Truffle Baked Mac and Cheese, Mayer Lemon Sabayon

She had no clue what star anise was. No clue what a foam was. And the best question.... How is a butter poached lobster made!!!!!!! And i guarentee that she makes more then my lousy cooks wage! Easily!

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Seconding Russ here, I would suggest to you that you would find people who would scratch their heads and look at you funny if you started talking about foams, emulsions, and other foods-as-chemical-compounds in vast swaths of New York City, even.

But "I would have accidentally ordered goose liver pate as an appetizer"? Is Chicago on another planet in the eyes of Hoosiers?

The first paragraph of the Gawker snippet of her review is equally mind-boggling: Shorter menus are a sure sign of quality? Maybe, if the only places you'd been eating all these years are Ruby Tuesdayesque something-for-everyone places.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I don't know...if you're a food writer....I don't think it's too much to ask that they know what an emulsion is. Or a foam. Shouldn't someone who writes about food for a living be curious enough to have read about trends and innovations in that area? Or am I asking too much from a regional paper writer? :biggrin:

And he said she asked, "How is a butter poached lobster tail made?". Poaching, butter...these terms seem fairly straightforward.

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A food WRITER who doesn't know what star anise is!

I am rendered speechless, which is an extremely rare event.

Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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The first paragraph of the Gawker snippet of her review is equally mind-boggling: Shorter menus are a sure sign of quality?  Maybe, if the only places you'd been eating all these years are Ruby Tuesdayesque something-for-everyone places.

The reason I didn't quote that one is that, to tell you the truth, I can kind of see a grain of truth in it (although of course the writer's naive expression of it was laughable). And for the little it's worth, New York Times restaurant reviewer Frank Bruni seems to feel the same way -- and for the incredibly LOT it's worth, so does oakapple.

Instead of saying more on this topic, let me quote oakapple, then:

To get four stars, Del Posto's cuisine needs to be better than Babbo's; moreover, it needs to be consistent, and that's hard to do with such a long menu. Every four-star restaurant in town has a far more limited menu than Del Posto's. They change frequently, but at any given time, they aren't trying to be all things to all people. While I do not predict Bruni's rating, I do predict that Bruni's review will comment on the length of the menu, and will suggest (in some fashion) that it wouldn't hurt to edit some dishes out of the picture.

You've also, I think, somewhat trivialized Bruni's complaint about the length of the menu. In the first place, he believes that "At a restaurant this self-regarding and pricey . . . you pay in part to submit to expert judgment and you want more guidance." But, beyond that:
Such editing would improve the ratio of outstanding dishes to less successful ones. The veal shank, roasted and served with spaetzle, was dull and slightly dry, as was swordfish. Pappardelle with wild boar needed more kick, maybe because this particular pairing of noodle and beast has become so widespread.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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And he said she asked, "How is a butter poached lobster tail made?". Poaching, butter...these terms seem fairly straightforward.

uhm, i hate to be in the position of defending this hack again, but i have to point out that butter-poaching is, actually, a term that makes no sense. It is a contradiction. a delicious one, to be sure, but how many people had ever heard the term before thomas keller invented it? it's really more like low-heat frying or a quick-confit. poaching implies cooking in liquid and, as we all know, butter ain't one.

and while i'm at it, i think it'll be interesting to see how many of us are still tossing around the words "foam" and "emulsion" (in the sense of a sauce) in five years. my prediction is that they'll be the "stacks" of this decade. when they're done extremely well they're amazing. when they're not (as happens most often), they are nothing more than a silly cliche. the jessica simpsons of food.

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This makes me want to die.

Are you kidding me? "What do we live for but to make sport of our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?"*

This is the stuff I LIVE for.

*Thanks, Miss Austen, for the fabulous quote.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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poaching implies cooking in liquid and, as we all know, butter ain't one.

Ummm.... last time I checked, it sure looked to me like melted butter was a liquid. I would think that, just because butter isn't a liquid in all its permutations, doesn't mean it can't be considered a liquid for certain uses.

"Fat is money." (Per a cracklings maker shown on Dirty Jobs.)
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you know, there's something about this thread that really bothers me (bet you couldn't have guessed, huh?). and again, not making any excuses for what was obviously a really lame review.

real sophistication is not about knowing the latest ingredients and techniques, but knowing what tastes good. i have in-laws in indianapolis and i've eaten well there. not fancy, certainly, but well.

and maybe it's just me, but i'd rather have a well-prepared succotash any day than butter-poached lobster with white chocolate chai foam. (sorry for picking on you).

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Russ, I had a similar reaction. I think for me the concern is the emphasis on nomenclature, as if jargon is important in and of itself. I think that view tends to elevate form over substance, and also can when taken too far (which I don't think has happened here) be exclusionary and pretentious. I'm inclined to believe the substance of this restaurant review may also suck, though.

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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real sophistication is not about knowing the latest ingredients and techniques, but knowing what tastes good. i have in-laws in indianapolis and i've eaten well there. not fancy, certainly, but well.

I understand what you are saying but, if this is someone's occupation, they should be informed.. Even if foams and emulsions might be a fad, or a trend, it certainly is happening in the food world.. I believe that if someone is a food reviewer, its there job to keep current.. Star anise just boggles my mind..

Do you think an art critic should be familiar with Impressionism or Cubeism? Or just know what looks good?

I think you might be giving this person a break because they are from the Midwest, as opposed to expecting more from them..

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you know, there's something about this thread that really bothers me (bet you couldn't have guessed, huh?). and again, not making any excuses for what was obviously a really lame review.

real sophistication is not about knowing the latest ingredients and techniques, but knowing what tastes good. i have in-laws in indianapolis and i've eaten well there. not fancy, certainly, but well.

and maybe it's just me, but i'd rather have a well-prepared succotash any day than butter-poached lobster with white chocolate chai foam. (sorry for picking on you).

Totally. Snobbery, reverse snobbery, all annoying. But it's still funny to find a restaurant critic who acts like, of course, no one likes goose liver pate, so thank goodness I didn't order it by accident, because, obviously, it would have been gross.

He's really yucking other people's yums there...it's not that the pate was ill-prepared, or too trendy - it's just something he (or she?) doesn't like as a rule, something that seems unfortunate in a food critic. To me, that's what's so funny about it.

I don't much like pate myself, actually. Don't avoid it, but I wouldn't order it, either.

Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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You know, I understand not wanting to be snobbish. I understand that everyone is different, has had different experiences and educations, etc. etc. However, it really burns me, as a struggling food writer, to see idiotic stuff like this in a major newspaper. It makes me want to stamp my feet and cry and shout, "IT'S NOT FAIRRRRRR!"

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Hey, wait a minute.

This thread wasn't supposed to be about foams and emulsions and the latest gimmicks and crazes.

It was supposed to be about a food writer who didn't know what pate de foie gras was. And who's grossed out by the thought of eating goose liver.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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It was supposed to be about a food writer who didn't know what pate de foie gras was. And who's grossed out by the thought of eating goose liver.

I know what it is and I'm still grossed out by it. I would't eat it, I can't stand the smell of it and furthermore I'm against foie gras for ethical reasons.

I'm not a food writer though, but I am a personal chef. But, then again, no one I cook for would proabably even know what it is( small town).

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Hey, wait a minute.

This thread wasn't supposed to be about foams and emulsions and the latest gimmicks and crazes.

It was supposed to be about a food writer who didn't know what pate de foie gras was.  And who's grossed out by the thought of eating goose liver.

Exactly. Well, a little more than that.

After all, you all are conversing with, among others, a Kansas Citian by birth who asked for "chocolate mouse" on his first visit to a French restaurant.

I think that what made this restaurant review so incredibly diss-worthy is the sense you get from the writing that the writer really hasn't ventured too far off the block. The writer's sensibility struck me as closer to what I might expect from a high school or college reporter who has yet to acquire his or her sea legs.

I wouldn't fault a food writer for a decent regional newspaper for not being up on molecular gastronomy or other current fads. I would fault her for not even knowing the basics of fine dining. And that would be true even if she hadn't taken French in high school.

Her point on menus is obviously a salient one, based on followups to my previous post, but something about the way she said it left me with the impression that it was a simplistic judgement. So I responded with a simplistic one-liner.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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last time I checked, it sure looked to me like melted butter was a liquid.  I would think that, just because butter isn't a liquid in all its permutations, doesn't mean it can't be considered a liquid for certain uses.

nope, butter is a fat. it may flow (that means it's fluid), but liquid means water-based, which means (to bring this back to cooking) that it can't get above 212 degrees, and therefore provides a gentle cooking medium.

and let me repeat once again, i wasn't reacting to the review, which was a complete pos, but more to some of the reactions to the review. of course, if somebody hadn't brought up butter-poached lobster in white chocolate chai emulsion, i probably never would have jumped in to begin with. dude, that sounds like something you'd get at a demented starbucks.

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The writer's sensibility struck me as closer to what I might expect from a high school or college reporter who has yet to acquire his or her sea legs.

I resent that. Joking. Well, kind of. The fact that this person is getting paid, makes his/her writing from such an uniformed perspective completely unacceptable and even irresponsible. Small town or not, why accept or make excuses for such a grave illustration of ignorance?

I wouldn't fault a food writer for a decent regional newspaper for not being up on molecular gastronomy or other current fads. 

Why not? It's a reporters job to have a solid understanding of what he chooses to write about about. If the reporter doesn't adequately understand the subject at hand how can he skillfully articulate the concept to his audience?

I would fault her for not even knowing the basics of fine dining.  And that would be true even if she hadn't taken French in high school.

This is wholeheartedly agree with. I'm not taking issue with you MarketSt, but incompetence like this makes me so very sad.

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last time I checked, it sure looked to me like melted butter was a liquid.  I would think that, just because butter isn't a liquid in all its permutations, doesn't mean it can't be considered a liquid for certain uses.

nope, butter is a fat. it may flow (that means it's fluid), but liquid means water-based, which means (to bring this back to cooking) that it can't get above 212 degrees, and therefore provides a gentle cooking medium.

As an aside, I'm quite sure that liquid refers to anything that's neither solid or gaseous. That said, I'm siding with Jan here. Yes, the butter-poached technique is kind of like a quick confit, but in terms of semantics, people are more likely to understand "butter-poached" than anything that has "confit" in it.

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