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Greatest Quote Ever


Sneakeater
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I have a question:  given the somewhat stilted format of the review -- rather than being written like a traditional review, it has a variety of headings ("The Service" "The Price" "Next Time") each winning its own few sentances beneath -- I wonder if the premise of the review is to send "regular people" to the restaurants in order to show a more populist view.  Or, did she get a plum (ha ha) assignment for doing good work elsewhere, while the regular reviewer was on vacation?

I've been reading through some past restaurant reviews in the Indianapolis Star (a perk of having university connections and a research librarian husband :biggrin: ) and, yes, almost all of them use the headings. But the other reviews seem to be from more food-experienced people. That being said, the articles feel more like reports than reviews: I went (once) with a couple of friends and this is what it was like which, I would guess, is the newspaper's editorial stance. Personally, I've got no problem with that.

I don't think I can paste in any entire reviews (legal issues?), but here are a few bits from one in particular:

Foodie-licious -

New Broad Ripp

* * * *

Are the reviews by a variety of different writers?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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see folks, writing about food is harder than it looks!

[edited not to be so flip about a sad situation]

there is a strain in modern newspaper editing that holds that readers want to know what regular people just like them think...see, i think "regular people" are a whole helluva lot smarter than that, and i think that they want to get even smarter. and so they really do want to read things by people that educates them or that gives them an alternative point of view to what they may already know.

In the early years of the cult of Francis of Assisi (d. 1226), biographers stressed how eloquent and charismatic the saint was despite his illiteracy. A lack of formal training distinguished him from the lofty theologians of venerable monasteries and the Roman papacy. Delivered in Italian vernacular instead of the incomprehensible Latin of the Learned, his sermons spoke directly to the people and they were said to respond more enthusiastically to his simple images than to references to Augustine and the complex doctrine of transubstantiation.

Unfortunately, there is a long history of responding either ambivalently or with hostility to authority. It is very hard to impart expertise without being accused of snobbery. When one's field already is labeled as elitist (e.g. "gourmet" dining, art, music, literature...just about anything critiqued except sports), then the task at hand is even that more challenging.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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see, i think "regular people" are a whole helluva lot smarter than that, and i think that they want to get even smarter. and so they really do want to read things by people that educates them or that gives them an alternative point of view to what they may already know. but then again, that's why i'm a columnist and not a publisher.

I absolutely agree with russ on this.

[ It is very hard to impart expertise without being accused of snobbery.  When one's field already is labeled as elitist (e.g. "gourmet" dining, art, music, literature...just about anything critiqued except sports), then the task at hand is even that more challenging.

Alexander Pope said that the way to impart knowledge is

"Men must be taught as if you taught them not

And things unknown proposed as things forgot."

Which good writing does.

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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I have a question:  given the somewhat stilted format of the review -- rather than being written like a traditional review, it has a variety of headings ("The Service" "The Price" "Next Time") each winning its own few sentances beneath -- I wonder if the premise of the review is to send "regular people" to the restaurants in order to show a more populist view.  Or, did she get a plum (ha ha) assignment for doing good work elsewhere, while the regular reviewer was on vacation?

I've been reading through some past restaurant reviews in the Indianapolis Star (a perk of having university connections and a research librarian husband :biggrin: ) and, yes, almost all of them use the headings. But the other reviews seem to be from more food-experienced people. That being said, the articles feel more like reports than reviews: I went (once) with a couple of friends and this is what it was like which, I would guess, is the newspaper's editorial stance. Personally, I've got no problem with that.

I don't think I can paste in any entire reviews (legal issues?), but here are a few bits from one in particular:

Foodie-licious -

New Broad Ripp

* * * *

Are the reviews by a variety of different writers?

Actually, yes. However most of them (at times 3 an issue) are by Traci Cumbay who clearly knows food and is also following editorial instructions on format. The review I quoted from earlier is by Shari Rudavsky who does do some restaurant reviews but seems more to be the medical reporter for the paper. At least, most of the articles I turned up when searching her name were health-related. Other names show up on reviews from time to time, but my very quick (and unexpert) scans didn't reveal anyone as out of her element as poor Ms. Hale. Frankly, I wonder if this was a kind of reporter-style hazing?

Emily
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[...]BTW, setting the bar at "enharmonic modulation" is way too high in that 1) I suspect many practicing music critics would fail it 2) I can't imagine a music review that'd be helped by mentioning it, and 3) it goes against my assertion that one can be a fine music critic without musical training -- I'm looking at you SE.

We'll have to agree to disagree. I can easily see a review improved by mentioning how a particularly important enharmonic modulation was interpreted. Enharmonic modulations are often major structural turning points in music.

I'm not sure a good music critic needs formal training in music, but s/he does need a good ear and a good understanding, whether attained through formal or/and informal training. It's no accident that some great music critics were either themselves composers, or practioners of other arts (poets, playwrights, painters, etc.). And even someone who doesn't read music could hear an enharmonic modulation and identify it if they knew that was what they were listening to.

Someone will probably be able to analogize this appropriately to food writing. Obviously, a food writer needs a good palate and a solid formal or/and informal training in understanding (if not making) cuisine. There's obviously no exact counterpart to an enharmonic modulation in cuisine, but let's say that a food critic needs to be able to taste the difference between basil in one dish and rosemary in the next.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I've let this thread percolate a bit having formerly lived in Indy and having formerly written an underground restaurant review site that was hailed as "the ultimate guide for the non-suit business lunch." I've now been gone almost 4 years and I'm sure much has changed.

However, we are talking about Indianapolis, the crossroads of America (or one of them at least), the buckle of the Bible belt (or one of them at least), and a town that takes its greatest pride any basketball, race cars and corn. We're not talking about NYC or LA...this is a town that catches the wave after the break. And I offer that description with much love and fondness.

There is actually some really great stuff happening in the food world in the Circle City. World class cuisine...probably not, but some wonderful stuff going on with regional foods, and numerous foods from around the world that keep popping up (the source for my guide). To this day my best Peruvian meal happened on the northside.

The author's poor writing aside, I worked closely with the Indianapolis Star and sat on their food advisory panel, and was surrounded by people like myself...passionate, but untrained, well read, but not necessarily well experienced. So this review fits my time there (Note: I never wrote for them, just advised). The fact is that the food editor and staff could describe apple pie in a way that would make you cry (and not just from the poor writing). Its what they know - food from the heartland. I never knew a trained food writer during my time in the community, so this review, again, fits. I would suggest though that judging everybody by our own perfections and grandiosity, while fun, does not elevate the world of food writing. The majority of hoosiers, plain ol' got what the reviewer was saying. And that ain't nuthin' to shuck about!

[Note: This response has been heavily edited to minimize the risk of poor spelling, grammer, or other inexcusable blabberings.]

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It is hilarious.

And I'm awfully glad the food police weren't there to witness some of my early attempts at dining on the unfamiliar (although maybe they could have advised me not to try to eat the leaves of the artichoke).

Or the first time I made raspberry sauce to go on top of an angel food cake, almost 10 years ago now. I strained it very carefully, saving the seeds, tossing the, you know, sauce. My mom practically fell over, she laughed so hard. Meanie. :laugh:

That said, it was hilarious. Much like this. Sigh.

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

All bird livers aside, yes Chicago is on another planet from the rest of Ilinois and definitely from all of Indiana.

Keep in mind that a pate can be made of goose liver, and not contain a gram of foie gras. Long as we're getting uppity on this woman's review, we could keep our own jargon straight -- "foie" and "foie gras" are two different items.

Huh? I'm not referencing the liver or the greasy liver or the pate which can be made of chocolate* for all that matter, hence, 'the aside'. Speak for yourself please, about being uppity, not moi.

Chicago is an island all to itself as far at the rest of it's own state goes and certainly another planet in relation to Indianapolis.

*dessert at Cielo, Memphis

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I think that by not encouraging people to be knowledgeable, you do them an injustice. And I'm pretty sure that encouraging people to be knowledgeable is easier to achieve through positive and constructive comments, than through scorn and derision... However, I don't consider it nowhere near as bad, to mock someone's ignorance even in the most arrogant and patronizing manner, than it is to excuse ignorance -- let alone to browbeat a knowledgeable person for being an elitist.

The human condition tragically involves a complete lack of infallability and omniscience. That means we make mistakes, and also that there are a lot of stuff out there, that we are completely ignorant of.

I'm ignorant. Hell, I didn't even know how to make mayo until a few days ago -- and that took me three attempts, even with the help of the Internet. That's pretty dumb. And while it might hurt a little if someone pointed this out (but on the other hand, I think it is important to have a sense of humor about your own mistakes of course), I would only be truly bummed out if someone defended my ignorance and accused mayo-knowledgeable people of elitism and snobbery.

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I hear ya grub, but it depends on what "ignorance" is. I'll not waste everyone's time with my post-modernist ramblings, but suffice it to say that I acknowledge that ignorance is a moveable construct. What is ignorance to you will be different to me. And so, for my earlier response, the point is more along the lines of not imposing your culture and standards on others. The vast majority of newspaper readers don't necessarily want or need the level of food knowledge that you find on EGullet, and that's to be expected in these two different cultures. If I got my fix at the Indianapolis Star, then I would not need EGullet.

(poor Hoosiers are always getting beat down by the man!)

Edited to add: On the other hand, if food writing elevated to the level of a defined profession and had standards, then I would take back everything I have said. They are ultimately journalists, and therefore grammatical blunders are not excused.

Edited by gfron1 (log)
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I think that by not encouraging people to be knowledgeable, you do them an injustice. And I'm pretty sure that encouraging people to be knowledgeable is easier to achieve through positive and constructive comments, than through scorn and derision... However, I don't consider it nowhere near as bad, to mock someone's ignorance even in the most arrogant and patronizing manner, than it is to excuse ignorance -- let alone to browbeat a knowledgeable person for being an elitist.

The human condition tragically involves a complete lack of infallability and omniscience. That means we make mistakes, and also that there are a lot of stuff out there, that we are completely ignorant of.

I'm ignorant. Hell, I didn't even know how to make mayo until a few days ago -- and that took me three attempts, even with the help of the Internet. That's pretty dumb. And while it might hurt a little if someone pointed this out (but on the other hand, I think it is important to have a sense of humor about your own mistakes of course), I would only be truly bummed out if someone defended my ignorance and accused mayo-knowledgeable people of elitism and snobbery.

Bravo Grub! You've just said what I would like to have said, only I couldn't get my head around just what it was.

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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None of us were born with education, culture, or sophistication. Those all are qualities that are acquired along the way, and we can only hope that we’ve accumulated them to some degree before we’re gone. Just how much of them can be attributed to us at any given point in time depends on inclination, experience and chance (and, sometimes, geography).

Each and every one of us are located somewhere on that same continuum. To crucify someone else for lacking the sophistication we now hold would be to deny our own journey to that point.

And, lest we feel secure in our own culinary superiority, I offer you something that happened to me in Paris a while back. A little boy, maybe 6 years old, stared at me in horror as I ate my lunch, then whispered to his mother (in French), “Maman! She’s eating salad with a fish fork!”

I remain, always and forever, humbled.

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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."

The above "food writer" isn't just. She is a reporter, covering lots of subjects.

I haven't taken the paper in quite a while, though during my last subscription, the "dining" reviews were being written by a charming young woman who seemed to grasp the rudiments.

However, before her, there was a gentleman who held the chair with the longevity of a tenured prof and the tenacity of a tree root. His columns were the manly sort, no sauces or garni for him, oh, no. He and his wife sampled steaks and fish joints all over town, with a common thread, phoned in for every Friday's column:

"We went to XXXXX on Tuesday. It was/was not crowded. My wife had the fish. I had the steak. She liked/disliked hers; I disliked/liked mine. We spent $90."

Every. Single. Week. And he was quite the local celebrity for it, appearing at charity functions and cutting a ribbon at a new Arby's or Watson's Spa store every now and then.

(And I must admit, if I ever start to order liver in any form, for any course, I hope someone who knows the language will clue me in).

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None of us were born with education, culture, or sophistication.  Those all are qualities that are acquired along the way, and we can only hope that we’ve accumulated them to some degree before we’re gone.  Just how much of them can be attributed to us at any given point in time depends on inclination, experience and chance (and, sometimes, geography). 

Each and every one of us are located somewhere on that same continuum.  To crucify someone else for lacking the sophistication we now hold would be to deny our own journey to that point. 

once again, someone has made the point i was trying to make, but much more gracefully and with kindness.

i've been writing about food for a long time now, about 25 years, full-time 20 years. and every story that i write i learn half a dozen new things. i don't know anyone who has been in the business who wouldn't say the same thing (if they're being honest). as fun as it is to belittle the great unwashed, inevitably, you will find that in a dismaying number of cases you are them, too. after that happens, oh, 100 times or so, you learn a little grace and humility.

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As a variation on a theme, I was flipping through the channels this morning and came upon a "chef" preparing some dishes, think it was a couple of types of home-fries (not on the Food Network). As he was finishing his dish, he added a last, "special" ingredient to make it, in his words, "the piece de resistance". Then he added "That's my Italian for the day!"

Mark A. Bauman

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've just dragged out my New Zealand Guild of Food Writers handbook to see what it says about restaurant reviews. Here are the guild's guidelines:

Responsibilities of a judge:

To be totally unbiased

Do not judge personal friends

To keep an open mind and remember to judge the restaurant food, service and ambience, to the standard of the establishment eg a top class restaurant should be judged more harshly than say a local basic restaurant

To know what they are judging - must be knowledgeable about food

To be anonymous and not discuss the reason for your visit

To be consistent with judging at all times

Must understand how a restaurant runs

Should have comprehensive knowledge of food and wine

Be prepared to stand by your judgement

Try and be constructive, not destructive

Judging criteria

Taste - complementary tastes of all components

Temperature - approriate to dish

Degree of cooking - appropriate to meat/fish/vegetable/poultry etc

Visual impact - does it excite the diner to eat

Service - from booking to account payment; - food menu/wine menu/staff knowledge

Menu composition - balance of both wine and food

Value for money

Compulsory information

Full and correct name of restaurant and address

Hours of business

Contact details

I've done a few restaurant reviews myself but it's not an area of food writing that appeals to me very much. I have also edited a lot of restaurant reviews. Individual style comes into it. I know one reviewer who would strive desperately for "cute" turns of phrases - the "blushing scallop" could be "nestling contentedly" in a bed of rocket, "cosily snuggling up" to the red onion. On and on like that - you get the drift. And sometimes it would be hard to determine what the reviewer actually thought of the restaurant.

Another, who had travelled widely, would air his knowledge with something along the lines: "the thrice fried sparrow thigh was lacking the precise amount of mountain pepper that Chef Brown in Zigzag restaurant in Outer Fandango, the acknowledged definitive interpreter of the dish, maintains is the acceptable minimum. This left the claws a tad bland though with regulation crunch" or such twaddle. OK. Maybe it showed he knew his onions but it also made him sound a bit of a prat.

I've known restaurants refuse to take bookings from some reviewers or turn them away at the door if they'd booked under another name.

Oh, and some community newspapers regard assigning someone to do a restaurant review as a perk! The copy usually reads like an advertorial.

Website: http://cookingdownunder.com

Blog: http://cookingdownunder.com/blog

Twitter: @patinoz

The floggings will continue until morale improves

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"the thrice fried sparrow thigh was lacking the precise amount of mountain pepper that Chef Brown in Zigzag restaurant in Outer Fandango, the acknowledged definitive interpreter of the dish, maintains is the acceptable minimum. This left the claws a tad bland though with regulation crunch"

Now this I like!!! :biggrin::biggrin:

Si

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I know one reviewer who would strive desperately for "cute" turns of phrases - the "blushing scallop" could be "nestling contentedly" in a bed of rocket, "cosily snuggling up" to the red onion. On and on like that - you get the drift.

There's this guy who's like the lead restaurant reviewer for the New York Times who writes just like that.

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