6) I don't think that our reviewer is responsible for the Times Square location of Senor Frogs's shutting down, but considering that the entire connection between the critic and the restaurant is a result of the struggle of print journalism to stay relevant, it seems sort of tacky to react like this.
7) FWIW, if your broker calls and asks if you want to put your pension in NY Times stock, or Senor Frog's, my advice would be to stick with the margaritas.
And yes, it has been a while since I rapped at you, but that Awl piece today about the Pete Wells Per Se review has been getting some love on the internet today, and I am not sure why. I've been a fan of the Awl since its inception, wrote for it one time, and a fan of Alex Balk since TMF/TML. This piece, though, I do not get. As it happens, I'm teaching a class about criticism at the day job this semester, and mentioned Wells' Fieri review as an example of why negative reviews are more fun to read than the other kind. But this piece? IDK. I have not read much of Matt Buchanan's stuff. He is admirably well versed in the recent history of NYT restaurant reviewers, though I was sad not to see Grimes in the conversation.
As impressive as it is to see this knowledge, it bears on an argument that is rendered basically incoherent by its embrace of a single word -- the subhed is "The ceaseless downshifting of 'populism' in dining."
There are at least two completely different was that this does not make sense, which is something in itself. In both cases, "downshifting" is just not the word Buchanan needs. In a literal sense, to "downshift" is to shift from a higher to a lower gear. It's not a great word to use figuratively, because you might downshift a) to accelerate to pass a slower car or b) to use engine braking to slow your vehicle. Given the evident prominence of Uber in Buchanan's opus, it's likely he does not drive stick, and the nuances of this word escape him.
That said, if you get out of the car, and imagine that he is using "downshift" in the more literal (figurative?) sense of actually shifting something down, the article gets more confusing, because what is getting "downshifted" is "populism." If we assume that "downshift" means something like to "diminish" or "reduce," in the same way that men like Mike Gundy use "downgrade" when they mean "denigrate," it only gets more confusing. Is a diminished populism one that is more or less populist than the original? Eventually the piece gets around to something like the idea that maybe it's not so cool that a Michelin-starred chef getting involved in a fast-casual chicken sandwich place makes them William Jennings Bryan 2.0. Indeed, it is messed up to live in a world where a heavily capitalized salad chain can identify Greenwich Village as a "food desert," but it would help if we knew ahead of time if a "downshifted" populism was more or less elitist than the regular kind.
So, DI/DO spent some more of Uncle Punch's $ to render a SPFG* verdict on Le Bernardin. SPFG is short for "still pretty fucking good." Actually, better, and it's hard not to be impressed w/ Ripert's relentless quest for improvement and innovation. But! Two oddnesses in the writeup from Wells. One, actually in the headline:
Moving Ever Forward, Like a Fish
It, if my Probationary Ichthyologist amulet is still valid, sharks, specifically who move ever forward. Do we not want to liken Eric Ripert to a fish? He does, in fairness, look more like Jay Manuel than most chefs, but, is he an actual shark? Signs point to no.
It is the description of the saucier that seems a bit wide of the mark:
Granted, even four star reviews note imperfections, but where does "surrendering a critical walk in game four of the 2004 ALCS to noted gourmand Kevin Millar" figure into the analogy? Who is Kevin Millar? Allow the Cod to remind you:
Sez Eater, there is a rumor that the next lead DI/DO critic will be Brett Anderson, who is currently the lead critic for the New Orleans Times Picayune. This is, by definition, puzzling, considering that being a restaurant critic in New Orleans is the best job in the world. Schnelly left the U for the USFL, and that feels like that kind of choice.
Re-edit: Greetings, visitors. First time here? Welcome.
Edit: Hey there, Eaters and Huffpos. The turkey wrap discussion continues over there.
We like to have fun here, but when there is serious business, it's hard to know how to respond. Not everything in the world is about food, or can be related to rap music or hockey. However, a couple of things related to the Bin Laden raid -- first, and thanks to the Great Barstoolio for pointing this out, the surprising intel of the situation room menu:
Gritty. It is oddly reassuring that when the leadership of the free world takes on the most momentious event of the Obama presidency, they eat like academics at a state university lunch meeting. If you have not seem the iconic photo, do so, and do it big. Nobody looks very hungry, and Hilary in particular looks like she's aware of the enormous responsibility of being at the controls of such enormous power.
If being a has-been who never quite lived up to expectations means two Michelin stars and a host of good works, then sign me up.
It's always nice to see David "United States of Arugula" Kamp in DI/DO, but this was a curious sort of piece. Charlie Trotter raised the bar for dining in Chicago, and still runs this exellent restaurant. And he brings in utes, cooks them nice food, and tries to motivate them. His former employee, Grant Achatz, has three stars, while Trotter has to content himself with two. Even that is a dis:
Evidently, a lack of bacon trapezes (Alinea) or wild-boar sloppy Joe (gonzo-hipster)* consigns a chef to the unhappy fate of simply running a really good restaurant. The bigger knock, however, is Trotter's failure to establish a beachhead in NYC, or to thrive in Vegas. Trotter's absence from Top Chef Masters goes unmentioned here, but seems of a piece with the larger concerns with what Trotter's done since opening the best restaurant in Chicago at the age of 27.
What strikes me about Kamp's piece is not any lack of sympathy on his part, but how much the yardsticks for cheffly success have changed. Not that long ago, holding down two Michelin stars in a relatively out of the way part of the dining world would have been something to celebrate. Indeed, a two-Michelin-star chef who screams at his cooks sounds like MFKF's bread and butter. Put Trotter's in France a generation ago, and it's a Thing. Evidently, Trotter's food is very good:
I'll take that over a wild-boar Sloppy Joe, thanks. In general, what Kamp describes -- a chef-proprietor with some love from Mr. Bib, who consistently cooks really good food and yells at his staff -- is what used to be the epitome of Chef. Now, lack of an outpost in Dubai, and failure to hobnob with Padma, put you in the also-ran category. Were I Trotter, I might be saying something to myself about how it's the pictures that got small. (Speaking of pictures, in the print ed of the Times, the big B&W pic seems to be laying it on a little thick, considering that it was taken in 1991, when color photography was widely available. Based on available images, the B&W seems like a reach.
*Achewood fans cannot read the words "gonzo" and "restaurant" in the same sentence without recalling the Sani-Taco story arc.
Sifton drops two stars on Red Rooster, Marcus Samuellson's new Harlem jawn. It's good timing, considering recent assertions that Sifton can be a Debbie Downer. It's a review that makes you want not only to eat at Red Rooster, stat, but also to wake up in the city that never sleeps, 20 lbs thinner, 20 years younger, and with an allover tingly Dinkinsy feeling. It all sounds good, esp the lox vs. gravlax, but it all sounds like a fantasy of what NYC could be. The Harlem venue overdetermines the musical choice, what with almost all jazz ever, or even Across 110th St. However, Sifton's review is all about heterogeneity, and he makes the soundtrack clear when he talks about liver pudding:
In this era of good feelings let us not reflect on how and why duck liver pudding with duck pastrami calls Hennessey and satin sheets to Sifton's mind, but rather welcome the guidance. Clearly, Sifton wants the Quiet Storm, but with a twist. There is a band from Brooklyn, (in this new era of peace and love, there are no borough beefs), spelled S-T-E-T that can take care of you: