An interview with food writing legend Mimi Sheraton caused a bit of a ripple through the online food community today. She spoke with Zachary Woolfe of Capital New York about her 1975 to 1983 tenure as restaurant critic for the New York Times, and in addition to taking current reviewer Sam Sifton's pop-punched, imperative writing style to task, spent a goodly bit of time pining for the Francophile stylings of New York chefs of yore and blasting the chefs and media coverage she sees as too trend-centric.
We respect the absolute heck out of what Sheraton has contributed to the food writing profession and appreciate her experience and wealth of knowledge. Still, the one time we dined at the now-shuttered La Caravelle, a flagship for the sort of white linen, Dover sole and Grand Marnier souffle service about which she waxes rhapsodic, it was technically excellent, but felt akin to dining in a glass-walled exhibit at the Museum of Natural History.
Evolution and reverence for the past are, to us equally important but here's the thing - whose past?
Atlanta Journal-Constitution chief dining critic and Eatocracy pal John Kessler talks about the unauthorized outing of Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila by the owners of Red Medicine, the role of reviewers and why five-star restaurants are where you "can drink unicorn blood from a silver goblet."
Have we mentioned we love this man?
It's a rough gig, being a restaurant critic. Sure, you're dining on the paper's dime, but plenty of the food is lousy, disgruntled restaurateurs and fleet-footed bloggers are constantly trying to unmask you and a lot of people think you could just as easily be replaced by Yelp posters.
In a town obsessed with celebrity and publicity, there are a few well-known residents in Los Angeles who prefer their picture is never taken - Los Angeles Times food critic S. Irene Virbila is one. That professional anonymity ended Tuesday night when she and three others arrived at Red Medicine, a new Vietnamese restaurant in Beverly Hills. Virbila had her photo snapped and her party was turned away and refused service; a bitter pill to swallow for a restaurant critic.
Red Medicine is the latest project from Umami Burger founder Adam Fleischman, Noah Ellis, previously of Michael Mina's restaurant group, and Chef Jordan Kahn, who counts stints with chefs Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz and Michael Mina on his résumé. So why would a brand new restaurant, with three high-profile partners, risk outing and angering the LA Times food critic, a fixture on the scene for the last 16 years?
Remember way back to the early to mid '90s, when if you wanted to find out about a restaurant, you had to flip through newspapers, ask friends, shell out for a Zagat Guide or - heaven forfend - just go and see for yourself?
No longer must restaurant patrons fly blindly into the abyss, for sites like Yelp, Open Table, Dine, Citysearch and others exist to allow delighted and disgruntled diners dish about their every opinion from wine service to restroom cleanliness.
Are these sites on the menu for you?