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Mr. Smith goes to Taipei

#1 User is offline   ChefHung 

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 05:31 PM

Any of dallasfood.org's remaining six readers care to engage in a discussion of the themes within?

Focus on the main themes, not the ADHD-fueled side lines in the discussion.

Is it any surprise that the accusations of "[cycling] through Kung-Fu, The Art of War, Feng Shui, and Kung Pao Chicken (which done right is still a classic) like culture fit for a scenester’s email blasts" and "[cutting] off the narrative from the motherland and butcher our culture into components for a tasting menu" may apply even more to the state of food writing in this "the new Food Network is out of Pandora's Box" America?

Just to push the conversation along even more, for all y'all, how would you perceive this article if it had been two Italians talking?

I'll go wait in the void.

#2 User is offline   Kirk 

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 08:22 PM

View PostChefHung, on 08 June 2012 - 05:31 PM, said:

Any of dallasfood.org's remaining six readers care to engage in a discussion of the themes within?

Focus on the main themes, not the ADHD-fueled side lines in the discussion.



Can I let you know if and when I get my arms around what the main themes are?

#3 User is offline   ChefHung 

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Posted 09 June 2012 - 07:36 AM

View PostKirk, on 08 June 2012 - 08:22 PM, said:

Can I let you know if and when I get my arms around what the main themes are?


LOL...I know what you mean!

I think it starts here, as the exchange in the Gilt Taste story precipitated from this NYT article.

#4 User is offline   Kirk 

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 10:05 AM

View PostChefHung, on 09 June 2012 - 07:36 AM, said:

I think it starts here, as the exchange in the Gilt Taste story precipitated from this NYT article.


I think the issues the two "Chinamen" raise are not very relevant. It's akin to asking, Are natives of England (or, to be pickier, announcers for the BBC) the only "legitimate" speakers of English? Does someone who learned English as a second language -- or who speaks with a heavy New York accent -- not have a right to say they speak English? Does a native English speaker own the language, any more than an immigrant does? (If so, there would be no modern English and about two-thirds of the words in this reply wouldn't exist.) Food evolves, grows, rejects, uses available ingredients and cultural and temporal context (not to mention cheap labor) to express itself.

#5 User is offline   Scott 

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 10:55 AM

My thoughts:

(1) Being from a place doesn't mean you have a deep understanding of or ability to prepare that place's food. (Proof: Most barbecue in Texas is crap, despite the fact that it's made by Texans and most Texan customers don't know any better and/or don't care.)
(2) Many people fail to recognize the truth of (1). (Proof: On any Yelp page for a barbecue restaurant outside of Texas you'll find one or more reviews by people who claim special expertise on the basis of having been born or lived in Texas. [Ed., comment about New Yorkers deleted.])
(3) Not being from a place doesn't mean you can't develop a deep understanding or ability to prepare that place's food. (Proof: The Spanish Wikipedia entry for Diana Kennedy.)
(4) Having a deep understanding of a place's cuisine isn't necessary to prepare that place's food, at least in a patchwork way. (Proof: A little-known technology that allows a dish to be replicated by any competent chef.)
(5) If you don't have a sound understanding of the cuisine, don't speak the language, haven't spent more than vacationly amounts of time in the country, and rely mostly on secondary sources (e.g., English-language books) rather than personal experience, you shouldn't pose as an expert. (That goes not just for cooking, but also for opining about domestic instantiations of a foreign cuisine.)
(6) Doing things right often costs more (e.g., making tortillas by hand using fresh masa, using freshly pressed coconut milk, sourcing locally unavailable ingredients, etc.). Even if immigrant restaurant owners know how to do things right, that doesn't mean they can afford to--especially in a culture that equates "ethnic" food with low price points.
(7) Just because a non-immigrant restaurant has higher prices doesn't mean it's doing things right or even well. (Most of the time, it seems, they're not.)
(8) Do you really think the forums here have 6 readers?

Scott

#6 User is offline   Kirk 

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 09:50 AM

Re: your point 8 ... 4.

A quote from the great philosopher David Byrne:

Knee Play 4
Social Studies
I thought that if I ate the food of the area I was visiting
That I might assimilate the point of view of the people there
As if the point of view was somehow in the food
So I would make no choices myself regarding what food I ate
I would simply follow the examples, of those around me
I would study menus very carefully
Making note of important differences and similarities
When shopping at the supermarket
I felt a great desire to walk off with someone else's groceries
So I could study them at length
And study their effects on me
As though if I ate their groceries I would become that person; until I finished their groceries
And we might find ourselves going to the same places
Running into one another at the movies
Or in a shopping mall
Reading the same books
Watching the same T.V. programs
Wearing the same clothes
Travelling to the same places
And taking the same pictures
Getting sick at the same time
And getting well again simultaneously
Finding ourselves attracted to the same people
Working at the same job
And making the same amount of money
Living identical lives as long as the groceries lasted

This post has been edited by Kirk: 12 June 2012 - 09:50 AM


#7 User is offline   DonnieC 

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:09 PM

The comment by one of the knuckleheads in the article concerning, if they don't like our food then we don't have anything to hang on to in the USA.
Really? Maybe those dopes don't know how to do anything else besides peel ginger with their toenails but the rest of the Amer-Chinamen do, like art, music, literature, history, film, clothing, business, medicine, teaching, politics and community/government service. If all you do all day is fondle your scrotum then that becomes your sole reference point and removes you from the conversation. I can just hear the other side of the conversation next time they get high, gee, how come whitey doesn't like our food, if he did then he would try to copy it, then we would feel fully affirmed as the self centered cretins we are so proud to be.

So help me here, I'm trying to follow along and it's obviously complicated.
Is it good or bad in the eyes of these cretins that:

- My vegetarian Indian friends refuse to eat at any DFW Indian restaurant (almost all owned by Indians) because "the food is so bad"?
- Those same Indian friends when asked where to get good vegetarian food in Dallas prefer Buddhists and Mexicans to their own race?
- Koreans own and operate the vast majority of sushi restaurants in the US?
- Tei An is located in downtown Dallas instead of Richardson?
- Tacos El Guero has never opened a branch on McKinney Ave?
- Is this VIDEO funny or a foreshadowing of the future?
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#8 User is offline   Kirk 

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 05:29 PM

Quote

Is this VIDEO funny or a foreshadowing of the future?


The only thing funny about the video is the assertion that any American family ordering from PizzaHut would feed four people with the three pounds of lasagna.

Which Buddhist chefs do your Indian friends recommend?

#9 User is offline   DonnieC 

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 07:41 AM

Old reliable

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#10 User is offline   Scott 

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 08:48 AM

The Hare Krishna temple is run by Buddhists? (Swami Prabhupada must be rolling over in his grave.)

#11 User is offline   DonnieC 

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 09:04 AM

In a related vein, THE COD, takes on the argument about what is worth reporting and who is willing to pay. So I wonder, just exactly what is the FREQUENCY?

Leslie Brenner is a total nincompoop and embarrassment to food writers. She currently fills typespace that DMN is still willing to pay for. But they have hedged their bet by putting some of her drivel "behind the paywall". Know anyone that pays? Me either. But how would you feel about Brenner being replaced by a DMN intern selecting a random restaurant from Yelp and publishing that as the "review of the week" with extensive quotes from cro-magnons like Lewisville HOUNDER. Especially if DMN owned Yelp and got the benefit of all those page views. Isn't that exactly what Google just did with the purchase of Zagat?

The frequency convergence of quality food writing into something much less pales in light of the intense internet tracking/networking/monitoring that is part of every new "app" we download. Yet this erosion of the esoteric, literary interpretation of gustatory diversions and pleasures may really show us all in neon where this is all going. Is it possible that Brenner's column inches will be replaced with a digital report that tracks the orders at each restaurant and then provides a ranking, much like baseball players, of popularity, which leads to an "all star team"? So if Houston's has 3 of the most ordered 50 dishes in Dallas, then they make "the team" and get an "all star" rating. You get the idea. A true crowd sourcing of food trends. The flaw of course is a dumb concept like Lucia, where they never serve the same thing twice. They would never make the team. Oh well, for them there's always outdoor advertising and bus stop bench wraps. There are still buses aren't there?

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#12 User is offline   DonnieC 

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 09:52 AM

View PostScott, on 13 June 2012 - 08:48 AM, said:

The Hare Krishna temple is run by Buddhists? (Swami Prabhupada must be rolling over in his grave.)


To quote noted philosopher, Michel Legrand, it's all a "wheel within a wheel, ever turning"

In the Pali texts known as the Jātakas, one of Śāriputra's previous incarnation was also known as "Vasudeva" Krishna's father. The story in the Ghata Jataka differs from the Hindu story of Krishna in that Krishna has 9 brothers and a sister and is more of a conquering king, who along with his brothers, conquers all of the mystical land of Jambudvipa. Some contend that the Bhagavad Gita also advises to aspire for refuge in Buddha, Gita 2:49, which states "Buddhau Saranam Anvicche" or "Take refuge in enlightenment".
Similarly one of the nine commonly used recollections (Anussati) of Buddha—"Purisa damma sarathi" which means "charioteer of heroic men". In the Gita for the first time, Krishna, who is a king himself, is shown as a mere charioteer and guide of the prince Arjuna. There are some who even contend that the Gita is a Buddhist text.



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#13 User is offline   Kirk 

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 07:35 PM

Purisa damma is my favorite way of doing parathi. Hard to find on the weekday lunch buffets, though.

#14 User is offline   Scott 

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 09:31 AM

View PostDonnieC, on 13 June 2012 - 09:04 AM, said:

But how would you feel about Brenner being replaced by a DMN intern selecting a random restaurant from Yelp and publishing that as the "review of the week"...

She doesn't like that idea. But here's a little thought experiment. The last time you were planning a visit to New Orleans, to what sources did you turn in deciding where to eat and, if the Times-Picayune was even one of them, how did it rank in usefulness? Expand that. How many cities in the US have you visited in which a newspaper critic's reviews were the most useful and reliable guide to finding good restaurants of the type you were seeking?

It's often easy to dismiss the value of a newspaper food critic if you're already embedded in the local scene. But, when you travel, it puts you in the position of one for whom a newspaper critic should be important--a recent arrival, a babe in the woods. In those circumstances, with rare exception, the newspaper critics aren't of much use, whether because of their own limitations or their publishers' ineffectiveness.

The layoff of Brett Anderson attracts a lot of attention from his writer peers and press-watchers in and out of the industry; but is it really going to make it harder for you to plan your meals next time you're in New Orleans?

Scott

#15 User is offline   Kirk 

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 12:37 PM

View PostScott, on 14 June 2012 - 09:31 AM, said:



Per La Brenner: "[I]f food lovers want food entertainment that enriches, educates and responsibly informs at the same time that it entertains, they might think twice about being willing to kiss restaurant critics goodbye."

If she is implying that her own criticism enriches, educates and responsibly informs, she is being factually, as well as intellectually, dishonest.

#16 User is offline   DonnieC 

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 04:11 PM

View PostScott, on 14 June 2012 - 09:31 AM, said:

How many cities in the US have you visited in which a newspaper critic's reviews were the most useful and reliable guide to finding good restaurants of the type you were seeking?


I disagree that "travel" is where the real value of a food writer shines. I think it's local for locals.
With all of the restaurants opening and closing in my community, I need someone I can trust to help me
shorten the costly search times of deciding whether a new or old restaurant is worthy of being in the rotation
for the 345 days a year that I am home. A talented food writer can do that, and, as a paid professional, the presumption is that they are knowledgeable about the subject matter and therefore can provide valuable commentary and opinion.

A thoughtful food writer should be in touch with the entire local scene and be a respected source of information.
By the same token, as with baseball umpires, just be consistent so that I can adjust accordingly. So there are
movie reviewers that I find consistently "wrong", but I never miss reading them because I have adjusted and factor them accordingly.
I think that it is possible to get both a broader view of local dining trends, as well as more specifics about certain dishes,
methods and ingredients from a professional than from a typical crowd source.

So yes, for the 20 days a year I travel, I do indeed check the newspaper archives of my travel destination for restaurant information. Most newspapers are online and searchable. I take my initial ideas gleaned there (from a paid expert presumably) and cross check them with crowd sources
like Yelp, Chow, PortlandFood, Full Custom Gospel, Gurgling Cod, etc. It usually distills into a short coherent list pretty quickly.
But it always starts with the paid professional. Because even if the writer is "wrong", the richness of the text is
useful given the number of references typically found in a professional review. Chefs, restaurants, dishes and ingredient references
are almost always plentiful in a such a review which enables me to widen the search and learn of alternatives not so
apparent to an outsider. A Yelper telling me that the double cheeseburger at Leroy's rocks is not as useful as a writer
telling me that in conversation with Leroy he/she learned that he sources his meat from Bryan's Fine Foods and that it is a mixture
of short rib, chuck and brisket.

So for me, not having a local professional food writer is a loss from the standpoint of perspective and comparative knowledge.
Yelp's aggregated, surface level minutiae is no substitute.
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#17 User is offline   Scott 

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 09:55 AM

View PostDonnieC, on 14 June 2012 - 04:11 PM, said:

With all of the restaurants opening and closing in my community, I need someone I can trust to help me shorten the costly search times of deciding whether a new or old restaurant is worthy of being in the rotation for the 345 days a year that I am home.

But that's a weakness of newspapers. With one or two reviews a week, a newspaper can't possibly keep up with the flow of openings, closures, relocations, chef changes, seasonal menu changes, plus the basic necessity of updating assessments over time. If forces them to choose; and, in most cases (as with our esteemed critic), they choose to cover highly publicized, well-financed, and/or high priced restaurants (particularly new ones)--restaurants that the public would learn about even in the absence of a newspaper restaurant reviewer. That results in a single data point (based on, at best, three meals, and sometimes only one) that, except for the highest profile restaurants, will probably never be updated. Even for the highest of the high profile restaurants, they're not updated frequently. (Of Brenner's current 5-star restaurants, the most recent review was of Lucia on February 23, 2011. The Mansion got its five-star review on March 10, 2010.)

View PostDonnieC, on 14 June 2012 - 04:11 PM, said:

I think that it is possible to get both a broader view of local dining trends, as well as more specifics about certain dishes, methods and ingredients from a professional than from a typical crowd source.

It may be possible, but that hasn't been my experience. In almost any city I visit (and certainly in the one in which we live), I've found that--for almost any type of food I could be seeking--there are one or more publicly available sources that are more experienced, knowledgable, and reliable than the newspaper critic.

View PostDonnieC, on 14 June 2012 - 04:11 PM, said:

So for me, not having a local professional food writer is a loss from the standpoint of perspective and comparative knowledge. Yelp's aggregated, surface level minutiae is no substitute.

I think not having a local professional food writer should be a loss. But it just isn't, in most cases. The DMN's most recent review of The French Room was on November 17, 2010 (1,200 words). Even if it had been written by R.W. Apple (which it wasn't, raising the relevant question of whether most newspaper restaurant reviewers are closer to the Apple or # end of the spectrum), that review is now 19 months stale, during which time Yelp has 55+ reports on the restaurant, including one as recent as last Friday. This isn't unique to Dallas. (Sam Sifton's controversial 4-star review of Del Posto came out September of 2010. The review of EMP is nearly 3 years old now. The Le Bernardin review is 7 years old and Per Se is 8!) A restaurant review is simply an opinionated news item--a time slice that quickly fades into irrelevance. In many (certainly not all) respects, Yelp isn't just a substitute for a local professional writer, but an improvement.

Scott

#18 User is offline   DonnieC 

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 02:03 PM

But drive on by if you're in the mood for something a little more, shall we say, louché.

So after a great time with a rookie waiter, we went in and i asked to not be placed with the same waiter that served us the last time as he was new.

Their crab cake was ok, not Impressed.
The crab cake was true to its name! It was HUGE and chock FULL of jumbo lump crab! SO YUMMY!

The bartender was handsome and professional in a way that felt the way Dallas should; flash and style.

He got Shrimp with - wait for it...- CRAB! So good!

I did glimpse some banana thing on fire at another table which looked yummy.

Shockingly good seafood

Wow - So impressed! Went here last night for dinner. This is a Dallas must try! I think this place really excels at fresh fish..mmmmmm. I feel like I must warrant my 4 star rating for this restaurant. The food could have been better in my opinion.



Who could need to know more.
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#19 User is offline   Scott 

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 03:50 PM

View PostDonnieC, on 15 June 2012 - 02:03 PM, said:

Who could need to know more?

It's enough to tell me whether I want to go there (which is the main question I want answered when I read about a restaurant).

Cf.:
strappy dresses and linen blazers [i.e., 'flash and style']....the hostess approached. "Brenner party?" she said....overfished or irresponsibly farmed species...other choices weren't particularly appealing [read: 'not impressed']...sassy cocktail sauce and a good mignonette [i.e., 'SO YUMMY!']...shrimp cocktail was fine, if a bit overcooked [i.e., 'it was okay, not impressed']...sashimi tasting was fine, if a bit overpriced [i.e., 'it was okay but expensive']...$15 strikes me as steep for the chopped salad, nice as it is [i.e., 'it was okay but expensive']...my husband loved his tuna tartare [i.e., 'SO YUMMY!']...ho-hum wok-seared vegetables [i.e., 'it was okay, not impressed']...I loved the gooey, crusty mac and cheese with flavorful shaved summer truffles [i.e., 'SO YUMMY!']...creamed spinach is better-than-average [i.e., 'it was okay, but not SO YUMMY!']

That's enough to convince me I wouldn't want to go there two years ago, though telling me nothing about whether I should want to go there now, whether the menu's the same, the chef's the same, the GM is the same, etc.

Scott

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