Food Reporting Syllabus
Joe Edwards
This is a chef's idea of a
restaurant critic...
 

Assignments 73 through 78



Not the case: One wise editor who had retained services of two restaurant reviewers, one for the Cincinnati Enquirer, later one for the Columbus Dispatch, offered each this advice upon hiring... "it is your job to advise the readers about dining experiences, the best places to spend their dining-out dollars... the new places opening... and answer their questions as to value and food preparation and quality before they ask... make them want to have the same experiencs you are having..." However, he always added, do not ignore any negatives such as untrained service or poor food quality. In such cases, he instructed his new hires to give fair appraisals based upon repeat visits. "Always find at least one plus for the review you are writing," he advised. Following that guideline, one of his reviewers devoted some 600 words detailing less-than-acceptable service, food and ambience after seven visits. It was a theme restaurant housed in three converted box cars named Victoria Station. Access was to walk up a railway loading ramp, pass a left-over safety sign from days of yore that read in large cap letters... AVOID ALL TRAINS. His reviewer, then as a critic, wrote, "Victoria Station has an excellent parking lot, usually almost vacant." ...
 
 
Assignments 73-84
 
 
73
 
Adventures In Good Eating
Good Eating Places Along the Highways of America
by Duncan Hines
Duncan Hines, Inc
© 1948 (Original copyright 1936, 27th Printing)
 

Before he was a cake mix, Duncan Hines had the field all to himself. Through necessity of his career travelling Kentucky and Ohio as a printing salesman, the Duncan Hines printed broadsheet listings of his favorite eating spots was the forerunner of his pocket book-sized restaurant reports, not reviews, per se. His newspaper-sized sheet, his guide, was given to his customers in the early 1930s.

The restaurant dining guide for the United States was born.
Duncan Hines on Wikipedia

 

Bonus 89:
The Great Depression
Robert S. McElvaine
© 1960

Review Pending

 
 
Bonus 90:
Consumed, Why Americans Love, Hate and Fear Food
by Michelle Stacey
Touchstone, Simon & Schuster
© 1994
 

Michelle Stacey facebooks herself as a "freelance writer." That should not be. Her ink-on-ivory and ink-on-pulp credits define her as a food writer with a true journalism bent. Her food-related stories have appeared in many periodicals, mostly slick magazines. However, from this keyboard point she defined her career nearly two decades ago when she released Consumed, a deep study of the American diet, fads and obsessions.

As a study course for writing about food, a bit of advice: Flip to the back and scan-read her index, eight pages; next spend an hour with her notes, eight pages. You have just been introduced to the food world's finest writers, reviewers, critics, chefs, novelists, producers, scientists, even a politican who was president when Uncle Sam became involved with our health. Chapter Four: Eating You Medicine, subtitled the battle over superfoods. That battle is as old as yesterday.

And if you think diet confusion surfaced with the likes of Dr. Atkins and a few dozen other such, Michelle Stacey harkens back to the 1890s. Read that again: 1980s.

Of all the studies suggested in this collection, Consumed offers the best backgrounder on diet fads and the guilty. Fads are grabbers. In this country, chocolate is good for you one week, not good the next. For more than three decades America has been told to drink red wine. Read such a story and set your watch: Some wino with a computer has other opinions. What happened to those years when oat bran was best for everything? What happened to the grapefruit diet? Pray, reassure us the tapeworm diet is not out there in midnight TV pitch land.

The Tapeworm Diet? Not a line in Consumed, but... yes, Google has that story.

Study advisory: Your 101 level will be found in the notes and index. Read all of Michelle Stacey and you are in her graduate course.

Michelle Stacey's Food Bitch Blog

Michelle Stacey
Michelle Stacey
 
Bonus 91:
In Good Taste
by Jack White
Self published while anchoring noon news,
Channel 19, KGTV-ABC, San Diego, CA
 

Jack White

 

Leon Varsano

TV restaurant reviewer Jack White doesn't have to consider anonymity once seated and on-camera. While he may order from the menu, his "advance reviewer," his veteran cameraman has already scoped-out the place...  

...Leon Varsano did the heavy lifting for years when he made pre-visits to scores of San Diego eateries prepping for show time, the taping of KGTV-10's Jack White at the table, fork in hand. They pioneered TV reviewing.

 
Admit it. Today's restaurant reviewers want to do it on television. However, the production question always arises about entering a restaurant and managing the issue of anonymity. Jack White, many years as the noon anchor for KGTV, San Diego , solved the problem by having his cameraman precede him into the targeted eatery. Leon Varsano would make the visit, make mental notes of his menu choices, and depart. The two of them covered the culinary landscape in their seaport-military-touristry city.

White, from the beginning as an on-camera reviewer, followed all ethical guidelines. He paid all checks and filed them as an expense account. His then news director, Ron Mires, gave him the eat-for-pay beat and did the right thing: He let his reviewer make decisions on which eateries get the visits and air time. In compiling this pleasant read, In Good Taste, White did not make it a loaded list of restaurant names... think alphabetized Yellow Pages. While being selective, in his foreword, he wrote "this is not the gourmet guide to dining in San Diego." Readers will be impressed with his introduction to the beat, his hunt with cameraman Varsano for the city's "perfect hamburger."  

Their search, starting in 1979, lasted five weeks. On page one, his stats read: "I drove 509 miles, ate 46 hamburgers, 41 slices of  dill pickle, 36 buns, 40 slices of tomato and unknown quantities of lettuce."  As for onion slices, totals varied. They would opt out periodically, making an inaccurate count but a good ingredients read. In the finals for his guide book, they selected five as their favorites. Note White's lesson in reviewing: Favorites instead of best because he could not do an appraisal of the hundreds of burger joints in their viewing area. One of their five choices drew attention of national reviewers: Doodle Burgers. The unique lure was that Doodle Burgers pioneered the thought that adults like burgers and they just might like a beer or wine with their beef and adornments. Doodle did not have bar service but did offer bottled brews and a screw-top wine with limited choices, a white or a red. (Note: Doodle was duplicating what McDonald's was doing successfully in France . (Sidewalk cafe Big Macs consumed within sight of Arc de Triomphe in Paris serve beers and wine splits.)

White's now out-of-print guide may be difficult to find. It should be reprinted in pamphlet form to preserve the many instructions for television reviewing with just plain (**) how-to reads for both electronic and ink-on-pulp writers. In lieu thereof, In Good Taste is a lecture topic for the Grumpy Gourmet in his NIE and university hospitality appearances.

(**) Grunion is a tiny (3-to-6-ounce) fish found along the southern California coast (that fits San Diego and known for their spawning habits. Sharon Tyler Herbst says "running of the grunion" occurs by the light of the full moon as these silvery fish wriggle their way above high tide to spawn in the wet sand. Legally, Herbst notes, they can only be caught by hand. But the good folk along that part of the coast bag them in nets and scoops. Herbst says they are "best broiled, deep-fried or sauteed."  

 
Well, so much for being kitchen dainty. Here's Jack White quoting his weatherman, Mike Ambroise, on the native way to handle the catch:

"You start by cutting off the head and tail. Then slice off the fins and split the fish down the top and bottom. Break it open and remove the entrails and pull out the bone. Then take a small piece of cloth (to improve your grip) and pull off the skin. You now have two filets - enough for most people, since most people don't like grunion."  

Where else in this entire world could one find a recipe for fried grunion? They are indigenous to White's zip code and viewing audience. Oh, his ca merman suggested the basics: Fry in melted butter with a  50-50 mix of cooking oil, roll in flour, salt and pepper to taste, toss in pan for a minute on each side. All this grunion information is presented here for your culinary training. Odds are you will never experience or review a mess of fried grunion. But you now know about grunion should the question pop up in a game of 20-questions.  

In Good Taste is loaded with Whiteisms.
 
 
 
Bonus 92:
I'm Just Here For the Food, Food+Heat=Cooking
by Alton Brown
Stewart, Tabori and Chang
© 2002

Review Pending

 
74
 
Garlic and Sapphires
The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
by Ruth Reichl
The Penguin Press, New York
© 2005
 

When it comes to anonimity for restaurant reviewers and hard nosed critics, myth prevails. The reading public has two huge misconceptions about the trade of reviewing restaurants. Up front is the general belief that reviewers are eating/dining free and off the fat of the land. Fact: Legit reviewers such as Ruth Reichl and those with every major newspaper keep exacting accounts on what they spend, always submiting paid receipts or copies of their credit card receipts. Estimates of what Reichl
spent annually to review New York City restaurants always ranged from $150,000 and upward.

Now for that second misconception: Working critics wear disguises to insure service table side is not enhanced by being known in the place of business. After so long on the job in any market, reviewers become known. Restaurant people talk. They make it a game to tag the reviewer. One restaurant manager in Columbus posted a picture of the reviewer on two kitchen walls.

He offered free dinners to the server sounding the "alarm" that a critic was at table number so and so. In this book Ms. Reichl goes to the extreme playing with the business of disguises. She makes it a fun read, sort of catering to the public misconception. And of course she made reservations using all sorts of names. For years The Columbus Dispatch reviewer made reservations in the name of Alferd E. Packer (*).

Garlic and Sapphires is the story of the reviewer with the best and most influencial newspaper in the nation. Make that most influencial in the world. Reichl writings become a textbook for anyone intending to follow in her foot steps. This book is one of the important additions for any hospitality syllabus.

(*) Google that, cousin.

 
 
 

Bonus 93:
Eating My Words
An Appetite For Life
by Mimi Sheraton
Harper Perennial
© 2004
 

Meet Mimi in her opening words of the acknowledgments: "As a writer who loathes writing and does it only to pay the Piper for the life I love to lead…"

Mimi Sheraton must have a good life. Her writings beyond The New York Times included all the huge names... Time Magazine, Vanity Fair, Conde Nast Traveler. She wrote books, one of them a crime novel. One of her best and least appreciated was, one might say, a tour de force... Food Markets of the World.

Mimi Sheraton as a food writer is a study course on her own. That partially explains the three Amazon postings. Like few of the legit restaurant critics, the story of Mimi Sheraton should be made into a movie. There's only one major roadblock standing over, under and beyond such a project: Mimi herself. Past associates and friends say getting her cooperaton is impossible. What a pity.

For not wanting to write or be a writer, there is the story. She may be the most seasoned writer in her headline career at the Times ever to handle the written food word. Beginning in 1975 she hovered over the Times restauant beat for eight years. Her expense account had no limits. She ranged across the world on research missions. All the while she kept close to the beat seat of Manhattan where it was her decision on which of a 30,000 dining/eating addresses to grace.

When the Times hired her she was already on her own training schedule to concentrate on food writing. While scribing for such slicks as Good Housekeeping and Seventeen, she roamed the free world. But for herself she researched the food. As one of the few Mimi biographies out there, this note: "She went to restaurants and markets all over the world, taking photographs, tasting everything, and returning to the States with specialized cooking and serving utensils, and cookbooks."

All that alone is a movie script awaiting a keyboard movie treatment. All that is inspiration for beginning or considering a food writing career.

In Eating My Words she reviews her career and touches on the oft-discussed issue of a critic's anonymity. Each critic has an opinion on such. Mimi Sheraton was a master when it came to avoiding detection. Read her for style and how to prepare for critical writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
  The Grumpy Gourmet
   
  Anonymity? Here's the extreme case ...
 
Bonus 94:
Visions of Sugarplums:
A cookbook of cakes, cookies, candies & confections from all the countries that celebrate Christmas

by Mimi Sheraton
Random House
© 1968

Review Pending

 
 
Bonus 95:
Best Restaurants Washington DC & Environs

by Phyllis C Richman
Distributed by Scribner
© 1982

Review Pending

 
 
Bonus 96:
Food Lover's Guide to Paris
By Patricia Wells
Workman Publishing
©1984
 

For decades tourists from around the world visiting France depended upon the French-language Guide Michelin when planning a restaurant experience. That all changed in 1984 when the restaurant reviewer for the International Herald Tribune published this thick guide to everything food and drink in Paris. Unlike Michelin rating with stars determined by a gaggle of unkown names, Patricia Wells does not. Restaurantgoers, many times with her guide in hand, tool around the city in search of a specific address. That is the setting for this study of her guide. A first person comment...

I was in Paris to write about Michelin's two-star blessings. Right on cue I was seated in Guy Savoy, 28 Rue Durer, Paris 16, at a table close enough to the front that I could see outside and the restaurant across the street. The sommelier was my first contact with a pleasant welcome to his Paris. Next my waiter in perfect English made some small talk, giving me a chance to mention the Wells guide in-hand. I mentioned that she did not mention a favorite dish other than to list a duck breast preparations. Not appealing to me that evening, for some reason I inquired about Ms. Wells visiting Guy Savoy.

"By any chance do you recall what she had on her last visit?"

Without taking a second breath, he said, "Why don't you ask her... she's having dinner right across the street with her husband..."

Like the brash tourist that suddenly came about, I rushed over, guide in hand. Graciously she not only suggested a dish, but signed my Food Lover's (*) Guide to Paris now reposing in the collection. I do not recall her dining advice, but that chance meeting highlighted my week or so in my second favorite restaurant city.

For writing students this early work by Ms. Wells not only has historic value, it still has a life as a guide to Paris... hundreds of restaurants, wine bars, food markets, charcuteries, bakeries, and a must, locations for choclates. Check the best season for chocolate mushrooms, candied chestnuts and creamy truffles, page 203. Planning a restaurant writing career? Study Paris. First.

This is your single most important textbook when it comes to seeking an authority on French cuisine. Amazon.com is your bookstore for content that will never become obsolete.

(*) This is not a lending library.

www.patriciawells.com

 
 
Bonus 97:
Evening Standard London Restaurant Guide '96
by Fay Maschler
Trafalgar Square
© 1996

Review Pending

 
 
Bonus 98:
Apple's America
A Traveler's Guide to 40 Great Cities in the United States and Canada
by R. W. Apple, Jr.
North Point Press, a Division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux
© 2005
 

Overture: A point of provincialism, please, when it comes to Apple's selection of Cincinnati to be one of his "40 great cities"  to honor while ignoring Ohio's largest, Columbus. Apple gives currency to Mark Twain's stated intent to be in Cincinnati for the apocalypse because "it was always 20 years behind the times." He included Cleveland in his endlessly positive tome while explaining away that old bit about it being the Mistake On the Lake.

When he was stepping away from The New York Times political beat to become a legit travel and food journalist, he was the best equipped in the nation. I was his fan and a student of his writing and reporting. At some level in both our touring I tried to lure him to Columbus with the pitch that my city had attractions far beyond Woody Hayes Nation and Victoria's Secret. He could do miles of ink-on-pulp copy about White Castle Slyders. He could check-out my opinion that Columbus then had five, by my reasoning, world class fine dining restaurants, one of them owned by the nation's winningest culinary competition chef, Hartmut Handke, who worked in whites and toque behind his cooking line every night. Apple acknowledged my pitch. He never managed a visit. Of his choice eateries in Cleveland and Cincinnati, half or more are shuttered. Four of my five are still major success stories and taking reservations.  

As for Apple's America, read for style with limited culinary opinion. It is the ultimate touristy volume, where to stay info, dated climate reports, much useless trivia about cities you may never visit. Herein it is presented because a top flight reporter managed to move from a city room to a fantastic expense account beat.  

Note the publishing date, 2005. Be advised that by 2006 many of the listed restaurant entries were closed. Or, they were on the endangered list. Apple's America is suggested as a stylized writing read. New York Times readers over the decades followed R. W. Apple Jr. because they were trapped by his free ranging world travels. Apple was proof that tourists go for the food and not historic ruins, temples, museums, landmarks and some business references.  

What will you learn from Apple's travels?  

Curtain line:  He adds weight to the fact that people really travel to eat before bothering to visit or talk about historic landmarks, or, in the case of Cincinnati, return home to discuss the political history of the Taft family.

 
 
Bonus 99:
The Best Places to Eat in America:
50 Food Writers Pick the Don't Miss Restaurants in 50 Cities in the U.S. and Canada
by Janice Okum, edited by Eleanor Ostman
Harper Collins
© 1987

Review Pending

 
 
Bonus 100:
Restaurants of San Francisco
by Patricia Unterman
Scribner
© 1984

Review Pending

 
 
Bonus 101:
The Pocket Guide to Wine
by Barbara Ensrud
Windward Publishing
© 1980

Review Pending

 
 
Bonus 102:
Pudlo France 2008-2009: A Hotel and Restaurant Guide
by Gilles Pudlowski. Translated by Simon Beaver and Lucy Vanel
Little Bookroom
© 2008

Review Pending

 
 
Bonus 103:
A Forkful of San Jose And the South Bay:
The First Definitive Restaurant Guide to San Jose and the South Bay
by Joseph Izzo, Jr.; Douglas Kincaid; Joseph Mangelli
Iszkinelli Publications
© 2004
 

Content Pending

 

 
Bonus 104:
South Bay Hot Plates
by Joseph Izzo, Jr.
JK West Publications
© 1982

Review Pending

 
 
Star Duncan Hines Dining Wining Roll of Honor Bonus 9:
It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time:
My Adventures in Life and Food
by Moira Hodgson
Bantam Doubleday
© 2010

Review Pending

 
 
Bonus 105:
Chicago's Best Restaurants
By Sherman Kaplan
Taylor Trade Publishing; 9th Edition
©2003
 

Content Pending

 
 
Bonus 106:
Recipe for Joy:
A Stepmom's Story of Finding Faith, Following Love, and Feeding a Family
by Robin Davis
Trafalgar Square
© 1996

A food writer's tender love story starting "in sexy San Francisco," home plate for all such careers.

 
75
 
How Italian Food Conquered the World
by John Mariani
Palgrave MacMillan
© 2011
 

Playwright Neil Simon once said there are two universal laws: The law of gravity and everybody likes Italian food. John Mariani agrees.

This title alone is sufficient when one needs an argument. This is not a book of recipes. Italian recipes. This is a travelogue about how Italian fare spread across a world. This is a collection of both glamorous and grim aspects of a simple food accepted by all social levels. If one equates Italian with gangsters and the movies, John Mariani takes you into Perino's, a Hollywood restaurant owned by Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo. There was a bit of gun play there, no blood or violence over the veal, but it left the aura of mobsters throughout the place. Turn one page after Big Tuna and there is Francis Ford Coppola's romanticized mob family headed by The Godfather, Don Corleone.

Flashing back to the movie, writing students should ask themselves, could Copppla's story be told without all the food and restaurant scenes? Coppola killed gangsters in Italian joints. His family dining scenes were textbook primers for wedding planners.

One of the best descriptives of this book is expessed by the author who set the taste tones for wines... writing about California wines besting French pours in a 1976 blind tasting, Judgment of Paris, George Taber, Number 23 in this syllabus: "Mariani offers a full-course menu on the history of Italian cooking. The book has both a solid main course on the changing food through the ages as well as tasty side dishes on Italian wine and the Mediterranean diet.To enjoy it properly, read the book with a glass of Vin Santo and biscotti at your elbow."

Writing tip: Italian cuisine is so abundant and influential in America that it should never be considered as ethnic. There are no geographic boundaries for something Italian here or abroad.

Write it that way.

www.johnmariani.com

 
 
 

Bonus 107:
Entertaining With the Sopranos
Compiled by Carmela Soprano
Written by Allen Rucker
Warner Books
© 2006
 

This book is included only because it makes food obscene. It is a recipe book for people who like to read about recipes, not to prepare them.

Page 104 -- Panna cotta with raspberry sauce and blueberries. Yeah, every kitchen in North America will have all called-for ingredients at one time.

Be advised this is not a teaching text. This is 202 heavy pages of good photography, some of it pretty food preps. Avid fans of Mafia lore bought this book. It was both a promotional instrument for the popular HBO series on how to whack a guy and a bottom line booster for Warner Books.

Page 162 -- Carmela's New Jersey cheesecake. Yeah, again, bet your boutonniere the family never heard of the fabled Carnegie Deli cheesecake. That's New York for any Maxwell Perkins type toiling over these little words positioned to express a complete thought. And, yes, terminated by a period.

There is a fun read factor. Throughout boxed brights appear to break up gray type: Six things not to do on your senior birthday... no age-insulting gifts such as prune juice, Ensure, adult diapers or Viagra... and down through to the sixth... "do get drunk, you don't have that many left." Assume the senior mentioned is as in senior citizen, not a high schooler.

Page 116 -- Octopus salad. An excellent read for all who reached the acquired taste stage for octopus in their formative years, otherwise...

Well, there is some social value to how the Sopranos entertained. The full-page short course on expensive cigars will be of value to writers of novels. Mystery writers should know that all classy murder scenes always have clues such as discarded wrappers from a high-quality Arturo Fuente Hemingway. Only King Edward smokers die in bed. Alone.

A sanitary note: In a chapter, Small Events For Men Only, you will learn that when in a hurry a toilet can be cleaned with two Alka-Seltzer tablets and a can of Coke. Work that into your script the next time you have McDonald's in a storyline. Coke, uppercase, is the menu beverage of choice for corporate Mac.

 
 
 
Bonus 108:
The Art of Greek Cookery
by The Women of St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Church. Illustrations by Art Seiden.
Doubleday
© 1963

Review Pending

 
 
Bonus 109:
Pomp And Sustenance:
Twenty-five Centuries of Sicilian Food
by Mary Taylor Simeti
Alfred A. Knopf
© 1989

Review Pending

 
76
Let's Ask the Cook
by Nan Wiley
Cowles Book Company
© 1970
 

Review Pending

 
 

Bonus 110:
Simple Cooking for the Epicure
by Jean Hamilton Campbell
The Viking Press
© 1949, Fifth Printing edition

Review Pending

 
 
77
The Art of Cooking with Herbs and Spices:
A Handbook of Flavors and Savors
by Milo Miloradovich
Doubleday
© 1954
 

Review Pending

 
 

Bonus 111:
The Seven Ingredients Cookbook
by Ann Roe Robbins
Chilton Book Company
© 1968

Review Pending

 
 
Bonus 112:
Season To Taste
by Peggy Harvey
Knopf Publishing Company
© 1957

Review Pending

 
78
Blueberry Hill MENU Cookbook
by Elsie Masterton
Crowell Publishing New York
© 1964
 

Review Pending