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November 10, 2008

Well writing about food is certainly more fun that writing on business. Once again, change I can believe in...

The first place that I looked for food coverage was the Star Tribune, not because I'm being lazy as usual, but because I thought it would be pragmatic to learn about local restaurants if I intend to fulfill the effete latte sipping role that's been assigned to me and so many other Americans. The article I found was called "Urban Renewal" and it was about a restaurant called La Chaya Bistro in south Minneapolis. The first thing I noticed was that the photos were gorgeous. I was greeted to a vibrant shot of halibut wrapped in banana leaves. Even if the review had slammed the place, the photo would have been an endorsement enough to go check it out. The restaurant is a corner bistro that serves Latino and Italian food (but not together...as the article humorously implies, we're all a little tired of fusion for the sake of fusion). Not much of the article was actually focused on the food, only briefly touching upon a few soups that were ordered by the author. Instead most of the review is concerned with the restaurant's aesthetic qualities, specifically mentioning how much better the world is that the restaurant replaced a Kentucky Fried Chicken. There are a few biting quips that made it chuckle-worthy, but all in all, it was too short to really get a good picture of the quality. It reminded me of capsule movie reviews where 90 percent of the article is plot regurgitation with little actual opinion.

Hoping for more substance and deflating wit, I went to the New York Times. I knew I was in for wonder when the review I found was a 1 star review with a "good" description next to it. In a world where 4 stars is starting to mean nothing, I love that the NYTimes holds back. The restaurant is Bobo, and the review immediately anthropomorphizes the restaurant and places it as a high schooler on the first day of school, which automatically makes this more interesting than the last one I read. Phrases like "self-impressed," and "predictable avacado" inspire me to unleash my inner-bitch which is what I feel an entertaining negative review should do. My favorite line is this, "If you asked what it meant, you were told that it was shorthand for the confluence of bohemian spirit and bourgeois success. And you winced, especially if you learned as well that the restaurant’s owner, Carlos Suarez, had dubbed its energy-efficient, recycling-sensitive ethos “coco,? for “collective conscious.?
Soul-crushing! Needlessly wordy! I'm in love.
There are some praises for the restaurant, but the main concept is that it isn't good enough to be as pretentious as it is, which is semi-ironic coming from the sacred vestige of hoity-toity that is the New York Times. There is an anecdote about Bobo being out of a $62 bottle of wine and the recommendation given in place being over $110 with no discount despite being out of all fairly priced wines. I thought it gave a good picture of the place's atmosphere. Also, it mentioned many dishes and was very very in-depth. But Lord, I feel like John Q. American might like film critics better if they read food reviews more often.

Finally I went back to Minneapolis and to City Pages for my last review. I was attracted by the opening line of one review which states, "What makes a Caesar salad worth $19? Seriously, I'm asking. Lettuce grown in Frank Gehry-designed greenhouses and sprinkled with Voss water?" Yes, plz. Later it says "I was glad I'd asked for the anchovies—two flat fillets laid across the lettuce heap like they'd stretched out for a nap—because the anemic salad dressing lacked any of its characteristic pungency" The wordplay is great, the message is well-received, and if anything, everyone loves making fun of bougies, even if we all secretly strive to be them. The restaurant is steakhouse Manny's, and it gets torn a new one. Garlic bread is described as being like a pumice stone and the steak is compared to a bloody napkin. Oddly enough, they like the dinner menu a week later and claim the audacity of Manny's to be a selling point. I have to say the abrupt switch in tone and supposed quality confused me, but I can't say I wasn't entertained by the more conversational writing. I don't know food that well, but I still enjoyed reading about it.

I'm scared to go somewhere good for my assignment because it's obviously much easier, and much more fun, to write something negative.