Thursday, February 15, 2007

Crank. Eeee!

I hereby declare this crankypants Thursday. Maybe it's the VD hangovers?


The first thing that's pissing people off is small plates, and the fact that restaurants that sell food in the small plate format STILL think it's OK to bring a dozen small plates to the table at the same time, or in an otherwise unpredictable sequence, even though the small plate trend has been with us for some time now.

Close Michael Bauer readers know that this has become almost an old saw for him, and if you carefully read old mid-1990s reviews of places like Thirsty Bear and Cesar you can see that service was a very early thorn on the small-plates rose. Even Cesar's Chez Panisse service culture couldn't help but "border on rude," in Bauer's words.

Now, food writer Catherine Nash informs us that at least one small plates place still doesn't seem to get it -- Circa brought her 10 small plates within 5 minutes, earning a downgrade to "let down" from "loved it."

The things we have to put up with ... sheesh!


Speaking of the Chronicle, former Contra Costa Times food critic John Birdsall has declared a jihad against one of the Chron's food writers from his new qaeda at the East Bay Express.

Taking a break from writing like a crazy person and barking orders at the elected government of Berkeley, Birdsall put Valentine's Day to chillingly effective use, sending orders through the Internet to his agents in Bay Area food media that the Chron's Marlena Spieler is never to work in this town -- ever -- again.

Happy Valentine's Day, Marlena! John Birdsall thinks you're "probably a really nice person!" And he's declared a fatwa against you to prove how much he cares!

With a long bloody chef's knife possibly next to the keyboard as he typed, Birdsall explained that the fatwa is no big deal, just probably related to Spieler's horrifying, detached, painted face as depicted by Chronicle graphics fiends, and the human charcuterie the Chron recently attached to her severed head, plus perhaps the just slightly terrifying hellscape of acid-trip iconography inserted next to her copy to set the mood.

Plus, Birdsall knows a way better writer at his old newspaper, and this other one who has a buzz cut and everything, plus she's a chef and we all know good chefs automatically make great food writers! She's already won over the entire Express editorial staff (by giving interviews?) and they wholeheartedly endorse her, if only to get out of the broom closet where they ("we") are still cowering in mortal fear of Spieler's VDay visage!

(To be less unfair, this other writer actually has a blog you can go read and that at first blush appears half decent.)

Oh, and apparently scary Spieler lives in Australia or Newfoundland or something instead of the San Francisco Bay Area. Whatever -- hasn't Birdsall heard of the Chronicle Foreign Service? It's sort of like the BBC, but without the accents, and underwritten by Hearst instead of British taxpayers. Apparently Bronstein thought it up when he realized there was no other way to get international news in San Francisco.


Having had enough of all this crankiness, particularly of the "hit piece" sort by writers from a certain SmartMoney magazine, Michael Bauer defends his former dinner dates Tim and Nina Zagat against charges of grade inflation, saying that while Tim and Nina might awkwardly fight about the check in front of him, they put out an "influential, useful guide" that's no worse than Chowhound or eGullet. Even if 70 percent of Zagat Guide restaurants now get a once-coveted rating of 20 or better.


Covers, actually, isn't feeling particularly cranky. It's actually been fun summarizing all of this mud, plus I'm still glowing from a Valentine home dinner of lamb, Van Der Heyden 02 Cab and Recchiuti chocolate purloined from its rightful owner.

But if I had to complain, I'd put my crank in the form of a question, you know? Because have you noticed? On CNET's food blog? How about every third post ends in a question? Do you think they're trying to drive up traffic? Or more just trying to get the readers to do all the work?

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Blogger C(h)ristine said...

I haven't noticed, but now that you bring it up, it is quite a pain! It's really annoying, you know?

February 15, 2007 6:26 PM  
Blogger Davina Baum said...

if using more question marks served to drive up traffic, we would rejoice.

February 16, 2007 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

I'm loving your new blog!

February 19, 2007 9:41 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

I met Marlena once and she is an absolute hoot - her pieces usually make me chuckle and sometimes I need a laugh.

I also know Shuna very well, and unless she has been to the barber in the last few weeks she hasn't had a buzz cut in quite some time.
I am a fan, but it is seldom she makes me laugh like Marlena can. Shuna makes me think in other ways.

These two writers/people are like chalk and cheese and on any page in my personal book there is welcome space for the both of them.

February 19, 2007 11:36 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

PS about the cnet blog - In the past I have asked valid questions on some of their posts. that drove up traffic for a while because I returned several times to see if they'd answered them. they never did before I gave up.

February 19, 2007 11:42 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Thanks Elizabeth! Christine, I like how you end the comment with a question ... knowadimean? ;->

Davina, fight the good fight. I sort of forced myself to come up with something to complain about. Though there _have_ been a lot of items ending with "Anyone else _______?" or "What's YOUR ______?" but a two way dialog beats the one way dialog of a newspaper, right?

Sam, your positivity is out of place on Crankypants Thursday ... in other words, a breath of fresh air... and did you notice I am even DRYer then when you first reviewed me? I have EMBRACED my dryness in hopes of becoming an honorary Londoner some day.

February 19, 2007 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Steve Poole said...

Here's that Smart Money article on Zagat, in case anyone still cares. Just found it:

February 21, 2007 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Steve Poole said...

Oops. The link keeps getting truncated. Here it is broken up:

February 21, 2007 10:11 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Thanks Steve!

Click here for the SmartMoney Zagat story.

(Making an HTML link tag is apparently the best way to do links on Blogger. Kind of annoying, I agree.)

February 21, 2007 10:21 AM  

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