Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oakland hipster slams restaurant in RECORD TIME, so John Birdsall is now obsolete

Flora, a cute little restaurant in downtown Oakland, has been open for approximately four hours, so of course it has already been declared DEAD AND PASSE AND LAME by a snide local hipster who has better taste in restaurants than you, because you live on the wrong side of the Caldecott Tunnel and work in an office and are probably wearing Dockers.

Kevin Cook, food writer at, hasn't actually been to Flora, but he has read another writer's blog about when she went to Flora earlier this afternoon, and he has already had it up to here with the restaurant, which he vows to never visit again, or ever, since he's never actually been in the first place.

Based on seven pictures and a 193-word review, Cook declared, in the comments of course, the following:
I will never understand why a place like flora attracts anyone. I don’t care how new the kitchen staff is–making a decent vinaigrette shouldn’t take any practice or time for a professional. Tuna melt? Come on, this place sounds like an upscale togos for the walnut creet office worker lunch crowd.
To recap: Kevin Cook does not understand why Flora does not throw in the towel and shut down and admit it's over, already, since it has managed to ruin its reputation in the four hours it has been open by making a bad vinaigrette and, uh, serving sandwiches, to people who work in offices. And possibly live in Walnut Creek. Ew.

This is the glorious future of food criticism, which shows why reviews printed on dead trees by so-called professionals who secretly love sandwiches and Contra Costa County and cubicles are now obsolete forever, oh holy god I want John Birdsall back they laid him off I didn't want to tell you but there it is The End.

(Seriously, the East Bay Express laid off Birdsall and six other staffers, including Kara Platoni.)

A Better Oakland: Flora opens tonight! (Updated with pictures)

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Blogger Kevin Cook said...

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for taking my comments to heart. I do believe that I have better taste in restuarants and food than most people on either side of the Tunnel, but I don't really care one way or another whether Flora survives or not. In fact, I'd bet the place does quite nicely with or without my patronage.

I like sandwiches too, but I prefer to bring my own to my office cubicle--which I really don't like. I don't have much need to go to a restaurant for local albacore as I have a connection to fishermen who can their own. In any case, the combination of fish and cheese is an abomination in my opinion.

I'm guilty of finding the genre of restaurant Flora represents to be boring, but that's why I don't review restaurants for Novometro. I'm just not that interested in writing about this kind of place. In fact, when I began writing for Novometro, I used Birdsall's reviews in the Express as an example of exactly what I didn't want to do.

I do find it inexcusable that the vinaigrette was bad--if Vsmoothe is right about that. It simply isn't difficult to do correctly.

It's true that I wrote what I did in the comments section--but where else would I do it? If anyone recognizes my name and connects it with my pieces for Novometro are they really going to avoid Flora on the strength of my admittedly flippant comments? I doubt it, but if you think that my pieces for NM carry enough weight with readers than maybe I should come up with some lame internet handle to avoid hurting anyone's business.

Perhaps I am the future of food criticism, but it's unlikely. What isn't the future of food criticism is weekly print reviews of mid-level restaurants that feature predictable fare. What the hell makes someone qualified to be a restaurant critic anyway? It certainly isn't journalism school. I'm sorry your feeling professionally threatened by supposedly unqualified internet writers, but as a writer for the Business Times, I'm sure that you appreciate how the market works.

On another note, why are hipsters always local? Is anyone ever called an out of town hipster?

And tell me, would you really be caught dead in Dockers?

November 07, 2007 5:33 PM  
Anonymous V Smoothe said...

Kevin -

What, you don't trust my judgment?

Also, you might be interested to learn that some people are not hermits and enjoy being social and sharing meals with other people. That's why they go to restaurants instead of eating alone in a cube.

November 07, 2007 6:23 PM  
Anonymous Johnny Z. said...

So, I was V's date, ordering the loathsome tuna melt (and yesterday I wore Dockers! In black, of course). I'm sure they have many other options, only some of which a gourmand could easily source himself.

Anyhow, Flora's sleek and sexy Art Deco bar perfectly complements the ornate building. Perhaps uninspired lunch fare is one of the DTO's defining traits, but Mr. Cook shouldn't take it personally.

November 07, 2007 7:00 PM  
Blogger postacademic said...

So I went to Flora opening night: my critique would be that the menu is unfocused and kind of Bay Wolfian, i.e. boring seasonal Cal-Itali-Med: swordfish or pasta or duck or shortribs. The radicchio / apple / pomegranite / blue cheese salad was all over the place. We liked the cheese fries (we really liked the cheese fries), but ultimately I felt like I'd eaten two sticks of butter, gained two pounds, and had no real food pleasure.

Would it have been better with alcohol? (no licence as of Wed. night)

But I love the space and I'm going to go back and sit at the bar and try to meet handsome intellectuals. And the staff was super-nice. But as far as eating fat foods, I'll stick to my true love, Mr. Carnitas, at Dona Tomas.

November 09, 2007 2:58 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Kevin, I think you should reconsider whether you're really "just not interested" in writing about places you've never set foot in. Think of the creative freedom!!1!

November 14, 2007 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Kevin Cook:

I agree that a making a good vinaigrette isn't difficult and am surprised that any restaurant would open without having execution of such basic menu elements firmly in order.

By the same token, it is not difficult to write a candid restaurant review that accurately conveys a less than stellar dining experience without resorting to condescension and name calling.

The Walnut Creek area clearly doesn't have the variety of high caliber restaurants in all price ranges that is found west of the Caldecott, but it does have a few standouts -- Le Bistro & Prima in WC and Amarin Thai in Lafayette, among others. (You and other more refined foodies may not agree.)

Beyond that, there are people in every zip code who are very content with food I'd consider mediocre at best. For example, a University of California colleague of mine who lives and works in Oakland complained that Applebee's was going to be closed for Thanksgiving. To me, going there any day of the year would be a dismal prospect, but on Thanksgiving?

I just can’t fathom that establishment and its kin as a holiday/any day meal destination, but then I also can’t fathom posting online a restaurant critique for a venue I’d never visited, no matter how much I trusted the surrogate reviewer. Not sure why a writer who clearly has some name recognition through Novometro would yield the power of his own pen.

Walnut Creek soccer mom (whose appreciation for good food whether from Oakland “dive” Juanita’s to the French Laundry in Yountville doesn’t interfere with enjoying the occasional tuna melt)

November 29, 2007 5:06 PM  
Blogger Jim H said...

Mr. Cook sounds like the Aidin Vaziri of food writing. He'll probably take that as a compliment . . . . but it's not.

December 10, 2007 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Kevin Cook,

Whats the difference between a tool and a douchebag?

A. A hipster?

get a life douche-tool-bag.

February 07, 2010 4:41 PM  

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