Monday, February 05, 2007

Biting Commentary?

Reader and pal David Z. pointed us to a piece in Sunday's NY Times about food bloggers who provide pointed criticism, news tidbits, and a fair amount of snark -- and how refreshing it is. (Don't even start that I didn't get through the Sunday NY Times. I have a life.)

According to their article titled Sharp Bites:

There is a new food game in the city that never stops grazing. A proliferation of blogs treating every menu revision, construction permit, clash of egos and suspiciously easy-to-get reservation as high drama is changing the rules of the restaurant world and forcing everyone from owners to chefs to publicists to get used to the added scrutiny.

Diners hungry for the next, the newest, the best, and with no patience to wait for the annual Zagat Guide, are benefiting.

Unlike an earlier wave of food blogs focused on home cooking, recipes and basic restaurant recommendations, the new breed is gossipy and competitive; it trafficks in pointed restaurant criticism and tidbits of news — Craftsteak has installed a new stove! Emmerite beans have been added to the menu at Tasting Room! — and is unsettling the ground of the restaurant industry.

Check out the article for links to lots of fun blogs and more info on Adam Roberts, one of my favorite bloggers at Amateur Gourmet, and some of his new projects. Those frustrated by the "no negative reviews" policies at our local news weeklies in town will appreciate that his blogging started after a thrash on eGullet when he posted a negative review. Of course, not everyone is happy. At least one chef in the article believes bloggers can be hurtful reviewing a restaurant on a short stay or mere 30 minutes of service. But guess what, many of your customers are judging you on exactly the same thing! If they can't get in, if your hostesses throw attitude, or if they just are turned off by the food or atmosphere, they're not going to come back -- and you're never going to know why! (Worse, they will tell their friends.) Newer foodies can be intimidated and many of them aren't as assertive or willing to point out when something isn't working. New York restaurants have been trading on that assumption for years. Certainly, one has to know what one is talking about in order to make some critical assessments, but readers appreciate a view that's willing to point out the good and the bad.

Indianapolis isn't quite on Zagat's radar screen, but that doesn't mean we don't have our fair share of foodies who want to know the latest on who's who and what's what in town. (So far there are about 250 a day who read this particular blog.) Contrary to what they may say in New York, I don't think getting foodies more involved in restaurants, food, and chef gossip is "unsettling the ground of the restaurant industry". If anything, having patrons more interested in what's going on, menu changes, news, gossip, and even snark keeps them coming in -- and seeing if they disagree. Indy may be lacking in the sheer number of great restaurants, but we're not behind the times when it comes to food blogging. Snark on!


sgillie said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence. Your blog,and all the others you've linked to, have become my favorites, providining entertaining reading, information and thought-provoking ideas.

Sorry for the misspelling of your name. I meant to "fact check" it, but I knocked it out before going to work. A cook cannot be late. It's been corrected.

I'm in favor of snarky blogs. The restaurant business is not for sissies. Pointing out the obvious will only improve the quality in our little town.

braingirl said...

Welcome! And thanks for the nice words. Wade on in, the water's fine. I love blogging because it's opinion not reporting. It's OK to have opinions, and what better to have opinions about than food! We don't all agree and that's OK because there's plenty for everyone. I look forward to your columns -- and thanks for reading!

And you're so right -- the restaurant business is not for the faint of heart. Here's the ass-kicking chefs out there.

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts. What I like about the whole blog world is that there are no rules. A given blogger can do what she or he wishes. I don't typically do negative reviews because that is not really my gig. I'm trying to let others know about what I like in hopes that some of them might like it too. For every place I eat and like there are probably two where I eat and don't write about because it either sucked or was unremarkable.


Anonymous said...

I heard Steven Oakley criticized L'Explorateurs menu by saying "Pop rocks are not an ingredient". Wow, it really would be fun to have that kind of gossip floating around...<-----jumps off soapbox.