Monday, June 11, 2007

All Around the Blogosphere (or Day of Miscellaney)

Lots going on in the food blog world outside Indianapolis. Here are a few posts and issues of interest to local foodies (or, hey, just me) as we usher in a beautiful summer!

And Make it Snappy: Over at Frank Bruni's blog (Diner's Journal at the NY Times) Marian Burros has a lovely tribute to one of my favorite summer vegetables -- asparagus. Ms. Burros and I see eye-to-eye on cooking this odd looking summer treat which is *just barely*. In my steamer, it needs less than 1 minute to turn bright green and have a crunchy, sweet quality that screams fresh. Perfectly cooked asparagus makes you remember why it's OK to eat it with your fingers. Yum!

Defending the Midwestern Palate: I meant to post about this at the time but was looking for a suitable local tie-in. It never came up, but I know enough people here enjoy ethnic and cutting edge cuisines to appreciate Michael Bauer's post (from his Between Meals blog at SF Gate) and comments. Is there a "midwestern" palate? Whether or not Bauer believes it exists, I'd wager some local chefs believe it. I've often heard local chefs can't serve food as they'd like as they either have to limit spice or unusual ingredients. However, in tasting and judging for competitions like Dine magazine's "Best of", I've also noticed that many chefs aren't afraid of spice and flavor (although they don't always get it right) while others have no idea of the concept. (I was so depressed after we tasted so many bland chicken salads, I didn't even want to post about it.)

Do chefs in Indianapolis feel limited by what dishes they can create based on the spices, flavors, and ingredients their diners will eat? Is there a difference between cooking for your clientele (what sells) versus what your more educated customers believe really tastes good (palate?) Do even our best chefs (like Oakley, Brown, Hardesty, and Benko) have to place limitations on themselves? Is there a midwestern palate?

Ranking Ice Cream Makers: OK, *if* I was going to get another kitchen gadget (and believe me, I don't need one) it would be an ice cream maker! I've had a hankering for a long time to be able to whip up housemade sorbets and trendy ice creams to add an even more elaborate and geeky touch to desserts and dinner parties. But lately, I confess to having peeked at a couple just to get a feeling for how price, size, and capacity are related. (They're not all your mother's wooden tub with the electric motor requiring tons of ice and ice cream salt anymore, thank goodness.) And wouldn't you know it, Slate has beaten me to it with a handy review of 7 models from the low-end Rival Treat Shop ($25 at Target) to the $600 Musso. My choice? The $50 Cuisineart seems like a nice middle-of-the-road solution. You know, *if* I were to decide I could make room for one more appliance. Well, I do have a birthday coming up. (Hint, hint)

Evil or Useful? The Reign of Food Blogs: Adam at Amateur Gourmet has a book coming and early press is focusing on the phenomenon of food blogs and how restaurants react to them. ABC News has the latest article on where food blogs fit increasingly in more prominent roles. Bloggers quoted in the article make some great points (which we've often discussed here): Foodies make their own choices about the critics or bloggers they listen to. If they think you know something they'll listen. If they think you're full of it, they won't. Every blogger is a customer. A food blogger just happens to be a customer with a wider reach and an ability to share their experience. Of course, if you have customers who have a negative experience who *don't* have a blog, don't fool yourself for a second. They're still sharing it with friends.
As for Mario Batali's anti-food blog approach? It's not surprising given Batali's attitude in Bil Buford's book Heat. At one point as Buford interviewed Batali, Mario was stressed due to an upcoming review and negative word of mouth. The word of mouth he was so angry about? A regular (a writer and occasional food journalist) who had had a bad meal/experience and was telling people about it. "This is what happens with regulars," says Joe, Mario's business partner. "They all self-destruct. They expect too much. They forget it's a business. You can never make them happy. All regulars crash and burn." Buford goes on to describe how angry Joe was.

I am still mystified by this attitude (although I know at least one local chef who seems to share it.) Is Mario so driven by the formal review process and so controlling of Babbo's image that he is upset when a *regular* talks about a bad meal? He, dude, it was a *bad meal*. Any customer you have has a right to talk about it. Your regular has even more perspective on the situation. If it was bad enough that he felt compelled to share it, it must have been awful. (All regulars have occasionally off experiences and let them go in the big scheme of things.) I can only imaging how nuts Mario would go over a justifiably bad blog review like the one Adam gave to Le Cirque.

As a chef and owner, either you care about doing great work and serving your customers or you don't. Blogs just give more of your customers a voice. Via Kate at Accidential Hedonist (and her rebuttal.)

A Moment of Silence: Let's all observe a moment of silence today over our breakfast cereal for Pamela Low, the creator of the Cap'n Crunch cereal who died last week. Whether you love the distinctive taste or the unique scrape-the-top-of-your-mouth-off texture, Cap'n Crunch is one of the best of the sugary morning kids creations. Thank Low, who also worked on the flavors for Mounds and Almond Joy. (No word on whether she was responsible for the horrid crunchberries.)

New Books Coming: Ruhlman has a run down on quite a few new food and cooking books coming this summer. The only one I see missing is the new cookbook just out from Clotilde at Chocolate and Zucchini. If beautiful food and food writing is your thing, you'll like this one. And for a completely different take on one of the most difficult culinary schools in the country? Try this: The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School . Maybe all those writers training up there now are starting to hit the market. (Accomplished CIA chefs across the country find themselves oddly twitching in their kitchens not knowing why.)

9 comments:

SCUBAchef said...

Something that ties together both blogs and discussion of the Midwestern palate is the site LTHForum.com, a great food site out of Chicago. It's great how it is more of a community, not just one blogger on-high. They also give great tips on "secret" menus, even translations of all those great not-in-English dishes that we Midwesterners are so afraid of (insert rolly-eyes here).

ArtfulSub said...

Hello,

Great blog here. I've been reading quite a few concerning the Restauranteer Versus Blogger phenomenon. Two things I haven't seen mentioned:

1) It is seldom a surprise when a mainstream media restaurant-reviewer visists a restaurant. Often the restauranteer knows when they'll be arriving and what they'll be ordering.

2) Mainstream reviewers seldom write from the perspective of real diner's experience.

I'm a troll and I wrote this review before I'd learned how to type at blogspot.com. But read bullet-points 1-6. And then google-search for "Real" reviews of Bern's Steakhouse. You'll find they ALL slobber over EXACTLY those things most diners don't care about.

And that doesn't mean diners are unsophisticated. The biggest wine-snob on the planet will find something they like given 700 selections. 7000 selections is, as I point out, meaningless. Yet every mainstream review will gush about those extra 6300 bottles.

http://femdomfuture.blogspot.com/2007/05/over-rated.html

John said...

Tried to find an email to tip you but couldn't.

Was at the Wednesday market today downtown, and Moody Meats has their booth open in City Market! Yay!

SCUBAchef said...

John said...
Moody Meats

Is that the Support Group/Dating Service for the clinically depressed...oh maybe that's Moody Meets (and Bipolar Expeditions)
:-)

CorrND said...

Thanks for the heads up John! I contacted Moody Meats for some info and got this response (thought everybody would like to know):

"We just opened today and are already in the main building. As of right now we are the only store in that part of the building. We are open from 10 - 6 Monday through Friday and 10 - 4 on Saturdays.

Thanks
Chad Hassler
Moody Meats"

braingirl said...

I'd *love* to attend a Moody meeting.

Anonymous said...

No more lunch at L'Explorateur? The lunch menu has dissapeared from their website. Can't say that I'm surprised. The last time I attempted to eat lunch there, the place was empty and we stood around for 5 minutes with no assistance before we left.

Deborah Dowd said...

Of all these tidbits, I am so sad to hear of the death of the Cap'n Crunch inventor. I can't tell my kids, they will be too sad!

Anonymous said...

I think book "Sharper Your Knife" isn't about CIA,but about the Cordon Bleu in Paris... Great blog. I found it researching a story on Ruhlman...