Friday, August 26, 2005

TGIF

it's another great image brought to you by marc, the indian scout of NYCE: "TGIF" done in fruit, specifically asian pears (the T), golden delicious apples (g), braeburns - or are they galas? (i), and strawberries (f). i guess fridays will be an evolving thing but for today TGIF will do, if for no other reason than the first two letters have an inexplicably pleasing quality, n'est-ce pas?

45 Comments:

At August 26, 2005 7:52 AM, Blogger Kirk said...

Very nice logo and, yes, the first two letters are great.

Here's hoping your deadlines go smoothly.

May I suggest a topic? The Dallas Morning Snooze's current restaurant review "stars" policy. This week's crop includes a review of a Tex-Mex place in Plano. Meal prices are listed as $$$ ($25 - $50 per diner); the main attraction appears to be the fact that they make their own tortillas, and the review includes the following description of service:

"ADVENTURES IN ORDERING: We waited awhile to order, then got our main courses less than three minutes after our appetizer. Our server had all the charm and personality of a saguaro cactus, too, but it did seem the surrounding tables had waiters who actually smiled."

The place is rated ***.

What do ** or * imply, then? "** - We hated the food and the manager openly berated diners" and "* - The food made us sick, but insurance covered our ER visit"?

 
At August 26, 2005 8:07 AM, Anonymous diners club said...

Those star ratings are a joke. EVERYTHING gets 3 stars. I don't pay any attention. I just look to see what is new or has opened.

 
At August 26, 2005 8:45 AM, Blogger Scott--DFW said...

There is some star-inflation at times. My complaint isn't with the system, really, but its application. Two things in particular:

1) The stars are generally applied in a classist fashion. Restaurants aren't judged by how good they are for *what* they are. There's an unstated hierarchy in which fine dining (or even feeble aspirations to such) trumps all. You could do the best Tex-Mex or barbecue in the world, but you'd never get 5 stars. But roll out a half-assed lamb chop and, regardless of the quality of meat or preparation, you'll never get less than 3 stars (and there's almost a presumption of 4). As a consequence, you have all the restaurants of a given style clustered around each other in the rankings, making the stars meaningless--especially given complaint #2.

2) There's no unifying perspective. Some reviewers are freer and some stingier with stars. There's no effort to tie it all together and make sure a particular restaurant's star rating fits within the broader constellation. For instance, Nicola's (in Plano), Cool River Cafe (Irving), 1717 (Downtown), Riccardi's (Quadrangle), and Nobu (Uptown) have all earned 4 stars for food in the past few weeks. Are all these restaurants equal? I don't buy it. A couple of weeks ago, Manny's got 2.5 stars, putting it below several locations of Chipotle (which got 3 stars). Is that right? In almost any week, there'll be examples of star ratings that seem to show no meaningful relation to prior rankings. That makes them a lot less helpful.

Scott

 
At August 26, 2005 9:16 AM, Anonymous diners club said...

You never see the News hand out 1 or 2 stars. They're terrified of offending advetisers. That takes all the tooth of out their "criticism."

 
At August 26, 2005 9:55 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Whenever I review things I hate using the stars system or giving it some kind of number rating.

 
At August 26, 2005 10:17 AM, Anonymous Dean said...

Hasn't this topic been covered already by Nancy's D Magazine article last December?

 
At August 26, 2005 10:41 AM, Anonymous diner club said...

Wasn't D story about a lawsuit? I'll say one good thing for stars: They save you the trouble of reading boring reviews

 
At August 26, 2005 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who has reviewed for the News, I know the difficulty and imperfections of its star system. I agree it could be improved on. However, some of your points are not valid.

1) Would you really give a hole-in-wall bbq joint the same rating as a beautifully appointed place with full service, deep wine list, and a complex and well-executed menu? Even if the brisket is fantastic, realistic diners wouldn't expect -- or probably not even want -- a five-star experience at the bbq joint.

2) The News seldom gives a 1 or 2 star rating because if a small place -- such as a neighborhood Tex-Mex or pizza joint --is so bad, most often it just isn't reviewed. What would be the point of pointing out a spot few people know about and then warning everyone to stay away? The owner is just trying to make a living, and if he or she can't get it together, the place will die on its own. Low ratings HAVE been given to heavily promoted and advertised places, however. They called attention to themselves and probably they have had some mention in the paper, so its only fair to give readers a report. So note: the places that buy ads are the MOST LIKELY to get panned.

Restaurant reviewing is different from movie reviewing. Most often, you are dealing with the livlihood of real people, not some mega corp. Also, movies don't change from day to day. A restaurant's food or service can vary wildly from visit to visit.

 
At August 26, 2005 11:22 AM, Anonymous Dean said...

Partly it was Diner(s). The rest examined the star system. Go back and check it out. At around the same time, Nancy did an eGullet forum. Some of these same issues were raised therein.

I agree totally with you. I use stars to filter out the places I won't want to go. In my experience, I have found a correlation between the stars and the place. I just have done, and it's probably because I don't really care if a hole in the wall in south Oak Cliff and a gourmet place in Uptown both get four stars(different catergories, different reviewers, different ratings, oftentimes done years apart). Places aren't pitted against each other and it's not my job to reconcile the reasoning of the reviewers. Rather, I'll read a review, and if I like what I read, I'll go to a place. If not, I may still go. It's a personal decision.

If you take it for what it's worth (and use stars as a filter--as I've always done) then the star system serves its purpose, to me at least.

It's not the News' (or any critic or reviewer's) job to make people happy. It's one person's opinion. Everyone's free to disagree. I find the star system helpful. Others may not.

 
At August 26, 2005 11:37 AM, Anonymous ms.ery said...

As tg pointed out the other day, at least the News and D mag SIGN their reviews. If you follow the reviews long enough, you should know which reviewers inflate stars and which ones are too critical. You probably also will figure out which critics you are most apt to agree with.

 
At August 26, 2005 11:41 AM, Anonymous Dean said...

Ms. ery, I can attest to that because I read a review yesterday (and I won't say which one, but TG knows) where the reviewer and I had almost identical experiences. Now, whether that makes me the smartest person in the world, or the reviewer, is a question for another day! Suffice to say, I'll keep reading this person's reviews (until they disagree with me of course, he, he).

 
At August 26, 2005 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if it still does, but the NY Times used to try almost every dish on the menu at least once before writing a major review. (I also don't know if this policy is true for the small "cheap eats" types of reviews they do.) Thus the critic had to make many visits, often taking along lots of people. Probabnly this explains why Bryan Miller once apparently mixed up his notes about two places. Among other things, the lengthy correction that resulted noted that place X did not have wall paper in the dining room and had never served certain dishes.

 
At August 26, 2005 11:57 AM, Blogger Tom Cruise said...

I use a star system to rate my women. Let's compare nicole and my darling katie.

Nicole: unreviewable.

Katie:
Food: *
Atmosphere: *
Service: **********

Plus, we can wear the SAME CLOTHES! That really cinched the deal for me. But that bitch better never even think about touching my Scarlett O'Hara outfit.

 
At August 26, 2005 12:02 PM, Anonymous charlotte ruse said...

I would think that eating the whole menu would give the critic more authority. but it could sometimes be a huge task -- and expensive.

On the other hand, I imagine critics who have to write after only one or two visits must orry that they may have just ordered the wrong things or gone on an off day.

 
At August 26, 2005 12:10 PM, Anonymous D.c. said...

Anonymous - no offense but what is this mealy-mouothed business about not wanting to put a bad restaurant out of business? Why SHOULDN'T a reviewer warn customers away from a bad place? I don't get that logic AT ALL. If you really want to make yourself feel better (becuase that's what this is about, right), the review could HELP by offering criticism.

 
At August 26, 2005 12:34 PM, Anonymous peanut gallery said...

Where's TG with one of those clever links for the definition of of "mealy mouthed". That little baby is as cute as could be.

 
At August 26, 2005 1:01 PM, Anonymous jess truhart said...

remember when mimi sheraton took a leave of absence as the nyt critic because she needed to lose 100 pounds? she is still one of the best food writers around

 
At August 26, 2005 1:06 PM, Anonymous Dean said...

Fay Maschler has been the restaurant critic for the London Evening Standard for 33 years and has had many stories to tell.

Also, has anyone read Ruth Reichl's book about her experiences?

 
At August 26, 2005 1:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

d.c. i'm talking about a small place that doesn't advertise and is probably in an out-of-they-way location so that most DMN readers would never run across it on their own. it depends on drawing customers from the nearby area; if they like it, they will go back. if they don't, the restaurant will probably fail on its own, or maybe it will make some changes and eventually succeed. the owner may have his or her life savings invested in it, and the News doesn't need to kill it.

Also, say the restaurant is in mesquite, why should the DMN use the space to tell readers in plano and carrollton and everywhere else to stay away from it? don't you think the space is better used to tell readers about a tiny asian place in, say, garland that is worth seeking out?

reviewing restaurants is much more complicated -- and less fun -- than the general public realizes.

 
At August 26, 2005 1:20 PM, Anonymous ms.ery said...

i heard reichel interviewed re the book on "fresh air." mostly she talked about her disguises, and she was even tacky enough to reveal that her dowdy older woman disguise was based on an actual person -- whom she followed from a bus so that she could learn her name. then she used the same name, so one hopes ms. dowdy doesn't read the book.

 
At August 26, 2005 1:21 PM, Anonymous ms.ery said...

emmmjay: just because tg is off today, you shouldn't make yourself scarce

 
At August 26, 2005 2:19 PM, Blogger emmmjay said...

I don't come in when I have nothing to say.
And I have nothing to say, so as you can see, I am staying out. :-)

 
At August 26, 2005 3:30 PM, Blogger TS said...

tg...

have a lovely weekend. and, by all means, read this oldie but a goodie...

http://www.slate.com/id/2073580/

a film critic's take on zagat...

"The larger problem with this cut-and-paste idea of criticism is that it neatly trims individual responses to works of art into tidy little homogenized packages, which have the effect of making movies seem even more like products than they already do. It's sad to think that the quintessential Zagat couple will tonight order in "reliable" Chinese food (16) and settle down to watch A Man and a Woman (24), a "romance par excellence." Perhaps in years to come Zagat will offer a survey for what comes after. Try "cunnilingus" (23). "A "wonderful way" to show her "you'll do anything." "You won't leave hungry!""

 
At August 26, 2005 3:50 PM, Blogger Twisted Link said...

Cunnilingus should have a two-tiered ratings system. One number for each party involved. What may be good for the goose might not be good for the gander and vice versa.

 
At August 26, 2005 4:26 PM, Blogger BK said...

Thanks Twisted! This TGIF thing was getting entirely tooooo civilized.

It's even kept the dog away... or else he's still busy scarfing his cat sausage...

 
At August 26, 2005 5:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

one more point: you knock the way the News hands out stars, then you say you use them as a "filter." i have heard many people brag they won't go to any restaurant that doesn't get at least 3 stars. there are 2-1/2 star places that have specialties that make them worth a visit, and frankly, when i reviewed one of these places, i always upped the stars to 3 if it was at all possible to justify it. it would get what i call a "weak 3" review, emphasizing that the place has some negatives, rather than a more positive "strong 2-1/2" review I would have preferred to write but that would have meant the place would be automatically dismissed by many readers

i hope you understand what i'm trying to explain, and will start checking out the actual review on some of those lower-rated places.

really hate that tg doesn't have the time today to lend her expertise on this, but than her for the zagat item. haven't seen zagat guides but their restaurant guides are little more than a handy, almost current directory with address and phone numbers (but no hours) you can't rate restaurants by write-in polls without ballot stuffing

 
At August 26, 2005 5:38 PM, Anonymous Dean said...

Wait a sec anonymous, I've not knocked the star ratings system. I said I'm in favor of it and find it most usual.

 
At August 26, 2005 6:02 PM, Anonymous Dean said...

Reichl's not the only person to resort to disguises you know. I've read people in this town have done so as well. That's gotta suck, having to go eat at a place wearing (for example) a wig, hat, and glasses!

 
At August 26, 2005 6:29 PM, Blogger Twisted Dog said...

OH, I DO THAT ALL THE TIME.

 
At August 26, 2005 10:08 PM, Blogger TG said...

hey hi!!!! i'm ready to add some comments now! where'd everybody go? let's get this party started! hellooo!

Anonymous, wish i could take credit for the zagat link but that's a ts, as in our new-best-friend/blog tristram.shandy

 
At August 26, 2005 11:21 PM, Anonymous red ennk said...

tg: what would you think about being a restaurant critic in london for 33 years? might have come across some good indian food, but otherwise, yech!

 
At August 26, 2005 11:22 PM, Anonymous jess truhart said...

tg: assume you made all you deadlines and we can look forward to some good reviews/stories. it is late now, but i will check saturday or sunday to see if you have commented on restaurant reviewing. you insider perspective is sorely needed.

 
At August 26, 2005 11:24 PM, Anonymous ms.ery said...

yeah, jess, and maybe she has also discovered a new starbucks or 7-11 she can clue us onto

 
At August 26, 2005 11:33 PM, Anonymous Dean said...

Don't knock London cuisine, it's getting a lot better. And yeah, great Indian food!

 
At August 27, 2005 9:59 AM, Anonymous ms.ery said...

Salon.com has a great, semi-foody hed today: "Chickenhawk: the other right meat"

 
At August 27, 2005 12:16 PM, Anonymous red ennk said...

hey, ms.ery, when i went to salon to see the story, i had to watch a promo for hbo's "rome" to get a free visit to the site. weird graphics: the streets of rome appear to be paved with chocolate chip cookies over a strawberry puree!

 
At August 27, 2005 3:38 PM, Anonymous Dean said...

I had a strawberry-cream cheese filled pastry type thingy from la Madeleine this morning. And they did lunch from there too. It was pretty good!

 
At August 28, 2005 9:57 PM, Blogger Scott--DFW said...

Anonymous,

You write, "Would you really give a hole-in-wall bbq joint the same rating as a beautifully appointed place with full service, deep wine list, and a complex and well-executed menu?"

Yes. There needs to be a way to acknowledge excellence in every style of food--not just upscale New American. And a policy that, a priori, relegates indigenous specialties (e.g., barbecue and Tex-Mex) and non-European ethnic cuisines to 3-star hell doesn't do that. And it doesn't serve the reader. The community of wealth and food geekery is a fairly small subset of the DMN readership (which is itself a small subset of the Dallas population). The average guy on the street doesn't know who Dean Fearing, Kent Rathbun, or Avner Samuel are. The average guy hasn't eaten at their restaurants and probably never will. So why gear the whole ratings system to issue pats on the back to the biggest fine-dining fish in Dallas's small pond and snub everyone else?

I'm no rabid populist. But I think there needs to be an effective way to distinguish, for example, bad Tex-Mex from mediocre Tex-Mex from really good Tex-Mex. The one-two punch of (a) a zillion different reviewers with different standards (and levels of expertise in the cuisine) and (b) an artificially compressed range of possible scores makes the stars useless.

You write, "Even if the brisket is fantastic, realistic diners wouldn't expect -- or probably not even want -- a five-star experience at the bbq joint."

Right. But this only becomes a problem when you're comparing apples to oranges. A barbecue joint shouldn't be *expected* to walk up to the same standards as a would-be Mobil 5-star restaurant. They're different categories of dining experience. And that's not to say the food or even the overall dining experience is "better" at one or the other. Each has its place. And, within the respective categories, there's a range of quality. Why should the best barbecue joint in the world be held down to 3 or 3.5 stars because it doesn't have a deep wine list or cloth handtowels in the bathroom, while a truly mundane New American place gets an easy 4 stars?

Take a music analogy. Suppose all music were judged on a 5-star scale. And suppose, in its application, the ratings were guided by a built-in prejudice in favor of a certain style, such as classical. How useful would the ratings be if all rock albums from the most middling to the truly legendary were stuck in the 2.5 to 3.5 range--especially if the majority of readers of the rating publication were rock fans who rarely, if ever, listened to classical music (and, of those who were classical fans, most were casual listeners of only the most accessible material out there)?

Scott

 
At August 29, 2005 9:53 AM, Anonymous Dean said...

Scott, I'll have to disagree. There are many non "fine dining" restaurants that have received (DMN) four stars. Take for example, Cafe Istanbul or Cafe Madrid. Neither of these are black napkin or heavy wine list places with famous chefs, but each has four stars.

Also, what about East Wind, Fusion, and Naan? These aren't "New American" but non European ethnic restaurants having four stars. Then there's Vermilion and Rouge; both four star rated.

Granted, not every place we might like to see receive four or five stars actually does, but then, we're not the ones reviewing them.

Like I've said, a review, is a review, is a review. It's one person's opinion. Like it, or don't like it. You can't force someone to give a better rating to an establishment just because you would have.

That's what you have a website for (which I frequently check to see what I might want to eat at). I'll even give you're site four stars. There, better?

 
At August 29, 2005 1:49 PM, Anonymous E.B. White said...

Dean:

You are a loathsome boor whose arrogance is surpassed only by his ignorance.

 
At August 29, 2005 1:51 PM, Anonymous Dean said...

I'd love to respond, I really would, but I'm too stupid to understand what you're saying.

 
At August 29, 2005 2:07 PM, Anonymous Wallace Stevens said...

Your ignorance is your chief asset.

 
At November 28, 2005 10:10 AM, Blogger job opportunitya said...

I peep the web for blogs just like this one.
Airtight blog. Your site was off the chain and I will
return!
Hey son, you need to check out my penis plastic surgery blog!

 
At December 03, 2005 8:50 PM, Blogger job opportunitya said...

Inspiring blog. I love finding blogs this good on
the internet, when I have the time. I'm going to go
back to it!
Please consider looking at my bad plastic surgery blog.

 
At December 08, 2005 6:49 PM, Blogger job opportunitya said...

Exciting blog. Your site was amazing and will be
back again! I never get tired of looking for blogs
just like this one.
I hope you had a chance to check out my plastic surgery loan blog.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home