Friday, January 25, 2013

Forager Jenna Rozelle, Podcast

My interview with professional Forager Jenna Rozelle @JennaRozelle recorded at Moxy restaurant @MoxyNH located in Portsmouth, NH courtesy of Chef Matt Louis @mlmoxy .

Jenna forages for many incredible chefs across the country and right here on the coast of New England. With foraging, local and sustainable food making its presence known in the industry I thought it would be fun to sit down and talk with someone who's doing something humans have done since the dawn of man, but are thankfully rediscovering. I'm personally happy Jenna and people like her are doing what they're doing for the industry....if only to keep me from getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.

Chefs interested in getting product lists Jenna can be reached via Twitter @JennaRozelle

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Waiting for My Reviewer Card

When going to a restaurant I’m going to review, my hope is that I will get exactly the service I deserve. The restaurant by its very existence is saying, “hey we’re doing some good things here, come in and see!” They have in theory put systems and practices in place designed to make the diners experience an enjoyable one. If they haven’t done this then shame on them, and via my review they will get what they have coming to them.

I don’t tell my server that I’m a reviewer/blogger anymore than Pete Wells tells a restaurant he’s from The New York Times. The difference between Pete Wells and me is that his reviews are seen by something akin to every man woman and child living in the entire country of Germany every month, and I’m lucky to get mine seen by the entire population of Paris…Maine. 

From a review standpoint however I think it puts me in a better situation to get the true experience of what the restaurant is offering. Pete Wells is getting his butt kissed from the time he walks in until the time he leaves with no detail being overlooked. I’m getting less attention, but what I am getting is a genuine experience and the people who read my reviews won’t be shocked when there is nobody in the bathroom to personally wipe their butt for them.

So along comes Brad Newman founder of a company called ReviewerCard. Basically the dream scenario is this: show the card to the server when seated. Server reads the line “I write reviews” written on the card. Waiter then immediately offers you free everything and an ego massage besides. In reality here’s what happens: You present the card to your server. Server reads the line “I write reviews.” Server goes out to the kitchen and alerts the chef that there’s a self important asshat sitting at the four top and then immediately makes no space in his wallet for the awful tip said asshat isn’t about to leave.

I saw the article in the LA Times talking to Mr Newman and he “…thinks that people who post lots of reviews on websites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor don't get enough respect from the businesses they write about. I think there are two reasons for this, let me see if I can flesh them out. 1) The people who oftentimes write lots of reviews are self-important asshats and 2) Sites like Yelp (aside from being in my humble opinion, extortionists) are run by self-important asshats.

So I went to the Reviewer Card website thinking perhaps I was misinformed. I looked around to find out the rewards such a membership might get me. Hmmm, looks like I’d have the honor of being suckered out of the one hundred dollar lifetime membership fee and a guarantee of being thought of poorly by the chef and wait staff for life! That’s a lot of bang for the buck. 

It sounded too good to be true so I immediately signed up for the card. Although only one hundred sucke…uh…members have been accepted thus far due to their very high standards of separating idiots from their money. I suspect there will be more idiots to come. Me, I’d take a hundred bucks from anyone who could, well anybody who would give me a hundred bucks... but it's not my company.

Turns out the other benefit is that I’ll be eligible to network (read: hang out with) with all the other cardholders (read: asshats) at frequent events held throughout the year. Gosh I’d love to be one of the staff at the restaurant holding one of these networking events. "Oh welcome Mr I Write Reviews, yes sir I have you down for eating al fresco this evening right between the dumpster and the grease recycling barrel." Sounds like an opportunity to test out an electromagnetic pulse bomb and destroy all these douche nozzle’s smart phones. It would instantly make the Twitterverse and Blogosphere better places to be, if only slightly.

Oh, and I’ll find out in Twenty-four hours whether or not I’m worthy of coughing up one hundred dollars for the privilege of being a smarmy ass. I realize I haven’t needed the card in the past to help me achieve this but at least if I get the card, it’ll be official… 

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Nearly everybody has gotten their underwear in a bind over tasting menus recently. Food critics around the country are teeing off on chefs and deriding their tasting menus as being long, boring, and repetitive. In general not being what, or the way, they want to eat. New York Times food critic Pete Wells put it thus "...when I face a marathon of dishes chosen by the restaurant, I often feel the same trapped, helpless sensation." Really?!

Dear Miss/Mr Food Critic, let not your heart be hardened. As I see it Adam Smith said it best in "The Wealth of Nations" when he talked about division of labor, specialization and free markets. People will pursue work that is in their best interest, like making a two dollar beignet. Customers can feel free to pay for that work, or go to his/her competition down the street and eat a seventy-five cent doughnut.

Well I'm sure he meant to say that, and probably did somewhere in the 5 volumes that make up the book. But I'd be Lance Armstrong-ing if I said I read the whole thing. But as there was no television or X-box 360 back then people liked to get a certain amount of heft for their reading dollar or "pound" as it were, and this book gave the people what they wanted in spades.

The only issue I have with critics bitching about tasting menus is that they are paid to write about food they've eaten. My dad used to have a saying when I'd ask him how work was he'd say to me "I’ve got to be somewhere for eight hours a day."  Dad was being modest as he was usually there a minimum of twelve hours and oftentimes more. In the summer near the heat treating machines the temps would be in the 120+ F range all summer long. 

So now I ask you Miss/Mr Food Critic, when your ass is tired from having to sit for a whole four or five whole hours in a padded restaurant chair, your face has been stuffed with foie gras, truffles and fine wines... How bad is it really? Your palate exhausted and you think to yourself “I could use a break.” Well guess what... people in hell could use ice water.

Go to a tasting menu only restaurant or don't go it's really up to you. The good ones will stay and the bad ones will fold but in the end food critics should write about food they have stuffed in their pie holes, not bitch about having to do it. It's a tasting menu you're going to experience, not working a twenty hour shift in a salt mine. 

There are people out there really busting their asses for a living, like the chef's doing tasting only menus. When tasting only chefs/restaurants are doing good work say so.  If they are doing poorly in taste/service/execution then say that as well. But don't come crying to me when your editor tells you to try the new tasting menu at Per Se, I'll tell you the same thing my father told anyone that bitched about a cushy job. "My heart is pumping piss for you."