Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to Write Reviews Like a Complete Wanker: COMMANDMENT ONE

Since taking on a full time job as an editor of restaurant reviews, the focus of my seething ire has shifted from the dining crowd to the writing crowd; namely, the food writing crowd.
Everyone's a fucking food writer now! Thanks, Yelp!

Hear that noise? I just cracked a tooth snarling so hard. Now I whistle all my esses.

Following are some things I, as an editor, have come to despise - nay! - DETEST WITH A PASSION NORMALLY RESERVED FOR TEXAS REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS - in amateur food writing.

Bloggers! Take this to heart and your dreams of finally being noticed by a respectable publication will come to fruition, because right now (and trust me on this), no one can stand you. I want to help. Please, GOD, let me help...

  • DO NOT start your review with "Nestled in a...." Every time a description of a restaurant begins with the passive and clich├ęd "Nestled in a...." I tear the wings off a butterfly. Do you want to be the reason why all these beautiful creatures suffer so? Of course not. Knock it off.
Suggested alternatives: Get laid, have a drink, watch something funny and read some Anthony Bourdain, MFK Fisher, Frank Bruni even!! You are beginning this way because you are too rigid and locked in to a formula. Free associate instead. Think about what the restaurant means to you as a whole, and the conceit of its appearance. Think about the bigger picture. Riff on stuff around it, the crowd. If all else fails, just use. A different. Goddamned. WORD. It's not a fucking doe. It's a sushi bar. It doesn't "nestle."


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Week in Wankers

Last Week in Wankers post was a bold-faced lie. It was actually a Week in Wankers from several months ago, but I never posted it because I was recovering from the grave wound I incurred when I shot myself in the face in frustration. Then I got the new job and, well you know, bitching about the dining scene took a backseat to professionally bitching about the dining scene.

I enjoyed my first shift back at the restaurant in two weeks, and enjoyed it even more because it would be another week before I have to do it again. In all fairness, I love the restaurant, love its heart, love my coworkers, and that love sort of disgustingly carries over like sewer run-off in a big storm to my guests, who eat and drink whatever I tell them is good, and so satisfy my egomaniacal need for validation. However, there are, as always, Wankers. And this was their week:

1. Another server (who seems to be chronically blessed with encountering the highest number of douchebags of any of us) had someone return a steak they ordered "rare." The complaint? TOO rare. Too rare. TOO rare. TOO RARE. I would like to take this moment to assure all skeptics out there that we did not, in fact, slap a raw ribeye on a plate and holler "Eat up!" Our grill cooks are from Texas, for the love of GOD, TEXAS! This means they can be executed for not knowing how to grill a steak to temperature. This is the subject for another post, to be called A Note About Temperature, or Why Americans Insist on Throwing $45 Down the Toilet.

2. Most people are TERRIFIED of wine. So much that the wine list trembles in their hands, and they spit words at me with panicky desperation, words they read someplace but don't understad like, "RED! SMOKY! UH, UH...DRY!!" So eager are they to relinquish the decision to me--and yet still look like they are the ones making a choice--that they agree to whatever the first thing out of my mouth is. I could say "Well, this wine isn't smoky, but it DOES have that shitty smell you associate with cleaning out a moldy fish tank" and they'll go "Yeah, that one!!"

This explains the astronomical success of Wine Speculator and Robert Parker's "scoring". DESPERATION! It's. Just. Wine. In Spain, they bathe in it. In France, they drink it from gasoline cans. Americans are like horny, insecure teenagers at a school dance when it comes to wine.

3. When you order our Caesar salad without its three housemade croutons, and without its 2 fillets of white anchovies, you are paying $10 for a side salad of Romaine hearts tossed in Caesar dressing, and are an idiot. Oh, and I eat your delicious white anchovy fillets in the back and fill up on brain-enriching Omega-3 fatty acids so that I and my offspring will take over the world and put you and your dumb offspring in cages hung from the ceiling, and poke you with bones.

4. Someone ordered a bacon risotto, which comes with a giant SLAB of house-made bacon OH MY GOD YUM on top of it. When it arrived, he picked the bacon up with his fingers, plopped it on a plate and announced to the server, "You can take that. I'm not a big bacon guy."
Said the not-a-big-bacon-guy. Said the not-a-big-bacon-guy who ordered the bacon risotto.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Week in Wankers

  1. "This wine list is expensive. I just want a good merlot for under $20."

Bobo. Come on. Think back to a time when you found a merlot for under $20. It was an something like an aisle, wasn't it? With other products for sale around you? Yeah, we call that a store.

Restaurants buy wine at a wholesale price, just like stores do. Both places, in order to make any profit, have to sell that wine to the public at a higher cost. Since restaurants (theoretically) move less of the product than a retail store will (add to that the greater cost of running a restaurant versus a retail shop: paying the servers who open it, serving it in glassware we bought and have to pay dishwashers and a water bill to wash), and you end up with pricing that looks like this:
$15 wholesale cost of a bottle --> $22-25 retail (at a steal)
$32-36 on a restaurant wine list

That means, in order to find a $20 merlot at a restaurant, that piece of shit has to run about $8 wholesale. If you would pick up said piece of shit in a store, it would be about $13.

Your friends hate you for bringing cheap, shitty wine to their dinner parties, by the way.

2. Then there's the loudmouthed frat boy fresh out of his MBA program who interrupts me as I'm describing the food and wine on the menus to make embarrassingly erroneous claims such as:
  • hanger steak is right here, where the flank is (pats my side - no seriously, the douchebag touches me. If this were a strip club, the little bastard would have two fingers broken before being tossed onto the street.)
  • we didn't like this Cote du Rhone-Villages. Do you have any just Cote du Rhone? That's like saying "Fuck this Cadillac, do you have a GM?" Moron.
  • (after I describe another Rhone as being kind of stinky, barnyardy goodness and his friends ask what that means exactly) Oh, lots of wine people describe wines as being stinky, it's like cow poop, you know? (Jesus, I hope you're not an MBA now that I hear you try to sales pitch your tablemates)
3. Another server had some name-dropping nitwit going "blah blah Sea Smoke blah blah Kistler...I never buy anything less than $50 retail."
His girlfriend looks at the rest of the table and says "Can you believe he's only known about wine for three months?"

Really. That long?