Monday, December 12, 2005

Food Writing: Criticism: To the Moon, Alice?

About a month ago Daniel Patterson published an article in the Sunday New York Times. If you have a NYT account, you can still read the article "To the Moon, Alice?" here.

You may be asking yourself if you are about to read a spirited rebuttal of some month old piece of food writing. Alternatively, you may be asking if there will be any photos in this post.


D.Patterson's article asserts that the food stylings of Chez Panisse have had a tremendously limiting effect on restaurant cooking here in the bay area. He is focused on this assertion:
Today, there are two points on which most people seem to agree. The first is that the majority of the food in the Bay Area is delicious; the second is that it is not very innovative.
The tremendously frustrating thing about the article isn't this assertion (which in addition to being wrong is small of both mind and heart), but how the author manages to undermine it by tossing around oddly out of whack observations about our local food scene while failing in anyway to support his argument.

Let's take a look at some of those observations...
1. Delfina, Quince, A-16, and Pizzaiolo are highly regarded.
I contend that Delfina, Quince, A-16 and Pizzaiolo are not "highly regarded" but rather popular. My overwhelmingly neutral view on Pizzaiolo in particular, is somewhat established.

2. Zuni & Oliveto Are A Lot Like Chez Panisse
Very few people are given the forum that Daniel Patterson was afforded by dint of his successful run at Frisson; an actual shot at NYT ink. To squander any portion of this opportunity to say something meaningful about food, by taking the time to observe that two chefs who were themselves influential in defining what we think of as the Chez Panisse sensibility, have gone on to cook food that evokes the same sensibility is just wrong.

3. The Slanted Door is Too Chez Panisse-Like
To be fair, Patterson makes an almost off-hand comment that even The Slanted Door owed something to Alice Waters' vision. Tough not to imply a note of disdain for ethnic food in this one. I wish everyone stuffed my spring rolls with organic greens.
Instead of dishing out smack on local restaurants that are known quantities, Patterson could have discussed what actually constitutes innovation. He could have sought it out, rather than implying that it oughta be where it is in fact more or less beside the point.

Or, more basically, I don't want Alice Waters, Paul Bertolli, Judy Rogers, or their current crop of chefs to make me a foam.

1 comment:

penny said...

nor do i want daniel patterson's "innovative" dish of tapioca, clam juice, chopped clams and celery. i think i'd rather have a foam.