Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Food Writing

A field guide to Yelp reviewers

Yelp
OK, treading lightly onto very dangerous ground here. There's an essay on Atlantic's Life website that I find hilarious. It's about Yelp reviewers and it's by Derek Brown, a Washington, D.C. mixologist. As you can guess, he's not terribly complimentary. There are a few scattered obligatory caveats ("Before one gets the wrong idea, I like Yelp and appreciate the concept"), but for the most part it's pretty scathing.

The problem, he says, is that the good content is pushed out by the bad and he breaks the unhelpful reviewers down into a few categories: The Ubermensch who condemns the herd mentality; the Blood Feud, who reviews a meal he had several years ago; the Cheapskate who ... well, you can probably guess; and my personal favorite, the Know-Nothing, who posts comments such as: "The pickled vegetables were too sour; they reminded me of vegetables + vinegar."

What do you think? How reliable do you find Yelp reviews? Incidentally, if you haven't already, be sure to bookmark the page, which is home to consistently interesting, well-written pieces on food and, now, style.

--Russ Parsons

Photo: Yelp co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman

Photo credit: Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

Serious Eats blog concludes that foie gras is not unethical

Foie-Gras
A gauntlet was thrown down Thursday by food blog Serious Eats when writer J. Kenji Lopez-Alt wrote a lengthy dissertation on why -- after visiting a foie gras farm in the Hudson Valley -- foie gras is not unethical.

He tours the facility and takes pictures of the ducks in the giant sheds they live in. He isn't allowed, however, to take pictures inside the sheds where the ducks spend the final 25 days of their lives being fed by tubes that are forced down their throats in a practice known as gavage. He's told this is because they are using a new technology that they don't want their competitors to see, not because anything cruel is happening, and he's content with that answer. He remains so after watching the gavage, writing:

We walked down row after row of pens until we got to one where a worker was just about to start feeding. At La Belle, the ducks are fed three times a day for a total of up to 240 grams of their custom-designed feed. As we watched, the worker — a petit woman — climbed into the pen and sat on an overturned box. One at a time, she pulled a duck towards her and held it between her legs with its neck arched upwards. She gently squeezed the base of the duck's neck ("checking to make sure that he's finished all his food from the last feeding," says Bob), then eases a flexible plastic tube down the duck's throat. A machine whirls, a small bulge forms where the food is deposited, and the duck walks off, giving its head one shake, but otherwise seemingly unaffected.

As you might expect, the post has already generated 200 comments from people on both sides of the fence on the issue. If you read the comments it seems that -- despite appearances -- forcefully fattening a duck's liver for foie gras isn't really at the heart of the controversy. Instead, the controversy provides the perfect lens through which to examine one's feelings about meat in general, and how animals are treated while they are being raised.

If you have strong feelings about the subject, please feel free to leave a comment below.

-- Jessica Gelt

 Photo: Izzy Yanai, vice president and general manager of the farm Hudson Valley Foie Gras, at his facility in upstate New York, one of only three U.S. producers of the controversial gastronomic treat, known universally by its French name. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

BlogHer co-founder forecasts the future

BlogHer

The next two weekends are going to be a blizzard of hashtags.

This coming weekend, there's BlogHer Food. Held over two days in San Francisco, the sold-out conference features some of the most influential names in the food world, including Dorie Greenspan and Michael Ruhlman. A week later, the food focus widens and swings to Las Vegas, for BlogWorld. (I'll be at both events, and I'll be a panelist at BlogWorld, so please stop and say hi!)

The two food-focused events come at a provocative time: Blogging now shares the stage with micro-blogging, old media's aggressive gambit to make up for lost time, and the Rise of Aggregation a la Eatocracy and HuffPost Food. More important, what does this all mean for food blogging (because, let's face it, all we really care about is food blogging)?

We asked BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort Page to tell us what the landscape looks like from her vantage point. She forecast these six trends, and what follows are the highlights of our conversation. Long story short: Far from being "over," blogging is just getting started, she said, adding that food bloggers have more opportunities than every before to find a way to turn clicks into bucks.


Continue reading »

What we're reading now: iron chefs, paint chips, edible mysteries and the New Yorker

Quiz 

Wake up sleepy heads! Here are your morning must-reads, should-reads and wanna-reads:

-- Is "Pirates Cove Peach" a Ben & Jerry's flavor? Or a Pottery Barn paint chip? The cool kids over at Mental Floss.com put together this quiz that will challenge you to tell the difference. (I barely passed. I am taking it as a sign that I need to buy more ice cream. You know, to study the flavors.) 

-- Why cast iron is a "green" choice for cookware. I was especially intrigued by the detailed seasoning tips. Now, where did I put that lard ...

-- It's only Tuesday, but I'm already calling this my food blog find of the week: Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. Come for the foodie-ness of it all, stay for the books. Who knew there were so many food-related mysteries? (A few that caught my eye include author Cleo Coyle's coffeehouse mystery series or the White House chef series by Julie Hyzy, which has such catchy titles as "Eggsecutive Orders," "State of the Onion" and ... wait for it...."Hail to the Chef.")

-- The New Yorker' has a colorful and intriguing profile of John Mackey, the co-founder and chief executive of Whole Foods Market who defied the critics who said he'd never make it selling "hippie food to hippies." Or, as the current issue of the magazine puts it:

The man who has perhaps done as much as anyone to bring the natural-foods movement from the crunchy fringe into the mainstream is also a vocal libertarian, an orthodox free-marketer, an admirer of Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, and Ayn Rand. In the 2008 Presidential election, he voted for Bob Barr -- Ron Paul wasn’t on the ballot.

Save this one for breakfast. It will take you awhile -- but it's worth it.

-- Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Illustration credit: Mental Floss.com

Family dinners, deep-fried cheese sandwiches and endless recipe-testing with Jack Bishop

Cheese Frenchees The reader recipes arrived by the thousands, just as Jack Bishop knew they would. Some were indecipherable. Some were clearly awful. But the majority were family treasures. And not just a tasty recipe for meatloaf or pot roast, but the story behind those recipes as well.

The result -- one of Bishop's latest projects, "Cook's Country Best Lost Suppers" -- is like pulling up a chair to the nation's kitchen tables. But consider yourself warned: Don't pick up this cookbook when you are in a rush to get dinner on the table; it's far too easy to get caught up in the personal stories that grace each page.

Bishop is the editorial director at Chris Kimball's America's Test Kitchen empire, which specializes in testing recipes and bringing readers and viewers along for the ride. He was in town this week to tape a few upcoming segments for Evan Kleiman's "Good Food," KCET and PBS, which broadcasts the TV version of "America's Test Kitchen."

Fortunately for the Daily Dish, Bishop had time for breakfast at Fig in Santa Monica. He had a cappuccino to start, followed by steel-cut oatmeal and a side of fresh seasonal fruit.

The conversation was all over the map: lamenting the loss of Gourmet magazine, his grandmother's 99th birthday, and why his wife, cookbook author and pastry chef Lauren Chattman, just might have one up on Martha Stewart. He also let us in on a little-known secret about the recipes that come out of the Brookline, Mass.-based "America's Test Kitchen" and end up in Cook's Illustrated, a food magazine that bucked convention long ago by rejecting all advertising, and has about a million paying subscribers to show for it. (Its sister publication, Cook's Country, has about 310,000 paying subscribers.)

After the jump: highlights from our conversation and two of his favorite recipes from the new book.

Continue reading »

Sampler Platter: promo Whopper has 7 patties, sparkling wine vs. champagne, urban chickening

Bill Connell, 55, stands in front of his Surf Dog stand in Carpinteria. He's been in the hot dog business since he left his native New Jersey when he was 38.

Urban chickens and urban food critics lead this end-of-the-week roundup of food news.

--Burger King's Windows 7 Whopper has 7 patties, 2,120 calories. Japanator
--The Atlantic explores six Australian foods worth trying and the role of food critics in the Internet age.
--Carpinteria hot dog vendor relishes his sales-tax victory. Los Angeles Times
--Sparkling wine is just as good as champagne (when it's well made). Consumerist
--The perils of urban chickening. New York Times
--David Lazarus asks: Is Smart Choices misleading? Los Angeles Times

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Bill Connell, 55, stands in front of his Surf Dog stand in Carpinteria. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Ruth Reichl stunned by Gourmet's end

Ruth_kr21n7nc

In his story on Conde Nast's decision to shut down the nation's oldest major food magazine, Russ Parsons quotes the magazine's editor (and former L.A. Times Food editor and restaurant critic) Ruth Reichl as saying she found out the news only this morning.

"I can't talk about it now, it's too raw. I've got to pack up my office," she said.

There had been some recent speculation about the magazine's difficulties, particularly given the fact that Conde Nast also owns Gourmet's chief competitor, Los Angeles-based Bon Appetit. Not only did Bon Appetit have more readers, according to recent statistics from the magazines' media kits, Gourmet had circulation of 950,000 copies while Bon Appetit had 1.3 million readers. Additionally, Gourmet had a reputation of being a very expensive magazine to run, featuring long articles by well-known writers while Bon Appetit was focused on much more economical, recipe-driven content.

But in retrospect, there were clear signs that all was not well when Reichl did a recent radio interview with Larry Mantle on KPCC-FM (89.3). "We're struggling just like everyone else," she said. "It's ironic because our circulation has never been higher. And yet advertising dollars are a challenge."

Still, she put on a hopeful front: "I have to say that in the last week it felt like the recession ended. I mean, suddenly, our advertising picture literally in the last week changed really dramatically and ads started flooding in. It's really very exciting."

But for most of its readers, the idea of a food world without Gourmet to describe it is almost unthinkable.

Gourmet magazine to end its run

 Gourmet

Magazine empire Conde Nast, home of Vogue and the New Yorker, will announce the closure of Gourmet this morning, according to a report in the New York Times, which calls the move "startling."

Like many other media companies, Conde Nast is facing difficult times. In the not-so-distant past, it shuttered shopping magazine Domino and folded Men's Vogue into a twice-yearly supplement to Vogue. But so far, victims of its contractions have been newer titles.

With Gourmet apparently at the end of its run, that has changed.

Read more at The Times' Jacket Copy blog.

Photo: Gourmet magazine September 2009 issue/Conde Nast.

Eater will pay you $25 to shut down your food blog

Eater will pay you to shut down your food blog If you've ever thought about starting your own food blog, today is the day to do it. Why? Because Eater, in conjunction with the launch of Eater National, will pay you $25 to shut it down. Is Eater's offer awesome, bold, obnoxious, desperate or a joke? You be the judge. But Eater's halfhearted attempt to become the Andrew Carnegie of the food blogosphere hasn't received a warm response.

Part of the point of Eater National is to parse, aggregate and save you from the massive amount of noise generated by the digital food universe... Given that the internet is about 1,000,000 cutesy food blogs too vast, for a limited time only, Eater is offering $25 to any food blogger who will agree to shut his or her food blog down (and post this yellow notice on the site).

Eater, which is owned by Curbed, also launched a redesign of its existing network of sites, which now feature "sponsored posts" (i.e. advertisements) in the main body of the blog and mini-maps alongside many posts. In addition to its New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco sites, Eater plans to launch sites for Chicago, Miami and Portland, Ore.

Forget it, kid. This town just ain't big enough for your food blog and Eater.

-- Elina Shatkin

Author Anna Thomas makes soup, signs books


Anna 
Anna Thomas, whose book "The Vegetarian Epicure" introduced many cooks to interesting vegetarian dishes more than three decades ago, has a new book out focusing on soups. She'll be signing books and offering a tasting of food from "Love Soup" at a few spots in the area.

On Saturday at 2 p.m., she will appear at Treasure Beach and Cafe in Ojai, where she lives -- and where one of her sons is cooking. Treasure Beach is at 928 E. Ojai Ave.

On Sunday, readers can meet Thomas at 3 p.m. at Diesel Books in the Brentwood Country Mart on 26th Street in Santa Monica.
 
And on Tuesday at 7 p.m., she will be at Chaucer's Bookstore, 3321 State St. in Santa Barbara.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: Anna Thomas cooks in her Ojai kitchen. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times


 

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.