Everyone's a Critic

Hey, I'm thinking outside the box here, so welcome to a new couple-times-a-year feature, in which I'll run quotes from and responses to my voluminous mail, instead of a conventional restaurant review. Want in? Send letters (see very bottom of web page) or to dmoskowitz@citypages.com.

Dear Dara,

As a teacher in the Culinary School at Art Institutes International Minnesota, I continue to advise my students to look your way for perceptive and entertaining treatments of the various hash outlets in this town. You are required reading for anybody who's serious about food hereabouts.

--Steve Lerach

P.S. I absolutely loved your review of a certain big-ticket Italian joint a couple of weeks ago. The last time I was there, my pasta was overcooked and cold. Quite a feat. No wonder the place is so expensive.

Dear Steve,

Ooh, I don't know how I feel about this at all.

Should you really be directing these restaurant reviews to the hands of impressionable youth? Who was it that said, "With great power comes great responsibility"?

Or was it "with great chowder"?

I can't remember.

You know who has great chowder? That place that reminds me of money, that's across the street from Shinder's. Oh yeah, the Capital Grille. You know what else? I love that the money-theme place is across the street from the porn vendor; it's so American. And right down the street from all that shopping and parking. You know what's really American? A big ball of porn, money, shopping, parking, and chowder. You know what's un-American? Letting impressionable youth read this column.

Why, anyone can see that porn and shopping have no place in a restaurant column. A restaurant column is a place for disembodied wisdom about where disembodied diners should spend imaginary anniversary dinners.

This ain't that.

The last time I was at the Capital Grille, I walked right in and found that the name of someone who annoys me terribly was inscribed right on a plaque on a wall, next to their private bottle of booze. Does that sound very disembodied or wise to you? Then I had a tedious meal with a great bore--the ass of whom I was obliged to kiss, owing to various non-restaurant-reviewing political situations of minuscule global import--and upon fleeing the meal I had a lovely conversation with the valet-parking kids out front, on whether there was any correlation between car value and tip size. (Sorta, but not really, say the kids.)

 

Dear Dara,

During your well-deserved vacation, please reassure me that you did not go to New York City. I live in fear that you'll quit your City Pages job and move East and I don't know what we'd do without you. Your column has guided me to some of the best food in the area (like your Dragon Court review--where my husband and I had the best Chinese food we've eaten in the Cities, and arguably the best we've had in the U.S.) Also, I have a question I've been wondering about since Valentine's Day: Where do you eat on special occasions? Do you have a personal favorite restaurant, or on special occasions, do you eat at home?

--Naomi

Dear Naomi,

Boy, do I not have a favorite restaurant for the purposes of this column. I mean, for the purposes of my life, I've got a couple, but they fit in closely with some other things I have: A house, a neighborhood, a schedule, a budget, a social circle--oh, all sorts of things like that. So here's my top favorite bundle right now, in alphabetical order: Auriga, La Belle Vie, the Loring Cafe, Lucia's, Restaurant Alma, Sapor, and Zander Café.

But here's what else I have: a constant working list of every restaurant in town and what's going on there. Even as I type that, I worry. I need to get back to Bobino and Café 128, and how's the new chef at Oddfellow's, and why can I never figure out what to do with Aquavit, Goodfellow's, the oyster bar at Oceanaire, and Punch Neapolitan Pizza? Surely, if you triangulate all the locations of that first list, you'll come up with the address of my house. Surely the addresses of other people's houses matter just as much. Surely issues of identity and objectivity are too complex for youth. Ack. I'm literally wringing my hands here. Truly, I'm doomed. These kids are going to tar and feather me when they get big enough.

 

Dear Dara,

My name is Caitlin, a 17-year-old Minneapolitan who's somewhat obsessed with food. Having abandoned the idea of becoming a chef (stress, alcoholism, a Coca-Cola-based diet, etc.), I've contemplated the life of a food critic. The only problem is that I have very little idea of what the job entails, or how one obtains such work.

--Caitlin

Dear Caitlin,

Aaaah! See what I mean? Not just youth, but impressionable minor youth. Is prison time given out for corrupting minors these days? Admittedly this one seems to be a little corrupted already: Obsessed at a tender age with stress, pop, and alcoholism. Though my guess is that she's taking Anthony Bourdain's book Kitchen Confidential a little too seriously. If one thinks one can avoid stress, worry, and alcoholism by becoming a writer, one has much to learn of the ways of sitting alone in the dark trying to spin experiences and doubts into smallish piles of cash.

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