Introducing A la Carte


When I began chatting with City Pages about food writing, I was concerned that my own style of dining (which leans toward "humble" — some of my favorite meals have involved beer-boiled bratwurst, authentic tacos, or old-school slices of pizza) might not click in a metropolis where the high-end restaurants bump so confidently up against a national scene.

So when the word came down that my former Minnesota Monthly colleague Rachel Hutton was going to take on the haute cuisine stuff via The Dish — leaving me free to pounce on little neighborhood eateries and ethnic holes-in-the-wall — I flipped out. This new column, named A la Carte, was a perfect fit. I knew Rachel, and I knew her writing — she would be the paper's world-class fancy-pants ninja, freeing me up to do what I really dig.

I struggle (emphasis on struggle) to write about food in a way that is clear and free of pretense. My concerns typically run like this: Is this food delicious? Is this food delicious for the money I'm paying? Is this food delicious in some kind of new way?

So when you read "A la Carte," you're not going to get much sensual purple prose, or references to big-name chefs. (Although, to be fair to Rachel, she often beat selected bits of purple prose out of my MNMO stuff, so you won't see much of it in her column, either.)

What you will get, I hope, is writing that takes you somewhere new, gets you out of your neighborhood and/or comfort zone, and occasionally cracks you up. You'll get writing that is a critical celebration of that which can get overlooked in the bold-faced name / big restaurant group-driven food coverage that, necessarily, can sometimes dominate the media discourse.

And I'm going to shoot for honest writing, and look for your comments to keep me on the straight and narrow. I have biases as a diner, and if I'm not exposing them to you in my prose, I hope to be correcting for them behind the scenes. I don't want "A La Carte" to be an uncritical cheerleader; while I've had some life-changing meals in neighborhood restaurants, I've also had some crummy ones, and I won't ever knowingly peddle you a false bill of goods just because it makes a good story.

In conclusion, and with real feeling: Please — please, please, please — email me ([email protected]) with your ideas. This column will not succeed unless I'm able to keep an ear to the ground and ferret out the hidden gems that this city conceals and treasures by the dozen. If you're a chef and you've changed your menu, email me. If you're a diner with a favorite little place — or even just a favorite appetizer, or dessert somewhere — email me. If you're a purveyor offering something special that's being overlooked, email me. If you're a waiter or waitress, a PR flack, a talented home cook, whatever — email me.

And, when in doubt, eat somewhere new.