Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Restaurant Reviews: A dead art?

Last December I declared 2023 the year I would return to food writing.  It was a bold statement (even now as I look at my last published date and see the 2020 taunting me), but I truly miss being a tiny, rather insignificant part of the food community.  I mentioned this to the esteemed writer behind Pop.Bop.Shop (Ms. Molly Galler) over brunch one Saturday morning, but immediately backtracked using the excuse that I had no idea what it would even look like anymore.  A Boston Food Diary was born from the need to make a meal last longer.  My impetus was quite simply to savor even long after the last bite had been devoured.  As a fresh faced 20 something I had bored my friends and family to tears with my thoughts and this was meant to be an outlet.  Over time it grew and evolved as I did in my real life, and more importantly as the idea of "blogging" overall changed.

2008 was a very different time than we are looking at today.  Sure we all felt very advanced with the internet- but in reality we were lightyears behind where we are today.  The original iPhone was released in 2007, equipped with a (poor) camera and there wasn't the ability to record video with it.  Bloggers, as we were, showed up at restaurants with large, clunky cameras in tow...and some with full lighting as well.  We were not a subtle bunch.  It was a key differentiator of "real" restaurant critics.  Those individuals showed up under the cloak of anonymity, using fake names, no recording devices.  They sat as regular people, just with highly defined palates.  

The term "blogger", if I'm honest, was a bit embarrassing.  We caused a scene more often than not, over indulged in absolutely everything (that may have just been me, come to think of it), and cast our opinions around like confetti.  We were often regarded as more knowledgeable than the average Yelp reviewer, though for the life of me, I cannot recall why.  I certainly didn't have "credentials".  I had an obsession with food, taste buds, an adventurous spirit and read way too many books about food, and cook books- but chefs were wise to regard me warily.   Don't get me wrong- those early days of blogging were some of the best times of my life. As time progressed little A Boston Food Diary morphed and evolved, and opened up to more opportunities for writing for other publications.  I quickly leaned into the term "food writer" over blogger.  

Writing, however, was the key term to me.  The creative outlet of words on paper (ahem -virtual paper) was extremely satisfying.  However with the advent of Instagram, and the idea of "influencers" becoming more and more prominent, I watched the written word fall from grace.  The world shifted from people wanting a back story, wanting the human element,  to preferring as few words as possible, more photo heavy and then came the videos.  Quickly the "industry" shifted combining the idea of the influencer with the blogger and those of us who relished the written word felt out of place in this new arena.  As many of those I had created a community with did, I stepped back.  

Yesterday, Soleil Ho, food critic for the SF Chronicle, announced that she would be moving to their opinion column.  Ho held the role of food critic for just 4 years, and in that time received a James Beard Award for her writing.  Let me pause for just a moment and fan girl.  A JAMES BEARD AWARD- the dream!  Ok...thats done...sorta.  Obviously this is not a major news story.  She was a food critic and now she's not- but what I do find interesting about this - how many of the commentators on this story are asking the question- is the idea of a food critic dead overall?  This is precisely the question I've struggled with for years now.

Now that technology has advanced to this degree where we all have constant access to cameras, video and the internet- opinions are incredibly easy to find.  No longer do we wait for our local expert to go to the new restaurant 2-3 times to formulate a full and complete opinion and read about it in their weekly column. No, now we do a quick Google search of a place, 25- 5,000 reviews pop up immediately, we scan the star ratings and move on.  Perhaps we instead turn to Instagram or Tik Tok and find a flashy video of a "Top 5" list set to music and we get swayed by that.  

I'll be very clear- there is nothing wrong, per se, with any of this- it's just another form of evolution.  The question that I have however is- is the written word, at least in regard to restaurant reviews dead?  Are we just too inundated with information for a review to stand out?  Do we prefer to see pretty videos with possibly less content over an information heavy commentary?  What is next in this evolution?  My hope is that we go back to "vintage" reviews because isn't that how fashion works?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Potential Impact of Covid-19?

As we sift through all of the data and information out there- I found this to be a helpful and interesting resource.  This was provided by Compass as ready made material- so I can't take credit for it- but I wanted to get it out there- and I wanted to ask- what do you think?  

"What will be the Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis?
On April 28th, McKinsey & Company's Global Managing Partner, Kevin Sneader appeared on CNBC to discuss how his firm is advising multiple governors on when and how to reopen their states. In his words, the decision hinges on one question: how do you 
reconcile the saving of lives with the safeguarding of livelihood? 

There's no easy answer. And with 70% of the US workforce unable to do their jobs from home, states need to consider how to make sure there is enough PPE, testing and contact-tracing in place to be confident that once they reopen, they won't have to shut down again.

How This Could Unfold
A recent survey of over 2,000 global executives showed that many expect the recovery to look like one of the scenarios shaded in blue below (A1–A4) which lead to a V- or U-shaped recovery. In each of these, the COVID-19 spread is eventually controlled, and catastrophic structural economic damage is avoided. 

Almost one third of these leaders anticipate a muted world recovery where US GDP could drop 35-40% in Q2 of 2020 and won't return to pre-crisis levels until Q1 of 2023 (A1). A slightly more optimistic outlook was the second most anticipated scenario, reflecting
 virus containment by mid-Q2 of 2020 with an economic rebound following Q2 2020 (A3). [Source: McKinsey]
Which Sectors are being 
Hit the Hardest?
1.    Commercial Aerospace
      May take years to recover from production and              supply chain shortages
2.   Consumer Air & Travel
      Domestic recovery is likely to recover faster than            international travel
3.   Oil & Gas
     Oil price decline driven by short-term demand               impact and OPEC+ decision to increase supply
4.   Insurance Carriers
      Reduced interest rates and investment                          performance impacting returns
5.    Automotive 
      Trade tensions and declining sales amplified by              acute decline in global demand"

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Coming Home...to Terroir

As the temperatures grow colder around these parts and we start to look towards the holidays, many of us find our thoughts headed towards home.  That place where it's always warm and cozy and things are just as you like them- maybe its loud and crazy, or quiet and peaceful.  

Over the last couple of months I've had the opportunity to peek into the culture of Israel and the piece that as struck me is how much "home" is apart of their way of life.  Unsurprisingly, my view into the country came through its wines.  As you may know, Israeli wines haven't had the best reputation over the past few decades, often being very sweet.  Today, however, they're working to bring the focus back on terroir.  The wines are becoming a wonderful representative of the beauty and culture of the land, like a greeting card from home.  

I had the opportunity to taste several different offerings from the country and was astounded by their variety and depth of flavor.  The Golan Heights Winery- Yarden Blanc de Blanc vintage 2011 is incredibly refined- utilizing the same practices as the vintners of Champagne the wine has a deep yeast driven nose with flavors of grapefruit and green apple on the palette.  The mousse is extremely fine and the bubbles are as well.  I would be proud to serve this at any celebration.  

The wine that impressed me the most though, out of the dozen or so sampled, was the Kishore Winery Viognier vintage 2016.  While we all know and love the Viognier as it hails from France, Israel put its own spin on it with naturally more body, but flavors ranging from minerals to lemon, lime and green apple.  This was what I loved the most about Israeli wines- many varietals are familiar but the terroir of the country screams through and it's so very clear that these well loved grapes will soon be enjoyed in an entirely new way.  

To me, this is the greatest appreciation of home.  Allowing the terroir of the country be obvious- not cajoling the wine into being something its not, not mimicking the influence of a different country or area, but creating something beautiful from what you are given.  It's similar to bringing home your new partner for the first time and giving your family a list of instructions on how to behave, or allowing them to be their own zany selves.  Wine has to be able to be itself, stand on its own, and tell you its story- it has to be authentic.

So kudos to the winemakers of Israel, and to those of us heading home soon- are we brave enough to do the same?  After all, the authenticity of your home is what makes you love it, crave it, miss it and eventually drive you crazy- isn't that the basis of love?

No matter what "home" means to you, I hope you enjoy its warmth in the upcoming weeks!

Restaurant Reviews: A dead art?

Last December I declared 2023 the year I would return to food writing.  It was a bold statement (even now as I look at my last published dat...