Thursday, October 09, 2008

I Miss Michael Bauer

I know that it's of record that I'm not a huge fan of Michael Bauer, the San Francisco Chronicle Food Editor and primary restaurant critic. I find his palate predictable, writing style predictable banal, and his lips too firmly planted on Pat Kuleto's ass. Still, he seems like a nice enough guy and the one time I actually waited on him he left me a generous tip and bumped our restaurant up half a star on his follow-up review. Can't really complain there.

And when compared to LA Times food critic S. Irene Virbila, Bauer looks like William-fucking-Faulkner.

"Miss Irene," as restaurant folks in LA like to call here (despite the fact that she's married) sounds like a royal bitch.

Read her recent review of Charlie Palmer's restaurant in the South Coast Plaza.

Somehow she turns what sounds like a mediocre experience at a neglected offshoot in a celebrity chef's empire into a personal attack on Mr. Palmer himself. Should the chef whose name is on a restaurant be more hands-on in the kitchen? Sure. In most cases are they? Fuck no. It's image and branding Miss Irene. You can't replicate something great. The closest anyone's gotten is Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York which managed to achieve three Michelin Stars but still isn't mentioned in the same breath as The French Laundry.

In fact, it's a credit to Keller that he didn't market himself recklessly. All his restaurants receive good to great reviews. His organization seems to be doing something right. But that's the exception, not the rule. And last I checked, Charlie Palmer's a celebrity chef in the same way Govind Armstong is. He's not. Hell, he doesn't even have a Wikipedia article.

So you had a middling experience at the new Charlie Palmer's. Who the fuck cares? You yourself seemed to enjoy at least a handful of dishes and nothing that you disliked sounded overly egregious. So there was too much mushroom soup? Darn. So the desserts were overconceived? Whooptido. Pate was middling? Fair enough. Those are legitimate, but small complaints. You loved the wine, you loved the service, and you enjoyed a third of the food. Those things added up equal an okay review, not a column of vitriol worthy of Horny for Food.

Though I don't think you can turn a phrase quite as well as I can and your restaurant reviews are sorely lacking in profanity, ethnic slurs, and titty references to be considered for enshrinement in these hallowed pages.

Most importantly Miss Irene, your prose is about as turgid as it gets. Your reviews read like something a middle-aged housewife would write in her "Restaurant Reviews" lesson in a night school journal writing class. It shows a pitiful level of engagement and critical thinking that is barely Yelp!-worthy, let alone appropriate for one of the most important newspapers in one of the most dynamic restaurant markets in the country. Its proper place is glued on a piece of construction paper with ribbons and glitter next to washed out flash photographs of turkey-necked fifty-somethings holding up glasses of Bandol rose in a "Girls' Night Out to Dinner" scrapbook.

For the love of monkeyballs what did Charlie Palmer do to you Miss Irene? Did he steal your wallet? Impregnate your daughter? Pull out, leave town, and refuse to cuddle? What?

His restaurant's in South Coast Plaza! What were you expecting? Seriously. What were you expecting? It's a goddamn shopping mall in Orange County! And it's a chef who, aside from one James Beard "Best Chef New York" award over ten years ago counts Wine Spectator honors as his most significant achievements. And we all know that you get a Wine Spectator Award that same way you get to host the Olympics:

Bribery and human rights abuses.


Zack said...

is you drubbnk?

I only ask because usually you can spell and shit.

David J.D. said...

Duly noted.