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Chicago chowhound meta-comments: on ssugkat, acerola, bad reviews and more...


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Chicago chowhound meta-comments: on ssugkat, acerola, bad reviews and more...

Michael M. | Dec 6, 2003 09:06 AM

I tend to get to the board only once a week, so I just read through the week's posts and came up with the same feelings I usually do, but never articulate:

Pulling together the incredible post by RST on ssugkat, Joel's on La Cucina di Donatella, and Dave Hammonds on Jimmy's Charhouse (and a few others):

I think a lot of us agree that the food writing in Chicago is unimpressive; too many of the reviewers can't be trusted because they only seem to praise the restaurants they review (or overpraise ones that don't deserve it, or ignore others for years that are similar and better, just not on the current radar) and many don't seem to have the contextual chops to review in the first place. As a result, I tend to be thankful for chow posts that provide negative opinions - there are no editorial boards censoring opinions here, no advertisers to please. Similarly, I enjoyed the WSJ article recently providing lukewarm reviews of some of America's much-lauded restaurants, explaining what they did well, but where they failed to impress, as well as some underdog eateries that were worth trying.

Without this site's compendium of honest reviews, we're left with the likes of the Trib's Good Eating every Wednesday - the doublespeak-filled Cheap Eats where you have to intuit what they thought of the eatery based only on the number of forks and what they tell you NOT to eat, or the column that seems to feature the latest pre-packaged product that landed for free in their mailboxes with convenient promo literature, or the head-to-head tasting challenge of Acme Brand Chocolate-flavored cookies vs. ShopKo Brand Choco-lite Cookie-ettes With Real Choco-colored Chips!

So, please, please post your good experiences as well as the bad ones.

For food writing that isn't about restaurants, per se, RST's fascinating expository on these greens is more interesting to me than anything we have in the local papers, including the Reader and the Local Palate. All that was missing were a few pictures and recipes, and it would've made a great food article.

In the imaginary food section/food quarterly that Chicago doesn't have.

Then I run into the posts about where to get breadfruit and another on acerola, et al, and it makes me thankful that there's a forum for this, but annoyed at the same time that the publishing community of this Second City can't come up with a publication where I can read a well-researched article by a passionate writer about the produce options in our city, what their seasons are, how to use them, etc.

The web and chowhound are both great for this kind of thing because of the ability to hyperlink (as well as quickly open up a translating site or picture of some particular piece of produce!). But I wish we had something here along the lines of L.A. or NYT's food sections, or something even better.

Is there a way to bring some of our local knowledge together in at least some sort of underground publication? I'm not talking a for-profit venture, but something that comes out regularly, pulling together some of what we have here in a larger format (e.g. MikeG's invaluage FAQ with the archives fully printed out)?

I'd even volunteer to do some of the putting-it-together legwork, especially if this idea gets going in the summer, when I don't work.

Perhaps it's a pipe dream, since what I'd really like is for many of the valuable posters here to simply quit there jobs and do what they do here full-time (like Erik M.'s full Pho report).

Perhaps this post isn't chow-worthy, but it was just my $0.02.

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