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Chowhounds et al as arbiters of taste


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Chowhounds et al as arbiters of taste

Xiao Yang | Jan 1, 2009 07:03 AM

I get an uneasy feeling when I read things like this, from a review of a Baltimore restaurant::

"I wish I could take credit for discovering Grace Garden, but I'm just happy to be able to tell about it now. It is the quintessential off-the-beaten-path, hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurant that chowhounds, foodies, the Sandbox (the gang over at Dining@Large) and other assorted mavens dream about finding.

And they have. Chef Chun Keung Li's restaurant has been a pilgrimage for insiders for some time, and I admit to having read and absorbed some of the praise (the pork belly! those fish noodles!) that's been heaped upon it. In fact, when we finished ordering, the waitress said, 'You've been reading the Internet.'"

Does "reading the Internet" lead us out of the wilderness of foodie ignorance, or does it make us elitist front-runners, unable to trust our own instincts and capacity for discover? And what about the restaurant? Does the foodie catechism that some message boards have developed encourage Johnny One-note kitchens? Was the waitress expressing praise for the diner for knowing what was good, or contempt for his not having a mind of his own?

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