liberal washingtonian who watched the DC food scene explode in the 1970's and 80's. literary romantic. wonderful writer. More in the generation of Ruth Riechel, Alice Waters, and even Craig Claiborne. definitely set herself apart from Washingtonian Magazine (which has always more or less catered to the interests and tastes of the affluent suburbs). Rumours about a vitriolic hatred of Robert Shoffner are true(and vice versa)...(if i see Shoffner drunk at another bar hitting on a 20'something waitress..while supposedly working..I will smack him!). Richman brought a lot of respect to the DC dining scene. And influenced many of the cooks and chefs to excel over the years with her passionate writing about food. She gave it import. She was the most humble looking food critic you would ever see. I am sure she was mistreated and ignored at many restaurants because of her odd, troll-like appearance. This only gave her even more insight into the workings of the restaurant, however.
Tom Sietsema, on the other hand-- is a relative newcomer to the city. San Francisco/ Kimpton/ Corporate tastes. Not as great a writer as Phyllis nor as evolved tastes..(which come with culture and not buying into all the corporate garbage). Sometimes I think he has the same style sensibilities as those two fellas that run the Inn at Little Washington. It is a value set that--ultimately -- is conservative gay chic.
He has a lot of challenges ahead in this city with its very diverse dining scene...and I think that is why there seems to be a bit of disappointment lingering in the air. Maybe he is trying to please everyone and thus pleasing no one...you know what I mean. However, I think the major disappointment is really about the decline of quality restaurants in the city and the general level of mediocrity. Basically, in the 80's and 90's...we had fewer restaurants that were just better and less expensive than they are today. What, is Tom Seitemsa supposed to continually lament this situation in his columns and depress all of us. No..I guess he is just supposed to make the best of it.
Fact is..this city needs an excellent and liberal urban food critic...like Eric Asimov of the NY Times who doesn't care what all of the suburbanites think.