The New Yorker profiles The New York Times’ Food Critic, Pete Wells
And David Chang basically goes to pieces. Pete Wells is the guy who tore Guy Fieri’s Times Square eatery to shreds (and later performed a dramatic reading of his review while wearing a Gandalf robe at a food event in Mississippi), sang the praises of Señor Frog’s, and has a delicate dance with restaurateurs over his semi-invisibility. It’s a terrific read, but here are six choice bits.
1. On the importance of spotting him: “An ambitious New York restaurant’s ability to spot Pete Wells is a similar indicator of thoroughness: ‘If they don’t recognize who he is, then they are missing a very important detail, and therefore they may not be paying attention to other important details.’ ”
2. On the importance of food critics in the age of Yelp: “[David] Chang recently told me that, despite the profusion of opinion online, he still thought of the Times as the ‘judge and jury’ of a new venture, if not the executioner.”
3. On eating at a restaurant the same night as a true celeb: “As Wells recalled it, [Jimmy] Fallon ‘got the overt treatment’: ‘big smiles and “Thank you for coming in” ‘ and perhaps an extra dish or two. Wells’s experience was that ‘every dish of mine was an object of attention and worry before it got to me’ — he often has a slower meal than other diners do, because dishes get done again and again until they are deemed exemplary. As usual, his water glass ‘was always being topped up.’ But it was ‘as if none of this were happening.’
4. On the professional requirement to indulge on rich food night after night: “He has begun to think of alcohol as calories that he can skip without being professionally lax. He is not fat, but the job stands between him and leanness: he can’t turn down food. ‘My body is not my own,’ he said.”
5. On why many of his reviews are positive: “‘It’s very tricky to explain why this place is good enough to deserve a review but not quite good enough to get up to the next level.’ He added, ‘I’m looking for places that I can be enthusiastic about. Like a golden retriever, I would like to drop a ball at the feet of the reader every week and say, “Here!” ’
6. Guy Fieri licks his wounds: “Sitting in a restaurant stuffed with Fieri memorabilia and Fieri merchandise, he accused Wells of attention-seeking: ‘It’s a great way to make a name for yourself. Go after a celebrity chef that’s not a New Yorker.’ ”
The SF Cheese Fest Returns This Weekend
This Saturday, Sept. 17, from 6-9 p.m., Social Hall SF (1270 Sutter) will host the second annual SF Cheese Fest, whose theme is “Preservation: Salt, Sugar, Culture and Tradition.” Some 24 California Cheese Guild members will offer a wide array of cheeses, along with cured meats, pickles, jams, local craft beer, and California wine. At $84, the tickets cost approximately the same as a deluxe cheese package from Cowgirl, which I know I’m not the only person who can devour in one sitting.
Press Club’s Fall Harvest Tasting is Sunday, Sept. 25
Press Club, the swank subterranean lounge at 20 Yerba Buena Lane, will host its fifth annual Harvest Celebration Sunday, Sept. 25 from 2-5 p.m., offering unlimited tastings of 60 varietals from Northern California and Central Coast wineries, plus cheese pairings. And tickets are only $30!
Munchies Looks at the Process of Roasting a 1,000-Pound Cow in Argentina
WARNING: Don’t click this if you’re at all squeamish. The cow was worth $1,800, fed 400 people, and required 250 logs that burned for 23 hours.
Importing a Keg of Rare, Expensive Belgian Beer Is Tricky
Mission Dolores, the Brooklyn craft beer bar, struggled to get a keg of Cantillon Iris in time for its fifth-year anniversary. Food and Wine has the deets on this ordeal.
This Ad Has the Right Wing Very Upset
Blogger Joe My God chronicles the more prurient obsessions of sex-phobic scolds One Million Moms, and this campaign against Kraft Heinz feels pretty lame.
A Catfish Fell Out of the Air and Smacked Some Lady in Philly on the Head
Just for the hell of it, because I never get enough of these stories. ABC quotes the woman, Lisa Lobree, as saying “I smelled disgusting,” because a bird probably threw up the catfish mid-air.