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Jul 7, 2006 06:28 AM

A good friend to Chowhound – food writer Jonathan Kauffman leaves Berkeley for Seattle.

This is a heads-up to Seattle that they are about to eat more deliciously.

It is a tip just like letting Chowhounds know about those restaurants that are hidden gems. The point is to help Chowhounds eat better. Read Kauffman and you will.

When the Chowhound SF Guide was published, the East Bay Express food writer, Jonathan Kauffman, was one of the first writers to give it a plug in his column. Over the years he has given the nod to Chowhound every now and then.

His last column for the SF Bay Area was this week and he will be moving on to the Seattle Weekly.

Seattle is getting one of the most entertaining, witty, knowledgeable, passionate food writers in the country. You are about to start to eat even more deliciously.

Not only is Kauffman a beautiful writer he is spot-on.

I’ve never found his reviews to be anything but honest. He writes about the big places and the little places with equal respect and often goes where few other reviewers tread.

He has introduced the Bay Area to different cuisines and if he is not familiar with a cuisine, he’s honest about it and doesn’t try to be the expert. One of my favorite reviews was about a Persian restaurant where he wrote ...

‘It's hard not to become swept up in the romance of Persian cuisine. Just browsing through a good restaurant's menu ... is like reading the Song of Solomon or The Thousand and One Nights ... Shiraz in San Ramon, specialize almost exclusively in kebabs. Kebabs we know.”

He is also one of the kindest reviewers. He doesn’t rip apart a restaurant for a laugh. He has a talent for pointing out that the food isn’t good without embarrassing the restaurant.

I am far from a professional writer and don’t pretend to be even to myself, but I try to emulate some of Kauffman’s class when writing about food that isn’t very good. There’s a way to say things without being mean.

Kauffman reads Chowhound. He would shine more light on worthy little restaurants, helping to throw a little more attention and business their way which kept the doors to little-known Chowhound favorites open.

He picked up on one of my posts ... listen this isn’t delusion, the place has been in business years and NO one mentioned it, not even the yellow pages or citysearch.

It is a Salvadorian joint and while he didn’t share my lofty opinion of the pupusas, he amused me to no end when he tried the lizard on the menu that I was too chicken to try ... he said it DID taste like chicken ... and he would order it again ... and it was "ranched", sustainably-raised iguana. His wonderful description almost made me order it ... almost ... but I did try another dish he recommended and it was great.

So Seattle Chowhounds, you are some lucky dogs to have Kauffman writing about the food scene in your city.

Try those restaurants ... and then don't forget to report back on Chowhound about your opinion of restaurants you find through Kauffman ... not all Chowhounds might read the Seattle Weekly and may need another pointer to the great chow ... and the more opinions, the better.

Here is his last East Bay Express Review

*** Note: Edited July 07, 2006 at about 8:30 am for spelling and grammar errors. No content change. If you read it, no need to re-read.

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  1. Damn! Damn, damn, damn!

    Jonathan Kauffmann is probably the only local food writer that every Bay Area chowhound respects. He's a true chowhound: always seeking out deliciousness in obscure places.

    I can only echo all the kind things rworange said about him. I also had the pleasure of being invited to join him on one of his reviewing meals and found him to be a delightful dining companion -- just as food-obsessed as any other chowhound I've ever dined with.

    Be good to him, Seattle! Of course, maybe I should be hoping you'll drive him out of town and back to us.

    1. Ruth, Don't be too concerned. The average tenure at the Seattle Weekly can be measured in minutes rather than months. I look forward to what he finds on our local scene but don't be surprised if you see him back in your neighborhood before the holidays....

      1. i also have been reading his reviews for quite a while. And he is always spot on, when discussing the chocoaltes at the Epicurious Garden to reviews of Gregoire's to Soccas to his most recent round-up on ice cream joints (which was quite witty and informed).

        1. SF's loss is Seattle's gain. His first review and an introductory column are in this week's Seattle Weekly.

          I think his East Bay Express replacement John Birdsall (formerly of the Contra Costa Times) is pretty good. In his second column, he actually managed to review a new place before anybody reported on it on the SF Bay Area board.

          1. Thanks for the links to Kauffman's articles.

            I've been following John Birdsall in the CC Times for well over a year. IMO, he is an awful critic and his recommendations are unreliable.

            I came to peace with him as a CC Times critic only because he was the perfect critic for the suburban crowd. His background, from reading his column is white middle-class. Nellie's was an adventure to him.

            He is fine when he is reviewing places like Bing Crosbys but has no insight into ethnic dining. He is Michael Bauer Light.

            I only trust his reviews on Thai restaurants because a friend of his is knowledgable about Thai food.

            I've been told he has wit that hasn't been utilized on the CC Times. I have been appalled at the humor he has displayed. It has been at the expense of restaurants.

            He picked up on a breakfast spot I reported on in Pinole. His harsh, unfunny review almost caused me to stop posting. I didn't want another restaurant like that embarrassed in print again.

            This was a spot that never sent out a press release, a little mom and pop that has quitely been in business for decades and didn't ask for attention. Dining there often, what he wrote I knew was untrue. He made the place look sleazy and dirty. It is not. It is a working class breakfast spot and to Birdsall this translated the way he reviewed it.

            It isn't the type of place that was going to lose business as a result of Birdsall's review. The town regulars continue to eat there because they know it is good, tasty, reasonably-priced food. The people go there after church services on Sunday and during the week it is a reliable blue collar stop.

            It did embarrass the restuarant though. I eat there and you should have seen the faces of the staff when anyone mentioned that review.

            One of the restaurants mentioned in that review you linked to has been reported on Chowhound a number of times ... and not favorably for the most part. Again, it is ethnic food and Birdsall is out of his element. I'm sure that the newspaper has quite a few letters from public relations firms and from that review it sounds like both places are publicity savy.

            So that's the type of ethnic place we can expect to read about ... Mexican joints with Niman Ranch meat and fancy pastry chefs ... and I hope he DOES stick to that. Otherwise some really tasty joint that might not meet his standards of what a restaurant should be may get trounced and as a result a little place Chowhounds love, just might lose the business that would keep them afloat due to public perception.

            And this is only what I think I can say without being deleted.

            The only thing I can hope is that if there is a replacement on the CC Times it will be someone of Kaufmann's stature. Then at least I'll have one professional source of food reporting in the East Bay.

            Although I like Nicholas Boer's reporting on the CC Times quite a lot and was happy to see him doing a review or two again. I'd be happy to be reading Boer again.