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Apr 7, 2007 11:11 PM

Phantom Gourmet's new radio show

I understand today(Saturday) was the debut of the Phantom Gourmet radio show on 96.9 FM Talk Boston with the Andelman brothers. Going to the 96.9 FM talk website, for some reason I couldn't get a live audio feed of the radio station. I'm in Montreal, watching the Phantom Gourmet television program on Canadian satellite. If anybody listened, any comments? What's the format of the program? Was their any heated discussions between callers & the Andelman brothers?

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  1. I haven't heard the talk radio show, but if you've seen the TV show, you know they focus on a kind of low-brow niche. In addition to locally-owned places, they review casual-dining chain restaurants, fast food chains, national-brand supermarket foods, and junk foods of every description. Those are areas that few other local food critics bother with, so it's a kind of public service, and undeniably popular. They certainly have faces (and hairdos) made for radio.

    13 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      I wonder if they're bringing their sponsors with them. I can hear the Maine Diner jingle on the radio now... I have never, ever seen any review show or printed column that so blatantly honks its sponsors - they have no shame. If you want a good review from the phantom, just buy some ads for their show. In my mind, it completely makes them useless as a review source - a bad review simply means that the restaurant probably refused to buy ad time.

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        I'm well aware of their television program(been watching regularly for two years), & the criticisms it gets from food boards like Chowhound. I still watch it despite its drawbacks. I was curious of their new radio venture.

        1. re: BLM

          Looking at their website, it appears to air only on Saturdays, 5-7pm. I'll try to give it a listen some time and report.

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            Yes, that's the case. Not sure, if the radio station can be listened to online(I tried last Saturday, but had no success).

            1. re: BLM

              The radio station DOES have live streaming audio, but not sure if they have the weekend shows to listen to live online.

              1. re: LindaWhit

                I tried & tried last Saturday afternoon, but couldn't listen. Maybe I'm doing something wrong.

                1. re: BLM

                  I guess if the LISTEN LIVE! link in the upper right-hand corner didn't do anything, perhaps they don't stream on the weekends - which would be odd.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    I got the 30 second ad each time, but no live streaming audio.

        2. re: MC Slim JB

          I disagree with MC Slim JB's assertion that "they focus on a kind of low-brow niche." I'd say they "focus" plenty of their attention to $50/plate Boston steak houses and other fine dining establishments as well as the hidden jewel type spots.

          The way you list all of the cheap and unhealthy foods as to lump them all together to make the point that these are the most featured foods on the show is a little unfair. The chain restaurant and fast food chains episode were just two episodes. Their shows are not usually dominated by chain reviews. The national brand supermarket foods are usually covered in one segment in each show, but those segments don't dominate the entire show. They probably take up less than 5 minutes per show.

          Now I'm not going to argue the point that the PG emphasizes healthy foods because they surely don't. But they have covered restaurants that showcase healthy eating, healthy, organic ingredients, etc. There just happen to be a whole lot less of those to review compared to the "regular," traditional food places.

          1. re: Joshua B

            I don't think by saying they focus on "low-brow niche" restaurants that means they focus on cheap or unhealthy restaurants. I think I understand what MC Slim is referring to but I'll leave it to him to explain in his own words should he choose.

            I agree with you that they do mix it up. Last week I was thrilled to see Oishii and B&G. I like both very much and they are very unique, and coincidentally healthy with a focus on excellent ingredients.

            I watch weekly, it's a like a train wreck that I can't turn away from. I really don't need to see another Summer Shack, Kowloon, Strega, or Carl's Subs feature again any time soon. But since you never know what might get airtime I keep on watching, annoyed on occasion, and pleasantly surprised on others. Most of the time I'm just motivated to go out and eat ASAP.

            1. re: Joshua B

              The Andelmans wouldn't know a food find if it bit them in the keester.

              All the show is good for is reiterations of known and well understood eats - they are neither first to break news or the first to go off on a tangent with regard to opinions of well established joints.

              They are worse than Zagat - a great source for anti-discovery, anti-original, follow the crowd and repeat loudly what the "foodies" seem to be saying at the time.

              That is counter to the basic Chowhound ethos of discovery and of NOT following the crowd.

              And no matter how man times he's told, Dave just doesn't know the difference between Sirloin and Top or Short Loin Strip. And Dan is so annoying - better than he was back 3-4 years ago when they were on cable only and all he did was that web site bit - but annoying nevertheless.

              I used to watch them and post on their site regularly many years ago - before they changed it and decided that some form of monitoring and oversight was a good thing - boy, you should have seen some of the legendary fights I had (particularly with this one gal that just refused to eat in Chinatown because "it was so dirty"). I exchanged lots of emails with Dan.

              But then I grew up. They didn't. I learned more about food, about restaurants, about challenges to your basic understanding of tastes and food lore. In short, I moved over to Chowhound. Of course - I'm still looking for a good fight with that person who won't eat in Chinatown - but I have a much broader understanding of quality and greatness in virtually any type of food. The Andelmans and the PG have been stuck in their rut since their first show. I truly hope that they enjoy the pu-pu platter and the wonderful sushi at Kowloon forever.

              1. re: Joshua B

                I don't mean to imply that the Phantom Gourmet focuses only on the kind of foods beloved by, in the immortal words of Keith Foulke, "Johnny from Burger King." But I would say that that kind of coverage is their big differentiator: I don't see nearly as much ink or airtime given to mass-market foodstuffs and restaurants anywhere else locally.

                My broader point is that they deliberately cultivate and promote a kind of plebeian worldview, presenting themselves as The Brothers Sixpack, not the kind of wealthy, worldly, well-traveled diners that typically share their luxury-condo addresses. And I think there's real value in and demand for that kind of restaurant reviewing.

                But it shouldn't be hard to figure out why I don't place a lot of trust in their opinions. I think their impartiality is suspect. They don't seem like real diggers: I've never seen them scoop anyone on something really Chowish. And it's hard for me to place much stock in their opinions of high-end places. I don't need my reviewers to have culinary-school certifications -- if anything, Chowhound proves every day that the so-called experts have nothing on dedicated amateurs -- but these guys strike me as very undiscriminating. They rave about too many places that I find revolting at worst or average at best. I think you have to love both high and low food and everything in between to consider yourself a true Chowhound. I just can't bring myself to apply that label to those guys.

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  "I think you have to love both high and low food and everything in between to consider yourself a true Chowhound. I just can't bring myself to apply that label to those guys."


            2. If you find it I would love to know. I happen to like their tv show and see nothing low brow about it. Yes, they do review fast food and junk food places but also high brow Arrows, White Barn Inn etc. I also have found the reviews to be pretty objective. I was happy to see the Andelman brothers take over since they are obviously the show.

              8 Replies
              1. re: emilief

                What I mean by lowbrow is their reviewing of supermarket donuts, mass-market candy, Hostess vs. Lil Debbie Snack Cakes, Subway vs. Quiznos (and a lot of other fast-food chains), Prego vs. Ragu, that kind of thing.

                The shilling aspect is open to debate, but I personally think there's some horse trading going on, judging how often they rave about places that I think are indisputably awful.

                And given the gusto with which these guys shovel down bad pizza and Taco Bell and that kind of dreck on camera, I'm not exactly running to them for their opinion of Arrows or the White Barn Inn. But they're clearly filling a need out there.

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  Excellent clarification. I watch weekly but am constantly bothered by inconsistencies. I think "The Phantom" is legit, providing decent reviews and diverse types of restaurants, but the Andelman's are hustlers. They are constantly plugging the same restaurants that are advertising during their show. They even have these same restaurant owners participate in commercials and special shows. It's impossible not t find this unprofessional, or at a minimum biased.

                  I agree with you, that this is not a go-to show for serious dining recs. But I very much like many of the "Great 8" restaurants and Hidden Jewels. Places like Gargoyles, Coast Cafe, Stella, Vinny's at Night come to mind. I was thrilled to see Grotto be featured... I'm happy if their show brings some of these faves of mine new and continued business.

                  1. re: kittychow

                    Yes, they push the people who pay their way but that is why they pay for advertising. Phantom reviews are usually pretty much on mark. great 8 and Hidden Jewels are interesting- I just skip the shows on pizza, fast food etc.
                    The other show-tv diner- is at least as bad when it comes to being objective. A recent review by a "diner for a day" of Alta Strada was an over the top raving. Well, of course, since the show had this person met at the door by Michael Schlow and he kept sending them special plates. Was this person really supposed to say that this place was anything but great?? Last week the diner for the day raved about O Ya after being fed 19 courses free. Well . . there was no discussion of how much that cost!
                    All these reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt to some extent- including the ones by chowhounders because people's tastes differ, and experiences differ when there are off nights or a bad waiter. Still, there is something to be learned from all these sources.

                    1. re: emilief

                      I agree that both TV Diner's and the Phantom Gourmet's objectivity are suspect at best, and patently whoring to their advertisers at worst. I disagree that this should be swallowed as "par for the course, everybody does it." There are many critics out there who are not beholden to pressure to support advertising revenues.

                      This is a very different issue from the "subjectivity" one, where a) a reviewer's tastes might be different from yours, and b) a reviewer's handful of experiences at a restaurant might not necessarily accurately reflect the average experience -- it's inevitably a small sample size, and many highly variable factors, both in the front and back of the house, contribute to a diner's overall experience of a restaurant.

                      In the case of a) the reviewer's prejudices, you can figure out over time that MC Slim JB has an unfair bias against casual dining chains and overreacts to the phrase, "You still pickin' at that?" You can eventually calculate whether a critic's sensibilities match yours, and weigh their advice accordingly.

                      The b) issue is a tougher one. So much of the overall restaurant experience varies from night to night, table to table, server to server, diner to diner. You can either discount a reviewer's small-sample, idiosyncratic experience entirely, or hope that they've gone enough times to get a meaningful average sample. As I place a huge premium on consistency (I want place I recommend to be as good for my friends as it was for me, or I look stupid), I tend to think that a relatively small sample of three or four visits should be good enough to gauge what others might experience on any given night.

                      It's not infallible, but it is hopefully better than relying on sources who might just be shilling for their advertisers, people who only visited a place once, or folks whose preferences you know nothing about, whose favorite restaurant might be The Cheesecake Factory.

                      If you're smart and Chowish, you're a critical consumer of criticism: you know how to weigh each of these opinions. My calculus says: the Phantom Gourmet gang knows its junk food, isn't overly impressed by refined technique or rarified ingredients, and is not above selling its opinions to paying sponsors.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Again, very nice put. I was tempted to throw the term "payola" out there. ;)

                        I think the other issue with the possible pay for play and positive review on PG is that it makes the positive reviews for solid restaurants suspect.

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          Not sure if the format of the new Phantom Gourmet radio show, allows for listeners to call in. If so, & if they are in cohoots with some of their restaurant sponsors, then they could be challenged live on-air by listeners(that's part of the reason I originally started this thread, to inquire on this).

                          1. re: BLM

                            Find out, the Phantom Gourmet radio show hosted by the Andelman's do take calls from listeners.

                            1. re: BLM

                              Somehow I suspect that even if challenged on-air, the Andelmans are not going to admit to shilling for their advertisers. Just a guess.

                2. I've listened (I'm listening now as I'm readying to go out). What I like most about the tv show is the video footage of restaurants I'm curious about and the shots of the food itself . Obviously you don't get that on the radio. They are doing a lot of chains and low-brow stuff AND they are everywhere. ugh.

                  One of my favorite episodes on the show is when they all do credit card roulette at an upscale steakhouse. I understand they are doing another one of these. Always nice to see these boys sweat.

                  I have a love/hate relationship with the Andelmans.

                  1. There's this new thread that someone has just started from here

                    1. I like their radio show - listened to it for the first time last night and they were focusing on the best restaurants in the North End (being Italian and loving the north end, I was psyched to hear the topic). With the restaurants I've tried - I either agreed or hadn't tried the food they had recommended (and will when I head back - now I've got some different ideas of what to order, which is why I listen/watch). And I learned a few new places to try. There were a few callers who called in recommendations too - which is always fun, it’s like anyone can be a critic – I think it’s a cool format. I love the banter between the brothers ... it's like reality radio.

                      And about the whole promoting/advertising thing - it's radio ... of course there are advertisers. Of course you're going to run ads of the people who pay you ... that's just business 101. AND there is so much more content if you're actually listening for it ...

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: foodiegirl35

                        Sure, commercial radio runs advertising during its programming. That's tough to dispute.

                        I think the question here is whether the content of the Phantom Gourment contains ads disguised as reviews: segments that are known elsewhere as "advertorials". To the casual viewer/listener, these sound just like the unbiased opinions of an impartial critic, when in fact, the reviewer is giving a favorable opinion in return for money paid by the sponsoring restaurant.

                        My big problem with the Phantom Gourmet is that (in my opinion) it routinely mixes in these ads-disguised-as-unbiased-reviews with its actual unbiased reviews, and leaves it to the audience to figure out which is which. They don't disclose the parts of the show where their opinions are for sale as a "paid public announcement", "paid programmring", or the like. I think that's deceitful and unethical. (I've only seen the TV show, haven't heard the radio program yet, but doubt there's much difference between them in this respect.)

                        My own assessment of the show goes like this: the numbered rating reviews (scale of 0-100) appear less like ads, more like unbiased reviews. The Great Ate (top 8 picks in a category) seem heavily slanted toward restaurants whose ads have recently appeared on the show, or appear on subsequent shows a week or two later. Anytime Dan (the brother with the hair plastered to his head with what looks like surf wax) opens his mouth, he's whoring: he always seems to rave nauseatingly about a restaurant that inevitably turns out to be a big buyer of commercial spots on the show. That's the toughest segment for me to watch.

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          Actually, looking at a recent show, I realize I've gotten the brothers mixed up. It's Dave Andelman who's the shameless drooler over restaurants he's recently collected big ad revenues from. Dan is the less offensive brother, the emcee. Funny how their Great 8 for Chinese restaurants this week features Quan's, a longtime advertiser.

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            How's the 'Phantom Gourmet Guide to Boston's Best Restaurants' book doing in the Boston-area? Is it a local best seller? The 2008 edition just came out.

                            1. re: BLM

                              I don't know anyone who would consider buying it, given what a bunch of untrustworthy whores the Phantom Gourmet gang is known as locally. It looks to me like a compilation of their TV show's "Great Ate" lists, their top 8 picks in various categories.

                              Funny how most of the places that appear on these "best of" lists are also advertisers on the show. Save yourself the money, Tivo the show, and skip directly to the commercials; you'll figure out who they're likely to endorse faster that way.

                              I imagine its sales volume would pale in comparison to the Boston edition of Zagat, but I'm not a book dealer.

                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                I think the book is helpful, more so than Zagat. They rate the "little guys" as well as the high end restaurants that one rarely goes to anyway. I'm going to visit a moderately priced place a lot more often than an expensive one, so I like that I have more options presented to me. And the segments on the tv show, who doesn't shop at the supermarket and have junkfood in the house? I think a Little Debbie review would be a great comic relief :)

                                1. re: BaileysMom521

                                  My point is that the Phantom's book is full of positive reviews of and recommendations for restaurants that paid for the favorable mention. So that's effectively like reading advertisements. I suppose this would be handy for people who do whatever advertising tells them to.

                                  I shop at the supermarket, but I don't buy any of the stuff that the Phantom reviews in those segments: cookies, snack cakes, jarred spaghetti sauce, candy, donuts, teriyaki sauce, presweetened cereal, soda. They should call that one the "High-Fructose Corn Syrup Segment". Or maybe the "Obesity and Adult-Onset Diabetes Corner".

                                  Zagat is full of moderately-priced places. I don't particularly trust its recommendations, either, since I know nothing about the many people whose opinions are averaged into Zagat's ratings. I don't want to take advice from someone whose favorite restaurant might be The Cheesecake Factory. But it is a handy reference. I mainly use the online version for its "sort by" features.

                                2. re: MC Slim JB

                                  Have you spotted any of the Andelman brothers, at the Boston-area eateries that they frequently mention? From the sound of things, Dave Andelman must dine out daily(lunch & dinner). They must be regulars at the Kowloon & Strega restaurants.

                                  1. re: BLM

                                    I dine out frequently in the South End, and have often seen Dan Andelman and (I presume) his wife at a nearby table. I understand they live in the neighborhood (in the Atelier condo complex near Sibling Rivalry, I've heard).

                                    I've also been to Strega a few times, which is one reason I'm certain the Phantom's raves can't be trusted.

                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      Do you suspect the Andelmans are getting comp meals at many of their favourite establishments?

                                      1. re: BLM

                                        I have no knowledge of whether the Andelmans get comped for meals anywhere.

                                        But you don't have to be a particularly acute consumer of criticism to note a connection between the restaurants who advertise on the Phantom Gourmet and the lavish praise many of those advertisers receive from the hosts, as well as favorable reviews and inclusion in best-of lists in the content of the show.

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          Have there been any articles in the Boston(or New England press), taking a serious look at the Phantom Gourmet television show(not puff pieces). Questioning the PG reviews, the credibility of the Andelmans, etc..

                                          1. re: BLM

                                            I've seen Dave (the thinner one) strutting around the Theater District bandying about a large cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee like a prop. "I'm just a regulah guy," he seems to say, as he makes sure the DD label is positioned front-and-center...just in case there's a camera.

                                    2. re: BLM

                                      Given how chubby Dan has gotten over the last few years, one wonders if it isn't him who's going out to eat all the time.