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Cringe-worthy words in restaurant reviews

sixelagogo Nov 18, 2007 05:52 AM

Time and time again, I see some adjectives in restaurant reviews that make me want to toss a :"sublime" pie in the reviewer's face...2 of my LEAST FAVORITE, yet always over-used words:

Sublime

From the NYTimes NJ region restaurant review:

On another day, pastas were sublime, the fresh-cut spaghetti and the pappardelle precisely cooked, the Bolognese sauce a chunky, creamy delight, and the shrimp and zucchini working in concert with the pasta.

Ethereal
From a NYTimes reivew of D'OR AHN
The most riveting of the small plates, and one of the least small, was thin slices of eye round of beef, which had been dusted with sweet rice flour and seared in oil. These cutlets were more ethereal than I realized fried beef could be - maybe too ethereal, and thus an illustration of one of the restaurant's frustrations.

Am I the CH outthere that this bothers?

  1. MC Slim JB Nov 18, 2007 06:33 AM

    I think most food writers will tell you it's an endless challenge coming up with fresh ways to describe food experiences week in and week out. I catch myself reusing certain stock adjectives, and it's painful. Shoot me if I describe another restaurant's look as "sleek".

    I'm more offended by plain old bad writing. The worst offender I've run across is the NY Daily News' restaurant critic, the erstwhile blog-natterer Restaurant Girl, whose prose sounds like the product of a junior high kid with her first thesaurus. Every sentence is torture. Her editors should be ashamed.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB
      invinotheresverde Nov 19, 2007 11:05 AM

      I sooooo agree with you about "sleek". Has there been a restaurant opened in the last five years in New England that hasn't been described as such?

      What about restaurant reviewers that have poor taste and are tacky in general? One restaurant reviewer for the Providence Journal recently noted he was drinking a glass of White Zinfandel with his dinner. Then there was the reviewer on Kitchen Nightmares whose apertif was Jagermeister on the rocks. How do these people expect us to take them seriously?

      1. re: invinotheresverde
        MC Slim JB Nov 19, 2007 11:38 AM

        I agree that Jager on the rocks is a bit odd as an aperitif, but it remains a brilliant digestif, served chilled, neat. It's not Jager's fault that its American distributors managed to market it into the frat boy's shooter of choice. That campaign, which boosted Jager case shipments into the millions, torpedoed its cachet as the sort of thing you'd sip from your flask on the slopes at St. Moritz.

        The good news is that once I realized that ordering Jager was now a good way to get carded (15 years ago now), I started casting about for a digestif that didn't suggest that I might also enjoy butterscotch-flavored schnapps, and thereby discovered Italian amari, notably Fernet Branca. Fernet is actually slightly more effective than Jager at settling an overstuffed stomach, and until rather recently in the States still retained the frisson of the exotic and unknown. It's an indispensable part of my bar.

        1. re: MC Slim JB
          t
          TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis Dec 2, 2007 07:43 AM

          "At Allen & Delancey, a well-heeled woman spooned bone marrow into her mouth. It was a nonchalant bar gesture, followed by a leisurely sip of a cocktail.
          This is a culinary sign of the times."

          "Still, Allen & Delancey boasts more than its share of meaty delights. Even if you're not an organ eater by nature ..."

          C,mon! Head to that bar and put the Jager to good use ...
          http://supercocktails.com/5246/Dirk-D...

          After a fewer Digglers, it becomes more than readily apparent that the competition's "Page Six" and her dining experiences serve as perfect inter-textual foils fit to weave a formidable, deconstructive embrace around the zeitgeist.

          Ensconced! A pioneering culinary grammatologist.

      2. re: MC Slim JB
        c
        cheesemonger Nov 27, 2007 03:12 PM

        Restaurant Girl is the worst writer with a job I've ever read. You are correct, every sentence is torture- the girl doesn't even understand basic grammar.

      3. s
        shelleykelly Nov 18, 2007 07:31 AM

        No, you're not. I'm an editor and freelance writer, and even though I work in the beauty industry, it's a universal "EWWW" when writers try to use bizarre words they've found in the thesaurus as descriptive commentary on a subject.

        My most-hated food description is "UNCTUOUS" and if I hear it too many more times, I may exsanguinate myself. Ugh.

        6 Replies
        1. re: shelleykelly
          MplsM ary Nov 18, 2007 09:52 AM

          It is funny how for you “unctuous” is a word to be despised when it comes to food writing. For me that word sounds like what it means. I was going to say that to me it feels onomatopoetically correct but I wouldn’t want you to slit your wrists over something I typed.

          Most hated food descriptors? “Yummy” or even worse, “nummy,” both of which make me feel a little sick.

          1. re: shelleykelly
            c
            cooknKate Dec 6, 2007 05:30 AM

            Unctuous is used best when describing a wine. If someone used that word to describe food, since unctuous means 'oily', I wouldn't find it very appetizing.

            1. re: cooknKate
              b
              barndog Dec 12, 2007 03:34 PM

              I agree with you, I don't find anything appealing about something described as 'unctuous.' I think people mistakenly use 'unctuous' when they might actually mean 'sumptuous.' They sound very similar.

              1. re: cooknKate
                pikawicca Dec 12, 2007 03:40 PM

                Foie gras is certainly unctuous -- there's really no other way to describe the mouth-feel. Duck confit, ditto. And, surprisingly, a good Pad Thai. It's all about the mouth-feel, and I've never had a wine that I would describe as unctuous. It's a misappropriation of a word that has an established, prefectly good meaning.

              2. re: shelleykelly
                Robert Lauriston Feb 18, 2008 09:24 AM

                Any word can be misued or overused, but "unctuous" can be useful in contexts where "fatty," "oily" or "greasy" would have the wrong connotation.

                I've used it in reviews to describe pork belly, pork ragù, pit-barbecued fatty beef brisket, a raviolo filled with bacon and eggs, braised lamb's tongue, lamb testicles in a Peking-style hot pot, and tofu simmered in and coated with a very rich broth.

                Damn, now I'm hungry.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  tatamagouche Feb 18, 2008 02:59 PM

                  I'm with you; I think it very useful in its precision (in fact I just declared on my blog the other day that as a result of this thread, to which I linked, I would use "unctuous" in every other post from here on out, appropriately or not. Whether I will or not remains to be seen, but still. It's my nature to be cheerfully perverse & more than a little irritating.)

              3. daveena Nov 18, 2007 01:42 PM

                Ha ha. I've used both "ethereal" and "unctuous" in CH posts in the last two days. The way "ethereal" was used in the NYTimes review doesn't make any sense, though. How the hell can something be "too ethereal"?.

                My current most-hated word is "luscious". Blame the LA Times. It has (I think) the best food section in the country, but it seems to feature "luscious" in either a headline or a leading sentence in at least one article almost every week.

                1. Bob W Nov 18, 2007 04:02 PM

                  Gutsy! I hate gutsy.

                  Chefs may be gutsy, not their food.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Bob W
                    l
                    Leper Nov 18, 2007 04:32 PM

                    Bob, Obviously you have not eaten at a real Szechuan restaurant lately. Their food is genuinely gutsy--especially if you order the spicy pork intestine. (The poor man's Foie Gras.)

                    1. re: Leper
                      Bob W Nov 18, 2007 06:14 PM

                      LOL in fact, we do have several real Szechuan places here in Northern Virginia -- my go to spot is called Hong Kong Palace (they didn't bother to change the name). I will definitely look for intestine the next time I go -- not that I'll order it, but I'll look for it. 8>P

                  2. trinitychef Nov 18, 2007 06:34 PM

                    Try reading The Artful Diner if you want cringe-worthy.

                    1. Phaedrus Nov 18, 2007 07:53 PM

                      "Cooked to perfection", or grilled or baked or braised or roasted.

                      I don't know why it makes me cringe, but it does and this is a recent pet peeve. Its probably because I hear it so much. If everyone does it to perfection, then what is the challenge?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Phaedrus
                        julietg Dec 8, 2008 04:56 PM

                        I second (third?). This especially drives me nuts on a menu. I'll decide if it's perfection, thank you very much!

                      2. MC Slim JB Nov 19, 2007 05:41 AM

                        I thought of another one: a reviewer describes allegedly-barbecued ribs as "falling off the bone", as though this is a good thing.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                          s
                          swsidejim Nov 19, 2007 06:20 AM

                          I agree, any place that has ribs to be reported to be "falling off the bone" is a place I will skip.

                        2. b
                          BostonCookieMonster Nov 19, 2007 06:14 AM

                          Ohhhh, you're going to be sorry you got me started.

                          "Eatery," "boite," and all other smarmy attempts to avoid the word "restaurant."

                          "Victuals," "viands," "comestibles," and all other smarmy attempts to avoid the word "food."

                          "Bivalves, "crustaceans," and all other smarmy attempts to avoid the words "mussels," "clams," "shrimp," etc.

                          "Redolent" kinda bugs.

                          "Ubiquitous" in connection with creme brulee, tuna tartare, or whatever delicious item has become exceedingly popular but that most people who aren't paid to eat out have not had the opportunity to grow so very, very weary of. (I'm looking at you, Nameless Former Reviewer With Initials AA.)

                          I know the ones that really drive me nuts are escaping me at the moment. I better get my hands on a copy of the I*p*o*e* B*s*o*i*n to refresh my memory.

                          I agree with MC Slim that bad writing is the real problem, not bad words. But just as it's kind of silly to criticize the writing at the word level, it's deeply misguided to WRITE at the word level, trying to achieve creativity by just replacing familiar words with "creative" ones.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: BostonCookieMonster
                            Chowpatty Dec 5, 2007 01:18 PM

                            I try really hard not to use any of these cliches, but it's pretty hard to do a review or feature and not use a few substitutes for "restaurant." I wouldn't use boite unless it made sense in the context of a nightclub, and I would shy away from eatery, but I get pretty tired of spot, place, bistro, etc.

                            1. re: Chowpatty
                              b
                              BostonCookieMonster Dec 6, 2007 05:35 AM

                              But there's nothing wrong with re-using the word "restaurant" a couple of times. Really. Trust me, I'm an editor (hee hee). How many times would you have to say it, anyway?

                              1. re: BostonCookieMonster
                                alanstotle Feb 14, 2008 06:54 AM

                                On the other hand, "restaurant" is a generic type of word. Technically I suppose that any place that sells prepared food is a restaurant, but some places are more restaurant than others. I don't think of the food court at Costco as a "restaurant;" I certainly don't think of the taco truck at the swap meet in Selma as a "restaurant."

                                So I sometimes use the word "eatery" not to be smarmy but to capture the connotation of these places as a lot more casual than a "restaurant."

                                I know...I know...I suppose I could just refer to these places as "food court" or "taco truck."

                                1. re: alanstotle
                                  b
                                  BostonCookieMonster Feb 14, 2008 07:30 AM

                                  I'm afraid I would point and laugh if you called the taco truck at a swap meet an "eatery." It's proud to be a taco truck, man.

                                  1. re: BostonCookieMonster
                                    alanstotle Feb 14, 2008 10:41 AM

                                    Point taken.

                          2. s
                            swsidejim Nov 19, 2007 06:18 AM

                            yummy, yummo, or any variation of this childrens word, please purchase a thesaurus if this is the word a writer uses to describe food.

                            delish

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: swsidejim
                              Up With Olives Nov 19, 2007 10:46 AM

                              Yes, agreed on "yummy," "veggies," and "cooked to perfection."

                              Also, the dreaded "mouth-watering." I just can't help seeing the drooling aliens from The Simpsons.

                              1. re: Up With Olives
                                s
                                swsidejim Nov 19, 2007 10:56 AM

                                hilarious kang & kodos simpsons reference.

                                veggies is also on my list.

                              2. re: swsidejim
                                s
                                slacker Nov 21, 2007 10:54 AM

                                Spot on re YUMMY. Totally agree re grownups should not be using children's words.
                                Also hate WHATNOT, but that's a different story.

                              3. g
                                gutreactions Nov 19, 2007 07:32 AM

                                While creativity in writing helps, along with a good Thesaurus, what shall we have writers (critics) do...should we also avoid basic words like: hot, cold, soft, hard...what language are we striving for here. Perhaps we should create a new body of words especially for describing the food and dining realm, outside of industry terms that already exist...I'd like to learn as I do a bit of writing myself.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: gutreactions
                                  Phaedrus Nov 19, 2007 08:33 AM

                                  I think the problem is that most critics are chruning out a product and they really don't spend their time crafting their writing to describe what the overall experience is like.

                                  The work is hard, especially given the sometimes less than inspiring cuisine or restaurant experience. But the crux of the matter is that a food critic's job is manifold: to evoke long lost memories triggered by the eating experience, to duplicate the smell, tast, mouth feel, and combinations thereof of the food experience, to describe all the nuances and details of the service, restaurant decor, and general experience. It can be done, but it isn't easy, and though a small vocabulary coupled with a general intellectual laziness, i.e. thesaurus mining only hurt the effort rather than help, the fundamentals of writing is what will distinguish a well written piece that is able to communicate to the reader rather than raise their ire.

                                  Marcel Proust was able to communicate what the minor experience of eating a madeleine means to him, so I expect a good food critic to at least get across what he/she thought of the restaurant without painful and trite writing.

                                  1. re: Phaedrus
                                    c
                                    condiment Nov 19, 2007 11:18 AM

                                    It must be said: the evocation of Proust's madeleine is right up there in the cliches to be avoided. (Any other Proust allusions, though, are not only welcome but appreciated.)

                                2. Dyspepsia Nov 19, 2007 12:18 PM

                                  All descriptives ending in "licious" -chocolicious, spaghettilicious, spamlicious, etc.

                                  17 Replies
                                  1. re: Dyspepsia
                                    MplsM ary Nov 20, 2007 09:12 AM

                                    Would also venture words ending in "tastic," excepting "craptastic, " which titillates my sometimes puerile sensibilities.

                                    1. re: MplsM ary
                                      g
                                      ginnyhw Nov 21, 2007 04:17 AM

                                      My mother banned 'tasty' about 20 years ago and it still makes me cringe.

                                      1. re: ginnyhw
                                        LindaWhit Nov 23, 2007 11:26 AM

                                        Yes, but you have to admit, watching Lucy Ricardo try and spit out the words "It's so tasty, too!" after taking her eleventeenth spoonful of Vitameatavegamin is pretty funny. :-) (Whenever I read the word "tasty" in a review, I always think of this skit! LOL)

                                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzgVvA...

                                        1. re: ginnyhw
                                          jennywinker Nov 29, 2007 10:10 AM

                                          But can we agree that "Crazy Tasty" (TM) can still be used to describe SPAM?

                                        2. re: MplsM ary
                                          monkeyrotica Feb 12, 2008 10:02 AM

                                          Agreed. "Craptacular" is an arrow that is always in my quiver, along with "poopylicious."

                                          I can't stand a review that uses double-negatives. It's just plain sloppy. "While the seared jaguar cheeks in a panther sweat reduction was not inexpensive...." Well, thanks for telling me WHAT IT ISN'T. Can you tell me what it is? Oh, you mean it's EXPENSIVE? Well, why didn't you say that?

                                          1. re: monkeyrotica
                                            MC Slim JB Feb 12, 2008 10:34 AM

                                            I don't know. I don't use double negatives a lot, but their meaningfulness in English is one of the reasons it's a language of diplomacy. It allows for shading, understatement, and often euphemism, providing a softer, subtler way of getting a point across. I think it can be useful to note that something is not absent, as opposed to directly affirming its presence. To my ear, "not inexpensive" and "expensive" don't really say the same thing.

                                            1. re: MC Slim JB
                                              monkeyrotica Feb 12, 2008 11:03 AM

                                              Okay, I'll bite. How does "not inexpensive" differ from "expensive?" Is a one topping $22 nine-inch organic personal pizza "not inexpensive" or is it "expensive?" I guess to someone who eats out every day and can afford it, I would say the former. For everybody else...

                                              I understand your contention, but I would submit that diplomacy is not so much about revealing information as it is hiding it. It's about posturing and pretense which is EXACTLY what the use of double negatives in reviews is all about, to me anyway. Grammar like this triggers a visceral response in me to the point where I just put the review down. It's like when something is "not uninspired." Well, what IS it then?

                                              1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                c
                                                condiment Feb 12, 2008 05:57 PM

                                                ``Not uninspired'' is generally ironic understatement. It's voice. It doesn't mean the same thing as ``inspired,'' just as ``not inexpensive'' doesn't quite mean ``expensive'' - a $22 pizza is not an extravagance on the level of a $85,000 car. You could probably afford the former if it were important to you, perhaps not the latter. There are a thousand shades of meaning to be derived from a sentence, and a thousand ways of getting there. A restaurant review is not a sports score - the halibut does not win three-zip. The chef is not suspended for a flagrant foul. Life goes on.

                                                1. re: condiment
                                                  t
                                                  TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis Feb 12, 2008 06:09 PM

                                                  Do ( or would that be does ) "inspired" and "expensive" ( not un / in / not in ) share a common "transitive" property?

                                                  1. re: condiment
                                                    monkeyrotica Feb 13, 2008 03:45 AM

                                                    Agreed. But the particular "shade of meaning" that uses tired cliches like "not uninspired/inexpensive" is the sort of language that's in love with itself more than it is about conveying useful information. To me, it gets in the way of the "meaning" of the "text" (i.e., what the food/decor/service was like).

                                                    It's like when I'm trapped in a theater watching commercials and previews that go on and on and on before the feature movie. I want to scream, "START THE MOVIE!" I read "the macaque sphincter charcuterie was not uninspired" and I'm transported to a dark movie theater where the voice of Don Lafontaine intones:

                                                    "In a world...where macaque sphincter charcuterie is not uninspired...where $22 personal pizzas are not inexpensive...a hero will rise...From the makers of 'Love in the Time of Tapas' and 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Lime Foam' comes a magical world where tricky subjunctives take the place of clear language..."

                                                    1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                      MC Slim JB Feb 13, 2008 05:59 PM

                                                      That was hilarious!

                                                      But I reserve the right, however infrequently I might actually exercise it, to not always say things in the bluntest, most direct prose possible. I think it would be a pretty dull world if every writer made the same choices on this score.

                                                      1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                        t
                                                        TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis Feb 14, 2008 04:14 PM

                                                        "gets in the way of the 'meaning'", please.
                                                        "hilarious" ... yeah, got me there.

                                                        1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis
                                                          monkeyrotica Feb 15, 2008 04:06 AM

                                                          Actually, that was a (too) subtle jab at the deconstructionist crowd that looks at everything (literature, social constructs, food) as a "text" to be deconstructed. They "tend" to be the heaviest "users" of "quotes" "ever."

                                                          The English language, she's is a beautiful and flexible mistress, but when she wears the same clothes day after day after day, or when her idea of "dressing up" is a lime green Sunday hat with a stuffed purple stoat on top, we have to ask ourselves two questions:

                                                          1. What the HELL are you talking about? or

                                                          2. Here's my wallet. Don't hurt me, okay?

                                                          1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                            t
                                                            TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis Feb 15, 2008 03:31 PM

                                                            I sense offense ... none meant, really.

                                                            A. Not pork chops dressed in bruised prose.
                                                            B. Can I at least *borrow* "lime", promise not to use it as a verb - really.

                                                            1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                              f
                                                              FoodieGrrl Feb 21, 2008 07:26 AM

                                                              monkeyrotica - I think I'm in love with you! Hilarious!

                                                              1. re: FoodieGrrl
                                                                t
                                                                TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis Feb 21, 2008 03:59 PM

                                                                Caution!
                                                                That mistress brandishes a cruel whisk ... and spins an (a) over-ripe tale.

                                                  2. re: monkeyrotica
                                                    alkapal Apr 26, 2008 09:55 AM

                                                    i just want to know where to find those "seared jaguar cheeks in a panther sweat reduction"....expensive or not inexpensive, or not. ;-)

                                                    'cause i plan to wear my very best "lime green Sunday hat with a stuffed purple stoat on top."

                                                    you, monkeyrotica, are hilarious!

                                              2. o
                                                Old Spice Nov 20, 2007 06:13 PM

                                                "Meltingly tender" makes me cringe. Is there really no other way for a reviewer (aka a professional writer) to tell me that something is about as tender as it can possibly be? I'm fine with the oft-used "falling off the bone," but "meltingly tender" sets my teeth on edge. As does "yummy," as others have noted. I really, really hate that word and it has nothing to do with Rachael Ray and "yummo." I actually hate "yummo" a tad less than I hate "yummy." Then, I also hate it when adults ask other adults for a "linky" on line.

                                                1. babette feasts Nov 23, 2007 02:06 AM

                                                  The word 'toothsome', and alliteration in general, it's really not that clever or cute.

                                                  22 Replies
                                                  1. re: babette feasts
                                                    a
                                                    aurora50 Nov 23, 2007 11:46 AM

                                                    There's a reviewer here in the San Gabriel (greater Los Angeles) area that uses phrases like "chewing on a hunk o' meat" and "great chow" that is absolutely revolting to me.

                                                    1. re: aurora50
                                                      babette feasts Nov 24, 2007 02:23 AM

                                                      And how could I forget 'showstopping'? Not in reviews so much, but it seemed like every month this summer, Gourmet had at least one dessert that they described as 'showstopping'. Worse than the repetition was that the desserts were not that exciting. Showstopping blueberry pie, showstopping panna cotta, showstopping milk and cookies. The show tends to end with dessert, but that doesn't make any old pie or tart a showstopper.

                                                      1. re: babette feasts
                                                        h
                                                        hungry_pangolin Nov 24, 2007 05:54 AM

                                                        Perhaps the show was inherently stoppable.

                                                        1. re: babette feasts
                                                          s
                                                          Sherri Nov 30, 2007 06:33 AM

                                                          It certainly stopped my show. I've let my subscription to GOURMET lapse for this - and other - inane prose.

                                                      2. re: babette feasts
                                                        jennywinker Nov 29, 2007 10:15 AM

                                                        I recently used "toothy" to describe a new brand of tortilla chips I tried. Was that a no no too?

                                                        1. re: babette feasts
                                                          tatamagouche Feb 13, 2008 06:26 AM

                                                          Yes, I hate toothsome!

                                                          1. re: tatamagouche
                                                            daveena Feb 14, 2008 11:02 AM

                                                            For all the "toothsome" haters - how do you describe the texture of a perfect nian gao, or knife-cut noode? "Al dente" doesn't seem quite right... it denotes a pinpoint center of firmness for me... I do see some people use "Q", but that's relatively obscure... until I find a better word, I'm sticking by "toothsome".

                                                            This thread is hilarious, by the way. As if I didn't have enough linguistic hangups to begin with... they're out of control now, and I blame all y'all.

                                                            1. re: daveena
                                                              tatamagouche Feb 14, 2008 11:06 AM

                                                              See my other post below--having said that, I'd still use it under duress!

                                                              1. re: daveena
                                                                alkapal Apr 26, 2008 09:57 AM

                                                                "toothsome" is definitely the only word for the texture of fresh rice noodles in pad kee mao. my teeth are craving some as i type.

                                                                1. re: alkapal
                                                                  c
                                                                  condiment Apr 28, 2008 01:53 PM

                                                                  Toothsome is a loathsome word, used 99.9 percent of the time as an overreaching simile for tasty or delicious. There is not even a tertiary meaning that indicates a specific texture, not even of a noodle.

                                                                  1. re: condiment
                                                                    Robert Lauriston Apr 28, 2008 02:15 PM

                                                                    "Toothsome" as a synonym for delicious is correct. Such usage dates back to 16th century.

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                      alkapal May 8, 2008 06:37 AM

                                                                      i stand whipped and ashamed.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                        tatamagouche May 8, 2008 05:03 PM

                                                                        Be that as it may, I agree with condiment that there's something persnickety about it, something that suggests the user is trying not to use the word delicious—which, after all, any amateur schmo can use (and should! Cause it sounds funny, like pants!)—in favor of something more authoritative-sounding.

                                                                        If it *did* indicate a certain bite, I'd like it better, per alkapal/daveena.

                                                                        But again, my only rule is not to rule any word out automatically, because you never know what context will require.

                                                                        1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                          Robert Lauriston May 8, 2008 08:35 PM

                                                                          Critics *are* trying not to use the word "delicious" more than once in a review. Hence "toothsome" and the other alternatives from the most dogeared page in their thesauri.

                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                            tatamagouche May 9, 2008 06:14 AM

                                                                            Sure, but there are countless ways around that beyond mere adjectival substitution.

                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                              alkapal Jan 19, 2009 10:06 AM

                                                                              all hounds: i heard alton brown (YES! AB!) use "toothsome" to describe some dish's texture -- and not flavorfulness -- on iron chef just recently. will our language "evolve" to admit this "mis"-use? (recalling our discussion about the erosion and blurring of the "healthy"/ "healthful" distinction).

                                                                              1. re: alkapal
                                                                                thew Jan 20, 2009 07:55 AM

                                                                                i like this shift of meaning here. toothsome sounds more like a textural comment. and we have plenty of words that mean "tasty"

                                                                                this just makes toothsome a translation of al dente - which means "to the tooth" anyway

                                                                                1. re: thew
                                                                                  alkapal Jan 20, 2009 09:13 AM

                                                                                  yes, to me toothsome "sounds like" a textural thing, too. i like your notation of al dente.

                                                                                  1. re: alkapal
                                                                                    BobB Jan 20, 2009 09:48 AM

                                                                                    Then should we replace toothsome in its traditional (dictionary) sense with "tonguesome"?

                                                                                    1. re: BobB
                                                                                      thew Jan 20, 2009 09:57 AM

                                                                                      that brings something else entirely to mind

                                                                                      1. re: BobB
                                                                                        alkapal Jan 20, 2009 03:29 PM

                                                                                        only if you're really handsome! ;-).

                                                                  2. re: babette feasts
                                                                    a
                                                                    Atahualpa Nov 22, 2008 11:07 AM

                                                                    Don't they know that striving to use alliteration almost always affects the accuracy of the argument?

                                                                  3. h
                                                                    hungry_pangolin Nov 23, 2007 12:01 PM

                                                                    Wow. No one has mentioned "decadent" yet.

                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                    1. re: hungry_pangolin
                                                                      sixelagogo Nov 24, 2007 10:50 AM

                                                                      I have to disagree,i kinda like the word decadent to describe a meal...it beats the term gluttonous, which i relate with obesitiy or, for that matter a "hedonistic," a word that implies stripping and x-rated beach resorts.

                                                                      1. re: sixelagogo
                                                                        babette feasts Nov 24, 2007 05:47 PM

                                                                        And 'sinful', generally used to describe desserts, particularly chocolate. If enjoying life is sinful, I'd find a new religion.

                                                                        1. re: babette feasts
                                                                          Phaedrus Nov 24, 2007 08:03 PM

                                                                          I worship at the altar of food. Does that count as a new religion?

                                                                          1. re: Phaedrus
                                                                            babette feasts Nov 25, 2007 01:56 AM

                                                                            It's mine. Some may dismiss us as a cult....no chocolate for them!

                                                                          2. re: babette feasts
                                                                            jennywinker Nov 29, 2007 10:13 AM

                                                                            Ditto to "sinful." And don't say you're "naughty" or "bad" if you "sneak" a mini Snickers bar. Own up to your right to eat whatever you like.

                                                                          3. re: sixelagogo
                                                                            n
                                                                            nosh Feb 16, 2008 01:27 PM

                                                                            Hedonistic is any burger over $12, and any dessert that hits double digits.

                                                                            1. re: nosh
                                                                              monkeyrotica Feb 17, 2008 07:02 AM

                                                                              Pffft. $12 burgers are so 1998. $15 burgers are the new hedonism.

                                                                              http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/bl...

                                                                            2. re: sixelagogo
                                                                              s
                                                                              SpiceMustFlow May 10, 2008 09:57 PM

                                                                              Hey, I just got back from Hedonism III, and it really wasn't all that x-rated. More like PG.

                                                                              The food, however, was decadent, toothsome, and occasionally unctuous.

                                                                          4. basicfoodgroupie Nov 27, 2007 02:59 PM

                                                                            There is a local "reviewer" that begins the tale with "First we had appetizers..." --- whoa! Hold the presses! Now that is newsworthy. Who would have ever thought of FIRST having appetizers!

                                                                            This reviewer also uses the words "nice" and "good" too much, like "The shrimp were nice." Well, isn't that special? I bet those shrimp pulled up a chair and entertained the group the whole evening. Maybe they even comped dessert.

                                                                            Another sin: "My dining partner said it was the best ravioli she ever had." Who *$)#*%* cares? Who is this dining partner? Did you try it? What made it so *#*$($)# great?!?!?

                                                                            Ugh.

                                                                            I need a drink - a yummy, toothsome, ethereal drink. Cheers.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: basicfoodgroupie
                                                                              a
                                                                              Ari Covair Feb 14, 2008 11:27 AM

                                                                              The "critic" at the Pittsburgh paper overuses "pleasant", as in "the entree was accompanied by a pleasant sauce". Just not helpful.

                                                                            2. c
                                                                              chef4hire Nov 27, 2007 04:42 PM

                                                                              oh...the worst for me is succulent...hate hate hate succulent

                                                                              definition is fleshy and juicy and it just grosses me out

                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                              1. re: chef4hire
                                                                                c
                                                                                condiment Nov 28, 2007 01:11 PM

                                                                                Succulence is a very specific descriptive, and as such is occasionally appropriate, usually when describing something with a melon-like ripeness where you wouldn't expect it; a braised squash or a slice of veal liver or something. Then again, it has been misused so often that the word is kind of loaded.

                                                                                1. re: condiment
                                                                                  sixelagogo Nov 28, 2007 03:04 PM

                                                                                  i agree.....i think the word succulence just oozes sex and kinda leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

                                                                                  1. re: sixelagogo
                                                                                    ElsieDee Nov 29, 2007 11:21 PM

                                                                                    Ah, I think that the word oozes sex and leaves a good taste in my mouth.

                                                                                    Seriously, though, I like how many food words tie-in with sex terms - they can both be forms of hedonism / surrender to the immediate experience kinda things - and I like that.

                                                                                    1. re: ElsieDee
                                                                                      sixelagogo Nov 30, 2007 02:39 AM

                                                                                      you bring up a good point...there are some people who enjoy the food/sex association, while others, it turns off...i'm in the latter category (obviously), as sex and food in the same sentence, to me, ultimately conger up unsanitary conditions and pubic hair in polenta...(guess one could say i'm a food prude) ;)

                                                                                      1. re: sixelagogo
                                                                                        s
                                                                                        slacker Dec 17, 2007 03:35 PM

                                                                                        They're both deadly sins. I think they go very well together.

                                                                                2. re: chef4hire
                                                                                  linguafood Nov 28, 2007 01:23 PM

                                                                                  mmmmhhhmm, succulent. as in shrimp. how is fleshy and juicy gross?

                                                                                  1. re: linguafood
                                                                                    c
                                                                                    chef4hire Dec 3, 2007 07:03 PM

                                                                                    when I hear fleshy juicy I think "fat dude oozing sweat" or even worse (I'll spare you the details)

                                                                                    I know it's a hang up but I cannot get past succulent, succulence, succubus

                                                                                3. GastronautMN Nov 28, 2007 01:34 PM

                                                                                  "Visionary" and other forms of chef worship. If we had as many visionary politician as we do chefs this country would be in far better shape.

                                                                                  1. Dyspepsia Nov 29, 2007 08:07 AM

                                                                                    I'd hate to be a food writer these days. This post is headed towards taking away every possible descriptive. I'd like to comment on "toothsome" though. It always makes me laugh because I think it was Ignatius J Reilly's favorite word to describe anything he was eating in Confederacy of Dunces.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Dyspepsia
                                                                                      b
                                                                                      BostonCookieMonster Nov 30, 2007 05:38 AM

                                                                                      It IS hard to write about food, and it's impossible to avoid the irrational peeves of everyone on earth. I guess the principle I would like to see food writers follow is:

                                                                                      1. Don't be affected.
                                                                                      2. But try not to be boring.

                                                                                      A lot of people clearly have those priorities the other way around, though. If the first is on their radar at all.

                                                                                    2. monavano Nov 29, 2007 12:10 PM

                                                                                      How about "tucking in" as in - I tucked into the pan seared scallops. Tucking in is what you do when you go to bed, not eat off of a dish.
                                                                                      I also agree with the poster upthread regarding The Artful Diner. He likes to use the word tiara a whole lot and assign adverbs to dead protien. Beef medallions luxuriate in a red wine reduction and fish swims in broth;)

                                                                                      www.houndstoothgourmet.com

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: monavano
                                                                                        Athena Dec 18, 2007 11:45 AM

                                                                                        Writing about 'tucking into' your food is only permissible if you're British, barely though.

                                                                                      2. b
                                                                                        boppiecat Nov 30, 2007 03:31 AM

                                                                                        platonic. that always sounds so over reaching to me. and it's so over used by some critics. i'm just very suspicious of reviewers who encounter "platonic" dishes every other week. if it's the best burger you ever tasted just say so. and say why. another word that sets me into cringe-mode. 'shrooms. ew. ick.

                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: boppiecat
                                                                                          a
                                                                                          aurora50 Nov 30, 2007 08:50 AM

                                                                                          "Platonic"??? Are you serious???
                                                                                          How is that word used in describing food??? (she hesitated to ask) ...

                                                                                          1. re: aurora50
                                                                                            sixelagogo Nov 30, 2007 12:05 PM

                                                                                            It seems that about 10 years ago, the word "pedestrian" was frequently used to describe food...not so much anymore...perhaps platonic is the neo-pedestrian

                                                                                            1. re: aurora50
                                                                                              daveena Nov 30, 2007 04:56 PM

                                                                                              Used in the phrases "platonic ideal" and "reached platonic heights".

                                                                                              1. re: daveena
                                                                                                limster Dec 1, 2007 02:51 AM

                                                                                                Unfortunately for me, usually I use that in situations like "far from the platonic ideal."

                                                                                          2. Karl S Dec 2, 2007 05:19 PM

                                                                                            Fun

                                                                                            (Keep the fun in funeral, please.)

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: Karl S
                                                                                              a
                                                                                              Alice Letseat Dec 3, 2007 08:08 PM

                                                                                              Heck, I'd be happy if reviewers today would at least make a real attempt to describe what the b leep the food TASTES LIKE! (Was it sweet? Was it a lilttle salty? What was the exture? Was it browned? Sauteed? What did it feel like in your mouth (NO! "succulent" will not count here!) As in "sun dried tomatoes, putting a little concentration of leathery, distilled tomato essence into every other bite, and lingering around your tongue...." No one's (okay, hardly anyone) having much fun with their food reviews these days. But toothsome, 'licious, yummy and sinful...ack.

                                                                                            2. hrhboo Dec 6, 2007 04:21 AM

                                                                                              I can't stand the phrases "work out the kinks" or "iron out the kinks" in reference to service issues. These phrases are overused to the point of exhaustion.

                                                                                              1. l
                                                                                                Lizard Dec 10, 2007 01:08 PM

                                                                                                What drives me to distraction are the following:

                                                                                                1. 'munch'-- I hate whenever a reviewer- professional or otherwise describes munching something. It's a word that implies stuffing in one's face and chewing but not actually eating.

                                                                                                2. 'wash it down'-- Any time a drink is described as something to 'wash it down' I cringe. Of course, that just sounds so good: food that demands a flood of liquid to push it down and through.

                                                                                                To be fair, I find these more the flaws of the everyday (Internet) reviewer, but the combination of grotesque evocation and pure literary laziness bares mention.

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Lizard
                                                                                                  alkapal Dec 13, 2007 05:34 AM

                                                                                                  or, rather, bears mention.....

                                                                                                  to date, all of these comments are really toothesomely unctuous and ethereally sublime. oh, and yummo-tasty-tastic! kudos!

                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                    l
                                                                                                    Lizard Dec 19, 2007 05:07 AM

                                                                                                    Ooops. I've been having problems with my homonyms lately.

                                                                                                2. f
                                                                                                  fluffernutter Dec 12, 2007 09:48 AM

                                                                                                  When I was a restaurant reviewer, I realized that writing a formulaic review and trying to replace the overused words is what gets you to the cringey ones. My competition had that problem -- she was a mediocre writer in a job that demanded more creativity than she had. So she spiced up her work with terrible, loathsome words like mouth-watering, munch, veggies, wash down, falling of the bone and all of these terrible phrases that make you want to run to the shower and disinfect. You're supposed to be writing about the experience, and whether people would enjoy it, not a bite-by-bite dinner description...

                                                                                                  1. p
                                                                                                    piccola Dec 15, 2007 09:56 AM

                                                                                                    Here's the thing: yes, writers have to be creative and avoid repetition. BUT only if the replacement word is more accurate or evocative than the simple one you're avoiding.

                                                                                                    Otherwise, you're just using fancy words to please yourself - kind of like literary masturbation.

                                                                                                    1. g
                                                                                                      gutreactions Dec 17, 2007 07:23 PM

                                                                                                      sixelagogo, thanks for binging this up...so here's a review of a recent dish I had: " the chicken breast was good, the vegetables were bad". That's it!...what do you all think? Creative right? And this was about a dish at one of the most popular restaurants in my area...

                                                                                                      1. Dax Dec 19, 2007 01:54 PM

                                                                                                        "hands down"

                                                                                                        "to die for"

                                                                                                        "foodie"

                                                                                                        "yummy" or ... dear god "yummo"

                                                                                                        When I come across these phrases in a review on chowhound, in commercial print, on television, etc., I often feel the need gouge out my eyes with a spork.

                                                                                                        While I do not mind the abbreviation in print, vocalizing EVOO really chaps my hide.

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Dax
                                                                                                          a
                                                                                                          aurora50 Dec 19, 2007 01:56 PM

                                                                                                          "....gouge out my eyes with a spork".
                                                                                                          - Or a spoonula.
                                                                                                          ; )

                                                                                                          1. re: aurora50
                                                                                                            Melusina54 Feb 7, 2008 07:18 PM

                                                                                                            I cant stand "Sammies"
                                                                                                            What is a sammie? First RR, now Quiznos.
                                                                                                            I guess I should consider the source.

                                                                                                        2. MC Slim JB Feb 8, 2008 08:59 AM

                                                                                                          I think it would be easy to fill up a topic called "Restaurant Girl Howler of the Week", with the biggest malapropisms from Danyelle Freeman's reviews for the NY Daily News. My nominee for this week's groaner is:

                                                                                                          "The rosy fish, grilled à la plancha, is exhilarated by a creamy horseradish gribiche (egg and mustard sauce) and bursts of caviar."

                                                                                                          I'm pretty sure that dead salmon isn't feeling giddy about the sauce it's lying in.

                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                            Phaedrus Feb 8, 2008 10:19 AM

                                                                                                            Is this for real? You are serious? Wow, somebody paid too much for their mail order creative writing class.

                                                                                                            1. re: Phaedrus
                                                                                                              MC Slim JB Feb 8, 2008 12:07 PM

                                                                                                              Read it and weep: www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/food/20...

                                                                                                              This particular review was unique in that there weren't too many things that made me cringe or bark in disbelief. And she's a Harvard alumna!

                                                                                                              About "à la plancha", a Daily News commenter observed that the Spaniards haven't used an accent over single-letter words since 1952, and even then they didn't use the French accent grave. Of course, she could just be copying a mistake from the restaurant menu, but I see no reason to give her this benefit of the doubt. Then there's this from a couple of weeks ago:

                                                                                                              'Sequestered deep inside the belly of the hotel, Brasserie 44 is strangely adrift in a veritable abyss."

                                                                                                              There are no errors of grammar or diction, but it still makes me queasy. We also see some very excited cheese in her review of Lunetta:

                                                                                                              "Luscious and buttery ricotta is reason enough to pay either Lunetta a visit. It's spread on crusty bread and exhilarated by honey, lemon zest and hazelnuts."

                                                                                                              Her review of Smith's is chockful of eye-rollers, but this one really, ahem, dizzied me up:

                                                                                                              "There's just something about dining on a steamed egg above polenta - dizzied up with a sharp gorgonzola froth - that feels entirely appropriate in this setting."

                                                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                                Phaedrus Feb 8, 2008 06:38 PM

                                                                                                                There was a food writer in the St. Louis alternative paper: "Riverfront Times", that was this obnoxious and more. She usually started by going down her list of reasons why St. Louis isn't and never will be NYC. And then she starts in on the rubes living in St. Louis, then she starts in on the restaurants in language similar, but not as sickening as, this one.

                                                                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                                  b
                                                                                                                  BostonCookieMonster Feb 11, 2008 05:23 AM

                                                                                                                  Oh my. I once had a running list of words used exclusively by people who think their writing is better than it is ... but I never thought I would need to put "exhilarated" on it.

                                                                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                                    p
                                                                                                                    piccola Feb 17, 2008 03:48 PM

                                                                                                                    Does she know what "exhilarated" means? (Does she own a dictionary?)

                                                                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                                      Up With Olives Feb 20, 2008 09:55 AM

                                                                                                                      Maybe some kind of Batman villain owns Smith's -- if they kept her perched on a giant egg over a vat of polenta!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Up With Olives
                                                                                                                        monkeyrotica Feb 20, 2008 10:18 AM

                                                                                                                        I distinctly recall the climax of an old Batman episode, with Vincent Price playing Egghead, where our heroes were trapped in some sort of egg-related peril. Giant pterydactyl eggs maybe?

                                                                                                                        Anyway, I don't know what's more ridiculous, that episode or this steamed-egg-above-polenta review.

                                                                                                                  2. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                                    LindaWhit Feb 8, 2008 10:44 AM

                                                                                                                    OMG, *this* is how she writes? Hoo boy, those Daily News readers are getting an eyeful! Too funny! (Then again, it *is* the Daily News!)

                                                                                                                  3. c
                                                                                                                    Claire Feb 8, 2008 12:54 PM

                                                                                                                    Danyelle Freeman makes me want to diet.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Claire
                                                                                                                      chef chicklet Feb 11, 2008 08:58 AM

                                                                                                                      And I was considering bulimia.

                                                                                                                      1. re: chef chicklet
                                                                                                                        alkapal Apr 26, 2008 10:00 AM

                                                                                                                        LOL, chef. ditto.

                                                                                                                        (this thread is wonderful, and that is why i'm reviving it with exhilaration!)

                                                                                                                    2. The Librarian Feb 11, 2008 07:40 AM

                                                                                                                      The one I remember is a review (from the San Jose Mercury News?) in which the reviewer made special mention of the "freshly vacuumed floors". Now that really makes me want to go eat there!

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: The Librarian
                                                                                                                        h
                                                                                                                        Hungry Celeste Feb 11, 2008 08:28 AM

                                                                                                                        Reading between the lines, perhaps the staff was vacuuming aroiund the reviewer's feet?

                                                                                                                        I loathe the word "authentic" in any review. What a wasted word! How does one judge authenticity? How is the reviewer qualified to make such a judgement? TELL me what you mean, don't lean on a lazy adjective. Instead of saying that the "the chef's bucatini ala amatriciana is an authentic version of the dish", tell me if it is or isn't made with tomato, does the chef use guanciale or pancetta, is the bucatini made in-house, did he learn the recipe while in culinary school in Italy, did he learn it from his grandmother, did he eat a similar version in another restaurant, etc. Genuinely informative review-writing is difficult and time-consuming, so we don't see much of it these days.

                                                                                                                      2. o
                                                                                                                        onocoffee Feb 11, 2008 08:32 AM

                                                                                                                        Not too long ago, Elizabeth Large - restaurant critic for The Baltimore Sun wrote about Italian restaurant Cinghiale and noted (in the pejorative sense) that the Kale Soup tasted, well, like Kale...

                                                                                                                        I was simply dumbfounded.

                                                                                                                        I didn't know that a soup tasting like the vegetable it is derived from was a bad thing.

                                                                                                                        1. monkeyrotica Feb 11, 2008 10:18 AM

                                                                                                                          "Uninspired." It's so overused, it's lost all meaning to me. What exactly does it mean anyway? Who sits down to a meal and thinks, "This amuse bouche is really uninspired?" Or for that matter, who's the inspired one anyway, the chef or the customer?

                                                                                                                          The only thing worse is describing something as "not uninspired."

                                                                                                                          Come to think of it, I find this entire tirade uninspired.

                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                                                                                            c
                                                                                                                            condiment Feb 11, 2008 01:36 PM

                                                                                                                            ``Uninspired'' is a not un-useful way of saying ``eh,'' typically used in longish lists used to strengthen a particular argument, or to point out that not everything in a particular restaurant is worth eating. Because if a critic specifically describes more than a couple of misguided dishes in a review, it's a slam, even if the restaurant is basically pretty good.

                                                                                                                            1. re: condiment
                                                                                                                              monkeyrotica Feb 12, 2008 03:59 AM

                                                                                                                              It really says more about the reviewer than the place being reviewed. Compare "The fish tasted like iodine and failure" with "I found the breem in mercurchrome coulis uninspired." The former is to-the-point and helpful (particularly if you like to eat iodine) while the latter is just stupid.

                                                                                                                              1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                                                                                                c
                                                                                                                                Claire Feb 12, 2008 03:23 PM

                                                                                                                                I prefer the subtler "mercurchrome coulis." The other sentance seems like the writer is trying too hard to be dark.

                                                                                                                          2. tatamagouche Feb 13, 2008 06:40 AM

                                                                                                                            When a lexicon consistently indicates lack of effort or paucity of imagination, that's one thing. But as a logophile, I can't imagine banishing any word from my vocabulary forever. It's possible that everything has its place, no? A food writer who took this list too seriously would be staring at a blank page way past his or her deadline.

                                                                                                                            I say that as someone who has sworn never to use the word "toothsome"—but I know I'd break my oath if it were appropriate.

                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                                                                              m
                                                                                                                              Missmoo Feb 14, 2008 11:17 AM

                                                                                                                              Can I just add "napped" to the list?

                                                                                                                              1. re: Missmoo
                                                                                                                                tatamagouche Feb 15, 2008 06:20 AM

                                                                                                                                You could, except that's actually a term that comes to us from French cookery, & has a very specific meaning.

                                                                                                                                I guess I remain entirely unconvinced by this thread that I should drop any given word from my vocabulary. Context is everything.

                                                                                                                                1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                                                                                  b
                                                                                                                                  bbrooke Feb 15, 2008 11:09 AM

                                                                                                                                  all the -ous words(sumptuous, luscious, gorgeous, delicious, unctuous). I appreciate when reviewers use their words to tell a story rather than a chronological breakdown of "I ate this, then this, etc." Bringing in some humor makes things more readable too.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                                                                                    m
                                                                                                                                    Missmoo Feb 16, 2008 01:14 PM

                                                                                                                                    I did not know that. My problem with the word is one of overuse.

                                                                                                                              2. jbyoga Feb 18, 2008 01:00 PM

                                                                                                                                My huge pet peeve on both reviews and menus is ENCRUSTED... for the love of Pete people....especially when there are several 'encrusted' items. That and 'house made'...maybe alternate with 'our own' - gahh.

                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: jbyoga
                                                                                                                                  s
                                                                                                                                  soupkitten Feb 18, 2008 01:17 PM

                                                                                                                                  with all respect i don't get the antipathy to "house made." there are all sorts of things that if they are made in house i absolutely want to know. desserts, breads & other baked goods are the tip of the iceberg. examples of items i would go across town to sample "house made" version at establishment x vs y: gravlax, tofu, hollandaise, cured ham, pates, sausages & other charcuterie, vinegars, sake, pickles, ketchup, ice cream, preserves, dressings/sauces, pizza crust, beer, bubble tea, meatballs, confit. . .

                                                                                                                                  customers are sometimes extremely gratified to find out that things like dumpling wrappers, coleslaw, dressings and pie crusts are made in house, & from scratch. not everything comes off the sysco/usfoods truck, and customers ime want to know where the scratch cooking is happening, especially those going for clean diets/fewer preservatives.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                                                    jbyoga Feb 18, 2008 05:09 PM

                                                                                                                                    Hey SoupKitten - I'm totally in agreement with you. What I mean to say is that if there are several homemade items on the menu, I'd like to see some better descriptions. For example, "our house made pasta or our own brick oven pizza and home made ice cream instead of listing 12 house made things in a row....you know? More of a linguistic beef I guess..just like to se a bit more variety. (and I am a chronic proof reader)

                                                                                                                                    1. re: jbyoga
                                                                                                                                      s
                                                                                                                                      soupkitten Feb 18, 2008 05:36 PM

                                                                                                                                      oh then i could see your point. it could get very repetitive if an establishment makes a lot of stuff! what would be the alternative, though, apart from a little note on the menu saying "we make all our dressings, desserts, pastas, pickles, charcuterie, cream puffs, long list etc. in house?"

                                                                                                                                2. buttertart Apr 7, 2008 09:12 AM

                                                                                                                                  Another one of Robert Sietsema's favorites - "wad" - in my opinion, a singularly infelicitous choice of words to describe anything one would want to put in one's mouth. Used in each of his 2 reviews I read this weekend, from 2 VVs in a row. (Some of his tips are worth suffering through the prose.)

                                                                                                                                  1. Puppimus Apr 9, 2008 04:13 PM

                                                                                                                                    "Whimsy" or "whimsical." God, I hate those words so much. Also, "nestled."

                                                                                                                                    1. s
                                                                                                                                      SharaMcG May 9, 2008 10:02 AM

                                                                                                                                      I don't have a problem with any word if it's used in the right context. I do have a problem with overblown, pretentious language. When it comes to food, that usually involves using descriptive terms like "unctuous" or "ethereal" or any words whose original meaning has nothing to do with eating. If something is supposed to taste greasy or oily, then dressing it up with a euphemistic adjective only makes me thing someone is trying to pull a fast one on me. The right words aren't clunky or proletarian or whatever some high-minded writer wants to use to convey to me, the reader, that something is other than what it really is. Nothing will turn me off to a restaurant quicker than language that sounds like it's trying to hide something. My immediate reaction is "what else are they trying to hide?" And the problem with a phrase like "not inexpensive" is that it's a double negative and thus grammatically incorrect. I have no argument with people using wrong or imprecise or misleading words if they don't write for a living, but if someone is actually paying them for writing, well they can hire me instead and I won't use inappropriately high-flown language or double negatives! And good food will still sound like it's good! :-)

                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: SharaMcG
                                                                                                                                        alkapal May 9, 2008 04:30 PM

                                                                                                                                        double negatives: they're not always ungrammatical, are they? don't they have a place in rhetoric?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                          tatamagouche May 10, 2008 06:29 AM

                                                                                                                                          Sure; MC Slim makes a reasonable argument earlier in this thread. I think they have a place both to indicate grudging respect/one's hesitance to give praise or to indicate a hint of sarcasm...

                                                                                                                                          1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                            chef chicklet May 11, 2008 11:32 PM

                                                                                                                                            most certainly. snicker...

                                                                                                                                        2. tatamagouche May 11, 2008 06:04 AM

                                                                                                                                          You know, I just reread the OP and it never occurred to me to wonder what the Bolognese was doing being creamy. Whether that's an example of bad writing or bad cooking, we'll never know.

                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                                                                                            wittlejosh May 11, 2008 08:22 PM

                                                                                                                                            I think a good Bolognese tastes distinctly of dairy. Not sure about "creamy," though....

                                                                                                                                            1. re: wittlejosh
                                                                                                                                              tatamagouche May 13, 2008 08:28 AM

                                                                                                                                              Hmm, then maybe that's my mistake. I know it often contains a little cream, but I would think if it were actually creamy it really wouldn't be praiseworthy as a classic Bolognese.
                                                                                                                                              But now I'm getting a bit OT, I suppose...

                                                                                                                                          2. s
                                                                                                                                            small h May 12, 2008 05:21 PM

                                                                                                                                            Mine is specific to user reviews, because professional writers rarely make this mistake. "Very unique." Unique means there's only one. There can't be "very" only one. As in "the dish wasn't very unique." No, it certainly was not. If I only had one of something, I wouldn't put it on a menu. So sorry! We only had one, and someone already ate it.

                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: small h
                                                                                                                                              MC Slim JB May 12, 2008 10:12 PM

                                                                                                                                              I agree that "very unique" is wrong, but implying that "unique" can only mean "one of a kind in all of creation" is going too far. A chef can create a unique dish relative to other chefs' menus in town, and then replicate it many times a night at the restaurant.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                                                                s
                                                                                                                                                small h May 13, 2008 02:19 AM

                                                                                                                                                Indeed he could. My point is that there aren't degrees of uniqueness. Something's either unique or it isn't.

                                                                                                                                            2. alkapal May 14, 2008 06:32 AM

                                                                                                                                              recently on the boards: "orgasmic lobster". LOL.
                                                                                                                                              what? does it vibrate?

                                                                                                                                              the poster said it was to describe a "dish that tastes better than it should"......
                                                                                                                                              (who knew it was SO easy?!?-- like When Harry Met Sally ;-P)

                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                p
                                                                                                                                                piccola May 18, 2008 06:41 PM

                                                                                                                                                No, the lobster was just having a good time.

                                                                                                                                              2. thew May 18, 2008 06:47 PM

                                                                                                                                                "fresh"

                                                                                                                                                i frakin' hope so

                                                                                                                                                1. g
                                                                                                                                                  grantham Nov 24, 2008 02:25 PM

                                                                                                                                                  While this is an older thread, and I haven't read it entirely, the title caught my eye. The most misused word in describing food, as far as I am concerned is "healthy." Please pardon my tirade in advance, but do your brussels sprout weight lift? Does your asparagus run laps? The correct word to use in this situation is "healthful."

                                                                                                                                                  19 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: grantham
                                                                                                                                                    alkapal Nov 25, 2008 02:37 PM

                                                                                                                                                    THANK you!!!!!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: grantham
                                                                                                                                                      MC Slim JB Nov 25, 2008 09:05 PM

                                                                                                                                                      Lacking an equivalent of an Académie française, speakers of American English rely on common usage to define what words mean. The English dictionary is a record, not an arbiter.

                                                                                                                                                      I think the connotation of "healthy" as "conducive to good health" is widely understood by speakers of American English, especially in the context of food writing. Similarly, contrary to your arbitrary distinction, "healthful" can also mean "in good health".

                                                                                                                                                      If most readers understand the author's intended meaning, or can easily infer that meaning from context, it's a perfectly fine word choice.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                                                                        g
                                                                                                                                                        grantham Nov 25, 2008 09:32 PM

                                                                                                                                                        When you enjoyed your last "healthy" tuna fillet, who was "healthy," you or the fish?

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: grantham
                                                                                                                                                          MC Slim JB Nov 26, 2008 05:01 AM

                                                                                                                                                          Here's the thing: just about nobody would be confused as to what was meant there. We speak the most democratic of languages. I don't need a king, professor, or *immortel* to tell me what "healthy" means in this context, and I'm quite certain it doesn't refer to disease-free fish. I'll go so far as to suggest that most people would miss your point if "disease-free fish" was what you meant, in the context of a Chowhound post or restaurant review, to connote by the phrase "healthy tuna". That's because English speakers are great inferers of meaning from context, and the notion that fish is good for you is far more widespread than the fear that it might be worm-ridden.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                                                                            alkapal Nov 26, 2008 08:02 AM

                                                                                                                                                            but correct is correct. misuse doesn't make a word correct, even in "context".

                                                                                                                                                            if i "aks" you to read this, you will know what i mean, but it isn't correct.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                              MC Slim JB Nov 30, 2008 08:51 PM

                                                                                                                                                              "Correct is correct" is an attractive mirage.

                                                                                                                                                              I think you're taking a fundamentally prescriptive approach to American English that the language resists: it's not French. There are plenty of usages in current American English now considered normative for educated, native speakers that were once considered "misuse". The language evolves. Yesterday's error, if it passes into wide enough circulation, becomes today's standard.

                                                                                                                                                              "Aks" is a useful example: it was once standard pronunciation in Middle English, evolved through a process called metathesis to its current pronounciation, but survives (or independently evolved, not sure) as part of certain regional and ethnic dialects spoken by such a relatively small minority as to be recognized as non-normative. Stick around long enough, and "aks" may become the norm again.

                                                                                                                                                              So what's your authoritative source for this distinction between "healthy" and "healthful"? I'd argue that such a source does not exist in American English. Dictionaries? The big ones on my desk suggest that these words are roughly synonymous in both the senses you're trying to shoehorn them individually into. Anecdotally speaking, I'd say that most educated native speakers I know would not fret over this distinction.

                                                                                                                                                              (Now, "thusly", on the other hand, really gets up my craw.)

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                                                                                g
                                                                                                                                                                grantham Nov 30, 2008 09:26 PM

                                                                                                                                                                "healthy" people may take care of themselves, work out, eat "healthfully." Items on menus, I'm thinking, aren't capable of doing this. Recently, in the media, especially, the use of "healthy" is used prolifically to mean what was historically (and grammatically correctly) termed "healthful." As pointed out by alkapal, just because it has become ubiquitous, does not make it, in any way, correct.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: grantham
                                                                                                                                                                  MC Slim JB Dec 1, 2008 04:06 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  I notice that you continue to throw "correct" around without answering my question: correct according to whom? Your saying what is correct and what is not does not make it so. If you have some authoritative source, cite it. If not, you might consider this notion of meaning in English being fluid and defined by usage, something English majors learn in their first year of college.

                                                                                                                                                                  Here, watch me define it otherwise: "Healthy" also means "conducive to good health; healthful". It is also widely construed to mean "prosperous or sound", and, informally, "fairly large". That's three more definitions of "healthy" that aren't "characteristic of good health", or "enjoying good health", which you want to narrow its meaning to (for reasons that escape me).

                                                                                                                                                                  I think that most educated readers would understand those other usages intuitively in the appropriate contexts: with no confusion or the conscience-like inner ear that tells an educated reader when something sounds "wrong". That, like it or not, is what defines meaning in our language, not some select group of people arbitrarily saying "This is the One True Meaning, and that one is not." Such a body doesn't exist. You can swim against the tide of usage all you like, but only at the risk of appearing hypercorrect or pedantic, two qualities that undermine effective communication.

                                                                                                                                                                  Don't misunderstand my point: I write and speak for a living, and bemoan like any other educated person the decline in standards of writing, the debasement of public discourse, the feeble grasp of grammar, the odious misplacement of apostrophes, and so on. But those are aspects of the language that are much more codified. Meaning is slipperier. If you don't recognize that, you're limiting the tools you have to reach your audience. By all means, fight the good fight for better written and spoken English. But I think trying to discredit one widely-understood meaning of a word for a meaning you prefer is a lousy battle to choose.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                                                                                    g
                                                                                                                                                                    grantham Dec 1, 2008 01:15 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    This is becoming rather tedious. While it is certainly true language evolves, it can be debased by usage that lacks clarity and precision.
                                                                                                                                                                    The name of this post is "Cringe-Worthy words in Restaurant Reviews."
                                                                                                                                                                    Let us leave it as some of you say "healthy," when discussing food, and others of us cringe.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: grantham
                                                                                                                                                                      MC Slim JB Dec 1, 2008 03:29 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      I guess I'd take your point about lack of clarity and precision debasing the language if we were talking about, say, euphemism, which can deliberately blur or soften meaning to nefarious ends (e.g., "collateral damage"). But that's not what's going on here.

                                                                                                                                                                      I wouldn't have commented if your point had been simply that "healthy" used this way makes you cringe, but you went on to say that such a usage is incorrect, as if it somehow reflects poorly on the education of the speaker because it doesn't match your One True Definition for it. And I'm saying, as I say to all would-be prescriptivists of meaning in English words: bunk!

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                                                                                        g
                                                                                                                                                                        grantham Dec 4, 2008 02:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                                        It's nice you are able to rationalize. I would not be cringing if proper English were used.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: grantham
                                                                                                                                                                          MC Slim JB Dec 4, 2008 05:23 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          "Proper. "Correct." Once again: says who?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: grantham
                                                                                                                                                                            thew Dec 5, 2008 07:47 AM

                                                                                                                                                                            what is proper english is constantly changing. and that is a good thing. english remains the world language because of its flexibility and viability. luckily we do not an acadamie to hamstring our language.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                                                                                                                    alkapal Nov 30, 2008 10:53 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    well, i guess your universe of "educated native speakers" is less than universal.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                                      BobB Dec 5, 2008 08:34 AM

                                                                                                                                                                      This healthy vs healthful debate is a hoary one. I used to be more of a prescriptivist, but these days I've come to agree with MC Slim on this point. The best analysis of it I've seen comes from the editors at Infoplease:

                                                                                                                                                                      "There are those who make a distinction between healthful, meaning "conducive to health; wholesome or salutary: a healthful diet" and healthy, meaning "possessing or enjoying good health or a sound and vigorous mentality: a healthy body; a healthy mind." Most people use "healthy" for both meanings. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage notes that this distinction was invented in 1881 (several centuries after both words first appeared), and that "if you observe the distinction between healthful and healthy you are absolutely correct, and in the minority." On the other hand, "If you ignore the distinction you are absolutely correct, and in the majority.""

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: BobB
                                                                                                                                                                        c
                                                                                                                                                                        condiment Dec 8, 2008 09:48 AM

                                                                                                                                                                        The basic problem with the word ``healthful'' is that using it makes you sound like a douche. It's not like may and might, or who and whom or convinced and persuaded, slightly antique differentiations whose use is vindicated by their absolute correctness. ``Healthful'' is a word that was co-opted and corrupted by the advertising industry long before your grandmother was born, and has been best avoided since at least the 1920s unless meant ironically.

                                                                                                                                                                        It is hard to imagine an editor outside the context of Rodale or something who wouldn't just automatically delete it.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: condiment
                                                                                                                                                                          tatamagouche Jan 20, 2009 10:47 AM

                                                                                                                                                                          "The basic problem with the word ``healthful'' is that it makes you sound like a douche"

                                                                                                                                                                          No, douches don't sound healthful at all. I think they're bad for you actually.

                                                                                                                                                                          As a longtime editor I'm embarrassed to admit this is actually the first I recall ever hearing about the diff. btwn. healthy/healthful—though it's reminiscent of the debate I am aware of between hauseous/nauseated, words that I assume never appear in resto reviews without a subsequent lawsuit.

                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                                    thew Dec 1, 2008 12:08 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    that is just wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                    usage changes meanings, in english, all the time. it is one of the reasons english is one of the most powerful languages in the world.

                                                                                                                                                                    if you say you had a terrific steak for dinner, you do not mean a steak that induces terror.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                      sixelagogo Dec 1, 2008 05:52 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      now that's what i call a steak!

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