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End of the year Dining Chat [moved from Boston Board]

t
tbiscaia Dec 31, 2008 10:11 AM

Some will say this would be more appropriate in the Media forum... but since it's a discussion about the local food and restaurant scene, I think most of you would find it an interesting read.

Check it out:

http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/...

I even managed to sneak a CH plug ; ) in there.

Comments?

  1. MC Slim JB Jan 2, 2009 08:28 AM

    While I think she got off to a bit of a slow start, I think First has really hit her stride as a reviewer. This week's review in particular struck me as funny and evocative, at once entertaining and informative. I certainly find her a huge upgrade over Arnett, who wouldn't have gone near an Angela's Cafe under threat of tasering. (I also like Morris's food writing a lot, though I sometimes disagree with his opinions.)

    I haven't seen anything in First's reviews that looks lifted from Chowhound, but I certainly believe she reads the board closely. Her periodic chat tips in particular look like a roll call of places I rarely saw mentioned in print before they appeared in discussions here. Her defense of her Chowhound citations is a little thin, too: she mentions Chowhound three times, but only really credits it once for steering her to a new place (Angela's).

    In general, as I've pointed out in my own semi-professional reviewing, I think Boston food writers and bloggers don't do everything they might to acknowledge their debt to Chowhound (something I go out of my way to do, incidentally).

    1. MC Slim JB Dec 31, 2008 10:26 AM

      Devra didn't answer your question about whether she reads Chowhound, but I'd bet money that she's a devotee.

      14 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB
        BarmyFotheringayPhipps Dec 31, 2008 12:07 PM

        I have seen info from CH posts appear almost verbatim in Devra's pieces, so I'm positive.

        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
          Anon12 Jan 1, 2009 06:48 AM

          Devra First responds to this thread: http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/...

          1. re: Anon12
            Gio Jan 1, 2009 07:00 AM

            Well, I for one think Ms First acquited herself admirably with that response. Thanks for linking it.

            1. re: Anon12
              Ruth Lafler Jan 1, 2009 10:04 AM

              Interesting response. I wonder if the perception that she hates spicy food is related to another phenomenon I've noted among food writers: they tend to write about restaurants from the perspective of what they perceive to be the core audience of their publication.

              Thus, for example, when a local critic was writing for a suburban newspaper he was writing about more "mainstream" (bland/conventional) restaurants, but when he started writing for an urban "alternative" paper he started writing more about ethnic foods, spicy foods, etc. I've noticed that even the loathed Michael Bauer (food editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and thus the most powerful food journalist in the Bay Area, and considering the role of the Bay Area in the American food scene, one of the most influential in the country), writes about less mainstream food more in his blog than he does in his print reviews.

              I was a little surprised Ms First brought up journalistic ethics in her response, though, since journalistic ethics have become almost as extinct as the dodo in the last few years!

              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                wittlejosh Jan 1, 2009 10:15 AM

                In her Fuloon review, she mentioned that the Szechuan Steamed Beef was for serious chili-heads, but too spicy for her. Or some such.

                1. re: wittlejosh
                  Ruth Lafler Jan 1, 2009 11:50 AM

                  Admitting you're not a serious chile-head is a far cry from saying she "hates" spicy foods.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                    f
                    fullbelly Jan 1, 2009 12:08 PM

                    I haven't gone back to rexamine her stuff, but I make it a point to read Devra's pieces regularly. She does like spicy food. Awhile back on her blog she had a photo of some seriously spicy crabs from Chinatown that she had finished off. Just because one dish is too spicy doesn't mean she doesn't like spicy food. Boston Mag just got it wrong. Heck, Hell Night is too spicy for me too, but I still love spicy food.

                    I also find Devra refreshing compared with Arnett. I think she reviews important culinary spots in our city, and still has room for some of the ethnic places that more and more people are willing to try. I find that I agree with her opinions on places far more than I disagree. And her journalistic ethics are very good. Not sure what stuff you are reading, Ruth, but there are a lot of reporters who work really hard to get it right. First is one of them. And never have I seen a Chow post verbatim in her stories. Not once. That's some hefty mud to be slinging, and clearly it stung her.

                    1. re: fullbelly
                      limster Jan 1, 2009 02:24 PM

                      >>"I think she reviews important culinary spots in our city, and still has room for some of the ethnic places that more and more people are willing to try."<<

                      But ethnic places are important culinary spots in Boston, no?

                      1. re: limster
                        Aromatherapy Jan 1, 2009 03:07 PM

                        Keep up the good fight, limster! Uphill all the way... On topic, I haven't spotted any plaigarism from her, either. A lot of us echo each other, mostly that just means there's only so many ways to write about a meal.

                        1. re: Aromatherapy
                          BarmyFotheringayPhipps Jan 1, 2009 05:56 PM

                          I would like to point out that I was not throwing out anything close to charges of plagiarism. I said that I've seen information -- for example, news of a change of chef or ownership, buzz about a new restaurant or rumors of what's going into a currently vacant space -- migrate from Chowhound into pieces with Devra First's byline. I had thought that my point was clear enough that I hadn't had to spell it out, but just to be absolutely sure, I will: I was NOT suggesting that Devra First was plagiarizing from CH posts, but that she was participating in threads using information and/or language that later shows up in the Dishing blog or in the Globe food section. (After all, I don't know what Devra First's CH name is, and given that I only know about a dozen regulars on the Boston board by sight, that's only a dozen folks who I know AREN'T Devra First!)

                          I just want to make it clear that I was not suggesting anything unprofessional or untoward. In fact, this is something I do myself in my own journalistic day job, except that my beat is music, not food: information or quotes that I gather in the course of writing a feature, or opinions that I form while writing a review, often show up in more informal settings like this, even before the "official" piece is published.

                          So are we clear on this? No accusations of plagiarism. Period. And personally, I wish they'd just hand over the entire food section over to Devra, and bring Wesley Morris over to write more about food while they're at it: I loved his contributions to that "Our favorite things" story the other day.

                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                            t
                            tumbledrylow Jan 2, 2009 04:52 AM

                            I too like Wesley Morris's writing but seriously you thought his story about being grateful for PFChang's was legitimate? I'm sorry but I've eaten there twice and had to leave both times. I did not find it to be passable Chinese food or Americanized Chinese food. People may like it and the lines prove that they are popular but it's not representative of good Chinese food any more than Au Bon Pain is of a decent patisserie. I'm not knocking Au Bon Pain either. But if it was on a list of places to be grateful for in 2008 for people wanting French pastry I'll bet people would raise eyebrows.

                            1. re: tumbledrylow
                              BarmyFotheringayPhipps Jan 2, 2009 05:33 AM

                              I was referring to the pieces about Poppa B's on Blue Hill Ave and about his boyfriend's weird obsession with the Financial Times' wine critic, both of which struck my ear as very Chowish.

                            2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                              limster Jan 2, 2009 05:17 AM

                              It's standard practice for a restaurant about to open to send press releases. Their PR guys would be doing the darnest to make sure every single critic knows about them.

                              OTOH, I remember Jim & gang saying that the boards are a source of processed information, and that journalists should also provide the standard journalistic courtesy to cite the boards if the information was originally obtained from CH.

                          2. re: limster
                            f
                            fullbelly Jan 2, 2009 05:22 AM

                            You are right, Limster. Very true. And she does cover them on occassion. Arnett would never have given a review of say Shabu Zen. First loved it. During her live chats, she frequently can rattle off multiple suggestions of ethnic joints for people looking for chow that's not limited to fine dining.

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