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Jun 10, 2010 12:49 PM

Mark Bittman talking s**t...about whom?

Mark Bittman wrote a fairly scathing post today about an unnamed restaurant somewhere in south Florida. Any thoughts on what the restaurant/who the chef is?

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  1. It's Alan Susser's Taste Gastropub in Delray. I've not been there, so I can't tell you if Bittman's take is on target, but the description matches ->

    - eclectic, trendy new place - check.
    - knocn local chef - check.
    - lengthy beer list - check.
    - primarily small-plates menu - check.
    - tuna tartare in cones - check.
    - crab po'boys - check.

    Since I've not actually seen the space, can't confirm the rest of it, but that seems to be a match.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Frodnesor

      And the "funky Caribbean restaurant we wanted to check out last night, only it was closed" is probably Bamboo Fire. Tough night in Delray.

      1. re: RickL

        I read the "open letter"......chuckled......and thought it to be a personal attack or vendetta-inspired offering......Maybe WHAT was written is true.....The WAY it was written.....was unprofessional......from a professional........

        Fairly scathing? How about brutally scathing! (LOL). Mark needed some cheese to go with that whine.


        1. re: LargeLife

          What was unprofessional about what Bittman wrote? If what he wrote is true and I presume it is than I don't see any problems.

          1. re: LargeLife

            It would have been unprofessional if he had named names, but all he did was describe his experience. -- bluntly, scathingly, but still rather discreetly, I thought.

      2. I don't know a thing about this restaurant, but I love the post. Couldn't agree more.

        1. It was indeed Taste Gastropub.

          Because people could very easily figure out who it was and because (even by his own admission) he knew it was tacky to review based on one visit - and that they are newly opened - those two things make it unprofessional.

          Having notoriety - you have an obligation not to abuse your position. EVEN if you are miffed. Truth is not the sole qualification of professionalism BTW.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Sal Vanilla

            Mark Bittman isn't a restaurant reviewer he's a food writer who blogs. There is nothing wrong with him giving his impression of a restaurant based on just one visit.

            1. re: bookhound

              He is not a restaurant reviewer and as a result he is not bound by the conventions reviewers generally follow - including paying multiple visits to a place to see whether or not one isolated experience is representative.

              But it strikes me as more than a bit goofy, and perhaps even somewhat cowardly, to write an "open letter to an unnamed restaurant," knowing you have a national platform - and to self-consciously claim "I’m trying not to damage a perhaps well-deserved reputation on the basis of one visit to an obviously new and still-wrinkly restaurant" - when it is in fact incredibly easy for anyone who cares to figure out exactly what restaurant he's talking about.

              1. re: Frodnesor

                Right, but as someone who doesn't live in that area, and never heard of the restauarnt, I found the review spot on of so MANY places and so many trends that need to be called out.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  Well, then what you do if you want to express your opinion about those sorts of aggravations is you write about THEM. He knew what he was doing. It was wrong. He is a foodwriter. He knows better, but did it anyway because he could and was a petty snit kicker. I like Mark Bittman - what he did was TACKY!

                  Trends (like small plates) will fizzle on their own. If he is annoyed with them and wants to encourage their extinction, he can write about his loathing of the small plate culture.

                  BTW - how many people do you see here who go to a place once - even when they are established places - and give them a thrashing (like Chez Panisse or another fave of this crowd) - and the hourdes descend upon them like vipers.

                  He is a food writer. Stop with the quibbling.

                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                    Wasn't quibbling (and actually like small plates). Just think it is perfectly ok for a blogger to blog about things that drive him crazy in restaurants these days. And I found it amusing.

                  2. re: LulusMom

                    I live in the same region as LulusMom and had exactly the same reaction. In fact, I read many of his complaints to the Spouse and said, "How many times have I heard you say the same thing?"

                    These problems are not specific to any one restaurant in one area. They are becoming an unfortunate trend.

                    1. re: rockycat

                      I read it and thought the same thing (about the complaints and bad trends). Those opinions can be easily expressed without the tacky insertion of the restaurant not so blind item.

            2. I have a great deal of trouble with the article. One of the first things that grabbed my attention was his remark that it was too late for a bunch of (presumably) food cognoscente to go home and cook. My reaction? "This guy is an idiot! How late is too late to make an omlette?" Too drunk, too lazy, too tired, okay. Too late? Absolutely ridiculous!

              Then there are FEW (any?) new restaurants that work flawlessly from the get-go. I rarely go to newly opened restaurants, preferring to give them some time to work the kinks out. But Bittman is someone who makes his living in the food industry, and to me it is unconscienable to TRY to make a living as a sniper. The guy has no class.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Caroline1

                I disagree. Your line of reasoning suggests that people in an industry should refrain from commenting negatively on said industry, and that makes no sense. It's like suggesting that we should only listen to people who have no idea what they're talking about.

                As mentioned, Mark Bittman is a food writer, not a food critic. And he has as much of a right to recount his experiences as anyone else - if you can call him an idiot, how come he can't complain about a lousy night out?

                1. re: Caroline1

                  I've been reading this thread with interest as to the back and forth of "should he or shouldn't he" have written what he wrote in his blog WHEN he wrote it. My view is that, while he definitely has a larger playing field of readers than do most bloggers, he's doing no different than any other blogger or anyone who posts on Chowhound about a restaurant experience.

                  But I have a question - and it's not just directed to Caroline - hers is the post I chose to reply to instead of the original because of the time frame in which Bittman visited and wrote about the newly opened restaurant. I'd love to hear what others think:

                  The restaurant seemed to open in mid-April. I'm assuming that Bittman's article date is very close to when he went to Taste Gastropub. So that's approximately 2 months since the restaurant's opening date. So what is the accepted time frame in which people *will* or *should* go to a new restaurant after its opening date? Three months? Six months? A year? (the latter seems rather silly to me, as they could have possibly closed by then!)

                  As as to Bittman's comments - is there anything wrong with writing that, upon asking, *no one* knew anything about the 20 beers available, including the bartender? Not even the bartender knew anything? Come on. After several months, shouldn't *someone* know something about the beers being offered? Poor training on the chef/owner's part, IMO.

                  Or that the room is very noisy? Hard pressed to fix that unless they hang sound buffers on the walls or put in carpeting or close off the kitchen, which it doesn't sound like they'd want to do since they deliberately made it an open kitchen.

                  Or that the impression received is an attitude of "you're lucky to be here"? These are all various restaurant trends that Bittman is saying are becoming too prevalent. It just so happens that they all happened in one visit to one restaurant - hence, he brought them up.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Even most of the "official" restaurant critics have given up on the notion that you must wait 2-3 months to let a restaurant "get its footing" before reviewing. Example: Pulino's opened March 15, NY Times review came out May 5. Whether or not that's a good thing is a different story.

                    Whether you can garner an accurate impression of a restaurant from a visit that close to their opening is, in my experience (not that I'm a professional critic), hard to say. And it can work both ways: I have been to some places that were very rough when they first opened, and needed 3, sometimes even 6, months to really hit their stride. On the other hand, some places come out with guns blazing, only to have food and service quality drop off after an impressive first couple months. Either way, there is probably a good reason why the standard, until recently, was for professional critics to make at least 3 visits and wait at least 3 months before issuing a review.

                    But again: Bittman is not a professional restaurant critic. He's a guy who writes a food column in a national publication, mostly about home cooking, who happened to spout off about a restaurant he visited. Yet it sure seems to me that if he really didn't want to "damage a perhaps well-deserved reputation on the basis of one visit to an obviously new and still-wrinkly restaurant," it would have been very easy for him to leave out the multiple details from which this restaurant could have been identified, while still addressing generally the restaurant trends and issues that were the subject of the post.

                    1. re: Frodnesor

                      Yet it sure seems to me that if he really didn't want to "damage a perhaps well-deserved reputation on the basis of one visit to an obviously new and still-wrinkly restaurant," it would have been very easy for him to leave out the multiple details from which this restaurant could have been identified, while still addressing generally the restaurant trends and issues that were the subject of the post.
                      Fair enough, Frodnesor. And thanks for the info re: critics not waiting the 3 months or so before they review a restaurant.

                    2. re: LindaWhit

                      But Linda - does your opinion carry the same weight and influence as his? Respectfully, I ask that.

                      Mine doesn't. But if, back when I was a working girl, I pulled that stunt - especially if in a fit of petulance... I would have lost my professional credibility and would have been very ashamed of myself. Rightfully so.

                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                        Re: my opinion carrying the same weight and influence as Bittman's - Shirley You Jest! :-)

                        Absolutely not, and I noted that in saying he has a very large playing field of readers. I suppose you could say I (or any Chowhound) has a potentially larger playing field of readers here at CHOW and CH. But when there are many more voices chiming in here vs. his single voice on his blog, the impact is much less (here).

                        But I still think it's OK that he blogged about it - restaurant had been open for a couple of months, this was an acclaimed chef/owner, and the fact his staff didn't seem to be trained in various measures was worthy of note. As Frodesnor noted, if Bittman had just attended to the trend issues at hand in his blog without giving enough info as to identify the specific restaurant, it would have been fine and we wouldn't be talking about it. As much. And therein lies the fault. But I still think it's OK that he blogged about it.

                      2. re: LindaWhit

                        My viewpoint is this: the restaurant Bittman is talking about is in SOUTH FLORIDA, *NOT* New York City New restaruants can stay "new" for a relatively long time compared to NYC simply because staffing and training is more difficult. Bittman has no way of knowing what sort of "upset" may have occurred that night to complicate things. Did a key staff member call in sick? Did a critical delivery go wrong? I have no idea. But one thing VERY non-standard that DID happen was a bunch of "illustrious guests" arrived unannounced. Did the staff know who they were and start tripping over their own feet?

                        My guess, based entirely on Bittman's own description of the evening and his responsibility in choosing which alternative restaurant they go to, is that he's feeling frustrated with the uninvited pressure of choosing the place, and I suspect that if everything had turned out peachy-keen, he would STILL have felt that pressure and been a bit snarky.

                        To vent his frustrations in such a public forum, and in a way that CAN impact on the restaurant with a drop in clientelle is truly mean spirited, especially in these hard economic times. If he needs to vent frustrations, he could have blogged about petroleum scented oysters from the Gulf. As is pointed out a bove, it is not like "one of us" wrote the article because we do NOT have Bittman's impact. I simply feel that when you're the elephant in the room, you should be careful who you trumpet at. He wasn't.

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          That's the rub for me: he did not broaden his criticisms to address what are surely trends in poor service and quality everywhere. Uninformed servers 8/10 NY places. Unsittable chairs--try those at Sfoglia in Manhattan. Upselling--ask Batali for the handbook. Small plates adding up to a whopper tab? This is news? Pretension and failed promises? Partout. Anyway, Bittman (whose work is otherwise valuable and necessary) lets his crank out the bag when he proffers in the first sentence his apparent disdain for even being in So Florida, where " half of the group is European, and for a variety of reasons they wanted to come here. I feel like saying “don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts,” even though I’m not." Mark, get out of the sun.

                          1. re: bob96

                            I dunno....I'm just thinking when you're going to really rip a place.......A place where people put food on their own tables......I'm just thinking you man up.....don't beat around the bush.....forget about innuendo.....And put a name to the place you're ripping.......So sophomoric.....