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Who has dined at Hitchcock? I am so embarrased by the fray this week in SEA times...

gingershelley Sep 1, 2011 07:33 PM

Chowhounds,
I have had 2 meals here, and both were delightful..

This flap after PC's review in SEA times with the reader writing in she was 'offended' by menu terms she couldn't understand" - don't you think these days, things like "brodo', etc.?

The comment by the 'flame' reader/commenter didnt' even understand PC's comments on a course she had where she had as'peragus broth with carrot foam on top, and PC compared to a 'Machiatto'?

What's wrong with that" That dish does sound like a veggie resto version of a machiatto?

Do some people need to get an education before commenting on a review, or perhaps - eat at the resto before commenting at all so that their ignorance can be solved by EATING the food and understanding the comments?

I don't think people should use their ignorance as a bludgeon to a critic, especially when she was writing a well-balanced review of an up and coming place....

Discuss?

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  1. a
    acgold7 Sep 1, 2011 10:01 PM

    Is there any more evidence of a "fray" than the brief excerpt of the alleged "rant" posted by Leson in today's blog post? If so, do you have a link? Seems like much ado about nothing to me.

    Leson seems like she's trying to make something out of nothing, as she usually does, being the laziest person on the planet. What else would you expect from someone who makes a living by asking a question, then going out "on assignment" while letting others write her column for her?

    But you're not wrong in your assessment of the reader. Some readers are idiots. But at the same time, many critics are arrogant a**holes who like to prove how much smarter they are than the great unwashed masses by using ten dollar words when a fifty cent one will do. Not saying that's the case here, but it does happen.

    It doesn't take much effort to do a two-second Google search to look up a term you don't understand... but to suggest that someone go to a restaurant to understand a review that's written to help them to decide whether they should go to that restaurant... boggles the mind. I'm also not really clear why any of this should embarrass you, unless you are one of the participants in the putative dispute, or you take responsibility for everything that goes on in the city. In which case I need to talk to you about my property taxes ;-).

    1 Reply
    1. re: acgold7
      Tom Armitage Sep 5, 2011 05:28 PM

      I wasn’t aware of this “flap,” so accessed Providence Cicero’s review on the web and checked the comments, but couldn’t find anything like what the OP was talking about or what was quoted by Nancy Leson. The Seattle Times apparently removed it. Why??? Otherwise, I agree with the incisive and insightful comments by acgold.

      I’d like to answer the OP’s question: “Who has dined at Hitchcock?” I’ve been twice recently, once when Chef McGill was in the kitchen, and once when he was on vacation. Both times I had a wonderful experience and thought the food was interesting, creative, well-conceived, and well-executed. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like, and much that I loved. I tried the duck liver mousse, beef marrow bones, olive oil poached baby turnip, wood-fired chicken drumettes, watermelon with anise hyssop and chili oil (fabulous!), house-made chorizo, and spaghetti “di grana arso,” where the semolina is charred in the wood-burning oven before incorporating it into the pasta. I normally don’t like the texture of steak from grass-fed beef (although it makes the tastiest steak tartare), but the grass-fed flat-iron steak was absolutely delicious and perfectly cooked.

      Hitchcock initially aroused my attention because of numerous complaints on Chowhound’s Seattle Board about poor service. Whatever problems there may have been in the past, on my two visits the service was fine.

      Bottom line: I’m a huge fan of Hitchcock, and it’s become one of my favorite places west of Seattle. It measures up to Seattle standards just fine – which few places on Bainbridge Island, Kitsap County, or the Olympic Peninsula do.

    2. kaleokahu Sep 1, 2011 11:02 PM

      Hi, gingershelley:

      I'm sorry, I lost you completely after the part about you having had two meals at Hitchcock that you considered delightful. Would you please translate the rest into English?

      Thanks,
      Kaleo

      1 Reply
      1. re: kaleokahu
        p
        PeteSeattle Sep 6, 2011 11:31 AM

        Kale, I think that's the point. It's more about these people's heads, and where they're at, than about the food that they're eating!

      2. m
        mrnelso Sep 1, 2011 11:15 PM

        Some Trolls are Trolls because they are trolling to make trouble. Other Trolls are Trolls because they are Trolls.

        1. b
          BallardFoodie Sep 2, 2011 07:02 AM

          The anonymity of the internets allows for negativity run rampant. I have no idea what you are talking about, but if you want to see that in spades, check out any comments after any articles on any website.

          1 Reply
          1. re: BallardFoodie
            c
            christy319 Sep 2, 2011 12:48 PM

            I totally agree--I make it a point to never read the comments after any newspaper article, because there are so many bizarre, inflammatory comments.

          2. babette feasts Sep 4, 2011 05:22 AM

            Reading the comments at Seattletimes.com generally makes me sad and embarrassed for humanity.

            On the other hand, it would be considerate of food critics to decipher menus for people who don't speak 6 languages of food. Maybe instead of blathering on about what people were wearing?
            You do have to assume some base level of knowledge of culinary terms but brodo and macchiato have probably not crossed into common usage.

            1. h
              HungWeiLo Sep 4, 2011 09:14 AM

              Reading comments from Seattletimes.com makes you sad for humanity? Not even close. Try komotv.com, imdb.com, or youtube. Egads.

              Always keep in mind that people who read CH and actually practice the preach is a small minority of the population. We're no different than obscure hobbyists in a sense. Americans spend the lowest percentage of their income on food in pretty much the entire world (when compared to either poor or rich countries) - people in the end just want 2 criteria to be fulfilled: cheap and convenient. How many times have you heard Americans come back from Paris and complain that the waiters just left them there for hours without checking on them and how dare they did not come with the dessert menu and check 15 minutes after the entree was served?

              1 Reply
              1. re: HungWeiLo
                p
                PeteSeattle Sep 7, 2011 10:56 AM

                Hung,

                NEVER. I've eaten in Paris a lot when I was there, and always found the service to be quick and efficient, and the waiters and waitresses very patient in explaining to me what was going on with their food.
                Mind you, I spoke French, and was coming from Israel, and was having trouble getting my dietary requirements met, but the Parisians were WONDERFUL.
                The food in France was always of the highest quality, and food is very important to French people. I think that's because memories of not having enough of it are still quite close to them, while in the US we have so much we take it for granted.
                I'm puzzled by almost all American stories about how they were treated in France, as my experience was nearly the opposite of what it apparently was supposed to be.
                I nearly stayed.

              2. a
                akq Sep 6, 2011 01:06 PM

                I don't understand why you'd be embarassed about the "flap," nor do I agree that "some people need to get an education before commenting on a review" in the Seattle newspaper. Time and place matter -- some reviews, including this one, are over the top and inappropriately inaccessible for their intended audience. This review was in a daily paper, not some food journal or industry rag. If the review is in the paper it should be accessible to paper's readers, without requiring additional culinary education. I don't think "macchiato" or "brodo" have crossed into the mainstream, so they are probably not appropriate for the newspaper review.

                9 Replies
                1. re: akq
                  babette feasts Sep 7, 2011 06:37 AM

                  But if those are the words used on the menu, what's a reviewer to do? Maybe a short glossary of foreign and uncommon words at the end of the review? People wont learn if they are not taught.

                  1. re: babette feasts
                    Tom Armitage Sep 7, 2011 07:51 AM

                    If you’re in a restaurant and don’t understand a word or term used on the menu, you ask your waiter. If you’re writing a review, it’s a judgment call regarding whether or not a term is so exotic that it would benefit from some explanation. For example, when I mentioned the spaghetti “di grana arso” in my earlier post, I thought the term was sufficiently unusual to benefit from some explanation. But “brodo?” I wouldn’t have thought that this term needed the addition of a parenthetical “(broth).” The writer complaining about Providence Cicero’s review said he/she couldn’t find the definition of brodo in a dictionary. But when I googled “brodo,” the very first listing was “What is brodo?” from Chowhound’s Home Cooking board. The writer also objected to PC’s reference to fregola. But PC clearly indicated it was a type of pasta, and merely said she liked the dish better without the pasta. If you specifically want to know what fregola is, google it and you’ll quickly have your answer. So, at least in this particular case with these particular words, the writer of the “rant” that aroused Nancy Leson’s interest was just lazy and irritated that he/she had to look up three words. Big deal!

                    1. re: Tom Armitage
                      gingershelley Sep 7, 2011 09:32 AM

                      Tom,

                      Thank you for your post. This is exactly what I wished I had said in my original post! I was embarassed for the complainer (who's comments were removed I believe, as not found under comments on the review - only through Nancy Leason's Blog post you reffer to here). I come across words I don't understand frequently when I read books - and I have a pretty wide vocabulary - instead of being mad at the author, I make a note of the word and look it up to expand my horizons... Please - If I stop wanting to learn and grow; shoot me now and get it over with. :)

                      1. re: Tom Armitage
                        babette feasts Sep 7, 2011 06:51 PM

                        You're right it's just laziness and a preference for complaining over admitting weakness. You would think that people who have the capacity to complain online would also have the capacity to use google. Who gets up from their computer to go find their dictionary? :)

                        1. re: Tom Armitage
                          a
                          akq Sep 8, 2011 06:03 PM

                          Tom, PC uses the term "broth" several times through out the review to refer to other dishes. PC also defines "gravlax."

                          While the review doesn't offend me, I think the reader's point is getting short shrift here - the daily paper usually has a certain reading level it aims for so as to be reader friendly (8th grade or thereabouts). It is certainly a valid critism of the review that the reader felt it was not written in terms that are reader-friendly.

                        2. re: babette feasts
                          m
                          mrnelso Sep 7, 2011 07:32 PM

                          I ask a waiter, consult Google, or use the dictionary that sits on my desk.
                          Works every time.

                          1. re: mrnelso
                            babette feasts Sep 8, 2011 03:30 AM

                            Of course, that is what most of us do. The OP is about Providence Cicero using foreign terminology in her review, and the proletariat readers not understanding it, even when apparently explained in context. Does a newspaper reviewer have any further obligation to define the terms used by the chef on his menu? Must the reviewer interpret the food in such a way that the widest possible audience will understand, or should the audience be left to google, servers, and Merriam Webster for further information?

                            1. re: babette feasts
                              gingershelley Sep 8, 2011 10:02 AM

                              I was at Trader Joe's yesterday, and saw Raviolo 'in brodo' in the freezer case prepared meals.... my thought is, that term can't be so rare if TJ's is using it! It's like I know 'restaurant French', but can't speak French. Dining and interest in food has an accompanying vocabulary... if a word comes up you don't know, look it up:)

                              1. re: babette feasts
                                a
                                akq Sep 8, 2011 10:33 AM

                                A food writer in the daily newspaper should be writing reviews accessible to the readers of the paper. Different words might be appropriate in a review in a different context. Earlier on in the review PC actually defines gravlox and lonza: "Or to crostini topped with gravlax: pale, lush marbled salmon cured with dill and dabbed with crème fraîche. Or to lonza — near-translucent rounds of salt-cured, dry-aged pork loin circling a scoop of grape granita that sends out tendrils of sweet-tart juice as it melts into fruity olive oil."

                                Later in the review PC uses the "brodo" and "macchiato" (which she puts in quotes) without explanation: "For example, he omitted pappardelle from a bowl of pecorino brodo bathing sautéed morels, chanterelles, English peas and sugar snaps; the result was deeply satisfying. He served intensely flavored asparagus broth in a demitasse cup topped with carrot foam; what normally sauces gnocchi became a dazzling intermezzo 'macchiato.'"

                                I don't think the definition of "brodo" is clear from the context above -- it could mean generic sauce, soup, foam, or some specific sauce, soup or foam...or maybe even "pecorino brodo" is a thing in itself - perhaps it's a bowl of shaved hard cheese and not liquid at all... PC could have used another word or given an explanation of what she meant by "brodo" that would be more reader-friendly. Also, PC does use the word "broth" later in the review about a different dish: "I preferred them fregola-free, but only because the pasta absorbed so much of the briny, smoke-haunted broth."

                                Curious...

                        3. a
                          akq Sep 8, 2011 03:51 PM

                          Review:
                          http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/restaurants/2015950702_cicero19.html

                          Report of the "fray":
                          http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html...

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: akq
                            a
                            acgold7 Sep 8, 2011 05:39 PM

                            Unfortunately it's only a short snippet of the reader's comments and not a particularly vitriolic one at that. Doesn't really give a sense of whatever fray there might have been. I guess we missed all the good stuff before the Times redacted it all.

                            1. re: acgold7
                              a
                              akq Sep 8, 2011 05:58 PM

                              From NL's comments it sounds like it might have been an email to PC rather than a public comment. Who knows. I think some of the concerns are valid, though - the PC review was pretentious and uneven. She defines some terms, like gravlox, and then doesn't define others like brodo, but then uses "broth" several times to describe other dishes.

                              My point is that the words appropriate for a local daily paper restaurant review might be different than the words that would be appropriate for a food mag review or industry paper or CH review or similar. I am surprised at the forcefulness of the comments that the person needs a better education to read the paper, calling the reader a proletariat (!), and that she should just use a dictionary to look up the words she doesn't know. The reader's point, though, was that she shouldn't have to look up so many words in the paper's review and that's a valid point.

                              1. re: akq
                                babette feasts Sep 8, 2011 08:04 PM

                                "calling the reader a proletariat (!)"

                                Something wrong with being working class? It was not meant derogatorily, only as shorthand for the masses of people who are less likely to hold four year degrees and passports and enjoy a macchiato while always keeping their smartphone handy for the dictionary and translation apps. I know there are exceptions.

                                1. re: babette feasts
                                  a
                                  akq Sep 8, 2011 10:02 PM

                                  I know lots of lawyers and doctors who would have no idea what brodo means. I think that assuming someone is "working class" if they aren't familiar with these terms is insulting. I certainly didn't learn the word "brodo" in college or grad school.

                                  Plus, if you look proletariat up, it is often defined as "the lowest social or economic class of a community" and often denoted as derogatory.

                                  1. re: akq
                                    babette feasts Sep 8, 2011 10:41 PM

                                    Like I said there are exceptions. My dictionary waits until the 3rd definition to use 'lowest class of a society' and denoted it as applying to ancient Rome. There will always be class differences, sometimes they are pointed out to injure, sometimes they just are what they are. I have a BS and a job working with my hands that pays more than the poverty level and less than the median for my area. What does that make me? I also know the difference between a macchiato and a cappuccino and know what fregola sardo is and was annoyed when Alton kept calling it israeli couscous on some ICA battle or another.

                                    Back on topic, what do you think is the best way for a newspaper review to explain brodo to all the doctors, lawyers, bakers, and plumbers who don't know the word and can't make a comfortable guess from context? The print version is highly unlikely to devote more column inches to further definition. The online version could hyperlink to definitions. Wouldn't it be great if you could click on any word in anything online and get a definition? Seems like something google would have a tool for.

                                    1. re: babette feasts
                                      a
                                      akq Sep 9, 2011 10:49 AM

                                      PC uses the term "broth" several times in the article, so why "brodo" that one time? Why define gravlox in Seattle, but not brodo?

                                      This review didn't offend me particularly, but I see the reader's point and think it's a valid response. The review was pretentious, uneven and not particularly user friendly, particularly given the context of being in a daily Seattle paper. My main objection is to the responses here on CH that said they were embarrassed by the reader's admission that she/he didn't know these words, or that dismissed the reader's point that a newspaper review shouldn't use so many words that require so many readers to look them up. PC and the Times showed they are clearly capable of using an alternate word (i.e. "broth") and including definitions of terms (i.e. "gravax") so it's farfetched to say PC couldn't have done this any differently.

                                      1. re: akq
                                        Tom Armitage Sep 9, 2011 12:50 PM

                                        Ah, to explain brodo or not to explain brodo, that is the question. I think we’ve probably whipped this poor beast to death, but I did think of a hypothetical review that commented on a dish listed on a menu as “Penne with Yellow Peppers and Gorgonzola Dolce” that would read as follows: “The Penne with Yellow Peppers and Gorgonzola Dolce was especially delicious, with the sweetness of the peppers playing off the piquancy of the Gorzonzola. (Note: “Penne” is a type of pasta with ridged cylinder-shaped pieces. The yellow peppers were bell peppers. Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese. There are several types of Gorgonzola. Gorgonzola Dolce is sweeter, milder and softer than other types of Gorzonzola.) Informative perhaps, but oh so clumsy. Then I realized that I wasn’t exactly being fair, and that a review writer could have said: “A lightly creamy sauce clung nicely to the ridged cylinder-shaped penne pasta, and the sweetness of the roasted yellow bell peppers played deliciously off the piquancy of the sweet, mild Italian blue cheese (Gorgonzola Dolce).” Had it been my review, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to have added these explanations, but maybe that’s a reflection of my own insensitivity and the fact that I need a little consciousness-raising.

                                        For what it’s worth, here are some unexplained and undefined terms used in Frank Bruni’s reviews in the New York Times: crudo, charcuterie, sous vide, amuse bouche, cornet, gelée, sabayon, tuile, roulade, gratin, millefoglie, confit, shepherd’s pie, brandade, and á la plancha. Shame on Frank Bruni? Are New York Times readers that much more sophisticated than Seattle Times readers?

                                        Pointing out the inconsistencies in Providence Cicero’s review misses the point of whether or not a restaurant reviewer should define or explain certain specific words or terms. I can’t argue with the notion that a writer or speaker needs to understand and be sensitive to the audience he or she is addressing. But that doesn’t mean that one has to be understandable to the least knowledgeable person in his or her audience. Most eighth-graders aren’t reading restaurant reviews. On the other hand, restaurant reviewers should have, and should recognize that they have, much more extensive knowledge about food than their typical, average reader. Given that, there’s still no obviously clear yardstick when it comes to specific words. Penne? Confit? Crudo? Feta? Miso? Which of these terms should be defined in a Seattle Times review? As I said in my earlier post, it’s a judgment call, and one that I’m sure reasonable people will reasonably disagree about in specific instances.

                                        I realize that I’m not the “average” reader of restaurant reviews, but I still love reading the reviews of people like Jonathan Gold, Jeffrey Steingarten, and Patricia Wells because they expand my knowledge, including forcing me to look up words and terms. In general, I enjoy listening to and talking with people who know a lot more than I do, even when I don’t always understand everything they say. It’s more work than listening to people that don’t know more than I do or that talk down to me, but oh so much more exciting and satisfying.

                                        1. re: Tom Armitage
                                          a
                                          akq Sep 9, 2011 04:09 PM

                                          Ugg...reductio ad absurdum. But then again, what's a CH argument without a good strawman fallacy, right?

                                          Obviously it's a judgment call...but it's perfectly acceptable for readers to disagree as to whether the judgment call was appropriate. The majority of the responses here have been shocking to me as they just smack of elitism. I don't want to have to look up words in the local paper, generally.

                                          In this case, I think it's strange that PC defined gravlox and used the word "broth" several times...but then used "brodo" without explanation. I wonder what the point of using "brodo" was exactly, when "broth" sufficed in other cases...and to my mind, using the extra words to explan "gravlax" in Seattle is probably more wasteful than using the extra words to describe "brodo" or "fregola." Sheesh.

                                          1. re: Tom Armitage
                                            babette feasts Sep 10, 2011 12:28 AM

                                            Apparently some people neither enjoy nor appreciate being forced to expand their knowledge.

                                            1. re: Tom Armitage
                                              gingershelley Sep 11, 2011 10:39 PM

                                              Well spoken Tom! You hit the subtleties of my intention on this thread topic beautifully. I allways appreciate when you weigh in on a topic.

                                              Thank you for your balanced insights:)

                                              1. re: gingershelley
                                                h
                                                HungWeiLo Sep 12, 2011 08:54 AM

                                                What about auto reviews in the very same newspaper? Take a Chevy Equinox review that pops up in a search - it talks about "torque peaks" and "cylinders" and "antilock brakes" and "electronic stability control" and "double overhead cam". None of these terms are defined, and 95+% of the population wouldn't be able to explain to you what any of these are.

                                                1. re: HungWeiLo
                                                  p
                                                  PeteSeattle Sep 12, 2011 11:47 AM

                                                  I have no trouble whatsoever understanding each of those mechanical terms. People who spend their time with their heads under car hoods know all those terms and that's a lot more than 5% of the population.
                                                  .
                                                  The job of restaurant reviewer in Seattle is held by about four people. As such, there isn't enough of a society for them to figure out what terms people use, what they need to name, and where those names might come from.
                                                  And it's not as simple as the mechanic's terms mentioned above, since those aren't open to debate; i.e. Car go, car no go. You have two choices.
                                                  With food, your choices should be
                                                  Food good, food no good.
                                                  But that's SO much more complicated than Car go, car no go!

                              2. p
                                PeteSeattle Sep 9, 2011 10:31 AM

                                It appears that the comments are a spoof or parody of the kind of stuck-up, know-it-all know nothings who use and misuse words of uncertain origin to try to convey an impression of how erudite they are, when in fact they're being made a fool out of.
                                When I last made such a comment, the chowhound editors didn't seem to like it!
                                Frasier Crane is a cartoon character, not someone to be emulated or admired.

                                1. p
                                  PeteSeattle Sep 10, 2011 10:07 AM

                                  I want to further point out that there are approximately four jobs for restaurant reviewers in the Seattle area, and no more!
                                  And of those four, two of the jobs are held by young ladies who both seem to have proudly announced in their last issues of their magazines that they've never opened an Italian cookbook in their lives!
                                  Keep that in mind when reading about all this stuff, and go and look at this week's Stranger and Seattle Weekly food reviews! It makes strange reading.

                                  One thing I'm surprised at is that what counts for junk food in its native country seems to count as haute cuisine here. Poutine is mentioned in a $-$$ restaurant, and it's Quebecois junk food. So is supli bianco, the dish that threw off both Bethany Jane Clement and Hanna Raskin.

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