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Apr 29, 2013 12:30 PM

Charlotte Observer

Hi everyone! I'm new to Chowhound and new to Charlotte. Tell me what you think about the Charlotte Observer food section and which writers are tops!

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  1. Kathleen Purvis is their head honcho as far as I know but I'm in the RDU area.

    1. I think its ok. There are only 2 writers that I'm aware of Kathleen Purvis and Helen Schwab. They each write a blog and one of them does an occasional restaurant review. I think there is also an occasional "Dining on a Budget" restaurant review by someone else. Since they've taken the paper behind a paywall I haven't looked at it very much and can't say I miss it.

      3 Replies
      1. re: carolinadawg

        Regarding that paywall, don't tell the CO, but it's not working. I can still read everything. The only thing I can't read are the comments which used to be my favorite part.

        Kathleen and Helen don't appear to have much support from the CO, compared to the old days when I'd look forward to the E&T section. I don't think the situation is unque to Charlotte. Of course, with Helen giving every restaurant three stars, I question the value of what's left.

        1. re: southernitalian

          Yeah, its strange, some times it blocks me and sometimes it doesn't. I never get blocked using my ipad. I just got out of the habit of clicking through very many of the sections/articles.

          Reading those comments will destroy your faith in humanity.

          1. re: carolinadawg

            +1 on "Reading those comments will destroy your faith in humanity" Agreed!

      2. Welcome to Charlotte!

        I'm a regular subscriber and as burgeoningfoodie pointed out Kathleen Purvis is the Food Editor. Helen Schwab is our resident food critic. There's another chick, Andrea Weigl that writes food pieces too. There's one other that does lunch reviews, Robin Domeier (sp). Oh, and Catherine Raab is their wine and beverage writer.

        Kathleen is a great writer and is very passionate about the south, southern food, the fresh & local scene, and is generous with tips, restaurant recs, etc. if you email her. She's been kind enough to give me good info when I've traveled to places like NYC.

        I don't know much about Helen Schwab other than her restaurant reviews. She's rather fond of the 3-star review and gets some slack for that. But she seems knowledgeable and supportive of locally-owned restaurants.

        I get the sense that times are tough at The CO and that budget tightening has limited what the Food Section can do. I don't know this for certain, it's just a feeling. What exactly are you looking for? Are you comparing publications?

        3 Replies
        1. re: lynnlato

          Thanks for the kind words, Lynn. Certainly budget-tightening has limited what all of us do. (Carolina Dawg: Newspapers are caught in a "damned if do and damned if we don't" situation -- if we charge for our services, we get complaints; if we don't charge and thus have to offer less, we get complaints. If you have a solution, there are a few hundred newspapers nationwide that would love to hear it.)

          To clarify, Helen Schwab is the restaurant reviewer and also does restaurant news. I'm the food editor, so I focus on home cooking and news stories about food. I'm not a restaurant reviewer, but I sometimes write about restaurants if it involves face-time with chefs, so Helen can protect her anonymity, or if Helen is otherwise booked. I do travel a lot, so I often write about food in other places. We both have blogs (which aren't behind the paywall, by the way), and those allow us to fit in more information.

          Andrea Weigl is the food editor of the Raleigh News & Observer. Since both the Observer and the News & Observer are owned by McClatchy, we have a shared-content arrangement. So my stories run in Raleigh and Andrea's stories run in Charlotte. Since there is plenty of travel and links between the Triangle and the Piedmont, that allows us to get more coverage of the state and stretch our resources a little more.

          Certainly, with newsprint and space tight, we supplement our coverage with what we can put online, including blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook links and online stories with added content.

          QCMama, if you have specific questions, you can always send them to me and I'll do what I can to help. Thanks for your interest.

          1. re: kathleen purvis

            Thanks, everyone. I am a little disappointed in the food section but understand the limitations. One suggestion is to include entree prices when reviewing a restaurant. It makes a big difference to me if a dish costs $25 and is 3 stars or $9 and 3 stars. Of course, 3 stars for everything is probably not very accurate reviewing. (But I'm too new to have seen that trend.)

            Thanks for the nice replies. I'm glad to be here.

            1. re: QCmama

              Welcome to Charlotte, QCmama! I hope you'll enjoy it here. I think that reading that one of our most notable food writers actually took the time to respond to the OP is an indication of what a friendly city this is!

        2. First off, welcome to Charlotte. I do hope you like it here.

          As for your question, there is the paper itself, and then there is the food section. As others have mentioned, Kathleen Purvis is the food editor, and she is knowledgeable, passionate, and very willing to share. She did a piece on country ham a few years ago that was picked up by other papers, and (I may be mistaken here, but I think...) included in one of those best food writing of the year compilations. If you google her name plus "country ham", you will find the writing and can judge for yourself.

          As for the paper itself, I don't subscribe to it, so I can't say much about the restaurant reviews or other writing. When I moved to this area, from Texas, just over a decade ago, I checked out the paper and it seemed more like a church newsletter than a real paper. Really disappointing for a city as large, diverse, and interesting as Charlotte really is. Perhaps I am part of the problem by not subscribing. I know newspapers are having an increasingly rough time these days.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MelMM

            I loved that piece Kathleen Purvis did on country hams! I learned so much. The photos were great too.

            Church newsletter - now that you mention it, it kind of does. Heck, it even has a regular column written by Billy Graham & a Faith & Values section. I subscribe though, and I always look forward to Wednesday's Food Section and Friday's E&T section.

            I was just reflecting back on all the food tidbits and recipes I have gained over the years from The CO & KP and I've racked up quite a lot of good stuff. I remember her writing about her son making nutella crescent rolls (I know so simple, but my kids are nutella junkies). I had my kids make them and they loved them and still do. I also remember her writing about a fresh corn risotto. She read a recipe and wanted to recreate it using what she had on hand. I did the same and it was one of the tastiest things I've ever cooked for just myself.

            It certainly leaves much to be desired but I think there is a lot to be said for the small town feel of The Observer, and of Charlotte too.

          2. Thank you, all, for the kind words.