In fud politics, I’ll admit to being beyond entertained by the uproar over the 50 Most BS awards. As I Tweeted, the biggest mistake the presenters made was not starting with journalism awards — first you co-opt the “reporters.” I did not Tweet that those so outraged by a rigged game had no problem for decades with a system that allowed anyone to use a ballot like a bucket list and check off everywhere h/she had eaten, no matter when. (Also, too, one that proved tabulations are for the little people.) The Maroons just didn’t think big enough. And how could you tell the newer contest was bullshit? The acres of coverage it fertilized. It’s either bogus or it’s noteworthy. Not both.
One reason I wait all week to process my thoughts before ranting: When I saw the Maroons touting rankings for fast food, I thought they looked like toothless crack whores before internet porn took over — making a last, desperate bid for attention. Really. This is one case where the market sets the ratings, and the “best” is what counts billions and billions sold. It’s certainly not about taste and service and ambiance. But then they managed to shake their moneymakers till they sold themselves and all I can think is: Did the new owners not do a search? Could they not find Menupages? Chowhound? A way to corral the Twitterverse? And I would have just let them rest in irrelevance if not for the very bizarre photo the hometown paper ran: The worst Look At Me in the food biz covering his face as if he didn’t expect to be VIPed up the wahoo (which is different from the wazoo)? Please don’t tell me the Bible stories are coming to the Kindle next. That will kill publishing for sure.
One of the more amazing displays of audio hubris in recent history came when Mrs. Maroon hijacked a radio segment on restaurant reviewing in the Age of Yelp. Imagine Hungry Girl calling in and yapping endlessly while the Fed Up With School Lunch blogger was being interviewed. Of all people not to realize dial-in comments and questions are for the little people. . .
As I Tweeted on reading about the Minneapolis freelancer who shocked, shocked his editors by asking for freebies in rating bars: Old media apparently expects contributors to turn water into wine. “Zero budget” is kinda limited when it comes to palate experiences. Even funnier, the note to restaurateurs almost exonerated him. There’s a big difference between asking for “complementary” and “complimentary.”
For the same reason, I do like to see how the tables are turning with restaurant guides in the city. Given a choice between the Maroons, with their ballots more like life lists than scientific surveys, and the inflated tire guy, what self-respecting chef wouldn’t go for the professionals? They spend the money to do it right. And for all the alleged change of heart, I still remember Michelin’s debut awards ceremony. Some pretty tough guys were rather weepy that night. . .
One of the silliest notions touted all week was that a 19th-century guidebook to Paris was the Zagat of its time. What, the producer surveyed strangers and stitched together “quotes,” with no personal point of view or shank’s mare research? In reality, what the voracious Grimod produced did not even sound like a Michelin. It was much closer to early Duncan Hines. And that’s the saddest part of what the Maroons have wrought. Everybody knows their name. No one realizes invoking it is like putting Parkay ahead of Plugra.
Then again, what if they gave awards and nobody cared? The Maroons must be wondering that right now, since the only coverage I caught was on WNYC, and reflexive at that. Which is amusing, considering that guide really was the prototype for Yelp, with great hordes weighing in on places they might have eaten at only once. Instead of trying to invent the next big thing, maybe media types should be turning old notions into social media. Hmmm, what about the Pillsbury Bake-Off as a cookbook?
Only two Maroons would go to Cuba and complain that the food wasn’t cutting edge. For Che’s sake, can you say embargo? And poor people? But then as a travel writer friend noted, they were clearly just going through the payback motions for the trip. I blame the Food Coven’s honcho for “printing” their drivel; he does seem to take a hands-off approach with his old pals. One just did a trite ode to a “storied gem” of a trattoria that mentions a tart “in the photo above” when all that’s on display is fruit. But at least what he’s not doing is working. I check in just to see the latest brain wreck.
For the first time I almost felt sorry for Molto Ego, after Jay Rayner flew in to have his gimlet-eyed way with him. You could almost understand why the guy is challenging a certain debunker to a virtual Diamond Jim duel. If he keeps eating and drinking, he won’t have to face the reality sketched by the out-of-towner in the tersest of phrases: More is not always better when it comes to restaurants. It figures, though, that just hours after I found the Guardian piece at my usual fourth stop of the day I spotted the Maroon leaping up to say Molto’s parish hall is just the pope’s pajamas. You can fool some of the fools some of the time. . . My favorite detail was that the orangeman had to do the Brit-and-pony show with a flack in tow. Number one, if he’s so big, why does he need one? And number two, if it’s for damage control, someone might want to invest in a drool bucket. The whole world is reading.
Mr. Maroon must have worn out his welcome at all his usual plugola places (excuse me, op-ed pages) because he has been reduced to contributing to the cheapest outlet in town. And of course the boss got what she paid for. I don’t know when I have come across a bigger pile of horseshit in one tossed-off lecture to a new president. He even sermonizes about the trim First Family sending a message on obesity. (Do as he says, not as he gorges.) Really, this pompous fool advising Obama on eating is like Joe the Plumber telling Robert Fisk how to report a war. But at least he wasn’t doing it in Chinese restaurants, and he forestalled that guy’s weighing in.
Speaking of bit players who are always the heroes in their own stories, the pantload whose schtick is “self-worth through girth” has some nerve pontificating about the tired routine the Maroons still trot out. That’s like the shit calling the Shinola black.
Second prize would go to the business improvement district that’s staging a chefs-on-parade event to raise money to pretty up the streetscape while so many people are taking it in the gut thanks to cyclones, earthquakes, drought and greed (you know evildoers are making money off rice big-time right now). I’m all for nicer trash cans on every corner, and I’m as happy as the next Isabellaed-out denizen to have better eating options within walking distance, but $100 to $1,000 for tidbits under a tent seems a little excessive when Haitians are down to dirt for dinner. I’m not surprised to see Mr. Maroon billed as “special honoree.” But how in restaurant hell did someone who wants her legacy to be mobile meals get roped into this parochial exercise in onanism?
The sad news is not that the Strand Diner on 96th has closed — I can still smell the morning I stopped in years ago when something had definitely died on the premises and I only hoped it was not a forgotten busboy. What’s depressing is that the place is being torn down. And that undoubtedly means another obscene tower is going to be wedged into a low-rise block, after construction forces us to walk well around it for months for fear of falling cranes (and crane operators). One diner/mortuary has to be worth more than another high-rise in a neighborhood where it seems half the buildings are festooned with “for rent” signs. And I have to admit I’ll miss walking past and wondering yet again where the “top rated” rating it boasted in a big sign in the window came from. The place knew its audience, idiots not worthy of even Maroon deception.
Here’s a budding trend ripe for nipping: The tip jar at Amy’s Bread in the Village is now labeled the “karma cup.” If there are countinghouses in the afterlife, I’m taking another look at reincarnation. But even that Bush-era innovation is not as fucked up as the Chowhound “reviews” posted a couple of doors away on the Murray’s Cheese window. Not only can any establishment cherry-pick favorable ones, but the potential for fraud is unprecedented (check out the first alleged everyman’s swoon over at menupages for a new place with an unfortunate name off Columbus). The one venue where autofellation is actually possible, after all, is the internets. But I guess the faux touts could be dumber: They could have come from Zagat.
It’s that time of year again, when the Zagats tell the media to jump and the only response is, “How ridiculously high?” No end of nonsense was churned out, but the most annoying spewing, as usual, came from the big eaters themselves. This time the WSJournal got snookered into running one of their self-promos posing as an op-ed, and it was even more annoying than usual. The idea that anyone could take their restaurant prices seriously is about as idiotic as presuming Mrs. Chimp actually cared enough to write her piece for the same pages. (Evil illegitimate government oppressing citizens? Bad. But only in Burma.) You would think this of all newspapers would remember that old Mark Twain saying about figures lying. The Skank Twins would be more credible.