Matthew Shelley is our IT/Tech guy here at D Magazine headquarters. We argue about the benefits of fluoride while Matt fixes my computer every time it wigs out. We’ve always known Matt as our go-to guy in times of technology crises, but it turns out he’s also got a smooth way with the ladies words. Go figure.
Here’s the autobiography that I made him write. He says it’s the best he can do without beer.
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I am a writer, photographer, herbalist, romance cartographer and past life mystery cosmonaut. I love food and the love that goes into a great dish. I live in Dallas, I have a cat, and I make my own milk.
“Into Shelley’s Belly” is a punch line examination of the lesser known badasses of Dallas dining. Not so reclusive that you’ve never been, but the places I try to visit aren’t typically a part of the mainstream scene. They are the dive institutions or lovely new places that make a formidable dish deserving to be devoured and shared. Enjoy.
Tuesday, I wrote a post warning restaurants to “just say no” to people who introduce themselves as food writers and expect a free meal for a write up of their restaurant. I thought the “conversation” that took place in the comments section was, for the most part, an intelligent sharing of thoughts between readers, bloggers, restaurateurs, and anonymous commenters. Yesterday, I received phone calls and emails from people across the industry. At the end of the day I realized we have an ugly can of worms swarming around Dallas and I think it’s time we start to clarify some issues and try to make peace.
On the subject of free meals to bloggers: I received emails from PR people ratting on restaurateurs and emails from restaurateurs ratting on PR people. PR people say it’s the restaurants fault; restaurant owners blame the PR people for not vetting bloggers. My five cents? Restaurateurs, if you want to give away free food to any blogger that is your prerogative. I agree that people who are paid to bring business to a restaurant need to do a better job of bringing qualified bloggers to the table. And that means learning how to say no.
Yesterday, I stumbled upon this blog post. The author of the piece that appeared on the blog for PR Newswire is Victoria Harres. Ms. Harres is Director of Audience Development at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, social media lead for @Business4Better, and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business.
She writes a report on a monthly meeting organized by the Social Media Club of Dallas. The event “Bloggers: Truth, Lies & How to Work with Them” consisted of a panel of local bloggers and a room full of PR people. The discussion was to help clarify the air on what bloggers would like from PR people and vice versa.
I read Harres’ report at least ten times and I followed links to the bloggers sites. What I found is this: Nobody has defined the difference between a blogger and a journalist, nobody really understands the FTC guidelines for bloggers, and many bloggers feel that they are entitled to respect and special treatment because they do it for passion. Two restaurateurs told me yesterday that they were “talked down to” because they failed to recognize several local bloggers and give them special treatment.
Let’s break it down.71 Comments »
Yesterday, one of my nerdy-in-a-great-way friends asked me to recommend “a good read” about food. I told her to read Much Depends on Dinner by Margaret Visser. It was published in 1988, long before Michael Pollan ever typed a word about the history, mythology, and taboos behind what we eat. Visser’s style is elegant and she takes simple ingredients such as rice, salt, olive oil, lemon juice, butter, and corn and traces the history and importance of these, and other, elements in our food chain. Do you have a favorite you’d like to recommend? We’re all eyes and ears.
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Full disclosure: Last night I took my good friend Don Waddington to dinner. Don, who recently lost his wife, Polly, wanted to attend Sevy’s 100th wine dinner celebration. Sevy’s has been Don and Polly’s favorite restaurant since it opened. The Waddingtons traveled on both D Magazine chef cruises, which also included Jim Severson and his wife, Amy. I know Jim and Amy and consider them good friends. Amy contributes to SideDish. I do not review Sevy’s, and it is one of the few restaurants I go to on my own nickel.
Back to last night. Sevy’s private dining room was filled with loyal customers. It was not a media event. I wasn’t working. However, I noticed a woman with a camera and a tape recorder in her hand working the room as if she was the hostess. She snapped pictures, took down names, and chatted with everyone in the room. When a course was served, she would sit down, but once she was finished, she was up again and working the room. At one point, I overheard her say, “Well, I can’t write about it if I don’t taste it.”
I turned to Amy Severson and asked if she knew the name of the woman. “She came in the restaurant the other day and introduced herself as a food writer, asked for a copy of our logo, and made a reservation for the wine dinner,” Amy said. “There was never any discussion of any quid pro quo, nor was there any discussion of her covering the wine and food dinner for us as a PR move.”
However, it was obvious to all at our table that this woman was all about PR, but not for the restaurant. She was there to promote herself.
Oh, let’s get to the bottom of this.55 Comments »
Last week I reported PegasusNews was bought by the Dallas Morning News. In the post I pondered the whereabouts of ace reporter Teresa Gubbins. The rest of the PegNews staff are now employees of the DMN, but Gubbins didn’t make the move. (More likely, she wasn’t asked to make the move. She’s been there and done that.) Nobody could get TG on the phone so I offered a prize to the first person who could find her.
Earlier today I tweeted: Hey, I spotted @tgubbins coming out of a cartology class early this morning. She’s alive!
I just received a reply from former D Magazine managing editor turned CultureMap editor, Jennifer Chininis:
What is CultureMap, you ask? Right now it’s four former D Magazine employees sitting around trying to launch a new lifestyle website. I guess Gubbins ups that count to 4.5. TG still writes freelance for us.
No prize, Chininis. You didn’t read the fine print of the contest. They are: “contest not valid for individuals who leave D Magazine only to turn around and steal the talent.”
UPPITY DATE: Timmy has a CultureMap business story.7 Comments »
Every once in a while, usually in a doctor’s office, I come across a magazine article that compels me to tear it out and save for future reference. Thankfully, this piece titled “The Truth Behind Food Labels” is not only in print, you can read it online. In the May-June issue of Audubon magazine, Gretel H. Schueller writes a straightforward guide, for lack of a better word, to the labels on food items that promote an array of feel-good, environment-friendly assertions. You see “cage free,” “hormone free,” “all natural,” “organic,” “fair trade,” and “biodynamic” in stores everywhere. Which designations are authentic? Schueller details the good, bad, and the ugly truths behind the label and the greenwashing of food items. Bullet points:
Free Range: When it comes to “free range” and “free roaming,” all a poultry farmer needs to show is “that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside,”… The animals may get only short periods outside in a cramped area—the USDA considers five minutes adequate to approve use of the claim. There are no restrictions regarding what the birds can be fed.
American Humane Certified: A program of the American Humane Association, this label permits both caged and cage-free options for egg-laying hens. A caged hen can be crammed into a space the size of a sheet of paper. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited, but beak cutting is allowed.
Dolphin Safe: This is a partially certified claim because the National Marine Fisheries Service verifies only tuna caught from a specific region—the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean—and not all tuna. Tuna from this designated area might bear a label that includes the additional phrase “US Department of Commerce.” Tuna caught outside this area and labeled “dolphin safe” has not been independently substantiated. To muddy the waters further, the dolphin-safe label is not licensed by any single organization, so there are no universal standards in place and most companies have developed their own logos.
The bottom line: If you see Cruelty Free, Cage free, Environmentally Friendly, Nature’s Friend, No Chemicals, Vegetarian Fed on a package, disregard it. The vague labels mean nothing and have no standards to back them. Anybody can say any of those things about anything. Trust is gone. (This post was written in a certified caged and toxic environment.) READ THIS NOW.7 Comments »
Last month, we discussed the future of food writing and contributing to print pubs in general. In general we summarized:
Publications are shrinking. There are fewer jobs in the publishing business, not just food writing. We hear from people everyday looking for work as editors, art designers, and free lancers. Interns taking journalism classes still spend time in our offices, but instead of gathering “clips” from the magazine, they turn in blog posts for college credit.
I bring the subject up again because I received a disturbing email geared towards the “promotion” of restaurants on blogs. Jump for it.25 Comments »
Get ready for Central Market’s yearly culinary salute to foreign food. In 2010, we celebrated Argentina (Hi, Francis!). Last year we pigged out on Spain (Hola, Paco!). This year they are throwing a two-week soiree for France, specifically the southern region of Provence, which will begin on May 9 and run through May 22.
Here’s a little poop I learned: Zee hottest ticket will be a seat in the outdoor tent where the kick-off event, “A Taste of Provence,” will feature a sampling of dishes prepared by Chef Patrice Olivon! C’est magnifique! You know Olivon, oui? He’s the cute French dude who won Iron Chef hosts “Dinner is Served,” a lovely show on PBS. It is set for Wednesday, May 9, and begins at 6 p.m.
The menu includes some personal favorites from his childhood (served family-style at long tables), which will be paired with French wines (shocker!). Think: Pissaladiere (thick, pizza-like dish popular in Nice and Marseilles); tomates farcies (tomatoes stuffed with beef, rice & herbs); cod with aioli; roasted lamb with ratatouille; and warm seasonal fruit cooked in red wine served over vanilla ice cream (really?). So frugal Francophiles, get a cheap trip ($35 per person) to Provence, if only for one evening. Tickets can be booked by clicking here or by visiting the Cooking School reservation site for Dallas.
Sancerre! Profiteroles! A truffle in every pot! Vamos, I mean, nous permettre d’aller!
(Below, I will copy and paste an actual MEDIA-ONLY release so you can get an insider’s look on how real food writing works. I will pair it with commentary from a professional media person.5 Comments »
Holy crow. Teresa Gubbins told me DMN scribe Kim Pierce was jogging last night and was hit by an SUV. She’s okay but she has a broken nose, facial lacerations, and road rash on the right side of her body. You can wish her well here or on her Facebook page.
UPDATE: According to Kim’s Sig-O: ” She was using the crosswalk with the “Walk” sign at Northwest hwy and Pickwick (near the Baptist church). A driver turned into her. Broken nose, facial lacerations a lot of bruises and she’s resting at home. She’s lucid and doesn’t appear to have any internal or brain injuries.”13 Comments »
Getting paid to write anything is almost dead. Unless you consider composing a 140-character pithy news item as writing. I suppose it is: Steve Martin just released a book of his tweets. But he is Steve Martin. The odds of a writer of any kind hitting that kind of jackpot has always been low.
Publications are shrinking. There are fewer jobs in the publishing business, not just food writing. We hear from people everyday looking for work as editors, art designers, and free lancers. Interns taking journalism classes still spend time in our offices, but instead of gathering “clips” from the magazine, they turn in blog posts for college credit. The internet has offered opportunities to anyone who can text, tweet, or post Facebook updates to gather a following and be whatever authority they want to be. The chances of them making a dollar are slim. That progression seems to be the new face of food writing. Is that good or bad? Who has the time to argue? It’s reality. Instead of trying to change it, I attempt to embrace it.
Jump off the cliff with me. Continue reading "Food Writing Will Not Die an Easy Death at D Magazine"17 Comments »
I review theater, not food. Sometimes movies, but mostly theater. I get to see the show only once, and the measure is, would I like to go back, and see this again? Would I bring someone else to discover it, too, so I can watch their face instead of the stage? Of course, no matter what I think, someone, somewhere is going to think I’m wrong. But I hope we can all appreciate decent writing, and recognize good intentions and the desire to be fair.
Which brings me to Mark Vamos’ no-star review of Tillman’s Roadhouse, published at the end of last month in The Dallas Morning News. We don’t give stars here, and even if we did, I’d have nothing to do with that and no basis on which to award them. The last time we reviewed the Dallas location was in 2007. As I mentioned, I’m a theater critic, not a food critic, for many reasons (Exhibit A: I don’t like seafood, which my friend Michael—a cook—tells me repeatedly is like saying I don’t like sandwiches.). But to me, no stars means there’s absolutely no reason on Earth for anyone to set foot in that restaurant. I humbly disagree. For me, there are at least two. But I’ll leave a dissection of the main courses to the professionals (though the ones I’ve had have been just fine), and talk about the tater tots.
I’m not sure if what I’m feeling is shock or dismay, but Google has agreed to become the new proud owner of Zagat, that old warhorse of dining guides that shepherded us all through the 80s and 90s with comprehensible ratings and purse-sized books. Everyone from the New York Times to Huffington Post is covering the financial and social implications of such a merger; the deal will be discussed to death, for certain. But I’m interested in what this is going to do to the ever-corroding ethics of restaurant reviewing. Google touts the acquisition as a way to expand its local offerings. So, soon, I imagine, we will start seeing local want ads for “reviewers” popping up on MediaBistro and the like, calling all aspiring foodies to apply. I’ll bet a fiver that “no experience necessary” will show up in the want ad somewhere, as well as the phrase “must love food.”
Tim and Nina Zagat actually cared about the ethics of the review. They built an empire from how much they care. A generation trusted them. With so many new correspondents out there, I’m curious how Google plans to enforce ethics and curb bias.
Your thoughts?2 Comments »
Earlier this morning, I received a link to a Seattle Weekly blog post written by former Dallas Observer “critic” Hanna “Sudafed” Raskin and planned to write a rebuttal. Eater “Up at Dawn” Dallas beat me to the punch. However, I would like to throw a few more. Her post– “Professional Food Critics Not Needed in Portland”– is embarrassingly amateur. Read it, I’ll wait.
This quick assessment from a professional food critic who reviewed Dallas restaurants while taking copious amounts of sinus medication? After my ENT doctor read about Raskin’s sinus problems, he called me and said: “She had no business reviewing restaurants. Her palate was dead.” If I were a restaurateur who was reviewed during her reign, I’d be demanding a redo. No wonder she called Dallas a “dining nowhereville.” She wasn’t able to taste anything. She blathers on:
I shouldn’t be surprised that the imagined relationship between rigorous professional criticism and good food doesn’t hold up. I moved here from Dallas, a city that’s covered ruthlessly by established food critics, including the Dallas Morning News‘ Leslie Brenner, D Magazine‘s Nancy Nichols, and Texas Monthly‘s Pat Sharpe. The food there isn’t any better for it.
Hanna, you take one trip to Portland and declare “Portland appears to have entered the post-professional critic era, and the food scene hasn’t suffered.” Oh my. I need a Xanax. Writers in Portland were sadly laid off by print publications. Raskin should be next.21 Comments »
Beginning today, July 15, 2011, I am banning the use of the word YUM from any post on SideDish. You can YUM away all you want in the comments, but I will do my best to keep it from appearing in an official report. I do my best to stay away from “foodie,” but have yet to find the perfect replacement. YUM, however, has many. HOWEVER, I reserve the right to use “yummers” or “yum” when I am being sarcastic or quoting a person.
If you spot the word YUM in a post after today, you will win a prize. Carry on.9 Comments »
Fearless Critic, The Dallas Restaurant Guide, a compilation of “Dallas’ top 250 places to dine as compiled from a panel of discerning local food writers” hits newsstands soon. According to the press release, “the slim and plucky collection of reviews” will guide the reader “beyond beef and Tex-Mex.” Fearless Critic guides to Austin, Houston, and San Antonio are already available. Thanks to Coco Owens, Associate Publisher & Social Media Director, the group is a “pithy bunch.” Full press release here. Love the bloated ego of Sambuca 360 review. Fear. Less.4 Comments »