Happy Turkey Week, everyone!
Please make a donation to shareourstrength.org if you haven’t already.
And don’t overcook your bird. I am cooking all day, sitting at home, watching football, and then spending the weekend at the lake with family. I need a breather. I'm just back from China after an epic fortnight of eating in two of the world’s best chow-towns: Hong Kong and Chengdu.
Anyway, there’s a lot to chat about so let’s get to it.
The Strip Club team, and chef Tyge Nelson opened The Inn last week. It’s in the former Hell’s Kitchen space around the corner from The Local. Check it out. Don Saunders opened In Season last week as well; the former Fugaise chef/owner has a late fall menu in place for the next few weeks, check it out. Yes, it’s true; Duff Goldman is going to be doing something new next year. Ace of Cakes will be all done after this coming season, and he will have done more than a hundred episodes. Congrats pal, that’s an amazing run with a killer concept that spawned a dozen imitators.
My friend Jenny runs projectexplorer.org and last week won one of seven National Awards for Citizen Diplomacy in Washington, D.C. I am so proud of her and her team. You can see details of the award on her website. Last week, while I was in the far reaches of central China the Michelin Guide for Chicago was released. Details are here and several of my pals got some serious stars. Congrats especially go out to Grant and Graham who both not only won big but are also a big part of the soon to be seen Bizarre Foods Chicago. We shot some incredible stuff with them this past summer. Congrats to all of Chicago’s chefs.
I saw that Steven Brown’s Linden Hills eatery is called Tilia and is on Facebook for anyone interested in monitoring the progress. My pal, the amazingly gifted Zoe Francois, is helping out over there and, as I have said many times over the last 12 years, I think Brown is the most gifted cook in our region, a compliment he hates hearing. He will tell you Doug Flicker is the most gifted cook in our neck of the woods. That’s what I love about restaurants and food, it’s a great discussion, especially considering Jack, Alex, Stew, Tim, Lenny, Eric, Mike, Isaac, and a dozen others are so insanely talented as well. Subjectivity is fun.
So lets get back to all this restaurant critic chef carping hullabaloo. Not wanting to rehash every nuance of this delightful mess, here’s a short summary: Stewart Woodman took umbrage with the notion of a bell curve in the twin cities when it comes to restaurant reviewing and used Beth Dooley’s review of Heartland as his example. Lenny Russo responded, rather smartly, and took the high road in defending his restaurant and the food it is highly regarded for serving. Stew then skewered Heartland on his blog and there was much discussion if he was 100 percent serious or not.
I haven’t eaten at the new joint, but I have a hard time imagining Lenny serving second-rate food, having eaten his work at every restaurant he has cooked in for 19 years. I look forward to getting to Heartland 2.0 in the same way I look forward to dining at Heidi’s 2.0 when it opens. I have eaten at every restaurant Stewart has cooked in since he came to Minneapolis and I love his food as well. But in all the back and forth that quickly degraded into a blog centered sh*t storm, the central foci of shefzilla’s first post got lost in the sauce and I find it endlessly fascinating.
Some critics are indeed “easy graders,” as one of my friends calls it, others are not. You can decide that for yourself. Some critics will be cruel or difficult just to be contrarian and some are both. What puzzles me, a week later, is how Stew could believe that restaurants aren’t graded on curves all around the world. What if all restaurants were plot-able on an equal playing field? Sounds horrible to me. I think Stew knows this also, but knowing him fairly well I would guess that rather than being out-house-crazy he instead wishes that everyone pursue excellence, something that regardless of how well his food grades out in your mind, he really does push for. And I am guessing that he is very, very frustrated that not everyone does . . . and I think he also wishes that local food and restaurant scribes call ‘em like they see ‘em and not give someone a pass for serving something that they don’t take seriously.
That’s something I can relate to.