I read other food writing in town. I do. And many of us (food scribes) have the same thoughts and the same takes on what is happening in our food world. And we look at the same evidence and draw many of the same conclusions. Sometimes we have subtle shades of gray that separate our ideas from each other. Here is one great example.
Dara wrote a great piece the other week in the CP about the Flicker-Brown-Woodman renaissance, playing off of her column from seven months ago about the opposite side of the same issue. BTW, am I the only one ready to say out loud that what she has written over the last year is better than her previous material? She gets better all the time as a writer. But I digress . . . .
Well actually, let me digress further by saying that so often food writers never admit in print who they read or why. It always seemed odd to me, but whatever . . . only first-time readers of this blog won’t know that I am a big fan of hers, and of Rick’s as well.
OK, back to my point. I had the idea for a similar piece—the "Destry Rides Again" theme is a familiar notion—but after reading all the stuff in print and online, I am oddly uncomfy with the idea that all is well in our food-land future. I feel better about it than I did six months ago, but Flicker and Brown are not cooking with all of their skill-set available to them, and they are cooking in kitchens that are not 100 percent theirs. They are both cooking within a genre, and although right now they seem content 'doing the job’ that’s in front of them, they are 'in between projects,' as it were. I’ve been there myself. No one in our business is immune to the slings and arrows of the taste-whims of the general public, and they are taking a breather from making art by indulging in commerce. But I think they’ll try art again soon.
With the Woodmans looking like they are finally going to open their own restaurant, I am optimistic in the main about our food scene, but I think the jury is still out on whether or not in three years our town will be bursting at the seams with unique and interesting places to dine at several price levels, or whether we will be eternally opening and closing smaller venues while keeping larger and less compelling restaurants like Bank or Crave in business for years. I will say this: If the Woodmans' restaurant is successful, and I think it will be the perfect venue for them, look for more restaurants like it to open in the neighborhoods where the customers are living. The new Bon Appetit mag has a great piece on small restaurants that presages this idea coming true here. Think of 112’s success. I think that chefs opening multi-million-dollar restaurants with loads of risk are a thing of the past in our town, at least for the foreseeable future. Smaller, more focused eateries, where they have to put less skin in the game, are going to flourish. When Solera opened, I saw it as a grand temperature-taking moment. At the time, I wrote that if it was embraced, it would mark a watershed moment in our city’s food life, inspiring a new generation of good and great eateries to open and flourish. It was, and that happened. I think the same thing will happen with the Woodman place, inspiring smaller chef-driven personal restaurants to pop up left and right. And mark my words, despite whatever you read from Flicker and Brown in the press (and I should say that I am making a guess here—I have talked to neither of them in ages), these two will be inexorably drawn back to doing their own thing at some point.
I have been away for weeks and weeks, has anyone eaten at Landmarc yet? Harry’s? And for the record, the new Niver-Johnson project in St. Paul sounds fabulous, does it not? St. Paul needs more of that.