I am a big fan of The New York Times Dining section.
Importing Mom instead of the pasta.
Hunting for “treasures” in restaurant laundry.
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And the list goes on.
The NYT Dining journalists know how to shape story lines beyond the – “chef showed restraint, allowing the flavor of the fresh [fill in the blank] to take center stage” – and do it with clever wordsmithing.
Peter Wells’ review of a Guy Fieri restaurant last week is right up there with the best.
The fact that the piece triggered more than 1,000 comments (not a typo) shows I’m not the only person who noticed.
I thought this comment nailed it:
The rhetorical device of structuring this as a series of questions really shows you how in writing, you have to make a judgment call sometimes. When something goes colossally wrong in a restaurant, you need to go colossally off script as a writer, and do something different in order to really convey the egregious nature of what has happened.
And convey Mr. Wells did.
I’ve captured my favorite passages:
Somewhere within the yawning, three-level interior of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, is there a long refrigerated tunnel that servers have to pass through to make sure that the French fries, already limp and oil-sogged, are also served cold?
Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?
How did nachos, one of the hardest dishes in the American canon to mess up, turn out so deeply unlovable? Why augment tortilla chips with fried lasagna noodles that taste like nothing except oil? Why not bury those chips under a properly hot and filling layer of melted cheese and jalapeños instead of dribbling them with thin needles of pepperoni and cold gray clots of ground turkey?
As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want the noun “clot” to show up in your restaurant review.
Naturally, Team Fieri went into damage-control mode, putting Guy on a plane to New York to appear on the Today Show (video below).
I thought it was a savvy decision for Team Fieri to fight back from NYC where the review originated.
The preparation for the interview also came through with Guy disagreeing with Mr. Wells and still maintaining a “we’re not perfect” tone.
As for Mr. Wells, I’m sure his observations of the NYC dining scene will continue with entertaining narratives.
Wishing everyone an enjoyable Thanksgiving (with no blue drinks).