This one's a pretty self-centered edition. In addition to taking my sweet time posting it, I'm apparently all "it seems to me" this and "I guess" that, and while some of the reviews are decidedly negative, I felt as I was writing my commentary that I was deploying more sass than usual myself. But in the words of the judge on Futurama, I'm going to allow this. It's my Flyover Friday.
"Green Street Smoked Meats: Praise god and pass the pork ribs," by Gwynedd Stuart for the Chicago Reader
While the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sends Carol Deptolla to Miller Park for a not-quite-review of ballpark eats, and Chicago Tribune critic Phil Vettel hides his light under a bushel once again, Reader gives Mike Sula a week off of the review gig. Stuart acquits herself better than the last critic to sub in for Sula, though it doesn't hurt my estimation of her work that it's a barbecue review. Too bad about that Frito pie.
"If you're craving sushi, head to Benson's Taita," by Sarah Baker Hansen for the Omaha World-Herald
The oldest review in last week's batch, this is an interesting one. A revisitation by Hansen, and a reconsideration. Big ticket Japanese with smart and fun additions of Peruvian -- not an oddball connection to make, even if it's in Omaha -- that comes off with high quality. Hidden gem, indeed.
"Giovanni's in Beachwood remains a bastion of Old World elegance, excellence," by Joe McCrea for the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Is McCrea kidding with that opening food-related graf? "Bracingly fresh," "piquant mélange," "melting tender"? That last one about a burrata? Burrata isn't tenderit's creamy, the common phrase is "meltingly tender," and while I begrudge no writer his words, that's a just weighty dang section. Appropriate, I guess, for a very old-school ristorante.
"Nathalie's farm-to-table dining goes off the tracks in the kitchen," by Ian Froeb for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Ooft. Sometimes a negative review is a guilty thrill to read. Think Pete Wells' incisive take-down of Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant. But other times, it may start out schadenfreudtastic but descends into an oh-no-they-dint, jaw- and stomach-dropping roller coaster affair, except one where there's no ups, only downs. Froeb has penned one of those latter reviews, well-thought out and excellently written, but just kind of sad at the same time.
"Plate & Barrel serves big small plates from around the world," by Lindsay Christians for Madison's Capital Times
I'd be remiss if I failed to point out the (perhaps unconscious) oenophilic slight of beer, with its history as a second-class beverage, laid down by Christians; her preference for wine is known and that's well and good, but Lindsay, don't give in to that temptation! We've still got that beer appreciation date to schedule. As for Plate & Barrel, it demonstrates a continuing and pleasant trend of dining evolution in Madison's neighbors, and I hope the shortcomings that Christians points out are indeed on the way to being remedied.
"Beauty by the bite at La Poste," by Polly Campbell for the Cincinnati Enquirer
Take that, Lindsay! Polly likes her wine by the fairly unexamined glass, and to hell with the adjectives. Campbell's review sounds better than the subhed indicates, but off scallops are a big enough sin to bring the positives down a good couple notches.
"Four stars for Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robbinsdale," by Rick Nelson for the Minneapolis Star Tribune
Anyone else feeling worn out just reading Nelson's opening grafs? I can't help but view Travail's operation through the dual lenses of Grant Achatz's symbiotic Chicago combo, Next and The Aviary (Travail's conjoined bar, The Rookery, even has a birdy name), and something like the sensory maelstrom that is Albert Adria's Tickets in Barcelona. Despite the rollicking good time Nelson has, and the runaway success of Travail's Kickstarter, I worry that such a seemingly schticky, process-heavy service might not be built to last.
"Revamped Steenbock's deserves a wider audience," by Samara Kalk Derby for the Wisconsin State Journal
I have yet to make it to any version of Steenbock's, and I'm no blanket Food Fight detractor, but I'm going to say it: I think the Institutes of Discovery deserves better than a Food Fight restaurant that might be called upon to ship its chef out to another restaurant group project at any time. Glad to see that prices are coming down, but this should be a place that offers more than what Food Fight typically has to give. The less I say about this review, the better.
"Pupuseria y Restaurante Salvadoreno features filled pupusas, a national dish," by Molly Abraham for the Detroit News
This place sounds great, and reminds me that, nationality difference aside, I really need to get to the arepas at La Taguara here in Madison. But more importantly: get it, girlfriend! This is the kind of review I want to see out of Abraham and Detroit at large. No fuss, no muss -- well, some muss, if the salsa's as messy as she describes it -- and barely a line about the color of the sconces.
"Make your own pizza: Blaze in Brookfield offers variety and friendly service," by Susan Harpt Grimes for Milwaukee's Shepherd Express
When it's a franchise review, even one of a fairly smart-sounding fast pizza joint, you kind of thank your luck that the Express reviews are so brief.
"Fenton Fire Hall: Building a fire," by Aaron Egan for Detroit's Metro Times
I like how a platter called "Lord of the Pit" is somehow taking the easy way according to Egan. But I ain't complaining. Barbecue? Check. Delicious barbecue? Big check, apparently. And a Frito pie worth spending calories on? I'm so in.