The Return of #PartsUnknown
YES! My favorite show is back for another season, which means it’s time to talk about how awesome Anthony Bourdain and his team are at perfectly capturing all that is good, smart, and savvy in media today. I’ve written about this before because he is so fantastic, so consider this your Season 3 reminder. Parts Unknown is best watched live on CNN while following @Bourdain and his “social media consigliere” @HelenCho who posts the best behind-the-scenes photos and information from the shoots. It’s so well done that it almost feels like you’re watching live TV, which is probably the intended effect. The full picture is so rich and so awesome and one of my favorite hours of the week. It’s also a spectacular example of how to do live-tweeting well, and a reminder that digital entertainment content can still be a completely immersive experience, even with all kinds of technology at your fingertips. No multitasking here!
A Schiller’s Rally
When I lived in New York City, my friends and I had a standing happy hour at a certain bar on the Lower East Side on the corner of Essex and Rivington. We showed up like clockwork to talk about our crappy weeks at our entry-level magazine jobs and drink cheap wine out of tumblers. After happy hour(s) came late dinner, and if there wasn’t a huge wait at Schiller’s down the block, you better believe we grabbed a table. Then, in 2006, Schiller’s was just three years old and still a hot spot in its own right, not solely because it was one of the only decent options in the neighborhood.
Recently, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells paid a few visits while researching his piece about another Keith McNally restaurant. He then took to Twitter to completely pan the restaurant, the food, and the service. On the same day, The Infatuation posted a lackluster updated review of the place. Not the best day to be Schiller’s.
Wells called out the restaurant’s Key lime pie in particular, calling it “a dry kitchen sponge broken into crumbs and gently misted with citrus-scented dish soap.” (ouch.) As a rebuttal (and probably to show that they have a sense of humor and digital savvy, @SchillersNY offered free Key lime pie and encouraged recipients to tweet their thoughts
at Mr. Wells with the #piegate hashtag. (#Piegate is still going, by the way. Unsure about the free pie.)
I’ve not had the pie so I can’t comment, but I can say that I, like Lockhart Steele of Eater, love Schiller’s. The food has never been the best in the city, but there’s a special element of nostalgia there. And I’m glad that the internet gives us all a platform to rally around our nostalgia.
P.S. For kicks, read the original NYT Schiller’s review from 2003.“Can L’Occitane, A/X and other emblems of homogenized gentrification be far behind? Here comes Schiller’s, and there goes the neighborhood.”
The Problem with Worldwide Restaurant Rankings
One week after the Michelin Guide revealed this year’s starred restaurants in New York City, and plenty of tweets and think pieces bemoaning the process later, comes another ranking. This one’s from TripAdvisor, the online, Yelp-like community that allows travelers to review and rate hotels, restaurants, and other places of interest to travelers. As such, and likely as part of some sort of PR or marketing effort (because that’s where these things come from), they’ve released a list of the best-reviewed restaurants in the US, and another of the top-ranked worldwide.
Here’s the thing. These lists, stars, reviews, world’s 50 best, whatever — they’re so subjective. These rankings in particular are based on reviews from people who’ve actually used TripAdvisor. So there’s a bias. Sure, rankings from the people are theoretically awesome. But rankings chosen only by people who’ve taken the time to rank and review their past vacation don’t seem, to me, as reliable. On the flip side, though, it’s physically impossible for one person, or even one small group of people, to travel the world and objectively rank restaurants serving dishes as different as night and day for the purposes of a list.
I don’t know why I’m so riled up about this today, but our obsession with lists and numbers and “the best” and “30 under 30”s and superlative qualities is just getting out of hand, don’t you think? And another thing: it’s not like there are any surprises in this list. Yeah, a lot of people think Alinea is the best spot in the country, even people who haven’t even been to Alinea. I also don’t know if there’s ever going to be a way to make a list that’s not subjective, and since lists and rankings are likely here to stay, I sure hope someone figures out a way to shake it up sometime soon.
About Food Television and Its Influence on Society
If you have any interest in / have watched / have heard about food TV, you’ll like this recent post on The MAD Feed by Signe Rousseau, who is my favorite / the best food+tech academic writer out there. The piece, titled Watching and Doing, looks at “the trend that has us not only watching other people cook without taking part, but also watching people talking about cooking.” Rosseau points out the difference between shows about cooking and shows about eating, and reminds us that most food television is considered entertainment, not education. The piece also makes some pretty interesting comparisons between food media and porn (yep!), which seems to be a surprisingly accurate way to understand the genre. Finally, my favorite point: “Food TV and other media can be a waste of time, but they can also fuel that appetite, and help to generate more informed ways of thinking about cooking, including not only the how but also the why.”
It’s a very well-written piece, and absolutely worth a read.
The Restaurant World Responds to Anthony Bourdain’s Death
5 years ago
In a few short years, Bourdain made interpersonal connections through food that would have been difficult or impossible any other way. If the outpouring of warmth following his death is any indication, what he accomplished won't fade away any time soon.