Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wherein the NYPost pokes fun at me re my Atera post (but gives me a photo credit)

Must be a slow news day. Today the NYPost published a story by Steve Cuozzo (punny title and all) whining about "wishful thinking, deception and outright lies" concerning "food phenomena that, after tons of buzz, failed to show up."

His top example? None other than a photo I included in my blog post describing my excellent meal at Atera, Chef Matt Lightner's new restaurant in Tribeca. Oh, he also felt the need to poke fun at me by referring to me only as "an obscure blogger," even after I graciously gave them permission to use my photo. Of course the online story chose to not link to my original post, yet I afford them the courtesy to link to their story. I wear it as a badge of honor that I was made fun of by the Post. And any press is good press, right?
According to Cuozzo, my photo of the squab dish, after being displayed on Eater.com when they picked up my blog post, was the "item which did more to put Atera on the map than anything." If only I could take credit for doing the most important thing to call attention to Atera, I'd be ecstatic. Hell, even if that statement qualified as a gross exaggeration I'd find it to be pretty cool. (Remember, I'm obscure.) However, I'm quite sure Chef Lightner didn't need my help for his highly anticipated new NY restaurant to be noticed. His food speaks for itself. And after all, I had read about it plenty for months before it opened; that's why I was excited to go try it out soon after opening. [Eater also picked up the Cuozzo piece.]

Cuozzo apparently was upset that while he was also served squab, his was served sans claw. Whereas the squab I got, served weeks earlier (on the second night they were open no less) did have a claw as appendage. They were both aged, his 21 days, I assume mine was the same but I don't recall the specific number. The aged aspect of the fowl was to me the most interesting aspect of the dish, thus it is what I discussed. For the record, the "menacing" and "claw" quotes Cuozzo uses are Eater's words, not mine. I didn't even mention or refer to the claw in any way. In fact, the squab wasn't even among my favorite dishes of the night. I didn't even think it was one of the more interesting pictures from the meal, as evidenced by the fact I selected several others to feature near the top of the post, and the squab picture was the 22nd image to be found in the post, simply falling into the order that the restaurant presented the dishes.

He doesn't seem to care that mine was served with pear skin chips and tarragon, while his was accompanied by pickled wild onion. But the absent foot, oh the travesty! How dare Lightner retool a dish from time to time. It's not like he has claimed that he'd like to change the menu daily depending on what treasures he finds in his foragers' baskets that day. Oh, wait! He has said that, and told me as much when I dined there. One wonders if Cuozzo bothered to even read my post where I wrote:
They both could be legitimate signature dishes, if it is even their intention to have signatures on the menu which should change from week to week as the peak seasons for ingredients ebb and flow.
n.b. that neither of the two dishes I refer to in the above sentence was the squab, about which I made no such claim. I guess he doesn't have to worry about writing a sensical story since I'm so "obscure"; surely no one will notice. Though in his defense, referring to me as an "obscure blogger" is about the only thing he got right in the story. [As an aside: hey Stevie, you really find it necessary to put on your bully hat and call me out because my ad free hobby blog gets 10 hits on a good day? Really? Congratulations, you have more readers than I. Does that make you feel like a big man? I really couldn't care less, but it still strikes me as petty.]

Oh, I guess he also got it correct that my post was gushing, but the reason for that is that I have neither the time nor the inclination to post about any middling meals I have. I post about special meals I want to remember myself, and perhaps share with anyone interested out there.  And I don't even have time to do that for more than a fraction of the special meals. Precisely because I'm hardly a professional reviewer, and because I rarely post about meals, I can cherry pick the most interesting ones and not spend time panning meals I didn't enjoy as much. Moreover, I know the restaurant biz is tough, so I don't want to make it harder by trashing a place based on one visit, especially if it's new, so I stay my pen. But if a place is great, why not share?

Don't go to Atera for the squab. Or the beets. They may or may not be on the menu. Go because the food and overall experience is great. You'll probably get some of the dishes I got, and you'll surely get others I did not. Which is how it should be, it makes for an exciting meal. Next time I go, I hope to get many new tastes, though I won't complain if some of the highlights are revisited. But if any particular dish is no longer offered, it would be no travesty. No one presented the squab dish as a must get signature dish. More importantly, he got the squab! He just didn't get a non edible visual kicker, which, while kinda cool, hardly affects the overall meal. If you go to Minetta Tavern and they don't offer the Black Label Burger, another restaurant I gushed about, now THAT would be worth writing about as a hype that didn't pan out.

So Steve, which sin am I guilty of? Regarding my photo factually reporting one aspect of one dish out of twenty, at a meal served weeks ago, never publicized by the restaurant (they publish only the wine list online), and with my disclaimer that the menu would change often -- was it wishful thinking, a deception, or an outright lie?

1 comment:

  1. Many of the non-obscure writers are going to the same old safe places that everyone is talking about because they already know a story is there.

    Cheers! And I've never heard of Cuozzo, so he's obscure in my book.

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