Alison Cook on Rainbow Lodge
Alison Cook published a magnificent review yesterday of Rainbow Lodge.
I don't say her review is magnificent because she loved the restaurant. (She did). Nor because her opinions are similar to my previous comments about the restaurant and its new chef. (They are.)
It is magnificent because it is so elegantly written, thoughtful, and insightful. For instance:
-"I felt my eyes welling with tears. . .I've never watched someone turn into a great chef right in front of me."
-"Thin-cut apple divides the ribbon of fish from a swoosh of cilantro pistou that is low-key enough not to dominate."
-"Rucker's more in love with his ingredients now than he is with his own mad skills."
And best of all:
-"Hansen and Rucker are running one of the best - and most interesting - restaurants in this corner of the world. Sometimes revenge is best served with a side of dashi gelee."
Many of Alison's published reviews are so polished, clever, and professional that they put the New York Times' critics to shame.
Houston's professional food critics
I remember a few years in the 90s -- after Alison left us for a while - when Houston had no full-time food critic. We are so fortunate now to have two of the best in the country.
Robb Walsh's writing is completely different and far more informal. And I disagree with his restaurant reviews more often than Alison. But he is my favorite American food writer. He articulates relationship between culture and food perhaps better than any critic writing in America today.
The coming end of professional food criticism?
It's no secret. The web is slowly killing off newspapers. And it is causing the layoffs of professional critics nationwide.
As Leisl Schillinger explained in a NYT blog today, "the old paradigm of publishing -- in which editors cautiously selected content, anxiously assessed its potential appeal and profitability, then painstakingly edited and proofed before printing their costly pages - has been overtaken by . . . 'mass amateurization,' or, in lay speak: blogging."
Houston's recent food blog explosion is part of that mass amateurization. I'm one of the amateurs. And I think there may be some real value to pithy stories, full of misspellings, about my efforts to cook a pig's head or find corn smut.
But if we ultimately do lose our professional critics -- people who write as carefully and thoughtfully as Cook and Walsh -- it will be a great loss for Houston.