Locally Grown

Wini-Gate Day 7 or 8
2010/12/07, 9:02 am
Filed under: Local Food Commentary

Monday news slipped through the cracks this week as I, your humble-ish cook, decided to take the day to move my home office to its proper office-ular location.  Consequently, I am still writing this from a laptop on a wine cart in front of my TV while peeping out the awesome forecast I am about to experience in real life by bike.  I will be out doing some grocery shopping and visiting Flour (Carly Groben’s new pizza place accross from Proof), Big City Burgers And Greens, and possibly La Mie to give Joe Logsdon a high five.  News…

-Hal Jasa’s new venture Zingaro opened this past weekend. Rumor has it that everything went well, and everyone walked away smiling.

-Flour Pizza (1220 Locust St., DMZ) is open.

-George Formaro swooped in like a super hero and made Saturday a day to remember.  He has a great idea for…well, you don’t get that news yet.

Pretty rockin news this week.  On to our main story, Wini-Gate day 7 or 8 or something:

(I had a really cool graphic here, but it turns out my computer isn’t cooperating)

As it stands, the story goes a little like this:

Our Very Own Datebook Diner and her husband attempted to dine at La Mie at 8pm.  She thought they closed at 8:30pm, which is a really funny assumption. I don’t personally know of any restaurateur with the amazing sense of humor to close at half past the hour.  I wonder if Wini would compile a list of all of the restaurants here in the town formerly know as the DMI which, in the last thirteen years of her reviewer experience, had chosen to close not at the customary top of the hour, but on the :30.  I wager it would be shorter than the cook time on a bay scallop.  Moving on, these two dining prospectors entered La Mie at the Sandwitching Hour, aka Closing Time, had a stand off about whether or not our fearless DD would be reviewing La Mie or not, she was asked to leave.  There was some kind of remark to the effect of grow up and have some kids.  These are all facts that we know.

The Datebook Diner, it seems, has discovered what those of us who piss in peoples’ breakfast bowls professionally have know for some time.  Upsetting people really does generate traffic, which is demonstrated by the sixteen (16) pages of comments on her blog from just this one incident.  Another thing that her blog and specifically her comments section shows is that the general public have some really fucking laughable bush league opinions of the incident.  I am hardly able to contain myself when reading some of these reader speculations.  This really shows that many of you out there do not have a grasp on restaurant reality. Let me dispell the falsehood that the Datebook Diner is an unknown face to all of us in restaurant land: Wini is no Salman Rushdie.  We know who she is, she knows who we are, and the “anonymous” thing is just some antiquated format which has been used since the beginning of (Datebook Diner) time.  We know that she can be found at Star Bar on Ingersoll at any given moment and is evidently working on a cook book.  Can’t wait for that one to “drop.”  Wini also likes my cat, and the feeling would most surely be reciprocated if they were to meet.  These are things we know.  We also know that she hates large portion sized enough to dock a dining spot points for her perceived “overserving/fattening” of the citizens of the DMZ (yep, she is really looking out for not only your taste buds and wallets, but your health too.  Amazing) as shown by the recent three star review of George Formaro’s downtown French institution, Django, citing their heaping portions as a downside and in almost the same breath her four star review of the Chinese Pizza (Chizza) Joint Fong’s, who unlike Django (and Centro) control their portion sizes to help pull them a full star ahead of a “fine dining” restaurant even though she also complains about Fong’s housekeeping (dirty carpet, bad smell) and states that they “are best enjoyed when the sun is down.” Still earned a four star (My employer, Cafe Di Scala is one of the DMZ’s most beautiful, intimate, and sought after dining spots, according to our guests, yet she awards Scala 3.5.  We are considering firing our housekeeping staff) Wini’s message to restaurants?  Don’t bother cleaning, watch your portion sizes, and you should probably just go to Star Bar (or now Fong’s) and replicate their successful business model (no offense to either Restaurant, I also enjoy and support both places).

Does this sound like a fair and impartial reviewer?  “I decide who gets reviewed and who doesn’t” “George, do you feel bad that you are fattening up Des Moines” “Star Bar” “Star Bar” “Star Bar”

This brings up even more crap from the rumor mill.  Rumor has it that Wini’s up-until-recent-times Datebook Diner partner in crime Deb Wagman  didn’t just quietly resign, but was frustrated with the partnership and resigned due to Wini’s attempts to squelch Deb’s opinions.  The story I heard is of a soon to break five star review of a certain downtown Mexican fine dining spot being thwarted by an out-of-the-country Moranville.  She held up the review written by Wagman until her return to the states, then reviewed the restaurant herself and gave it a much less favorable review.  This was the alleged last straw and caused a resignation.  I didn’t really fully believe this story until the recent development with Joe at La Mie and her statement that SHE decides who gets reviewed and who doesn’t.  I think her behavior at La Mie backs the behavior told in the DV Wagman tale.

Is Wini out of control/out of line, or is the veneer finally wearing off after thirteen years of holding restaurateurs hostage?

I have spoken with a number of chefs and owners about the situation (it is the number one talked about restaurant subject of the moment in this here town) and they all agree that if they had the cajones to tell a reviewer to get out of their place of business that they would, but most fear the wrath of a bad review and the downturn in business that rides shotgun.

Is it time for a revolution?  Is the food reviewing scene in the DMZ turning into a metaphor for Lindsey Lohan?  What do you all think?

All I know is that it is muthaflippin lunch time.


The Cook


6 Comments so far
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This is why I tend to enjoy Duncan’s stories more than DD. His aren’t really reviews with a grade, just more of a story about the place and what they offer. Good and bad is included.

I don’t think Duncan has ever killed off a place, but I know I have checked out a tiny place or 10 just from seeing the story he had written.

Comment by InthewaterDSM

Agreed, Agreed, Agreed. Jim has steered me towards spots I would have never discovered on my own. He’s food hood rat of the highest order. That is a compliment by the way. I would have never explored 2nd/6th ave at length or searched out some of the home-based underground sandwich dealers.

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Comment by Phil K. James

I can’t believe how much I am defending DD considering I don’t even know her, but she has said before that the standards for a 5-star review for a regular place are different from the standards for a 5-star high-end place. She asks “is this is the best that this place, this concept can be?” You can’t really compare Tasty Tacos to 801 Steakhouse; a 4-star taco will never be anything like a 4-star steak.

As for her review for Django–we must’ve been reading different copies. I got out of it that she wishes the focus was more on big flavor not big portions. Not that she was saying, “if I only get small portions, I’ll be happy.”

And she’s right, she DOES get to decide which restaurants she reviews. She’s the critic, and she can’t let restaurants take those reins away from her.

Comment by maria

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