ELV at the Crossroads

 http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ZtWho7S4tzQ/UmB0NB_R56I/AAAAAAAAA1k/2yI6alD9exw/s1600/The_Thinker__by_a_love_unrequited.jpg

What’s that old joke? If you see the fork in the road, take it.

Well, loyal readers, Eating Las Vegas is at a crossroad.

Writing about restaurants seems more than a bit trivial in these troubled times.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of cool new stuff going on.

And a lot of old stuff continues to shine  — like the sides and steak yours truly had at CUT the other night:

One part of me wants to dive in and tell you all about the great meals I’ve had recently at:

Allegro

Chuchote Thai Bistro

Le Cirque

Cafe Breizh

Image may contain: food

7th & Carson

The Black Sheep

Image may contain: food

Hofbräuhaus (yes, the Hofbräuhaus)

Bazaar Meat

Image may contain: food

The aforementioned CUT

Oscar’s Beef, Booze and Broads (yes, Oscar’s Beef, Booze and Broads)

Prosecco

Bardot Brasserie

MB Steak

Ferraro’s

Casa Don Juan (yes, that Casa Don Juan)

Chada Street…and…

Morel’s Steakhouse

…just to name a few.

But my heart is heavy, and the blogosphere ain’t what it used to be.

Tens of thousands of people used to want to read these restaurant reviews, now but a few thousand do. Facebook and Instagram turned everyone into a food blogger (this is not a bad thing), and in so doing, created a world where the audience is small for anything but mindless listicles, gossip and food porn.

My personal theory is that once camera phones got better, around 5 years ago, everyone could see decent pictures of what a restaurant’s food looked like. When that happened, reading about it became a chore for all but the most ardent foodies. In other words, blogs like this had a mass appeal right up until the masses could look at purty pictures to hit their low information threshold. Thus did clickbait like “Top 5 Tacos in Town!” and “David Chang’s Favorite Pizzas!” supplant actually learning about food.

Simple-mindedness is the rule these days, no matter the issue, no matter what the topic. The dumbing down of America extends to subjects as diverse as climate change to politics to sports. No one is diving deep; everything is visceral or the Cliff Notes version. Even the President of the United States.

Speaking of mindlessness, people are being murdered wholesale in our country, and not enough people care enough about that, either. Because you know, freedom. If that’s not enough to sober me right out of restaurant writing, nothing is.

No matter how you slice it, there’s nothing deep about food writing. Food writers, critics, journalists, nutritionists, etc., are all doing different forms of the same thing: imparting information (and opinion) to the public to help it eat better, tastier, healthier food. No rocket science in that. Precious little politics, too. But if you want to learn something, you have to pay attention. Just like in elementary school. And just like elementary school, most students would rather be told the right answer than figure it out for themselves.

Loyal readers, I have grown weary of helping you figure it out for yourselves.

About the only thing that keeps me writing these days is contemplating what is left of the Vegas food writing community should I retire. Years ago, I hoped that the free weeklies would morph into a true voice for our food and restaurant scene. All they’ve morphed into is a platform for b-list bars and restaurants, cocktail features, and barely-written “reviews.” I don’t blame the writers, I blame the editors. They know their audience can hardly read (or barely wants to), so on one level, you can’t blame them.

My previous co-author, Al Mancini, professes not to want to write about restaurants anymore, so the worthless rag he works for has him covering hot topics like “What blue cocktails are made without blue curaçao?” and other such drivel. (Memo to Al Mancini: the world isn’t interested in “cocktails of the week,” only the people pushing them are.)

Max Jacobson, god bless him, will never re-join the food writing ranks, and my other former co-authors (Greg Thilmont and Mitchell Wilburn) talented though they are, have neither the coin nor the time to immerse themselves in our foodie scene. Eater Las Vegas is a joke (it’s run by a pathetic woman who, when she’s sober, remembers that she lives in Des Moines, Iowa), and no other local blog is worth a shit. So bleak the landscape is.

And bleak I feel about it. I love writing, and I love going to great restaurants. Combining those two passions in this blog, six books, and 23 years of reviews for radio, TV, guidebooks, ‘zines, and  dozens of periodicals has been a match made in heaven for me. No one has ever covered the restaurants of Las Vegas like I have over the past two decades. No one else is even close. All the food writers in town put together aren’t even close. On average, I eat out more in a week than all of them do in a month.

Am I bragging? Sure I am, but it’s also true, and it’ll be a long time before any food writer comes close to what I’ve done. And I’m proud of it.

But while the body might be willing, the spirit is weak. Sometime next month the sixth edition of EATING LAS VEGAS The 52 Essential Restaurants will be published. Those 52 restaurants (yes, two more this year!) are all mine this time. No co-authors, no dueling reviews. You will get my complete, unvarnished look at the best this town has to offer, plus a snapshot or two about where we fail as a food and restaurant town.

These are the same things I’ve been trying to do on this web site since April 1, 2008, and in various forms since October 15, 1995, when I debuted on Nevada Public Radio. I don’t know if the book will continue after this edition, but I’m fairly certain this web site will post its last toothsome pick, or eviscerating pan, on its tenth anniversary, April 1, 2018.

Until then, bon appétit!

Image may contain: text

Letter of the Century – How Does Taste Evolve?

http://www.osovo.com/diagram/tongue.jpg

Dear Eating Las Vegas,

You recently wrote a caption on a photo you posted on Facebook, “I think I could eat ‘modern Japanese’ food every day of my life and not get bored.

It made me wonder how you, as a food critic who’s refined his palate over the course of many years, came to appreciate a cuisine like this which, admittedly, is not a commonplace offering in most of America?

At what point does taste get refined to appreciate the subtleties of a cuisine like Modern Japanese, or even to start exploring? Any art form (film, music, art, etc.) has levels of refinement, as the curious audience member ventures off to more significant, and more difficult to interpret, levels of appreciation. How does it happen with food?

Inquisitively yours,

Curious George

ELV responds:

The best way we can answer the question(s) is to give you a brief tour of what ELV calls: The Evolution of a Critic.

Our good friend, author, food writer, Esquire magazine food critic and noted chronicler of the history of American food and drink,  John Mariani says there are 3 kinds of food critics: “The slobs, the snobs and the oh goodie goodies.”

Continue reading “Letter of the Century – How Does Taste Evolve?”

Why We Dine by John Mariani

[imagebrowser id=1860]

ELV note: In the wake of the horrors of last week, our friend John Mariani re-posted an article he wrote after 9/11 about why dining is so important to the human condition. We thought it bore re-visiting, along with a commentary we did on KNPR-Nevada Public Radio at the time, to remind all of the regenerative and soul-enriching effects of a good meal. For, as our other award-winning-restaurant-writing friend Alan Richman is fond of saying: “Food is life itself; the rest is parsley.” L’chaim!

After watching the horrors the people of Boston and the marathoners suffered this week at the hands of terrorists and reading that dozens of Boston restaurants closed up for security reasons, I was reminded of what I wrote (originally in The Financial Times) about the days following the agonies of 911. I thought it appropriate to reiterate my sentiments as applicable to the current tragedy in Boston.

Continue reading “Why We Dine by John Mariani”