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DR.com, Joe H and Metrocurean


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The site, which Rockwell says gets 10,000 visitors a month, generates zero income for him, yet he often feels tethered to it like a parent with a pack of unruly children.

Here you go, you crazy kids: Click.

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Lotta back-scratchin' going on.

It strikes me as a little odd that the article makes no reference to eGullet.

As the former moderator for DCDelMarva (I replaced Don) I can say with confidence that the departure of Don and a substantial number of loyal posters, in conjunction with a change in tone on eGullet and, I think, a general down-cycle that a lot of sites go through has made it substantially less relevant among the DC on-line food tribe than othere sites, like this.

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It strikes me as a little odd that the article makes no reference to eGullet.

eGullet, with apologies to those who run the site and post there, is nearly dead in DC. Maybe a dozen posts a MONTH, in a good month? In other cities, it certainly would be worth mentioning, but eG is not where it's at here.

Nice article, though. Don, were you eating at Present during the interview?

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I certainly agree that eGullet is no longer particularly relevant to the DC food world, but the article purports to document the rise of the web-based food-o-sphere, in Washington and generally, and eGullet has been an arguably more important (and less sketchy) part of that than Chowhound, and certainly (and obviously) more directly relevant to the genesis of the present forum.

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I really enjoy and value this site. I've gotten a ton of great advice here over the last few years, and I love having the opportunity - even if I only occasionally take advantage of it - to write about food and restaurants for an audience as passionate about these topics as I am.

I think I've known for a while that DR.com is a volunteer effort on Don's part, but the article brought that home. This thread seems as good a place as any to say, "thanks."

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2 quick thoughts:

1)Even when I think he's completely nuts and/or off base, I have nothing but respect for Mr. H.

2) I often think he's nuts and off base, but if it wasn't for Rocks the eG DC forum would never have been what it was for that brief shining moment. Nobody else could have made this site what it is, much less maintained it for this long. That said, I'll still get pissed off about how he runs things and bitch about it and let him know. But unlike certain other foodie website owners, he'll think about it and not ban you out of hand.

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I certainly agree that eGullet is no longer particularly relevant to the DC food world, but the article purports to document the rise of the web-based food-o-sphere, in Washington and generally, and eGullet has been an arguably more important (and less sketchy) part of that than Chowhound, and certainly (and obviously) more directly relevant to the genesis of the present forum.
Local, local, local.

The article surveys people who live here and their on-site contributions to food-related internet sites. Since CS chose to feature Joe H. (1 of 3) and Joe H. posts both here and on Chowhound, both sites get a mention. Were Joe H. a contributor to eG instead of CH, eG would have been appeared in what is an essentially a human-interest story.

Joe H's profession might not have been raised were the focus on the sites rather than the phenomenon of "amateur" restaurant critics; this is an era in which journalists are taking stock of their competition and analyzing the state of old media in light of the new.

Waitman is very gracious and tactful in response to your observations. I'll add that the Mexican soap opera that is the genesis of this site is of greater significance to insider nerds like us than to the general readership of The Washington Post; it's beside the point.

* * *

ETA: Congrats to one and all. And here's David Niven: at table

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So, no one else is intrigued by the thought that those whose opinions we trust to be objective are systematically cultivated by restaurants with free food and superior service?

I know I'm a cynical little fuck, but this does cast something of a shadow over the whole idea that the on-line opinions are fair and unbiased.

Ellen Gray, co-owner with her husband, Todd, of Equinox in downtown Washington, hosted a reception about 18 months ago for the top reviewers on Yelp, dubbed the Elite Squad by the site. "I like that Yelp is trying to create a community of people. This town has had one, two or three critics, and it's not always been fair," Gray says.

I'll certainly trust on-line opinions about Equinox, now.

Restaurant publicist Amber Pfau of Pfau Communications has arranged receptions for food bloggers at 2941 Restaurant in Falls Church that feature free appetizers..."Bloggers are reaching out to me, requesting to be put on my press list, and I feel they're supportive of the restaurants I work with," she says.

Wonder what the cause and effect is, there.

Heflin first got a taste of the food at PassionFish in October, when Washington chef and entrepreneur Jeff Tunks invited him to a preview reception that featured free appetizers and introduced him to the chef.

"This IS the best restaurant in Western Fairfax county." (sorry, Joe)

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I know that sarcasm is hard to detect on the internet but I'm surprised your shocked by this. The NY Egullet board has some really egregious examples of this that are not that hard to discern.

There are also a few NY "blogs" run by semi-professionals or professionals who clearly run around getting fed bags of free comps to give a stronger buzz to restaurants.

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So, no one else is intrigued by the thought that those whose opinions we trust to be objective are systematically cultivated by restaurants with free food and superior service?

I know I'm a cynical little fuck, but this does cast something of a shadow over the whole idea that the on-line opinions are fair and unbiased.

I'll certainly trust on-line opinions about Equinox, now.

Wonder what the cause and effect is, there.

"This IS the best restaurant in Western Fairfax county." (sorry, Joe)

Inox had not opened yet at the time I wrote it. I honestly believed it to be true then. The only other possibility, L'auberge Chez Francois, had soured us on our last visit: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/462985. My thoughts on Inox are in its own thread but it has a great deal of potential and today is my pick for Western Fairfax county. I am sincere in really liking Passion Fish, sincere in my appreciation of Passion Foods having opened in Town Center-the restaurant is needed here. I spend far too much money on food and wine in restaurants to expect favors. I must note that for the dinners I organized at Maestro and Laboratorio I paid over $400 for my wife and I each time. We were comped nothing, not even a room in the hotel which we paid full price for the night of the Maestro dinner. For that matter I spend far too much money on food period! Regardless, I have always been honest in my opinions-my credibility is all that I have.

One qualification: there have been truly extraordinary times over the years when I benefitted from timing or "saying the right thing." http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/459094 is a post of mine about an incredible experience where we benefitted from sitting next to the table of a two Michelin star chef, visiting his friend-a three Michelin star chef-on the night that the three star wanted to impress him! We asked for and received the same 18 courses yet were charged for the standard prix fixe. This was in Spain on our first visit. Another night, in 1981, I met Paul Prudhomme at the time that K-Paul's had gone through the roof in popularity in New Orleans. I was introduced to Chef Paul by a mutual friend who told him that I had just lost well over 100 pounds on a diet. When Chef Paul and I started to talk I happened to mention that I was "doing my best to gain it all back on one trip by eating my way around the U. S.!" He asked where I had been and I mentioned Ninfa's on Navigation Boulevard in Houston where we had stood in line three nights in a row.

Chef Paul had been there the previous week and thought it was the best Tex Mex he had ever had. Because of this and my weight loss (then he was almost 400 pounds; I was 332 at my highest (195 today), he took a real interest in me. He gave me a tour of his kitchen which included samples of 10 or 12 different dishes which were also shared with several at our table. An incredible experience.

At that point in time I had never written a word about food in my life. But I was passionate as I am today. There are some who want to share or introduce that which they really love, not because they benefit but rather because they know it is truly appreciated.

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So, no one else is intrigued by the thought that those whose opinions we trust to be objective are systematically cultivated by restaurants with free food and superior service?

I know I'm a cynical little fuck, but this does cast something of a shadow over the whole idea that the on-line opinions are fair and unbiased.

I'll certainly trust on-line opinions about Equinox, now.

Wonder what the cause and effect is, there.

"This IS the best restaurant in Western Fairfax county." (sorry, Joe)

I read the article the same way. And just like most things on the Internet I take what I read with a grain of salt (pun intended <_< ) Restaurants are using the bloggers and online posters for cheap and easy advertising. There are some food blogging sites that say they will never post anything negative and just focus on the positive. Um, what is wrong with saying that a place does not do a particular thing well? You don't have to trash the place and it is useful information.

As for the Yelp crew, wasn't there a recent article about the company helping places by removing negative posts for advertising dollars or something? Overall, I find the ratings on Yelp as useful as the Zagat guide. :rolleyes:

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I know that sarcasm is hard to detect on the internet but I'm surprised your shocked by this. The NY Egullet board has some really egregious examples of this that are not that hard to discern.

There are also a few NY "blogs" run by semi-professionals or professionals who clearly run around getting fed bags of free comps to give a stronger buzz to restaurants.

I think I was a little surprised at the extent that it's happening. More than that, though, was the fact that the article seemed to miss the real story -- Joe, Don and -obviously -- Amanda (whose byline I just noticed in this month's Food and Wine) are relatively well known around town. Documenting the broad attempts to "subvert," if you will, would seemed the more important story.

Also, I thought this subtext was quite interesting givn the recent slagging of Tom and Todd here (not that they're perfect, either).

I am sincere in really liking Passion Fish, sincere in my appreciation of Passion Foods having opened in Town Center-the restaurant is needed here.

I have no doubt. But you'd also been systematically targeted and cultivated by the chef, a not irrelevant fact in evaluating your evaluation.

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The article surveys people who live here and their on-site contributions to food-related internet sites. Since CS chose to feature Joe H. (1 of 3) and Joe H. posts both here and on Chowhound, both sites get a mention. Were Joe H. a contributor to eG instead of CH, eG would have been appeared in what is an essentially a human-interest story.
From eGullet member statistics for Joe H, total cumulative posts: 695.

A minor point, but a point.

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Restaurants are using the bloggers and online posters for cheap and easy advertising.

As the undisputed king of free publicity I should point out a few random thoughts to help balance this discussion:

1) Any restaurateur would eagerly and openly court the loyalty, passion and enthusiasm of Joe H., regardless of whether he posted on any website or not, if only for the unfettered joy he expresses for exceptional food well-served, let alone for the more prosaic benefits his direct spending and direct word of mouth bring. It is the same for many on this board as well.

2) In all of my experience on this board, no self-respecting member has ever angled for freebies or expected any comps or special treatment. Only once has there been a retaliatory post due to the fact that a free course wasn't given. This is due to the clear standards and example that Don and other leading members on this board have set. Compare that to the hundreds of threats of "we'll see what Tom Sietsema has to say about this" I have received, many of which he unwittingly becomes a party to, for whatever inexplicable reason, in his chats and columns. Add to this the threats of retaliation which are made good on the un-moderated reader review section which follows Tom's reviews, Zagat's and the Washingtonian, and you have a pretty good idea of the independent and relative integrity and value of this site.

3) All of the publicity in the world is good for only one visit.

4) The area's busiest and most popular restaurants have either minimal, negative or no presence on this site or any, e. g.: Great American Restaurants, Clyde's, Cheff Geoff's, Matchbox, Lauriol Plaza, and, of course, Rosa Mexicana.

5) Much of what appeals to members of this board and its ilk is a direct turn off to the majority of the dining public, regardless of the recent ascendancy of the gastronautical media. (For example, when I read about food being served on salt plates, simultaneous water pouring, or $24 Drunken Noodles--at lunch!!!--I make an immediate mental note never to go).

6) Sorry to say, but as much as I love you guys, and as I have said before, despite the considerable prestige that comes from recognition on this board, there is an almost insignificant direct economic impact from posts on this site.

7) Why, if Joe H. is compared to David Niven and Amanda is mentioned as being "model-thin," was there no mention of Don's "barely contained, rippling masculinity?"

8) What is the significance of this article appearing the same week as this?

Time to go back to ruling the empire that I built on your backs, suckers!

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6) Sorry to say, but as much as I love you guys, and as I have said before, despite the considerable prestige that comes from recognition on this board, there is an almost insignificant direct economic impact from posts on this site.

So you get it all from Yelp?

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Congrats DAD!
Nice cover story on all!

I’ve repeatedly suggested to Don that he should write a book and title it: Memoirs of a Rock Star or Chronicles of a Rock Star or Lettres de Mon Moulin or Eat, Drink, Be Merry…something…

From high-end fine dining destination restaurants, to neighborhood and mom and pop places, I’m truly amazed how Don knows about all restaurants even the ones that are in the boonies of boondocks! He really does his research. All should be included in his book!

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8) What is the significance of this article appearing the same week as this?

Not sure, but anyone who thinks the Post doesn't have impact hasn't lived the past three days validating new members here. This is a classic blessing-curse syndrome - hillvalley, mktye, would either of you consider coming out of retirement so I can unfetter myself for a few hours? It would be nice to get out of my black-velvet bathrobe with gold-leaf trim, or take the golf cart down to the bottom of the driveway and get the mail, or maybe take Makombogo for a little walk. :rolleyes:

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Not sure, but anyone who thinks the Post doesn't have impact hasn't lived the past three days validating new members here. This is a classic blessing-curse syndrome - hillvalley, mktye, would either of you consider coming out of retirement so I can unfetter myself for a few hours? It would be nice to get out of my black-velvet bathrobe with gold-leaf trim, or take the golf cart down to the bottom of the driveway and get the mail, or maybe take Makombogo for a little walk. :rolleyes:
All you had to do was ask <_<
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In what could surely stand as a tutorial in meta-irony, it seems that this article has elicited some of the blind, ignorant, enraged hate and fury that make the anonymous comments in the Post, and other un-moderated sites, so repugnant--and against which Don's, Joe's and Amanda's voices have stood out so noticeably.

Click.

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That's Robert Goulet but thank you for the compliment!

Joe is the ultimate Gentleman.

I have met him just about 3 years ago between a cigar, a pizza and a losing full house........

I have always admired his passion and his way to be intensely engaged while talking about food at any level

Joe respects and admire hard work, excellence and the purity of food making and the food industry.

He deserves all the attention and the admiration not only of the Post, but mostly ours

Thank you Joe!! You are an outstanding example of what food passion is.

And Thank you Don for giving us the perfect tool to interact and express ourselves, share ideas and speak our minds

Chef Enzo Fargione

Teatro Goldoni Restaurant

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Well, someone wrote to Todd this morning with a tortured analogy to cancer researchers and athletes, and he said he agreed with most of it. I don't. I think the people featured in the article are far more interested in food than in attention for themselves. I would add that those interested in attention are not necessarily interested in it for its own sake, but as a means to an end (i.e., spreading information about good food). That's certainly my interest. I don't even have a blog. Most of my posts here are not even in the restaurants forum. (I don't mean to sound as though I'm worthy of being profiled or anything :rolleyes: I'm not.)

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I read it very slowly and carefully, trying to absorb and understand the parallels being drawn. My impression is that the writer has an intelligent, fertile mind, and lots of good thoughts bouncing around in his or her head, but those thoughts just didn't translate very well to the keyboard - it was a struggle to read, and floated between being tightly structured and borderline incoherent.

But I think Todd's reply was thoughtful and measured, and he justifiably gave the writer credit for putting some rigor behind the essay.

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I read it very slowly and carefully, trying to absorb and understand the parallels being drawn. My impression is that the writer has an intelligent, fertile mind, and lots of good thoughts bouncing around in his or her head, but those thoughts just didn't translate very well to the keyboard - it was a struggle to read, and floated between being tightly structured and borderline incoherent.

But I think Todd's reply was thoughtful and measured, and he justifiably gave the writer credit for putting some rigor behind the essay.

I read it a few times, not sure that I read it carefully enough at first. I'd suppose that there's a secondary (maybe implied) analogy is of sports to food/dining. I would agree that Todd's reply was measured.

My reply may not have conveyed it, but I don't really have a dog in this fight (if, indeed, it's a fight). I read four dining message boards (including this one) on a fairly regular basis, and it's rare that I see someone who is clearly all about getting attention and drawing readers to a blog or website. The range of knowledge people have is variable, but many of the posters I see here (to narrow it) are very or fairly well-educated in the subjects they are discussing. Some are profesionals or have professional credentials. My credentials in terms of food knowledge are certainly far weaker than others who post here.

A lot of this seems to come down to knowledge and who the gatekeepers are. It's far more likely that someone would be a gastronome than an amateur cancer researcher. I don't even think I need to get into that. An armchair quarterback who was a quarterback in high school, however, does have some credentials to comment on pro football events. Everyone eats food. Many people prepare it. Some have formal training. One shouldn't need to have the equivalent of a medical degree in order to comment on restaurants. Nor should it require a degree in journalism (cf. Todd Kliman's comments in the Inox thread).

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I think the people featured in the article are far more interested in food than in attention for themselves. I would add that those interested in attention are not necessarily interested in it for its own sake, but as a means to an end (i.e., spreading information about good food).

I think one can be interested in both, i.e., the food and self-promotion. In Don's case, he may be more interested in the food than he is in self-promotion but there are certainly benefits to being well known. I see Joe as equally about promoting the food and himself. He's not promoting himself in the sense of getting paid but being invited to exclusive events. I don't read Metrocurean but Amanda (is that her name?) there the blogger admits to trying to leverage that blog into something more in a commercial sense. These are just my personal observations....not based on actual knowledge of the principals involved.

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I think that (1) these boards can be a research arm for many reviewers, and I believe they use it as such. So regardless of the self-promotion they do serve some purpose. (2) I can see how to an outsider, a board like Rockwell can seem rather high school like in its way. It takes a certain amount of getting used to, getting to know the people and navigating for it to be useful. I've tried the clusterf*** that is Yelp when I've gone to other cities, and while they are helpful to some degree, I have no idea whose opinion to listen to because I haven't established that type of relationship. In some ways it is very helpful that the board stays small in that respect.

There are definitely plenty of bloggers, posters, etc. out there who have other prerogatives aside from the food who were not featured in the piece. But that will always be the case... sharks go where there's blood in the water...

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