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Alan Richman of GQ Names 10 Best New Joints


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What about that article bothered you?

Brett Anderson did it much more eloquently than I could, but his article is behind a NOLA.com paywall now.

I was in New Orleans about the same time Richman was in 2006.

--"They buy into the romance, or they abhor the decadence. I know where I stand." [Then why are you a food writer?]

--"I know we are supposed to salvage whats left of the city, but what exactly is it that were trying to cherish and preserve? I hope its not the French Quarter, which has evolved into a illogical mix of characterless housing, elegant antiques stores, and scuzzy bars, a destination for tourists seeking the worst possible experience. The entertainment values are only marginally superior to those of Tijuana, Mexico." [Well, except for Stella and Galatoire's--which was reviving into a wine mecca at time of publication. And the oyster bars. And the French 75 bar. And Irene's. And Peristyle. And Bayona.]

--"Im not certain the cuisine was ever as good as its reputation, in part because the people who have consumed, evaluated, and admired it likely werent sober enough at the time of ingestion to know what they were eating." [Perhaps they had been combing the deep Burgundy lists at Emeril's or Delmonico, or the eclectic offerings of Cuvee, Herbsaint, Lilette or Clancy's.]

--"The food can be praised for distinctiveness and historical significance, both noteworthy, but the restaurants were going in the wrong direction before the hurricanethink, if you are old enough, of French-hotel food of the 50s." [Really? The Upperline? Herbsaint? Peristyle? (again) The Delachaise? Lilette? (again) Cochon?]

--"New Orleans has always been about food and music, with parades added to the mix. (In the North, where I come from, we like to think were about jobs and education, with sports thrown in.) Vulnerability goes along with loving the dinner table too muchthink again of our old friends the French. It might sound harmless for a civilization to focus on food, but its enormously indulgent. Name a society that cherishes tasting menus and Ill show you a people too portly to mount up and repel invaders." [i'm glad you've decided to say the same thing for the fourth consecutive paragraph. Though I'll blame your editor for that one.]

--"Something like that occurred with Katrina. It was never the best idea, building a subterranean city on a defenseless coastline." [it wasn't defenseless until the wetlands were destroyed in the late 20th and early 21st century.]

--"Tragedy could not have come to a place more incapable of dealing with it." [Talk about being on the wrong side of history.]

--"That ritual goes along with Cajun food, fundamental and spicy, brought down from Canadagood Lord, are we trying to save food from Canada? " [i'll blame your editor for this one too.]

--"Supposedly, Creoles can be found in and around New Orleans. I have never met one and suspect they are a faerie folk, like leprechauns, rather than an indigenous race. The myth is that once, long ago, Creoles existed. " [The centerpiece line of the piece. Anyone who agrees with this line can shuffle off to their own hackneyed version of sociology, ethnography, historiography, and population statistics.]

--"The idea that you might today eat an authentic Creole dish is a fantasy. Turtle soup, crawfish bisque, and fried speckled trout are unlikely to be made precisely as they once were, and the one dish that is faithfully replicatedgumbomight be Cajun and it might be Creole, depending on whom you favor." [Ah, the straw man of authenticity. Conveniently placed a few paragraphs after complaining that New Orleans' restaurants all serve the same food.]

--"I stumbled upon exactly one civilian tidying up. I knew I wouldnt find many residents in the neighborhoods." [i'm not drunk enough to deal with this line appropriately. I'm not drunk at all. His editor should have.]

--" I dont like many fish preparations better than trout meunière amandine, but what I got for lunch looked and tasted fried rather than sautéed. Im also reasonably sure the thick, fresh fillet of fish wasnt trout, unless somebody had landed a fifteen-pounder that morning." [speckled trout, you asshole. No, they don't get that big. But they're bigger than rainbows. And it was summer, so it might have been drum. Drum is yum.]

--"Upperline is a sweet-looking, yellow-brick spot that manages to pull off what few other restaurants have accomplishedhonoring culinary history without becoming trite. Maybe thats because it doesnt try to be haute. " [Maybe not, but in the summer of 2006, I drank a hell of a bottle of premier cru Vosne-Romanee there.]

--"Jacques-Imos is a Creole Bar Mitzvah, fine dining for people who have no idea what fine dining should be. Its loud and absurd, inappropriate for anybody over the age of 17." [Fine dining? No. But you seem to be on a creating-your-own-straw-man roll, so you go, boy.]

--"Carpetbagger steak is a tenderloin sliced open and stuffed with oysters, one of those famous foods that nobody has ever actually eaten." [Well, it's been in books by famous chefs since at least 1941."]

The last section of the story is a rehash of the straw men from earlier.

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Richman is a hack.

Yeah, Richman pissed of a lot of people with that article. Anthony Bourdain named Richman"douchebag of the year":

"THE DOUCHEBAG for the best example of twisted, repressed, or compromised "I'd rather be making lemon bundt cake with My Cat, Mr. Mufflesworth" journalist who actually HATES food and hates the people who make food even more Congratulations, Alan Richman."

and has a chapter in his most recent book titled "Alan Richman is a douchebag," that includes the charming observation ""Alan Richman is not a douchebag. He's a cunt."

[Richman responds forcefully here: "Is it possible to deal somebody like Bourdain a "low blow"? He is a living, breathing, low blow. That's all he does. He lives it, exults in it, profits from it. I think my entire story was a towering piece of journalism compared to any written words that emanate from him."]

Nonetheless, whatever one thinks of his -- at minimum -- ill-timed piece on New Orleans, I think he's proven eloquent, witty and by turns cynical and enthusiastic at appropriate moments. No critic is perfect, of course, but given the opportunity to read about the food scene in some city I was about to visit, I'd be hard-pressed to think of a writer whose views I'd rather read -- both for the quality of his insight and pleasure I take in his prose.

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