Thursday, April 01, 2004

the nemesis

Amanda Hesser has been raked over the coals for last week's blow job review of Spice Market. Eurotrash has been particularly vicious, as is her wont, but more serious criticism has not been lacking [blog-based defenses here and here]. Gawker, Page Six [no link, because it won't work] and (more substantively) the Daily News all got in on the action:
We hear that someone at the top table wasn't pleased that [Gray] Kunz has been so prominently featured in the restaurant's strongly positive reviews. Calls were put out to remind the media that the restaurant is Vongerichten's show.
(This apparently before Hesser's review.) Then, of course, yesterday's "correction" [link now gone]. The best summary of the fracas, though, was provided by Steven Shaw in the eGullet thread:
And really, what was the New York Times thinking when it appointed Amanda Hesser to the interim reviewing position in the first place? Every editor involved in that decision surely knew that she had been reporting on the dining scene for years and has relationship upon relationship with most major chefs and restaurateurs. Were they expecting her to bog down every review with a disclosure statement?

And talk about failure to see the forest for the trees. The three stars and the failure to mention Kunz are what's wrong with this review. Not the failure to disclose some stupid book-jacket blurb....

By focusing on an ethical non-issue the Times has managed to humiliate and discipline Hesser for something she didn't do while ignoring the underlying deficiencies that are rapidly eroding what's left of our confidence in the Times reviewing system.

Now I don't expect the average reader to share our alarm at the erosion of the Times's reviewing system, and of course the eds. have more serious things to worry about (this and # 31 for starters.) But it is important to realize that this is an editorial fuck-up, without excusing the embarassing review itself.

A lot of people hate Hesser for irrational reasons (jealousy) and more rational ones (Mr. Latte). I think the personal vitriol she attracts is shameful, but let's face it -- that review sucked. Proof that she is interesting and intelligent -- and maybe a little bit annoying: interview, Q & A, interview.

For a final twist of irony, check out this thread, which Tony Bourdain started to criticize Marian Burros's interim review of Casa Mono. After the frenzy subsides, Bourdain suggests that the best replacement for Grimes is... Amanda Hesser.


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