Last week, Marc Vetri fired off a HuffPo op-ed calling out food journalists and critics for pandering to listicle-hungry youngsters and lowering ethical standards. A couple of days later, Inquirer critic Craig LaBan published his opinion on Marc Vetri's latest project, Lo Spiedo: a mixed critique resulting in two bells.
In responding to Vetri's complaint that critics seem to be on a "continuing campaign to make the lives of chefs more miserable," LaBan argued that his only goal is to look out for his readers, "not to stroke or bruise any chef egos along the way." Truthfully, we're not so sure about LaBan's altruistic claims anymore; not after our eyes glanced across this nugget:
Another regional American inspiration that should have been left on the brainstorm floor was the "New England-style" octopus roll, a hot dog bun stuffed with chopped-up octo in mayo dressing that left it vaguely fishy and unpleasantly tacky. (The sticky-pus roll!)
Why, Craig? What did we ever do to you? As genuinely off-putting as fishy, tacky octopus sounds, willing a coinage like "sticky-pus" into existence is just beyond the pale. Maybe Vetri was right — we do need to brush up on our ethical standards as journalists, and it starts with placing "sticky-pus" at the top of every banned-words list in existence, to save readers from having to wash their eyes out with bleach.
Luckily, many dishes were far better than that octopus roll, with the chicken wings, spit-roasted rendition of octopus, and pumpkin salad all receiving high praise, while a celery root Milanese sandwich was deemed a "brilliant, meat-free revelation." Still, LaBan found the menu "disjointed" (especially the "odd Southern barbecue twists") and noted a high number of "inconsistencies" in the cooking, as well as the drinks and service.
· City Paper's Adam Erace weighed in on Girard, where he quite liked the food but found the service (which is famously not reliant on tips) sorely lacking.
· Brian Freedman hit Rubb in Manayunk for Philly Weekly, and was very happy with the barbecue as well as the sides, though he found significant problems awaiting him behind the bar.
· Phyllis Stein-Novack, never one to be hemmed in by traditional review format, devoted her space in the South Philly Review to a look back at Philly dining in the 1980s.