Why I Took a Food Writing Class

Food writing often drives me crazy. Clichés, meaningless flowery language, and lack of base knowledge sometimes seem to be the norm, not the exception. With that in mind, I knew it must be hard to write thoughtfully about food and hoped learning how difficult it was for myself might stop me from getting quite as annoyed on my daily scroll through the internet. Understanding through empathy or some similar platitude? Sometimes, though, nothing can save me. This is one such time...

Joanne Kates is a professional restaurant critic, now working for Post City Toronto. Previously, she was the longtime restaurant critic at the Globe and Mail, Canada's most widely read newspaper. By contrast, I’m some obnoxious guy taking a continuing education class. I’m sure she’s a nicer person than me, but even though I'm quickly learning how hard writing about food can be, I’m not so sure she’s a better writer than me. And I don’t think I’m a good writer.

Let’s take a look at her recent review of La Banane in the style of Fire Joe Morgan, an old favorite blog of mine where comedy writers pseudonymously took aim at bad sportswriting, and then decide if I’m way off base. Even though this is meant in good fun, that pseudonym part was probably smart, but oh well...

Restaurant Review: La Banane is Ossington’s dishy new bistro
Chef Brandon Olsen hits the spot with his ode to French fare

Take a restaurant dream team, add a pinch of hipster, a soupçon of cream and a healthy dollop of impeccable seafood, season it à la française, and what have you got?
I’d say you’ve got a sentence full of gibberish that stretches the recipe cliché well beyond its breaking point? You also might have a cannibalistic seafood ragout...with a hint of handlebar mustache.

The dishiest new resto to hit Toronto in a year!
1) Please don’t say resto.
2) On the upside, it almost distracted me from “dishiest.”

La Banane is the marriage of the King Street Food Company (three Bucas, Jacobs and Co.) and chef Brandon Olsen (ex-chef at Bar Isabel and The Black Hoof). Add the fact that chef Olsen created the resto in the image of his own personal food passions, and you have a recipe for enchantment.
Do I add that fact to the pinch of hipster? Is Olsen the hipster? Would that make too much hipster? This recipe is getting confusing. Or is this a new recipe? The first was for a dishy resto and now this one is for enchantment. I hope this review is really just a cookbook.

It’s where The Saint used to be, and the room, while renovated, feels very like its predecessor, which was wonderful. The space is still warm and welcoming, attractive without shouting its glamour,
The room was wonderful or the Saint was wonderful? You might also want to explain what the Saint was.

p.s. Your sentence just ends with a comma,

Immediately upon entering you see the new marble raw bar, a long display of incredibly fresh seafood with several pretty cute shuckers at work.
No to this “cute shuckers” thing. Not cute. Arguably offensive.

Très français.
Dégueulasse.

I like the front dining room, done in a suite of dark greens, but there’s something to be said for the insouciance of sitting at the raw bar, or the cosiness of the back dining room.
in·sou·ci·ance
inˈso͞osēəns,inˈso͞oSHəns / noun / casual lack of concern; indifference.
Examples:
Joanne Kates’s review of La Banane exhibits a complete insouciance towards the craft of writing.

I cannot remain insouciant while reading this review. Not even in the cosy back dining room that you failed to describe in any real fashion.

As for the taste of things, I was in New York last week, eating at Esca, the famous Mario Batali’s Italian seafood resto.
1) Please don’t say resto. Pretty please.
2) I mean, is this for real? This is an insane way to start a paragraph. We weren’t talking about “the taste of things” at all. And we certainly weren’t talking about Esca. And if we were this would be a weird way to describe Esca anyway.

I love it,
You love what?

but my raw marinated scallops at Esca were neither as sweet nor as sensitively sauced as La Banane’s freshly shucked raw scallops marinated with garlic-tinged buttermilk.
So you love Esca? I guess? Is that what you meant? You love “it”, but love one dish at “it” less than a semi-comparable dish at La Banane. Too bad famous Mario Batali’s Esca didn’t know to alliteratively sauce their scallops.

Score for the home team!
Our it’s better than their it!

Similarly fab are the barely cooked marinated mussels with a touch of heat from espelette pepper vinaigrette.
Please don’t say fab. You also didn’t really describe anything prior as fab, just as preferable to a largely undescribed dish at a restaurant in New York that you may or may not love.

Then cometh the magnificent:
I give up.

A European sea bass is presented tableside wrapped in a latticework of pastry. They take it back to the kitchen, remove the latticework on top and debone the fish, presenting its pristine white flesh with a pour of yuzu-scented beurre blanc.
Who they?

The fish is perfectly cooked, the sauce a francophile’s dream.
That traditional french ingredient beloved by francophiles the world round: yuzu!

Also impeccably French are the sweetbreads with hedgehog mushrooms. The sweetbreads are superbly tender with a hint of smoke, the mushrooms fresh and almost tangy, and as for sitting this confection on a pool of blanquette — white sauce built on veal stock —
And as for your love of “as for” in strange situations, I hate it. For the record, confection almost always refers to something sweet, but we have bigger issues to get to. And as for “sitting this?” That sounds good to you?

this is the kind of layered complex cooking that only the French understand.
The Chef isn’t French. You’re not French. This is false/racist/choose your own objection. I think you meant to suggest that this is the kind of layered complex cooking that typifies traditional French cuisine. Or that French cuisine is built upon. Or that French cuisine popularized or was a vanguard for. Probably not that it’s cooking only French people can understand. I hope not for this resto’s dream team of owners anyway, because they’re going to need some non-French customers to survive.

I also heard about this rat that understood it, so how hard could it be? But then again, he was a French rat. Score for the home team!

ratatouille-movie.png

Chef Olsen makes only two miscalculations: His pommes Aligot are mashed potatoes with so much comte cheese that it’s gone gummy.
If you've ever taken a standardized test like the GMAT or GRE that includes sentence correction questions, this sentence likely reminds you of that.

“His pommes Aligot are mashed potatoes with so much comte cheese that it’s gone gummy.” Nope. Unless, of course, this is the same "it" as before. In that case, I'm totally with you.

And his signature dessert, Ziggy Stardust Disco Egg (made at Olsen’s College Street chocolate shop) costs $50! — an ego trip and not worth it.
This ego trip part seems not très gentil. It’s a pretty labor-intensive dessert, it’s unique, and quality chocolate is expensive. More importantly, while it might be expensive, it's also the dishiest dish of all the dishy dishes at this dishiest of dishy restos and thus brings in many a heaping tablespoon of "hipster" customers. Just check Instagram for details.

A giant chocolate egg painted with many colours sits on the plate, to be cracked open. Inside are very good chocolate truffles, with chili-tinged coffee-scented dried apricots on the inside of the chocolate egg. Very good truffles, but $50?
"Inside are very good chocolate truffles, with chili-tinged coffee-scented dried apricots on the inside of the chocolate egg." Paging Post City editors? Are you out there? It’s me, the English language, and I miss you.

Otherwise dinner at La Banane is utterly enthralling. On the small table at the entrance, you notice, as you leave, a hardcover copy of Larousse Gastronomique, the grand bible of French cuisine.
I tried, to read, the beginning of, the second sentence five times, before, I gave up. Meanwhile, why don’t you notice it, first, at the entrance, as you enter, I wonder?

Larousse tells cooks precisely how to cook every precious and wonderful item in the classic French lexicon. Chef Olsen has chosen his calling card well — for he is clearly an adept lover of la grande cuisine.
Meme s’il ne peut pas la comprendre, dumb non-French guy.