Thursday, June 12, 2003

Cheap Eats, blech!

(Disclosure, I am friends with people involved with the Chicago Cheap Eats reviews and have even been at meals subsequently reviewed.)

Is there anyone who likes the Cheap Eats reviews each week in the Chicago Tribune?

There are three obvious structural problems that limit this feature. First, the Trib has set the bar way too low. The format demands entree prices of less than $13. Surely, more than that verges away from cheap, but it also eliminates a bunch of places that are considered too informal for the main review section but are slightly more than the Cheap Eats guidelines. The NYTimes calls their related feature, $25 and under. Would not that be more apt? Second, there are various internal battles at the Gothic Tower over where to place certain pieces. For instance, does something exotic get a Cheap Eats review or does it get a World Eats story (I'll come back to this is a second). Finally, and most important, every Cheap Eats reviewer must work within the extremely dumb format. This format prevents much backstory and pretty much no exposition beyond comments of what is on the menu. Yet, even with all these problems can they do any better than this? I'd link to this week's review of a tiki bar/restaurant, but it is not yet on Metromix and stories on the Tribune's web site stay free for only seven days.

Surely, the most interesting food writing in Chicago is being done in the World Eats columns. The only downside of World Eats, is that its narrow focus. Due to some intrepid eating (and photography) we know that guinea pig (cuy) can be eaten in Chicago, but how much do we really know about specific Ecuadorian places (well Chowhound readers know a lot, but how many are we?) In my Chicago Tribune, we'd do two pieces each week that combined the best of Cheap Eats and World Eats, highlighting diligent shops that produce interesting food below the radar AND educate people about what they are serving.
And of course, it would be pure narrative, without idiot headers to pigeonhole the text.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Farmer's Markets
Even as our big bag of asparagus wilts away in the fridge, I love farmer's markets. My wife, the Condiment Queen and I attempt to visit the Oak Park Farmer's Market weekly. Last year, I decided to report on the market each week on chowhound as a way of capturing the flow of food through the season, from the earliest rhubarbs to the last apples. I wanted to chart what came and went. On top of that, I wanted to give as much publicity as I could to this great event. Whether my reports achieved what I wanted, I'd prefer to leave un-explored.

Once again, we will try and make it to the market each week, and I will mostly likely report each week on Chowhound. Here's this week's report. I'll try and link or otherwise comment on other markets as I find them. Evanston, in most ways is the primary rival to Oak Park, and one area we do battle is in farmer's markets. They've had a few more organic vendors, but we have always had donuts and bluegrass, although this year they have had things a lot quicker.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Took our regular visit to La Quebrada on Roosevelt near Cicero in Cicero. As we were leaving, two folks who looked highly un-Quebrada like entered. It is nice to finally see the results our handiwork.

The start of a legend