Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The Media Speaks - Giveth and Taketh Away

A true sign of growing up Chicago, is to know intimately, what the letters WGN mean. Ray Rayner in the morning, Cubs after school and the easy voice of Wally Phillips guiding Mom all the time. One connection remains to that WGN, the real WGN, the pre-WB network WGN, Milt Rosenberg. Mortimer Adler disciple, quote spewer, ever correct pronuncer, Milt has held sway nightly for over 30 years. A few times a year, he dedicates a show to eating in Chicago. I rarely listen to Milt, but I happen to run across his show listing yesterday, and luckily, I learned that Monday was that restaurant show of the day day. I heard so you do not have to.

The food "media" got represented rather adequately, by Penny Pollack, food editor of Chicago Magazine, an outlet with major sway, and by Don Rose, an ostensible "critic" who seemed to have written his last reports when Jean Banchet stood highest in Chicago's food pantheon--Rose was found blathering such classics as there are good Chinese restaurants in the Chinatown Mall, I just cannot name any, and citing as a good Indian restaurant something gone at least ten years. Pollack, confident in her role, hammered the idea of Chicago Magazine as the arbiter of eating in Chicago.

And she revealed an upcoming story. Chicago discovered that yes, one could eat well in Chinatown. It seems that Chicago's chief critic, Dennis Wheaton, got himself his own RST and dug into some secret menu's. Penny sez they found 8 destination spots in Chinatown. I look forward to the report, although I strongly contend that one can eat well in Chinatown without significant language skills.

Actually, the whole exchange on Chinese food in Chicago brought out the first of the laughable exchanges of the evening. Moderator Milt teased the audience before a commercial break that they would soon be talking Chinese. Old school Rose scoffed, it would be a short chat. As noted above, Penny took them by surprise with the assertion that maybe one could eat good Chinese in Chicago. How bold. Of course this left Rose babbling about the nameless places in the mall. Nameless became the theme of most of the rest of the program.

When they opened up the discussion to callers, the critics did a fine job. Asked about any Afghan places in Chicago they found none (hint there are at least 3). Well, maybe they knew better when Penny later brought up Kabul House as a possible Persian place--geographic wiz, Milt immediately seized on the missing Afghan issue, but the experts remained stumped on any place Persian, suggesting, shockingly, Andy's. Too bad none of them reads Chowhound to see the current discussion of Noon-O-Kebab. Yet, Noon-O-Kebab is hardly shy to the media.

Read Chowhound? Chowhound actually came up during the night. Penny indicated that Spoon Thai would soon get a report in her magazine. Praising Spoon, she wrongly put it on Broadway. An e-mailer (not me!), contacted the station and mentioned our home. Milt then asked about Chowhound. One panel member dismissed it as a "grubmeister site", the other, rather famous for stealing things from the site, called it "a man on the street thing." No mention of its connection to Spoon followed. And they went on their way, insisting no Chicago restaurant serves authentic Indian food...

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