One of the things that occurred to me after I published a Best of List last year, was the curious reaction that some folks had. ”Well don’t you think that so and so is better.”
By virtue of the fact that you make a list the assumption is that you’ve eaten all over the place and tried everything, or almost everything. Which is astoundingly wrong. I don’t, nor do many of the critics. Andrew Zimmern does not eat all over the Twin Cities, he’s been a couple of times in five years to my places, Stephanie March Food Editor, I have seen at Heidi’s once or twice. But they imply that they get around, we afford them license to promote a list because we assume that they are fair, and have done the research. That simply isn’t possible, or true.
When you see a list that Heidi’s and Birdhouse tops best breakfast dishes around town from Mecca Bos, yet another best of breakfast list by Grumdahl that makes no mention of either place, our reasonable assumption is that she didn’t agree. When in reality she has no clue what I’m doing.
Zimmern will make the argument that he hears stuff. His friends tell him things. Bullshit, I hear stuff too. The argument that he’s an expert that doesn’t even need to actually eat at a place, he just “knows”, is also bullshit. Meanwhile the rest of us presume the reason one is entitled to make a list is that one is not relying on gossip to form conclusions, that they have actual experiences that inform those assertions.
So what fuels inclusion on a list? In some cases it’s pure and simple promotion of folks they like, and want to talk about. MSP Mag is the most obvious example of a group of writers that mostly tell stories that suit the narrative at the time.
Take for example Grumdahl’s latest headline, “Generation Next: Gray House, Nightingale”, going on to say, “Intimate, personal mom-and-pop restaurants are the new thing on Lyndale, ushering in a new era of real neighborhood gastronomy.” Really, a new age of neighborhood gastronomy? That’s the narrative that Dara would have us believe? That Piccolo, Heidi’s, Levain, Tilia, and a number of others are not “real gastronomy”. Where has she been the last ten years? In case she missed it, Robbinsdale and Victory are neighborhoods as well. No, they are not on Lyndale, but neither is Gray House.
Every list should start with a disclaimer, “I only ate at a few places therefore my list is incredibly narrow, not complete, and only worthwhile in the sense that it may act as a guideline, to suggest otherwise would imply that I am open, impartial, and rely on my own judgments to draw conclusions. Further it’s my belief that I can use the pen to affect the way people eat, and I intend to promote certain restaurants, and certain people-especially people that don’t question me, that kiss my ass, and do work that supports trends I support above all else”. That would be honest.
Don’t hold your breath.