Amuse Bouche’

by Brian Clarey

There’s been some buzz in the food media about the virtues – and lack thereof – of the anonymity of restaurant critics. In the old days, food writers would go to great lengths to mask their agendas: disguises, reservations under assumed identities, cash payments as opposed to credit cards with their names on them. Legendary food writer Gael Greene, who started reviewing restaurants for New York magazine in 1968, hid her face under wide-brimmed hats. Local critic John Batchelor once told me he counted on his generic, everyday appearance to avoid being spotted at restaurants under review.

But now all that has gone through the wringer. The recent crop of food writers seemingly basks in recognition. Its poster child, newly appointed New York Daily News critic Danyelle Freeman, is a former actress whose photo accompanies her reviews and she offhandedly pooh-poohs the merits of secrecy.

“Anonymity is dated,” she has said.

But the Association of Food Journalists disagrees. Their guidelines state, “Reviews should be conducted anonymously whenever possible. Critics should experience the restaurant just as ordinary patrons do.”

I come down on the side of the AFJ on this one, more or less, but I should clarify my position a bit.

I do not write restaurant reviews. That is to say, I do not critically evaluate restaurants, assign star ratings, make several visits or sample every dish. I write “informative articles” on area restaurants, giving my readers a good idea what to expect and maybe a helpful ordering suggestion or two.

I generally do not announce my visit to the establishment. I generally pay for my meals. Generally. I also don’t go for that cloak-and-dagger crap – I take notes and pictures freely; I answer truthfully when asked what I’m doing; and my picture is in the paper, though not here on the Chow page. And I look much bigger in person.

Hooray for transparency!

Moving on…

Winston-Salem’s Whole Foods Market has a trio of events this week. On Friday the store hosts its monthly All New Revue at 4 p.m., a sampling of new products for the month. On Saturday at 10:30 a.m. there will be a kids pizza party, kicking off their new kids club, where the wee ones will make their own healthy pies. Monday marks the first day of Organics Celebration Week with samples, demos and tours. All events are free.

Not to be outdone, Earth Fare in Greensboro will hold a lesson in picadillo, a spicy Latin American beef dish, on Friday at 7 p.m. and on Saturday at 11 a.m. will hold the Organic and Local Harvest Festival with all manner of samples, demos and entertainment.

The Press Wine Café will hold an Iron Press tasting on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to determine what their new wines will be for the next month. Cost is $15.

Also: YES! Weekly Creative Assistant Chris Lowrance cooked a beef heart in his crock pot last week and then ate it. “It was a lot like a roast,” he says. Yowza.