A standards board will soon vote on whether to require organic hops in all beer bearing the “organic” tag.
Think about that one for a moment.
After years of trying, organic hop growers, most clustered in the Northwest, are poised to win a bitter and bizarre battle: requiring organic hops in organic beer.
The National Organic Standards Board will take up the issue later this month. Last week, a board subcommittee voted to mandate organic hops in organic beer in about three years.
What is wrong with this world?
Retribution? Esquire Leaves Portland off 2010 Best New Restaurant List
Esquire’s 2010 Best New Restaurants is out, and writer John Mariani has thumbed his nose at Portland restaurants. The reason? You may remember him from the article on this site”Esquire Writer Gets Free Meals – and Writes Good Reviews“, where we accused him of failing to mention when he is provided free meals by the restaurant he is reviewing. At the time, the LA Times said
“What you won’t see is a disclaimer about which meals Mariani ate for free, and at the personal invitation of the chefs — omissions that have exposed a deep divide in food writing circles over the ethics of restaurant reviewing”.
I guess we didn’t wine-and-dine enough this year.
Reviewer Asks Restaurants for Free Food and Wine in Exchange for Reviews
Speaking of ethical issues, freelance City Pages wine writer John Glas was accused of conflict of interest when he sent 10 finalists for “best wine bar” letters asking them to “provide him with free food and wine for evaluation so he could consider them for the top 5 list“. Oops.
Not everyone was happy to get the note, including the one who passed along Glas’ memo to the Star Tribune. The Association of Food Journalists addresses this issue in its code of ethics for restaurant reviewers. These are the standards that most restaurant reviewers of the mainstream media follow, as does the Star Tribune. The quick version: pay for food, review anonymously, make multiple visits.
Matt Smith, the managing editor at City Pages, noted later in an e-mail exchange with me that the request for free food/wine was done without his knowledge. He shut down the process after a couple [of] wine-bar owners had contacted Rachel Hutton, the weekly newspaper’s restaurant critic, and him to complain about the letter, though by that time John had already evaluated several wine bars in this way.
Matt noted in his e-mail: “John is a wine expert and does frequent posts for our Hot Dish blog, but he’s not a professional writer and certainly not a trained journalist. I think he honestly thought that, with a limited budget, that was the best way to tackle the story. My fault, I guess, for assuming most people understood how reviews are done and for not explaining the assignment carefully enough. In any case, it is definitely NOT our policy to ask for free food, and we put a stop to it when we found out. Our writers are supposed to review anonymously and pay for their meals.”
Here is an excerpt of the letter he sent to various restaurants –
Due to the zero budget I am working with, the 4 courses and 4 wines will have to be complementary, but if you win or are a top five the free advertising is priceless.
I have created a scoring sheet based on 100 points for each wine bar.
Food & Wine Pairings (40 points)
This section of my scoring rubric will be known by all participants.
You will provide 4 small plates with 4 wines from your list. I have assigned one hour per wine bar so please plan 15 minutes per course. A server, not a manager, must serve each course.
No wine can cost over $50 a bottle and 3 out of 4 wines served to me must be on your By the Glass selection of your menu.
The breakdown of this segment is as follows:
*Food & Wine Pairings complement each other (10)
*Quality Food (10)
*Quality Wine (15)
*Additional 5 points not stated
Total Points: 40 points
The entire article along with a copy of his letter to the restaurants can be found here.
Bill King Out at American Pinot Brasserie
Remember all the flack I took for a few casual comments about “American Pinot Brasserie”? More than a few people took offense when I wrote, ‘”I think it is interesting that they named it a “Brasserie” since that term is usually used more in reference to beer than it is to wine. It also tends to mean an “unpretentious” type of establishment, which this definitely is not.” Those two lines brought 41 comments, which became so heated I finally shut them off for a while. I’ve received irate emails from folks who worked for the restaurant – a passionate group. A few weeks ago, news broke that executive chef Bill King “resigned” and was bought out by his financial partners.
All I can say is I dined at Pinot Brasserie two times while working towards a review. It would have been a blood-bath. I hear the restaurant has retooled and simplified their menu, so I’ll give it a few months and try again. Sad to see a dream die, but it just wasn’t very good. It will be interesting to see if the restaurant survives the first year; my bet is they won’t.
How would you like an “expiration date” on your fruits and vegetables?
We need this because, according to an article in the DailyMail, we aren’t smart enough to figure out if the peach in our hand is moldy.
Hi-tech lasers which ‘tattoo’ prices, logos and sell-by dates on to fruit and vegetable skins could make sticky labels thing of the past, a new report showed yesterday.
Leading UK supermarket chains such as Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer are now being targeted by the company behind the food-engraving technology.
Laser-labeling technology is already used in other parts of the world, such as Japan and is about to be rolled out in the US by Sunkist Growers under the name ‘natural light labeling’.
I’m not sure what to think. “Natural light labeling?” What’s natural about a laser?
Stumptown Coffee is also raising their wholesale prices, which is huge for coffee accounts who buy their product at what was already kind of a high price. All the more reason for the smaller roasting companies to help split up the market a bit!
sweet meat says
I work at a local cafe and a long time delivery driver for us just got laid off. So, something obviously problematic is going on at Sunshine. As far as Stumptown prices going up I know that green bean prices are at a 13 year high right now so that may be the reason.
Bummer to hear rumblings about Sunshine. They’ve been a dream supplier, with a ridiculously low minimum ($150 last time I checked.) Dairy has gone through the roof lately, so maybe folks are finding a way to cut back or use cheaper ingredients. The cost of the butter we use has nearly doubled in the last year. I wish them well!
Speaking with truthiness, no one has a better handle on who’s the foodiest than Bon Appetite. I mean. McMinneville? That demonstrates a sweeping knowledge of the teeny tiny towns of this great big country.
As I was walking by the “American Brasserie” with a chef friend last night (after a quite disappointing, but thankfully expensive, dinner at Grüner. BTW- is it somewhere written that there can’t be any under-$40 bottles of wine on their list?) it was completely devoid of customers at 10pm (we were on our way to have a drink at Clyde Common, which was packed) except for a lonely looking girl texting away at the bar…likely looking for somewhere, anywhere, else to go…he asked “So what do you think will be here in 6 months?” Unfortunate to see so much money flushed away. The “truthiness” of your commentary is appreciated, FD. Although your plan to go there in a few months might go awry!
Inside scoop…Sheridan Fruit Co. distributes Sunshine Dairy at the regular Sunshine prices and their minimum is only 100.
I’ve eaten and drank at Pinot a few times. Once due to curiosity, once due to circumstances and a couple of times due to convenience. The happy hour hamburger I had the last time (about 2 weeks ago) was pretty good and at $3 it was really good. The other times were sort of between blah and fine. It’s just a strange sort of place with no identity at all. I think they kind of wanted to be like Legal Seafood (not the worst aspiration in the world) but are too all over the place. The one time I had dinner there were 18 entrees, 17 appetizer and 13 items on the bar menu. I would not want to be the one to be tasked with giving that place a direction and identity and making it happen in that spot.
Sheridan Fruit Co. is entirely beyond awesome. Their Draper Valley Chicken is cheaper than S&P wholesale and it’s trussed. I’m always surprised when people don’t know about it. Fantastic grocery store.
I used to deal with Sheridan and they had great product, but it was next to impossible to get a delivery from them in the window they promised.
I had given up on pie until I discovered Random Order’s Carmel Apple Pie. Their other pies are excellent too!
I dunno…The first time I was there the pie was excellent. But the second time I had a piece of banana cream pie that was obviously older…the crust was soggy. Sigh.
I too had a disappointing meal at Gruner recently. And my biggest gripe was the wine list. With so many good value wines (especially from Europe) out there, their wine list is infuriating. It’s completely unapproachable and a reason for me to not go back (the food and service were meh this last visit as well).
Food Dude says
It never ceases to amaze me how tolerant consumers are of the practice of price gouging on wine. Expecting patrons to pay almost the same price for a glass as the wholesale price of the bottle then adding the obligatory 20% tip on top of that often makes it unpalatable to dine out.
Dana – You and your like minded wine professionals should develop a logo “stop the wine price madness!” – sign me up!!
I have had a couple of disappointing dinners at Gruner after one very good one. I really enjoyed my last visit for lunch, though, that burger is one of the best in town and those smashed fried potatoes are awesome.
ehh, I dunno. I honestly don’t know why people seem to think that it’s just “opening a bottle and charging 300% for it”? Gruner, and a lot of other fine(for this town anyways) dining restaurants have a lot of cost built into the wine program. Glasses, inventory, training, staff, loss, etc.. all of those things you don’t really see, but add tremendously to the cost of a bottle. I guess my point is, just because you know a bottle wholesales for $10 and the restaurant is charging $35 for it, it is fairly naive to assume you are being gouged. Personally, if I am asked to point out a “gouge”, it’s almost always an under $30 bottle that I know costs like $4! I see it all the time….
sweet meat says
In response to the wine mark up. If you don’t mind going to a “restaurant” that is an empty room with one 40 watt naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling where I hand you a wine key to open your own bottle to pour into a paper cup while sitting on the floor. Then I’m sure we can hook you up with some great wine bargains and one hell of a dining experience.
“that is an empty room with one 40 watt naked light bulb hanging”
actually what i do is go to the restaurant with the overpriced wine list and lose them a ton of money with my 50% off groupon. i then go home and pour myself a couple glasses of aussie shiraz, argentinian malbec, or central coast pinot with with *FAR* better QPR than the typical $40-100 swill listed on many pdx wine lists.
Touch a nerve?
In my opinion the model is broken. Loading the profit you aren’t making on the food and putting it on the wine program is in my opinion pricing too many wines WAY out of reach. Just because I don’t (read can’t) pay 100 bucks for a bottle of wine (which is really a $35 wine that has HOW MUCH overhead riding on it?) doesn’t mean I don’t like eating out, and it doesn’t mean I drink crappy wine. Just because I don’t want to order a bottle of wine, doesn’t mean I want to pay an often seriously unreasonable price for a glass.
Two quick points:
1st, wine mark-ups have long been part of the modern restaurant business model, which is far from broken. Restaurant facilities has very expensive to maintain and owners have only a few ways to pay for them. One is food, the other is alcohol. Food remains in “reach” because of the alcohol mark-ups. Service, glassware, loss and other costs all factor into wine margins, it’s just a fact of life. And if one is unhappy about wine prices, please realize liquor mark-ups are even higher while loss is much lower.
2nd, having traveled a bit this year I can tell you that wine prices in Portland are well below those in other major restaurant markets.
Steve Wino says
For those who object to the markup, bring your own wine and pay the corkage fee, but respect the restaurant’s corkage policy, which may provide that you may bring a wine that is not offered on the wine list. And if you still have issues with the restaurant over the corkage policy or fee, don’t go.
I think the idea of using Groupons or Restaurant.com discounts or other offers to basically get freebies is the broken model if customers only eat at a restaurant using these offers, which don’t allow the restaurant to make a profit, I use use special offers but, at some point, I think you have to respect the fact that the restaurant needs to make a profit to stay in business. So I will take advantage of them but use them to have a meal I might not otherwise have, ordering a more expensive entree or a starter or dessert that I might otherwise not order.
We went to Pinot Brasserie three times in November. It was great. The happy hour menu is among the best. The carbonara is perfection. Time for a full Food and Drink treatment….