Sunday, August 2, 2009

A poor job of food journalism

The Record of Hackensack carried a column today by its restaurant reviewer, Elisa Ung, who criticizes "silly cliches" on menus. In a previous column, Ung highlighted typos, misspellings and other language problems on the menus of the places she has reviewed.

Unfortunately, her supervising editor and copy editors do a poor job of catching and fixing the typos, errors and wordy prose in her own columns and stories. In a restaurant review data box this past Friday, she listed $21.95 as the top price for entrees, but panned a paella for two at $41.95. On June 5, she noted "a casual relaxation from an easy dinner out." Once, she said a room in a restaurant was "chandelier-clad." In a story about Bobby Flay's hamburger restaurant in Paramus, she was just plain wrong on the type of ground beef used.

Ung is a woman in her 30s who demonstrates her limited knowledge of food and language with every column she writes. Rarely does she discuss how menus omit the origin of food and whether poultry and meat were raised with antibiotics and growth hormones. It is no longer enough to say a steak tastes good and was cooked to a customer's order. What I and many others want to know is whether the animal was 100% grass fed or confined in a feed lot and given grain, animal by-products and hormones to speed up its growth. And we also want to know whether the seafood we are ordering is wild-caught.

The $24.07 lunch menu Friday at Del Posto in Manhattan said the tomatoes were heirloom and the pork loin came from a breed of black pigs that are vegetarian-fed and raised without antibiotics and growth hormones. Other items were described similarly, as in the free-range chicken listed. Ung should start writing about whether the menus she sees in New Jersey show the same sensibility. (Revised Monday, Aug. 3, and Tuesday, Aug. 4.)

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