Fresh Faced

The Weekly's new food critic explains himself.

My last week in San Francisco, I walked all over the city, trying to memorize everything: the delicate latticework on the Victorians, the mountainous skyline, the way the noon light washed the Oakland hills lavender. Despite my attempts to concentrate on the sublime, though, my focus kept slipping back to the banal. There were 1,001 details about the move to Seattle that needed to be prioritized and too many goodbyes to arrange. Besides, after 13 years, San Francisco was too familiar to see clearly. That's why arriving in a new city, one I've only loved as a tourist, is such a gift. I get one shot to see Seattle fresh—the way it really looks, perhaps?—before a film of reminiscence and trivia clouds the view. Of course, restaurant reminiscence and trivia is part of what people rely on a critic to share. Until I can tell you from experience where to find the best taco truck—and believe me, I'm working on it—what do I bring to the job? Six years of experience in the restaurant business, most of them spent in the kitchen. Seven years of writing restaurant criticism and food journalism, mostly for the East Bay Express, a weekly newspaper covering Oakland and Berkeley. Eyes that are bigger than my stomach, at least for the moment. And a willingness to try anything—tripe, deep-fried Twinkies—and when I don't like it, to come back to it again and again until I understand why other people do. If my first tastes of Seattle are any evidence, it's an exciting time to move to the city. I've mused over sturgeon with pancetta vinaigrette at Matt's at the Market, with its gorgeous arched windows looking onto Elliott Bay. I've slurped a kickass bun bo hue on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and cracked crab that some fellow guests at a party had pulled up just that morning. The restaurant scene is crackling, the farmers markets keep growing, and everyone seems to feel passionately about food. Luckily, as a newcomer, I get to call on the experience of people who've been eating in Seattle for decades. Not just my co-workers: you, the readers. I think of a review not as a bully pulpit (well, not primarily as a bully pulpit) but as an invitation to a dialogue. You and me. Eating together vicariously. So if you went to the bistro I reviewed and thought the service I loved was too formal, or if you were livid because the roast chicken I panned was your favorite dish, speak up! In fact, e-mail Seattle Weekly anytime (food@seattleweekly.com) to let us know about restaurants you think we should review, old favorites we seem to have forgotten, or a pastry you tried at the Market that the rest of the city should know about. I can't promise to like it, but at least I'll give it a fresh look. jkauffman@seattleweekly.com

 
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