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May 23, 2008

Introducing our new restaurant critic

One of the best things about having my own blog is that sometimes I get to break real news. Of course, it has to be restaurant-related, but still.

Karen Nitkin, who has been our LIVE reviewer for the past five years, is leaving to have more time with her family. (That's probably her polite way of saying she's had enough bar food and other cheap eats and can't take it any more.) She's been great to work with -- I'm the one that coordinates the restaurants we go to, although I'm not her editor -- and the only reason I'm not despondent is that...

...Richard Gorelick of the City Paper will be taking over for her.

I don't know Richard, but I've always enjoyed reading his reviews even when our experiences at the same restaurant were very different. Also he wrote me a handwritten note congratulating me when my 30th anniversary story appeared in the paper, which so floored me that I was predisposed to like him before I even knew he was going to be a co-reviewer.

I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with the column. I wrote the LIVE column for awhile along with the Sunday review, so I know that week in and week out, it's a lot harder to pull off than it seems.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:40 AM | | Comments (27)
        

Comments

EL -- this item was allegedly posted at 3:40 p.m. today, which is about 9-1/2 hours in the future as I write this (6:05 a.m.). Was this something to be posted later, or is there a clock issue on somebody's computer?

No, I started it yesterday, and had to change the date and time to when I posted it, and I guess I changed the date but not the time. Sorry, but thanks for pointing it out so I can change it before anyone notices. :-) EL

But does he know about the Sandbox?

Ave atque vale, Karen. I always enjoyed your reviews, even if they were of places I would never dream of visiting!

Thanks for posting this. I had noticed Karen's absence from LIVE this week and had been meaning to ask what was up.

Welcome, Richard, to the Sandbox.

I was treated to dinner last evening at Cinghiale and I would like to report on my experience. This is apropos to our recent discussion on restaurants and the economy. This place was hopping; there were few empty tables and the wine flowed like the Tiber River. There were three of us in the party and as we entered the door no less than three employees descended upon us. It was a bit overwhelming not to mention confusing as we didn’t know whom to follow to our table. Once seated, however, almost everything was delightful. Our young waiter (who did not state his name) proceeded to welcome us, asking if we’d ever been to the establishment before. Since I had not he quickly but clearly explained the menu. All three of us ordered cocktails and opted for the Prezzo Fisso with paired wines @ $70 per person. For my antipasto I ordered the foie gras (don’t shoot me) – which interestingly is not on the menu one can download from the website. It was sweet-tasting and paired with sliced strawberries in what I think was a gelatin. [This is why I am not a food critic.] The wine was a 2003 Calcaia-Muffa Nobile from Umbria. Please note that the names of the wines are much longer as printed on the personalized wine-pairing card each guest receives.

My Primo course was the I Casunsei, sausage-filled pasta, and it was heavenly and surprisingly filling. The only thing I found annoying was the overly large bowl in which the course was served. This time the wine was a 2003 Pravis Syrae from Trentino. I chose the rib steak for my Secondo, which was paired with a 2003 Sandiavolo from Toscano. The meat was done to perfection and had a tantalizing rub of sweet and tangy spices. And let me tell you this – it was not a small piece. I was tempted to take some home but finished it all. For dessert I had a scoop of fennel ice cream and a glass of Cointreau.

My friends also enjoyed their meals; Vernon is a regular there. His son Andy is a vegetarian and on last night’s menu there were no vegetarian dishes for either the Primo or Secondo courses. Our waiter assured Andy that the chef would be more than happy to put something together that he would enjoy. Andy’s main course was a delicious mix of grilled and caramelized veggies including Portobello mushrooms, onions, scallions, greens, and peppers. Kudos to the chef and the waiter – not to mention the individual who delivered Andy’s plate with a full description of his meal.

All of the portions were, to me, surprisingly satisfying. The service was attentive without being intrusive and we were never rushed. (The bread is awesome, EL!) There was one snag: as Vernon was finishing the wine that accompanied his antipasto, there was sludge in the glass. When the busboy removed the glass I attempted to stop him with some instructions but he clearly didn’t understand the words “excuse me.” At that point a waitress asked if there was a problem. I explained what had occurred with the wine and asked her to relay that to the sommelier, merely as informational. Before we ordered dessert I asked our waiter if he had been informed of the sludge and he admitted that he had not. But he did deliver a complimentary glass of dessert wine for Vernon. I would definitely return to Cinghiale – if only I could afford it.

On another note, a “mystery” has been solved. Several months ago I mentioned that a new deli was going to be opening at 10 South Street downtown, across from the Au Bon Pain in the One South Building. The logo signs in the windows indicate that the place will be called U & I, and that it will serve coffee, sandwiches and salads as well as provide catering. I took a peek in the window and it doesn’t look like it’s going to open anytime soon as the large room is still undergoing renovation.

(FYI - I wrote this document in Word and had included several italics but they didn't copy and paste here. Can someone give me a quick tutorial on italicizing, etc.? I'm an old dog who learns new tricks quickly!)

I'm not sure the less-than sign over the comma and the more-than over the period will show up here, but it's less-than sign i more-than sign before what you want italicized and at the beginning of every new graf, and less-than slash i more-than sign at the end. This is how I had to learn html: by copying what Hal Laurent VoR EoW does. Like I said, it's DIY coding at The Sun. EL

That's good news. Richard Gorelick is a tough, honest, objective critic who probably gave the City Paper advertising department hives from time to time -- but invariably gives the reader an idea of what they'll find at the restaurant under review. And whether or not it's for them.

What a nice welcome, Elizabeth!

I am looking very much forward to filling Karen's capable and well-traveled shoes ("dining pants" would have been vulgar, right?) in about a month or so.

Until then, I'll be finishing up at the City Paper, which has been a wonderful and generous home for me.

Keep posting everybody!

Mr. Gorelick - is the City Paper accepting applications to fill your soon-to-be-vacant position?

Rats, I already admitted to not being a food critic. Well, maybe the City Paper won't read this blog.

Piano Rob--FENNEL ice cream? What was that like???

Welcome, Richard!

I've enjoyed your well-written and thoughtful CP reviews, usually finding them spot-on.

I look forward to seeing you in Live.

Yay! I am a fan of Mr Gorelick and am so glad to hear he's taking over the LIVE duties.

Not much chance of City Paper not reading the blog, since CP named it the best blog in Baltimore last year

Well, even though I like to think it's the best blog in Baltimore, I better say it was named best SUN blog before someone else posts a correction. EL

I had no idea I was Elizabeth's HTML tutor!

Here's how to do italics:

<i>text you want italicized here</i>

which produces:

text you want italicized here

Dahlink - It's funny you asked that. After the waiter has recited the list of ice creams not printed on the menu, I asked Andy what he thought onion ice cream might taste like. The man is wise beyond his 26 years and he said he thought it was more like anise. Sure enough, that's exactly what it was. I wanted more than the one scoop I had (even though I could have ordered up to three scoops).

Hal VoR/EW: When/where is the class? Sign me up!

Wow, Piano Rob! That sounds like a wonderful meal. I admit to be most intrigued by the fennel ice cream.

Mr. Gorelick - glad you decided to step into the sandbox. Hope you brought your bucket and shovel along.

Hal VoR/EotW - What I don't understand is how you managed to put the and in the sample and not have the text italicized.

It'll be sad to say goodbye to Karen, but I'm with the minx - I love Mr Gorelick's reviews. Exciting!

Now there would be a great party game: HTML coding for Tribune blogware. Stand back. Oh the crowds. Is M&T stadium available? Will PowerPoint be used? Will there be alcohol (okay, silly question)?

Piano Bob, The substance in the wine glass was not sludge. Sediment in wine is the sign of a natural, alive, unfiltered wine that has not been sterilized. Robert Swan of Swan Vinyards in California used to say this was the best part of the wine. I purchase only unfiltered wines and try not to get sediment in the glass but sometimes it just happens. Hopefully your objection to the sediment won't encourage Cinghiale to switch to sterile filtered, lifeless wines. Over the weekend I enjoyed several older bottles of Cornas from Noel Verset which are well know for the amount of sediment in the bottle due to his old fashioned equipment and methods. As a friend of mine once suggested "Filter the wine through your teeth." I enjoyed this much more than the perfectly clear factory made wines from CA, Australia, Argentina, etc. As you can tell I am rather passionate about filtered vs. non-filtered. It is the only point on which I have ever agreed with Robert Parker.

Mark - A big "duh" on me at typing "sludge" when I meant "sediment." Clearly my brain wasn't on its proper lexiconigraphical wavelength this AM.

I guess my reaction last evening was that I hadn't experienced such an occurrence before and therefore thought it odd in an upscale establishment.

Thanks for the info on wine. I am obviously oenophile!

Mark--please, Piano ROB, not Bob.

Sorry Bahlink I guess my glasses were dirty.

Bah. Humbug.

Yeah, us Robs don't like to be lumped in with the Bobs.

Spam at 8:35 AM. A serial spammer, at that.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.
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