Thursday, October 16, 2008
Two things I hate today, food journalist edition
1. PR people and press releases.
No, I am not impressed that Lil Wayne sips your champagne at douchebag nightclubs. (My hatred of douchebag nightclubs and the cult of empty conspicuous consumption could occupy a whole other post). I get a lot of press releases as a food writer, and most of them suck. It's as if they're written to make a product or place less appealing. There are three reasons places seem to hire PR people:
1. Because the scale of their business is so massive that it doesnt make sense to handle marketing inhouse. This is probably the only valid reason, though it's not actually the most common one.
2. Restaurant/product wants to appear foofoo and important. Me= not impressed. When I schedule interviews with bar people I have much more positive initial impression if I set up the appointment with them directly. Yesterday, I had an interviewee "forget" his appointment his PR person scheduled for him. See how well that worked out?
3. Their product sucks or their business is slow and they're trying to drum up interest. This doesn't work so great either because most editors and writers have a natural aversion to press releases.
I do sympathise with PR people to a degree, because being a freelancer and sending queries is a very similar (and frustrating) process. The problem is writers/editors receive so much CRAP that is totally irrelevant that something the good stuff falls through the cracks. And most editors already have an idea of what they want, and it's probably not what you're selling.
2. Booze snobbery: in defense of vodka.
The past six months have been a crash course in booze appreciation for me. Quite frankly, I didn't drink much prior to becoming a booze writer, though a lot of this was due to being poor. I'd enjoy the occasional $6 bottle of Trader Joes wine, and a vanilla vodka soda or PBR on the occasional occasion of going to a bar with friends. $11 cocktails, craft beer and artisanal spirits were simply not in my budget.
The interesting thing about being a journalist is you can basically live at the poverty level and pretend that you're not desperately broke through the miracle of press passes. I've been forced to learn a lot about booze very quickly, which is actually a lot of fun and quite interesting. At this point I'm fairly indifferent to wine, have developed a passion for fancy beer, and have mixed feelings about the whole mixology craze since I find that it's a- get ready for this- MIXED BAG! For every FUCKING AMAZING $11 cocktail I've tried, there have been 3 or 4 just kinda ok ones.
So here's the thing. I LOVE Stoli Vanil, and Stoli Blackberry. I love Stoli Vanil with Dr. Pepper and vanilla ice cream. I especially love it with soda, a smidge of grenadine, and a zillion maraschino cherries, and yes, I realize that's basically a glorified Shirley Temple, and I don't care. However, I have quickly discovered that in the land of pretentious boozeology, vodka is a big socially unacceptable NO NO. While I understand why people adore and adulate whiskeys for all their variation and complexity, blah blah, but I personally don't enjoy the taste of whiskey enough to care. I am not pretending that vodka is the same thing as whiskey. It's a clear, refreshing base spirit that allows other flavors to shine. It's the tofu of the beverage world! Would you accuse an order of thai deep fried tofu of being un-delicious simply because it doesn't have the gameyness of a lamb chop?
Ok, see this is what I don't get- the same mixologists who bag on vodka secretly like it! Regard the following excerpt from Jeffrey Morgenthaler's blog:
I badmouth the spirit in private and trash it in public. I grimace every time you order a vodka martini - “Shaken, up, with three olives” - at my bar. For all of the shit I’ve talked over the years, vodka is my number one guilty pleasure drink - I will always accept a vodka on the rocks after work. I’ll drink a Screwdriver at the airport, and a Greyhound when I get on the plane. And if you’ve got a bottle in your freezer, you’ll catch me stealing straight shots right out of the frosty bottle neck. I love the stuff.
So can we just accept that vodka, while flavorless, is a perfectly acceptable base spirit that is wonderful for infusing with other flavors? Furthermore, there IS a difference when you spend a bit more money on vodka- good vodka tastes smoother, and gives me less of a hangover. Of course, we're talking the difference between well vodka and stoli, but like I said, I'm poor. I can't help but wonder if part of the vodka stigma is the fact that vodka is frequently drunk by women and Eastern European peasants, which makes me wonder if there's some secret sexist/classist agenda going on here.
And while we're at it, mint, vanilla and cucumber (three ingredients a nameless mixologist professed to avoid yesterday since their "overused") are all delicious components in a cocktail and should not be eschewed, dammit.