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Asimov is the Times’ new interim restaurant critic

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Did you see the announcement yesterday that our friend Eric Asimov, the New York Times’ chief wine writer and critic, has been appointed the paper’s interim restaurant critic, following last month’s promotion of Sam Sifton as national editor?

That’s big news, and I’m happy for Eric, assuming he wants to wear both mantles for the time being. It’s a lot of work being a daily wine critic, not to mention writing a wine blog at the same time. That’s what I do. I’d hate to have nighttime come around–a time I cherish for resting and doing my own thing–and know that I have to report to work for my second job, restaurant critic! Exhaustion piled on top of exhaustion. Good luck, Eric. By the way, I wonder what Eric would say if the Times offered him the permanent restaurant gig, which, I have to assume, would mean he’d have to step down as wine editor. If I put myself in Eric’s shoes and fantasize about having that choice, I’d probably pick restaurant critic. Not saying it’s a cinch, because until you’re actually faced with these kinds of choices, they’re hypotheticals. But a part of me always wanted to be a restaurant critic. I tried my hand at it, once, in this blog, nearly a year ago, when I reviewed Twenty Five Lusk, a smokin’ hot place near AT&T Park. That was huge fun, but I will admit I felt a little out of my league. I know a lot more about wine, especially California wine, than I do about food and restaurants, and I realized it takes a lot of time to reach the point where you know enough about food and restaurants (which includes the prior history of the restaurant’s owners and chefs, and even of its space) to write authoritatively about them. One can fake it, of course. One can simply give one’s reactions to the food and the atmosphere, the way the guests do on Check Please! Bay Area, Leslie Sbrocco’s amusing show on KQED-TV. They don’t often have the background that a seasoned restaurant reviewer ought to have–not that that makes their opinions any less worthy or entertaining. But still, a critic of any kind, from cars and movies to wine and restaurants, should have a solid background in what she’s talking about.

Eric, fortunately, does. He’s done prior stints at restaurant reviewing at the Times, so this isn’t entirely new for him. It will elevate him, I should think, to greater power and visibility in New York. The restaurant critic at the New York Times is and always has been considerably more powerful than the paper’s wine critic. I don’t think a Times wine critic has ever been feared, but the Times restaurant critic is. So is the restaurant critic at any important American newspaper, like the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer, one of the best in the business.

I do wonder how Eric will be anonymous when he dines out, given that his face is so well known. Will he wear a Groucho mask? A long wig? Eric, if you read this, weigh in and let us know! I don’t expect you to send a picture of your new secret identity, but tell us, in the interests of journalism, how you intend to get around being so recognizable.

  1. I assume the anonymity part will be a problem. I recall Asimov mentioning years ago that he no longer had to remain anonymous like he did when he was a restaurant critic.

  2. Trip Advisor….far more dependable and we are all anonymous; we get no special treatment.

  3. raley roger says:

    Looking forward to it. Asimov is such an elegant writer and always comports himself like a true gent. Between him and Bill Cunningham, how could you ever give up on the Gray Lady?

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