We here at SFR are no strangers to correspondence critiquing our work. Of course, by that we mean that we get letters telling us what awful people we are on the regular. You Fork readers love doing that. And you know what? That’s OK. Much of what we do can be described as criticism, at least on the culture side of things (though we’d argue we’re far more positive than not much of the time), and people have feelings about things in their town—plus every right to expound upon those feelings. We would, however, point out how it’s hysterical when readers write lengthy diatribes criticizing us in letters about how it’s wrong to criticize, and this is a good segue into our topic for the week: Y’all, we need to talk about restaurant reviews.
Let’s go back a bit, to the height of the pandemic—the time period when all of us felt like American heroes for ordering delivery and takeout and supporting our beloved local dining institutions. At the time, SFR’s culture squad made a decision to not be the reason any business shut down. It seemed...we dunno, kind or something. No, we don’t believe our paper is powerful enough to kill a business, but we also don’t take lightly that there’s a distribution network through which words our staffers write reach many in town. To put it another way, much of SFR’s food coverage during the pandemic was about good things or good meals or good people or how restaurant and food folk were faring during one of the worst economic periods in American history.
But you know what? We’ve grown sick of that. We believe that criticism is valuable. We can’t even tell you how many times our staffers have heard from managers, owners, waiters, bartenders, etc. about how they had no idea some kinda thing was going on at their business until they read about it in the paper. We believe it can help people improve (like how people tell us they’ve loved our history lessons on food things so we started doing it more often). Further, are we, as people who eat, expected to fake loving something for the sake of so-called kindness? It’s like, you wanna be mad at the person who told you there’s spinach in your teeth? Get the eff outta here! There have even been times when people on our staff have been contacted by restaurant people who say things like, “That’s not the regular item that we usually serve at dinner, we just ran out of X.” OK, word, that’s still what you served on that night, though, friendo, and critics should get to talk about it.
And you know what? That’s OK, too! What irks us, however, is the fans of restaurants who immediately take the conversation to places like, “People are trying their best!” or, “I’ve never had that experience!” The point of criticism, in our eyes, is that we talk about the thing in question—the good, the bad, the improvable. Oh, what a terrible world ‘twould be were all conversations about food relegated to, “I liked it,” followed by the other person responding, “Me, too.” End of convo. No feelings hurt, no insights gained, no thoughts exchanged, no point in leaving the house.
We know intimately how people view food writers like that mean dude from that movie (you know the one, with the rat who makes the food? We think it’s called The Rat Who Makes the Food), but folks who eat for a living have a vested interest in improving the landscape. They live here, too, they want good things, and, believe it or not, they’re not on a mission to destroy lives and livelihoods—plus, get this, they’re beholden to the readers and the community, not the businesses who operate in their city. Quelle surprise!
Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying we expect there might be more criticism in the regular pages of SFR soon, and we just kind of wanted to prepare you. We have the best readers in the world, and we just want to be open and clear. If you hate what you read, though, take it up with our boss (email@example.com), because we’re mainly here to be like, “Omelets are crazy, here’s some facts about them!”
Too long, didn’t read? Quit whining about restaurant criticism and quit trying to shut down people whose thoughts aren’t pure fluff. There’s such a thing as toxic positivity, shit.
God, we loved this show.
-It occurs to us that St. Patrick’s Day is imminent, and while we’d love to sit here for the next million hours compiling a list of places serving corned beef and green beer and, like, potatoes or whatever (which frankly seems like a pretty reductive take on Irish culture), we’re instead going to tell you that most places where a bar is, like, a major part of the identity will probably have something. Brewpubs love doing corned beef like they’re doing you a favor. Call around. Check out SFR’s online calendar. We can’t do everything for you, GOD!
-Did you hear the one about Kitchen Angels’ upcoming Angels Dine Out night? Here’s what we know about the annual event in 2023: First off, if you didn’t know, the event finds numerous local restaurants donating a percentage of a day’s sales to the local nonprofit that delivers food to homebound folks. This year it’s on 4/20 (#nice) and will feature more than 40 Santa Fe restaurants including Paper Dosa, Herve Wine Bar, Tune Up Café, Santa Fe Bite, Izanami, Jambo and sooooo many more. For a full list and more details, visit here. And if you just plain want to donate to a worthy cause like Kitchen Angels, click here.
-Reader Tess H. reached out to let us know packets of some seeds are $5 at Lowe’s here in Santa Fe. This is absurd. We have no recourse or advice, we’re just saying. We also wonder who likes seeds from where. Something local, maybe? Modern General? Do they sell seeds? We admit it’s been a sec since we got there. Of course, if you’re looking for a better seed program, didja hear how the Santa Fe Public Library and the Santa Fe Extension Master Gardeners’ Seed Stewards are set to re-launch the Santa Fe Seed Library on March 25? What’s a seed library, you ask? We’re talkin’ free seeds (up to five packs, no library card required). There’ll also be workshops and stuff, too. Read about it right here and mark them calendars.
-We’re not gonna lie—the roasted branzino on this weekend’s menu from just-outside-town eatery NOSA sounds incredible, as does a red chile cinnamon ice cream served on apple crisp. Full disclosure: The meal (which also includes a saffron arancini, shrimp and fennel bisque and more) runs $85 a person, but still...those things all sound so good.
-Word on the street is that chef Dakota Weiss has left her executive chef post at Coyote Café. Just breathe, though, because we understand Weiss will stay on for a year as a consultant, and anyway—let’s not forget how hard her downtown Catch Poke restaurant rules the land. Anyway, Weiss is set to open a French dip joint in Albuquerque, plus a Santa Fe gourmet popcorn business (and no, dear readers, you aren’t the only geniuses who know about mixing cheddar and caramel popcorn).
-Lastly in local news this week, raise a glass to Santa Fe’s John Armijo, proprietor of the legendary Johnnie’s Cash Store on Camino Don Miguel, who died on March 9 at 93. For the puro-Santa Fe among us, Johnnie’s was just about as local as it gets, Did you know it’s been open since 1946?! Anyway, we don’t have information about whether it will stay open as of this writing, but we do know Armijo’s tamales and local love will do down in the annals of history. Truly, this signifies the end of an era. We love you, Santa Fe, we truly do. Rest in power, John—and thanks for all the great snacks and drinks!
In keeping with the Muppet theme from last week...
SHOUT-OUT FROM A READER!
“Shout-out to Piccolino for the consistently good food, gracious service, reasonable prices, and especially good side vegetables that are as good as, or better than, any other place in town.”
Y’all, reader Jesse A. loves Piccolino, as does, like, every other person we know who goes there. Way to go, Piccolino! Now then, who else has places to shout-out? Extra credit for naming employees you love. Like us? We love Altar Spirits bartender Jonah. Just saying. Someone tell him we love him.
-OK, you know how we get super upset anytime some company releases some dumb product like a pretzel sweater or Jell-O shooter condoms or, like, a hat that used to be a Subway bag or whatever (for legal reasons, please understand we’re not saying any of those products exist)? Well, welcome to the opposite end of that spectrum and Coors Light beer popsicles. Honestly, we’re not sure what’s not to like about beer popsicles. Way to go, Coors! Word is that Dick Vitale will even be in a bunch of commercials about it. Do we also think this proves America is a vast and cruel hellscape wherein branding and marketing are destroying any semblance we have in concepts like love and trust? You bet! But also, if we see these bad boys out in the world, we’re getting ‘em—Dick Vitale or no.
-Do y’all remember how we were talking a couple Forks ago about how eating spicy foods makes people appear more attractive to other people? Well, it doesn’t end there. Apparently, since more consumers are buying and enjoying spicy products, we’re going to start seeing a wave of spicier things across the board. At least, that’s according to Food & Wine’s Ashia Aubourg, who writes that, “experts predict that spicy trends across the market will only continue to grow.” Can we just say that pretty much everyone from New Mexico is like, “We’ve known all this the whole time, ya buncha jamokes?”
-You might have heard about Silicon Valley Bank, a bank in Silicon Valley that, as of March 10, seems to have straight-up collapsed. In the shortest possible way we can explain it, the bank made some bad calls and lost $2 billion on a bonds investment, which it blamed on inflation. Why are we telling you about this here, in a food newsletter? Easy—because the ramifications across the food-o-sphere are many. We’re talking payroll issues for Chicago’s Fry the Coop chain, plus no shortage of wineries and food-based start-ups around the country. The moral of the story? Your bank is fucking wack, bro, and they don’t care about you, despite what their commercials might say when the music swells.
-It seems people are having feelings about Biden and his wife, Bidenette, ordering the same thing from some DC Italian joint called Red Hen. As in, they literally ordered the same dish. This is another strong contender for The Fork’s Who-Caresies Awards, but let us just try to unpack this for the people who insist on making any meal out a baffling ordeal of new things and a billion different dishes: Sometimes people, especially olds, just want to eat what they know is good. It’s why we’re eating honey mustard pretzel bits that SFR Ad Boss Robyn brought in, and we don’t really want any lip about it. Also, Biden is the freaking president and Bidenette is a freaking Ph.D, so let them do what they want. Like, we hate Trump so bad our blood is boiling just mentioning him, but we still were like, “Damn, the man can eat the food he wants—he was in Home Alone 2, for chrissakes!” We have our Biden issues, too, but if he and his damn wife wanna eat the same thing, who cares?! WHY DID WE DEDICATE SO MANY WORDS TO THIS?! WE’RE LOCKED IN NOW! CAN’T STOP! THE NEWS ITEM CONTROLS US NOW! HELP US!
-Tyson Foods is shutting down two chicken plants and laying off 1,700 workers this May. You might know the name Tyson because you see it at the store, or maybe because of all those stories about how the company treats its animals so terribly It’s disgusting (full disclosure, that last link goes to a pretty harrowing video, just please be warned in case you don’t wanna see that. We prefer to remember them as the company to which Steinbrenner trades George on that one Seinfeld, but still, we send well-wishes to the workers who don’t stomp chickens to death. Don’t get us wrong, carnivores, we’re not so naive as to think people won’t eat meat (or birds, which is still really weird to us), but there’s really no need to make their brief lives such a living hell.
A Totally Scientific Breakdown of The Fork’s Correspondence
In the print edition of SFR this week, meet Hilary Kilpatric and Andrea Abedi from The Kitchen Table, a new commercial kitchen in Santa Fe with seemingly endless possibilities.
Number of Letters Received
*Do you have ANY IDEA what comes up when you Google “31?” Some terrible-looking horror movie called 31. Just so you know.
Most Helpful Tip of the Week (a barely edited letter from a reader)
“Cyndi Lauper sucks!”
Actually Helpful Tip(s)
“IMHO, rice pudding needs cardamom! Forget this cinnamon nonsense.”
*Fork reader Nadine S. has a good point here in regards to last week’s Fork about rice pudding. Are we leaning into cinnamon because we’re depressed, or are we depressed because we’re leaning into cinnamon? Anyway, next time we make that bad boy, cardamom it is. We also heard from readers who bake their rice pudding, which is cool, too.