Sunday, August 9, 2009

World's Youngest Food Critic?

Some middle schoolers want to go to Disneyland, others, Le Benardin
Even though this blog is about my ever-changing relationship to TV, I couldn't resist following up on something I heard while listening to an interview with food critic Ruth Reichl. An 11-year old girl stood up during the question and answer period and asked what she should be doing now to prepare to be a food writer, other than blogging about her dining experiences. "Do you cook?" Reichl ventured and the girl said yes. Reichl seemed suitably impressed--other than saying that she should travel (as much as her parents were willing, anyway), all she could muster was to say "Keep doing what you're doing! What's the name of your blog?"

So here's a plug for "sandysquirrel's" blog "I Am Not A Picky Eater." At the tender age of five, she recognized Jacques Torres on the street as easily as she would the Big Bird. She rattles off the names of judges and guests of Top Chef like the names of the Jonas Brothers. Barely into her second decade of life, Sandy has already made pilgrimages to Chez Panisse and has Eric Ripert's autograph in her journal. In other words, Sandy is a foodie.

She started her blog this January after a Christmas visit to New York (which she has been obsessed with since Serendipity's frozen hot chocolate scene and Top Chef season five) and has made eight posts, most of which were made while tagging along on her brother's college tours. The enthusiasm that comes through in her writing must be rubbing off on the staff of the restaurants; of Tabla, she writes, "While we waited to order dessert our waiter came over. She started saying “We thought you might want stretch out a little bit before you order (it had been a long meal). Would you like a tour of the kitchen? Well of course we said yes.”

The title of her blog is both dead-on and ironic, since she will try the most adventurous thing on the menu, but of course, would much prefer four-star dining to your average diner. While most kids Sandy's age would turn their noses up at anything more exotic than mozzarella and pepperoni, Sandy's not afraid to venture into uncharted regions. Case in point, her review of Bread Bar: "Chef Floyd gave us some suprise [sic] treats, which were a chickpea salad (with two kinds of chickpeas I had never heard of before) and a really unusual halibut with watermelon curry (Really. I’m not kidding.) The halibut had a yummy crunchy coating on top. Very cool textures."

I can't judge her palate, but her willingness to stretch her taste buds puts her far beyond most kids her age (or her brother's age for that matter). I can tell, however, that this preteen is an incredibly precocious blogger. Her best posts are the ones where she doesn't limit herself to star and dollar sign ratings but talks about the experience in context. She fairly drips with disappointment that they will not make their dinner reservation at Tabla:
"Our horrible transportation karma really came to a head on Friday. On our way from Kim’s house to Boston’s airport, we found out that our flight was cancelled. Delta had “thoughtfully” put us on the next flight, at 2:30. Well, the weather got really bad at LaGuardia, so our flight was delayed. And delayed. And delayed again. We finally bailed at 5:30 and DROVE back to New York."
I wish Sandy luck as she continues to hone her writing skills and her palate. Her reviews may slow down when she goes back to school this fall and can't get out to NYC but fortunately, as near as I can tell, she lives in the other food mecca of the nation, the San Francisco Bay Area. Her reviews today are fairly sweet, since she's going to some of the most notable restaurants in the nation, but you can tell one day, the acid will seep through:
On her second visit to Flex Mussels: "New for us were the crowds and noise (thank you, NY Times review!). It was very loud this time, which was not as fun. "

On Donatella Arpaia's Kefi: "When we got their I noticed that the gal at the front of desk needed to button up her shirt. So we got to the table and everyone had a table setting but me."

And my favorite, on summer blockbusters: "My mom had lunch plans with a friend, so the rest of us went to see Transformers. It was only okay for me. My brother and dad probably thought Megan Fox deserved an Oscar for her AMAZING performance!"

Watch out Gael Greene (or Roger Ebert for that matter)!

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