Punching Down

You might say that Times Union food critic Susie Davisdson Powell did not enjoy the lamb-stuffed poblano peppers at Farmhouse Tap and Tavern.

In a single paragraph she compares them to a ball tucked in a sock, a comet with a meatball for a head, and — finally — a dick. She also adds that they’re hard to cut and undercooked.

One example would have worked, but she went with three. That’s commitment!

Davidson Powell recently ravaged Farmhouse Tap in a scathing review that was more of a bitter attack against the restaurant than a balanced critique. It was gleefully malicious, oozing anger and sarcasm with every tart observation and clever turn of phrase. But that’s her thing, isn’t it? Being nasty is much more entertaining than being fair.

It was about as bad as a local restaurant review gets — and it made me wonder why it’s OK for a big media company like the Times Union to take down a small local eatery?

Davidson Powell defends restaurant reviews, lumping them in with other arts criticism, like that for theatre or music productions. Bullshit, I say. A restaurant may be an expression of someone’s creative energy, but first and foremost it’s a business, and your review has the potential to ruin someone’s livelihood. The Times Union doesn’t review a car dealers or furniture stores, so what makes restaurants fair game?

Yes, I know — restaurant reviews are a staple of newspaper journalism. People are obsessed with content about food and can’t get enough. Six straight hours of Chopped anyone?

Now, full disclosure here: I’ve reviewed restaurants on Yelp — and that’s totally different. My lone opinion doesn’t hold the weight of a major media outlet, and in forums like Yelp and Trip Advisor, the view of one person is balanced by the other contributors. Not the same as taking almost a full page in the Sunday paper to fuck with someone. And this isn’t the New York Times going after Guy Fieri, this is people with power stomping on people without any.

Oh, one last thing: Farmhouse Tap is owned by the woman who runs 518 Foodies, a website that focuses on the local dining scene. Huh. You can draw your own conclusions, but something about this stinks like last week’s fish.

11 thoughts on “Punching Down

    1. It does seem personal when you try to ruin the business venture that someone’s sunk their money into. It means everything to the restauranteur, and nothing to the critic. Davidson Powell can go drink fancy cocktails and drop dry bon mots while you go out of business. It sucks and — it’s a shitty thing to do.

  1. We ate there last week, after the review, and the burgers were very good, as was the service. Susie might have gotten lost, gotten hangry, and decided to review the first place she found. I hope she doesn’t take it out on the Greenville Hot Dog guy next. Great meat sauce.

    1. Exactly. BTW, I didn’t get to this, but she implies that those common folk in the hills would be just as happy with “hot dogs and Carlo Rossi.” Wow. Out of touch.

        1. Ha…

          She seems to have toned down the British schtick since starting her TU reviews. The early ones read like an American doing a parody of how they think a Brit would write. Weird.

    1. Yes, read that. It was not nearly as mean as her Taproom review, but the question remains: why are newspapers reviewing restaurants? In terms of consumer spending, it’s insignificant compared to things like groceries and cars. Where are the reviews of those retailers?

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