Our readers, particularly our more passionate ones, are a delightful bunch. The emails I get from them are at turns hilarious, insightful, furious and sometimes all three. It would be wrong for me to keep this wealth of knowledge and amusement to myself, so I've decided to share with you the best reader mail I get every now and then. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Burger Backlash Backlash
Our late-summer food issue focused on burgers, and there was some reader backlash regarding the issue; in particular, one reader named Sebastian took issue with the two burgers that our judges determined should face off in the final round of our Ultimate Burger Bracket. Frank had some thoughts on Sebastian's thoughts, as well as some commentary on our readers polls in general, and he was kind enough to send them to me:
Upon reading the backlash regarding your pick for the best burger in L.A., I was infuriated. OK, maybe not infuriated, but definitely a bit irked. While I do understand Sebastian's frustration with you declaring the best burger when the bracket was billed as a readers' poll, I think your choice was warranted. I would almost label it divine intervention. Frankly, L.A. Weekly readers' polls suck. I'm always underwhelmed by what the readers choose as the 'Best of the Best.' Often, the readers choose generic L.A. landmarks or chain establishments. Instead of reading like a 'Where's Where' assembled by lifelong Angelenos, your readers' polls read like a Lonely Planet 'Where to' guide for visitors. If I wanted someone to tell me that In-N-Out was the best burger in L.A., I would ask the sunburned gentleman standing in awe on Hollywood and Highland with a camera hanging from his neck and a fanny pack around his waist. I genuinely believe you could conduct your polls with the tourists of L.A. and achieve the same results as with your readers.
On another note, Sebastian may have presented himself as a humble spokesperson for the people, but in the process of denouncing upper-crust dining establishments and their frequenters, he became the out-of-touch elitist. He probably drives by the Echo and complains: "Those damn hipsters wouldn't know good rock & roll if it shattered their clubmasters. Go back to Brooklyn!" Also, per his "conservative" ratio, the entire population of L.A, County will have the urge to go to In-N-Out before Petit Trois can serve 10 people. That's a load of shit, conservatively. To conclude, did declaring the Big Mec as the ultimate L.A. burger go against the spirit of a readers' poll? Yes. Was In-N-Out a terrible choice that warranted intervention? Yes. Is Sebastian a cat's name? Yes. Do I have too much time on my hands? Probably.
Love ya, Frank.
Hatchet Hall Hijinks
My recent Hatchet Hall review didn't cause nearly as much of a stir as the piece I wrote about the restaurant's controversial wine list ("a cruel joke," I called it), but the review itself got one reader named Bob riled up, particularly my description of the location's original occupant, Crest House, as a "greasy spoon." His succinct email titled "Hatchet Hall/Crest House restaurant a 'greasy spoon'?" contained by far the best sentence I've received in my inbox in quite a long time:
Not how most oldtime locals would describe [Crest House], good food and atmosphere. Fooey to you smug noobs with no business sense nor clue of the past, I bet [Hatchet Hall] is the next to close soon."
As for the wine list piece, most of the reaction to that came on Twitter and Facebook and in response articles and in comments on the piece and on Reddit and ... well, a lot of places. But one reader, Mary, sent me an email with the subject line "My mind rebels at stagnation":
I found today’s review on Maxwell Leer’s Hatchet Hall wine list very disappointing. It sounds like someone who wasn’t invited to the party, and therefore says she doesn’t want to go. The difference here is that you were invited to the party. Everyone’s invited. When we remove the language that elevates experts and alienates the ignorant, there is an even playing field at the dinner table. Unless you go to dinner to show your companions how much more you know, this seems like a lovely way to enjoy a meal with friends. Having enjoyed many dinners with sommeliers, wine-makers and wine-buyers, even recognized professionals in the field ask for assistance when choosing a bottle. Because even with the information given on a standard wine list, we don’t know nearly as much about what’s in the bottles as a skilled and thoughtful wine buyer or a well-trained staff. Maxwell’s list may be confident, but it’s not arrogant. Pop-culture and wine culture are not mutually exclusive and your resistance to letting wine be free and loose and fun is why wine is still being put on a pedestal instead of poured into our glasses. Wine is not sacred. And neither is the list. If you don’t want to talk about what you’re going to eat and drink, you’d be better suited to dining at home. If the music’s too loud, you’re too old. Sinking a bottle in memory of lost joie de vivre.
Hear that, folks? If the music's too loud, you're too old. So inclusive!
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An Alimento Report
A reader named Mitch who writes to me often to detail his dining experiences sent me a glowing report on Alimento and mentioned some improvements to some of the issues I cited in my review last year:
We went to Alimento for the first time last night (I’m happy but maybe a bit shy to say that I think it was the last on the list of Jonathan [Gold]’s top 10 Italian places in L.A. for me yet to try.) I gotta say that for me it has got to be one of the very best in the city.
I read your review from last year and I really think it’s gotten even better. Nothing was that terribly salty at all (my partner in crime is very keen to point this out when appropriate, and she did not make that observation once!) and it wasn’t even that noisy; though it was Sunday, it was definitely packed by 7 p.m.
The smoked yellowtail collar is one of the most delicious dishes I’ve had anywhere lately, and the pastas (we had the fusilli with clams and the gnocchi with oxtail ragu) were absolutely spectacular.
One thing is for sure, we lucked out that our neighbors all around were pleasant because they is some close quarters! Our new friends on one side ordered so much food they were kind enough to share with us – so I got to try the tortellini in brodo too, damn good. The polenta cake with almond paste and blueberries was great too, and one other note – everything that was supposed to be was served piping hot. My Dad taught me to appreciate that hot food should be, you know, served HOT. And it was. We will definitely be back for round 2 – whole orata and bagna cauda calling!
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