On Writing and Whole Foods
Thoughts on writing restaurant reviews, plus what you need to know about the new Whole Foods
It has been pointed out more than once that I tend to skew towards the positive in my writing. That's not always the case, but generally it's a fair cop. Here's the main reason why: I don't like to eat bad food.
If I have a bad meal at a restaurant, I'm not likely to return. Why would I? There are already places in New Orleans that I don't have time to revisit because I'm on to the next new joint. Maybe it's because I'm more or less officially middle-aged now, but it has occurred to me that I have only so many meals left. I love you people, and I love this writing gig, but not enough to risk having two bad meals.
That said, I was talking to a friend recently about a restaurant I covered a few months ago. It wasn't the best meal I've ever had, but it wasn't bad either, and that's more or less what I said. He interpreted it as a full-on negative review. That's not what I intended, but I could see what he meant. I don't typically write negatively, so a less than enthusiastic review came off as a pan. If you regularly read what someone thinks about food, books, art, wine or decorative topiaries, you'll almost certainly end up with a barometer by which to compare their taste with your own.
It doesn't have to be someone with whom you agree, either. I know that if certain critics hate a film, there's a good chance I'll like it, for example. But more often I gravitate toward writers whose opinions and tastes I generally share, at least when I'm trying to decide what to read, where to eat, or how many Dalmations it takes to make a coat.
So if you follow this blog and notice that I sometimes am a bit faint with my praise, I hope that you understand I am not actually slamming a place. I've done it, and it's entirely possible I'll do it again, but for the most part if I'm writing about a meal, it's because I at least found it good enough to warrant comment.
There's another sort of writing I do here, of course, which is to share news. News such as the opening of a new Whole Foods Market in Mid-City, for instance.
I live in Mid-City, and from the moment I heard about the new Whole Foods, I was pretty excited. The old Schwegmann's at the corner of Broad and Bienville has been more or less derelict for years, so any development would have been preferable, but as I have noted in the past I shop at Whole Foods for certain things and the thing was ideal from my perspective.
All of which meant that my expectations were unreasonably high, so it's not all that surprising that the new Whole Foods disappointed me a bit. First things first: It's a Whole Foods, so you will find a good selection of excellent produce, the best meat and seafood offerings of any major retailer, cheese, wine and tons of organic items.
As Whole Foods goes, however, this is a pretty modest store. Yes, 25,000 square feet sounds like a lot, and it is if you're talking about a residence, but the place is small in comparison to the Metairie Whole Foods and it feels smaller than the one on Magazine Street. What that means as a practical matter is that you won't find quite the variety of products you will at those other stores, and that seemed to me to be true across the board.
It's also small in the parking lot department. Not as small as the Uptown store, and I imagine that once it's been open a few weeks the crowds will start to diminish, but as of now it's damn near impossible to get a parking space without driving around for 10 minutes or so.
None of these problems are deal-breakers in my opinion, because while Whole Foods tends to be a little more expensive than its competitors, if you shop with an eye for bargains, you can make out like a bandit. There's an organic baby food that my 20-month-old daughter loves (because of course she does), for example, that is .20 less at Whole Foods than either Rouses or Winn-Dixie; bulk beans, grains, rice and nuts are usually good deals, too, and the Whole Foods store-brand products are almost always high quality and reasonably priced.
Combine all of that with the aforementioned meat and seafood counters, and I'm still delighted the store moved into my neighborhood. I may not be as starry-eyed as I was, but I'm still smitten.
Hopefully that was at least critical enough to give me some credibility?