A Feast for the Eyes
By Chuck Sudo in Food on Feb 12, 2007 8:36PM
If variety is the spice of life, then fans of online food writing just entered their own little spice house. It may seem as though these new entries are playing catch-up with the well-established, familiar bastions of food porn, but they do have different things to offer and influence established food coverage in Chicago.
Gapers Block just launched their food blog, Drive-Thru. If you're familiar with the GB style, you know what to expect. You get the concise, well-written, quick reviews on restaurants, food news, cheap eats, and bargain food shopping (an aspect of local food coverage that often flies under the radar). The one long-form post on hot cocktails is informative (but nothing we haven't seen before) and makes the unfortunate decision of establishing the writer's eventual settling in Chicago as the initial focus of the story. The layout of the page differs slightly from the parent site; it looks more like a typepad or blogger account and has a 24-hour diner motif (lots of fluorescent colors). But it's very clean and welcoming to readers. To paraphrase Orson Welles when he was a Paul Masson pitchman, Huff, Hamid and company will launch no blog before its time.
Meanwhile, we've found ourselves frequenting the Reader's "Food Chain" blog quite often. Initially, it was because we wanted to see their attempts at generating traffic and, possibly, legitimate debate, much of which just reads like extensions of their office discussions. Another problem with the Food Chain is that much of its content ("First Look," "What's New") is geared toward getting readers to pick up their copies of the Old Gray Doorstop on Thursdays, which for most of us is a force of habit anyway. Mostly, the Food Chain reads like its writers are trying to strike a balance between hard, AP-style writing and the irreverent tone (or "snark") of the Graydon Carter/Kurt Andersen-era Spy Magazine, and achieving neither. It's like the fortitude isn't there.
What they do well is the quick caplets of cookbook reviews. Mike Sula, in particular, keeps it simple, explaining why the books are good, what's notable, etc. Overall, like the rest of the Reader's blogs, there's a sense that, now that the professionals have jumped in the pool, the rest of blogdom should be relegated to the shallow end. They're finding out in increments that there's more to writing for a blog than just "synopsis, synthesis, and snark." In the particular case of food writing, there's also enough original content for everyone. They'll also find out that we can all get along and, together, leave no stone unturned covering the Chicago culinary scene. Variety is, indeed, the spice of life.