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Posts from January 2008

Biagio's: Paramus, NJ

I’m guessing the Bergen Record recently changed their business model and decided to ramp up their online ad revenue.  And how do you get advertisers to pay you for online ads?  Traffic.  And how do you get traffic to your website?  By having your editors share their opinions on cooking and lifestyle and restaurants and stuff?  Yeah, maybe a little.  How do you *really* get traffic to your website?  Answer:  allow anyone to use it as a soapbox.  And that’s just what the Bergen Record did when it opened up its main site and its Second Helpings food blog to reader comments a few weeks ago.  Now, idiots like you and me can post practically anything (although I’m sure they have guidelines as far as what stays up) in response to the editors (and each other). 

Did I read Second Helpings to see what Bill Pitcher was reporting on before the comments opened up?  Sure, every now and again.   But you can bet that I’m checking more often these days, hanging on every word that TruffleWhippedCreamGal says about A Mano or what SherlockGnomes says about the Allendale Bar and Grill.  Oh the Record is getting multiple hits from me every day, that’s for sure.

And what brilliant timing for the shift to open comments:  they had just published a most unflattering and somewhat brutal review of a well-loved family-run Bergen County restaurant:  Biagio’s in Paramus. 

I sat here on the morning after the review was published, reading the various comments left by fans of Biagio’s (and more here).  I was extremely entertained.  People were clearly taking this very personally.  “Attack my favorite restaurant!?!?!  How DARE you!?!?!?!  You, ma’am, have no idea what you are talking about and should be stoned, publicly.  I am officially canceling my subscription to the Bergen Record.  You need to apologize for being so mean!!! Fire her!!!!!”

The collective reaction was interesting.  I mean, you trash someone’s favorite restaurant, and you are, in essence, attacking them.  And then people hate you.  And I get that.  People have no doubt grown up with Biagio’s (the family has owned the restaurant for quite a few years).  They’ve had birthday parties there.  Graduation parties.  Weddings.   Hell on each of my two recent visits (a weekend day and a weekday night), there was a party going on in one of the private rooms (they have several for your partying pleasure).   The regulars know the owners by name and they’re known by name.  That makes people feel good.  About themselves.  About the restaurant (or, the “establishment”, as its fans like to refer to it in those comments).  Biagio’s is woven into their memories, into the fabric of their very being.  This, I think, partly explains why they don’t realize that Biagio’s simply does not serve very notable food.   Perhaps Biagio’s fans weigh those aspects more than the actual food.  Perhaps they really don’t give food much thought to begin with.  The former is no doubt true, but I’m not about to discount the latter. 

And hey, there’s nothing wrong with not giving food much thought.  I don’t give much thought to a lot of things that others are fanatic about:  clothing, electronics, cars, and pretty much everything but food (and music).  The difference, though, is that my feelings aren't hurt when a magazine reviews my crappy Onkyo receiver and gives it a bad rating:  I’m comfortable with the fact that my Onkyo receiver isn’t all that good.  It serves my needs, and that’s just fine by me. 

But it’s really not important why people like Biagio’s.  I’m sure they’re very nice people, some of whom clearly do not spell very well or write very often, but I’m not going to put much more thought into it.  All I know for sure is what I think about Biagio’s.  You want to know too.  Admit it.  That’s why you’re here, right now, reading this nonsense.  So here you go, complete with crappy cell phone pictures.

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Washing pre-washed greens: Why?

Are you of the opinion that if your vegetable is "pre-washed", you don't have to wash it?  I'm not, for the following reasons:

1)  If your spinach is coming from a bag, it's going to smell a little funky.  It's not going to smell like a spinach patch, that's for sure.
2)  I can't imagine the factories are using just plain ol' water to wash your stuff.  There has to be something else in that water.  Chlorine, or something.  I'd google and confirm, but don't care enough about it because I know I'm right.

And the biggest reason I always wash my pre-washed stuff (no, not doodie):

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Bergen Record: opens up its website to thousands of...

...thoughtful and articulate people.

When I first read that the Bergen Record's website remodel included the ability for anyone to post a comment on their stories, I thought, "oh jeez, now the Bergen Record is going to look like a blog, with countless idiotic comments on every subject."  And I'll tell you that from what I've read so far, I was right.

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2007: let downs

Right now, 10's of people all over New Jersey are wondering, "When is t:e coming out with his lists!?!!?  I can hardly wait!" they say.  But damn if I wasn't so busy putting together my 2007 lists that it's already 2008.

Some background first.


2007 was a funny year for t:e.  Not "ha-ha" funny, but strange funny.  Not strange "weird", but strange unusual.  I visited very few restaurants, although for about 6 months I ate out every single night.  I guess I stuck to the old standards, which are for another post.

But for this post, I'm going to focus on the negative, the places that sort of let me down for one reason or several.  Oftentimes it was because expectations were set too high.  Other times the food was just plain not good.

<quick aside>Anyone who reads this blog (you two know who you are) knows that I don't focus on the negative:  I try to find the interesting stuff, and I like to share it.   If you want to hear people complain about some server who made them feel less of a person, or some other restaurant-goers who were acting so horribly as to ruin their meal, or about the chef who was clearly out to get them, go to egullet or or one of the hundreds of websites seemingly devoted to the lowest common denominator, negative, nasty discussion that is just so darned easy to generate.  Go now, don't let me stop you.  Please.  I'm simply not going to be able to give you what you want.

For my part, I'll say I didn't like something, and I'll explain why.  And usually it's not because someone hurt my feelings.  </quick aside>

So here they are, the let-downs of 2007:

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