After three years at PW, food critic Adam Erace is moving on. He’ll be replaced by the very capable Brian Freedman, whose first review can be found here. Before Adam goes to City Paper, we thought we’d ask him a few questions.
How do you rate food and restaurants?
Food is always the most important thing. There’s a lot I can excuse if the food is amazing. Service and atmosphere play a role, but both are relative to where you’re eating. But value is a constant, not how expensive a place is, but the question of what you’re getting for your money. PW pays for all my meals, so I always ask myself if I would pay my own money for what I’m eating. If the answer’s yes, I know I’m at a solid restaurant.
What do you tell people from other cities about Philly’s food scene?
I tell them “Philly sucks. Stay away.” We don’t need them taking up all the tables. But tourists are a pushy lot, so when they insist, I tell them how Philly has grown, organically, into one of the best food cities in the country. I tell them how this isn’t a town of multimillion-dollar 19-partner restaurants, how we grow our own talent rather than import it, how a 25-year-old chef with a couple bucks, a lot of patience with the health department and a map of IKEA can open his own place. I tell them how Philly has always been a city of immigrants, immigrants that can cook, and whether it’s trippa alla Romana, pho or carnitas tacos, authentic ethnic food is never out of reach here. I tell them that diners know their shit in Philly, and that restaurants and chefs can’t front unless they want to be called out on out it. I tell them that bars with craft beer and amazing food existed here long before they existed anywhere else in the country.
"Sometimes food writing is not as fun as people think." Any thoughts?
Sometimes readers can get really venomous. Just the other day one angry dude called me an elitist cunt, which is totally unfair and completely ruined my caviar and bottlenose-dolphin steak lunch. Other than that, food writing is exactly as fun as people think. Restaurant critics just complain about how fat we get so that no one will try and steal our jobs.
Any favorite lines from PW?
So many, since PW is so good about letting me make up words, write like I talk and shout out Lester Freamon, Rickety Cricket, Sister Mary Clarence, et al. The headline I wrote for my review of Ansill is a favorite: “It’s That Damn Ansill, So Hot Right Now.”
Any last words for the readers?
Thanks! For being into food. For reading my stuff when the classifieds are far, far more interesting. For knowing what I mean when I compare the P.O.P.E. to Fangtasia, the rippling counter at Bobby’s to Joan Holloway’s bod, the design of Distrito to John Leguizamo in To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. Without you, I’d be just another geek eating in front of the TV.
Adam's knack for unique (and uniquely vulgar) turns of phrase are always fun to read, but sometimes caused a loss of appetite for readers. Here's some of his greatest hits and worst offenses from the past three years.
Lost my appetite
Loose, lumpy and tobacco-brown, [the jägerschnitzel] tasted burned and looked better suited to a restaurant called Brauhaus Shits. (Brauhaus Schmitz, Oct. 6, 2009)
But like many of its neighbors fueling the sexploits of the spray-tanned with Cosmos and Amstel Light, Bocca appears a bit too clubby for serious restaurant consideration. Its name means “mouth” in Italian, but from the looks of it, food is not what it’s interested in eating. (Bocca, June 9, 2009)
The garlicky buttermilk dressing for the farmhouse salad looked like it had been applied by Peter North. (MidAtlantic, Dec. 15, 2009)
Welcome to Varga Bar, named for Alberto Vargas, the Peruvian-born painter whose va-va-voom pin-up girls were responsible for more than a few honorable discharges during World War II. (Varga Bar, Aug. 18, 2009)
If I don’t have a lot of money but would like to drink a lot of booze, I should try … sleeping with a bartender.