The Epicure’s Poop

According to my dictionary, the word “epicure” means “a person with refined tastes, especially in food or drink”.

David Ramsay, who writes The Epicure’s Fork for the Leader-Post might well be an epicure. But you sure can’t tell by the content of his weekly puff-pieces.

The Epicure’s Fork appears every Friday in the Leader-Post. Ramsay’s column is a tragic, under-seasoned and half-collapsed souffle — basically a boring business profile with a huge photo. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be doing, but it’s obviously sure as hell not a restaurant review, as those have a little thing called criticism.

Did I say boring? That’s mean, I should let you judge for yourself. From today’s column about the restaurant Bavarian Forest:

Despite having strong German roots, Viktor and his wife, Olga, were attracted by the Canadian lifestyle and eventually made the decision to emigrate to this country.

About two years ago, they arrived in Regina, which they chose after travelling extensively through Western Canada. They saw an opportunity here to open an authentic Bavarian-style restaurant in a province with a large German population.

About a year ago, Victor started an extensive renovation of what had previously zzzzzzzzz.

Snore. About a year ago I fell asleep reading this junk. Dull as dust and an insult to the intelligence of Leader-Post readers (not to mention an embarrassment to the paper’s legitimate writers).

Every week  this column reads exactly like advertorial copy — to the point one wonders if Ramsay lets the owners of whatever restaurant is that week’s subject proof his columns. It’s not just appalling, it’s offensive to anyone interested in real criticism because it lowers the standards of critical discourse — I mean, just look at this one. Or this one. Or this one. I love a couple of these places and I wouldn’t publish this simpering pap.

Making things even more gruesome is the fact that Bavarian Forest is the subject of today’s daily Swarm Jam promotion. Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe it’s not. You can decide for yourself. I’m guessing coincidence because I find it hard to believe that a respected, nearly 125-year-old daily newspaper would trash its credibility by exchanging favourable articles for a few crummy ad dollars.

This column needs to be cancelled. That’s all there is to it.

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting his career a terrible, terrible mistake.

27 thoughts on “The Epicure’s Poop”

  1. prairie dog does restaurant reviews already, so why get all exercised because the “competition” writes puff pieces? You own the market, fellas.

  2. Barb: first off, I don’t want the LP to suck. I have friends working there. Besides, I want my town to have a good daily paper.

    Plus, every comedian needs a straight man.

    Second, readers might love our irregularly-appearing dining column. Restaurants, not so much. From a business standpoint, honest reviews such as we run are a bad idea and columns like this perpetrate that status quo by deforming advertiser expectations. You say we “own the market?” Ha ha ha, no. Hardly.

    The restaurants that DO advertise with us are heroes. Please support them.

    Bottom line: columns like this blur the difference between advertising and editorial. (If it was marked “advertorial”, I’d say go nuts. That’s fair. But it’s not.)

    The reason I’m picking on this particular installment is that the Swarm Jam tie-in just makes the whole thing look like a blowjob. If the Bavarian Kitchen was promised this article as part of an advertising buy–and I’m not suggesting or even hinting it was; I don’t know that–then the Leader-Post is not a newspaper. It’s a flyer. Simple as that.

    And Regina–not to mention the LP’s excellent reporters — deserves better than a daily flyer pretending it’s a newspaper.

  3. Me thinks thou protest too much Stephen, and I think this is a case of the kettle calling the pot black.

    The prairie dog prints “restaurant reviews”, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rating below 3 out of 5. So how realistic are your “reviews”? When every restaurant is at least average to excellent it kind of negates the validity of the reviews. Essentially, you’re printing an advertising piece – same as the LP. Certainly the Dog’s pieces aren’t as gushing, but really it’s the same thing.

    The fact of the matter is, that for a long time there hasn’t been very many good or interesting restaurants in Regina. So I congratulate the Dog for printing “reviews” and I also commend the LP for printing their articles. If your articles and the LP’s articles get people more interested in dining, so much the better. Maybe some day we’ll get a real restaurant culture in Regina and then you can print some real reviews.

  4. Reinhold: Most restaurants are average. That’s what average means. Don’t call our hard work advertising copy. We don’t accept money for our columns–in fact we lose business by printing them. Guaranteed.

  5. You missed my point Stephen. I don’t disagree that there are a lot of average restaurants out there, but there’s likely a lot of crummy ones as well.

    What I said is I don’t recall ever seeing a rating below 3 out of 5. I could be wrong, but I think I’m right – prove me wrong.

    Why don’t we see “reviews” in the Dog pointing out crummy restaurants?

  6. Reinhold : actually, what you said was:

    “Essentially, you’re printing an advertising piece – same as the LP.”

    Which is assholish. We are “essentially” not doing that at all.

    So you want some bad reviews. That’s a hard thing to help you with. It’s true that very few of our reviews have ever been under three (two that come to mind are Johnny Fox’s and Bonanza, both from a long time ago). That’s because very, very few restaurants are that crummy. If a place is 2.5/5 or worse–a “D” or an “F” grade–it might not stay open long enough to get reviewed, right?

    Also keep in mind as a biweekly paper that doesn’t run dining reviews every issue, we only print about 14-16 reviews in a year–so not a lot of opportunity to find these “gems”.

    Have you ever read dining columns in other cities? I have, and I do, and they seem to average out in a similar way to ours. This is a function of reality–most places are “okay” or “not bad”.

    Almost every review we run does have criticism in it, however. The LP column? Not a negative speck of punctuation. Okay, so it’s not a review. Fair enough. What is it then? Boring as hell at best, and sleazy pandering to potential (and actual) advertisers at worst.

    That’s worth a blog post.

    Seriously, if you think our dining reviews are comparable to the The Epicure’s Fork, I can’t talk to you.

    If you want to compare something we do to the Epicure’s Fork, you’ll have to wait for Best Of Food, which is by nature positive. But again, unlike Epicure, it’ll be very, very entertaining.

    (I’m logging off now before my publisher drives over here, kicks my door in and wrestles me away from the comment field. He’s seen me descend into blog comment madness before.)

  7. Why so serious Stephen?

    In all of this you forgot that I also gave the Dog kudos for printing restaurant reviews and the Dog has done this on a consistent basis. Hopefully, between the Dog and LP we’ll see more interest generated in the Regina dining scene.

    yours sincerely,

  8. What defines the Leader-Post isn’t necessarily the Swarm Jam tie-in but the fact that that page above is 80% advertising copy and only 20% story. There you go. And I bet if I looked it up, it’s not even a good story. As for the Ep’s Fork, if it’s a perk for an ad buy, that’s low, because it only gets by on its sincerity; otherwise, it’s a decent effort. Do love the ‘mean’, though.

  9. Really, I think you guys should call shit out like this more often. I think there are more people than you think who are underwhelmed by unfortunate excuses for writing like this. I’m not saying start a balls-out war (YES START A BALLS-OUT WAR) but this needs to be criticised badly. It’s an insult to the history of the paper, it’s an insult to the genuine journalists working there, and it’s an insult to (most of) the people who read the LP and the SP. News media in this country is bought and paid for mainly by private interests, and it’s past time we took a long hard look at things. (Also when I win the lottery I will give you a bajillion dollars if you start a balls-out war with the Star-Phoenix. And John Germley. That is all.)

  10. I just want to assure the fine makers of Hendrick’s gin that I’m not with this Whitworth fellow. I don’t even know him really. I mean, we’re not close. If you want to get some good notices in a humble weekly online drinking column published on the blog of a Canadian biweekly newspaper, I’m your man. A couple bottles of your delightfully curious spirit — even one — would seal the deal.

    Same goes for the makers of Kraken Rum, Zubrowka vodka and, well, any distiller, really. I’m not that picky when it comes down to it.

    Consider Thursday Night Loaded open for business!

  11. I’m still waiting for some examples of this “really excellent” L-P reporting.

  12. Since we’re not really on the topic of German food…can anyone tell me where I can get a good pretzel in this town? Go to many cities and you’ll find great home-made pretzels as a staple item of pub and restaraunt menus. (Portland come to mind…terrific city for a pint and a pretzel)
    I walked into this new German restraunt with great anticipation, and walked away dejected. When the best pretzel you can find in town comes from the west concourse of the Brant Centre during Pats games, there is a serious hole in the market that needs to be filled. Bavarian Forest, pick up your game or the L-P fellating you for ad money won’t be enough to keep you in business.

  13. You can also include Fine Lifestyles Regina/Saskatoon in this discussion. When an acquaintance of mine was editing the Regina magazine he sent out solicitations via Facebook and the Sask Writers Guild seeking writers.

    The pitch noted that writers were needed for two types of articles:(1)Features, which he described as longer stories not tied to a particular advertiser and (2) Advertorial, which were typically business profiles that were part of an advertising package purchased by a client and subject to the client’s approval.

    In the magazine, they’re not labelled advertorial, of course. They’re presented as legit articles. But really, I doubt there’s much difference between the “features” and “advertorial” anyway.

  14. I like advertorials that are written well, that contain useful information and that are labelled as such; I hate advertorials that are written with bloated, inflated, cliched awe that are not labelled. Even more, I hate “legitimate” news stories that are written with bloated, inflated, cliched awe that are written like shit.

  15. I don’t have a problem with Ramsay’s tea columns. Not my cup, haha, but not written like an advertorial.

  16. What’s worse? Well-written, informative advertorial, or, one-source, rip’n read/rip’n rewrite press release off the fax with no balance, context, analysis, brain, passed off as a journalistic news story? Or, “independent”, editorialist scrawl full of “here’s my gut feeling” backed by a bunch of “..and here’s what he said and she said in other publications, though you never really know and we’re not jumpin to no conclusions nor are we talking to them ourselves” type jive? Clearly, we’re in a state of journalistic disarray anyway you cut it.

  17. I think the best part of the Epicure’s Fork is the photo, how many tries do they get at “smile uncomfortably at the camera while shoving a plate of food into it”?

  18. Dewdney Lewvan, Table 10 (the restaurant that replaced The Crushed Grape by 13th Avenue Safeway) has homemade pretzels on offer with soup. They are delicious and I recommend them.

  19. They have pretty good pretzels at Oskar’s Sausage Haus on 11th. Also I enjoy all the meat and cheese there. Pick up a smoked turkey sausage and a pretzel for a snack and you’ll want another later.

  20. It sure was strange that when I went to the “” site to ask a question – the page came up with Stephen Whitworth’s March 18, 2011 article/rant about the Bavarian Forest Restaurant and Lounge in Regina. What I wanted to ask was “What the heck happened”??? We drove by last night and their big sign is down and large posters are plastered on their front doors saying: “For Lease”

    What with the great Leader-Post article, I thought that this place would last for at least a couple of years – not just 10 months.

    Just wondering!!!


    Sylvia Aitken

  21. I agree, what happened??? I used to go there quite a bit and just recently with a party of about 20 and the place was full! I used to live in Germany and I absolutely loved the fact that I could get my Schnitzel and good german beer here. I’m so disappointed it didn’t work out for them! Anyone have any info?

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