Main Line Today Butters Up the Blue Bell et al.

by artfuldiner on July 31, 2014

in Breaking News, Culinary Criticism, Opinion, Pennsylvania

Blue Bell Inn - ExteriorThe Blue Bell Inn, 601 Skippack Pike, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, sporting new proprietors and a year’s worth of multimillion-dollar renovations, reopened its doors on April 7, 2014, to decidedly mixed online – Yelp, Open Table, Trip Advisor, etc. – reviews. My own critique, posted in May, noted that while the updated interior was quite impressive (and also exceedingly noisy), the food could best be described as “mediocre” – and even that designation was stretching the point a bit.

However, I was not at all surprised to find, upon reading the August issue of Main Line Today, that their restaurant reviewer, Ken Alan, had given the reincarnated Blue Bell an absolutely glowing appraisement. Interestingly enough, while he spent a good deal of space salivating over the interior makeover, his references to the cuisine were quite minimal, punctuated by what I would consider the usual number of generic generalizations. His only quibble: On two occasions, the entrées arrived before the appetizers had been cleared. However, in the very next sentence he quickly succeeded in ameliorating this minor aspersion by suggesting that co-owner Scott Dougherty, a former manager at the Blue Bell, would undoubtedly move ASAP to remedy this incongruous faux pas.

Avero - Exerior1It seems that Mr. Alan has never met a restaurant he didn’t like – and the same may be said for his partner in dine, Amy Strauss. In the October 2013 issue of the magazine, for example, when Wayne’s newly opened Avéro Craft Pizzeria – subsequently renamed Avéro Bar Italiano – was already in the process of collecting a kitchen full of significantly less than stellar reviews, this writer’s among them, Ms. Strauss simply gushed all over it. A “Feast in the Round,” she bubbled on and on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam 

In the early 1970s, the late Jay Jacobs, restaurant critic for Gourmet magazine from 1972 – 1986, was prohibited from writing negative criticism by the magazine’s editorial ground rules…  But Mr. Jacobs still managed to get his well-aimed swipes in; and the magazine and the readers were far richer for his erudition, rapier-like wit, and delightfully humorous use of language.

This brings up a number of interesting points… Chief among them: Are Mr. Alan & Ms. Strauss specifically instructed not to pen overtly negative comments about individual restaurants? I have no way of knowing… But from my own study of their reviews, it appears that even the most innocuous of adverse remarks tend to be sugar coated. I also don’t think that Main Line Today would run the risk of alienating potential advertising dollars by publishing a blatantly negative restaurant review. All of this, of course, is just idle speculation.

One fact, however, seems quite apparent. The articles penned by Mr. Alan and Ms. Strauss strike me as nothing less than rah-rah public relations propaganda. Not only are they misleading, in the sense that they purport to be unbiased critically incisive restaurant reviews, they are also of precious little help to potential diners in separating the gastronomic wheat from the chaff.

I mean, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist – or a food critic – to recognize that all restaurants are not created equal. So which establishments, for example, serve first-rate cuisine and give a decent bang for the buck… and which do not? I don’t think that’s too much to ask. But from this dynamic duo – having, apparently, never encountered a less than praiseworthy eatery – there is nary a hint, much less a negative vibration in this regard, leaving their readers between a rock and a hard place… and scrambling to find more reliable sources of information.

Bon Appétit!


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

steve August 28, 2014 at 8:51 am

Well said!

steve August 28, 2014 at 8:51 am

Well said!

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