Menu Please: Au Revoir

It hasn’t gone unnoticed by some A News Cafe readers that Femme de Joie has been missing in action. (Some have said nothing, no doubt applauding her absence.)  After a long sabbatical, Femme de Joie has decided to retire Menu Please. There are several reasons, primarily diversions in her personal life that mean less time to devote to it, as well as a sort of ennui that has set in. There are only so many ways to write, “The chicken was tender but the carrots were mushy” without repeating oneself.

Menu Please began as a lark on a blog because Femme de Joie had the hubris to think she had something worthwhile to say by writing restaurant criticism and reviews. Her plan: to only write about local places (no chains), never accept anything for free without publicly disclosing it and not allowing it to influence her opinion, and to never write about any restaurant she couldn’t be impartial about.

People seemed to take an interest – for better or worse – in this column when it  began running on A News Cafe as a regular feature. Doni took a big chance by allowing Femme de Joie to write as she saw fit – which cost Doni at least one advertiser. Many years ago That Newspaper In Town had a restaurant reviewer who never said anything bad about a restaurant because – quel surprise – the restaurants were all advertisers, or management wanted them to become advertisers, and in a small town you can’t afford to print anything bad about someone whose money you want.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Eight. Years. Ago. The first Menu Please review was eight years ago. That’s considerably longer than the average lifespan of a restaurant (five years).  Eight years of California rolls, pan-Asian Fusion nachos, Mexican combo plates, club sandwiches, sides of house-made potato salad, daily soups, chicken fried steak, and one order of chop suey.  Eight years of longtime Redding institutions, tiny cafes, shiny hipster dives, drive-ins, fine dining, food trucks, promising startups, and faded glory. One case of food poisoning (that restaurant was never reviewed).

Averaging it out, Femme de Joie thinks she probably wrote more positive reviews than bad; the negative reviews garnered a lot more attention.On good days she hoped to be able to give a deserving business a boost with a good review; on really good days she marveled at how far food in Redding had come. On bad days she regretted not calling it I Eat This Crap So You Don’t Have To.

Closing the book on Menu Please hasn’t been an easy decision. Femme de Joie feels a bit of a pang when she visits a restaurant that really deserves some kudos. (She also feels a bit of relief when she eats at a place that does not deserve kudos, knowing she wont’ ever have to darken their door again.) She is grateful to friends who accompanied her to restaurants knowing she would strongly suggest they order different things, who waited patiently while she photographed their food and then let her taste it, and who listened to her whine when she had to go back to a place she didn’t want to go back to. Mostly she is grateful to Amico del SIgnore for all the plates shared over the years.

How would the French put it? Let’s not say goodbye but au revoir.

Femme de Joie
Femme de Joie's first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.
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53 Responses

  1. George T. Parker says:

    I’m sorry to see you go, Femme de Joie. I always looked forward to your honest reviews of local eateries. It’s how I found out about some of them, and your reviews sometimes gave me the nudge I needed to stop at some little, local place instead of drive by while asking myself “I wonder if that place is any good?”.

    Thank you for the years. You will be missed.

  2. CoachBob says:

    Too bad, I wanted to rip the new Mexican place on Hartnell. Oh well….good ride!

  3. Beverly Stafford says:

    Waaaaahhhhh!  You and your columns will be missed, dear Femme.  Thanks for all your past columns.  The ennui wasn’t apparent to anyone but you.   A toast to you and your new endeavors, and here’s to fewer mushy carrots.

  4. Darcie says:

    Very sorry to see you go.  Your style of writing the reviews was always entertaining.    You will be missed but I wish you all the best in future endeavors.  Thanks for giving us eight years!

  5. Jon Lewis says:

    Eight years? Wow. That’s a career in any league! Thanks for the insight and entertainment. Wishing you safe and savory trails. 

  6. AJ says:

    What George said, and many times over.   Without your encouraging revue,  I might never have tried the place about which you wrote so positively, where I had the very best egg white/ feta cheese/spinach omelette I have ever had in my life …. and I made sure the chef heard me say that. Although, some might suggest that with those ingredients one my question my taste.

    You will be missed no matter which language you choose to say goodbye. Adios, aloha, sayonara, aufweidersen, toodeloo, ,,,,, and none of them mean you can’t come back for a visit occasionally.

  7. Erin says:

    In a town this large it’s kind of amazing that there isn’t more good food, n’est pas? I’ll miss your sly commentary, even handed critiques, and witty prose. Bonne chance!

  8. Frank Strazzarino says:

    Great job! So………………is it time for “the great reveal”? We even found out Deep Throat’s name.

    • I won’t disclose. It’s not mine to tell. But I will say that the problem with “the great reveal” is that her cover would be blown in the event she ever wants to return, or in the event she visits a place so great or so abysmal that she feels it’s her duty to write a review.

  9. Ginny says:

    Thanks for the years of enjoying!

    Sorry to see a good column go, but as with life, all things change!  Sometimes for the good, and other times for the bad.  But I understand wanting to go onto bigger and better things.  ;o)

     

  10. Sorry to see you go, Femme. I enjoyed reading about some of my old haunts in Redding when I left for the big lights in the City of Lights (and now the quiet ocean port) ; nice to relive some of places I knew.  Best of luck wherever your stomach takes you. If you ever find yourself on the Brittany shore the first plate huitres (oysters) and a bottle of Muscadet is on me.  Oh, and the French do say “au revoir” but it’s better to say “a bientot”…until next time….so much more friendly..;-)

  11. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    The dreaded ennui.  Sister, I feel you.  Thanks for the years of fine writing.  My first experiences at more than a handful of local eateries came after reading your reviews.  I’ve steered clear of a few others based on your reviews.

    This Yelp review from years ago by Buzz F starts out with an observation regarding the difference between the guy who writes restaurant reviews for the newspaper and, it could be said, Mme de Joy’s reviews.

    Ciao, bella.

    An aside:  There are a few joints around town that are on their third owner, but retain the original name (e.g., Cafe Paradiso).  Is the thinking that the brand has some high value?  The ownership turnover is often a result of the ship taking on water faster than it can be bailed.  If the restaurant has been performing badly prior to sale, the new owner inherits the former owner’s reviews on social media.  Lastly, you don’t get to enjoy any “let’s-check-the-new-place-out” bump.  I confess, I don’t understand the math.

  12. Peggy says:

    Gosh..I always read and enjoyed your reviews….your honesty was so appreciated and refreshing. I will miss you!!!!

  13. Tom O'Mara says:

    C’est domage, Femme de Joie. Somehow, I feel I will see you again, in another life. . .

  14. DougM says:

    Arrgh!

    Who now is going to be able to  use “ennui” in a sentence? My level of culture will drop 20 points!

    You will be missed:(

  15. The Old Pretender says:

    Well that is bad news.  I was waiting for the Casa Rios Grill review.  Just wondered if you’d love the chili verde burrito as much as I do.  🙂

  16. Kate says:

    Sad to hear this.  Your reviews were helpful and in my opinion spot on based on my own dining experiences in the Redding area.  Best of luck.

  17. Darbie says:

    Like everyone else, I’m sorry to see you go.

    I’ve always looked forward to your articles and heeded your wisdom.

    And….. We all would love to know the real person….. Who could she be?

  18. Jennifer Arnold says:

    I will miss your column. I have enjoyed reading it over the years and have eaten some yummy food because it 🙂 Best wishes to you in your next adventures!

  19. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    I only remember disagreeing decidedly with one of your reviews, and that was regarding a barbecue place that is now out of business. Come to think of it, the place did seem to have a misfire about 20 percent of the time, so maybe my disagreement wasn’t that decided.

    Eight years? Wow. Thank you for for all of those entertaining and informative reviews, and best of luck to you as you set out on a new course.

  20. Ginny says:

    My son and I stopped at Jeff’s on Cypress for late breakfast/early lunch.  I took the lunch for their regular Taco Salad.  Should have taken a half portion as it was so large even for the higher price.  It was the best Taco Salad I have ever had.  The meat, olives, tomatoes, etc. were all through the salad, not just on top!!!!  What a wonderful surprise, it was………  Three kinds of condiments in little cups to use, too.  All in all great.

    Maybe Madam might want want to try it sometime!  I’d sure be curious for her opinion, even if it is private!  ;o)

     

     

    • Femme de Joie Femme de Joie says:

      Dear Ginny,

      In fact, Femme de Joie did review Jeff’s Cattle Company some years ago; the report is here.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,

      Femme de Joie

       

      • Beverly Stafford says:

        Just goes to show why there are horse races.  We had breakfast once at Jeff’s – and never again.  Canned corned beef and a chewy steak are not what I would expect from a place calling itself a cattle company.

  21. Femme de Joie wasn’t just the only authentic north state restaurant reviewer,  she was one of those rare restaurant reviewers who didn’t just know cuisine, but she knew how to write. She’s smart, educated and clever. Despite what may seem a fun job, being a true restaurant reviewer is an extremely difficult job that requires multiple (anonymous) visits and keen observational skills that pick up on everything from the cleanliness of the bathrooms and whether something is canned, to customer service and decor.

    But most of all, Femme Joie artfully addressed the food, and didn’t just say whether it was liked or disliked, but exactly what led to her conclusions.

    For an idea of the breadth of her work over the last years, type “Menu Please” in our search bar and behold, more than 40o reviews, each as whip-smart and spot-on as the rest.

    Thank you, Femme de Joie, for all the hours you invested in not just this column, but in the time you took to respond so perfectly to comments. I apologize for the time you got food poisoning. I apologize for the times you took heat for a column (typically by the disbelieving owners).

    I miss you already.

    xodoni

     

  22. Bruce Ross says:

    Your set a high bar for standards in the restaurants and in your column.  Many thanks and all the best!

  23. Barb says:

    Dang it!  This truly was one of my favorite parts of this site.  Not that Doni doesn’t have other great things to offer, but I loved not only the FAIR reviews, but he excellent character writing and it amused me greatly which is not an easy feat.  I hope perhaps if you run across a particularly bad or wonderful eat, you will surprise us with a guest review~

  24. Aleta says:

    What a disappointment! Your insightful, thorough reviews have always been my “go-to” for local restaurant critiques. You will be missed!

     

  25. Karen Calanchini says:

    DARN, DARN…I  will miss the honesty, wit and great humor.

  26. Lori says:

    Super sad about this…will really miss her writing.

  27. Carrie says:

    I always loved your reviews, so professional! In plain English, I wish you well!  🙂

     

  28. Matt Grigsby says:

    You weave a beautiful tapestry of words that few could ever hope to match.  I’m not a foodie in any way and am often satisfied with a tuna sandwich or a hot dog but your reviews compelled me to seek out interesting places to expand my taste bud horizons, and I will sorely miss that.

    Thanks for the chuckles and cringes and expanding our food vocabulary.  I especially appreciate you for being so fair in your reviews.  The negative reviews were like a roadmap for a restaurant to improve things greatly and they ignored your valuable advice at their own peril.

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

    J’adore, Femme de Joie.

  29. Shelley says:

    No doubt on to bigger and better things in life.  Thank you for 8 dedicated years.  I very much enjoyed reading your reviews.

     

  30. Terry says:

    Au revoir, and merci beaucoup!

  31. Femme de Joie Femme de Joie says:

    Dear Readers,

    Well, goodness me. Femme de Joie fully expected quite a few “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”  She did not expect all the effusive thanks and well-wishes and say-it-ain’t sos, many from readers whose names aren’t familiar to her. She really didn’t know she reached so many people and that they liked what she wrote. It’s gratifying and more than a little humbling.

    Au revoir means goodbye in a certain way – voir means to see; thus au revoir means “to see again.” (Adieu literally means “to God” and is used with finality, as when someone dies or leaves forever.)  So even though it looks like Menu Please is done and gone, finis, there could be an occasional review in the future.

    So while some folks are chomping at the bit to find out M. de Joie’s real identity (even though it would probably bring a chorus of “Whozat? or “So what?”), she’s going to remain anonymous, take a little break to recharge, and possibly write again.

    As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

    Femme de Joie

    • Beverly Stafford says:

      So happy you realize the importance of your columns – and especially you – to all of us fans.  Thirty-four I’ll-miss-you’s – and counting – are from our hearts.  I hope to see you back here from time to time.  No pressure; simply know how much you mean to so many of us.

    • Femme de Joie,  your fans have spoken!

      I hope you enjoy a well-deserved break, and that you will return to us one day in whatever format you wish.

  32. Barbara Stone says:

    You will be missed, even though I think I know who you are and see you regularly…lol I’ll ask you some restaurant questions next time I see you!

    • LOL. Barbara, I recall someone (Anne, are you out there?)  who was extremely flattered that someone thought she was Femme de Joie (but she wasn’t).

      The thing about Femme de Joie is that in addition to being the best (and only) north state restaurant reviewer, she has also been a master at concealing her identity.

       

  33. Judy says:

    I loved your columns. I certainly hope you’ll be back. Enjoying your time recharging!

  34. conservative says:

    Glad you aren’t moving to Reno.  You would hate Food Truck Friday.  My daughter and I loved it in May.  We’ll be back again in four weeks!

    https://www.facebook.com/RenoStreetFood/

    35 Food trucks of every kind we could imagine  500 to 1,000 people.

    • Beverly Stafford says:

      I would think that turning the Civic Center yard into a food truck venue once a week – like Saturday Market – would be a much better place than downtown.  That way, downtown restaurants and brew pubs wouldn’t be threatened.  I didn’t see that as a problem because if I wanted a “nice” dinner, I would go to a “sit-down” place rather than patronize a food truck.

      • K. Beck says:

        This is a much better idea than having them downtown. Can’t imagine 500-1,000 Reddingites eating from food trucks. In my world you would eat at a food truck that showed up during lunch time at a work place because the work place is too far away from real restaurants, or you only had 30 minutes to eat. After that they lose their appeal!

        • Beverly Stafford says:

          One of the food channels has a feature on food trucks that do really amazing dishes in their small kitchens – not just tacos or hot dogs but ethnic dishes and desserts and ice creams.  I imagine the Food Truck Friday in Reno is something like that.

          • K. Beck says:

            ReddingVoice.com
            Anderson River Park Food Trucks
            Posted: 01 Sep 2017 06:00 AM PDT

            from: http://foodtrucksredding.com

            The wait is finally over! This Labor Day weekend Anderson River Park Food Trucks will be opening Friday, September 1, 2017 from 5-10 p.m. and Saturday, September 2, 2017 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

            Friday night trucks: American BBQ; Road Runner Cafe; Mary’s Pizza; Ritas; Slyderz; and Taco Loco.

            Saturday additional trucks: Mo Better finger Food; Crispy Egg-Roll; and What The Truck.

            100% of all beer and wind profits will be donated to the Anderson K9 unit and Anderson Explodes.

            The Park-Redding Food Trucks opening at Library Park in Redding CA has been delayed due to ABC opposition from two local property owners, food businesses and some residents at adjacent Lorenz Hotel.

  35. Richard Christoph says:

    So sad to learn that your delicious prose will no longer grace this site. Your candid and detailed reviews have introduced us to some great places we otherwise might not have tried, and helped us avoid others. But the exceptional quality of your writing and your dry, droll humor are what we will miss the most. Thanks for everything.

     

  36. name says:

    Well this is certainly not good. I was looking forward to seeing what would be reviewed next – if it was a little-known dive, a busy overpriced establishment, or maybe something in between. Your reviews/stories were always very informative, interesting, and helpful. They will be missed.

    Perhaps you could do just one more, as a going away gift to your readers?

  37. Sharon W. says:

    Thank you for those years of great writing about the agony and ecstasy of dining out. Look forward to seeing you again…please, please, please.

  38. Janet Tyrrel says:

    Catching up on my email after some traveling…SO VERY disappointed to read of your resignation.

  39. Doug Mudford says:

    Being slow to comment doesn’t mean I won’t miss your writing. I will. A smile is good for all of us. thank you.

  40. Mistress of the Mix says:

    Your reviews will be missed! I’ve so enjoyed reading your witty reviews!

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