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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.