CRITICAL MESS 

The wall between editorial and advertising is flimsy at best at St. Louis Connoisseur

You say you're sick and tired of reading about burnt chicken in my column? You think I've got my head up my butt about guacamole? Can't stand it when I use words like "unconscionable"? Well, you're gonna love St. Louis Connoisseur, a publication whose restaurant reviews define sweetness and light and the hardest word is "delectable."

I discovered St. Louis Connoisseur when a friend, chuckling, showed me their glossy sales brochure aimed at potential advertisers. The letterhead says that St. Louis Connoisseur is our city's "quintessential dining and possessions" magazine. Seems that restaurants that advertise regularly are guaranteed positive dining reviews every two years, are highlighted in feature articles once a year and even get "mentioned in several columns designed to "name-drop' (the) establishment."

Wondering how this might jibe with SLC's mission statement ("to maintain a magazine that is editorially strong"), I picked up a copy. Sure enough, all six reviews were pink and rosy. One writer even included this gushing wink at the restaurant owner: "Tom, I wrote it just like you told me to." Naturally, my first thoughts were of the poor writers; imagine the difficulty -- nay, the horror -- of having to compose lyric flatteries on behalf of the spaghetti at Cicero's! Then it dawned on me that these guys have it pretty good. Unlike me, they get to stroll into the joint undisguised, announce, "I'm the reviewer from St. Louis Connoisseur -- lick my boots!" and let the good times roll. Now that's livin'....

Do what I'd do if I had the time: Sign up for a tasting class at the Wine Merchant. They offer, among others, "Burgundy on a Budget," "Intro to France" and "Wine & Cheese Pairing." Prices range from $20-$50. Call 863-6282 for reservations....

Comfort food of the month: the "Try Our Pot Roast" at Hot Locust. Perfect.

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