Lam-Basted, Then Roasted

Who's more untrustworthy: Ian or a Munchkin?

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Bistro Alexander

Cafe, September 6, 2007

Wow! I recently picked up a copy of the RFT and came upon Ian Froeb's review, "Fare St. Louis," about Bistro Alexander in Clayton. After reading it, I remembered why I quit reading the RFT some years back: It became an unreliable reference for good movie-going. Is the food critique going the same way? I'm curious to know what, besides Ian Froeb's own hubris, qualifies him to be, in one neat package, a food critic and a design guru. What culinary school did he attend? Or did he, as I suspect, wake up one day and decide that, in the world of wannabes, being a critic was a good fit? I guess those who can't do criticize those who can.

His review is fraught with food errors, too. When did crab cakes become required bistro fare? If we go by his rant about tuna tartare, then one should applaud "bites" instead of the old worn-out "cakes" as a more updated take on the use of crab. And a fricassee is cut up pieces of meat that are then stewed. Perhaps Froeb was unfamiliar with the term. The sweetbreads, by the way, sell out every night. And when is the last time he actually visited a French bistro? Steak is intentionally placed on the pomme frites for precisely the reason that framed your objection, i.e. to soak up some of the drippings from the steak. It's not a "design flaw" at all, but an authentic replication of French bistro fare. Onions are never, God forbid, flavored with tobacco, but instead derive their name from their color. And the repeated reference to too much salt has not been my experience either.

I do agree the dessert menu is very professionally chosen and executed. And the Meyer lemon soufflé is one of my favorites, too. And Froeb is right: Matt Rolens is a chef with talent, so perhaps that explains why several very talented chefs in St. Louis have called and advised him to ignore what Froeb had to say. It is, to use their words, typical of what Ian Froeb has to offer.

My friends and I have been dining at the bistro since its opening. It has been favorably reviewed by the Post-Dispatch and featured on Show Me St. Louis. What might frame the reason Ian Froeb's review is so out of step with others? Perhaps the Riverfront Times appeals to the wrong St. Louis demographic. Maybe it is political, as has been suggested by more than one voice after reading the review. That, if true, would be truly lamentable.

I have been advised to ignore his review. It is routinely understood that Froeb's purpose is not to credibly advise St. Louis consumers about where to dine in our town. Shame on all of you! We St. Louisans deserve better. When ego gets too much in the way of objectivity, then it is time to move on.
Judy Leo, St. Louis

news real, june 27, 2007

Mickey Carroll says the darndest things: I am Michael Sragow's research associate for his upcoming biography of Victor Fleming, to be published by Pantheon. We were told very early on to avoid Mickey Carroll, and the six Munchkin actors we interviewed all said the same thing [Chad Garrison, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"].

It's not that he wasn't a Munchkin. It's that for more than ten years, he's never let facts get in the way of any of his stories, and they've gotten more elaborate over the years. For instance, he claims Judy Garland offered him the Munchkin role. Didn't happen. Could not possibly have happened.

Also, it's not his voice telling Garland to go down the Yellow Brick Road. The Munchkins, just like the principal actors, lip-synched to recorded playback. In another interview, Carroll claimed it was his idea to have the Munchkins skip-dance, and he so advised Fleming. Also didn't happen. There were a choreographer and an assistant choreographer.

Ex-Munchkins aren't magical people. Mickey Carroll, most of the time, is full of crap. And that's fine. He's not the only former Munchkin with more ballyhoo than facts. But you could incorporate a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge when writing about him in the future.
Kurt Jensen, Alexandria, Virginia

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