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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Herald Food Bites Bites the Dust

Monterey County plays home to hundreds and hundreds of restaurants. Every single resident is impacted by the industry, either fundamentally (because they're one of the masses who works the kitchens and tabletops from Moss Landing to Lucia), or directly because they eat out, or indirectly (because restaurants and events like Pebble Beach Food & Wine bring in big crowds and big income). Most of us are impacted in more ways than one.

So when the Monterey County Herald quietly scrapped two regular food columns—which happen to be some of its strongest elements, food or not—it didn't make a lot of sense to this omnivore with an admitted appetite for good food, wine and journalism.

"He Said, She Said"—the restaurant review in Go!—is sayonara. Same goes for "Food Bites," Mike Hale's stew pot of food updates and items, most recently appearing in Wednesday's Taste section.

I know the corporate fathers of the paper are more into bottom lines than community commitment, and find savings in slashing staff (I sense more cuts coming) who covers local beats in favor of vanilla fare from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. But still.

The insiders I know weren't ready to go on the record with their understandings of why the food coverage was skewered like jerk chicken. "There's no right answer I can give," one said. So I called Publisher Gary Omernick.

My three or four calls went unanswered. Somewhere in the sequence I noticed his outgoing message changed to an out-of-the-office reply (coincidence, I'm sure).

The best I could surmise from my contacts is that his response to the groundswell of e-mails asking Why abandon a helpful local connection point? is this:

The decision to discontinue the food review column was based on readership and available resources… while we believe the readership of the column to be loyal, it was not a comparably large audience compared to other readership initiatives.

May our cleaning staff forgive me for ralphing a perfectly good lunch on the linoleum—is the readership initiative more syndicated stuff like nutritionist Barbara Quinn, which replaced Food Bites this week? Is it more theater stories in Go!, given that they often run several, though there's only a handful of houses in town, counting high school shops?

Ray Napolitano has followed the food and wine scene locally for decades, first as a club/restaurant manager, then as a wine rep, then writing Special Edible's forefather food flavorings, Food Chain, for seven years or so.

"It doesn't seem very sensible," he says. "My guess is that is a good barometer that, financially, the paper is in deep sh*t. In a community like this where there are more resturants per capita than almost anywhere, to not have a connection between the local daily and the restaurants is really a sad and mournful day."

True dat. Cue the frowny faces. :(...