Sunday, January 29, 2006

Courier-Journal notes “passing of the fork” as restaurant critic Susan Reigler moves to travel writing.

It’s time to shuffle the deck in Gannettland.

The changing dining scene; Unveiled critic recalls expansion, by Susan Reigler, Courier-Journal critic.

My byline will be moving to Sundays, where I'll soon have a new beat as The Courier-Journal's travel writer in an expanded, stand-alone Travel section that has its premiere Feb. 12.

Instead of bon appetit, I will be wishing you bon voyage!

It certainly doesn’t sound like a demotion, does it?

But overall, it’s a Cal Ripkin sort of moment.

Susan’s done 662 C-J dining columns since May, 1992; eerily, I began my labors at Rich O’s Public House a month or so later. If memory serves, her first review of our place was in 1995 (it was positive for the most part, and we eventually replaced the ratty carpet, anyway).

It’s true that over the years, Susan came to be a regular weekly visitor to Rich O’s owing to another of her many sidelines, music, and I’m proud to say that we’ve served her a pint or two of fine ale along the way.

As for the other side of the coin, I’ve tended to sidestep criticisms of the critic, who has caught her fair share of flak -- served piping hot by some area foodies and a few others who feel a lingering and perfectly understandable contempt for the mass-market journalistic practices of Gannett.

It’s a discussion that I won’t join, because restaurant criticism’s not my line – beer is, and as such, what I’m most thankful to Susan for undertaking over the years is the inclusion in her reviews of information about beer, where once only wine selections were noted.

For almost 14 years, Susan’s taken an interest in the beer list as well as the wine list, and although there hasn’t always been sufficient space to explore the topic in depth, she’s been willing to ask the question: Why great food with purely pedestrian beer?

Eventually Susan pioneered the C-J’s “Drinks” column, and often featured Louisville area breweries. She’s done much to help raise awareness of beer in the metro Louisville area – and that’s worth four stars to me.

There’ll be a reorganization of the newspaper’s food and drink department, with food and cooking guru Sarah Fritschner in charge and Ron Mikulak right behind her, and with freelance critical assistance from Marty Rosen, the IUS librarian and my choice for best pure writer of anyone in the area.

Let's hope that the C-J gives Marty the words he needs to shine. When you're as good as he is, 350's a travesty.

And remember -- if Susan needs help with the beer travel itinerary, I’m only a phone call away.

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