The Orange County Register's food coverage has been strangely trifurcated for a couple of years now, and that's not a good thing. Us Forkers totally love Jeff and Claudia over at Food Frenzy, giggle at Nancy Luna's Fast Food Maven blog, and howl at the carousel of news reporters that the Register trots out to review restaurants for its dead-tree edition. Some of them--all good reporters, mind you, in their regular beats--do an okay job; others are execrable.
In the latter category is Marla Jo Fisher, who does a bang-up job on the Reg's mom blog and is a veteran reporter but who couldn't write a food review if you spotted her the food and the review. I'll never forget when she dared question the knowledge of Jonathan Gold on Thai food on my Facebook page, using the rationale that she once traveled to Thailand and therefore knew more about Thai that the man who's been covering Los Angeles' hole-in-the-walls for over 20 years. But even that episode pales in comparison to the sin Fisher committed today.
She reviewed Sahara Falafel in Anaheim's Little Arabia district, a place I reviewed nearly a decade ago and one where everyone who knows food in OC enjoyed five years ago before discovering Kareem's and Olive Tree. Fisher liked the place, which shows she ain't dumb--but then she wrote a line that was plain pendeja.
"The food and the friendly atmosphere here made us quickly forget," Fisher wrote, "we were in a tiny mom-and-pop joint in a part of Anaheim more noted for its check-cashing facilities than its fine cuisine."
WHAT THE FUCK?! Sahara Falafel lies on Brookhurst Street, right in the heart of Little Arabia, home to the best enclave of Middle Eastern cuisine in the United States outside of the Detroit area. It's part of a "part of Anaheim" near Nory's, Rufino's, Tana Ethiopian, Taqueria Don Victor, Chinese seafood, mariscos places and more great eats than half the cities of South County combined. And check-cashing facilities? Very few. Only the Reg's retrograde audience would ever think of that part of Anaheim for anything other than its great restaurant scene.
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Of course, much more eloquent than me is Dave, so I'll turn the mic over to him, to the comment he left on her review:
I'm glad you liked Sahara Falafel, but it's right smack in the middle of Little Arabia, a section of Anaheim that is seeing explosive growth. It's known, at least amongst foodie circles, as a paradise of Middle Eastern foods unavailable elsewhere, including the only Khaleeji restaurants (that'd be the SE part of the Arabian peninsula) in the county, nearly a dozen bakeries selling delectable flatbreads, and as many or more specializing in dozens of varieties of phyllo-based desserts. Little Arabia is also, oddly, the home of the only Québécois restaurant in Southern California, where people (almost none of whom are under the age of 50) go for tourtière and fèves au lard and crêpes swimming in liqueur.
When will the Reg hire a food critic that actually knows its stuff? Given it's allowed so many great food writers to leave over the years (Kat Nguyen, Cindy Arora, Cynthia Furey, Niyaz Pirani--the list goes on...), we'll say never--and that's a damn shame.