Guy Fieri does not have a restaurant, per se, in Napa Valley. There's no Johnny Garlic's or Tex Wasabi's - you have to go to Santa Rosa for those. But his is not an unknown presence here. Several area establishments have been featured in his "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" TV series, including Squeeze Inn Hamburgers, Gott's Roadside and the Schellville Grill in nearby Sonoma.
But in the land of The French Laundry, Morimoto and The Thomas, do we really have the appetite for Fieri-bashing? Or is it really just about the hair?
This much we know: Guy Fieri took his television success to the Big Apple and opened Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Manhattan, having the audacity to do so in a space formerly occupied by the New York Times itself.
Perhaps that's why the food critic for the New York Times, Pete Wells, then decided in the interest of metropolitan sophisticates to apply the Socratic method to his review of the 500-seat restaurant, and not surprisingly came up with a scathing review.
Did you notice that the menu was an unreliable predictor of what actually came to the table?
Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are?
How did nachos, one of the hardest dishes in the American canon to mess up, turn out so deeply unlovable?
Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?
We might ask, in turn, What's going on here? Mr. Wells does not review Bubba Gumps' or Red Lobster, as Slate.com pointed out; why turn his rapier wit on Fieri?
The controversy, naturally enough, is found on the front page of today's Santa Rosa Press Democrat, whose offices are walking distance to the original Tax Wasabi's. Their food blogger Heather "Biteclub" Irwin took on the story, and works over Guy Fieri pretty well in this posting.
This will probably all blow over, as another post-election distraction along the lines of email torso shots of FBI agents. But there seems to be a certain soupçon (love that word) of California-bashing in Wells' review, as if we really don't understand food, service or quality out here in the PST.
At your five Johnny Garlic’s restaurants in California, if servers arrive with main courses and find that the appetizers haven’t been cleared yet, do they try to find space for the new plates next to the dirty ones? Or does that just happen in Times Square, where people are used to crowding?
What do you think? Is Guy Fieri representative of California cuisine, is Pete Wells engaging in surrogate California bashing? Or is it just a watermelon margarita in a tea cup?