There's a lot to be said for an outsider's view of things. Frankly, there's just less baggage. He/she doesn't take sides, doesn't play favorites, doesn't have a history (good or bad), so the opinions are pure. Or purer. When it comes to, oh, I don't know, a food writer from another city's take on restaurants here in Seattle? I think it's refreshing to read what they see, how they taste things. It makes me challenge my own assumptions.
But being an outsider is also a mine field. Start writing about how everyone in Seattle thinks Ivar's is so great but how you just don't get it and...uh oh. Nobody said that; Ivar's is great because, well, it's like family. See the difference?
I was an outsider when I moved to New York City in 2002. I'd been there time and time again visiting friends, but moving there to be the Restaurants Editor at Citysearch back in those days (when I had what I now think of as an almost ridicuous expense account!) meant I had to get up to speed on which restaurants mattered, and fast.
I'm guessing Hanna Raskin, the Dallas Observer food writer who'll replace Jason Sheehan at the Weekly, is in a similar spot right about now. (Sheehan, btw, is taking over the Food Editor job at Philadelphia Magazine and writing a farm-to-table book). She's probably busily reading up on which restaurants define the city, and then trying to eat at as many of them as she can so that she can start figuring us out.
That's what I did. Heck, it's what I still do when I go on vacation, go away for the weekend, when I head back to Detroit with my kids and husband to visit my inlaws. I research for hours, scouring Egullet, Chowhound, local press (from magazines to newspapers and blogs) and then I eat. I try to figure out the place I'm at through the restaurants and foods that the people who live there love.
I can't wait to see what Hanna has to say about ours, and I fully expect a round of "this isn't as good as you all say" takedown restaurant reviews, probably of places everyone in town agrees are great. That's fun, too. She'll probably be right. Until she's up and running, you can follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/hannaraskin
Finally, the best news I've heard all week is that Allecia Vermillion--whose Monday food news roundup quickly became required reading even for those of us (ahem!) whose job it is to break/write about food news--will be the editor of Eater Seattle when it launches sometime in the next month. Allecia's currently editing Seattlest, but her heart's been in the food world for years. I'm a little worried about keeping up with her, since, as those who follow Eater's already established local sites (Portland/NewYork/SF) know, her job will be devoted to scooping who's opening what, where and when. But a website devoted to everything restaurant and food related going on in Seattle? It's about damn time.