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When people find that I review restaurants, they always ask what my standards are for judging the good from the bad and the ugly. You know that I probably eat out more than anyone in town, but the rest of the dining out public (which is, like, everyone) is more and more satisfied with less and less in its food journalism. Now I'm not trying to pick on my good friend Lenadams, and I know Heidi-hyphenated and Mad Max are trying hard in their respective publications, but there is a fatal flaw in the way they review restaurants--and the way their editors let them get away with it. What they inexcusably do is visit the subject restaurant a single time, then give a first-person account of how much they enjoyed this or that dish. After that comes a grade or a rating based upon their personal likes or dislikes during their only visit. Lacking any basis for comparison, at least in the readers' mind, they then laud or declaim an establishment, without seeing how it stacks up, both to is competition and itself. Now I'm trying not to venture my differences of opinion as to various conclusions drawn by my colleagues, but for example, anyone visiting Z-Tejas and Aureole for the first and only time, then concluding that Tex-Mex mediocre is a better restaurant, either knows nothing about food, or caught one on an extremely good day and the other on a very bad one. Truth be told, I've had atrocious service at both, but the food at Z-Tejas is nothing but a corporate copycat of recipes by inventive chefs like Stephan Pyles, and Mark Miller. Aureole may be too big for its britches, but it competes with the best in town.

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And toques off to Sommeliers Stephen Geddes and Jaimie Smith at Aureole for garnering the Wine Spectator's Grand Award for having one of the world's best wine lists. Maybe if my colleagues got out more often (and their publishers paid for it), they would notice such things.

This is John Curtas.

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