Meet Marilyn Hagerty. She writes the "Eatbeat" column for the Grand Forks, North Dakota, Herald. Yesterday, she reviewed Grand Forks' new, eagerly awaited Olive Garden.
Because the internet is a terrible creature fueled by snark (guilty, guilty, guilty), this review went viral. No less a food-media personage than Ruth Reichl registered her dismay:
But then a funny thing happened. Funny and utterly, utterly awesome. Marilyn Hagerty responded to the sudden attention.
Camille Dodero at our sister paper The Village Voice got in touch with Hagerty and asked her about the review.
If you were going to review the fine dining here, you'd be done in three weeks -- there's only about three places you could call "fine dining." And the rest is lots of restaurants and lots of fast-food places.
So I decided I would write news stories about restaurants because people in our area read the paper. They come into town to shop. They need to know what's available and what it costs.
As for the "snotty" responses?
I don't care whether they are [snotty] or not. If anyone's got time to sit out there and nitpick, I kind of feel sorry for them. Get a life.
Of course, the Grand Forks Herald couldn't help but notice the spike in page views for its "Eatbeat" column and wrote about the phenomenon. We'll let their last word be ours, because we can't top it.
Hagerty said her daughter, Gail Hagerty of Bismarck, urged her to read the Facebook comments about her review.
"I told her I'm working on my Sunday column and I'm going to play bridge this afternoon, so I don't have time to read all this crap," Marilyn said.
And, she noted, although chain restaurants, buffets and truck stops have been subjects of her reviews, she has eaten at The White House. Twice.
Update: (Thursday, March 8, 6:15 p.m.) A friend pointed me to this article about the whole Marilyn Hagerty to-do, which adds some very revealing background:
[Duluth News reporter Brandon Stahl] talked to a former Grand Forks Herald editor who says, "By the way, [Marilyn Hagerty's] regular readers will recognize that as a fairly negative review since she spent a lot more time on the ambience than the food."