Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Rick Nichols Story (sort of)

On the eve of his final official column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, I offer this warm memory of his Inquirer Magazine column, and its incredible impact.

I was the Public Relations Director for The Bellevue at the time, and had spent a considerable amount of my efforts promoting the landmark's Downstairs at The Bellevue food court, which at the time had an incredible collection of food vendors producing some really terrific food. After a year of flashy newsletters, press releases, e-mail blasts and promotions of every stripe (elaborate sand sculptures in the summer, a soup naming competition, naked hoagies--don't ask--rush-hour takeout, and more), I heard from one of the vendors that Rick Nichols had been poking around and asking questions of almost everyone there, eatinge and taking food back to his office. For his part, Nichols was non-commital and cryptic in his e-mail responses to my queries. Then I heard that an Inquirer photographer was shooting dishes from various vendors downstairs, always a good sign. Nichols was still mum on what he would write about.

Then one Sunday I opened my Inquirer and there on the last page of the Inquirer Magazine was his article, a generous and glowing profile of almost all of the food vendors in the food court, complete with mouth-watering descriptions of pastas, hoagies, tortas and soups, even the deli sandwiches from Bain's.

The following day I was in my office at The Bellevue when property manager Andy Speizman poked his head into my doorway and asked me to help him out with some crowd control issue in the food court. It was 11:30 in the morning, and I wasn't thinking about lunch or even Nichols' article at the time. When we arrived in the lobby, Andy and I were greeted by a flood of humanity pouring into the main doors of the building and down the escalator and stairwell to the Food Court. Neither of us were aware of any large conventions in town at the time, and crowds of this size were very rare at The Bellevue. Then we noticed it. People clutching copies of the Inquirer Magazine.

I'll never doubt the influence of a popular--and compelling--food writer ever again. Thanks, Rick, you made my year, and great memory in my career.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Giant Shoes.......

Uploaded by Six Stair on March 10, 2009
© All rights reserved

Impossibly sad news via Michael Klein's INSIDER blog today that veteran food columnist Rick Nichols is leaving the Philadelphia Inquirer. According to Klein, Nichols will be teaching journalism at Penn, contributing occasional pieces to the Inky, and spending more time with his wife, Nancy.

Like the late beer writer Michael Jackson, Rick Nichols has always been able to find that one detail no one else notices and craft a point of view around it with brilliant, compelling writing. Truly compelling food writing is a dying art, and Rick is one of its finest practitioners. It is an understatement that he will be missed.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


(photo courtesy of the NFL)

With apologies to Lew Bryson, who selects a favorite beer from each of the breweries and brewpubs he visits for his beer travel books, Pennsylvania Breweries (now in its 4th edition!), New York Breweries, etc. , here is my take for this year's Bowl of Supe.

I like the swagger of the Green Bay Packers, who played all of their playoff games on the road, and did a convincing job in each one of them, even beating the Eagles. A Birds fan could take some comfort in the fact that they were shoved out of the playoffs by the eventual SB XLV champion.

And yet the Pittsburgh Steelers have the confident cool that perennial champions have. And they are just plain flat out tough, starting with the quarterback of questionable morals, right down to the Head & Shoulders Defensive Player of the Year.

But I think it's the Pack's year.

Cheeseheads by 6. Have a brat on me.