From Laura Vozzella of The Baltimore Sun: If Elizabeth Large isn't hungry for dessert after dinner, very soon she
will not order it. The longtime Baltimore Sun restaurant critic plans
to retire and start dining out like a civilian.
"It will be nice to be able to order exactly what I want and not
order more than I want because I need to test it," said Large, who
announced Tuesday that she will retire at the end of the month, nearly
37 years after her first restaurant review.
In that span, Large has seen exotic cuisine, small plates and big
names come to a restaurant scene once dominated by crab fluffs and sour
beef and dumplings.
"I think she's going to be missed," said Morris Martick, owner of
the now-closed Martick's Restaurant Francais, whose tasty food and
quirky atmosphere Large captured in a 1992 review. ("What can you say
about a kitchen that serves an excellent pate ($5) -- rustic and
appealing -- with Ritz crackers and dill pickle spears?" she wrote.)
"I thought she was a very fair reviewer and she had some good insights," Martick said.
Riccardo Bosio, owner of Sotto Sopra, Sotto Cafe and until its sale
last week, Pazza Luna, said Large had a hand in improving the Baltimore
"She was a tough critic and we loved her for it," he said. "She kept us on our toes."
Said Tony Foreman, who with chef-wife Cindy Wolf owns Charleston, Petit
Louis, Pazo and Cinghiale: "Good for her. She has to have had a tenure
about six times longer than the typical Baltimore restaurant life span."
Over the course of her Sun career, Large edited the newspaper's
Sunday magazine and wrote feature stories on health, fitness and pop
culture. Three years ago, she launched Dining@Large, one of the
newspaper's most popular blogs.
"While this is an extremely sad occasion for our newsroom and readers
of The Baltimore Sun, it's also a happy time for Elizabeth," said J.
Montgomery Cook, the newspaper's editor. "Elizabeth Large is the most
trusted voice on dining in Baltimore. People see her byline and they
see a name they can trust to be fair, insightful and witty. Her
Dining@Large blog is one of the most viewed on baltimoresun.com, and
Elizabeth is a model for how journalists can adapt and master digital
media. She's devoted to it, and it's not uncommon to find a blog post
from her in the wee hours of the morning. That dedication to her
audience has brought her a very large and loyal online following."
By the time she'd started the blog, Large said, she'd begun to
tire of writing reviews, but the new forum gave her a much-needed boost.
"The blog was very renewing for me," she said. "I had been doing
the restaurant stuff so long. It was so exciting to do the blog and I
really loved it and didn't want to give it up."
"It's much more personal and the interaction is huge. It's like
having a journal. I incorporated part of my personal life into it in a
way I couldn't in just story."
The blog also gave Large more control over her writing; she came up
with the headlines and chose the art. The critic who recalled the reign
of Nouvelle cuisine as "the decade of over-handled food" liked having
fewer hands on her copy.
"I love having control over that," said Large, who on her 30th
anniversary as a critic printed a list of the most "jaw-dropping"
headlines to ever top her reviews. Among them: "The ambience is fine;
too bad you can't eat it" and "Muzak wasn't loud enough to drown out
drunk in Oak Room."
But Large, who retires Feb. 26, the day before her 65th birthday, has no plans to continue blogging in retirement.
"I won't be taking Dining@Large private," Large said in announcing her retirement on the blog Tuesday. "I'm tired."
Large never tired of dining out -- something she did weekly on The
Sun's dime. Nor did she suffer from the obvious occupational hazard. (A
passion for tennis and working out two to three hours a day has helped
with that.) That didn't stop Baltimore Magazine from assuming or
jesting that Elizabeth Large was a nom de plume, declaring the name
"worst pseudonym for a food critic" after the byline first appeared in
"I love going out to eat," Large said. "I just don't love writing
about it anymore. ... Right now, I'm never going to sit in front of a
keyboard again. That's how I feel."
Since 1995, "Where The Locals Eat" and LocalEats dining guides have featured locally owned restaurants across America. From the finest steakhouses and sushi bars, to classic burger joints and roadside barbecues, LocalEats recommends unique restaurants to suit every taste and price range. More