Bon Appétit’s Pretentious Brunch with Duane Sorenson

The news media has been buzzing recently about a column in the New York Times’ Weddings/Celebrations section titled, “Found, a Soul Mate.” It’s been criticized on many levels – the foremost being the cavalier, yet creepily poetic mention of how the bride’s accidental killing of a child in a car accident served as the touchstone to her finding herself and her groom.

That “minor” detail aside, the piece has also raised ire about the otherwise saccharine story: two yogis who find love and marry on the beach in Montauk. Though it’s hard to find a sentence in the entire story that you can’t poke fun at, some are worse than others. “The bride described the color of her dress as ‘pigeon-blood red.’ The groom was the one who wore white. He had on a Nehru-style suit the shade of coconut milk, lined with jewels around the lapels and neck.” Or, “The next day, they had another, homemade spiritual ceremony at the oceanfront house in Montauk of Ms. Dayan and her husband, Adam Lindemann, a New York art collector. As 150 guests looked on and bamboo flute music played, Ms. Halweil appeared wearing a backless dress designed by Nili Lotan on a lawn decorated with modern sculptures including an enormous one by Urs Fischer of a yellow teddy bear.”

Sappy yoga love story aside, it’s these pretentious call-outs and name-dropping that are particularly grating. New York Art collectors, jeweled groom’s jacket, famous sculptors, the Montauk references.

Apparently, though, it’s not just the Times that’s guilty of this obsession with falsely humbled down status. This “But oh shucks, we’re really such simple folk with our famous friends and designer duds.”

Over at Bon Appétit, one of our own Pacific Northwest culinary heavyweights, Duane Sorenson, founder of Stumptown Coffee Roasters, gets Editor-in-Chief Adam Rapoport’s signature cool kid, stylized treatment, aka The GQ-ification of food. While we’re happy to see one of our people featured in national publications, it’s a shame that they made him sound so self-congratulatory in this obnoxious tale of a brunch party thrown at Sorenson’s uber-chic home.

In it, Sorenson opens up his “sprawling modern loft” to “a mix of family and close friends” among them, “Wes Lang, an artist visiting from Los Angeles,” and “Yasuaki Saito, director of operations for all things Sorenson,” who “arrives with a bag of Washington Shigoku oysters in hand,” at which time, “Sorenson puts down his daughter Pennylou, so he can shuck alongside his friend.” Sorenson’s other children we learn are Pearl Bell and Angus (“named for AC/DC legend Angus Young, naturally.”) Yeah, natch.

We also discover that Sorenson has an “impressive collection of custom and vintage design-hero furniture and stereo equipment,” and an “extensive collection of rare whiskies, ryes and bourbons.” In case you were wondering, that most groovy stereo is playing Seattle band “Murder City Devils.” To the article’s credit, they do allow some space for Sorenson to call out many great local food purveyors, and mention that “we have the most mind-blowing food around here.” And his table is made of Oregon walnut (at least they don’t say “reclaimed).”

The photo spread in the magazine is equally cringe-worthy: Sorenson standing in front of his “collection of vintage Harley-Davidson gear and whiskey,” a couple of leather-clad hipsters beneath a large piece of artwork that we must assume was painted from someone of note.

I don’t know Sorenson and I certainly don’t fault him for having nice things. He’s worked hard, and I like his coffee. But when, as food writers, we get so caught up in the culinary folks as rock stars, the wheels come off. When we care too much about the music they listen to, the clothes they wear and the cool friends they have, instead of what they’re doing in the kitchen (or behind the coffee bar in this case). David Chang hangs out with the McSweeney’s crowd (and everyone else who is supremely cool) Mario Batali is pals with Gwenyth Paltrow, and so on. I want to believe that Sorenson’s PR person pushed him into this precious little piece about what’s hardly the “laid-back” event it purports to be.

It’s no secret that Rapoport is style-obsessed. He was, after all, the editor-in-chief of GQ for years. But from the looks of his increasingly status-fixated profiles and spreads, it seems like he wishes he were still writing about this season’s most fashionable pant leg or the overpriced turntable that every bachelor pad needs.

This August, Bon Appétit ran a spread of a beachside dinner in Amagansett. For those of you who might not be super familiar with New York (really?), Amagansett is one of many rarified, costly beach towns in The Hamptons of Long Island. For this “casual” dinner by the sea, Bon Appétit “called a bunch of friends” – four families privileged to summer in those parts. Their children play atop driftwood, while their mothers and fathers “uncork the rosé” and cut cake – their gleaming diamonds and seemingly expensive watches in sharp focus. Their tans are apparent but not over-the-top, their hair sun-highlighted, beach-blown perfection. It’s seductive, yet wrapped in a pretense of a thrown-together beach BBQ that anyone could have. But of course can’t. Maybe next summer we’ll find Sorenson, or someone of his ilk, similarly summering in the San Juans within the glossy pages of Bon Appétit.

Thanks BA for noticing all of the amazing culinary talent we have in the Pacific Northwest. But, please, spare us your New York-style fetishization. We hear you’re a food magazine, but lately we’re starting to wonder....

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