Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stamford's Napa and Co: Information Blackout?!?

Listen to the drama I uncovered recently: You are not allowed to post about Napa & Co., one of Stamford's most popular restaurants, on Chowhound. Why could that possibly be?

People obsessed with food go to Chowhound.com to talk with other foodies. A recent thread asked about good burgers in the FC. I posted, "I heard Napa & Co has a good burger." Within a few hours, I got an email from the Chowhound moderators saying they are “no longer accepting postings about Napa and Co.” HUH????? I can't mention the name of one of Stamford's hot new restaurants? This seemed absurd.

I emailed back and asked why, and if someone at Napa used to work for Chow or vice versa, but Chowhound moderators said, “Sorry, we can't go into details for security reasons. However, we can tell you that no current Chowhound employee or volunteer has any professional or personal association with the restaurant industry.” Da-RAMA!!!!!!!!

I can only think of a few scenarios:

Were Napa friends and family posting fake reviews, so Chowhound axed the resto? I doubt it. Everyone likes Napa. We don’t need fake reviews to convince us to go there.

Did Napa and Co. ask to be taken off the site? Unlikely. I’ve only heard and read good things about the resto. I’ve read those good things in Zagat's and local papers, who evidently are not aware of the information blackout imposed by Chowhound… or perhaps they know about something called "the first amendment."

I can't discuss this mystery with local foodies on Chowhound, obviously. I can only hope some of them find this blog and help me solve this mystery. I recently read Inside the Private Eyes of a PI, a book by successful Stamford PI Vito Colucci. If we ordinary residents can't get the dirt, maybe we should pool our cash and hire a professional PI.

I'm sort of afraid that Chowhound is going to hear me gossiping about them and ban me from the site. Well guess what, Chowhound, I'll just come up with a fake name.

Until then, Napa and Co. fans, consider this blog a safe zone for your comments.

29 comments:

Amanda said...

Yup, we've all been axed on the mention of Napa. I attempted to post a discussion on the Site Talk board regarding the "censorship" issues. That was deleted immediately. Got a long winded email from a mod asking me to have a heart & STOP posting about it! They assured me there was a good reason however would not divulge what it was.

Anonymous said...

Great post Stamford Talk. I not only had my Napa & Co. posts deleted, but when I continued to re-post, they unceremoniously deleted my profile. Without warning.

I think it only hurts Chowhound's integrity and usefulness by eliminating all posts pertaining to Napa. It's pretty obvious that the regular posters (you, Amanda, Jfood, Fairfield Foodie, nbermas, adamclyde, etc.) do not have financial stake in the restaurant business, and that their opinions are valid and their experiences are real given the diversity and volume of your posts. As I mentioned, I was a frequent poster myself and do not understand why they delete the posts of people who have seemingly established their integrity. That being said, it is also fairly obvious when someone is schilling for a place (re: recent posts on Twenty of Stamford).

Regardless, the ban doesn't seem to have hurt the restaurant as every time I go (which is at least once a week for lunch) it's pretty packed.

Sincerely,

John Leotardo aka JohnLeah

zobot said...

Hmm, this is interesting. In general the Chow reports on Napa are positive, so it seems strange Napa would request that there not be any discussion of the restaurant. Could it be Chow policy that if a restaurant wants to censor negative posts they have to agree to have positive posts censored as well?

I suppose Napa doesn't need the publicity, but it's still disappointing that they can't be included in Discussions.

In general I find Chow's moderation tactics fairly heavy handed and very inconsistent...

-Mr. Z

Stamford Talk said...

I agree Chow's moderation tactics are aggressive- on a recent thread about Osetra in Norwalk, the mods jumped in when people started discussing how Norwalk needs a good seafood place in general:

"Folks - please keep the discussion focused on places that exist in the region now - not in NYC or that don't yet exist. The latter don't help anyone eat better now, which is the focus of our boards, and we've removed several of those posts. Thank you!"

Snap! I DO appreciate attentive moderation, but they appear to be a bit draconian! Why would helping people "eat better now" be their mantra? How about "just talkin' about food!"

John, your profile is still up- is that a new one you had to make?

I am so going to get kicked off Chowhound for talking behind their back!

themommykelly said...

Sounds like we just all need to get together, go down to Napa for a meal and ask the manager point blank "what's up with Chow?"!

Anonymous said...

They left up my non-Napa posts but deleted everything else. When I made a few attempts to re-post deleted messages, they abruptly deleted my profile so that I could not log in as Johnleah.

I did not make a new profile. I was done with General Von Chowhound. And Herr Chowhound was done with me.

I doubt Napa asked to be taken off the discussion list. As Zobot says, the posts were 90-95% positive, though you'd have to ask the owners.

Leadhyena Inrandomtan said...

I just passed this link on to Consumerist.com... hopefully they pick up on it. :D

Stamford Talk said...

Amanda, pretty funny that censored your posts about censorship issues. Did you keep that email from the mod? It might be good for a chuckle.
What could the 'good reason' be? I'm sure Napa didn't ask to be taken off, because one of the only two remaining mentions of Napa on the site is a post by the owner correcting info about a chef. Given all we've heard about chowhound, I would bet it's on Chowhound's end.

Lambira said...

That's just bizarre. Has anyone called Napa for comment if Chowhound won't give up deets?

MommaJ said...

Hmmm. (small voice) I think this may have had something to do with a post I made on Chowhound regarding a less than stellar experience at Napa. It wasn't a slam, but an honest, dispassionate description of a dinner that disappointed all four of us, and I did give praise where it was due. It generated a number of responses, and a discussion ensued regarding whether we should have complained to the owner at the time, and whether, since we didn't, we shouldn't complain at all. It was all very civil and intelligent. Then there suddenly appeared a long and rambling post by someone who claimed to be one of Napa's owners--all filled with outrage and wailing that anyone could critique the place that they had worked so hard on etc., etc. The tone was very shrill. I then made the mistake of replying to that post. I don't think I was argumentative, just responding to the points that had been made. In any case, I believe that's when the entire thread was deep sixed. I guess Chowhound was afraid that a pissing match was about to ensue. They sent me some kind of explanation, but I honestly don't recall their justification. I have no idea why subsequent posts about Napa by others have not been allowed. Maybe they're afraid any further discussion will generate more owner input, which they don't want? I've never had anything else I've posted on Chowhound censored in any way.

Johnleah said...

Weird. I do not remember any of that. Doesn't sound like Charlie or Mary... the REAL owners of Napa & Co...would write that. So maybe if "imposters" were coming on they asked that all posts get taken off? I dunno...

It is frustrating when someone asks for recommendations in Fairfield County for an anniversary dinner, Valentine's Day, birthday, best burger, organic food, best sandwich, etc. and I can't provide an honest and helpful answer. It obviously has not impacted Napa's business, so I guess the only people who are "punished" by this are Chowhounders.

Stamford Talk said...

MommaJ, your small voice cracked me up. Thanks for filling us in! Like John says, even if it was the owner who got defensive on the site, and a couple of threads got heated, that shouldn’t be enough to remove an entire topic from the entire site!
It seems like Chowhound is afraid of something, like a lawsuit- why else would they take such a hard stance? I can only assume it’s something serious, or else Chowhound is truly bonkers.

Until the truth is known, do we agree Napa and Co. is pretty great? Should I start a new post later this week for food discussion purposes? I’ll call it: “Napa and Co, Freedom of Speech: Great Burgers, To Die For Bolognese, Extravagant Cheese Plates, Lots of Wine, Wish It Were Cheaper.”

johnleah said...

I love Napa & Co. I've become a huge Bill Taibe fan, his dishes are extraoridnary. What I admire is that he is not afraid to take chances on his ingredients, yet it all seems to work. I went for lunch yesterday and had a Consomme soup with cabbage, roasted tomatoes, duck confit, then a salad with heirloom apples, pears, blood oranges, pomegranate, hazlenut and arugala, over a nice hunk of blue cheese...where does he come up with this stuff??? He's heads and shoulders above anyone else around here.

I consider Mary and Charlie friends, but that is because I have been a regular since their Telluride days, and continue to be one at Napa. They treat their customers like family, and take a lot of pride in what they do. That's probably why people encouraged MamaJ to voice her disappointment to Mary. For as long as I've known her (going on 7 years) she has always been determined to make things as perfect for her customers as possible. And for the most part, she has succeeded.

Anonymous said...

http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/local/scn-sa-arrest10feb27,0,4212782.story

STAMFORD ADVOCATE HAS A GREAT STORY ON CAFE MOJA CHAOS!

Stamford Talk said...

Hee hee! Thank you for that link, anonymous! Chaos certainly does seem like the right word! Cafe Moja just can't seem to get any good press...

Patty said...

I am a chowhound lurker (talk - may I call you talk? - that's how I found you), because CNET can't seem to get me a confirmation email whenever I try to register. It's either my lousy hotmail, or CNET not wanting to give me another ID because I used the same email address to register on another of their properties. What gives, CNET?? I posted on chowhound back in its indie days, and I miss being able to contribute to the discussions.

What's cracking me up is now remembering a post where someone referred to The Restaurant that Must Not Be Named... now I get it!

Regardless, if I am not mistaken, the Oestra post was edited by the moderator - I think the conversation had taken a turn toward discussing guacamole from Rosa's in NYC. I find the chowhound moderating a bit heavy handed (who cares if the conversation veers? That's what conversations DO!) and wildly inconsistent. Sounds to me like the work of a deranged person who is seeking drama where there is none.

By the way, what IS twenty?? Anything special? Isn't in the old Bourbon Street locale, which has been turning over and over and over with no real success for years?

Amanda said...

Of course I still have the email! BTW, you do know there's a Chowhound dinner planned at Napa, yes? The mods won't even allow the location to posted on the sticky on top on the TS board. I think MommaJ's story makes sense though about why we can't discuss it. There's a laundry list of rules about what you can & can't post as an owner or employee of a restaurant.

CH email below:

Referring to unmentionable restaurants and places you're not allowed to post
about creates trouble for us. Those who don't know what you're talking about
want to know what you mean, etc, and the result is usually lots of off topic
discussion of security issues (best not discussed publicly) flaring up and
disrupting the chow talk.

Unfortunately, because of the nature of the situation, we can't
provide you with
any more details behind the reason for our decision. Please trust us that we
take such decisive action only when it's absolutely necessary.

We understand that it's limiting not to be able to discuss every single
restaurant, but Chowhound's still a great and powerful resource to discuss
99.999% of them. And we're run pretty ragged back here, chasing after the
inevitable nuts, shills, scammers, and marketers, but we try to maintain a
useful, honest resource for hounds like you. So please, have a heart
and help us
out and just skip those unfortunately unmentionable places.

Stamford Talk said...

Wow- that was a flowery email.
When's the dinner? I can't find it on chowhound.
Patty mentioned the Restaurant That Must Not Be Named... and now you tell me Chow calls it "unmentionable!" I just looked at the extensive use policy- I do admire their attempts to keep the site focused, but this line: "Restaurateurs (or their friends, employees, PR firms, relatives, etc) who post phony testimonials or recruit others to post for them will be uncovered. Any subsequent discussion of the restaurant -- from any poster -- may be removed." is not only severe, it suggests that any resto that has been removed has been nixed because a restaurateur has interfered- to me, that's an ad by chowhound saying, "Hey look, this restaurant's owner tried to screw with us!" Even if someone affiliated with the resto has done that, it doesn't seem right to make the resto owner look bad with a "your restaurant will never again be spoken of on this site" label.
You all do realize that if Chowhound finds out about this discussion, the word "Stamford" will be the next unmentionable?

Whitemist said...

I sadly am one of those who did not know the rules of the games, when I first signed on to chow and during a rather interesting discussion started playing a game with the chow hound masters to see how long it would take to get deleted and said as much. Of course I was banned. If you wish any questions concerning that discussion I will answer them - I was banned during a discourse concerning Dunn's loft and knew that it did not have Health Department approval to open as such. Of course I did not know it was only a dinning area, not a "new" place and the inspector allowed it to stay open. I was not allowed to say it was only an administrative issue not a Health issue during the discussion, but tried to post it several times before being shut off.

Whitemist said...

if I may respond to the "What is Twenty of Stamford" question in a complete manner. The diner people bought the bourbon street location some 5 years ago and thought they would make a go of it. After spending nearly $1 million to bring the place up to code, they had Park Place diner which did almost nothing. With a $13,000/mo rent they lost money for the 4 years to November of 2007. In April 2007 they begged a producer / production /DJ person to turn it into something else. He spent a lot of his money to change the character of the place and become a partner, had help from the CB5 restaurant group and had to fight the diner people every step of the way to get 75% of what he wanted to happen to occur. He had Frankie Whittaker as a chef, who tried to introduce items not seen in Stamford (ie Elvis pancakes and Fat tire ale onion rings). The diner people screamed and shouted and finally caused Frankie to leave, and the new chef is not as innovative. You will note that the Bar, lounge, dance crowd is very significant on Fridays and Saturdays after 11 PM, but because of all the difficulties, the restaurant portion still struggles. The diner people want diner food and are not interested in anything else, the partner still wants it to be different and may yet prevail.

Stamford Talk said...

Thanks for the scoop on Twenty. Of course now I'll have to try it... if you think it's up to code!
I think it's odd that the corner location seems to not work well. Maybe part of it is because it's hard to see in the windows, so you can't tell if anyone is there.
I know I had brunch there last year and was beyond unimpressed.

Amanda said...

Whitemist, I have to say in response to your Dunn's Loft post on CH (since I participated in it) - the way it was portrayed TO ME was that something was terribly wrong with DL. Infestation, rotten food, cockroaches, whatever. I don't care if it wasn't up to code because it was considered a "dining area" and my guess is neither would most people on Chowhound. The point of Chow is that we love to eat, we don't care if a space is considered a "dining area". Unless there's a REAL issue, and I'm sure you've seen more than any of us would care to know, why not let the rest of us eat on peaceful bliss? Just my opinion & thanks.

Anonymous said...

Amanda sorry for the confusion. As I said earlier every rational thing I tried to post on chow.com got deleted immediately-I don't think you ever saw my first post where I spelled out that the place as presented in the Stamford Times was not approved and that the Health Department was planning to shut that part down because of the administrative issue of not have the dinning space approved. The actual closure notice was signed and the inspector was out the door. That's almost a verbatim quote of what I posted. I then tried to say that there was an issue with Dunn's loft in a vague way and that was taken down. I was so exasperated with the removals, I couldn't say an awful lot and what ended up being posted was its closed, which was erroneous, but I couldn't even explain cause I was booted mid sentence. I am banned totally from chow and probably rightfully so cause I got mad cause I couldn't make anything clear on the forum.
Again very sorry for the confusion and I couldn't even apologize for mudding things up on chow

Amanda said...

Well we all know the feeling. Those mods are pesky. Thanks for clearing that up.

Whitemist said...

Since You were looking to eat at twenty, StamfordTalk, I have what they call insider info, wait a few weeks. While the night club scene has been a resounding success, (by the numbers coming in) The food program has been a soap opera. The latest chef was found drunk in the kitchen two days running while turning out salty soups and burned hamburgers. They have a temporary who is a second tier diner cook and the food probably is as good as the drunk chef when he was on a binge. I'll let you know when I find out anything different.

Anonymous said...

This is very refreshing to hear the inside gossip without the Chowhound gestapo moderating. While I do worry sometimes about the power of Chowhound comments really hurting a business, I think the behind the scenes stuff is most interesting and it's hard to have those threads without getting cut off. Also, someone outed me once and replied using my real name (don't know how they knew who I was) . Now I'd like to change my name and can't do it without a whole new e-mail.

Fairfield Guy said...

This entire posting is really interesting. I have eaten at "The restaurant that must not be named" twice in the last year and a half. We went on my wife's birthday the apps were great, I never had better cheeses, BUT when the dinners finally came out we they were COLD (not luke warm, but COLD), and there wasn't much taste to them. Just 2 weeks, ago we and 6 of our friends went for breakfast. The waitress was rude, the coffee was fresh, (but EVERY cup had grinds in it) and the breakfast menu looked like "My Cousin Vinny" 1. Breakfast 2. Lunch 3. Dinner "I think I'll have the breakfast" AND the order was wrong and COLD again!!! We complained after the dinner and were comped some food and were given a bottle of champagne (great for the manager/owner) but after this second horrible experience, I will never go back. Just my 3 cents worth.

Anonymous said...

The over-the-top moderating extends to other Chowhound boards. I had bewn a longtime poster to the Ontario, Canada board when I responded to a post from someone trying to buy a Weber grill at a good price. Since Weber grills are 40% more expensive in Canada and the border is less than an hour away for most of us, I posted prices available just across the border, not mentioning specific stores. My post was deleted and the moderator emailed that Canadians weren't interested in finding products in the U.S.

I sent a reply, pointing out that most Ontarians shop across the border, and asking on what basis the moderator's assumption was made, and was ignored. Then I made the mistake of posting the same question on the board. My account was immediately de-activated.

Annie said...

Ah, the pesky moderators. How well some of us in the "land of the banned" know how idiotic, arbitrary and capricious these unseen-unknown volunteers can be. They try and steal our souls, dumb us down and have us be automatons who supply knowledge and information to the site as a free service and get no respect in return. They want us to follow in lock-step and keep the bar low for being a Chowhound. You can't criticize the moderation or they single you out.
A good friend (and an educator), who has been a long-time contributor just quit in disgust. He was deleted for telling a first-time poster or a constant "user" (meaning they never give anything back), to search for an answer rather than ask the same question over and over. He had many run-ins with the mods, just as I did.
I have plenty of professional, well-educated friends in the over 50 category who are unhappy with Chowhound's moderation and many have left in disgust or have been banned.
The volunteer, Gestapo-like, secret society moderation is something they need to fix.