Dead Restaurant Critics And Mystery Meat at New Jersey Hospital Benefit

While it may be everyman’s interpretation of a dream job, the business of being a food critic can be fraught with risk – risk more deadly than the certitude that crippling bouts of severe food poisoning will form part of your job description. Think about it: In a region famous for chefs who throw baguettes in anger, restaurateurs who threaten to pull advertising when snubbed by the annual Best of Philly list, and idiots diners who submit vitriolic cyber-insults upon seeing their favorite flourless chocolate torte maligned in print, can you blame critics for protecting their anonymity? No one knows, for example, that our own Trey Popp is a 4-foot-2-inch Asian woman. And Craig LaBan (who, weirdly, is also a 4-foot-2-inch Asian woman) is known for hiding his face behind bread loaves everywhere he goes. We know for a fact that at least one Philadelphia food writer has received death threats–veiled, of course, in disclaimers of “I was just kidding” or “I didn’t really mean it” but creepy nonetheless. There are plenty of perks to being a critic, but wondering if you should hire a personal security detail isn’t one of them.

Which brings us to a benefit taking place in Gloucester County, NJ tomorrow night that’s sending spasms of nervous giggles around our offices. The Underwood-Memorial Hospital in Woodbury is sponsoring the four-course American Medical Murder Mystery dinner which requires attendees to figure out what caused the mysterious death of, yes, a food critic.

As the story goes, the South Jersey food critic in question was vehemently hated by many a South Jersey restaurant owner – not because he dared to question the superiority of Caffe Aldo Lamberti’s wine list or found fault with the preparation of his steak at The ChopHouse. Nope, this critic never stepped into those establishments. His palate dictated that his reviews chronicle only that which got churned out of the kitchens of McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and their ilk. (Why his editor didn’t have anything to say about this, we’re not quite sure.) So when detectives enter the deceased’s home to find it littered with “20 empty cheeseburger containers and 20 empty French fry containers, 10 empty pizza boxes, a half-eaten 21-piece bucket of fried chicken, a big rope and a large pole that has what appears to be ketchup or blood on it … diet pills and Viagra spilled on the table … a big can of Crisco, and hate mail on the table from the fine restaurant, Don Al Fresco’s,” it’s hard to pinpoint the cause of death–though the jokes about the diet pills, Viagra and tub of Crisco come pretty easy. (It’s also hard to pinpoint why organizers are asking the audience to come dressed in ‘70’s attire but maybe that mystery, too, will get solved by dessert.)

As is the case with all of these “Murder Mystery Dinners,” the audience is required to figure out whodunnit–in this case, whether our fine Fred the Food Critic was killed by an angry business owner or his own gluttony (which is maybe not the best environment in which to also be enjoying a four-course dinner of your own, but whatever). Personally, our guess is that his stomach exploded like in that awesome scene in “Seven,” but maybe that’s just because the possibility of a career-related murder cuts a little too close for our comfort.

The details:

American Medical Murder Mystery Dinner
Oct. 7, 2011
6:30-9:30 pm
Wedgwood Country Club
200 Hurffville Road
Turnersville, NJ 08012

$55 per person, Reservations encouraged
For more information, call 856-227-5522, ext. 3