Elle Harrow, longtime food critic, dies

Elle Harrow, a restaurant critic and food columnist for Times Community News South for the past eight years, has died, according to her collaborator, Terry Markowitz. She was 72.

Harrow, a Laguna Beach reisdent who co-wrote the Gossiping Gourmet review column as well as All About Food, an occasional feature about culinary topics, died the evening of April 4, Markowitz said in an email.

Both columns ran in the Daily Pilot, Huntington Beach Independent and Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Harrow and Markowitz began as food writers for the Laguna paper in 2005, and expanded to all three papers in 2010.

Markowitz, who could not be reached for further comment, had previously said Harrow was suffering from pancreatic cancer. Harrow's family also could not be reached for comment.

In the wake of Harrow's death, Markowitz said she plans to continue writing the food columns.

"I'll never know exactly which words Terry penned, and which ones came from Elle, but all I can say is that, as a duo, they have provided some of the highest-caliber food criticism you'll ever read in a community newspaper," said John Canalis, editor of TCN South. "I usually finish reading their reviews hungry, even if I have just eaten. I am so glad that Terry will continue providing this important service to our readers. I am sure that Elle's influence will forever be found in her work."

A veteran of the culinary world — she and Markowitz once ran A La Carte, a gourmet shop in Laguna — Harrow addressed a wide variety of topics in her columns, from reviews of the latest upscale restaurants to tips on brining and finding perfect peaches at the market.

At times, her writing showed a sly wit. In a solo column from 2007 about foods that supposedly work as aphrodisiacs, she wrote that "certain foods have been proven to contain phenylethylamine, a stimulating and mood elevating ingredient. Casanova was no fool. Chocolate does contain this substance, but if you are not a chocolate lover, salami has nine times the amount.

"The problem here is that nobody has done any research as to how many Godiva truffles one must consume to achieve results."

As critics, Harrow and Markowitz brought expert tastebuds to the table, and their detailed analyses of flavor and texture revealed the expertise they had honed for years. When evaluating a dish, they often casually noted that they had eaten the same thing many times before and that this particular version had a pleasing spice or lacked the right crispness.

However, their comments were seldom if ever withering; a typical Gossiping Gourmet column sported a generally upbeat tone with a few reservations. Unlike with the late Roger Ebert, it was hard to imagine them compiling a book of negative reviews titled "I Hated, Hated, Hated This Restaurant."

Members of the restaurant community expressed sadness about Harrow's passing. Mona Shah-Anderson, who represents many Orange County restaurants through Moxxe Public Relations, said she sometimes joined Harrow and Markowitz for meals and visits with chefs.

"I always looked to them like the dynamic duo who really knew the local restaurant scene," she said. "And more than that, they were just great dining partners."

Lee Healy, whose firm represents restaurants in South Coast Plaza and elsewhere, said Harrow and Markowitz's experience in the culinary business made their opinions particularly valuable.

"It was nice to have their professional voices being the Daily Pilot's restaurant writers," she said. "They were from the community. They were very down to earth."

Information about survivors or memorial services was not available.


Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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