Last February, an iteration of the Olive Garden restaurant chain opened in Grand Forks, North Dakota. "The place is impressive," Marilyn Hagerty wrote in her curiously favorable review for the Grand Forks Herald. "The chicken Alfredo ($10.95) was warm and comforting on a cold day. The portion was generous." Hagerty's review consisted almost entirely of declarative statements of fact about the restaurant's décor, the size of its menu's portions, and practical background info intended for prospective diners. Reactions to Hagerty's subdued encomium ran the gamut of cosmopolitan condescension: from delight in her earnest sincerity to heartfelt pity.
Then in November, Pete Wells, restaurant critic for the New York [...]