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Dec 8, 2010 03:55 PM

NH - Worthy food publications?

Ok, maybe it took me too long to realize this, but are there any food publications in NH whose opinions on food can be trusted? I started reading the Hippo a few months ago, always flipping to the food section first. Recently I've seen some articles in there about restaurants that have me scratching my head. Are the places they are writing about truly worth recommending? Then I found Feast (by The Telegraph)...the reviews seem always the same result. Are these people really lucky enough to spend their money on food that doesn't suck? I haven't really read the Union Leader reviews yet, but also, some of the NH food blogs seem to rate all the restaurants as being "good" or better. Some of the places I know from my own experience (or from others') should not be highly recommended.

I think this was long-winded, but basically, have I been that naive? Are these food writers fluffing every place they eat at? Aside from here, where else can you get a solid recommendation from?

Sigh, sorry for the rant, but I am truly curious!

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  1. I always get the feeling that the restaurant reviewers for the UL and the Telly are paying out of pocket for their meals, and that the reviews are based on one meal only, so they're trying to justify the time, effort and expense of what would otherwise be a soul-crushing experience. My personal peeve is when they say they were too full to try dessert--see today's UL review of the Backroom. And why would anybody bother reviewing the Backroom--it's review-proof, no matter how disgusting the food is. Hippo doesn't review restaurants--just touts them, or lists openings and closings. I've noticed that whenever there is a post on Chowhound about a specific place, a mention inevitably appears in Hippo shortly after. Coincidence, or lazy reporting? (See article about Sunshine Oriental restaurant in Hippo, which appeared weeks after posts here.)

    2 Replies
    1. re: whs

      Or maybe they're scared of repercussions of a bad review? These are small papers after all, why would a place continue to advertise after a bad review?

      I'm glad you mentioned the Backroom, it was after seeing that today that really set me off. I've never been, but that's also because of what I've read about it on here.

      1. re: eatalian

        The Backroom is so popular, they don't bother advertising. BTW, their baklava ice cream is quite good.

    2. I have an acquaintance who is knowledgeable in this matter.

      I bitch a lot about the scarcity of quality restaurants (and ethic diversity) in the Seacoast region and New Hampshire in general. It's an ongoing rant that most of my friends are good enough to tolerate. The general feeling for some local reviewers is that you have to be somewhat forgiving. This is not because they are scared of the repercussions for a bad review, but that the general readership is not as discerning in taste and culinary needs. Not everyone gets a pass, however, but you really have to screw things up to get a negative review in NH. Sad to say, but it's hard enough for food businesses to survive in NH without negative press. It's more about "exposure" than critiquing.

      There is another set of "reviewers" who are just plain culinary imbeciles. I place the Union Leader's "Our Gourmet" in this category.

      That being said, I wouldn't place too much import on the local press regarding restaurant reviews.

      4 Replies
      1. re: bewley

        I have rarely read a negative review in any of the papers. Given that most reviews are based on one meal, I think that this is reasonable. It would be worse to trash a restaurant than to say it is "good eating".

        1. re: bewley

          Bewley, I think you hit the nail on the head: "the general readership is not as discerning in taste and culinary needs". I'm adamant in my view that (particularly in the Concord area) people don't know any better and don't care to - until that changes the restaurant scene will remain stagnant.

          I don't read any printed material for the reviews, but more just to be aware of things that may be new in the area; if there is someplace that pops up that we haven't heard of, CH is the first place to look for opinions. The people here are generally less biased and more discerning. Unless the CH report is horrid, we'll try anything new - with such limited options in NH it's pretty easy to keep up and see for yourself.

          1. re: bewley

            The way you put it, I feel bad for the reviewer. I mean, it's almost like selling out in a way, right? To go out, experience a meal, but not be able to give an honest opinion. Always having to "fluff" what you really think of a place. It does seem that the only negative part of a review for a place is if it seems that the portion sizes are small.

            I don't mind using the reviews as a way of learning about new places, but it's annoying to waste money on a meal because you've read a positive review. I guess that's my peeve, when it personally affects me.

            It's also funny the difference b/t the media here and a large city (i.e. NYC and the NY Times) - the food sections there tend to be brutally honest!

            Hey, at least I've found CH, there's an honest opinion out there somewhere!

            1. re: eatalian

              It's understood that when newspapers (and other media) receive invites to "review" restaurants via a marketing company -- The meal is free in return for the review. In other cases the newspaper will reimburse the reviewer for the meal in return for a review. And finally, there's the celebrity reviewer who not only gets paid by the newspaper but also gets everything they want and more from the restaurant... for free! (Nice job, huh?)

          2. I feel your pain. I read a review of 900 degrees in manchester in the UL, and they said the cesar salad came WITH anchovies, it doesn't unless you ask and they charge you $4 for them! (no mention of course in the menu either) it was also dry as a popcorn fart. Anyways..... I always go to yelp ot chowhound now, and NEVER trust the Hippo, they give the Puritan and Red Arrow arse kissing top honors every year in the "best of" magazine.

            1. hi there! I've been having the same trouble finding unbiased reviews of local restaurants. In fact, I've gotten so fed up with the lame "the food here is great!" comments on websites that I've been seriously thinking about creating a website or webpage devoted to in depth reviews of restaurants in my area (or the state?) done by "phantom" diners. But I'm not sure how to go about it. Any ideas?
              I'd also like to find a group of people to dine with whose opinions can't be bought with cheap beer and wine.

              8 Replies
              1. re: lepetitechef

                There are some blogs out there with opinions about NH food. No reason why you can't just jump in and start one yourself. If you're serious about exposure, you should probably read up on how to market your site through Google. If you want phantom diners, I'd start with friends with the same could work together and enjoy your time out, or make it a group blog and work separately. The hard part seems to be the initial'll probably have to eat out a lot before people really start reading your stuff.

                1. re: lepetitechef

                  I think it would be a fantastic idea... sort of an "Incognito eater" ala phantom gourmet. It was noted that there are several "phantoms" because no one person could like all types of foods, and it would be a worthless commentary if you cannot honestly rate your dining experience. I would love to see something like that in the area, because as a consumer I hate going to a restaurant "blind" but even worse, going to one with a false sense of what to expect because I was deceived or misled by a reviewer who was not as honest as I would be if a "friend" asked me about a dining experience.

                  1. re: lepetitechef

                    Thanks for your responses and suggestions. I will no doubt be mulling this over for awhile. I would like to do something that would not only be helpful for the diner but also for the restaurant owner/manager. So they would know where they needed to improve or what kind of impression they were creating. (Sometimes when you've been in the business too long, you lose sight of your goals.) Another problem I've always had with reviewers is that not everyone shares the same taste in dishes or enjoys the same atmosphere. I have a sensitive pallette, so I don't discredit a chef for adding too much salt for my taste -- I know it'd probably be perfect for everyone else. But it makes me absoultely nuts to see a place repeatedly receiving rave reviews when the food and service are so obviously poor (see my 1st post) and I know for a fact that the dish they're charging $22 for actually costs them less than $3 to produce and my food always looks like it'd been dropped on the floor before plating... then I see they have a humongus bar and I wonder if any of the patrons ever notice their meal trying make a dash for the edge of the plate before they plunge their fork into it???
                    Sorry about that if you're eating right now. That's another problem I have -- I've been in the business here and a few folks "know" me. If I haven't given myself away already, I'm certain a few reviews like that eventually would.

                    1. re: lepetitechef

                      You MUST be talking about the Puritan Back Room.

                      1. re: lepetitechef

                        Soooo....when are you going to get the site up and running? ;) Seriously, I'm game...I'd love to be part of something like this. A team blog for NH dining would be great. ( Kind of in the realm of Serious Eats) There are enough eaters around, it's a matter of getting the group together, and doling out responsibilities. It would also be nice to not have any one person doing all the spending!

                        1. re: solargarlic

                          I would love to be a part of this too if possible. Sign me up.

                          1. re: gryphonskeeper

                            Thanks for your support and motivation! Perhaps once the new year is underway? Maybe we can be up and running in time to terrorize the seasonal crews?? I'll post something when I finally have time to focus on this and have found a good virtual meeting place!

                    2. Boston Globe's Northwest section reviews restaurants in NH occasionally.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: whs

                        The Globe's reviews are more honest than anything you will read in the NH press. They are the only dependable reviews you will find in this part of the universe.