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When you dine out, do you understand what is going on around you? Chow hounders learning from each other.

Saw this item in Business Insider, and it got me thinking:


Chowhound presents postings from people with broad experience and diverse experience, locale , but also of expertise. I first started using it when internet searches about French cooking and dining led me here. The opportunity to exchange information, and to learn from those more knowledgeable than I has proven to be gratifying. It is, however, sometimes frustrating, when someone posts a review of a restaurant, and cannot seem to be able to describe the experience beyond “it was good, the portions were large.”

The reader obtains no point of reference from which to evaluate, and worse, I fear the diner doesn’t know how to enjoy the full measure of the experience either. Going to a place because it is trendy can be fun, but if one doesn’t understand food techniques, flavors, blends, then one is only spending money, and such a restaurant might as well be called “Lemmings.” When a person buys an expensive bottle of wine because “Parker gave it a 94,” I am sure that the person doesn’t understand the wine, nor how to enjoy it, and a $5 bottle may yield more pleasure for that person.

This is a serious problem, as I see it, as there are those who feel it is snobbery actually to know something, or to do the work required to gain true skill. That is sad for those who miss out, but also weakens the utility of a site such as this. When one, for instance, doesn’t appreciate a foam, how can one report a restaurant’s sabayone or zabaglione? How about when someone’s “adaptation” or “style” is really the reflection of aberrant technique and nothing but a dodge?

Since this is a site about learning from each other, one would hope that all participants remember that another’s pointing out that a CHer ‘s is incorrect or doesn’t know something is not insulting nor rude, as it might in a live setting, but rather meant as instructional. No one here knows everything, and raising the level of discourse can only profit us all.

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  1. It's not a college course.It's a website that people BS about food.

    3 Replies
    1. re: emglow101

      Actually, after being in the business for 30 years, I still learn somthing new here every day.

      1. re: coll

        " I still learn somthing new here every day."

        Most especially when it comes to the peculiarities of our fellow human beings. ;-)

        1. re: grampart

          Yes that too. And the differences in various regions the world over! To me, it IS like a college course.

    2. I always try to provide MY point of reference, though sometimes fail in that.

      Still, when I do a review, I try to go into as much detail, as I can, so that others can judge for themselves.

      What I like, might not play with another, but if they CAN find common ground, and relate to that, or they can decide if I am just not in their demographic, and judge accordingly.

      Back in my youth, there was a film critic, who wrote for "Playboy Magazine." His tastes were the polar opposite, from mine, where film was concerned. What he loved, I hated. Still, I could use his reviews, and essentially go the opposite way.

      I do similar with some wine critics - if they give me TN's, I will likely go the opposite way, from their recs.


      10 Replies
          1. re: Gastronomos

            For a moment, I thought that I was reading Jean Shepherd (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_She...).

            Quite a bit of subtle humor, yet a good review. Easy to read, but with useful info.


              1. re: Bill Hunt

                I loved Jean Shepherd. Listened every night to him on WOR.

            1. re: law_doc89

              I read this and had to wonder if someone was making a joke or writing a satirical piece. The typos, the repetitive use of adjectives and strange vocabulary which seemed to be based on heavy but awkward use of a thesaurus appears to be a parody of a review.

              1. re: Bkeats

                "small, molded moose" right off the bat is the best tell for the rest of the review.

                1. re: janniecooks

                  Just sounds like someone has been shopping at IKEA.

                2. re: Bkeats

                  Have to agree. The "high relief carving of the desirable
                  nature of this fish" is no more helpful to me than "good food,
                  big portions". "Illusoriness"? How many times did
                  complementary appear in one graph? And "sweat" where
                  I'm assuming it should have been "sweet" - thank you,
                  Spellcheck. This sounds like it was written to impress,
                  not to inform

                3. re: law_doc89

                  Had you added a comment, or two, about the architecture, and maybe the table-spacing and chairs, it could have been one of mine.

                  I thought that it was well-done.

                  Thanks for sharing, and especially as I have been trying to nudge my wife to using The Jefferson for one of her future trips. Nice stuff to know.


              2. I write about my restaurant meals primarily because I enjoy writing about them. They are there for my own future reference. As well as usually posting those "reviews" to internet discussion boards, I also send them to a commerically printed national guide - and I am vain enough to enjoy seeing quotes of mine being used by the guide (several in the 2013 edition). After the self-satisfaction aspects, I like to think that folk might read what I've written and it encourages/deters them from trying a place or a dish.

                When I write, I try to describe the food I've eaten and allow the reader to form their own view about whether this is something they may like or not. I have little time for the sort of review that reads along the lines of "this place is so wonderful. Their pork chops are the best ever". It is about sa much use as the review that's bound to come next - that says "this place is awful, their pork chops were disgusting". No point of reference - no point.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Harters


                  I am with you. I review what I encountered, to the best of my abilities, with no spoons, forks or numerical ratings - just my reviews of the experiences. I only hope that others can "fill in the blanks." What is great for me, might not be their "cup of tea," but they should be able to figure that out.


                  1. sorry, but when you start enforcing rules and standards, you're no longer talking about informal reviews...who's going to set the standards? What if my idea of the standards isn't the same as yours?

                    If you don't like the review, skip over it. But a reviewer who said the food was good and the service was friendly has just a valid a point as the one who waxes rhapsodic about the unctuous mouthfeels and tantalizing aromas.

                    20 Replies
                    1. re: sunshine842

                      Not talking about "enforcing standards." Voicing an observation. Don't know a review is a waste of time until it is read. I would think, however, that users would like a website that is useful, that will encourage more visitors.

                      I am curious how you find it useful to read "Wow, liked it," is useful to you when you don't know the basis of the opinion?

                      1. re: law_doc89

                        but wanting people to detail things like how it tasted and how it prepared is imposing standards -- YOUR standards.

                        "Wow, liked it" gets filed as random noise.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          That's just silly. Where did Isay "Thou shalt?"

                          Ah well.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            I've actually found (new to me), great restaurants by just those sorts of comments that are being dismissed as unhelpful by the OP. One never knows what will lead to great chow. And, until I've tried it for myself, no amount of descriptive language will give me anymore of a probable "winner" than someone who writes one sentence saying "Great and big portions too." when it comes right down to it...

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              But my standards give you a point of reference for your standards:


                              1. re: law_doc89

                                Is this review of yours setting the standard? seriously? I found it to be overwrought with useless descriptions.
                                The sweaty parts were funny, though.

                                1. re: wyogal

                                  What's the adage, "don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things... ?"


                                  1. re: Hobbert

                                    Ha! Maybe it was, I'm just too literal for some jokes. ;)

                                    1. re: wyogal

                                      I hope so! Your comment made me look at it and there's just no way it's a real review. Pretty funny, though.

                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                        I'm thinking this whole thread is an exercise in blah, blah, blah. Kind of chain yanking.

                                        1. re: wyogal

                                          When wondering about the intended tone of a post, I often check out the things the OP says on OTHER threads.

                                          In this case:

                                            1. re: grampart

                                              Well, let me describe myself instead, as a possible parallel.

                                              I often suffer from the "Educators' Disease" compounded by "Administrators' Affectation" multiplied by "Expats' Egotism."

                                              I love to learn, so I've been exposed to hordes of factoids over the years. I'm pretty good at Google, so I can find even more details.

                                              I'm used to being "The Boss," in a situation of collaborative sharing of ideas where the final decision comes down to me. My role is frequently one of evaluating others' performance; my VISA said I was a "foreign expert."

                                              In a text-based environment, where I can't wink or raise my eyebrows at you and grin, my attitude can come across as harsh and know-it-all.

                                              Andddd, I seem unable to avoid commenting. A tidbit here, a link there, a query about this, a comment about that.

                                              SO, I'm pretty sure I come across as one who thinks she knows it all and can prove it...occasionally I try to apologize but once you're into a mess here on CH an apology is nearly guaranteed to be misread as abhorrent sarcasm.
                                              Twice since 2000 I've forced myself to step away from CH for years because I'd lost control of my "brand" and was nearly always feeling antagonism.

                                              But, that's just me. YMMV.

                                              1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                "In a text-based environment, where I can't wink or raise my eyebrows at you and grin, my attitude can come across as harsh and know-it-all."

                                                I understand what you're saying, but I interpret your attitude as honest and knowledgeable and, though I can't see them, I sense the winks and grins. If you ever feel the need to again "step away" for an extended period, you would be missed.

                                                1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                  "I love to learn, so I've been exposed to hordes of factoids over the years. I'm pretty good at Google, so I can find even more details.

                                                  I'm used to being "The Boss," in a situation of collaborative sharing of ideas where the final decision comes down to me. My role is frequently one of evaluating others' performance; my VISA said I was a "foreign expert."

                                                  In a text-based environment, where I can't wink or raise my eyebrows at you and grin, my attitude can come across as harsh and know-it-all."

                                                  Me, too, especially the first and last paragraphs. I could have written them. Folks I've met online who like me enough to meet me *anyway* are always shocked at the differences.

                                                  Oh, I'm not anyone's idea of a credentialed expert.

                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                    Sure, you always have to realize that without inflection, even the most straightforward comment can be misinterpreted.

                                              2. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                Yep, I read the first one.
                                                Like someone said, I'm not sure what the title of the OP has to do with the content. Noticing what is going on around me in a restaurant is different than understanding what is on my plate.
                                                I've deduced that it's a joke. Someone wants to get a rise out of somebody.

                                  2. re: law_doc89

                                    If the poster is someone whose tastes I know from reading here a long time, those few words are useful to me, maybe not to those who aren't familiar with the poster.

                                    If you're thinking of going to the restaurant in question, just ask for deets with specific questions that factor into your decision making.

                                2. While you make an interesting point, I don't think the article has much to do with your post.

                                  1. I also enjoy the postings of the nattering nabobs of gastronomy. So much to learn, so little time. ;-)

                                    1. Alright, I'll bite.

                                      Would you be so kind as to list a few descriptors for "food techniques, flavors, blends" that reviewers should aspire to incorporate into evaluations of their dining experience?

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                        Ok, so how can one describe zabaglione? It should be made fresh, be a proper foam, with small bubbles, still visible, sweet, w/o cloy, and made with marsala. It should not be pre-prepared, cool, collapsed, creamy, made with a marsa substitute. It should feel light, and if done right, retreat in the mouth as you eat it.

                                        If I tell you something akin to that, you have an idea of what I experienced.

                                        What use is "I have a good zabaglione, tasted great?"

                                        1. re: law_doc89

                                          If I were a zabaglione novice, how would I recognize "made fresh"? or "Proper foam"? Or even, the marsala?

                                          About 1/3 of your description is both educational and evocative-- and both are the goal?-- while the majority of your description is what a zabaglione should NOT be. Further, I am flummoxed by "retreat in the mouth."

                                          Is there a Strunk&White for food writing?

                                          1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                            <Further, I am flummoxed by "retreat in the mouth.">

                                            That stumped me, too.

                                            1. re: DuffyH

                                              It's a foam, think about it. You probably are used to collapsed, creamy stuff, not the real thing.

                                              Anyway, try out your own descriptiveness.

                                              1. re: law_doc89

                                                Aerated fluff was a hot menu item in The 'Jing for about 3 years, so we experienced a gamut. Not to denigrate nor overhype the quality of any of the foams I've consumed, but just for clarity-- I do not understand "retreat."

                                                As a side note about how we address each other, "you probably are used to" carries the tinge of rebuke for the chef and, perhaps, an aura of superiority.

                                                I have been thinking about this for a while now...and I can't quite put my palate on what you mean. My best guess-- when a light towering spoonful enters your mouth and, like a well-made chocolate, both melts and dissolves midtongue into a suede liquid that is just as delightful.

                                                1. re: law_doc89

                                                  Dear lord, I just hit the button and recommended this post. What I meant to do was add a reply, as in "condescending."

                                                    1. re: Chatsworth


                                                      Stuff happens, but humanity seems to get on with things, regardless.


                                            2. Interesting defensive reactions. Why is it so hard to describe a food so that another can understand another's experience? Over the top, stupid superlatives are also a failure to describe, BTW.

                                              52 Replies
                                              1. re: law_doc89

                                                If some of our reactions seem defensive to you, I invite you to re-read this from your OP:

                                                "I fear the diner doesn’t know how to enjoy the full measure of the experience either. Going to a place because it is trendy can be fun, but if one doesn’t understand food techniques, flavors, blends, then one is only spending money,..."

                                                In a nutshell, you've written that those who know diddly-squat about how the food 'should' be prepared might as well be eating pig slop, because they're too ignorant to know the difference. Do you see now why the words you chose make you sound like a food snob?

                                                You're correct that we learn from each other and correct each other, but tone matters. The tone of your OP reminded me of the wine snob who once told me "when your palate improves you won't like sweet wines". Hogwash! Your first and last paragraphs had me nodding in agreement, but two and three were more than a bit condescending. Chow has thousands of members of varying tastes and knowledge levels. When you see a review like "“it was good, the portions were large.”" perhaps you could reply and ask for more more detail?

                                                1. re: DuffyH

                                                  While I read about and study food and cooking, I'm sure there are many techniques, flavors, and blends of which I am completely ignorant. I can, however, determine if they taste good or if they don't. If I enjoy the meal or I don't. Where does knowledge end and personal preference begin?

                                                  Once at a fancy-shmancy Chinese restaurant, my husband tried nicely to explain that the hot and sour soup was rancid. I had a sip - tasted like the floor of a Jiffy Lube. The waiter looked at him sympathetically and said "It's an acquired taste - not everyone gets it." My husband, just home from a month in China, mentally deducted a percentage of his tip.

                                                  1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                    If you give a point of reference you explain preference.

                                                    So if you say "It was as luscious, sweet, and succulent as what I had at Paula Deen's" others will know how to place perspective.

                                                    Unfortunately, the defensives don't seem to understand that struggling to find words to describe will enhance THEIR ultimate experiences and memories.

                                                    So little time on earth, so sad so many waste it. Truly sad.

                                                    1. re: law_doc89

                                                      that only works if the listener/reader has actually been to Paula Deen's and has tasted the same dish.

                                                      Otherwise, it's just "tastes good".

                                                      1. re: law_doc89

                                                        Quite a few of us on this thread have struggled to find words.

                                                        1. re: Chatsworth

                                                          Possibly it needs to be framed with a Paula Deen reference for it to be clear.

                                                        2. re: law_doc89

                                                          Your word is the truth and those who don't agree with it are "defensives?" and waste their time on earth. Is it possible that there are those who don't need to express their foods in terms of Paula Deen and can still enjoy it as much as you? Or if they claim so, they're just being defensive? Or, are you the defensive one? Hmmm...

                                                          There are thinkers and there are feelers. Some thinkers can't just act and respond to their own senses; and don't understand that others can enjoy life without step by step instructions. I think this is truly sad.

                                                          1. re: law_doc89

                                                            So it is more about describing the food than actually enjoying it? I'm not 100% sure I know what your response means. "...struggling to find words to describe will enhance their ultimate experiences and memories." I don't understand this line at all, yet feel insulted by the tone nonetheless.

                                                            Also I did provide a point of reference: the floor of Jiffy Lube.

                                                        3. re: DuffyH

                                                          I have asked for details and been greeted with responses such a s"How do I know? I wasn't in the kitchen."

                                                          Usually, if someone says something not true about a person, it is greeted with a shrug. Defensiveness usually signifies

                                                          truth. One of the books I got to read this week is Friedman' "That used to be us." He has a nice section explaining what I have run into, I fear.

                                                          I look for sites where people share experiences that expand my knowledge, and are willing to have theirs expanded. Precisely because no one can know everything, but hopefully people want to expand their knowledge and their skills. I site such as this could really take off.

                                                          Oh well.

                                                          1. re: law_doc89

                                                            "One of the books I got to read this week is Friedman' "That used to be us." He has a nice section explaining what I have run into, I fear."

                                                            Yeah. If only we had a Central Party like they do in the PRC setting up a required template for all restaurant reviews on "Commie Chowhound" - How cool would that be? ;-D>

                                                            Unfortunately we have that messy "freedom" thing going on with people posting willy-nilly and just ignoring all the rule making suggestions. As Jim Leff wrote on this site more than once, getting Chowhounds to head in one desired direction is very much like herding cats. It isn't linear. It won't be pretty, and it sure isn't going to end up where you hoped it would. But that 's the beauty of serendipity and freewill at work...Thank goodness.

                                                            1. re: Servorg

                                                              So, you have read the book, and your comment is in response to the book? Please explain.

                                                              1. re: law_doc89

                                                                Tom makes the point of praising the rapid building of giant developments and a huge escalator in the PRC (by comparison) against the US and an escalator that was under repair near his home...

                                                            2. re: law_doc89

                                                              yeah, it's a pity this site has only lasted for well over a decade and has so few people posting here.

                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                And so little detail shared about food, dining or cooking.

                                                          2. re: law_doc89

                                                            I have been eating this fluffy Italian egg custard forever and wouldn't call it a foam ever. I guess that makes me militantly anti intellectual or something.

                                                            1. re: ItalianNana

                                                              Custard? Don't think you have ever had the real thing.

                                                              1. re: law_doc89

                                                                What makes you not consider it a custard? I've had zabaglione and its an airy custard made with eggs. I've never experienced it as a foam as you call it. A foam makes it seem like a garnish but its definitely a stand alone dessert dish.

                                                                1. re: law_doc89

                                                                  here, Here, HERE and now, -- law_doc89,

                                                                  HERE is your opportunity to practice what you've asked CHers to do.

                                                                  Describe an excellent-- even if its mythical--zabaglione for us.

                                                                  We'll wait while you compose...

                                                                    1. re: law_doc89

                                                                      You've done cut'n'paste before... humor me.

                                                                  1. re: law_doc89

                                                                    It is a light airy custard. It is incredibly easy to make with just a few ingedients. It does not call for a culinary background to make or enjoy. It is simply whipped egg yolks, wine and sometimes a bit of sugar. Pretty hard not to have "the real thing" if you have a whip in the kitchen.

                                                                    I consider whipped eggs as kind of "foamy" but I have never heard anyone call this dessert a foam. It is referred to as a light custard.

                                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                                      And yet someone here called it a "pain in the ass" to make.

                                                                      1. re: law_doc89

                                                                        It might not have been such a pain in the ass to make if the result was something I truly enjoyed eating.

                                                                  2. re: ItalianNana

                                                                    Comparing basic Fr-En-Sp:
                                                                    En foam = Fr mousse = Sp schiuma/ spuma
                                                                    En custard = Fr crème anglaise = Sp crema

                                                                    So, thinking of it that way, not in English, I might be persuaded to consider a sabayone/ zabaglione as a "foam" and not a "custard."

                                                                    But most of the time, I think in English.

                                                                  3. re: law_doc89

                                                                    Why insist that be every poster's goal? There's a philosophy and a mission behind naming a site "Chowhound" and not "Haute Cuisine Hound." Seriously, connotations matter in language the way complexity and nuance matter in food and wine.

                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                      You are correct, and this has nothing to do with Haute Cuisine."

                                                                      It does have everything to do with being descriptive, helpful, and, what, empathetic?

                                                                      So sad, really.

                                                                      Since I insisted on nothing, why does anyone say that?

                                                                      1. re: law_doc89

                                                                        "t does have everything to do with being descriptive, helpful, and, what, empathetic?"

                                                                        You have every right to wish for those. I don't think you have any right nor reason to expect them here from every poster.

                                                                        ETA: Your premise that this is a site for learning from one another in such exacting terms isn't factual, and may be why you're so disappointed. Read this: http://www.chow.com/manifesto

                                                                        That's all I'll say.

                                                                    2. re: law_doc89

                                                                      You are so correct. Trying to convey, in words, the subtlety and nuanced reference to YOUR culinary experience, can be tough. Same with wine Tasting Notes. In such situations, a flash-on-camera photograph will seldom convey any idea about that food. It is similar to a comment above, about describing music, if one cannot hear it, or does not know it. It also helps to be a bit of a poet.

                                                                      Being a food writer, is not as easy, as many might think.

                                                                      What is greatly enjoyable, yet subtle to me, might well be much less, and "over-the-top" to another.

                                                                      A reference to a particular flavor, that transports ME to some location from my past, might well be lost on a reader.

                                                                      It is never that "my tastes are great, and their's are deficient," just different frames of reference.

                                                                      I can encounter a dish, and be immediately transported to another time, and place. Others shrug their shoulders, and wonder what I am talking about. Different strokes...

                                                                      I have always attempted to describe every dish, and then my reaction (good, or bad) to it. With some, that works perfectly, but with others, not so well - different frames of reference. That is one reason that William Faulkner plays so well with some, but not with others. If one has a faulted sense of smell, or a poorly formed "smell library," then much of Faulkner will not evoke any common memories.

                                                                      When reading a review of a restaurant (or a wine), I do not care about "forks," "knives," "stars," or numbers. I want a description of the location, the food, the wines, and the service. Since my personal frame of reference is likely different from the author, their memories of another time, or another place, just might not resonate with me.


                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                        I agree....And here is my 2 cents:

                                                                        Describing a dish and its qualities in more universal yet descriptive terms is more appealing to me than someone waxing on and on in poetic terms about the "unctuous" , mouthfeel, authentic, gutsy, blah,blah, blah. It is almost unappetizing for me to read some of those reviews where the writer or poster seems to be having a private moment with themselves instead of sharing descriptive information that others could benefit from. It really isn't that informative. I don't really need to know that the "chocolate cream slipped down your throat like silk"...just tell me if it was light or dark chocolate, how sweet it was and if it was more like a pudding or a mousse.

                                                                        OTOH, just saying " it was yummy" in Yelp-style, is equally not informative. That is obvious. The only way this helps is in a community of posters that really know each others tastes. It doesn't help everyone reading it.

                                                                        I think most people participating on a food forum like this can find a middle ground of descriptors that give practical insight into their experience at a restaurant, without the reader feeling weirded out with no practical understanding of the dish after reading it.

                                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                                          Of course. This is not, and I was not suggesting, professional reviews, but meaningful information. The powerful reactions are actually sad. I suspect that some people are shorting themselves on their experiences. They could find more enjoyment by trying to observe and describe more carefully what it is that they like or don't. Funny thing, is the commercial food industry manipulates taste, corrals to very narrow tastes, and causes dulling of taste in the process.
                                                                          It seems we can forget about textures at the moment.

                                                                          1. re: law_doc89

                                                                            < I suspect that some people are shorting themselves on their experiences. They could find more enjoyment by trying to observe and describe more carefully what it is that they like or don't. >

                                                                            You're doing it again. You presume ("I suspect") that because a written review doesn't meet your explanatory expectations that the reviewer is incapable of gaining a full measure of enjoyment from a meal.

                                                                            I could suggest that by focusing on observation and description you may be missing out on the simple joy to be found in sharing a meal with friends. But I don't, because that may be a factor in your enjoyment of said meal. I urge you to grant the same courtesy to the rest of us.

                                                                            1. re: DuffyH

                                                                              Or spending time enjoying a meal with friends who are similarly observant. Interesting to see that the image is of spending tome writing notes, or photos, or some such. In fact, it is simply noting what a dish looks like, smells like, feels like (in the mouth), tastes like, etc while enjoying company.

                                                                              The real reason for the hostile reactions is that many people don't know how. Someone posted a comment about a dish, one of those "real good" ones, and I asked simply: "How was it prepared?" Trying to find out something basic, such as was it baked or sauteed. The answer was "How should I know, I wasn't in the kitchen."

                                                                              Since this site is "Chowhound," not "Friends," one would hope for a focus on food. You point out that a reaction to a restaurant is psychologic. Your experiences, we can infer, area bout your friends, not the food. More power to you. But that might also mean you enjoy poor quality food if it is served in the right environment, and it is good to know that when reading your comments. I suspect it is also good for you to know that about yourself, too.

                                                                              1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                Again, you're making some big presumptions. People don't know how to write a review? What you're saying is that they don't know how to write the kind of review that YOU want to see. Possibly, but that doesn't mean their review has no value to others. No one is arguing that a 4-word review (good food, large portions) is not very helpful, but you ignore the vast middle ground in between that and the detail you prefer. What's more likely true is that most people don't care to take the time to write your kind of review.

                                                                                Like everyone, I've been served poor quality food from time to time, but enjoyed it? Really? Who enjoys bad food? Nice presumption there. If the food is bad, I simply don't eat it. And any review I'd write would reflect that. I see reviews like this frequently, don't you?

                                                                                Now, I agree that good and bad are subjective terms, but my point is that dining out for me isn't ONLY about the food. Here's a wine comparison for you; when we want to taste wine, we make notes, compare wines critically, etc... When we gather with friends for an evening OTHER than wine tasting, we want to enjoy a few glasses and some camaraderie.

                                                                                But enjoying a few glasses at a wine bar wouldn't prevent me from leaving a review along the lines of "decent selection, a few small plates offered, prices in x to y range, comfortable seating..." and so on. I would hope that others would find it useful. It appears that you would not, because I'm not offering enough detail to suit you. Oh, well, just look for another review.

                                                                                1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                  Nah, I fear the real reason is that too many would rather not admit they don't know what they are eating, or lack the writing skills. Too bad, as the best way to learn is observe and convey:

                                                                                  "See one, do one, teach one." MS found in a cookie.

                                                                                  1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                    Well, opinions differ. I choose to believe that the vast majority of 'Hounds are bright and able to express themselves, an opinion borne out, IME, by postings from around the site.

                                                                                    1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                      I agree Duffy.

                                                                                      Anybody who could read Chowhound for more than 10 posts and still come away thinking that hounds don't know what they're eating or lack writing skills isn't paying attention.

                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                        Of course, it could be that we're all just a bunch of bumpkins that don't truly understand what's going on around us. ;-)

                                                                                        1. re: grampart

                                                                                          Great, now you made me want bumpkin pie. I'll need to see if I can some nice ones at Whole Foods later this week. ;-D>

                                                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                                                            It's in the "holy crap" section, IIRC. Near crow and humble. ;)

                                                                                          2. re: grampart

                                                                                            Well, I AM from Mississippi, so guess that I am the "village bumpkin."


                                                                                            PS - I see the "turnip truck" pulling away, as I type.

                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                              I think Mississippi has produced more good writers per square inch than any other state, suh!

                                                                                              1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                You posit a valid point. Point taken.


                                                                            2. re: sedimental

                                                                              As has been dissected and discussed, the one term that stuck out for me was "authentic."

                                                                              Still, I want descriptors that relate to food enjoyment. If one wishes to win the "William Faulkner Writing Contest," well, that is another.


                                                                            3. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                              In recalling the time we dined together you commented on one of the dishes reminding of something quite different, but once mentioned I knew exactly what you meant.

                                                                              If I tell someone a dish reminded me of strawberries but with a stronger citrus undertone they might not get exactly what I mean, but would have a sense of it.

                                                                              As for the OP's original comment about not knowing what is going on around you, isn't that part of the purpose of sites like Chowhound? 5+ years ago when I started reading this site I was a fairly well educated neophyte to the food world with a somewhat discerning but uneducated palate. Now I have a lot more basic knowledge about what makes great food great, be it the fluffiest frothiest custard, or the most unctuous beef stew I've ever tasted. It's all about exposure and eduction and a desire to know more. I suspect this site is likely a waste of the OP's time in those regards as he seems to know all he needs to know already.

                                                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                No a waste of time at all. As I pointed out, there are some very knowledgeable and helpful posters on the site. If you say something reminds you of strawberries, I have some idea of your subjective reaction from which to make my own judgment, as opposed to your saying it reminds you of Popeyes.

                                                                                If I say, "Liked it, yummy," you have no point of comparison at all.

                                                                                Ah well.

                                                                                1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                  I've been with other people at a restaurant and tasted something that they are eating and waxing rhapsodic about, giving me a very flowery description with lots of adjectives. When I've tasted the dish I don't come at all close to having the same reaction or tasting the same things they were just telling me about. Just look at salt sensitivity for a second. I'll find something may need MORE salt at the same time my wife, who ordered the same thing, will be telling me how horribly salty it is.

                                                                                  In a nut shell that's why the most effective and accurate gauge for me is to know what other restaurants another person likes, or dislikes, that I've been to. That really does let me know that there is a high likelihood that I may either like, or dislike a place they are recommending.

                                                                                  As far as I'm concerned, having a minutely detailed, lengthy and flowery review full of the types of adjectives that wine snobs like to toss around is the other end of the same useless "It was GREAT" reviews that we sometimes see here. Just give me a fairly concise and straight forward review about the major components of your dish and the cost and I'll take the risk if it's a place that sounds interesting (and in my "affordable" range without breaking the bank).

                                                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                                                    To me, a big part of tasting and experiencing a dish, relates to my history, and my "taste and smell library." I have very good recall, though I cannot remember why I just entered a room...

                                                                                    Some people do not seem to have that capability. I can be transported to a totally different time, and/or place, just by the aromas, or tastes of a dish. To many others, it is all about the "here and now," with no references available to them.

                                                                                    While I think that they are missing something, maybe I am just cursed?

                                                                                    Recently, I tasted a Syrah. Instantly, I was transported to my crib, when I was an infant, and had chewed on the soft wood, which had been coated in real Shellac. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shellac Those around me could not make any connection, but I certainly could. Suddenly, I was about 2 years old, and gnawing on the edge of my crib. The one with the "Man in the Moon" on a decal, just above where I was chomping down. I could even conjure up the feel of biting into that wood, with the tiny teeth that I had. For me, a great memory, and one that translated to some aspects of that Syrah. Others could only talk about "dark berries," but could not even tell us WHICH "dark berries."

                                                                                    Guess that even as a infant, I was aware of many things around me, and tucked away a lot of stimuli, for use in adulthood?


                                                                                2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                  When doing tasting notes, whether for food, or for wine, I find that I have to rely on my very good memory for sensory stimuli - smell and taste. I can usually articulate those, at leas from my reference point.

                                                                                  HOWEVER, if one does not have a good "library" of tastes and smells, or if what they do have, never trigger their memories, then they cannot "play along." Some good food writers can bring those personal aspects into a more useful and general sub-set of experiences, that others can more easily pick up on. I envy them their talent.

                                                                                  When dining out, I try to keep one eye "peeled," to see what IS going on around me. We often ask our servers, "What was that?"

                                                                                  This has been a bit of a problem, when dining at Chef Alan Wong's Chef's Counter (King St.). We chat up the kitchen staff, just over a low wall. "What is that?" They usually answer, and then a small version of it comes to our seats. We often end up with 20 tastes, in a 9-course tasting menu.

                                                                                  I also love to monitor the expressions on the faces of patrons, when an innovative, or beautiful presentation of a dish, is offered to them.

                                                                                  Maybe we should not take such notices of what IS happening around us, but just cannot resist.


                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                    When dining out, I try to keep one eye "peeled," to see what IS going on around me."


                                                                                    and THIS is what i thought would be the topic of the thread, lol.

                                                                                    as someone who has spent most of my adult life working in restaurants, i can't NOT see what is going on all over, both with staff and patrons. it sometimes drives my b/f batty, but it's second nature to me.

                                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                      Yes. Every time that I revisit this thread, I keep feeling that the OP was talking about something totally different, though I have re-read the original several times.

                                                                                      I think that I am just not "getting it," but could well be wrong on many fronts.


                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                        You've hit the nail on the head. I don't think many know what was intended by the OP. That's the problem.

                                                                            4. It's like a musicologist attempting to describe Beethoven, or Bach. Unless you're a poet, don't try it.

                                                                              1. Of course, as this is a site about food, one assumes that people do come here not only to share, but to obtain information, among people whose inters is food. Waxing philosophically about food, it is useful to remember that a person has a finite number of gustatory experiences in life. While some people are incapable of appreciating flavor subtitles due to genetic factors, others simply miss the mark it seems.

                                                                                For someone seeking sustenance but not dining pleasure go enjoy TGIF, by all means. But, if the purpose is something more, why disparage subtleties and complexities due to being unaware? People cannot see ultraviolet, but bees do. That we don’t see it doesn’t make the bees patronizing, rather enhanced, and it doesn’t mean that ultra violet is fiction.

                                                                                I was bless early in my career, not food, by a mentor’s gift of dinner at a fine restaurant. The mentor was a well known gourmand, and there are still dishes served in the USA that bear his name. At the end of the meal, he treated me to 100 year old cognac. While knowing thing or two, I did not at that time have the knowledge to appreciate the 100 year old cognac. My mentor stopped me, and then he proceeded to show me why only a certain glass should be used, what and how it brought out subtleties, why a shot of cognac is consumed so slowly, how to taste it so as to elucidate various changes as it move about the tongue, is aerated, etc. It was not only a pleasure to learn about something I was missing, but to realize that I could have continued to miss for the rest of my life. It was also a pleasure to deal with someone who, have attained true expertise, was willing to share it, to spread the wealth, but also, only to those who could appreciate it. He had observed how I handled the meal, and assessed that it was worth his time, not as a condescending attitude, but the purely empathic understanding that not everyone is interested in better. How sad if they think they are, however. And here is a web site where much sharing is possible. The French board is a wonderful example of the great usefulness of this site to anyone inclined to travel to France.

                                                                                Whether a person affects fake knowledge and experience, or affects low brow disdain, it is, in fact all the same. Shame if one squanders the finite possibilities available, and like Henri Charrière, is condemned to a “wasted life.” That is the harm, willfully limiting oneself in the pursuit of one’s own affinities for affectations. No wonder such angry and defensive “Cursing the darkness.”

                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                  "The French board is a wonderful example of the great usefulness of this site to anyone inclined to travel to France."

                                                                                  Would have to disagree.

                                                                                  It is of great use if you are intending to visit Paris. And not much use for anywhere else in the country. I would make a similar statement abou the Spain board - also of great use if you are intending to visit Barcelona or Madrid but pretty much useless if you are visiting elsewhere in the country.

                                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                                    To be fair H , Lyon does get a look in on the France board.
                                                                                    I know what you mean though. The Italian board is 90% Rome/Venice/Florence/general Tuscany.

                                                                                    The strangest thing is the lack of traffic on the India and South Asian board. Given the geographical are and breadth and width of the cuisines you'd expect more posts.

                                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                                      For a recent trip, I DID find the French Board to be useful. I had done other research, prior to posting, but the comments were very useful. In Paris, they were not perfect, but neither was my research.

                                                                                      All of that said, the trip was a CH's delight, with but a few... er-r, "light spots?"

                                                                                      From casual to multi-starred, the board was very good, and so very useful to me. Less than perfect? Yes, but still very close.


                                                                                    2. re: law_doc89

                                                                                      amajust scratching my head at a lawyer (?) biyatching about kraptastic writing whose own posts are riddled with typos and garbled syntax -- beginning with the thread title.

                                                                                      i work as a sommelier and can cork-dork all day with certain people about some very far-flung wines. also have a journalism degree so am confidently articulate. however, i am never so snooty to think that because somebody else is less verbal they will enjoy a wine less than i might.

                                                                                      eesh, this is a very high bar of elitism, even for the interwebs.

                                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                        Thank you for "cork dork," hotoynoodle. It and greenwashing (courtesy of my brother) are my two neologisms for the day!

                                                                                    3. Where to starts? There are plenty of reviews that go on about every nuance of each dish on CH. Check out some of the reviews of Per Se or EMP on the NYC board. There's also plenty of " it was good and the portions were large". Benefit to both being here. I kind of get bogged down in the reviews where the details of each dish are spelled out in gory detail. Makes me wonder if the person ate the food before it got cold as he must have been very busy writing and taking photos. Usually go right to the end of those. The simple reviews aren't much help to me either, but there are those who like them. Each kind provides a frame of reference and we all develop filters to deal with them. If you like a particular style, then write yours the way you like and I'm sure there are others who do the same. Then you know who to follow and who to ignore. It's that simple.

                                                                                      24 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                        Once, I did my reviews in great detail. I would wax poetic on the ingredients, the garnishes, the cooking techniques employed, the plating and presentation. Also, I would add observations on the entire dining experience from the architecture and design of the space, to the placement and separation of the table. Finally, I would comment on the service, both food and wine.

                                                                                        However, I soon understood that there were only two things that most cared about:

                                                                                        Are the portions large enough to serve my family of 8 for an entire week?

                                                                                        Does it cost more than US $8 for a meal, with a beverage?

                                                                                        Next level of questions were:

                                                                                        Are their coupons to bring the price to below US $8 per meal with beverage?

                                                                                        Can I wear cut-offs, flip-flops and a sleeveless t-shirt with an obscene comment printed on it?

                                                                                        Beyond that, few really cared.


                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                          I think you are so right, Bill.

                                                                                          You only have to look at Trip Advisor or many local review boards.

                                                                                          I was in Spain for three weeks in January. Very close to the apartment is a restaurant. It is very touristy and the food is poor even by the standards of a tourist restaurant. Yet, it gets rave reviews on TA for the generosity of its portions and its low price. We've eaten there a couple of times and the most disappointing thing we heard was someone at an adjacent table saying that it was the best food they'd eaten in the two weeks they'd been there.

                                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                                            We like to eat where the locals eat, and yet usually find ourselves steered to touristy spots with those large portions and mediocre food. :(

                                                                                            1. re: DuffyH


                                                                                              I live in a poseur city, unfortunately, where it is more important to believe what one is supposed to believe, not actually to know something, who you know more than what you know.

                                                                                              1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                Perhaps the time has come for adding a new CH category, "For Poseurs by Poseurs".

                                                                                                  1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                    Does writing in a language other than one's mother tongue also make the writer a poseur, law_doc?
                                                                                                    I ask because I sense that your relationship with the English language (& attendant cultures) informs both your initial question and your succeeding answers.

                                                                                                  2. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                    In China, there are what a group of friends of mine call "Brass Plaque Restaurants." Prominently displayed at the entrance, on the outside of the building, will be a sign that indicated that the restaurant has been "authorized" by such-and-such gov't agency.

                                                                                                    We always try to steer away from those-- although when visting a new city, it is nice to look through the menu at a BPR and see what they think we want to eat.

                                                                                                    1. re: Kris in Beijing


                                                                                                      I was totally unaware of those. Thank you for the info.


                                                                                                  3. re: Harters

                                                                                                    Some locations DO have restaurants, that entice a lot of "tourists," but that alone, does not relegate them to some lower tier. However, in many individual cases, they SHOULD be on that lower-tier.

                                                                                                    Let's take three cities (2 in the US, and one in the UK). In New Orleans, some of the best restaurants DO allow tourists, and even court them. Reviews, and recommendations, usually point a tourist toward them. Still, they also cater to many locals, as well. In Honolulu, HI, there are many great, international restaurants, but as one works up the spectrum, they end up with some, that also cater to tourists, with locals being down the list a bit. London is my next city. It has a wonderful international diversity, but tourists have discovered some of the highest-end locations, though locals will also dine there.

                                                                                                    What often happens is that the locals help make a restaurant, but there are just not enough, to keep that restaurant going. Tourists "discover" those restaurants, and the owners/chefs welcome them. So long as that sustaining tourist trade does not ruin the dining experience, and the food, I see no issue with some tourists. Heck, except for Phoenix, AZ, USA (now), I am a "tourist" anywhere else.

                                                                                                    However, and like your experience, I see major recs. for some restaurants, and just have to scratch my head - how could one dine there, let alone recommend it?

                                                                                                    Still, when in Mayfair, I see long lines for the Hard Rock Cafe, and just scratch my head. Maybe one day, when I have eaten at every great restaurant in Metro-London, I will try it, though probably not.


                                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                      <Still, when in Mayfair, I see long lines for the Hard Rock Cafe, and just scratch my head>

                                                                                                      That's exactly what I meant, Hunt. For instance, one time in Cabo, looking for a quick little lunch, we were directed to Señor Frog. Huge crowd, all tourists. We did give it a try, which is to say we tasted the chips and salsa that appeared right after we were seated. Nasty stuff, both items. We left a few dollars on the table, walked out, and asked the nearest shop owner where to find some fresh local food. We enjoyed a terrific lunch at a little open-air taqueria and came away with fond memories of that lunch.

                                                                                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                        Similar elsewhere, like San Antonio. We had researched, and made major reservations, but wanted something lite, and early one day. The concierge tried to direct us to Dick's Last Resort. Well, we had been to one (San Diego, IIRC), and were not impressed. We asked for something more "local," and less "touristy." He had nothing, and I mean nothing. I was less than impressed.

                                                                                                        Still, so very many demand exactly what they left behind, maybe in a snow drift, regardless of where they travel.


                                                                                                  4. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                    Thems the masses for you. There is that small set of peculiar beasts that are CHers which are a bit different. No one is sure that they exist. Many claim to have seen one or that they have a picture of that elusive creature buried somewhere in the photostream on their phone. The long legged round belly witty endless storyteller wine guzzling whiskey sipping snazzily coiffed not foodie. There is no picture of this mythical creature because it doesn't carry a camera phone and doesn't allow anyone in its company to brandish one.

                                                                                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                        Sounds like a creature, that crypto-zoologists might wish to investigate, or maybe the team from "Tracking Bigfoot" on the History Channel 2?

                                                                                                        Not saying that any of those rare critters ARE CH's, though some DO post to CH. Some even complain about the portions at an AYCE restaurant.


                                                                                                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                        So many comments above. Responding to all through one. As a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, if foodies regard an exhortation to try harder or more is seen as elitist, I can only sigh and say: “Oh well.” Anti-intellectualism only hurts the anti-intellectual. The monitoring here causes clarifying comments to be deleted. I have no problem with thse who may not have been taught to write, nor those who may have LD. Studied ignorance is its own reward, however

                                                                                                        At the end of the day, I have no problem skipping the comments of those whose opinions mean nothing tome, obviously others would rather curse the darkness rather than light a candle. The potential strength of this site is the breadth of its reach, and those interested in trying harder will ultimately find that they are the ones who profit. I find it amusing that in response to taking time to review Plume in some detail is attacked for typos. Sorry gang, I don’t paid for the time I take to report. I assume. It IS a restaurant out of the financial reach of most of those attacking the review. Their loss. So I post more at other sites instead. Oh well.

                                                                                                        Just had a wonderful meal at Earth in Kennebunkport, will be writing up my tasting notes, but not sure where I will post them.

                                                                                                        I ate a lot of lobster in Maine and I was horrified to find that many of the restaurants are serving cold-stored lobsters as fresh, but none of the other diners have a clue. So they are being cheated and don't even realize it, nor do they realize that it is easy to learn, but you first have to acknowledge that there is something to learn. Oh well.

                                                                                                        1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                          Please, PLEASE let this satire be intentional.

                                                                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                                                                            "...PLEASE let this satire be intentional."

                                                                                                            An unrequited wish, I assure you. (g)

                                                                                                          2. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                            Say you've never eaten lobster before. You want to try it. So you go to Maine, where lobster is practically the state bird, and find a place that advertises "Fresh" lobster. Everyone says fresh is best.

                                                                                                            You don't know it's not just been plucked from a salt-water swimming pool, you really like it! So as far as you're concerned, you've eaten and enjoyed fresh lobster.

                                                                                                            My questions - how much more research should a diner do? Instead of being horrified that people didn't know they weren't being served fresh lobster, shouldn't you be horrified that the restaurant is lying to customers?

                                                                                                            *Note* - I apologize for my initial comment on your post. It was too snarky and the mods pulled it.

                                                                                                      3. “it was good, the portions were large.”

                                                                                                        I take that as a perfect review of a restaurant, IF the poster wants to be nice and not trash a place. It basically means the meal was less than spectacular or 'special' and for those interested enough to read a warning to avoid unless 'mediocre' is what you are looking for. Going into details about how mediocre a place is isn't great reading. Sarcasm is well appreciated by some, but not all. Asking about a restaurant and getting a Chowhounds review then experiencing for yourself a letdown, maybe “it was good, the portions were large.” is a good reply to a post.

                                                                                                        1. Well, you get what you pay for.

                                                                                                          1. ok that was hilarious to read. Smoke? Are they serious? I'm trying to think of someone that wouldn't know what smoked was on a menu. Nope can't think of a one. I'm hardly a gourmet chef but even I knew what all those were without reading the descriptions. And I've only done the tasting menu thing once, can't even remember what I ate anymore.

                                                                                                            Not sure what the article had to do with "knowing what's going on around you" or writing reviews though.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                              well said.

                                                                                                              i'm sure there must be someone in the English speaking world who hasn't had truffled something pushed at them (or at least something that was said to be truffled) but unless they live entirely on drive-thru, I can't imagine how.

                                                                                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                be sure. be very sure. and it ain't only those that live entirely on drive-thru. The drive-thru crowd may actually know about truffled something from tv... many, many others have not been subjected to truffled anything, ever and have no incling what that might be...

                                                                                                            2. Wait...did he mention *chicken* tartare???

                                                                                                              Where I come from, that's called the rapid weight loss program.

                                                                                                              Has anyone actually seen this on a menu?

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Christina D

                                                                                                                The old cookbooks talk about cooking chicken so it is still "pink around the bones." Maybe we can irradiate meat and then try it?

                                                                                                                1. re: Christina D

                                                                                                                  What do you think about chicken sashimi then? It's a real dish too.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Christina D


                                                                                                                    Sad, and unhealthy, but still LOL.


                                                                                                                  2. I am a Licensed Plumbing contractor for more than 30 years, additionally I have a graduate degree in Economics. So there are two things I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert; economics, and what happens to your crap after you flush.

                                                                                                                    What I am not......a restaurant critic or reviewer!

                                                                                                                    So, I think I have posted one impression of a meal I ate, and have specifically responded to the existence of a local restaurant another poster might inquire about. Reviews, I take it all into account, both the novices and the pros.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                                                      now THAT is putting things into perspective.


                                                                                                                    2. The ones waxing and waning on this thread, and who clearly believe they are good writers, still misused the apostrophe. Lmao.

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. 'It is, however, sometimes frustrating, when someone posts a review of a restaurant, and cannot seem to be able to describe the experience beyond “it was good, the portions were large.”'
                                                                                                                        I don't think it serves any good purpose to get frustrated at people who aren't super knowledgeable. Because... that's all of us. Example - I know quite a bit about some things, but if I wanted to discuss, say, regional Chinese food, I'd be more or less a novice. But I would probably learn things from this discussion. The same applies when a novice discusses a subject that I am much more familiar with. You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours.

                                                                                                                        "there are those who feel it is snobbery actually to know something, or to do the work required to gain true skill."
                                                                                                                        I tend to agree. And this is a problem, since it hurts the level of discourse. Extreme wariness toward and railing against all things 'snobby' or 'pretentious' at best is wasted time (snobs gonna snob, after all). At worst, it's throwing petty insults at those you don't understand and who put a lot of time and passion into their craft/hobby/etc, while denying oneself the possibility to have a great new experience.

                                                                                                                        Here's the problem though. I've written rants against what I call 'kneejerk populism' in the past here. And while these rants might've felt good at the time, I'd be fooling myself if I thought my rants accomplished anything either. The snob police love fighting snobs - arguing with em just makes you another snob to fight.

                                                                                                                        More productive: find topics that interest you and just discuss them in the kind of depth you'd like to see. Do this often enough, and the interesting conversations come and find you. Interesting in-depth conversations attract more posters who like interesting and in-depth conversations. Pleas to up the level of discourse... not so much.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                          It seems to me there's a huge difference between being knowledgeable about something and being able to express yourself through the written or spoken word in a way that is appealing and understandable to the majority of readers. We've surely all had teachers who were clearly expert but whose delivery obfuscated that expertise to the point where learning was not strictly possible for many in the class.

                                                                                                                          There are food bloggers whose posts I read (and trust) because I believe they have similar palates to mine, and/or enjoy the kind of food I like to eat. Am I giving them high marks for grammar, language use, structure and creativity? Not necessarily. If writing about the things we love was easy, everyone would be doing it. Oh wait, everybody is... and that is okay with me.

                                                                                                                        2. "How about when someone’s 'adaptation' or 'style' is really the reflection of aberrant technique and nothing but a dodge?"

                                                                                                                          Let's say a chef made an adaptation of a zabaglione and it was excellent, though nothing like your foam description. Is that less worthy as a dessert than one that fits your narrow description? And, if someone who doesn't have the knowledge that you do enjoys the dessert, is his enjoyment of the "aberration" less worthy than yours? Can we only enjoy good food when we know the history, the way it should taste in a traditional manner, how it has been prepared, and be able to describe it satisfactorily to you; or is it possible to enjoy good food by relying on our taste buds?

                                                                                                                          When I read, "It was good, portions were large", I see it as a review of a mediocre restaurant where nothing more needs to be added. I don't need a description of a mediocre meal, nor how large the portions were. Sometimes the white space speaks volumes.

                                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                            What's interesting to me is the assertion that, unless one attains more intellectual knowledge of cooking techniques or authenticity of a cuisine then one isn't deriving the same depth or level of enjoyment as one who does.

                                                                                                                            I've seen too many people with expert knowledge of movies then fixate on one aspect of a film and completely lose sight of the overall presentation and it's attendant entertainment value.

                                                                                                                            I think nit picking food in the same way can be counter productive and end up causing those folks to fixate, and then dislike, something that would probably be satisfying to them otherwise.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                              Yes, one needn't have studied Kama Sutra to enjoy... (keeping it clean now that I know there are young ones reading this site). Sometimes, our senses let us know all we need to know.

                                                                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                When it comes to the KS, just make sure those oils are the healthier ones. As the Cleveland Clinic website puts it:

                                                                                                                                "This is important because heating oil above its smoke point — the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke — produces toxic fumes and harmful free radicals."

                                                                                                                                Something to consider if you smoke after se... err, never mind.

                                                                                                                              2. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                And isn't it possible that too much knowledge can raise
                                                                                                                                expectations to almost unattainable standards?

                                                                                                                                I remember the first time I had foie gras. I didn't really know what I was getting because the waiter described it only as
                                                                                                                                goose pate - not even goose liver pate - and I was expecting
                                                                                                                                the chunky country style I had there made with rabbit the year before.

                                                                                                                                Since then, I have eaten foie gras in many forms at many
                                                                                                                                places - including a class where we prepared eight livers
                                                                                                                                for 12 people. I recall many of them but none of them have
                                                                                                                                surpassed the experience of that first unexpected and
                                                                                                                                magnificent revelation.

                                                                                                                                At the same time, I can only think of one professional food
                                                                                                                                writer who has come close to making me "experience" a
                                                                                                                                food. The only way to do that is to consume it . Words,
                                                                                                                                written by anyone, can describe and explain but
                                                                                                                                cannot provide the actual sensation. Why should someone who is willing to try something new be disparaged
                                                                                                                                because of their lack of experience? They should be
                                                                                                                                applauded for experimenting - and who is to say which diner's
                                                                                                                                enjoyment is the greatest?

                                                                                                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                  To be fair it is helpful to have some sort of base knowledge: don't eat spaghetti with your hands, fondue with a straw, etc. It is helpful to know that gazpacho is supposed to be cold so you don't look like a fool complaining about it.

                                                                                                                                  That being said, I'm sure there are chefs and cooks who can make something truly delicious out of dogfood if they had to. Might be an interesting challenge on Top Chef sometime, or I might be watching too many apocalypse/zombie type shows and am mentally planning for when Skynet becomes self-aware. Note to self: stock up on dogfood!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                                                    Jackie Gleason already did it best...Cranmar's Mystery Appetizer!

                                                                                                                                  2. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                    Servog's point about the movies is right on. When I was
                                                                                                                                    studying TV production in grad school, I found that at times
                                                                                                                                    I was paying so much attention to the technicalities of a
                                                                                                                                    program I was watching that it dimnished my enjoyment of
                                                                                                                                    the same.

                                                                                                                                2. I guess there are people who will rave over dog food if told it is "good."


                                                                                                                                  If the French can be fooled so easily, what chance is there elsewhere?

                                                                                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                                                    Had they only been able to articulate it better, they would have realized it didn't taste good. Or, perhaps, if people trusted and relied more on their senses than their research, they would have noticed it...

                                                                                                                                    1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                                                      If you took the time to read more threads on this unpopular site to expand your view as opposed to just reinforce your view, you would find that you have dredged up a non-news item. This point has been hashed out on the France and other boards a while ago. The French haven't been fooled. Maybe the french have fooled the tourist, or maybe they just got lazy. But in my experience, you will walk by plenty of restos in France that are serving factory food and either they are slow or perhaps busy with tourists who don't know. Then they will complain about how mediocre the food was because even if they don't know what was going on, they can still taste. You go to the places that prepare good food on their premises, you will find them packed and if you don't have a reservation, will be disappointed. You have an odd perspective. You seem think its your duty to enlighten the world about food, but then you seem to think its a wasted effort because all those dullards are too dimwitted to know they know nothing.

                                                                                                                                      ETA - by the way, my dog has pretty good taste. He doesn't eat everything just because you put it in front of him. He eats pretty well so I don't know what's wrong with dog food. You got a dog in your avatar. Do you feed him/her garbage?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                                        nah -- cheap kibble, because the dog is absolutely crap at being able to describe the subtleties of flavor, so he doesn't deserve good stuff.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                          Thank you for summing it up: verbal skills of a dog. Oh well.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                                          Interesting, too bad I haven't said the things you say I have. I find it interesting I have supposedly said this site is not popular? Really? I have said it isn't what it could be. Demagogues are popular; panderers are popular; average, by definition, is popular. mediocre is popular.

                                                                                                                                          Many of the place that are packed are "preparing" sous vide, and you don't even know it nor recognize it.

                                                                                                                                          It is fascinating to observe the raw nerve I touched in a small number here to suggest what obviously is the real issue.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: law_doc89


                                                                                                                                            Do you recall the parlor game "telephone?"

                                                                                                                                            In that, there is a statement. It is read by the first person, in line, who then whispers it to the next, who whispers it to the next, until everyone has heard that statement.

                                                                                                                                            At the end, the original statement is compared to what the very last person heard. Usually very different, and funny.


                                                                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                              Absolutely. And when the person misinterprets and gets wound up, the distortion that follows is often good for a hearty laugh. High dudgeon is so funny to watch.

                                                                                                                                              Sad, though, to see so many militantly depriving themselves of more than they know.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                                                              "It is fascinating to observe the raw nerve I touched in a small number here to suggest what obviously is the real issue."

                                                                                                                                              That brings to mind the old joke about why substance abuse clinics aren't effective in Egypt.

                                                                                                                                              Because it's the home of denial.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                Now, that IS funny, and I have to admit that I never saw that one coming. Duh!


                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                  It's an old joke that I made up to win a radio contest prize here in L.A. about 25 years ago where the DJ was giving away gift certificates if he couldn't come up with the punchline to listeners jokes who phoned in to him.

                                                                                                                                                  So I called in and made up my own joke on the spot. Can't even remember what I won (may have been snow skis from Sports Chalet?).

                                                                                                                                                  But really, when you have to ascribe ill will or anti-intellectualism or ignorance to everyone who disagrees with you then your own premise must be called into question.

                                                                                                                                                  "The Talmud notes that if one person calls you an ass, you may ignore them. If two people call you an ass, you ought to seriously ponder the possibility. If you hear it from a third source, buy a saddle!"

                                                                                                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                  Absolutely nothing wrong with sous vide. But if you go into a restaurant that claims to make its own food and is palming off Cuisine Solutions sous vide, that is fraud. Further, SV is its own unique way of cooking.