While I like to believe that I already adhere to some of the guidelines in the Code (taking accountability, being civil, revealing bias, etc.) on my blog, I know that my reviews and posts are by no means perfect -- especially when I am writing reviews for Yelp.com, a site that seems to be forever catching the ire of chefs, restaurant staff and professional critics alike.
When I started "Diana Takes A Bite," I initially intended it to be a more fleshed out version of my persona/profile of reviews on Yelp. I consider some of my early posts on my blog cringe-worthy -- rife with over statements, generalizations and the egoism that sites like Yelp engender in their reviewers. In my first post about how to make a healthy yogurt parfait, it is clear that I am writing for a reaction -- for the "useful," "funny," "cools," and compliments that Yelp reviewers can receive from other members. In my experience, these "accolades" are partially responsible for the greatest critiques voiced against Yelpers -- namely that we are a lot of uncouth, disrespectful drunkards whose opinions should be swallowed with an entire carton of Morton's salt. In the world of Yelp, reviews are meant to be first and foremost entertaining rather than factual and well-researched.
When I realized what I was doing, I began taking my blog in an entirely different direction -- making it more of a celebration of food rather than a means to shock an audience like some of my Yelp reviews. I take a lot of pride in my blog and truly make an effort to construct all of my posts in a thoughtful, and ideally, thought-provoking way. I endeavor to be factually accurate, to properly cite sources for my recipes, and, when reviewing a restaurant, to be fair and respectful.
My one concern with my restaurant write-ups is that in most cases, I am only able to visit a restaurant once before writing about it. I have tried to compensate for this by altering my reviewing style from a traditional review to a personal account of my experience at a restaurant -- the story of what what I was thinking, what I was tasting and what I was feeling -- with the hope that by offering my opinion in this manner I am making it clear that I am not trying to be Jonathan Gold, Ruth Reichl or even S. Irene Virbila. I am giving my perspective of an experience. The "Diana Takes A Bite" experience that is not necessarily the experience that Matt of Mattatouille or H.C. of LA & OC Foodventures or John Smith on Yelp will have.
I like to think that by writing in this manner, I can be fair to the restaurant I am reviewing, while also subtlety letting my readers know that my thoughts are based on a one time experience. The problem is that even with these precautionary measures, I am bound to stumble upon a dining experience that is incongruent with a typical night in the restaurant.
This past Friday night, I attended a wine and food pairing Yelp event at Campanile, a restaurant I have been to several times before. For $19 (+tip/tax), we were treated to pours of three different white wines to be paired with three plates of food -- classic grilled cheese sandwiches, grilled cumin scented shrimp with Greek yogurt, and smoked cod with red pepper and bacon on crostini.
While I enjoyed the grilled cheese sandwiches (I ate seven slivers) and thought that the wine selected was quite good, I was disappointed by the shrimp and crostini. Everyone at my table agreed that the shrimp were limp and flavorless. and we were equally turned off by the "fishy" cod crostini that most of us left entirely untouched.
If I were to write about my experience at Campanile on Friday night, I would probably describe how I couldn't stop eating grilled cheese sandwiches because I was so hungry from all the wine and was afraid of breaking a tooth or contracting a foodbourne disease from eating the "fishy" cod crostini. The review would be funny, but it would not be respectful to the fine restaurant that I have enjoyed in the past. It wouldn't be a proper representation of the other experiences I have had there, like the amazing time I had on my 24th birthday, or the lovely brunch my friend Lauren and enjoyed this past winter.
The situation is a classic illustration of the food blogger's dilemma -- is it really possible to be fair to a restaurant after just one visit?
I don't know that it is, but at the same time, I wouldn't be able to maintain my blog if I always visited a restaurant two or three times before writing about it. Plus, I love being able to share a wonderful dining experience with my readers as soon as possible -- especially if it might inspire them to try the eatery as well.
Ultimately, I don't really know all the answers to the questions that Brooke and Leah raised in their Food Blog Code of Ethics. I don't even know that I will be able to live up to the standards they extol. But I do know that I am excited by this latest development in the world of food blogging, and in the future, I will be a little bit more careful about what it is I'm sending out to the blogosphere when I hit the "publish post" button.