As you may know from my previous essays, as opposed to the big-time American reviewers writing for organs such as the New York Times or Los Angeles Times, who may visit a place a half-dozen times before writing it up, I quickly learned in Paris that the big boys go once, in part following the theory that what they get that one time is what Mr. Average Citizen gets.
I go to a place, write it up and if it appeals to my severest critic, Colette, who only visits Paris four times a year, we go back the next time she’s in town and I write that visit up too, frequently indicating whether it’s better, “holding up” or less impressive than the first time.
It’s not unheard of for me to feel negative about a place and write it up with a “bad note” and subsequently have friends and/or colleagues I respect tell me ‘John, you gotta go back, I had a great (or fine, or outstanding) meal there – try it again.” And often I do and at a place like Pantruche and you won’t believe this, my beloved Ze Kitchen Galerie, I am pleased and write what is essentially a correction, albeit in the form of a review.
But now we come to a thornier dilemma. What do you do when reports come in that while you (that is me) had a good meal, they didn’t. The message is often one of the following:
“John, they changed the formula, there are now two or three choices, nothing like the 6-6-6 choices your photo shows.”
“John, they’ve gone to cheaper products, there was nothing like you described when it opened three months ago.”
“John, I was so disappointed; everything was different – the prices were up, the quality was down, the service was bad and I had the feeling they’re on the skids.”
Now what do I do?
My blog, even though getting 1K status on good days, doesn’t attract the to-and-fro of comment areas on say David Lebovitz’s, so publishing a “I heard this today…….” probably would not get read. I certainly am not going to go back and pay for what I almost certainly know will be a bad meal in the pursuit of “fair and balanced” reporting. And I’m not wicked enough to sucker someone else into going to confirm the message.
So I’m left with reporting on website forums second-hand information, stating it comes from trusted source(s).
I pride myself (ignoring the fact that pride is a sin) on reporting the good the bad and the ugly, not suppressing bad experiences as many do, on the justification that readers deserve to be warned off places as much as steered to them. But I let my readers down a bit when it comes to channeling bad news about previously good places.
If you’ve got a better idea of how to report second-hand negative reports to warn off eager diners, let me know.