I write the blog, Portals and KM which covers web 2.0 during the week and food, art, and music on the weekends. I have been doing a series on restaurant reviews by friends who live, or have lived, in different cities. There are many more in the cue. I have commissioned reviews in Rome, Mumbai, Washington, Toronto, Seattle, and several other places so far and they will be appearing in the coming weeks. I also written ones myself on Cambridge, Mass (my new home town). Quebec, and New Orleans (where I grew up).
I started this practice by chance. In 2002, I went to Paris to help close a consulting engagement with a large French firm. The local manager with my company (at the time) was very knowledgeable on food and Paris restaurants. He had over 100 of his favorites cataloged. As we celebrated getting the sale at the first one listed below, he gave me his top six at under $25 a person as I had another night in Paris before I left for home. I found the crumpled slip of paper with his notes one day and wanted to both record and share his list. So the blog I had just started was a logical choice. The blog post was well received so I begun to add more cities. The list has gotten large. Here is a link to my Updated Index to Cities and Towns with Restaurant Picks.
At a recent bloggers meeting, I was explaining what I was doing and one person pointed out that Zagat had plenty of reviews for most cities, why do this? Another, a prolific blogger, said yes but you do not know those people. Your reviews are by people you know. These are your friends who you know and trust their tastes. It is also ironic that the person who mentioned Zagat, is more into wikis than blogs and seems more concerned with authentication than personalization. I have eaten many meals with some of these friends Others I have recently meet and have not yet had this experience. However, I think that even if you have not experienced a meal with someone you can still form an opinion on whether they appreciate good food and have good taste.
The annual Gourmet restaurant issue came out in October 2004. I have always looked forward to this. It has been greatly reduced over the years. They used to have twenty per city and we always tried to do the top twenty in Boston with a group of friends. Now it is a separate little booklet with 4 to 6 per city. Still, I looked at their picks with great interest. I found that I have been to some.
There are some I agree with and others that I think are there by reputation. I sorted out their picks I know into three buckets, deserved, mixed, reputation only. It was about even. I will not tarnish the reputation of those in wrong columns. But I will say that, in my opinion, Hugo’s and Fore Street (Portland, ME), Uglesich (New Orleans), Salts (Cambridge), Stripped Bass (Philly), and Citronelle (Washington) are deserving of visiting, if you can get past the lines for some. Although the last two have been around for a while so they need to stay innovative to not slip into the reputation category.
Blogs and other social media offer a more personal to sharing information. If you know and/or trust the writer, they can serve the same function as the list of Paris places I received in Paris in 2002, a trusted filter for content.