During tough economic times, even a bit of negative press can affect livelihoods
There is a certain responsibility that comes with reviews, and I take them seriously. In a good economy, a negative review from a site like this is probably a minor blip, but during times like these, even a bit of negative press can affect livelihoods. I realize that what I say can have an impact on a restaurant’s shrinking bottom line.
Over the past few months, I’ve found myself doing something I’d never thought I would do: skipping reviews for restaurants that aren’t very good. I just don’t want to kick someone while they are down. There is, of course, a bit of a dichotomy here. The public has less money to spend, so are even less thrilled when a rare meal out is an unpleasant experience. I don’t want that to happen, but on the other hand I’m not thrilled about the prospect of getting a waiter laid off when no one else is hiring. There is a responsibility here that I’m still pondering.
I could just give good reviews and skip the forgettable restaurants, but that doesn’t seem honest to me. What are your thoughts on this matter? What would you do? I’d appreciate your input.
Dude, thanks for the thoughts, poignant indeed. I too have been feeling the economic shift recently, from the business side of the bar. In fact, it’s been on my mind this evening before reading your post. That being said, I certainly hope you continue this site and your unbiased reviews. Just so you know, this site is first on my list to tourists, locals, and folks new to town looking for a job that sit at my bar and ask for some perspective on Portland’s food. Even though the restaurant I work at has not been busy this week, or recently for that matter, I would still consider any negative reviews from you or other patrons as a shot in the arm and an opportunity to improve and not to resent you for calling me out when I’m down. Maybe it’s easy for me to say, not being a business owner, but I believe any concept worth keeping should be able to take it’s lumps if needed, and keep on trucking. I guess I would be sad if there was no more pf&d, and I guess I would be sad if I had to figure out another way to pay the bills besides serving and tending bar. But c’est la vie, ‘eh? I always end up riding it ’till the wheels fall off anyway.
It’s really great that you even bother thinking about how what you write will impact a restaurant in a bad economy.
But, as you also already said people have less money to spend so better to guide them to where it is well spent.
It seems you dine at the places you review often enough that a bad experience written about here is not a fluke or an off night. If you went to a place 5 separate times and had 5 bad/mediocre experiences… well… chances are when the place goes down you didn’t create the problem, just reported it.
If anything though, and I really hate to say it-maybe in this economy it is best not to judge a place for being a little understaffed it if has caused no major detriment to your meal… often the choice for a business is cheaper product or tightening up staffing.
Dan Cook says
Don’t give up! As a long time journalist who has written reviews and columns over the years, I know the spot you’re in. You start something cool, everyone loves (or hates) it/you, but it’s all very exciting. Then as the gig matures, you start to realize people are paying attention to you and actually basing decisions on what you write. The responsibility is huge. It is natural to worry that what you write could cost someone their livelihood–for a short time. Here’s a couple of points to consider:
1. Probably no one will die from what you write.
2. Printing only positive reviews undermines your credibility and will cause you to lose respect among your readers. This is the first step towards losing your credibility. Don’t go down this road.
3. Just make sure when you issue a negative review that it is based on multiple meals at various times, etc. You know the drill. But make the standard even tougher.
Your site is valuable from a micro and macro standpoint.
Micro: Many of us are depending on your objective and sincere reviews to help us choose from among so many restaurants. There really aren’t many other places for us to go to find this credible information.
Macro: The Wall Street Journal used to say that its objective reporting kept the herd healthy. What that meant was that, by extolling the good guys and exposing the bad guys, the business community benefitted because the good guys tended to succeed while the folks who were crooked or lazy or just plain bad business managers tended to go out of business. This is what your site does for the restaurant community. It is a crucial contribution–even if it is sometimes painful for you personally.
Only you can decide if you can shoulder this responsibility. But I have to say, I was the m.e. at a newspaper in Orange County where the reviewer only reviewed restaurants she thought were good. I argued with her constantly about this philosophy, and I have to say, very few readers took her seriously. They assumed she just gave every restaurant a good review, and, after I while, i believe that is what was happening. She became a charicature of a food critic. Not a happy outcome. Not the one you want.
And, of course, the rest of the site’s information is fabulous. I love reviewing the menus, reading the press releases, reading your followers’ comments. Stay strong! You can survive this period of introspection and come out the other end even better!
Food Dude says
#1 If someone dies from what I write, I’m holding you personally responsible!
#2 I agree. (Just to make it clear, I didn’t mean I’d give a good review for a restaurant that deserved a negative one, just that I’d skip it.)
#3. Always. If anything, I go even more times for a bad review as I always want to find something good to say.
Bertha Pearl says
I want to thank you for your fabulous blog. I enjoy it on many levels, for the fun of reading about food in Portland, for the menus, so I can decide if there are enough choices, and for what is happening. Food is my favorite hobby, knowing about the food scene is what I enjoy doing in my spare time. Eating good and great food is one of the best parts of life.
I don’t usually comment, I prefer reading to writing( others write way better than I do). Please don’t take the lack of comments, to indicate a lack of readership.
I think your truth is important. You don’t promote gratuitous hate, you let people know what you think. You alone cannot close a popular restaurant that you may not like, or keep open an unpopular one. You can shed your light on good and bad experiences, and others can decide.
I hope you keep going, you are a valued and valuable part of the food community.
No, Food Dude, don’t go!!!!!
Okay, in all seriousness though, I echo what was said above, good points all around. Another thing I find worth mentioning is that you are in an advantageous position of posting your reviews on a site that enjoys a very active, vocal, and opinionated readership. Negative reviews (positive as well) can be counterbalanced with responses from people who have different perspectives or experiences. This is far better than traditional newspaper reviews where the reviewer tends to have the final say (with the exception, perhaps, of a smattering of reader letters or e-mails). I think that, in the end, the richness and dynamism of the food-related commentary in Portland will only help elevate the food “scene” here, which is already a head above many larger cities.
Scruffy Chipmunk says
Running a restaurant is not a god given right. If someone isn’t getting the job done, call them out. If they can’t fix the problem, they shouldn’t be in business. Free up the space and give someone else a shot at it.
Your reviews are very well thought out and researched. If, after 3-5 experiences, you don’t think a restaurant is worth your dining dollars, others probably won’t either. Might as well speed up the process and spread the word to your community.
Food Dude says
If you are conflicted about doing reviews, I propose that you hold off on doing any at all for the time being. I agree it is less than honest to only post the good ones. At that point, it’s no longer a review, but rather the musings of a gushing fan. I, for one, value this site for the food/restaurant news (even the gossip), the menu postings, and the discussion forums. Without reviews, I would still visit regularly and would be happy to see an increased focus on other forms of food writing and discussion. Overall, Portlandfoodanddrink.com has a positive affect on dining culture in our fair city and will continue to do so with or without restaurant reviews.
That’s my $0.02…hope it helps…
surver gurl says
Food Dude, you have always done a fantastic job with reviews, for the following reasons:
1. You visit the restaurant enough times, with a variance to your visit times, and as such, see the big picture.
2. You are not high-maintenance or OCD when you visit, and even if recognized, prefer not to be recognized, unlike other big-city reviewers (I won’t name names).
3. You know more than the average joe about food and ingredients and beverages, which makes you, in my opinion, qualified to do the job well.
I agree with Melissa in this thread in that you do allow for counterpoint, which is key. That keeps an honesty to the communications, though I do feel that we will never be free of the trolls who live to hate, regardless of whether or not you require registration.
Your site was critical to my learning everything I could about the Portland restaurant scene when I moved here. I understand your heartfelt concerns, and it’s good that you care. Maybe a compromise is to use your writing to clarify why someone might want to visit a place, even if it’s crap. Open tables at 7:30 on a Saturday? Undivided attention from the owner as you are the only guests in the joint? Bathrooms not out of toilet paper or handtowels? Discovering that the busser can do impressions? Sometimes bad can be good, depending on your perspective.
Food Dude says
I always try to find good things to say. Well… almost.
Well, I missed you, but I figured you were getting some much-needed relief by relying more heavily on guest bloggers for a while.
Please please continue the reviews! I have just started receiving your updates after the weblink was forwarded to me by a friend. As a newbie foodie who has 2 young children and can’t afford to go out a lot or the time to weed out the good from the bad it is so helpful to hear the thoughtful opinions of others who can. I know of other moms who are in the same predicament who subscribe to your updates. As for your feelings of providing a less than positive review for a restaurant I completely agree with the other comments that thougth it is difficult it is what helps wean out the less than great and pushes the good to greatness so please share the good and the bad with us and I know it will just make the PDX restaurant scene only better.
Welcome Back Chef Dude. The easy solution would be review the good and avoid the bad reviews. This will allow you to sit in a safe happy place and keep the dilemmas to a minimum. Let your readers and bloggers write the hard reviews for you.
one swell foop says
Typically when you’ve been gone, through the shortish time I’ve been in Portland and the time that I’ve been reading this site, you’ve been working on any number of things or resting up. I assumed this was what was going on this time around. If the site is taking you away from other things you’d honestly be doing, or causing you unhappiness then drop it. Your life is more important than a site. If it’s solely for the reasons stated above, by no means give it up.
As others have commented, and as we all know, the food business in Portland is tremendously competitive. Bad press won’t help a place, but word of mouth will travel somehow and a sinking ship will sink regardless. As stated above, “running a restaurant is not a god given right”, and many people do it badly, some remain successful despite doing so. The fact remains, that putting themselves in a public place and catering to the public, restaurants, like celebrities, open themselves to comments and criticisms from the public. Judging yourself negatively for putting forth an informed opinion that may be insightful to those of us that share the same passions may lead further down the road of unhealthy self doubt than you should go.
This has gotten too wordy and I’m trying to express a great number of things and doing so badly. I’ll sum it up with; Don’t stop doing what you are doing. When one voice becomes quiet another will fill its spot. Far better to listen to a voice that I respect for providing us with an honest opinion, positive or negative, than to listen to an uninformed voice, one I don’t trust, or a voice as self righteous as I can sometimes be. In any case, your site, reviews, and forums have been a tremendous resource for me and for those I have directed to it. Thanks for that.
Food Dude says
To continue in the vein that Surver Gurl proposed, perhaps the middling restaurants should be covered with a brief First-Impressions type of entry offering blog readers some guidance about what to order and what to avoid.
Sometimes people find themselves dining at places not of their choosing and a little information is better than none.
A Fish says
Critics of food and movies who publish only positive or negative reviews are eventually marginalized. Don’t become one of them. Your readership depends upon a “fair and balanced” (uggh, I can’t believe I wrote that) presentation of the news and reviews – both of which I believe that you do.
I enjoy your site very much and would be sad to see it go, but heck, it’s your site, and you can do what you want! As for reviews, I think you should post the bad and the good. After all, you are writing about your personal experiences and tastes, and we’re all adults and should be able to read your reviews then make up our own minds, right? I know I like plenty of restaurants others detest, and vice versa. We all have different opinions. I always appreciate the thoroughness and sincerity of your reviews!
Flask Mama says
Dude, we all love you and the site. You are such a tease…. Look at all these fresh names commenting! I must say that while I agree with everyone, I mostly like what Dan Cook has to say – a review – positive or negative – isn’t going to kill someone. You are fair and honest and everyone recognizes that.
Thank you for your blog, which I enjoy reading. I’m relatively new to the site, and have never commented before. Just wanted to say, I appreciate your question about negative reviews in a struggling economy. I don’t have an answer, but I admire your thoughtfulness and integrity.
Johnny Z says
Food dude, You are my one and only source of the PDX food scene. I am in the town on rare times and need to get a feel of where to chow beforehand… DO NOT quit doing this site……. PLEASE!!
I really appreciate this post. It is a huge responsibility to review restaurants. I’m sure all involved in the business will be reassured by the fact that you take it seriously and understand its consequences. Many of these comments are spot on (Melissa and Scruffy Chipmunk in particular).
All that being said, if you get sick and bored with it all, then it is time to take a break, and I’m sure your readers could understand that.
In the meantime, I will continue to savor the site until your next reevaluation at the end of the summer.
Marshall Manning says
Dude, let me echo the above comments. Many of the regular readers know that you occasionally have health issues that come up and stop you from doing writing and reviews for a while, and like me, they probably just assumed this was one of those times.
And I believe that you need to keep reviewing restaurants the way you always have. As others have said, a bad review from you may affect the restaurant a bit, but it’s going to fail on its own if other diners have the same response as yours. On the other hand, if you only print positive reviews, then readers may think that your praise means little, and ignore a strong recommendation for a place that really deserves more diners and attention.
Food Lover says
Baby please don’t go. This is definately the first and often only site I look to when determining a night of dining. I agree with many of the comments above. I don’t think your review will make or break the restaurant but it will help me to decide on where to go. A bad review is sometimes taken with a grain of salt considering it is one’s opinion on a personal experience. However, that being said, I know what to expect from a place because of your reviews and this often creates an experience with little disappointment. Yes, times are hard. I have personally been affected by the failing economy. Because of this it is ever more vital to report the good and bad. In a time when every dollar matters more and more, I’m glad to know I can depend on someone to give me the truth about how their own dollars were spent.
Dear Food Dude;
I discovered your site about a year and a half ago, and I believe it’s one of the better Portland-area food sites out there. I don’t always agree with you on every review, but your thoroughness and standards are first-rate. Your forums allow for competing views, and more than balance the possible effects your negative reviews might produce.
You can’t just give the good reviews. That puts you at the level of a PR flak, and as previous viewers have noted, eventually destroys your credibility.
Of course, only you can know if the hard work you put into this site is worth it. You should definitely know that you have legions of fans out there, even if we don’t always “speak up”.
Of my twenty-something years, I spent less than two of them in Portland. While I was there, I worked in the restaurant industry and came to love the city for its vibrant food scene.
I currently live on the other side of the world, in Asia. I’ve been here over a year now. The only websites from the USA I check with any real consistency are the Seattle Times (I share your gentle disdain for the Oregonian, Dude) and this site. I will never have the opportunity to visit more than a few of the restaurants mentioned here, but I love keeping my finger on the pulse of the PDX food scene. It reminds me that there is another, more familiar, world still out there. Portlandfoodanddrink gets more hits from my little computer than CNN.
As has been mentioned before, this website is your baby…and if it’s taken over your life and you’re not comfortable with that then you should do what’s right for you. But please don’t think your efforts go unappreciated.
Oh…and thank you for recommending Toro Bravo as one place I HAD to go on a quick visit home…it was amazing.
I would like to join meimoya in giving voice to the extended PFD readership. I am a native Portlander, and I return pretty frequently for short visits, but I “live” in Washington, DC (y’know job, house, all that boring stuff). I check PFD on a very regular basis. It has gotten me through many a slow day at work, and not only do I enjoy reading it for my own entertainment and education, I use it to provide recommendation and suggestions to my friends and family who are still in Portland. DC’s food and dining “scene” is dull as dishwater, at least for a city this size and by comparison to PDX. Please don’t leave me to read about what latest celebrity chef from New York has decided to slum it down south with the politicians and lobbyists!
Dude! As MM wrote, I too figured that your health was keeping you from writing here so I didn’t want to bug you. For me, I’ve spent most of May on the road in China, Korea and India. This website is one I read regularly from the road since it makes me feel a bit more at home. I’m back home now and happy to be here.
My wife’s high-tech job ended in January and she hasn’t found another one yet, so we’ve trimmed back on the restaurants. I do enjoy reading about the openings and closings on this website. I wasn’t in agreement with the recent discussion about corkage fees since it was getting pretty snobby, but it was an interesting read
May I suggest that you take on some volunteer food reviewers if you are unable to invest the time in the places you’d like to review? Just a small number of people who can be “Dude’s Army” so you can get some help in reviewing new and old places in Portland.
I realize this website is a lot of work, but I really hope you can keep it going for a while.
Food Dude says
I don’t take volunteer food reviewers anymore because there are so many one hit wonders that I find out later have an agenda. I’d rather have fewer reviews with content my readers can trust. Of course anyone can post mini-reviews in the forums, and if I like what I see, I might ask them to review for the site. Even with long time reviewers, I like to go to the restaurant once myself, just to make sure I agree with their impressions.
That being said, I AM looking for a good general food writer. If anyone is interested, feel free to contact me.
jeez, FD … I just got the sensation that the love of my food life just asked me for a divorce. Do you know how many cool restaurants you’ve turned me on to? Maybe if I stop taking you for granted, you’ll stay? Do the dishes once in a while? Send flowers? TRY to get along with your mom? Pick up my socks? Do you have any idea how much we love you?
Wow what a great site. I got on this site a year ago and saw not much happening but enjoyed what had been published. I like the phrase “So here’s the Thing”. I am a business person myself and admire the fact that you are in a quandry that you feel strong enough to lay it out to your peers. Although I am not in the food business I do enjoy cooking and good food. Keep true, and when you must give a negative review perhaps give it kindly. I am assuming you did one in particular that has haunted you. Sorry. It is nice to know however that you have a conscience. Take care and go boldly. STeve
Please keep up the good work! I use your blog to make decisions about where to eat, some which I end up agreeing with, and others that I do not.
We need a truly objective source for quality food in Portland, unlike the Willamette Week which generally does little to piss off their potential advertisers.
Thank you for all your work. You are a true journalist, a rare breed these days.
Another lurker emerges from the shadows to join the lovefest…just so that you will know: for every commenter, there are many more who appreciate your efforts.
On the subject of negative/positive: many reviewers seem to jump gleefully upon an opportunity for a scathing review. It unleashes a talent for clever vitriol and wordplay. You never do that. Thanks for all of your efforts for as long as they bring you satisfaction in return.
I’m just one more of the apparently large army of appreciative readers. Have been for a while, now. As a mere foodie, not in the business, I love the sense of connectedness your site gives me to the professional food/server community. As a retiree on a modest income, I rely heavily on you and your contributors for your assessments. The ethical conundrum that you pose is real enough, and I won’t gloss over it.I can only say that, so long as your expressed opinions are focused on the food and not on personalities, you should continue doing your thing with no qualms. I have one suggestion, however: old reviews quickly lose their value, because of the volatile nature of the restaurant business.So, reviews should probably have a shelf life of not much more than a year without updates.
Thanks for doing what you do!
Dear Mr. Dude,
I moved here almost a year ago from the Bay Area via a two-year hiatus in Seattle. Amidst all the nonstop PDX food hype, your site has been a beacon of cuisine, offering a balanced perspective across the spectrum. As a kindred spirit of the palate, you should know how valuable your time and effort spent blogging has been to me and my slightly food-obsessed family. I thank you for all your diligence and hope your blog continues to direct me to establishments of merit, as I truly abhor a wasted meal.
Food Dude says
Wow… so much positive feedback. I really appreciate it. Just so you all know, I’ve read your comments. For now, I will keep doing things pretty much the way I have in the past. Reviews will be a bit less frequent, but that is a financial thing more than anything else. Thanks to everyone!
FD- I noticed you weren’t posting but I don’t feel like I know you well enough to email you. A little too personal to be sticking my nose in your business. But I do want to tell you that I admire you for your hesitation to rat out some poor soul who just can’t quite get the food thing figured out. But your feedback can only help him or her, not hurt them. I’m sure you have had feedback that you learned from while growing this site. It’s nice to know you are a real human and not an evil alter ego hiding behind the electronic shield. Bless your thoughtful, generous, insightful little self. (That’s a generic bless you, not a religious-based bless you, just to clarify.) Keep on reviewing and writing, and let the world (us) know when those doubts start creeping in again. This is a lovely thing that happened here.
Thanks for opening up the comments again to stubborn non-registerers like me, Mr. Dude.
As a regular reader, I always appreciate more reviews, whether positive or negative, but am not so hot on the gossip. I think that posting “rumors” is a lower blow to a business than your honest account of your experience dining with them.
pasta 200 says
Complaints! Is that no what you all specialize in? I have lived in this GREAT city for over 30 years. Never have I felt the need to complain about a thing. Traffic, construction, dog shit on pearl streets. Eat what you love and love where you eat, it’s simple. Are we feeling bad now for things we have said in the past? If so. That’s on you and the people without taste or class who feel it might be their duty. Strap on an apron. Pick up a chefs knife. scrub the latrine, order the booze, handle that bitch at table seven, do the payroll! And food dude. Wash my fucking car!!!!
pasta 200 says
before anyone hacks my key strokes. Yes that’s a “t” in “not” .
nice to see so many diverse and passionate opinions here. personally, i reference this site constantly and would greatly miss the 411 i get here. i admire your dilemma, and agree that a “do no harm” philosophy (especially in tough times) is a good way to go. BUT (and that’s a big but) taste is in the mouth of the betaster. you following me? reviews are opinions – subjective to the max. i certainly read reviews and sometimes take what they say to heart, but ultimately, i prefer to make up my own mind. for instance, if i read your blurb about alladin’s cafe and their health code issues, i am getting good information that i might not have know otherwise. but if i choose to ignore this information and keep eating there (which i do – because the food rocks) i can. at least i was able to make an informed choice.
the whole blog/micro blog/social media environment dictates that people get to have their say. it empowers consumers with the ability to have their voices publicly heard in a way no one would have thought possible a few years back. so…people throwing their opinions into the public forum is inevitable.
you have a voice that people respect and listen to, and the fact that you’re struggling with this just increases your street cred. perhaps a good model would be to urge your audience to read what you say, and then form their own opinions. then, if they disagree with you, they can send their rebuttal out into cyberspace, and everybody wins.
Marc Byrne says
To give a restaurant a bad review, is to give it a wake up call, and they can be quite helpful to the owner and staff. Giving a really bad review (check out the review for Fratelli when it first opened) is just mean. Lord knows, I have had enough dining experiences where I wanted to run out of the restaurant screaming. I have worked in restaurants since 1974 (God, am i that old!?!), and have worked with many hard working cooks, waiters, and owners, who are just trying to get by. My recommendation is, if a restaurant is that bad, then write the review, and send it to the owner, and tell them, “this is the review i am not going to publish.” As someone pointed out, a really bad restaurant will go down on its own, and quickly.
Keep up the good work.
Nancy Rommelmann says
Marc, what you suggest is a public service, and I bet one that could have a real life; I’m serious here. But it is not the job of the reviewer. If I write for say, Bon Appetit (which I do), and I make a living as a writer (which I do), the magazine is not going to pay me to do as you suggest and thus deliver no copy, yielding no magazine. Why would they do this, and how could they survive?
Let’s say someone chooses to do what you say, as a favor to the restaurant. Well, where does this begin and end? Does he take these helpful reviews from one, two, six people? And why should the chef trust this person? I think there has to be something at stake, and also, the person doing the writing has to have some credibility, which he/she does, usually, by publishing, whether on reputable websites or in print or books. There are also friends with great palates, foodies, others whose taste you trust. All that comes for free.
I have nothing against being helpful to a restaurant. I was just emailed today by a PR person who wanted to know how I’d liked a meal at such-and-such a place she represents. I won’t be writing about this place, so there’s no stake for me either way, but she asked, so I told her: I thought one of the courses failed on every level. Now, it’s up to her to do what she will with the information.
As for not running bad reviews before running it by a restaurant: I completely disagree. I have, however, many, many times chosen to simply not write about a place I’d been assigned because I thought the food was lousy; it was going downhill on its own, it did not need another kick from me. This happened, I recall, three years ago, when WW sent me to do a bunch of Cheap Eats, and I rejected three as being not worth writing about. We wrote about others. Otherwise, if I am reviewing, I am going to be honest; I am eating what any other diner eats, and I am honor bound to tell what I experienced and explain as best I can where I think it succeeds and where it fails. That’s the job of a reviewer.
I couldn’t agree more. And furthermore, as a server, a former manager in some of Portland’s best restaurants and an ardent supporter of local restaurants and food, I am always nonplussed at how food writing in this town is debased by owners and PR agents by their constant massaging and in-your-face tactics. One of the greatest achievements in food critique history is Ruth Reichl’s “undercover” work in New York’s best restaurants. What honest, objective review can a writer give when their experience is muddied with overzealous service, food so overly fussed with and pretension?
Two chef friends of mine from L.A. were appauled at how chefs were not only asked to but EXPECTED to dazzle and ‘wow’ food writers (even the mediocre and amateur ones!). I think it best to make the reservation sans PR representative, even under an assumed moniker and dine the way everyone else is dining.
What I’ve seen happen in some very highly-profiled restaurants in Portland is tantamount to bribery. If the chef/kitchen/servers are doing it right in the first place then the reviewer will pass that message on to the public. If you owners are so worried that someone with a pen won’t get the “perfect” experience, then talk to your chef and your FOH staff – blame the restaurant, not the writer.
I remember long ago when I worked at the Benson Hotel London Grill. Whenever a “VIP” dined, we had to lavish meticulous attention upon the party. Made me sick knowing that some of these were reviewers who were not getting an accurate experience of the average diner’s food and service.
chicago magazine has (or at least did when i lived in chicago) a rotating staff of reviewers who dine anonymously and publish under pseudonyms. i had a pal who did it for a while who used to let me tag along. she never took notes at the table, made sure she tasted as many different items as possible (using her companions as orderers) and to my knowledge, kept her identity a secret.
food for thought pdx!