From Fall to Spring in One Review

LR_DSCN2558Dear Reader,

If you have stumbled across this website or were a follower, you probably noticed that restaurant reviews stopped sometime in September, 2014.  Now, almost 6 month later, it’s probably time to try out a new review. However, before new reviews begin, there are 6 months of time to catch up on….

What follows is the last review from October, 2014 and you probably missed it in all the hub-bub that September and the start of Fall often brings with school things and a change of season. Sorry for the long time between drinks:

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Dining Out – Oct, 2014

“This week’s Dining Out column will have to be a little different than prior columns because it, alas, is missing an important ingredient. John Cullen, the driving force behind this column, quite unexpectedly made a reservation for one very exclusive restaurant in the sky and passed away on September 18, 2014. The column started in early 2008 from casual conversations that originated from questions about where Marty and John ate over the weekend, and since they were eating at so many new places, why didn’t they write about it as well? Back then the column was published twice a month and soon the task at hand took on a life of its own for the next six years. Over time, a rhythm developed both for the column and how John approached it. What started as a printed column started to morph into the foodblog you see today.

In case you ever wondered, it is not easy eating out with a restaurant reviewer. Appetizers are mandatory, duplicate entrees become verboten, you buy ‘food reviewer’ books as gifts, and you develop an unnatural ability to build, as John would call it, a “mind map” of eating establishments within a small radius of wherever you are, or you try to remember where you saw an establishment along the way. Plus there is the ritual of taking pictures of the gosh darn food. John was quickly coming to the realization that he might need to have “stock photos” of empty plates because sometimes, as simple as that task sounds, taking a picture of any food ordered could be forgotten due to conversations or become outright neglected due to sheer hunger. Anyone who ate with John soon became accustomed to offering their plate to be photographed, then waiting for a cursory twist-and-tilt of things here and there before any eating was possible.

That said, the energy John put into the column resulted in over 200 reviews during its tenure and also recently earned John the honor of being considered the #1 reviewer on Urbanspoon for Baltimore, which tickled him to no end. Writing a review also became more than just a description and impression of a particular meal. It often included research on the history of the restaurant (or Baltimore itself), sometimes something about the food, or whatever caught his fancy. John used writing the reviews to broaden his own knowledge on various things and that would often pop up in other conversations.

John also kept his eye out for new restaurants and was very cautious about rushing in to the “next big thing” knowing that starting up a new restaurant can present its own challenges in terms of consistency or trying to placate a packed house. He was not always pleased with his meals and had the gumption (or should that be gumbo?) to say so. Value, taste, ambiance, and service all contributed to his overall impression. And for those that dined with him, he’d often supply a working copy of the review for comments and see if others agreed. He also maintained a working list of what places he wanted to try next whether it was new or old.

Last week, however, John scooped everyone and is undoubtedly sitting at the head of the table rearranging the celestial salt and pepper shakers to make room for the next picture, and wondering how hot the soup will be. As a result, this will be the last Dining Out column.

Thank you, Baltimore restaurants for a great run. And thank you, especially, John.

Say goodnight, Gracie.”

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I wrote that column for John 6 months ago as a benumbed partner who, truth be told, is still a little benumbed by it all. But life goes on and with time you start to realize that your personal experience is not much different than how the same thing is experienced by others, because sooner or later we all know someone who shuffles off this mortal coil. So while the earth continues to spin on its axis in the bigger picture of things, the smaller micro version can still be a little harrowing at times.

I have decided to carry on with John’s reviewing legacy as both a kind of silent tribute to John and as a chance to learn how something like this works.  An apt metaphor is putting on the blinker as you start to speed up and merge back onto the Highway of Life. John’s reviews were originally driven by a production schedule and then went into overdrive as he learned that keeping a website fresh was one of the keys to sustaining his increased website traffic.

I won’t promise the same volume of rapid-fire reviews, but I will commit to 1 or 2 reviews per month. Please bear with me as I evolve from a wordpress newbie to a wordpress neophyte, and then…you’ll just have to wait and see, huh?

Thank you for your patience.

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