Pitch Bite Club Restaurant Reviewer, How I Review, Likes and Dislikes

I have just become part of The Pitch’s Bite Club, a group of reviewers that review a restaurant and several of their dishes.

I also write my own reviews about almost everything. I will tag my Bite Club reviews as The Pitch and Bite Club but that won’t really matter to anyone except people who want to know what I have written directly for The Pitch Bite Club reviewed restaurant, which means that we are hosted at the restaurant to review and write about the experience on social media and blogs.  This does not mean that I will be anything but honest, although sometimes it is hard when they are so nice to us. But be careful what you ask for, because I will do my best to give you my honest opinion, with my apologies, if necessary, to the chef.

The Pitch is an exceptional local Kansas City area paper and is my go-to spot for finding out about what is happening with music, sports, restaurants, pretty much everything . So if you live around here, I suggest you just click here and check it out. 

This is their About page: Since starting as a music publication in 1980, the Pitch has grown to become Kansas City’s leading source of sophisticated information that readers know they can’t get anywhere else — whether it’s in-depth news and analysis about local power brokers; a rundown of who’s in and who’s out in the city’s spirited arts, music and nightlife scenes; or the skinny on famous barbecue joints and steakhouses. More than 258,000 people read the paper every month, picking it up every week at 1,800 locations throughout a seven-county region. Readers across the world also look to our Web site, www.pitch.com, to keep up with what’s happening here or to make plans whenever they’re goin’ to Kansas City.

Before I start my reviews, let me give you a little information about me and my general feelings about restaurants, food and value.  This is also about what I like and dislike about restaurants and food.

UPDATE 8/2714: I apologize for this rant, it was a bad day.

I am a Midwestern woman who was raised on meat and potatoes and I am not a person who loves organ meat or caviar or that sort of thing. I like good tasting food and lean towards things that are not too fishy or an acquired taste. I was raised on Italian food and Mexican food and American Food and some French food, but not on Asian food so it is less in my comfort zone, although I love Indian food.

Also, I am a Virgo, with all its attendant qualities. It has been said that a Virgo can look at a beautiful tapestry and see the lone thread hanging off it. This is a description of a Virgo: “Methodical, meticulous, analytical and mentally astute, the Virgo natives are perfectionists to the core, or at least, they like to believe that they are. They are excellent managers, and may even ruthlessly ensure that the work is done, and well done, at that. Fastidious to the tee, they may be perceived as narrow in their outlook, critical and quarrelsome by many. Yet, unperturbed by the others’ view of them, they will go on doing what they feel is right, quietly and with a dogged determination.”  While I’d beg to differ with some of that, I have to admit that it is pretty accurate.

And being of good Midwestern, German stock, I like to feel like I get good value for things. Also, I don’t like name brands or the dish of the day just because it is expensive. If I like something, I like it and I don’t care if it came from a thrift shop or Kmart or Golden Corral Buffet. Likewise, I don’t care if something is the latest Hermes bag or Dior gown, if I don’t like it, I don’t like it and the chances are I will think I could find something just as nice that is a better value anyway. But if it is something special, that is what I spend my money happily on and there are some dishes and/or restaurants that I crave and have no quibble with the price whatsoever.

At this point, let me stop and say that I don’t suffer fools lightly and if you ask (or I’m writing about something), I will tell you straight out how I feel.  So don’t ask if you don’t want to hear the bad with the good. I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings but if my opinion is to be worthwhile, it has to be honest. And I hope I have something to offer as far as little things that might have been overlooked. Pretty much everywhere is good, but to get from good to great takes diligence and honest feedback on a regular basis.

I’m not used to spending large amounts of money for food. I will, for special occasions or for a particularly good or unique dish, but I do get disappointed when I spend more for something that is either not cooked well or is made of expensive products, but the end result isn’t great. Also, if something is just blatantly overpriced, especially compared to the other items on the menu. The vegetarian options can be that way. Maybe because it takes more time to prepare one dish but usually a restaurant covers it’s costs by it’s general pricing structure. Look at the prices on a menu sometime and tell me if you can tell why something is more than another. Why is a small order $13 and a large order $24 when you are getting about half as much more? We don’t quibble about that, but neither should restaurants over-price items that don’t deserve it. And if a restaurant wants to have a beautifully arranged dish of a carved radish rose, a tiny carrot and 3 drops of red wine vinaigrette, then they better be known for it and make sure the description reflects the reality. Don’t just call it a Petit Salad Extraordinaire and price it like it was worth that and order it as anything other than a way to, well, be either practicing conspicuous consumption, or not know and end up being played. I’d feel seriously played it I got something like that. There has to be a very good reason for me to pay more for something that I can get for at other good restaurants that are equally good, or better. And I like it if a restaurant has a variety of prices though I expect every item to be prepared as well as any other item on the menu, regardless of the price. Also a nice selection of wine prices.

But I also recognize the many intangibles and extra touches make a gourmet dining experience more than just a well-cooked slab of meat. I appreciate attentive servers in nice clothing. Black pants and a white shirt never goes out of style and for a little more class, don’t wear black basketball shoes. Also, a Maitre d and wait staff that is quick and professional (no leaning on the bar gossiping, hair tossing, etc). Be friendly, I don’t need you to be obsequious. But don’t get pretentious on me, who do you think you are? A quiet atmosphere without blaring music or TVs, a nicely set table with real tablecloth and napkins, service that is unobtrusive and wait staff who replaces your silverware (don’t tell me I might want to keep my fork). No closet doors open with junk spilling out, clean and attractive (and pleasant smelling) bathrooms.

A good sommelier and good selection of wine. Great bartender with fresh ingredients and not just a bunch of fancy martinis. Good bread on the table. I’m responsible enough to not eat it if I have allergies or are trying to cut down on carbs. A little something extra, an amuse bouche is always a class touch. My parents raised me with the idea of langiappe and while it is not practiced often around here, there is a reason for it and is going that little extra to be memorable for your customers.

I like an overview of the menu by the wait staff with specialties noted. Wait staff that notices if you are not eating something or appearing to not like it and makes sure to ask and notice what you say. If you say “Never mind, it’s OK” then they should realize that you are just being polite. Ask if you would like to replace it with something else. Go the extra mile. It will pay back tenfold in repeat business if people know that if they get something that is not perfect, they don’t have to accept it in silence or be bossy to get it taken care of. Paying for a nice meal is something that is not just chump change for a lot of people, regardless of how much they love it. They should never feel cheated.

And I have a few pet peeves, like not peeling the cucumbers or drowning the salad with salad dressing which should either be lightly applied if it is integral to the dish, or should be on the side (in my opinion). I’m sure I’ll remember others as I go.

So now you know about how I approach a review of a restaurant (and reviews in general). I am picky and the price also factors in to whether I think it is worth it. And I would never pay big money for foie gras or organ meat or caviar. I don’t like it and I wouldn’t get it for any price. The jury is still out on truffles, because I haven’t really had any yet and I like mushrooms, but they would have to be really good since they are expensive. There is too much good food of all prices to require an expensive, “gourmet” experience every time. You may differ in your thinking, but I’m the one doing these reviews.

Susan Casserley

Becky Carleton, a librarian at the Johnson County Library in Kansas challenged me to name ten pieces

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