The Best and Worst of 2010

With our first year behind us, we thought it would be fun to answer questions we get from time to time (repeatedly, for some), as well as reflect on which adventures really stood out and which still stick in our craw. Thus, we give you...(drumroll)...The Best and Worst of 2010!

Why do you guys write these reviews?
  • Juliet: A little over three years ago, we got the unique opportunity to travel and dine in some pretty fabulous places due to my new job. Friends would ask us about our experiences and to rate the meals we enjoyed. over time, those same friends would ask us for recommendations, not only here in Grand Rapids, but all over the country. Publishing our travel and food experiences online just seemed like the most efficient way to share with our friends. I never expected anyone other than a few family members and friends to ever read any of this.
  • Jeremy: We are writers, and we are eaters. The former, we don't do enough; the latter, too much. We're not out to make a big name for ourselves or throw our weight around. Dining out is just something we do on a regular basis, and enough people have asked us over the years "How was it?" that we may as well go on record with our opinions.
Do you go out every week?
  • Juliet: We typically go out one night a week to get new material for the website. I absolutely love to cook at home, but with my work and travel schedule we both tend to eat out more than once a week. It can be tough when I've been on the road all week and come home wanting to cook up a storm over the weekend and Jeremy just wants to take his wife out on a date. Another thing that can be challenging is when we want to go back to a favorite haunt, but we only have one day together that week and we have to go someplace new so we can write a review. Sometimes you just want to hit your favorite spot, you know? But I can't complain. We're incredibly lucky. When we travel either for vacation or one of my business trips, we typically get to go out to several new places which gives us lots of new experiences and material.
  • Jeremy: Not always, but we try to make up for it when we do skip a regular review. Our goal is to deliver fresh, hot reviews to your eyeballs or inbox (whichever you prefer). We did pretty good the first year, totaling 63 posts and well over 52 of them actual reviews.
Does anyone but your friends and family read your reviews?
  • Juliet: Frankly, I am continually amazed that anyone reads this. I mean, why would anyone give a flip if I like the cobb salad at XYZ restaurant? What's truly ironic is that the two people whose opinions matter most to me (my mother and father) don't read this and never have, to my knowledge. I was paralyzed with fear for the first month worrying about their reactions...needlessly, it turns out. Despite that, it is extremely flattering that we have loyal subscribers and fans. And I'm downright gobsmacked we have followers on Twitter.
  • Jeremy: Surprisingly, yes. We get emails from people all over the world, commenting on our missives. It's nice to know we've entertained a wider variety of people beyond our close circle of acquaintances.
Who do you work for?
  • Juliet: I am an Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer and recently earned my CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) certification. I manage designer outreach and education for a major Michigan manufacturer.
  • Jeremy: The, the CIA. No, wait...KGB. Actually, we are not undercover spies for a competing business. Nor are we out to decimate anyone's career or reputation. We're just two foodies looking for that next "high".
Do you take requests?
  • Juliet: We always welcome requests and will try to work them in to our schedule. For the record, we would never accept coupons, discounts or anything gratis from a restaurant. Before, during or after a review. I am very paranoid too about taking quick covert notes and basically keeping our purpose a secret during each visit. How could we ever say we were unbiased if we accepted free drinks or a comp appetizer?
  • Jeremy: Absolutely. Everybody has their favorite watering hole or hot dog joint, and we're always looking for fresh meat. Literally.
Can I tag along?
  • Juliet: We've invited friends to go with us and always welcome folks to join us in the fun. And truly, what's more fun than sharing a good meal, an enjoyable evening and a memorable experience with friends?
  • Jeremy: Sure thing. We always appreciate company, and we're interested in other people's opinions. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, where we try to give a heads-up before we hit somewhere. If you want to tag along, send us an email!
What was your best experience of 2010?
Juliet: I can't choose one single experience, but I will offer up Reserve in downtown Grand Rapids as the restaurant I'm most excited about. Having an authentic charcuterie counter and 100+ wines by the glass within walking distance of our home is quite honestly mind-blowing. The staff at Reserve genuinely cares about the food they create and serve. In fact, they get downright passionate about it. Reserve's special events are truly "special". Our experience at their Suckling Pig Dinner was simply over the top. We've had many wonderful experiences in 2010 from Sonoma to Manhattan to Paris, but we keep going back to Reserve.
Jeremy: This was a tough call, particularly because 2010 brought so many new adventures including trips to California, New York, and Paris. Seasonal in NYC went on to earn their first Michelin star, months after I visited. Le Gaigne in France melted my heart with their delicate dishes. Yet, when I look back, I have to say my favorite is Willi's Wine Bar in Santa Rosa, CA. Everything just clicked: the quality of ingredients; the outstanding service; the wide and varied dishes; the warm weather. We went twice and can pronounce it consistent. I want to go again, every time we're in Santa Rosa.
What was your worst experience of 2010?
Juliet: My worst experience was at Rock Fire Grille when the waiter delivered a bowl of obviously spoiled steamed mussels. The entire bowl smelled "off" and he then proceeded to argue with us about their freshness. While his first priority should have been our health and welfare, unfortunately he was focused on the size of his tip and turning our table over quickly. Some people might say that could have been a one time incident, but I will argue that Rock Fire Grille management clearly failed to properly screen and train this server and in all likelihood, other if not all their servers. Yuck, gross and boo.
Jeremy: Unfortunately this was an easier decision, mostly because we've had so few "bad" experiences in 2010. Blue Cow Cafe stumbled mightily in service and preparation, but we felt it was just an off night. Likewise, Riingo and Cygnus 27 ruined the concept of brunch for me. At the bottom of the heap, however, is Rock Fire Grille. Although our old ratings system (now banished) may point to another culprit or two, Rock Fire really left a bad taste in my mouth. The more I dwell on it, the more that particular experience stands out. I don't plan to ever go back; life is too short for unsatisfactory adventures.

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