Foodie Friday: Birth of a Restaurant Reviewer

by Fawn Rechkemmer on October 24, 2014

Yummy salad

For the past five years I have been publishing a weekly restaurant review. No, I don’t get paid to do this, I don’t even get free meals. It started when my family were dining at a nearby franchise sports bar and grill and unlike previous occasions the whole experience was awful. The service, the food, even the iced tea. I was paying a fair amount for this meal and I didn’t think my expectations were unreasonable. So I did what I do when things don’t go well for me, I got violent and loud. I tossed chairs and pitchers of beer at random happy people. I called the entire serving staff out and threatened them with one of the antique farm tools I had ripped from the wall. I made sure to knock over every table, one I even through into the bar, smashing mugs, goblets and the big mirror. Once outside, just before the cops arrived, I started keying cars with a stolen, too-dull steak knife.

That’s what I was doing in my head anyhow. Actually I just mumbled, obsessed and complained to my wife. Angel got tired of it after a while and suggested I write out my complaint and send it to someone who might give a. . . something. . . about it. I’d been writing short, passionate and pointless essays for several years by that time. So that’s what I did. I didn’t have a name of someone I could send it to, so I sent a link to my blog post to everyone I did know.

By then, we’d already decided to start going to different places to eat out. We tend to fall into routines, ruts, about that sort of thing. Together Angel and I, and more reluctantly, my adult son Adam, decided to not only find new places, but to post our findings to let others know our experience.

It started out small, which fit perfectly with my modest expectations. We’ve since reviewed over 250 places, sometimes, but not often, revisiting a good place, to see if it was still good.

It has also gone well in the sense that we haven’t been sued yet.

About three years ago, being of a certain age and decidedly sedate lifestyle, I went to see a doctor to find out why I was always so tired, so anxious and sickly. Fortunately, after a battery of interesting, awkward, embarrassing and somewhat lewd ‘tests’, the doctor read me the riot act. There was nothing seriously wrong, no cancers or rickets, or parts falling off, but my ‘numbers’ were trending to a very predictable life expectancy.
I took this hard. I had to fix this. I had to actually watch what I ate and how much, and I needed to be upright more often.

I’d lost weight before, stayed at it for over a year, but that was just for the sake of beach season, men’s swim thongs are very unforgiving. (That mental image is just for you, ladies!) This time it was for all the right reasons, to stay alive for a bit longer.

The doctor gave me a ‘diet’ prepared by some twisted hack he referred to as a ‘nutritionist’. I looked it over and knew I ‘d never stick to it. Eggplant, okra, broccoli, yogurt, hummus, squash. No, no way. Any normal food on the so-called diet were measured with a precision not achievable without expensive microscopes and scalpels.

What I thought I really needed to do to get my numbers back in whack was to grow a foot taller. The doctor really didn’t care for this approach.

But I knew how to lose weight, for the long haul. I call it my 85% plan.

Like I said earlier, I’m a man of ‘routines’. I do most things in a certain way at a certain time. Getting ready for work in the morning takes no actual thought, everything in the right half my closet goes together. all my socks are the same style and color. The other things, the bolder colored shirts, the jeans, the casual weekend stuff is segregated. During the week I can get up and get dressed without turning on a light. I drive the same miserable commute, sit at the same, generic cubicle, eat the same thing for lunch, then drive back home the same route, even down to the lane changes. It would be easy to fit in one more routine to this circus of ruts.

But Dennis, You’re a gifted, highly respected and devilishly handsome restaurant reviewer. How can you possibly stick to a diet?
I’m glad I asked.

I watch what I eat, to the bite, during the week, no cheating. I completely abstain from sugar and most starches Monday through Friday. More fruit and veggies, no deep science needed here, just applied common sense.

And it works. I knew it would. Any cravings I get are simply postponed until the weekend. I don’t, I can’t do ‘zero’ anything. So roughly, and I’m no mathematician so please don’t gripe about the inaccuracy of the number, I’m on an 85% diet. By that I mean I diet, 85% of the time. Occasionally there’s a Saturday binge, but not so much anymore. I even had an opportunity to have nothing but pizza all weekend, I didn’t make it. I stuck remaining pieces in bags and froze them for the next weekend.

This method requires some planning. first to make sure there’s enough things I can eat during the week in the pantry. That’s really not hard. Secondly, since there are only so many weekend meals and my small frame and sloth-like metabolism simply can’t eat a lot, I think hard about I will eat on my ‘free’ days. I may want pasta and pizza and burgers and chips and mashed potatoes. . . but there’s no way I could hold it all. My diet switch is firmly in the ‘off’ position on Saturday night when the family goes on review mode. So what do I want on a weekend? What do I crave?

Probably what most of America is having on Tuesday night, or Thursday for lunch. I like simple things, the basics. I don’t even want hyper-sweet stuff anymore, my tolerance for sugar is way down, it’s like crack+heroin+a kick to the groin. Greasy fast food now makes me physically ill. . . It’s almost like the ol’ temple doesn’t actually want that stuff shoved into it.

A steak and a baked potato? Maybe with some shrimp? That’s the ticket. Spaghetti and meat sauce with a crispy garlic toast? Yeah, heavenly.
So it works, nearly three years and thirty pounds later. And the doctor? Oh, I saw him a few weeks ago, after my yearly battery of tests and fluid collections.

“Keep doing whatever you’re doing, it’s working,” was his verdict.

*Obligatory legal disclaimer: Do not take medical/dieting advice from this idiot! (Editor’s Note: That’s Dennis’ term of endearment for himself – MOWB thinks he’s great!) He’s barely capable of feeding himself, much less to offer eating advice to strangers. Talk to a doctor, veterinarian, astrologer. . . anyone but this guy!

Salad photo courtesy Unsplash/Monstruo Estudio

Dennis BentleyDennis Bentley is a full time IT consultant and spare time blogger. He lives in Hillsboro, Mo. with his lovely wife Angel and, while it lasts, his adult son Adam. They share their land and their hearts with a whole bunch of dogs. He blogs at Eat and Critique and Tedious Discourse.

Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout October 24, 2014 at 11:44 am

Dennis, this is an awesome accomplishment, congratulations. (And you still get your delicious meals on the weekends and blog fodder to boot!)
I’m working on getting my sweet tooth under control and I am glad to hear that with some consistency, eventually those sweet foods will be too sweet for me.

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