I’d picked the restaurant, so I worried: was he trying to tell me something?
“And this one is fantastic.” he continued. (If you’re wondering, we were at Flatbread in Paia, which I agree is fantastic.)
Growing up in the Connecticut suburbs in a family of great cooks, I didn’t think much about restaurants. When we went out to eat we were going out as a treat — and the treat was that we didn’t have to cook. We weren’t really going for the food. This is odd to me now, but it was true then. We went out because we wanted to have a break and do something a little novel. And we ate everything, because it cost money, and we had committed to the food when we ordered. Even when my aunt Annie opened up the very first vegetarian restaurant in Vermont — I think I was about twelve — the pattern held. For me, the main draw for eating at her restaurant was that someone else did the dishes. Of course, that tells you how good the food was — when Annie cooked at work, it was as delicious as what she made at home.
(I still remember a carroty cole slaw she made that was so sweet and crisp and perfectly balanced with apple cider vinegar (I think it was apple cider) … I could eat it by the bowlful. What a sinful memory.)
If I still ate everything I ordered as a grown-up and a restaurant critic, I’d be even plumper than I am now. James and I try to live by the quote from the astonishing animated movie Ratatouille (which everyone who claims to love food should see at least once or even own on DVD):
I don’t like food. I love food. If I don’t love it, I don’t swallow. – Ego, Restaurant Critic
This is another way of saying a restaurant is one of two things: fantastic, or not worth it.
Generally, we agree with Ego and our friend. We’re personally not the type to visit a restaurant again after it disappoints us the first time. But in our work, we must. It’s hard to make an informed opinion after just one visit … so even when we’re disappointed, or worse, feeling ripped off, we go back. And back. And back. That’s how James came up with the phrase “we eat bad food so you don’t have.”
In the end, our reviews in Top Maui Restaurants answer the following: Would we eat here if we weren’t food critics? Knowing what we know, would we spend our money on this meal again?
This year, for those who would really rather just flip through and find “the ones worth visiting,” we included an entire section of the book called Top Maui Restaurants. That section is dedicated only to restaurants we think are worth visiting. We also place an icon of a trophy next to reviews for restaurants we would visit even if we weren’t writing the guide, and an icon of a medal next to those restaurants we would visit, but only for certain things.
Look for those trophies and medals … they’re the signs that we ate good food so you can, too.
If you’re on island, you can pick up the book at Barnes & Noble, Costco, and Whole Foods. You can also get it on Amazon.com (including as a Kindle), Barnes & Noble (and also as a Nook), and the iTunes store. Enjoy!