Love it or hate it, it is undeniable that social media makes up a big part of the journalistic landscape these days, and we here at Eating Asheville Food Tours definitely benefit from the online review community. Even if you never write reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon, Facebook or any of the other platforms offering the chance to be a critic, you probably have used reviews to inform decisions that you make in all kinds of ways, and even if you have somehow managed to avoid reading any reviews, you have definitely listened to some word of mouth recommending that was backed by social media info. As it goes, I think that social media platforms themselves aren’t so bad, each one is it’s own instrument for communicating, but unfortunately along with that freedom of speech thing comes plenty of obnoxious users of these tools. We here in the guided food tour business try to embrace these things for what they’re worth and to not sweat the craziness. Social reviews can be a great way to express your inner critic, and to have fun with it instead of taking it too seriously. And on top of helping others and using your creative writing skills, you can actually benefit from being an active participant.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Kipper Schauer, beloved local DJ and bon-vivant brought 16 of the most frequent Yelp contributors from the Asheville scene on our Friday High Roller Asheville walking food tour as a reward for their writing bugs. I found out that Kipper, who works as the Asheville rep for Yelp, arranges monthly celebratory activities for these Asheville restaurant enthusiasts, and that they get other perks as well. These were all cats from different walks of life with the common pursuit of eating at the best restaurants in Asheville and in their travels and having a good time writing about their experiences. This tour was a blast, and it gave me a greater appreciation for writing reviews online in a good-spirited fashion.
So we did the one of my favorite Asheville food tours together, the Friday High Roller. We kicked it off with bubbly and hors d’voeuvres from Sunburst Trout Farms at the Battery Park Book Exchange—recently named one of the 20 best wine bars in America by Wine Enthusiast Magazine I might add—and then headed over to Cucina 24 where, being connoisseurs of Asheville’s best restaurants, of course everyone had eaten before. Brian styled us up with some awesome charred local broccolini and his dry wit paired with a summery Montepulciano. Next up was another Asheville restaurant already well known by the Yelpers, Table, where Ben threw down with beef tartare a la minute, recruiting audience participation to help with plating while he ground the Brasstown Beef to order and sipped on some bracing Grüner Veltliner along with us.
After that the food tour was guided to Zambra where Zack fried us up their most popular menu item, pomegranate-braised Hickory Nut Gap pork spring rolls with a mango chili gastrique that sings with sangria whenever we are lucky enough to get that pairing. We walked on to some salty savoring at The Gourmet Chip Company, sampling their Parisienne chips with herb crusted goat cheese and white truffle oil and then progressed to Strada Italiano where we became officially food comatose with a serving of grilled spinach and ricotta ravioli and a splash of Insolia from Sicily. It was a major undertaking at this point to eat on, but we did it, reviving our palates with truffles and toasted almond and chocolate gelato—the best frozen treat in downtown Asheville hands down—at Chocolate Gems. We polished off the day at Nightbell, with a corn sabayon and cured trout+trout roe ‘deviled’ egg from Chad and a Vera Cruz off the cocktail menu from Dan and Drew. Whoa.
Pretty sweet rewards for these guys who also got a lot of shwag along the way from Kipper and got a lot more material to fuel their Asheville restaurant critics’ repertoires. So the next time you have a memorable experience at a great Asheville restaurant (or on a great Asheville food tour for that matter), or even if you have constructive criticism to share with the business, unleash your proverbial pen via the keyboard, you and many more might get more out of it than you could ever realize.