Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Standards And Criteria in Reviews Plus Jersey Mike's Sandwiches

I review many food related offerings and rate them from 1 star to 10 stars.  Lately, it's occurred to me just how subjective such a scale can be.  What qualifies something as a "10?"  Can a steak dinner and a fast food sandwich achieve the same score?  If any reviews are to be taken seriously, these are the kinds of questions which need to be addressed.

Steak & Fries
Subject: Steak & Fries | Date: 02/27/2009 | Photographer: LWY | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.
A quality scale can span any range the critic chooses, as long as the critic uses the same scale consistently.  Daym Drops reviews fast food dishes on a 5 point system.  More famously, Robert Parker critiques wine on his, frequently sited, 100 point scale.  As a tongue in cheek way of emphasizing the random nature of such scales, the critics of "The Two Minute Reviews" critique foods on a 37 point system.

While the numerical value of a particular score can be a matter of poetic license, the criteria behind the scores should be consistent.  One should never allow mood to influence the rating of an item or restaurant.  The fact that one of my assistants quit working for me has nothing to with the way my sandwich tastes.  Knocking a dish because I'm grumpy would be completely irresponsible.

Likewise, I can't think, "Dish A was a 10, so what I'm eating now can only be an 8, at best."  A steakhouse steak is always going to be more satisfying than a fast food sandwich.  That doesn't mean the sandwich isn't doing its job though.  It's not trying to be a steak, so I can't compare it to one.

To rate something correctly, I ask myself a series of questions.  What is the food/restaurant trying to be?  Is it fulfilling the claims it's making?  Is it worth the price?  Would I partake of this again?  Answers to these questions gives me a value, which I can express in terms of a 10 point scale.

10 stars = I need this in my life from this day forward|
09 stars = Everyone needs to try this, it's wonderful|
08 stars = It's as good as I thought it would be|
07 stars = It's good, but it missed in a few minor ways|
06 stars = It's passable, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it|
05 stars = It's barely tolerable but cheap|
04 stars = Their charging what for this spew?|
03 stars = It's 1970s school lunch quality bad|
02 stars = It's lousy and a possible health risk|
01 stars = The people responsible for this should be prosecuted|
Jersey Mike's Chipotle Cheese Steak
Subject: Jersey Mike's Chipotle Cheese Steak | Date: 01/30/2015 | Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell This picture was taken by the author of this blog.

For  example, last week I went to Jersey Mike's at 4105 SW 117th Ave. in Beaverton, Oregon for the first time, which entitled me, right off the bat, to a free chocolate chip cookie.  I had their regular size, about 6 inch, Chipotle Cheese Steak (a pile of paper thin beef, melted Provolone cheese, grilled onions, grilled red & green bell peppers, and chipotle mayo) on white bread.  My friend got a regular size Original Italian Sub (Provolone, ham, prosciuttini, cappacuolo, salami and pepperoni) on white bread.  We both got chips & a medium drink for a combined total of $18.98.

I could definitely taste the meat, cheese, and veggies of my Chipotle Cheese Steak, which were delicious.  However, from something called a "Chipotle" Cheese Steak, I expected a good kick of heat, which just wasn't present.  The chipotle mayo may as well have been everyday Best Foods.

As for Dani's Original Italian Sub, I was initially impressed by the variety of meats included on the sandwich.  Taking a bite though, told me it tasted no different, no better or worse, than Subway's Cold Cut Combo.

Essentially, we got a Subway quality meal for a higher price.  Since the good, but not great, lunch delivered tasty sandwiches, but didn't bring the expected spice one associates with chipotle, Jersey Mike's earns 7 out of 10 stars

Of course, in the end all reviews reflect the personal tastes of the reviewer.  Robert Parker, supposedly THE world's defining wine critic, likes really dry wines, whereas I enjoy sweet fruity wines.  Many of the vintages he scores as 80 or below, a failing grade in his opinion, are the very wines I gravitate toward.

A person's best bet is to find a critic who closely shares the reader's/viewer's tastes, and use that critic's opinions, in conjunction with their own judgement, as a guide.  In the end, I can tell you what I like, but only you can decide what you like.

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