Looking for delicious food and amazing restaurants on Instagram is like online dating.
You scroll through, hungrily ogling beautifully dressed burgers and jaw dropping desserts, flirting with a like here and comment there, and maybe even going above and beyond with a follow (whoa!), all in the hopes of find “the one.”
By “the one” I mean THE best slice of pizza, or THE coolest restaurant, or THE more epic milkshake. Time and money are precious commodities, and nothing is worse than wasting both on a lackluster experience unworthy of a second date.
In my 14 day hotel quarantine upon arriving into Sydney (read about the experience HERE), I passed time by flirting with the Australian food scene on Instagram, looking for future culinary romances. Cookies were on my mind (as per usual), so I began my hunt for something that could come close to my favorite cookie in the world (so far): the chocolate chip walnut cookie from Levain Bakery.
I felt like the bachelorette.
Dozens of cookie suitors were vying for my love with beautiful cookie pulls and innovative specials. The prospects were overwhelming and the decision was tough, but don’t worry, I persevered. I handed out my roses via follows and saves, and had to say goodbye to countless attractive options, slowly narrowing it down to “the one.”
Sweet Splits was the winner, and I was blown away.
Each of the 6 giant, chunky cookies that showed up on my quarantine hotel room door step were divine with expertly crafted flavor profiles and the perfect crunchy yet gooey textures. The Biscoff Choc Chunk particularly swept me off my feet. Check out the full review HERE.
Yet, THICC was still on my mind. I caught myself scrolling back through their Instagram page, admiring the new flavors and impressive photos. Was I missing out on an even better experience, and would I look back at it as the one that got away?
There was only one way to find out.
A box of four THICC cookies arrived at my doorstep. They came with a cute little warning sign that said “heat in microwave for 20 seconds per cookie for dangerously delicious cookies.” I’ve never been one to say no to a little risk!
So I popped then in the microwave, excitedly pulling each one in half to reveal a molten center of ooey gooey deliciousness. And then I took a bite…..
I felt like I had been catfished.
They were certainly THICC, but each one lacked any sort of developed flavor other than “sweet.” The centers were more gummy than gooey when heated up, yet hard, bordering on dry, when room temperature.
The Biscoff Lotus tasted of mostly vanilla, the s’mores was nothing more than a dry chocolate cookie with marshmallow in the middle, and the caramilk had an odd rubbery texture that reminded me of the New York mega cookie shop Gooey on the Inside. The best of the four was the chocolate chip, which had a beautifully even spread of chocolate chips while tasting like a basic choc chip cookie.
Mind you, my tastes are different than yours. THICC could very well be “the one” for you. But for me, they fell flat.
The moral of story is that when it comes to food, a picture alone isn’t enough.
You can make any tasteless, uninspired dish look incredible with the right plating and lighting, and thousands of likes is no reflection of flavor. Instagram is an incredible tool for restaurants to find their audience and for foodies to find their next meal, but it’s important to take each photo with a grain of salt.
When it comes to social media speed dating to find your next culinary adventure, here are some tips to avoid flops:
- When you look as a restaurant’s page, look at the tagged photos and read the captions. Mind you, not everyone is honest when it comes to #eatingforinsta, but often you will come across honest reviews that are more likely to be found in the sub-par photos from “normal” people, not “influencers.”
- Google it! Reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor are almost always more reliable. Remember, on Instagram, people have an agenda. They want to get sponsors and collaborations, and a feed full of bashing dishes isn’t attractive to restaurants that may want to advertise via influencer marketing. Think about it, if a restaurant has an amazing product that they are confident in, they don’t need influencers to get the word out.
- If it’s convenient, do a little drive by. See if the spot is completely empty or if there’s a line out the door.
- Use your common sense! Does the menu look inspired? Is there any information on the chef? How long has it been open? Is the interior designed purely for photos or does it look cozy and comfortable?
A Frugal Foodies Secret:
We have been invited to “collaborate” at a handful of restaurants in NYC. This means we get free food in exchange for a raving review. However, none of the spots looked good, and it was obvious that each tagged photo came from some sort of “influencer.” I refuse to give a glowing review of bland food, so we have politely declined them all.
Circling back around to THICC…..
The feast for my eyes was far more enjoyable than the feast for my lips, and it was not love at first bite.
Social media is a double edge sword. It can be an amazing resource for new discoveries while having the potential to lead to culinary letdowns based on pictures that don’t accurately represent that food.
So like, comment, follow, and flirt with future culinary delights. But don’t forget, looks can be deceiving.