Long delays. Dead ends. Heavy congestion. No, I'm not talking about the trip itself but about the planning of the trip--specifically the often frustrating business of searching on-line for accurate, enticing information about restaurants at your destination. The Internet may have made it easy to trade stocks in your pajamas, but so far it's failed to deliver what we really need: a definitive, constantly updated, easy-to-find English-language guide to great dining in, say, Greenland. Still, the Internet's ability to store data and connect users has made it an essential resource for travelers who care about food--provided, of course, they know where to look. Here are a few suggestions.
For timely, frank and well-written dining advice, the ink-stained wretches who toil as newspaper restaurant reviewers are hard to beat. The digital revolution, far from putting them out of work, has made their writing that much more accessible. Before setting off for Paris, you can (and should) log on to the Web site of the International Herald Tribune (www.iht.com) and look up reviews by Patricia Wells, the doyenne of expat food writers and an F&W contributing editor. Whether raving about the feats of culinary alchemy at Pierre Gagnaire or taking a knife to designer Philippe Starck's trendy Bon ("I wish he had stuck to toothbrushes...and stayed clear of creating menus"), she is always entertaining and informative. Best of all, she is as susceptible to the charms of a tiny bistro as she is to any Michelin-starred palace. Wells's reviews also appear on her own Web site at www.patriciawells.com, which includes useful (if infrequently updated) lists of top tables in Paris, Provence and the rest of the world.
More acerbic than Wells is A.A. Gill, the feared reviewer for London's Sunday Times (www.sunday-times.co.uk). When you type "restaurant reviews by A.A. Gill" into the paper's search engine, you're rewarded with such zingers as this description of the prices at Spoon, the London branch of superchef Alain Ducasse's haute culinary empire: "the worst value for money since her last husband married Zsa Zsa Gabor." Now, there's a phrase you won't find in many guidebooks.