19 February 2009

Tasting Table

A few months ago, my friend Leila – knowing about my peripheral interest in food (mostly: taking pictures of it) – referred me to a new-ish daily email called Tasting Table.

Tasting Table screenshot

Via their site: Think of Tasting Table as the friend you always ask, "Where should I eat tonight?" We're your food-obsessed coworker who knows where to find the best $2 tacos and which $200 tasting menu is worth the splurge. And, like you, we're serious omnivores who don't take ourselves too seriously.

I liked the friendly, unassuming tone, so I signed up.

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Well, after a couple of weeks I realized that maybe it wasn't for me. I love food, but I don't know a lot about it (unlike Leila, who is a cooking magician). The emails are amazing, but I felt a little dumb most of the time, like something was out of my reach (Harissa? Butchery classes?) or budget. Also: while I'm interested in cooking, I don't know how to (really, at all). And here I was, being given recipes using ingredients I had never even heard of.

So, I unsubscribed.

A few days later, I got an email from the CEO of Tasting Table, Geoff.

Hey, there. Sorry to bother you after you recently unsubscribed to Tasting Table New York, however we've just launched, so we are extremely sensitive to our readers' likes & dislikes. If you have a moment, we would enormously appreciate it if you would reply to this email with a quick explanation regarding why you unsubscribed? Didn't like the content? The look? Anything you can share -- no holds barred! -- would be appreciated.

We will not bother you again!

Thanks for your help,

Geoff Bartakovics
Tasting Table New York

Oh, my, god. Usually when I unsubscribe from a mailing list, I either:

a) Get an email confirming my un-subscription (please. just don't.)
b) Never hear a word again

But this, asking my opinion so the email could be made better for future readers? Amazing. I wrote Geoff an annoyingly long, twittish response, explaining my "low foodie self esteem" and desire to start cooking more (but not knowing where to begin). The friendly, "let's all work together to make the world a more delicious place" tone of the web site & emails was mirrored in the response I got: a heartfelt thanks for the feedback; a recommendation for a great "fundamentals of cooking" class in the area (including a specific instructor recommendation); a guide toward reading material that could get me started in understanding food in general. After a brief back-and-forth, Geoff ended with "Good luck! Update me on your cooking progress, would ya?"

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This happened in November, and I'm still impressed. The emails that scared me away were only trying to help: a sentiment that was reinforced by the personalized communication straight from the CEO himself. A food expert asking me what I think? Geez. Because of this (yes, that was all it took), it doesn't seem so scary anymore.

And then I did something I'd never done before: I re-subscribed.

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