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Chic Spotlight: Food Writer Polly Campbell

Chic Spotlight: Food Writer Polly Campbell
After 14 years of professionally critiquing restaurants, this local food writer shares her experiences. Find out how she found her fervor for food and what Tri-State meals have been her favorites.

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Cincy Chic: You've been a restaurant critic and food writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer for much more than 10 years, but how did you first find your passion for food?

 

Polly Campbell, food and dining writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer: Whenever I drag up any memory, it's amusing how often it's attached to something about food. I don't know why, but early in my life, I found that food, cooking, thinking about food, was a source of pleasure, identity and competence for me and an interesting way to explore the world.

 

My family ate differently than the families of my friends, and I was always interested in those differences. My mother let me in the kitchen whenever I wanted, and I learned to cook from her and from cookbooks. I cooked in little hippie restaurants in college — then had my application to the Culinary Institute all ready to go when I decided I'd rather be an English major.

 

Cincy Chic: In those 10 plus years, the media as we knew it has changed completely. What has the rise in food bloggers meant for you?

 

Campbell: I'm still figuring that out. Is someone else's blog competition, source or an invitation to a friendly conversation? They can be all those things. It's a lot to keep up with, and sometimes it's hard to share — but it was always an illusion that a few published critics were the final word on Cincinnati cuisine. I feel a heightened pressure to be first with things. That's very valued in the online world, but I don't drive myself crazy with that. I think my contribution to the conversation comes from my long experience; the fact that people are familiar with me and my style; my big-picture, seven-county perspective — an ability to write about larger trends, not just trendiness.

 

Cincy Chic: You hide your identity to remain an anonymous critic, so what's it like to be under cover?

 

Campbell: After 14 years in a fairly small scene, I'm certainly not as anonymous as I'd wish. I just try to be as low-key as possible and slip in and out without making a big deal out of it.

 

Cincy Chic: While I'm sure it's tough to nail down, what are your favorite places to eat around town, and what has been the most exceptional meal you've had in Greater Cincinnati?

 

Campbell: Please don't make me choose! OK: I love little places with nice sandwiches, coffee and tea, desserts, like Bonbonerie, Essencha, Annabel's. Good ethnic stuff like Song Long or Mirage. I love it that I don't have to pay the price to have an over-the-top meal at a Jeff Ruby restaurant, especially Downtown. Or enjoy the excellence and ambiance of Orchids.

 

One of the best meals I've ever had is the bistecca fiorentina at Boca. That's simple cooking of delicious ingredients — a porterhouse steak, white beans, bitter greens, lemons — at its best. More recently, a meal at Honey really stands out for the opposite reason: imaginative, surprising juxtapositions of ingredients. And some meals at Maisonette live in my memory for their combination of JR's [Jean-Robert de Cavel's] contemporary cooking with old-fashioned touches we'll never see again, like the caf√© brulot cart.

 

Cincy Chic: When you aren't enjoying a nice bite to eat, what do you like to do for fun?

 

Campbell: Wish I could tell you I dance the tango or rock climb, but you know what I really like to do for fun is go to parties — any kind of party. And cooking — mostly everyday cooking. My favorite thing is using up things in the refrigerator. Reading books on my front porch, live music in small venues, the outdoors, watching my awesome daughters turn into awesome women.

 

Cincy Chic: What do you love most about Cincinnati?

 

Campbell: That anywhere I go, I run into someone I know. I love that. And I think that you get out of Cincinnati what you put into it. It's not a city where all kinds of cool things are laid out for you to enjoy. There's no one street of great restaurants, for instance. But if you take the initiative yourself to become a regular at a great restaurant, to find your favorite beautiful little park, to follow a theater group or a band, get involved in your neighborhood or an organization, you discover things that you have a part in, and ultimately, that's a more satisfying way to live. Find Campbell's reviews in The Cincinnati Enquirer Wednesdays and Fridays, but you can check out her blog any day of the week at Cincinnati.com/blogs/dining or follow her on Twitter at Twitter.com/BeingPolly.

 

 

PHOTO CREDITS
Photo courtesy of Polly Campbell

Linda Palacios -

Linda Palacios is the editor of Cincy Chic. Send her an e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .Read More >>


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