Phony online reviews

Bravo to New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who’s attempting to dismantle what he calls “a system of creating false online reviews for products and services,” according to a recent Associated Press article.

“Large scale intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution,” he said. By next year, one researcher estimates, 10 to 15 percent of social media reviews will be fake.

That figure seems conservative. A travel and dining aficionado, I’ve long been suspicious of Trip Advisor reviews of hotels and restaurants, and Yelp is hopeless. There must be shady dealings going on to explain why terrible places get rave reviews. The problem isn’t confined to English language reviews, either. I often see bogus reviews in fractured French or grammatically challenged Spanish. And of course many so-called respected online travel guide reviews are ancient, terribly out of date, and cannot be trusted.

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“Best Italian Restaurants in the U.S.”

Check out Travel & Leisure’s Best Italian Restaurants in the U.S.” Naturally the majority of their picks are incredibly expensive. One of the featured restaurants is Tulio, in Seattle. I did some quick calculations and came up with an average cost of dinner for one person, for a hearty eater like me, at $138. Yikes.

SNIPPETS ~

June 1 through 10 is “Restaurant Week,” a culinary celebration showcasing restaurants in the “entire Valley from Palm Springs to Indio.”

Participating restaurants will offer a three-course menu at a fixed price of either $24 or $36 per person (tax, beverages and gratuity are not included). Click here for details.

Shirley MacLaine stars in “Bernie” a quirky new film based on a true story that co-stars Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey. David Denby reviewed the film in the April 30 issue of The New Yorker.

The Marriott is featuring a “Girlfriends’ Sonoma Getaway” in California wine country. The package includes massages, breakfast and shopping and is valid through Nov. 29, 2012. Visit the site, and then click on Explore & Plan Deals.

Are you watching “Birdsong” on PBS’ Masterpiece? Part 2 of this World War I drama about a doomed romance airs this Sunday. With beautiful backdrops and gorgeous costumes and period pieces, “Birdsong” features an excellent script and understated acting. Who does romantic melodrama better than the British?

Also, coming up May 6, the deliciously strange 21st century version of “Sherlock” begins its second season on PBS’ Masterpiece. I think the show’s star Benedict Cumberbatch is every bit as odd and intriguing as the finest Sherlock Holmes of the small screen–Mr. Jeremy Brett.