Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A shift in priorities

So, I get it. I understand the whole "fine dining" concept. Great food, great service, subtle balances of flavor. It's incredible stuff, and I'm totally over it.

That is, we've had some exorbitant meals, both in terms of cost, and overall quality, but the value per unit of pleasure has fallen off relatively quickly. $150 is a lot for a meal. A few years ago, I'd have thought it was completely, utterly ridiculous. I still do, but it's been worth it because I really wanted to explore what the high end of food was all about.

Now that I know, that experience holds less and less value for me.

A dinner at Gordon Ramsay at the London is fun, and interesting, but so is a dinner at Cuvae - and the dinner at Cuvae is cheaper, more accessible, and more relaxed. The thing I loved most about the dinner at the London was hanging out with the people I was with. The food made a great conversation piece, but the biggest part was the social experience, and how the food enabled that.

I think that's the draw of a lot of the post-Alice Waters-era cuisine. Create a novel sensation that spurs people to think, and to talk about the experience. Challenge what the eater expects, make them reconsider how they perceive food, and then get the people involved to discuss their experiences.

That holds a lot of interest to me. It's the *best* part of a meal - that shared experience. And that's the sort of thing that could cost hundreds of dollars or next to nothing, and change very little.