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Fancy Food is Overrated
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have missed tea at the Empress but thoroughly enjoyed it overlooking the gardens at Butchart and I highly recommend it.
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Angelica



Joined: 12 Jan 2006
Posts: 9
Location: Seattle, WA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm in the deli/ corn dog camp. Certainly there is a place for culinary experimentation and preservation of classic dishes and I wouldn't have it any other way. There are just so many delicacies out there that are undeniably classic and cheap. Cuban pulled pork sandwich on crusty bread with pickled jalapenos, fried gulf shrimp, little cups of italian gelato, hand made tamales, little green bottles of coca-cola, dim-sum and on and on. Cheers to Thomas Keller, Alice Waters et al... and maybe I'm just cheap, but I'm much more likely to buy a cookbook or some expensive ingredients rather than an expensive meal.
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It'sTanya



Joined: 13 Jan 2006
Posts: 3
Location: Paris

PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 9:05 pm    Post subject: A vote for home cooking Reply with quote

Travelling most of the time for work has taken away a lot of the attraction of going to nice mid-range restaurants for me. In too many cases, I find the food to be overly rich and unhealthful, the atmosphere stuffy and not relaxing, and, since I travel and therefore mostly dine alone, the time spent waiting around to get the food, get the bill, etc is time wasted. I don't know why, but I get really antsy just sitting around in restaurants.

I'm sure I would love going to a 3-michelin-star place, but I haven't had the opportunity yet. There are also some little hole in the wall places in my neighborhood that I enjoy a great deal, because the people know me, or because I've become addicted to a certain food. But in general, restaurants just don't do it for me anymore.

I'd much rather cook at home with top ingredients. But no corn dogs please, I'm vegetarian!
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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 9:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe I've had one Michelin three-star dining experience and one two-star experience: first in Manhattan in 1994, the second in Northern Italy in 2000. The NY dinner cost my companion about $350, desert alone after a concert at the NY Philharmonic cost him $150. This was a dinner for two people. The service was impeccable, and the food tasted very good. The meal in Italy was less memorable, but good.

But for pure taste, a good deli sandwich is still my preference. One benefit with the fancy restaurant experience is that it may consume two hours which is a time to talk. So, if I have an interesting companion, then spending two hours in a restaurant is valuable. (E.g., the movie, My Dinner with Andre.) However, that same person would be good to share a meat-ball hoagy sitting on the edge of a dock overlooking the water. Or even, sitting in the corner of a deli looking out the window at the sidewalk.

Another way of approaching the question is "Which looks more appealing? The inside of a Jewish bakery, or the inside of a fancy restaurant?"
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 1654
Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

David,
My first experience with high tea was at the Empress when I was six years old. I was so excited, practiced my manners for weeks and even dressed up my koala bear in a boa for the occasion. To this day I am teased about my "Empress Manners".
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Deste



Joined: 17 Aug 2005
Posts: 307
Location: Far, far away

PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 11:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Acceptance of different tastes is key.

Fancy food is not over-rated, it just may not be everyone's preference.

All fancy food is not alike. All simply assembled, basic food is not alike either. Sometimes distinctions are matters of quality, yes, though absolute criteria would be difficult to establish for either category.

Given a choice, I'd go fancy everytime, though not every day. That's the point.

I would worry about having the proper attire, make-up and haircut. An expensive, multi-coursed, beautiful and skillfully prepared meal in a lovely setting with great company and perfect service is an adventure for many who would view this as a luxury more accessible to some than others.

This brings up one of the central factors that makes the topic both subjective and sensitive: the issue of class.

There's a movie starring Nicholas Cage who's rich and callous and alone at the beginning of the film. Only when a supernatural force transforms his life and he becomes a member of the lower middle class, but beloved by a gorgeous (of course) wife, adorable kids and quirky friends does he find true happiness in grilling hamburgers in the backyard. This is the kind of myth that Hollywood sells us like bread and circuses. I bet that in real life George Clooney wakes up humming these days, too, even in his house on Lake Como where a huge basket of fresh porcini sit on a marble slab in the kitchen, brought back from the market by one of his staff.

However, I know that class is not the only issue. The debate over the relative merits of Italian and French cooking is ridiculous but relevant, too.

In simplistic terms, some say the French copied Italian food, but made it vastly superior and sophisticated. Others scoff and say the simplicity of pure, high quality ingredients that are left to shine and speak for themselves elevate Italian food above the frou-frou pretensions of cuisines in which heavy sauces mask the taste of whatever they coat.

I have made some pretty fussy recipes with complicated procedures and found the end results worth all the effort, as much as I also appreciate excellent spaghetti coated only with freshly ground pepper, olive oil and lots of Romano.

It's all relative.

Please forgive me for babbling.

But, finally, I gotta ask about your signature line, Sarape. You seem to be speaking against glamor, no? Or is a perfect deli-sandwich, by your standards, as glamorous as it gets?
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Chicago Bear



Joined: 02 May 2005
Posts: 240
Location: Chicago

PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's fascinating to read about our attitudes on this issue. For me, the word "fancy" is pejorative. It's not a value most people look for in a restaurant, particularly those--like us (mild applause)--who love great food. Some great food is easy to prepare: wonderfully fresh, briney oysters come to mind. So then the question is, where do you want to eat them? At home, on your kitchen table, or on the deck of a restaurant that overlooks the sea, where you're experiencing more than just the food. Other great food exists only by reason of the talent of the chef. I'll pay for that value, but I will not be subjected even to great food in a pretentious, we're doing you a favor, atmosphere. But, here's the thing, Serape: most restaurants that have talented chefs making excellent cuisine are smart enough not to pollute their restaurants with pretension. And I cannot make for myself what these chefs can create, any more than I could hit a major league fastball. One of the big pleasures in life is finding the talent, and eating our way through their creations.
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Dawna



Joined: 04 May 2005
Posts: 125
Location: Vancouver

PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2006 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I find the premise of Sarape's original post somewhat muddy, I confess, but the answers have been passionate and illuminating.

What exactly constitutes fancy food? Is food inherently fancy because it is rare or expensive, or does it become fancy when carefully prepared with elegant presentation? Does it require two sauces, one of which must take at least two days to prepare? Does it mean food (however well or ill prepared) served in a "Fine Dining Restaurant" (to use the distinction for pricey, as indicated by my telephone book)?

I like good food. Sometimes it's as fancy as a torchon of foie gras, sometimes it's as plain as a soft-fried egg sandwich. I will not turn up my nose at a cosy bargain-priced diner that has a great burger or perogies or a cheese sandwich, but neither am I made uncomfortable by five-star dining, where you have a different set of staff serving each course and the servers are wearing couture and real pearls. I don't think it has to be either/or.

Good food is good food, no matter where you find it. As for what surrounds it - whether you enjoy that is dependent on who you are, where your sensibilities are. There is a lot of subjectivity and there can be a lot of cultural snobbery (both ways) in what constitutes a good food experience, and while I understand the desire to rate them against each other, in a lot of ways I think it is a mistake to try.
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Jan



Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 8
Location: Toronto Ontario

PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2006 2:13 am    Post subject: eating out is over-rated Reply with quote

I really think this depends on where you are, how hungry you are and what state your mind/body is in at the time. My most mouth-watering all-time meal was on a fishing trawler in Australia. My husband and I were backpacking in Tasmania and came upon a fisherman who just happened to have been at the same air base as my father in WWII. (this was 30 yrs ago, BTW) He invited us to go out on his boat to pick up rock lobster traps the next morning at daybreak. While his crew pulled the traps up and deposited the lobsters in the hold, the captain chose a few, sliced off their tails, dipped them ever so lightly in soft bread crumbs and sauteed them in butter. Those tails, accompanied by homemade biscuits, have yet to be bested by any meal since. Sun, a balmy ocean breeze, fresh(can it get any fresher than that?) food cooked on the spot and young ravenous appetites. The memory lives on.
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Elizagard



Joined: 28 Mar 2005
Posts: 31
Location: San Francisco Bay Area

PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2006 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rainey,

I had afternoon tea at both the Empress and Butchart gardens recently. The tea and food at the gardens was far better in my opinion! I thought tea at the Empress was a bit overrated (my apologies to those with fond memories of it). Although I was glad I did it once, I'll probably try another one of their restaurants next time and try tea in another location in Victoria.

Elizabeth
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Elizagard



Joined: 28 Mar 2005
Posts: 31
Location: San Francisco Bay Area

PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2006 8:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sarape,

I like both the inside of Jewish bakeries and some but not all fancy restaurants. Why would we have to choose?

Elizabeth
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2006 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elizagard wrote:
I'll probably try another one of their restaurants next time and try tea in another location in Victoria.


Fairmont Hotels can have spectacular food. The breakfast I had at Lake Louise is probably the best I've ever had. The usual offerings, but the eggs were out-standing with yolks a color that Technicolor still hasn't achieved — waaay past yellow on their way between gold and orange — and they stood like pingpong balls above the pristine whites! I have a friend who raises chickens and on lucky occasions she gives me eggs that are hours old. They're the only ones I've ever had as fresh as the ones at the Fairmont Chateau.

I'd agree with you, tho, that the Empress is riding a reputation without the pride you'd expect and hope for. I'd also agree that the fare and the ambiance at Burchart would be hard to top. It was the last thing I did before I left BC the last time.

If you get to Vancouver and enjoy gardens, the gardens at VanDusen are smaller and less spectacular than Burchart but lovely nonetheless. And the restaurant there (can't remember the name) has surprisingly good food for a place with a captive public. Even when they do the annual show they manage to make you feel very welcome and not rushed.
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Elizagard



Joined: 28 Mar 2005
Posts: 31
Location: San Francisco Bay Area

PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2006 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rainey,

Thank you. I haven't been to Lake Louise yet but would like to go. Butchart Gardens were the most beautiful I've seen anywhere in the world. I do visit Vancouver fairly often but have not been to Van Dusen. I will be sure to check that out next time I'm there.

Elizabeth
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2006 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elizagard wrote:
Thank you. I haven't been to Lake Louise yet but would like to go.


DON'T go in May. As a person from SoCal I sniggered when the AAA person who prepared our triptik provided all the #s for road condition info along the Rockies between Alberta and LA.

When we got to Lake Louise in mid-May the ice was still feet thick. Fortunately, it was quite clear so if we brushed away the snow we could vaguely see the celebrated color of the water below the ice we were standing on... Shocked

What did I know when I put on an actual jacket probably fewer than a dozen times in LA? Even Vancouver has very moderate winters and didn't prepare me for the mountain and prairie kind of "Spring".
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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2006 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I should have defined what I meant by "fancy" when applied to food. Maybe it is the difference between traditional Italian and French cooking.

We only have to choose between the Jewish deli and the au-couteur (I'm probably spelling high-culture wrong) restaurant for a given meal, for example, on a vacation.

My signature is by Marlen Brando in Streetcar Named Desire when he's talking about Blanche. That's one of my all-time favorite characters. I think Brando would pick the deli food while of course Blanche would be eating in the restaurant. I'll go along with Brando.

Maybe I should have called the debate: Stanley versus Blanche.
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