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Why justify about the cost of a very expensive lunch/dinner?

  • f

In an earlier post some 'hounds are asking how one can spend $650.00 for lunch for two at the French Laundry. Granted this is big bucks for one lunch but this is no ordinary lunch. Overall, in my opinion, I really don't see why we need to justify or explain ourselves as to why or how we spent this money for lunch or dinner. We just did for our enjoyment-period.

Some people think nothing of having $5 coffees every day at Starbucks which adds up to over $1,000 buckaroos in a year. Others like their weekly manicure/pedicures. Whatever. That person is paying for it. Why do we suddenly get a bit moralistic about food being expensive when we think nothing about paying big bucks for cars, houses, jewelry, weddings, etc. Is it that food is more disposable? What about the memory and experience of being in a legendary restaurant like The French Laundry? If I had the choice between one wonderful lunch at the French Laundry for $650.00 or six so-so lunches/dinners at $100.00 each, guess which one I'd go with?

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  1. I agree, my DH and I celebrated an anniversary at Le Gavroche in London last year. It was worth every penny of the over $200.00 we spent for lunch, the food, the room, the service, the whole experience was fantastic. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat. Of course if the dollar gets better in the near future it won't be quite as dear.

    1. While I agree with you that no one needs to justify how much they spend on whatever, $650 for lunch for two is pretty much off the scale, even for the best restaurant in the US. So I can also understand why many would be incredulous. And people do question someone who gets a Starbuck everyday of the week. In fact a lot of financial advisors do advise not getting that coffee.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Peter

        Among other things, at the restaurant in question the lunch menu is the same as the dinner menu. A nine (or sixteen) course tasting menu is the same price whether it's served at noon or at 8 pm (rather, started at those times, since the serving of the meal takes at least four hours). In truth, I think it's better (and healthier) to eat such a meal earlier in the day.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          I think lunch should be cheaper than dinner at French Laundry, just like it is everywhere else. Say maybe $625 ;-)

        2. re: Peter

          Well, I would advise not getting Starbucks every day because their coffee is just not that good, but where I live, a daily latte or mocha is not at all something anyone looks askance at. In fact, there's usually a huge line of the same people at my coffee shop every morning when I stop in for mine (and my rosemary scone)!

        3. From my perspective, it's merely incredulity...I personally was not seeking justification from anyone (except perhaps Thomas Keller, but he is what he is, so I'm not all that interested), just expressing amazement.

          Perhaps some day I will be in a place where that kind of thing is part of my lifestyle...sigh.

          1. Let me start with 'wow'.

            Let me move on to - incredulity? justification?
            The first post to bring up the shock factor was someone making a joke (to the tune of 'they should not only get the bread there on time, they should feed it to you'). I didn't see anyone put down the original post-er or get moralistic about it. In fact, everyone agreed that indeed, waiting 20 minutes for bread was out of line ESPECIALLY at that price.

            The original post-er mentioned the price. OK. Some of us were shocked at that price. OK. I, in all earnesty, asked if there really is a difference between food you pay $300 for and food you pay $600 for? And as I mentioned - at that point is the food REALLY higher quality or is it just name you're paying for?

            I say this, keeping in mind that another poster pointed out that she had all of the same experience one gets at French Laundry for half the price. That leaves me to believe the food must somehow be better. The question still remains. I was 'challenged' to look up the preparation that goes into it. I will. After which I'm sure I'll have more questions.

            I know that I was not asking for justification or moralizing about anything someone else was doing. I was commenting on information that was already put out there (namely the price and another post making light of their shock about the price).

            Shock, for me, does not mean judgement. Shock means shock. Shock means I haven't experienced that (the most I've spent on dinner for two is $300 and I don't regret a second of it). Shock means, wow, that's a lot of damn money. Shock means, "To cause surprise". Nothing up my sleeve.

            Hope that makes it more clear.

            4 Replies
            1. re: krissywats

              I do believe in addition to your 'shock' about the price, you were also justifying a bit about what $650 could buy you. That in turn would cause people to justify why they spend their money on expensive lunch/dinners.

              I've listed below your post on that French Laundry thread.

              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              1. re: Flynn

                Yes, that 'list' was a joke - made after a lighthearted comment by a couple of other post-ers. It was also started with a comment about 'orgasm' being involved in eating at the French Laundry. I meant the entire post in the same lighthearted vein.

                As far as posting several times throughout the thread, as I mentioned, there became an earnest desire for me to understand the difference. This was not putting anyone down, as I said, but honestly trying to understand. That was answered by several people - specifically the one listed below by Caviar (and another by RR). They both gave me a more tangible understanding, until then (and I don't mean this offensively at ALL) the answers had been impalpable and about the 'experience' and since it had been established that someone else had, in fact, had a similar 'experience' for half the money - if the food could actually be that much better.

                I kept repeating myself (as I've done here) because that specific question hadn't been answered.

                I'm sorry if I came off offensive and I hope that HeidiPie didn't think I was asking for justification on how she chooses to spend her money.

                Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                1. re: krissywats

                  FWIW, KrissyWats, I perceived your tone to be more curious than moralistic in the other thread, but ultimately, only you will be able to answer your questions.

                  The "worth" of a dining experience is such a personal thing, and the French Laundry's extreme prices and catering to a certain social strata always make that type of discussion highly charged.

                  I posed some questions on the SF board recently about the FL, and have linked that thread below. Responses certainly varied and may give you more insight into whether this is an experience worth investing in for you.

                  I personally came to the conclusion that my husband would probably not enjoy the FL that much given the reservation process, prices, and "preciousness" of the whole thing. I, OTOH, believe it's something I need to do at least once before I die...sooner rather than later.

                  Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              2. re: krissywats

                I absolutely agree that you have every right to be incredulous, surprised, shocked, whatever. What I think brought on the defensiveness was the fact that you didn't just express that once but several times over the course of the thread.

                I smiled and felt that I shared some of your feelings after reading your first post. But when you kept on about it I found myself wondering why, and thinking "hey, folks can spend their money however they want, and even if I wouldn't spend it that way, this board isn't the place for questioning that." I read your persistence on the topic as judgement, even if it wasn't intended that way.

                One of the ongoing struggles of human communication is separating out intent from interpretation. What you meant and what some others heard seem clearly to have been two different things.

              3. An individual shouldn't have to justify what they choose to spend their money on.

                I economize on workaday breakfasts and lunches (I brown bag), I walk 6 miles roundtrip to and from work each day (for health but it also saves $$) but I go to Europe at least once a year.

                I've had people comment on my trips to Europe as if they are such an extravagence and indulgence - meanwhile what I save on lunches, transportation and lots of home-cooking throughout the year more than pays for my travels.

                We all make choices...what's important to me may not be important to others. That's life and what makes the world go 'round.

                1. Where's the original post? I missed it, and now I'm curious.

                  I won't touch the "why justify" part, but I think you're exactly right that the major factor is the ephemerality - I won't say "disposability." I'd love to be invited for a $650 lunch (although I hope I wouldn't know the price tag beforehand), but if I were handed $650 and given the choice of spending it on one lunch vs. jewelry, I'd go for jewelry. I hope that won't get my chowhound-ness revoked.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Fida

                    How about theater tickets, a gala - what did three tenor tickets cost? what do tickets to olympic opening and closing ceremonies cost? This isn't an everyday meal.

                    And if he can afford it, hurray for him.

                    1. re: Fida

                      I'd take the lunch, no question. This could explain why I don't have much jewelry ;-)

                    2. Nobody has to justify anything in their lives, and everyone is entitled to their priorities. Personally, I don't have to justify the fact that I would feel fitter (physically and karmically) just dropping $5 at one of the nearby taco trucks and sending the balance to Oxfam.

                      Link: http://eatingchinese.org

                      1. I don't think anyone who can afford a $650 lunch needs to justify it. But I do think that a discussion of whether a lunch or dinner was worth $650 is a very, very interesting one for chowhounds, because it veers strongly into philosophical territory.

                        I think we can all agree that there are very, very, very few meals that are worth $650 (and, for the vast number of people who could never afford a meal like this, that number would be 0). It is up to us 'hounds to share information so that each of us can determine where best to splurge.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: butterfly

                          I think you just perfectly explained what I have been clumsily trying to say for a couple of days.

                        2. One of the issues that rarely gets discussed here at Chowhound - rightfully as it is not truly central to the experience of taste - is social class. Some people earn $500 per billable hour. Others would be happy to make that much a week. And if you want to go global, some people would be happy to make that in a year. I have no problem justifying spending $65 (plus tip) of my money on what I think is exquisite sushi. But I'm just a community college professor, and I know there are many people who earn 10 times what I do and some who earn 100 times what I make - especially if they are CEOs or can throw a baseball at 98 mph. One can question the social justice of a society that allows such huge disparity in incomes, and my prudent aunt would tell me that I am throwing away money by spending so much on a meal, but I have no doubts that I would gladly spend $650 on a lunch for two if I could consider that disposable income. So what is the point I'm getting at? I guess, my only conclusion is that if anyone would like to buy me a round trip up to Napa to have lunch with her or him (on her or his tab, of course) at the French Laundry, please contact me by email.


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: e.d.

                            I would treat for the trip but I would really like to try that In N Out burger, or whatever, place :)

                          2. p

                            Yes, I think Marie Antoinette would agree with you 100%.

                            1. Sounds like $650 is the price of admission for this experience. Period. Some people spend $200 for opera seats. The opera is over in 3-4 hours, sometimes less. THey have the memory for a lifetime or until Alzheimer's sets in.

                              Don't count other people's money. The only place I'd feel comfortable jumping in would be if a former chef from this place (or a similar place) opened a restaurant serving similarly creative food at half the price. Then it's just a heads up.

                              The price could also be based on location, staff considerations, staff/clientele ratio, expense of ingredients and most important, what the market will bear.

                              Hope you enjoyed your meal.

                              1. I agree with you. If something is important to you and you value a certain experience, integrity, quality, whatever -- and you can afford it without going into debt -- I think you should be able to do what you want with your money. If everyone thought an expensive restaurant, pair of shoes, piece of furniture, etc was not worth it, then think of all the people that would be out of business. I work in a business where I wouldn't be my own customer, but thankfully other people are so I can afford to spend money on what is important to me. I'd rather have/do fewer things of better quality than a whole load of cheap things that have to be replaced. That's not to say that every meal has to be four stars but a little bit of luxury along the way makes life a little nicer when balanced with sensible things along the way. We work hard for our money and should be able to enjoy it in a way that is in line with what we believe it, not for others to judge. I hope you loved your meal and that you have the fondest memories of your time there!