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ever wish you could lower your food standards?

I am at times, disappointed in restaurants, seemingly a lot more than my fellow diners. I'm not one of the "if it's a chain I won't touch it" persons....and am often quite happy with very simple food. But it seems like i'm regularly sitting there in a restaurant while others rave, and i'm thinking...."I could have cooked this better at home" or..."why did I order this? I should know better" sort of thing.

i'm happy that I have a knowledge about food, and know what certain things should taste like etc....but at times i've wished that I was a little more green, and could be impressed by that risotto or pasta, especially when i've doled out a nice portion of my hard earned cash over it.

Anyone else feel this way?

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  1. "The more you know, the more you suffer."

    (I just made this up, but I'm sure some Greek philosopher must have said it)

    3 Replies
    1. re: RicRios

      The more common aphorism is "ignorance is bliss."

      I completely understand how you feel. Though I think I'm ok with not being green anymore -- it just comes with the territory of being interested in something and wanting to learn more. You're going to become less and less ecstatic about things once you've experienced them dozens of times. I remember being completely blown away by certain paradigms of thought, theorems, theories, etc as a beginner student and then having to wait for quite some time before I learned of another paradigm that blew me away. So now, I actually get rather excited about what will next blow me away (I remember itching to learn about Kant, calculus, neuroscience, and organic chemistry for this reason -- Yes I'm a geek.) But I have the same approach toward food. I hear about something that excites me, and then I prep for it, learn about it, and then after patience, I will experience it, reflect on it, and then find the next thing. Chocolate and tea are fascinating to me because there's always something else I can find and learn about.

      My real lament comes from the fact that mediocrity is so expensive nowadays. And if most people are going to rave over mediocrity, then there isn't much incentive for restaurants to improve. I, too, will stop in to eat at the local crap chain (Applebee's in my case, which I LOVED when I was 8) and order and eat the mediocre food. But it costs about $60 just for my boyfriend and me to eat there for lunch, and we usually aren't drinking alcohol -- it's the tap water for me.

      1. re: PaperMoon

        i totally agree with the lament. But the thing is, i've also been highly impressed with food that i've shelled out just a couple of dollars for...because the cook not only knows their stuff, but obviously enjoys cooking it. what bothers me is when i've shelled out 50-60 for my share of a meal to be underwhelmed.

        1. re: PaperMoon

          $60 at Applebee's? For two?! For lunch?!? Drinking water?!?!


      2. I can definitely understand where you're coming from. This is why I'm kind of scared to get into high end teas. I'm afraid that I'll go to a cafe and refuse to drink Celestial Seasonings. I don't ever want to get to that stage.

        14 Replies
        1. re: Miss Needle

          But it's junk - and someone's taking your money to give you junk. Start ordering loose teas from Upton Tea - try some expensive ones, but also try some of the cheaper ones. You'll get your money's worth, either way. There's really amazing stuff out there, and they're don't all require a second mortgage (except maybe the really, really good Taiwanese oolongs... but if you get hooked on those, you'll happily give up your house...).

          I'll still drink Bigelow or CS at a cafe or hotel function - sometimes we all have to make do. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy the good stuff when you can.

          1. re: applehome

            One summer in Vermont, I was playing piano on the most beautiful Steinway grands out there -- much better than your typical Steinway grands -- the Chateau d'Yquem of pianos. I didn't realize how good it was until I came home to my rinky-dink console. After that summer, my piano sounded like a toy, and I was so disappointed. Same thing with my tea.

            I actually don't drink junk. But I don't drink the super premium stuff either. And I don't get too hung up on how I prepare my tea like tea masters do. And every once in a while I'll have the bad stuff, just so I don't get too spoiled. It's actually a little twisted when you think about it.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Buy a Yamaha Clavinova - the touch and sound of a 10' concert grand in the space of a spinet. Ok - not quite... but much, much better than most consoles and uprights.

              I don't know if I agree with this whole concept of being spoiled by the best. I've always been the type that just gets the best possible for the moment - when I have money I spend it and when I don't, I don't. I've played a guarneri, I've had $50/100g Formosa Oolongs, and eaten the porterhouse at Luger's. I can't do those things every day, but boy am I glad I've had the chance to do them at one time or another.

              1. re: applehome

                I'm also glad to try the best possible of something but don't want too spoiled by it by having it all the time. It's not a money thing, but more of becoming a "high maintenance" person thing. For example, I meet people for coffee/tea frequently. I don't drink coffee so that's a moot point. But I don't want to make demands on other people that I have to meet them at this particular tea house that they have to schlep their way all across the city because they carry the super-premium oolong as opposed to just meeting them at a convenient location or because the ambiance is nice. While I can enjoy the higher end teas, I don't want to get to the stage that drinking Celestial Seasonings will make me unhappy and will start to affect my everyday life. That prospect frightens me -- probably because I can see myself reaching that stage if I spoil myself by exclusively drinking the best stuff out there.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  Beyond money, and beyond convenience or inconvenience, and beyond all of the other considerations, when you "normalize" something really special by having it regularly, then it's no longer special. Who needs that kind of loss?

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Very true. Even if I was totally loaded (which I'm not), I don't feel right eating at restaurants like Per Se every night (or even every week).

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      Very true. My SO had once been involved with the recipient of a large lawsuit. Every night they dined at the type places most of us reserve for the big events. Said they quickly lost the specialness.

                      There are some places I would like to visit more frequently in order to experience more of the menu, but I do like having the excitement and anticipation of a special occasion meal!

                      1. re: meatn3

                        I lived in Las Vegas for four years during the 60's. End of the Rat Pack Era. One year we even got a bottle of booze as a Christmas present from Howard Hughes. I still have the bottle, but it is empty now. Pretty, but still empty. My husband was military, and some stars -- notably Marlena Deitrich -- had it written into their contracts with the hotels/casinos that a certain number of their tables be set aside for military as the star's guests, no charge to the guests. Even without those perks (that we only took advantage of when it was a celeb we couldn't see any other way), things were pretty cheap back then, even for the most extravagent venues. Dinner at the Bachanal Room at Caesar's Palace was a nine course extravaganza for $13.50 per person. There was a harpist playing music from a swan boat in the lake, back massages from "slaves", and truly excellent food.

                        The best food in town wasn't at buffets. It was in the premier dining rooms of the best hotels. The food with the dinner shows wasn't too shabby either. Follies Bergere. Lido. Casino de Paris. Then the showrooms with top stars including Rat Packers. Prime rib with Yorkshire pudding, duck l'orange, Dover sole (the real thing) Muniere, lobster Americaine, medalian of veal Perigordine, all for under ten bucks a pop. A '59 Mouton-Rothschild pouillac medoc for $22 a bottle or a 63 Lafitte-Rotschild pouillac medoc for $18.50. I still have the menus.

                        For the first couple of years it was fun. Great tables, great shows, great food, lots of celebrities. Incredible music! But after so long you just begin to wind down. the old "sensory overload" thing.

                        Our last year there, my husband come home from work one night and there was a movie at the local drive in I really wanted to see. A bucket of chicken, a six pack of cold Cokes, put the top down on the car, park forward in the middle of two parking slots, a speaker on each side, and sit it the back seat watching the movie over the windshied and enjoy the show! On warm dessert evenings with a really good movie, it's just sooooo good!

                        But my husband would have none of it. We ended up in a private box overlooking the stage in the Versaille Room at the Riviera, our own private waiter popping corks and serving food, and Dean Martin sang a song to me. And all I could think of the whole damn evening was how much I would rather be at the drive in eating KFC from a bucket and watching James Bond!

                        The good part is that I did get to experience all of that. The bad part is that I no longer have an interest in an "exiting" evening out at a la de da "do." My 75th birthday is coming up in a couple of months, and my kids are coming from El Paso, and want to know where I want to go for dinner. There's a Nobu's here in Dallas. There are lots of fancy restaurants. I've been trying to think of a place for over a month now. And you know what? I'm really thinking I would love to whip up a tray of enchiladas Suiza and just stay home and enjoy their company. And if they want to do the cake thing, that's fine. Just don't expect me to blow out all 75 candles in one breath without using my hair dryer!

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          I think they all get the bucket of chicken and coke (as a drink) references - but only people past 50 or so are going to understand what you mean by a drive in with speakers on the side... (how many did you forget to take off...). I remember our Toyota Hi-Lux, pulled in backwards, with lawn chairs and blankets and a cooler (and no, it weren't always cokes)...

                          There's still a place (Twin Screens!) here in MA, and they have a chow tie-in because they used to serve some really different and good food. I think about it now and then... but then I think that being hot and sweaty is for the yutes, and they don't want it any more, either... there really is something to AC being the major social change of the last century.

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            Although I wouldn't say that the drive-in is alive and well, they're still around. We've got one with six screens here in Sacramento, located near the area's Korean community. Banchan and bibimbap before a blockbuster--oh, yeah!

                            There are a few more drive-ins in the Bay Area. And there's also the whole DIY "guerilla drive-in" thing. All you need is an LCD projector and an office building with a plain wall next to a parking lot. Best of all, you don't have to use those tinny speakers any more; now short-range FM transmitters allow you to hear the soundtrack with all the fidelity your car's stereo system can muster.

                            Of course, with dark not coming until well after 9:00, a forecast high of 106, and air filled with smoke from forest fires, the drive-in might not be the first choice for entertainment tonight...

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              hmmmm... I don't have a short-range FM transmitter, but I do have an LCD projector... If gas prices keep climbing, I can always open a drive in theater in my back yard. Should be able to hold about 15 cars. Gourmet hot dogs, upscale nachos, bleu cheese popcorn. I should be able to cover a tank of gas with a really good double feature. '-)

              2. re: applehome

                Haha Miss Needle! I've gotten into tea, and that's exactly what happened. . . Maybe someday I'll be one of those ladies that brings in her own tea to restaurants, bakeries, and patisseries.

                Applehome -- thanks for the info. Are there any specific teas that you would recommend?

                1. re: PaperMoon

                  Over time, I've decided that as far as black teas go, I'm a second flush person (a fuller mouthfeel, not as astringent) - there's so much variety and overlap between the 1st and 2nd growths that it's not always so, but given one estate, my preference is almost always the 2nd flush.

                  The last batch of Puttabong Estate 2nd flush was really wonderful (it's gone now) but the TD71: Puttabong Estate SFTGFOP1 sounds about the same. It's a bit expensive (around $20/100g) but well worth it.

                  A cheaper standard, one that I use for iced tea a lot, is TD94: Sungma Estate SFTGFOP1. About half the price of the Puttabong.

                  Upton sends you samplers all the time, and the one that came with my last order was one that they recommended for Iced Tea. I tried it iced, and it was indeed, wonderful. I foolishly didn't write down the item, but it was a Ceylon black. If you email or call them, they would know, I'm sure - I intend to do that before my next order.

                  My new favorite, special green tea (I pretty much drink only Japanese Sencha - it's what my mother always had in the house) is TJ65: Spring Harvest Sencha 'Kawakami', but I don't know how long they will have it. For a cheap every day sencha, I enjoy the Vietnamese tea - TV01: Vietnam Green Sencha (less than a quarter of the price of the Kawakami).

                  Right now, I'm into my standard summer iced drink, which is mugi-cha (barley tea). I buy the giant bags at the Japanese or Korean food stores. But I'll mix it up by brewing some iced black and iced green teas a few times during the week. It's too damned hot to think about hot teas today.

                  1. re: PaperMoon

                    Oh boy. I didn't realize it till now but I recently got back from a long weekend where I swiped some Twinings tea bags from the cottage I was staying in so I could use that instead of the dreadful Lipton they serve on the plane!

              3. At some station in life, one must be content to "plane out" and enjoy, because there is no next level. As for lowering standards? Not in the cards. You can't unring a bell.

                1. I'm not sure if I want to lower my food standards, but I do feel like sometimes my life would be easier if I didn't mind eating McDonalds occasionally.

                  I share your sentiment, but this is why I rarely eat out anymore, unless it's to be social. I don't want it to get to a point where eating out becomes quotidian. Also, I try not to order things that I can make at home (e.g. pasta).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: anzu

                    anzu was just thinking the same thing. The few times I have relented and gone to a drive thru thinking that would be a cheap option I have had a bite or two and slung it in the trash. Buy cheap buy twice!

                    1. There are certainly times where there are other objective priorities than food ...
                      and if you cant "turn it off" then, you're likely either childish, rude, selfish or
                      something else unflattering.

                      I dont expect compromise on relgious, health [allergies], or "serious lifestyle
                      convictions" [say a committed vegan], but "mere" food snobbery can be pretty
                      annoying when it's important to optimize against some other variable ... two of
                      the most frequent being "we have to be somewhere at a given time because other
                      people are waiting for us" [time] and "we have to accomodate these other people's
                      budgetary preferences" [money]".

                      it's one thing if we look at this as a case of the "hedonic treadmill" w.r.t. individual
                      preferences, but it's another matter in social settings.

                      If somebody thought Spanish was the main language of Brazil, I'd probably revise my
                      opinion of them downwards. If somebody thought Hershey Dark Chocolate was the acme
                      of chocolate, I'd probably conclude they were not super into chocolate, but it would be
                      more of an intellectual asessment rather than a judgemental one. Lack of standards in
                      some areas are in a sense failures, in other areas are "merely" matters of choice or preference ... in some cases ignornace or circumstances are an explanation in other
                      cases ignorance has nothing to do with the issue [say a college kid who loves cars
                      but drives a beater for financial reasons].

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: psb

                        As per your original response to my query PSB:

                        "There are certainly times where there are other objective priorities than food ...and if you cant "turn it off" then, you're likely either childish, rude, selfish or something else unflattering. "

                        I can assure you that I am neither childish, rude or selfish... even though we are all egocentric beings in some way or another at various times in our lives. No one is talking "food snobbery" here.........nor did my initial post mention anything about shying away from gatherings with friends and family because the food might not be top of the line, nor did it say anything about looking down on the fellow diners because they happen to be enjoying their dishes. Not even maybe. I for one, have friends who can barely boil water, as well as those who love a good meal out. I will happily eat nothing but potato chips at a friend's BBQ (I don't eat meat btw). Who said anything about being high maintenance...? Assumptions should not be made that any and all chowhounds are high maintenance or will screw up their noses and critique every meal...thereby ruining the dining experience for everyone. Just so you know, I will also not burst into tears or go into the vast injustices perpetrated upon animals, at the dinner table if you happen to eat a steak.

                        I also fail to see the difference between judging someone on their knowledge or ignorance in other areas, as opposed to food. Using your example above, i'd also simply conclude that the person you note, just might not be super into languages, or geography either for that matter.

                        Guess i'll just go home to play with my shiny new shoes now.

                      2. While I derive great pleasure and happiness through food, it is also one of the major expenses in my life. I love good cheese, good bread, going out to nice restos... all of which are unfortunately and increasingly harder to afford, as well as justify -- after all, it's sorta like throwing money in the toilet. *sigh*

                        However, if I were happy living on cardboard bread, generic gouda/American cheese "product", or Hamburger helper, I might be able to save some money for things that last longer than a day. A place to live. New clothes. Silly things like that. But who knows if I would enjoy those nearly as much as my culinary pleasures.

                        Put me down for "undecided."

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: linguafood

                          My waistline seems to indicate my food indulgences lasting much longer than a day!


                        2. I know exactly where you're coming from! For me, there seems to be an added problem: Consistency. On those few occasions over the past couple of years, when I've found a restaurant that elicits a "Wow, this is GOOD!" when I return it's not so good. So the very reason I refused to become a chef (because I didn't want to make the same thing exactly the same over and over again) is the very reason that I can't find a good restaurant any more. Today's chefs (and restaurant cooks) don't seem to be able to do that.

                          Thanks for your post. It's so nice to know I'm not alone! Well, not nice. Sad but comforting is more like it.

                          1. I do indeed.

                            I have kind of gotten to the point where I just accept whatever I'm eating for what it is. I'm not big on the teppan-tourist-style Japanese restaurant in town, but it's the only Japanese place my boyfriend will eat at. So it's good enough for me. But I understand it's a gimmick.

                            However, I fluctuate. Sometimes I'm tired, and I just want food, so I'll settle for the processed crap at the local chain (yay, business lunches!). But other times, I refuse to settle. You know, when you want a salad that contains neither iceberg lettuce nor spring mix. This adament refusal to settle happens a couple of times a month.

                            1. jfood does not buy into the concept of lower your standards on food. Whatthe heck does that mean?

                              jfood either likes it or he does not. He will spend 48 hours making braised short ribs, carefully choosing the ingredients and then serve it with mashed russets with butter and salt. Both are great.

                              He actually stared at a can of Beefaroni today in the supermarket and if he cauld sneak it home and eat it he would have, for a great childhood memory. Jfood absolutely loves Whoppers with Cheese and Slyders, fresh oysters and foie gras, and a good old fashioned HN hotdog with some of that good green relish. a major aged prime steak with french fries and onion rings, followed by a creme brulee and brownies.

                              So what standard are we lowering? If it's the perception standard that a Whopper with cheese or a grilled chicken BLT from Cracker Barrel (both jfood loves) is low class food then bring it on baby. Jfood will keep his standard, he likes what tastes good not what some subgroup tells him is good. Does that mean that jfood will not eat at certain places? It does, but ONLY after jfood has tried it, not after some group has told him it is beneath a foodie or a chowhound's standards.

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: jfood

                                that's kind of the thing though....i might be happy with a can of beefaroni. well veg-a-roni...if it exists. as i've said , i'm very happy with simple food, and i like fast food sometimes, and i LOVE what my family cooks for me. the problem is I guess, liking GOOD food, if that makes any sense...not just being snobby about food. I do expect a little food knowledge if i'm paying 20-30 per entree....otherwise i am going to get a fast food what not, that will make me happy ( and i know it, clap your hands )

                                it's also more when i'm paying for it. if i go to your house, it's all good. My friend recently told me " you order the weird stuff ".....ok........it's because i want to order things i can't make at home. or at least not easily. I maybe phrased my post wrong...i don't go with the crowd, like yourself....i don't wait to be told where to go, or what is "standard". I love a good chain place from time to time. I could go for a bloomin onion right now. It's just me...if i pay $20 for a lobster roll....i expect it should be one of the best i've ever eaten .

                                maybe i just need lessons on ordering for maximum food pleasure.

                                1. re: im_nomad

                                  your last sentence is the key "ordering for naximum fod pleasure."

                                  jfood never orders salmon entrees in a restaurant, nor roasted chicken for the reasons you state. it's juft not a good pleasure on the dollar return. Now a $1 mcdonalds double cheeseburger (no nion) is OK but at $2.50 it;s not.

                                  And jfood always looks for the paper insert specials at his favorite restaurants, that;s where he finds the chef's love for the night.

                                  so jfood is always performing the delta of apending the extra $10 for the veal special or $5 supplement for whatever and hen decides if its worth the extra vig. so enjoy what you like, not the local critic and the people on all the websites. There is only one important voice.

                                  BTW - jfood did try the Bloomin Onion, way too salty and the sauce did nothing for jfood. But if you do get one tonight enjoy it. he liked ketchup better, but still too salty.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    re: ordering roasted chicken - Do consider getting roasted chicken at Cantonese places or Peruvian rotisserie chicken - they can be exceptional in a right place. Even in a French restaurant, it can be a labour-intensive and very technique driven dish. I used to get them at a place that roasts them to order. And there are classic French roasted chicken dishes with black truffles stuffed under the skin. Always exceptions to the rule, no?

                                    1. re: limster

                                      re - cantonese - nope, too many other choices; peruvian - never been to a peruvian restaurant. french - if they are making their chicekn with truffles, there are probably other tremendous dishes, but this may make the short list.

                                      1. re: limster

                                        a post seems to have disappeared from the early mornings when jfood could not repond so he will without the benefit of that post.

                                        If Limster meets jfood in Singapore and tells him that this would be the best roasted chicken he ever ate, then it does not matter what cuisine it relates to, jfood will always take a recommendation like that and run with it and order the chicken. But the next night Limster will have to accompany Jfood to the beach and have a few buckets of spicy crabs and several dozen napkins.

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          (scratches head) Sounds like I missed something...

                                          But back to the point, which is that the "pleasure per unit dollar" for a given type of dish (e.g. roasted chicken) is not a constant -- in different restaurants, the prices and quality can differ substantially and thus vary the "pleasure per unit dollar" quite dramatically. I would certainly encourage redoing that calculation in each setting, since all the variables can change.

                                          1. re: limster

                                            Lizard always misses something when reading Jfood although she tries! I'd have to say that where this question really comes in is in my case. I moved from NYC to a distinctly nonfoodie zone (no dumplings, no banh mi, no peruvian chicken, decent pizza-- although to be fair if I pay really really high end, I get the basic British high cuisine which can be good, but not an every day or even a once a month thing).

                                            I live somewhere without decent sushi. No ethiopian. I live somewhere without the basics that I had become accustomed to. Locals here proclaim so much delicious and I simply don't see it. Do I wish I could? Hell yeah.

                                            That said, i have access to excellent meat and produce (spices a little harder). What I don't have is the access to Jfood's 48 hours to prepare a dish. I wish i wish. Not gonna happen for me any time soon. I have a job that keeps me ridiculously busy and without the sustained kitchen time needed to bring what I miss to me.

                                            1. re: Lizard


                                              Sorry for the confusion. The 48 hours is not continuous, he's not an astronaut. But here is a breakdown of the 48.

                                              Friday Night - Pour wine and seasoning in a pot, season meat, place meat in wine and stick in fridge. Total time 15 minutes
                                              Saturday - Lazy afternoon. Sear the ribs, saute veggies and then braise in over for 4-5 hours. Back to fridge
                                              Sunday - Take out of fridge arond 4PM. Preheat oven to 350. Place in oven for 45-60 minutes. Serve.

                                              So the 48 hours is on/off except for the braising on Saturday.

                                              1. re: jfood

                                                No worries, J.
                                                Still, no such thing as a 'lazy afternoon' where I am at this point in my life... Of course, the problem is, what I really want are dumplings, a time consuming business if there ever was one!

                                                1. re: Lizard

                                                  jfood made dumps last winter and cheated by buying won-ton wrappers in the grocers. it took about the first half of the football game to make the dumplings and the second half to eat them.

                                                  good news with the youngest away at college is lazy sundays come much more often.

                                      2. re: jfood

                                        can't help it..i like horseradish sauce............

                                  2. I hear ya nomad, after a trip to Italy it was hell having to drink american style coffee and have dry pasta again... and don't even get me started on the meats and cheeses, and oooooh the pastries... *weeps softly*

                                    1. I can see how you're feeling. For me, if I am going to spend my money to eat out, I don't want to order something mediocre that is no better than what I could make at home. Like you, I am not easily impressed by pasta since it's usually fairly bad and really I could make mediocre pasta at home for a lot cheaper. The worst is when I go to a restaurant and can find that particular dish done better in a microwave meal and am thinking "I paid $20 for this?"

                                      I also find that a lot of people tend to be impressed by portion size or price alone. If it's mediocre and cheap or mediocre and a huge portion, I will not be impressed.

                                      1. I get it. This is the reason that I refuse to buy good coffee beans or good wine for consumption in my home. I do not want to get to the point that I must have good coffee or wine to enjoy it. That would kill my budget.

                                        Unfortunately, about 5 years ago I started working at a restaurant that makes its own bread and also makes fantastic burgers. At the same time, I was making my own bread for home use. As a result, I have been spoiled for anything else. Store bought bread now tastes only of preservatives and McDonalds burgers? Forget about it. I always liked fast food burgers, hough I only ate them once in a while, but after fresh everything all the time, they tasted like rotting meat to me. This bummed me out, but not as much as the bread issue. Store bought bread is everywhere, and it's really hard to avoid. I just don't like it any more. For this reason, I will never buy fresh squeezed orange juice. Imagine the pinch on the wallet there.

                                        1. Street and market food around the world; kaiseki worth your mortgage in Kyoto; US gas station corn dogs and their condiments from the counter; brown trout on a stick over a fire in the High Sierras; dinner at the Hotel du France in Antananarivo; a Big Mac in the Bogotá International Airport; Whopper in the Miami airport; thirty course Chinese state banquet; Chef Boyardee and instant noodles; my five course classic French dinner; my three favorite places in Rome; hot dog from a steet cart in Ottowa; all the same depending on circumstance and price.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            Hear Hear!

                                            Price and content are the key. I will happily admit to having a snacky fetish for probably the naaaaastiest greasy-fried-food in the whole world.. the Australian Chien Wah Spring roll. It's like $1.60 and when I give in to the Muse I love it.

                                            Also don't mind throwing down a $200+ meal at a WORTHWHILE resto.

                                            And I've eaten for 20c from the "typhoid trolleys" in SEA.

                                            I will not even bat an eyelid at paying $6+ for a good salmon steak, to cook at home.

                                            It's not about the money, per se.

                                            What I can't abide is a restaurant meal that doesn't live up to the hype. I have bee caught out too many times paying good $$$ for crap. Only last year I was FURIOUS to have been hoodwinked (it was the work Xmas party) into a restaurant of dubious quality, to pay $15 for an appetiser-sized meal of pasta that was inedible.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              Why is it that, with rare exception, street food always tastes good? Is it that we can see the cook preparing the dish with a limited set of tools? Is it that only those with a true love of food are going to subject themselves to the demands and discomforts of being a street vendor? Or is it just that our expectations are lower when we're eating off a paper plate while seated in a plastic chair?

                                              For me, expecations definitely play a role. I'm much more likely to forgive slightly overcooked shrimp if it comes in a coctel de camaron from a mariscos truck than if it's served on china and white linen. The funny thing is, the guy in the mariscos truck is probably more likely than the line cook at the nice restaurant to get the shrimp cooked just right.

                                              I agree that there's a place for **almost** everything. Whether it's an animal-style burger from In'n'Out, dim sum in a place where nobody speaks English, or the tasting menu at a world-class restaurant, count me in. But there's gotta be some QPV. A $20 steak entree should start with a cut of meat at least as good as what's available at the local grocery, and had better be cooked as it was ordered.

                                              In recent years, buyer's remorse like the OP's "why did I order this" has led me to foresake mid-range restaurants almost entirely. I'm constantly in search of great cheap eats, and love to experience a talented chef's take on top-quality ingredients. But if a restaurant is going to serve me indifferently-prepared run-of-the-mill food, I'll save my money, stay home, and make something better.

                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                Interesting questions/observations, Alan. Especially regarding street food. For what it's worth, I definitely do believe that the restrictions set by primitive equipment play a positive role in the scheme of things. I especially like any meat dishes prepared by a street vendor, preferably a guy with a bucket of live coals, a wire screen over it, a bit of salt and a pair of tongues. He doesn't overseason it, he's right there judging doneness, the fresh air wafting around it seems to contribute to the flavor, and me standing there smelling it and salivating the whole while probably doesn't do anything bad toward diminishing the taste!

                                                In El Paso, I had a fantastic little burrito trailer set up in the parking lot of a super market (called "El Burro") that had absolutely fabulous burritos, not to mention coctel de mariscos a la Vera Cruzana. Oh,give me some more of that!

                                                Even hot dogs from a street vendor taste better than dogs from anyplace else, and there's not a live coal in sight! Well, that obviously has to do with dirty dog water, but that's a whole different story.

                                                I only wish there were more street vendors in the U.S. We've chased them all indoors, and our food is the worse for it!

                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                  "Why is it that, with rare exception, street food always tastes good?"

                                                  Very thought provoking post, Alanbarnes. I get very excited about eating street food, there is something about immediate gratification, seeing the food cooking before your eyes, eating it hot off the cooking surface.

                                                  Street food tend to be about specialization. They can't offer an extensive selection of food, so whatever they offer has to be really great to attract customers. So-So street food vendors run out of business soon. There is also the joy of eating outside, food always tastes better outside under a beautiful blue sky.

                                                  Simplicity can be perfection. Street food is simplicity personified. Because you can't have a bunch of fancy side dishes or garnishes, the focus really has to be on the item offered. Spicing, quality of ingredients, execution of cooking technique all come to the forefront when nothing else is there to distract your attention.

                                                  My expectations are not lowered just because I am being served on a paper plate. The food still has to taste good. I have had street food that has been suboptimal. If I get overcooked food, I am sad. But fortunately it can't be that disappointing because the price is just so right.

                                              2. I would never lower my food standards. There have been too many benefits. For one thing, I am eating yummier food. But even better, when I encounter not so yummy food, it is much easier to not finish it. Portion control has become much easier, because I now believe that some things are just not worth the calories. This is a real boon when it comes to trying to control my weight, always an issue. It is also very helpful in the budget department, because I find I order less food in places that I have been forced to go to for work reasons or whatever. If I am not so enthusiastic about the choices, I buy less too. Save my money for jamon iberico pata negra bellota....

                                                But I am lucky in that I have been blessed with a very broad palate, and can happily eat from one end of the spectrum (street food, chain food) to the other (high end restos). Really, if any effort has been put into the food item at all, I can be very happy. Like you, my least favorite places are restos that make food that I know I could make much better at home. Well, resto meals aren't always about the food, so I consider my meal a social tax and try to order the least expensive least offensive meal available and concentrate of the company.

                                                1. I like what I like and it covers an entire range (price, sophistication, etc.) of things. I also love, love, love to eat out and never think "I could make this at home for less." I find that food tastes better when someone else has made it.

                                                  What does sadden me is to be excited about trying a recipe, go to the store and get the best of ingredients for a substantial amount of $$$, work on it for hours and it turns out "okay". I end up wishing I had gone out.

                                                  1. <"ever wish you could lower your food standards?">

                                                    Never! I like what I like and thank goodness that covers a very broad spectrum.
                                                    But, why should I lower my standards? *Shudders perceptively.*

                                                    1. Lower food standards would make dinner out with my non-chowish parents and/or sibling WAY easier. If they like it I hate it. I have no objection to the occasional drive-thru (Taco Bell for dinner last night) but if I'm going to an actual restaurant I want something good. Not Applebees or Pizza Hut, which seem to be the only two places my parents have ever heard of. We always end up arguing over where to go because according to them my food is "weird." That's why I have chowhound friends.

                                                      1. No, I'd never want to lower my food standards. That said, I realize that not all my family and friends share them, so when we go to a restaurant I try to keep my expectations realistic. I know that if we're going out to eat with some family members we're going to end up at the local Cactus Willie's buffet enjoying all we can eat for $9.99 (which, by the way, is where my in-laws actually wanted us to take them to celebrate their 55th anniversary - can you believe it?! My husband and I said "no way" so we had them to our house for dinner). Then, we have our friends who enjoy better food and upscale restaurants. Thank goodness for both, right? The ability to try many different types of foods and different restaurants is a blessing to me. If I didn't eat the mediocre stuff once in a while I may not appreciate a truly outstanding meal as much. Have I had meals I've thought I could have cooked as well or better? Absolutely, but I have never dwelled on it. I try to enjoy the meal and the company I'm with.

                                                        1. While being a selective eater (read: picky) can be frustrating or limiting sometimes, I often think it's a good thing. I eat a lot less junk food than most of my friends, because if I know it's something I don't enjoy eating, I don't eat it (strangely, this seems revolutionary and bizarre to many people). So when I see friends at a party helplessly gravitating towards really bad party food (congealed sausage rolls, no-name, MSG laden chips, badly made desserts) I feel grateful that it holds no appeal for me.

                                                          And this isn't because I don't eat junk food, and only want expensive stuff - I'm just a selective junk food eater AND a selective expensive food eater.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Gooseberry

                                                            now....don't even get me started on "bad desserts"........I do pride myself on my baking. Many's a time (mostly at work do's) i've listened to people rave over so and so's dessert, and then upon tasting them myself i wonder if i ate the right thing. It then in turn, has me wondering if they're lying when they rave about mine :D

                                                            (again, here, i'm not talking about things made with things from a box, or what not....just in general, poorly made, and poorly tasting things)

                                                            1. re: im_nomad

                                                              I'm totally on the same page. I'm a good baker, my mother is a superb baker, and I no longer order cake or tarts when i'm out at a restaurant. Freshly made ice cream - maybe (so I can compare it to mine!).

                                                              I have a theory about baked goods. It is unbelievably easy to make nice baked goods (although many people are terrified of baking). It is very hard to make superlative baked goods. Even in restaurants, where skilled pastry chefs have flawless technique, too often the desserts lack imagination and certainly soul.

                                                              But when most people are faced with any kind of sugary confectionary (especially if cocoa/chocolate is involved) they cannot tell the difference between the nice and superlative. Hence the number of times you or I have put cakes in our mouths at the urging of others ("It's amazing! You'll LOVE it!") only to be disappointed.

                                                              1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                So true! I would go further and add that people are so used to mediocrity in cakes that anything the least bit better garners praises. But I'm continually amazed at how people will rave about nasty sheet cakes with no flavor and sweetened shortening for frosting.

                                                                I'm guessing there's a social conditioning at work too. Cakes = celebrations, therefore eating cake = being happy. Taste doesn't even enter into it.

                                                                1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                                  And how about pies? I've given up even trying at restos. Is there a practical reason I'm unaware of that my mother and mother-in-law can make the flakiest, shortest crusts imaginable and all I can find when dining out is shoe leather with fruit inside? Maybe butter is out of reach for restos but shortening is not that expensive!

                                                                  Rant over.

                                                          2. Standards, no. Expectations, sometimes. As you mentioned to jfood, eating out is tricky. With experience, you can learn to tell a lot about what to order, or what not to order. I'm someone who believes it's possible to find something decent to eat at just about any restaurant. Maybe, like you said, you need to learn how to order.

                                                            But learning how to order isn't easily taught. It has to do with your personal taste. How disappointed will you be if the risotto isn't to your liking? Jfood doesn't order roast chicken out. I rarely order pasta out. It's all about knowing that you have high expectations for particular foods, and then steering clear of those when you're not confident about the ability of the restaurant to prepare them. It can also be an opportunity to be a little more adventurous, and try a dish you're unfamiliar with.

                                                            Two strategies that often work for me:
                                                            1. Don't order anything you can make easily at home, unless you're pretty sure it will be better than yours.
                                                            2. Don't overlook the appetizer menu. You can sometimes discover really good dishes here, and if they're not fabulous, at least they're small.

                                                            10 Replies
                                                            1. re: Kagey

                                                              I often order two appetisers instead of an appetiser and a main. Leaves room for dessert (although I rarely indulge when out - my mother is a serious dessert baker) if I so choose. And chefs tend to take the most risks in appetisers. Makes a meal more interesting.

                                                              1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                There's a Japanese/Thai restaurant near me that has lamb chops as an appetizer, but absolutely no lamb on the rest of the menu. Oh, and they call the appetizers "tapas." So what language is that, Japanese or Thai? Anyway the "tapas" has two (and sometimes three) lamb chops and a smallish scoop of great wasabi mashed potatoes to act as "glue" to hold the chops upright for presentation, along with an interesting wasabi/cabernet sauce. Add a small house salad and it's a great meal! Sometimes the lamb is a little lean, but if I remember to ask them for the fatty chops they are very accomodating. Many times I find the appetizer menu far more interesing that the main courses. If chefs don't take more risks with appetizers, they certainly expend a whole lot more imagination!

                                                              2. re: Kagey

                                                                yeah i probably shouldn't have used the word "standards"...made me sound a bit snobby that, lol.

                                                                I have a tendancy of picking the most unusual/rare sounding or "weird" thing on the menu, and going with that anyway, if for no other reason than i want to try different things. And i'm not a picky eater. I have learned to steer away from pasta and risotto dishes unless they're heaped with something i can't be bothered to cook at home (like lobster). I just think that if i'm in a recommened Italian place, I SHOULD be wowed by those dishes.

                                                                I will note that i have been wowed in many a restaurant (and that includes plenty of cheap-o places you stumble into along the side of the road)....I guess i'm just wondering why I seem to not enjoy some of them, as much as my fellow diners.

                                                                It just makes me wonder more if i'm just a P.I.T.A. I guess. ....

                                                                1. re: im_nomad

                                                                  I didn't mean to imply that you're snobby. I've had a similar feeling eating out lots of times. The thing about chowhounds is that we may be more attuned to the relationship between quality and cost of food. Your disappointment with paying too much for mediocre food is more intense because you know better. But it also works equally the other way: you're more likely than the average person to understand why a meal at the French Laundry costs what it does. Some might call it PITA, I call it selective. With experience, you'll find yourself disappointed less frequently. In the meantime, it's important not to let that disappointment ruin the whole experience of eating with friends and loved ones.

                                                                  1. re: Kagey

                                                                    i think knowledge and preferences are two different things.
                                                                    again, a college student who loves cars and drives a hand me
                                                                    down honda may be vastly more into cars than a rich lawyer
                                                                    with a porsche to impress chicks.

                                                                    BTW, this phenomena is structurally similar in all kinds of areas
                                                                    of interest ... for example amateur photographers will be really
                                                                    excited about mid day pictures in a beautiful place like yosemite
                                                                    valley while a serious photographer's reaction might be "the light
                                                                    is crap". now a serious photographer who either make dismissive
                                                                    comments out loud about "the light is crap" or tells a "snapshoter"
                                                                    that his picture is crap ...well that is obnoxious and says something
                                                                    about his personality. on the flip side, a photographer who feel his
                                                                    8mp $500 camera can take the kinds of pictures a professional
                                                                    SLR+pro lenses can take is igorant.

                                                                    now what is interesting is there is clearly a difference between somebody
                                                                    with high talent in taking pictures and somebody who just spends a lot
                                                                    of money on high end gear. the analogy to a good cook vs a cook with
                                                                    expensive gear is clear. being a good photographer or cook is a laudable
                                                                    talent. somebody with a lot of knowledge about food and food culture ...
                                                                    i suppose that is laudable too. i'm not sure what is especually laudable
                                                                    about somebody with merely "high maint" taste in food. is somebody who
                                                                    will only buy excellent cars or watches laudable? somebody with perfect
                                                                    pitch who is a good musician has done something good with his talents ...
                                                                    if he buys expensive amplifiers and speakers and becomes an "audiophile" ...
                                                                    well that's just a statement about how he spends his money ... if you have a
                                                                    great palate and buy expensive wine, ok, so that's just a statement about
                                                                    your preference curves ...

                                                                    what would be your reaction to a thread on a web site about "do you
                                                                    ever wish you could lower your standards when it came to bed sheets/
                                                                    wrist watches/TVs/etc" ... that reeks of snobbery to me. but maybe other
                                                                    people have a differet take away from the "princess and the pea" story.

                                                                    here is my view:
                                                                    i value my friends over food, and food over "the scene". i'm ok with a
                                                                    decent meal with great company. i'm ok with great food, and good
                                                                    price-perf and dont care about the zagat decor score, whether it's a see-and-be-seen scene, whether i get the "first to review" tag on yelp etc.
                                                                    so on the one hand i'm food centric. on the other hand, i dont have that
                                                                    much respect for people who know a lot about food but nothing about
                                                                    science, culture, history, the affiars of the day etc. i might get along with
                                                                    such a person better than say somebody with a vast knowledge of
                                                                    exensive shoes/fishing reels and nothing about science, culture, current
                                                                    affairs etc ... but at a certain level, i think they've both over-prioritized "life
                                                                    style choices" or hobbies over things with more substance. do i respect
                                                                    somebody well-read more than a someone with great palate? ... holding
                                                                    other things constant, you bet.

                                                                    1. re: psb

                                                                      This is a very narrow view of what excellence in food can be. Being well read vs. having a great palate is indeed a false dichotomy - not necessarily from the thought that a person can have both (they can) but rather from one that says you can respect both - separately but equally.

                                                                      Putting your efforts into any endeavor rewards you in one way or another. Time spent learning about photography, audio, food - even shoes - will provide rewards commensurate with the amount of effort made. If you become so single-minded that you give up other aspects of life, you will certainly lose in some ways, but you will most likely gain in that single endeavor. People who are the best musicians (at least classically) are those that spent their entire childhoods practicing. If you become single-minded in the search for great food, you would certainly not put friends over food ant not care about price point, service, ambiance, etc... but your knowledge, understanding and appreciation of food would probably surpass those less dedicated than you.

                                                                      There's no value judgement here - each life is to be led as it is seen fit to lead. If you value friends over food, great, wonderful. If others value deliciousness over everything else, that is their decision to make. The question might be - regardless of snobbery or any other intolerant behavior - does this person, perhaps, know more than others, and could he share that knowledge to help others?

                                                                      When I go out with my friends who know me well, they look to me for advice on where to eat and what to try. If I go to a football game, I might look to the experts I'm with for advice on what to look for or what moves certain players are good at. Respect can be subject matter oriented. I can respect a great palate even if there is nothing else there, just as I can respect a great football player even if he hasn't read the classics and learned to love foie gras.

                                                                      Ultimately, the pursuit of excellence in anything has its rewards, and whether the costs are worth it or not is up to the individual. Once attained to a level of satisfaction, should a person then dumb down his knowledge in order to spend more time with friends and not come across as a snob? If those friends are that important at that moment, perhaps. But I would much rather chose friends that let me be who I am, so I don't have to make the choice of food over friends.

                                                                      1. re: psb

                                                                        I don't think the issue is just about buying expensive amps or speaker but actually understanding the details like how does different sound systems work together or how they perform at different ranges and how well they capture the spectrum of sounds. What types of cameras are best for what types of images? We sometimes comtemplate buying cameras that cost >$20K for microscopy, and not all of them are created equal. Different ones are best suited for different applications; it's not just cost, but really going into the nitty gritty about different pros and cons and various aspects of their performance. It not about how much money is spent or how money is allocated, but how one optimises the returns per unit money spent.

                                                                        1. re: limster

                                                                          it sounds like the photography+microscopy is an engineering issue.
                                                                          the problem of optimization in an engineering setting is a different
                                                                          matter than "optimization" in the area of personal satisfaction.

                                                                          there can be an objective optimal for an engineering problem ...
                                                                          say the resolution, shutter speed etc you need. there isnt an
                                                                          "optimal" price point for how much to spend on wine. it obviously
                                                                          varies with personal income, personal taste, what else is on the
                                                                          table, negotiations with the other wallets at the table etc.

                                                                          but i do agree that it's possible that somebody who bought the
                                                                          too expensive camera in a sense may have shown worse judgement
                                                                          than the person who bough the "right" camera ... and it would be
                                                                          odd for the over purchaser to draw inferences such as "i a more
                                                                          professional and committed to quality".

                                                                          fair point that putting together a stereo system and spreading
                                                                          your spending across components intelligently is different from
                                                                          chosing to buy $400 vs $80 shoes. although i was more focusing
                                                                          on the decision to acquire or not to acquire.

                                                                          1. re: psb

                                                                            Well, with microscopy, there's isn't always an optimum in terms of specifications...for example, better resolution either in space or time, gives us better data. Usually the limitation is financial, i.e. how much grant money available to spend. So for a given price point, do I prefer better resolution or speed? If money were no matter, I could probably get a system that does both...but in real life, one has to prioritize based on kowledge of these stuff I'm choosing between.

                                                                            To bring that back to food, it's not just how much one likes a wine and how expensive it might be, but also which is the best wine to pair that with a dish that one wants (or vice versa). And that would require some knowledge of how food and wine interacts. Choosing one expensive thing over another (preference) will also depend on knowledge.

                                                                            1. re: limster

                                                                              Technology is always bound with money - trade-offs are what engineers get paid for. But so is food. Which one of us has an unlimited budget? It's always about making the best of what you have - and the more knowledge and understanding you have, not only can you make better choices, but you can better appreciate those choices.

                                                                2. Yes, there have been times when I wished I didn't care so much about food, like when driving cross-country and needing to find something for dinner from a very limited set of choices. Or being in a large grocery store yet unable to find any whole grain bread that didn't have corn syrup in it (though I was grateful they had whole grain bread of any type).

                                                                  I've learned to manage my expectations and also have gotten better at spotting what might be an unknown restaurant's strengths. But I totally agree that much of the time I'd rather cook at home, even if I'm tired, than go out and spend too much money on mediocre food. And I totally agree that appetizers can often be the best part of the menu!

                                                                  Years ago I had a boyfriend who, after a few months of eating my cooking and even doing some cooking himself under my tutelage, heated up a can of his old favorite Chef Boyardee for lunch, took a bite, turned to me and said, "You've ruined me! I can't eat this anymore!" (But I suspect he's recovered by now.)

                                                                  1. No, I would not want to lower my standards, either. They are very high, I'm afriad - too high at times. I often think, "I could have made this so much better myself" and pick dishes apart and over-analyze them. It is a bad habit of mine that I am trying to change but as someone said you cannot unring a bell. It sometimes goes with the territory being a chef myself. That probably sounds really bad but it is the honest truth.

                                                                    Yes, my standards are high and I am proud of that. However, like most of you, I can enjoy a good meal at ordinary places as long as the ingredients are local and fresh and heart and soul has been put into it. Going to lacklustre places where you can just tell the staff just could not care less detracts from the experience. Give me someone passionate about it and the experience can be improved. And the ambience, character and even location of an eatery can make a difference. Sure, I have had mediocre food at times (not often) in Dubrovnik but those views and oh, what service!

                                                                    My expectations can be high as well but I always remind myself, "It is what it is". You just cannot compare a chain resto to Alain Ducasse. You can get a great rack of ribs at a chain or great truffled foie gras from Jean-Georges.

                                                                    I confess that upon returning from Italy I always swear I will not ever have pizza or gelato here again (but sometimes give in occasionally). :)

                                                                    1. I really don't have any "standards" all I have is just personal knowledge of what's good and what isn't so good. Since I do cook,when we go out, I am very careful with what I order. Pasta. Unless I know the restaurant, forget it I never order it. Its flour and water, and I'm not paying $15 for a plate of badly made pasta with a heavy sauce, chain restaurant or fancy schmancy place, no.

                                                                      Chinese food, my husband I went to a Chinese restaurant once that was suppose to have the best most decadent food. The place was packed! What a let down, It was the sameo sameo dishes only in smaller portions presented in gorgeous dishes.Never again, I can get great Chinese food at my favorite place and it has the most reasonable price tag or I make it myself.

                                                                      Places like Applebees, or etc. While eveyone else orders the steak, the pasta and the fish, I don't. I eat a salad, and french onion soup every single time. It's passable barely, but I don't feel so terrible for ordering it. I do hate to spend money on poorly executed meals when I know my food would be so much better. But the experience of all of us being together is so worth it. It does wonders for my spirit to hear my sons while they're eating mind you, say "Mom omg you make this so much better, or you should taste my Mom's ______ it's freakin awesome!"

                                                                      Sometimes though we just go out to be out, there is something about mixing with strangers, being waited on by eager and hopeful faces and trying something new...I am an optimist and although secretly I'm thinking how mine would taste, it's a pleasure to be a participant in the banter with the staff and kids. So really, I guess I'm pretty lame I don't have any food standards to speak of, otherwise I'd never experience anything new, and I'm so the type that is afraid I"m going to miss out on something! That would kill me!

                                                                      Oh my gosh I almost forgot, I do have a standard!!!! I won't drink beer from a can!!!!

                                                                      1. i'm a culinary chameleon. i try to adapt to my surroundings. somtimes they're fancy, other times they're not. it's all good.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. I know exactly what you're talking about. The biggest "gotcha" moment for me is when my dining partners order steak. They happily shell out $30 or more for steak and the always specially request it plain. Nothing wrong with the plain steak, but you can make that at home (and they do often!) for much less money. When I go out I want to enjoy something that I can't make or can't make easily. Lately I've been sticking with independent ethnic restaurants where I seem to get much more bang for my buck. I don't make sushi at home, don't make Korean BBQ at home, and only make so-so Indian food at home, so I'll gladly pay the $10-20 pp to enjoy a great ethnic meal.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Rick

                                                                            >They happily shell out $30 or more for steak and the always specially
                                                                            >request it plain. Nothing wrong with the plain steak, but you can make
                                                                            >that at home (and they do often!) for much less money.
                                                                            do you think it is "wrong" to pay somebody to mow your lawn if you
                                                                            1. own a mower 2. are not too infirm to do it yourself?

                                                                            many people might outsource having a new deck made because
                                                                            they cant do it themselves, but people might also outsource their
                                                                            laundry, cooking, shoe shining, dish washing not because they
                                                                            CANT do it themlseves but because the marginal decision of "would
                                                                            i rather have {+$X in my bank account + do task Y myself, losing time T
                                                                            to do something i'd rather be doing} OR {have -$X in my bank account,
                                                                            and "spend" time/energy to do task Y}, they make a different choice.

                                                                            this reminds me of an editor of a law firm who was commenting on the
                                                                            poor writing of many of the partners. i think she equated outsourcing
                                                                            of editing with an inability to write, rather than just an economic decision
                                                                            about it was better to pay somebody paid a whole lot less money to
                                                                            spell check etc [yes, i know they did more than spell checking and there
                                                                            was a division/specualization of labor factor here ... but nevertheless,
                                                                            the dominating issue here was the cost difference ... the partners probably
                                                                            were competent to vacuum their offices too].

                                                                            >I'll gladly pay the $10-20 pp to enjoy a great ethnic meal.
                                                                            apparently they'll happily pay $30 for a steak. if you dont hear
                                                                            them bitching afterwards "that steak wasnt worth $30", what the problem?

                                                                            it sounds like you're implying "they are being silly" rather than "we have
                                                                            different preference curves".

                                                                            do you think it is crazy for somebody who knows how to shuck oysters
                                                                            to pay for oysters? how about somebody who knows how to pour wine
                                                                            buying wine?

                                                                            i agree with your ananlysis of how to spend my own money, but i dont think
                                                                            "my ability to do it myself" is necessarily the only reasonable analysis ...
                                                                            marginal utility is reasonable too.

                                                                            1. re: Rick

                                                                              Great kalbi at home is a snap. Find a Korean or Japanese food store that sells beef short ribs thin-cut flanken style - that is across the ribs, but only about 1/4" thick. You need a decent band saw to do this, so it's not a home job - but lots of places around here (Boston area) have it.

                                                                              Marinate for a short time (they're thin) and grill over charcoal (real wood). I've been doing this for many, many years and it is always a quick sell-out. There are many marinade recipes, but they pretty much all involve shoyu, rice vinegar, sesame oil, pepper, and lots of garlic. Additions can be mirin, sugar, scallions, garlic greens, ginger, etcetc...

                                                                              Make rice, eat with banchan. Even if you buy a bunch of different banchan from the Korean store, you'll definitely get that pp price well below $10.

                                                                              1. re: applehome

                                                                                That sounds really good. I may make a trip to the Korean neighborhood very soon. While I'm thinking about it, I've been meaning to ask: is rice vinegar the same thing as rice wine vinegar? I've seen both, but I've always wondered.

                                                                                1. re: Kagey

                                                                                  Rice Vinegar = Rice Wine Vinegar. Some Chinese varieties are darker and sweeter than the pale/clear thin kinds in the United States, if you have a dark rice vinegar it may not apply well.

                                                                                  If you plan on making Korean BBQ try adding some puree of asian pear to your marinades for traditional sweetness.

                                                                            2. No. Sure I don't always appreciate some of the places that my friends swear are great, but I can appreciate the culinary highs in a way that they just don't b/c they don't care as much about what/where they eat. Plus, I love food. If I were less discriminating about what I put in my mouth, I'd be about 300 lbs.

                                                                              1. I've recently come to accept this about the restaurant biz: It's a lot of BS. Don't get me wrong. I eat out at least twice a week. I'm a serious foodie and I love restaurants. But guess what? If you're a half-way decent cook, you can cook that at home. You can even cook a lot of food that's served in higher end places. And you can probably do it better because often times you'll give it more care and attention than it got in the restaurant kitchen and you won't have to make some of the comprimises required for serving large numbers of people fast. I don't expect magical experiences at restaurants as much as I used to but I'm happy when they do happen - and they still do.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: psawce

                                                                                  "if you're a halfway decent cook you can make that at home"

                                                                                  While this is true in many cases, and I agree with this and other posts that opt to order things they are less likely to make at home, there are certainly exceptions I think. For example, with pastas, I will often order a pasta I could make at home because it is done a bit differently, or is the chef's specialty. I must say I have a hard time ordering an alfredo though :-). If a place is well-known for the quality and aging of its steaks, I might take a flyer there too (best steak ever for me: bday at 900 West, naked steak, perfectly cooked) even though it's hard to beat the SO's grilling at home. There are many Asian dishes that I have made at home but will happily eat in restos a) because each place does them uniquely and b) they are labour intensive eg. som tam, tom yum goong, hot and sour soup, sushi/sashimi. And sometimes it's just plain cheaper to order a dish in a resto -- pho and banh mi are good examples here.

                                                                                  1. re: psawce

                                                                                    And guess what? I don't want to cook that at home. For me dining out is about food certainly, but it's about a lot more than that also. I don't enjoy cooking for the most part.....I do enjoy an evening out with my husband being pampered and us able to have different things, etc.

                                                                                  2. sometimes, but then I remember that a chowhound without the standards= a glutton. and my pickiness is one of the things that keeps me at a normal weight. so in the end I'm grateful b/c I've never had a weight problem and I instinctively know what's good for my body, or what is worth eating. If I can't eat my food at applebee's it's usually b/c I taste some kind of chemical in the food, or there's absolutely no flavor so I won't get a feeling of having "eaten." If I ate without listening to that, or didn't have that sense, I'd have some problems. In fact I usually gain weight when I don't have access to food I really like or feel good eating (such as no fruit for days on end). It's not all about weight, but be glad for your "gift." There are few people on the other end of the spectrum: who can watch their weight, eat healthy, and have no food preferences.

                                                                                    1. Lower my standards? Not even for a moment.

                                                                                      Industrial food's standards are based on production speed, shelf-life, transportability, retail profit margins... My standards are based on taste. It is my opinion that the absence of quality ingredients, 'food' does not exist. By this standard it is unfortunate to find chain restaurants and supermarkets stuffed to bursting with False-food items.

                                                                                      The price we pay for our knowledge of Germ Theory is a constant defense against infestation; we all use a refrigerator and attempt to store our animal products properly, do we not? Perhaps this is too bothersome. Perhaps we would be better off not knowing in the first place...? No, I think you'll agree this vigilance is not uncalled for, and is not without its merit. Many of us quite directly owe our lives to this notion.

                                                                                      The defense against Industrial Food is of the same nature; refusing to support Fake Food in bad restaurants or purchase it from supermarkets is the price one pays for an enriched (and probably Longer) life.

                                                                                      Besides, if we're already on the subject of wish-thinking, I would just as soon raise the standards of everyone else ;)