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Jul 5, 2008 05:27 PM

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!