HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


"Per se" - a morality play

Greetings, fellow hounds - I am facing something of a moral quandary. In these economic times, do you think it is a moral failing to agree to "pay $700...for lunch..." as one colleague put it? Is it ever justified to pay that much money for a meal? Granted, I know the crowd here generally will not balk at this sort of thing. And I have read the numerous reviews of the Per Se experience and realize that it is a 'once-in-a-lifetime' event. However, by suggesting I would go here with my fiancee on Valentine's Day, I have succeeded in offending some parts of my thrifty-Catholic-New England family and it has led me to question my decision. (Besides morality, the other argument from the clan being that no meal - ever - is worth $275pp).

Would love your feedback.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It's not immoral to have the means to a fantastic lunch (or dinner), and if cost is not an issue, by all means go. People spend hundreds (and thousands) to go to a sporting event or concert, and this really is no different (paraphrase from Tony Bourdain).

    It seems that maybe cost per person is a topic better avoided with your future in-laws?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Caralien

      Good New England Catholics also think it's immoral and obscene to spend that much on sports or concerts too. ;)

      Definitely with you on the second point.

      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        Actually I've heard this analogy before. $350 per/person for dinner, a concert and drinks certainly isn't unheard of or unreasonable.

        Ditto for a sporting event. "Good" seats at a NBA game reaches $350 pretty easily. Front row tickets reach $1,500 upward.

        Time wise a NBA game is 2.5 hours. Dinner at Per Se is probably 4-5 hours. Per/hour Per Se is less expensive.

        The thing with food or dinner is to most people it's just that...dinner or food. They don't see it as entertainment or fun.

    2. Hey, it's your money. My test for this sort of thing is: a year from now, which would bother me more, having spent the $ or passed up the lunch? Of course if there is any possibility you'll ever have to hit up the family for a loan...

      1. Think of the people you're supporting -- from bussers to purveyors...

        5 Replies
        1. re: Sarah

          Sarah, that is a good point.

          I also think that spending money on experiences, (food, travel, theater) is more satisfying than spending it on things. My lunch at the French Laundry was one of the highlights of the year. I doubt I'd do it again, but I'm glad I did.

          1. re: Glencora

            Me too, Glencora. It's an experience that is worth every cent, IMHO. My lunch at Per Se cost well above the $250/pp price tag with wine but I am so glad I did it. I thought I could've gone on a shopping extravaganza and left nyc with a few new clothes but instead I had a full sensory experience that I will never forget. I'm a rather frugal person otherwise and I took a lot of ribbing from friends and neighbors over the cost of my Per Se lunch. After I had the experience, I never once felt guilty or ashamed for having spent that money. Every penny - worth it - period.

            I noticed below that you asked if you are getting swindled and is it sinful. I don't know, it seems rather odd to ask such questions on this site(no offense meant). Folks here will overwhelmingly support spending $$$ on delicious food. As Deenso suggested, perhaps you need to discuss this with your spiritual person.

            1. re: lynnlato

              Right - I sort of figure that most people will not think it's sinful but I figured there might be a few lapsed Catholics (such as myself) that could relate. 13 years of Catholic school are hard to wash away. :)

              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                I figured it must be that good, old catholic guilt kicking in. You're absolutely right... it's hard to wash away. :) Hopefully, chowhounds have put your mind at ease, at least somewhat, and you can enjoy what will surely be a mind-blowing culinary experience. Enjoy!

                1. re: lynnlato

                  Lenny Bruce had a bit about Christ and Moses coming to NYC and what their experience would be like. St Patrick cathedral being so grand and 14 people living in one bedroom apt in Harlem. The cardinal wearing a ring that cost 5 grand.(1950's prices). Why aren't the people from Harlem living in the cathedral? Go to your meal and enjoy.

        2. A meal at Per Se - or at the French Laundry - is not just a "meal" - it's a memory for a lifetime. But if you have to justify it, or have your arm twisted, then it's probably not going to be worth it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Deenso

            You sort of beg the underlying question: Is it objectively justified? Am I getting swindled, at least a little in being charged (on average) $25/plate for nothing more than a couple of bites (in some cases)? Is that sort of consumption sinful?

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              Are you being swindled? Absolutely not! Years of training, skill and artistry go into each of those little plates. We're talking quality over quantity. And, trust me, you will not be hungry when you walk out of Per Se.

              As to whether "that sort of consumption (is) sinful," I'd say that's a question you might want to take up with your spiritual advisor. ;-)

          2. you'll never know until you try. i received good value for my money at per se. i've spent a ton less at other locations and felt ripped off.

            at the end of the day, per se is a worthwhile destination that satisfies at many levels. share your thoughts with us after you get back.

            1. if you can afford it, I say do it.., and dont think twice about it. I know I wouldn't, and don't think twice about when I eat out & spend money.

              1. I'm not sure I agree with the term "morality" to describe your situation. It sounds a bit OCPD to me. Unless Thomas Keller's using his Per Se profits to perpetuate snuff films or things of that ilk or this meal means that your kids will be eating bread and water for a month, it's your money and you should choose how to spend it, whether you want to spend it all on Per Se or whether you want to buy a 99 cent menu meal at McDonalds and donate the rest to a homeless shelter.

                If you're talking about frugality, I find that most people are not universally frugal or universally spendthrift. DH's suits are all in the four figures. Yet when he purchases soy sauce, he buys the cheapest one. My dad will complain about how you can feed a family of four with a $5 meal but has spent $10,000 for a water filter for me, my sister and himself. I'm sure there are some things your thrifty Catholic New England family spends on that other people may not agree on (if your family has spent over $5 for a meal, my dad would think they're reckless). Deciding how to spend your own money is a really personal decision.

                Having a pretty controlling frugal father, I found the best thing for me to do is not share any financial information whatsoever. He doesn't need to know how much I pay for rent, how much money we have, how much we make, how much we spend on meals, etc. It really makes for a much more peaceful relationship.

                Per Se is really a wonderful restaurant. Personally, I thought it was worth it. The question is whether you think the $700 will be worth it for you. For some people, it isn't, and that's OK.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Sam I bet you look great covered in soy sauce ;)

                2. Bob D, I've so been there! It wouldn't matter where you are going or how much you are spending...because, once you invite "family" into your personal decisions...you are chancing the opinions will continue for years to come. You say, fiancee...soon to be wife...how does she feel about the "group" opinion for something as intimate as a V-day celebration for two? Per se would be memorable.

                  The question may appear to be about dining at Per se, but I humbly suggest you look at the long view...many meals to come...with your future wife...the decison making should be YOURS not OURS.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: HillJ

                    LOL - thanks HillJ! Believe me....I am fully aware of the long-term implications! Let's just say that I am glad this issue has raised up over dinner, rather than later down the road about how we're raising the children. Nip this in the bud. ;)

                    1. re: Bob Dobalina


                      Bob D, you could always share this article with the family...your Per Se plans are quite a "bargain" in comparison :)

                  2. If you have the money do it. I think it makes a lovely Valentine's Day gift. It's also none of your family's business on how you spend your money. Next time don't tell them how much you are spending. As long as your are not borrowing the cash or putting it on your credit card, I say go for it. You only live one.

                    1. If you are feeling really guilty about the cost, you could donate an equivalent amount to a food bank or something like that. That is what we try to do when we realize we are being a bit excessive. Of course, for goodness sakes, don't mention that to your family, it'll be even more scandalous if they find out lunch will cost you $1400!

                      I agree that the general concept of value for money is a very personal one. I do feel that a meal might be worth $275 per person, but I acknowledge that there are many who do not share my view. I would not force any of those people to come to Per Se with me. You'll have to decide how much you'll be able to shake off those guilty feelings and have a wonderful time. If you are excited to go, and you feel it might be worth the cost, I say go for it. But any doubt, and I wouldn't bother.

                      The few times I have had a chance to eat at Per Se have been truly memorable on multiple levels. I'd happily jump at the chance to do so again. But not everyone has to agree!

                      1. The cost of living, or should I say the cost of life, is a continuum along witch all of us make decisions about what something is worth to each of us. Is it immoral to pay for a nice engagement ring considering that the homeless person on the corner can't afford a BLT at the deli down the street? Should you feel you are failing some morality test if you buy a new LCD TV? How about if you get the leather package in your new Prius when you could have just gotten cloth seats?

                        I think this sort of moral "dilemma" is a silly construct. Unless you intend on emulating Mohandas Gandhi or Mother Teresa you should make decisions like this based on what you can afford to spend without missing your rent payment or leaving the kids without milk and cereal because you spent it at Per Se. Otherwise go and have a great meal and be certain to post about it here so I can enjoy your meal vicariously.

                        1 Reply
                        1. If you have to put it all on a credit card and pay it off over time, then I'd say don't do it. If your'e paying cash or paying the credit card off in full, then by all means go ahead and enjoy yourself! To some people food is just food and a $8 at McDonalds will fill you up just as much as $275 at Per Se. Those same people may have no problem spending $500 on the latest greatest phone where others are fine their free phone. Different strokes for different folks.

                          1. If you appreciate it, and the experience has meaning to you, then it's worth it, and don't fear for your soul. Where I would object would high rollers who don't know what they're eating and don't care what they're eating, only that it's the most expensive place in town. I'm sure we've been in restaurants with them. That bothers me to no end.

                            1. Really want to thank everyone for their opinions and thoughts. It's all very very helpful and I will write back if we go (scheduling issues, not the moral issue).

                              1. -If you go to "Per Se" for a business lunch and discuss firing half your employees, then it would be morally questionable.
                                -If you go to "Per Se" before going to the bank for a "emergency" loan, then it would be morally questionable.
                                -If you go to "Per Se" before going to the US senate to get money to save your company, then it would be morally questionable.

                                (get the picture...)

                                -If you go to "Per Se" because you've had a good year (because of various factors), then it would be morally defensible..
                                -If you go to "Per Se" because you've hold on your money for that occasion, then it would be morally defensible.
                                -If you go to "Per Se" because you want to share a great moment with someone you love, then it would be morally defensible.

                                Personally, I would go if I had the chance (and be in NY); and suffer the consequences later.

                                1. It's your money - spend it the way that will make you happiest. If you can plunk down the money at Per Se and enjoy a fabulous meal with a clear conscience, then do! If you will be racked with guilt the whole time and not enjoy it, don't go! But either way it really isn't your family's business or anyone else's.

                                  1. It's morally neutral--it's your money.

                                    There are certainly more charitable (socially constructive) ways to spend your money, as there are more negative (socially destructive) ways.

                                    But why not do it once, etc., if you can afford it.

                                    1. Life is full of choices. Jfood has turned down opportunities to eat at several restaurants in this ctaegory because he did not feel any meal is worth that kind of money. Yes it may be non-CH to say that but there are many things that jfood would rather spend money on.

                                      He would not spend $5 on a NBA game, but would spend, and had spent $5 for a good hot dog.

                                      For that kind of money, the jfoods are going to a concert or broadway.

                                      Everyone has choices to make and although jfood loves food, that kind of money for an eating event has not reached the "A" list.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jfood

                                        You succinctly described how I feel. Per Se is just beyond my comfort level for any meal - although if someone else were paying, I'd go in a heartbeat :) The French Laundry and Gary Danko are in the same category for me. I swoon reading the menus and reviews but I just can't go there. I think also the fact that Mr. c has a really difficult time spending money on "things that don't last" adds to my feelings. Food and wine fall into that category for him. We compromise (easily) by having, say, a $200 dinner and not doing it very often. It's good that I like to cook (and he helps) because we can have killer meals at home for a fraction of the restaurant price. Not Per Se meals but.... I would have to have a much larger disposable income than I do for ME to feel okay with it. Not a moral issue, a financial one. This has been an interesting thread to dip into.

                                      2. Many people have been focusing on the reaction your family would have. I read your query as an implication of internalizing your family's opinions. Many people on this thread have justified it by listing other large but justifiable expenses such as sporting game tickets, entertainment systems and jewelry.

                                        I find that there are two methods of using this rationalization.

                                        1)If a person does not purchase any of the previously listed items, are they justified in splurging on Per Se?

                                        2)Alternatively, if they are willing to fork over the money for any of the previously listed items, then a trip to Per Se could be filed away under the same category without a qualm.

                                        The former concept seems rife with American issues of consumption. If I say no to temptation 12 times, then I can succumb on the 13th because I was so good earlier. Such an attitude merely tells advertising companies to come up with 13 or more temptations in order to make a sale. One might find that $700 is too much to pay for any 4 hour luxury. To put it in one perspective, I spent 8 days in Italy with my boyfriend. Not including plane tickets we spent $1000 between the two of us.

                                        The latter implies that one is a financial bracket that can afford such things without worrying about it. Most of America is not in this boat. Approximately 2% may be. That means that if you are one of those lucky 6 million people, I probably don't have much to say to you, except that I hope you're not close and personal friends with a guy named Madoff.

                                        I'll also go forward with the idea that you both have the money to pay for this meal and do not feel that you may lose your job randomly and abruptly in the immediate future.

                                        That said, I'd like to put forward one more theory. I'll call it the Louis XIV Theory: "Apres moi, le deluge." Meaning if you have the money for it now, perhaps you should enjoy it. Who isn't kicking themselves now if they decided in 1996 that a $100 dollar dinner was to expensive to go out to this little old restaurant in Napa called French Laundromat or some such nonesense? Who's to say how much more expensive that such a meal will get, or whether the bottom may drop out on all the super high end expensive restaurants.

                                        Remember, the repo man may come for your flat screen tv or your hummer, but they can't take away experience.

                                        I dream of going to Per Se, or better yet the French Laundry, but doubt very much I will ever do so.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: thinks too much

                                          With such a thoughtful response, I wish I could treat you!
                                          Thanks.. I loved your analysis. I would only humbly offer the Marie Antoinette Theory: "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" meaning...well, you know what that means. It's best not to lose one's head (financial or otherwise) during economic downturns, which is what I fear I may be doing in going to Per Se.

                                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                            Thank you Bob! If you decide to go, enjoy your experience whole-heartedly. (And write about it here!) If you decide not to, be fully at peace with your decision.

                                        2. The decision is totally yours and should in no way be decided by your family or even CH. You probably would best be served by not basing your actions on popular vote. Morality has nothing to do with it, except for your own internal moral compass. Having said all this, the only other relevant person is your fiancee and my general feeling is that this should be discussed with her. If this were a casual date, the decision would be yours, but financial (and moral) issues are better discussed before a marriage than after.

                                          On a personal note, I am one of the few CH apparently NOT blown away by Per Se, so in my own value system it was not worth it for ME. But that is another issue.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Sinicle

                                            Aha - So you're the one! Could you tell me a little more about why you were not blown away?

                                          2. Catholics and Jews (my family) have absolutely nothing on dust-bowl depression era Southern Baptist in-laws from Oklahoma. On one of their visits up north many years ago, I took them to Legals. My son (18 yo at the time) ordered a $25 swordfish, which I thought nothing of, but the glare from the MIL and the subsequent discussion at home (where I am inevitably a 3rd person, apparently transparent) made it clear that children ought to have hamburgers. Several years later, we were all in Maine and went to a restaurant where we were forced to split up the party to two distant tables. I had no problem letting everybody (including my younger nephews) order lobsters - I mean - we're in Maine and they were cheap for the season (soft shells, but that's another story - at least the kids had fun cracking the shells by hand). This was our one meal out during the week, the rest spent in the campground. When the checks came, I found out that they had ordered soup only, and so I insisted on paying for the whole thing - which they allowed - but once again, I suffered some pretty rude commentary.

                                            So now, since I've been out of work for 2 years, they've convinced my wife of the error of my ways - spending as much as I have on food was not only spendthrift, but immoral and certainly un-Christian. While I don't have it to spend any more, my response to her is that I'm really glad that I spent it when I did have it. The total sum of what I've spent on "expensive food" over the years wouldn't pay for more than a few more months of mortgage payments - and while that's not unimportant, it's not the difference between Tycoon Estates and the poor farm. I'm not advocating spending everything while you can - certainly it makes sense to be prudent. But even a $700 meal, once in a while, adds up to a hill of beans, in the long run. But - I will never convince my in-laws, or my wife, at this stage.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: applehome

                                              Applehome - thanks for the great story - only soup? That's priceless.
                                              I like your logic and hope to apply it in my case.

                                              1. re: applehome

                                                You've said it all! Merry Christmas!

                                              2. If you can afford it, are not stealing food from the mouths of your babes and are not cutting into the tithing kitty - what the heck!

                                                If you decide to go, please let go of any guilt and just enjoy yourself. Save the guilt for later if you must and relieve it by giving to those in need.

                                                1. Here's one for you. Sung to the tune of "Where is My Sailor Boy / What Does the Deep Sea Say?" first recorded by Charlie and Bill Monroe in 1936 and later with Doc Watson in 1963.

                                                  Oh, what do the Chowhounds say?
                                                  What do the Chowhounds say?
                                                  Bobolina, it really don’t matter, makes no diff’ernce
                                                  What all them Chowhounds say

                                                  The only one that matters
                                                  That really makes a difference
                                                  Is what does the fiancée say?
                                                  Oh, what does the fiancée say?

                                                  If she says she wants to go
                                                  Then surely it’s not the dough
                                                  Just ignore them in-law frowns
                                                  Because it’s only what the fiancée says!

                                                  Them in-laws let em wail
                                                  Fall on the floor and flail
                                                  In all their moral mighty right
                                                  But it's only what the fiancee says!

                                                  4 Replies
                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      Sam, I have often enjoyed your posts, but this one truly rises to a new level of genius!

                                                      1. re: bklynite

                                                        Thank you! Now I have a swelled head. Merry Christmas!

                                                      2. Morality play? No.

                                                        IMHO there is nothing intrinsically right or wrong about spending $10 or $700 for a meal. Whether or not it is justified is simply a matter of one's own interpretation about how an individual wants to spend their money.

                                                        As you demonstrated, anyone could easily make a case for it being right or being wrong.

                                                        It is wrong according to your and others arguments that no meal is ever worth that much money and members of your family would be offended and the money could be better spent to help other and that Mother Theresa would never do it.

                                                        It is right according to the argument that it is a once-in-a-lifetime event and that it is comparable to spending the same amount of money on a concert and that one has it to spend and that it supports the employees and that it pours money into a weak economy, helping to strengthen it.

                                                        It's just neither right nor wrong, except as you say. Any of those arguments are perfectly valid arguments, but spending whatever you spend on whatever you spend it on is only good/bad, right/wrong, moral/immoral based on your personal internal conversation.

                                                        Got the money? Want to spend it that way? ok.

                                                        Haven't got the money? Think it should be spent differently? ok.

                                                        No moral failing either way.

                                                        1. I understand where you are coming from. There is a part of me that thinks spending this amt. of money on any meal is a tad obscene, esp. in these times, but there is also another part of me that knows I would still eat there if I were you and could afford it. Life is like that sometimes--I say, if you can get a reservation there on Valentine's Day, go for it and enjoy.

                                                          1. I wouldn't worry about what the family thinks -- yours or hers! -- but for my own peace of mind, here's what I would do.

                                                            First off I would make a list of all of the regular bills and expenditures that cost $700 or more. Car payment, mortgage or rent, things like that. For me, this would help give me a reality based perspective on "what things cost today."

                                                            Next I'd make a list of everything I could think of that $700 could do or buy for the two of you or for her. Sometimes it's more fun to give a great piece of jewelry while you're eating hot dogs in the park. Sometimes it's more fun to have an incredibly expensive dinner while giving her one perfect flower. Use your imagination to think of all of the possibilities you can come up with.

                                                            Once you've done this it should be pretty easy to decide. Meanwhile, a bit in advance but Happy Valentines Day! '-)

                                                            And to all the rest of you, and you too, Bob, Merry Christmas!!!!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                              there is no worse feeling in life than regret. better to try and fail than not try. better to ask the beauty out than lie awake at night 10 years later wondering would have happened. If your children will not go hungry, your rent will not go unpaid, then go. forget what other people think. enjoy yourself, it is your life

                                                            2. This could be the best investment of your life, in a way.
                                                              Do you and your financee agree about this?
                                                              Not superficially, but down deep?
                                                              Money management is one of the marriage breakers, nowadays. This kind of expenditure is a test of "Do you think alike, or not?" If you don't , this could be a bone of contention for years to come.
                                                              There are no right answers, here. But there are different answers that are incompatible.
                                                              You and your fiancee need to have the same answer to this question. Full stop.
                                                              If you don't. If there's an underground disagreement that emerges in March, and leads to a cancellation of the marriage, then it will have been an important investment, in a way you did not intend.

                                                              1. I have a few thoughts:

                                                                I do not think it is immoral. The money is yours to spend as you like (assuming you do have the money and are not going to charge a meal you cannot afford).

                                                                It is none of your family's business. I remember this past Summer I bought one pair of tickets to see Billy Joel's last Play at Shea Concert. I bought the tickets the day of the concert and paid a little over $500. I talked to my mother about it, who was beside herself with excitement for me. She was a teenager during Beatles hysteria, and had just married my Dad and living in NYC when they played the very first concert at Shea. She was thrilled that I might get to see Sir Paul come and make everything full circle that night. And while a Canadian until she married, she is a true Long Islander now and Loves Billy Joel. This was perfectly fine to her, me spending $500 on this concert. However, had I called her up that day and said, "Mommy, I am going to go have a $500 dinner tonight", I would have heard it all and never heard the end of it! Spending money is subjective...even within ourselves and definitely from person to person. Then, I also know better than to tell my mother about $500 dinners! I was sweating bullets that day as I stood at the bank waiting to take out the money, wondering if this was a stupid thing to do...but it was one of the greatest nights ever and have not regretted it since.

                                                                Now, speaking as a very newly engaged woman...my fiancee can be sort of a spendthrift at times. Other than the concert talked about above, I rarely spend money on myself - as I have not had the best financial luck in the past years (concert was still worth it!). But, he is the type that if he decides he wants a new stereo or a new iPod or LCD TV he just goes and buys it. The same, he has spent several hundred dollars on a number of meals for the two of us. And I cannot deny that I have never complained. HOWEVER, now that what is his and what is mine is now OURS, I have been trying to make him understand the importance of curbing spending and not being so frivolous. It may sound selfish, but it really is for the best. SO, unless you are very financially secure and a $700 dinner is a drop in the bucket for you, you may want to discuss with fiancee if this is what you both want to do.

                                                                All that said, it sounds like Per Se is a really wonderful experience for those who will appreciate it. If you can do it, screw everyone else (except fiancee!), and enjoy it. I am not a religious person, but if you are having moral issues related to that, make a contribution to a charity of your choice.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Justpaula

                                                                  tangential notes:

                                                                  1)one does not need religion to give to charity

                                                                  2) i might have worded that "screwing" comment exactly the opposite way

                                                                2. It's not immoral though I guess different people define morality in different ways. My definition of an immoral act is one that willfully harms others. Eating an expensive meal harms no one (and arguably helps the restaurant).

                                                                  That being said, I can see where you in-laws might be offended. I'm not offended, but any sort of ostentatious behavior in the current economic climate can be seen as reflecting poorly on the charitable impulses of the person indulging himself. Again, I'm not judging you, but trying to see it from the viewpoint of your family. They may feel that you should give that money to needy people rather than spend so much on a one-time experience which will last a short time and then be nothing but a memory of sensations (and you can't invoke taste, smell, and food texture easily for reliving, you can merely remember your enjoyment).

                                                                  I wouldn't do it, because I don't think any short-term experience is worth that kind of money whether it be a meal, a concert, a play, or shaking the hand of some famous or admirable person. I balance the cost of experiences against how long I had to work to acquire the funds to pay for said experience. If you have to work 3 days to pay for that meal, is that worth it to you? Only you know the answer to that question.

                                                                  At the very least, you've learned not to discuss such plans with your family who appear to have very different values than you.

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Orchid64

                                                                    3 days? Not even an issue. 3 months of scrimping and saving? Still not an issue - not for me. To each their own, but aren't we all chowhounds on this bus? By it's very nature, eating is a transient experience. But we chowhounds are here because we want great (delicious) transient experiences - I would assume that most of us would scrimp and save for some truly magnificent food.

                                                                    1. re: applehome

                                                                      mario batlia said it was important to remember that however amazing and inspired his creations were - tomorrow they are poop

                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                        ...okay, now there's a tale you can share with the relatives...lordy!

                                                                    2. re: Orchid64

                                                                      They may feel that you should give that money to needy people rather than spend so much on a one-time experience which will last a short time and then be nothing but a memory of sensations (and you can't invoke taste, smell, and food texture easily for reliving, you can merely remember your enjoyment)................Orchid64

                                                                      Sorry I didn't respond sooner but I took Christmas off to play puppet theater with my grandson... '-)

                                                                      Actually, there are some errors here about memory. Human memory of smell and taste is the most accurate and evocative memory we possess. Ever see a chef taste a sauce or dish? Chances are s/he's not checking for salt! The chef is checking to see whether the dish tastes as it is supposed to. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I could have a dish once and go home and duplicate it. Many chefs can do that.

                                                                      Except for that very transient and ever-slipping moment we call "now," life is entirely and completely comprised of memories. Nothing wrong with buying a few outstanding ones.

                                                                      This is not an endorsement of going to Per Se. That has to be a personal decision.

                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                        Caroline1--I finally replicated my grandfather's gravy 2 years ago and was so very happy. He's been gone since 1988, and yes, the sensory memories remain strong.

                                                                        1. re: Caralien

                                                                          Congratulations, Caralien! Your grandfather lives. :-)

                                                                    3. Your error was in informing anyone of the potential cost. *That* comes across as a form of bragging - regardless of the sincerity of your intentions. And with such bragging, however unintentional, comes the issue of inviting moral censure of some sort in return.

                                                                      Now you've learned your lesson. In the future, be much more discreet. If one of your reasons to go to a place like Per Se is to be able to express wonder and revel in the indulgence with others, then you better plan on getting negative as well as positive feedback. If that's not one of your reasons, being discreet should not be any problem.

                                                                      The proportionality of cost in fine dining is not necessarily morally neutral. It may, or may not, be, depending on your circumstances and those whom you decide to tell about it.

                                                                      1. I don't think it's a moral failing if you want to do it, have the means to do so, and enjoy it. There is nothing instrinsically wrong with spending your own money on a dining experience of your choice, even a very expensive one.

                                                                        I've had some moments when paying a dinner tab larger than the rent check for my first apartment that it strikes me as insane to spend so much on a meal...but the bottom line is that it's a once in a while thing, I can afford it, and I enjoy it (and the anticipation, and the memories, and the company) a great deal, so it's worth it to me.

                                                                        How you spend your money is your own business, and you'll find a wide range of opinions on what you should do with your money depending on who you ask. People have different priorities, and you don't have to apologize for yours. There are lots of things I wouldn't spend big $ on that lots of other people do, and vice versa. Big deal.

                                                                        Don't get bogged down by the thoughts of the "better" things you could be doing with the money - there are always more "noble" uses for the money, but where does that stop? Couldn't you do without most of what you spend your money on? and couldn't that money benefit the homeless? There is a balance to be struck - work hard, make sure you have what you need, save for emergencies and rainy days, enjoy the fruits of your labor by spending some of the fruits of your labor on what you want (but don't need) and share what you can with those you love and the less fortunate.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: akq

                                                                          If you work for AIG or one of the Big Three, write it off and *I* am ultimately paying, it's immoral.

                                                                          Seriously, why are you discussing what you paid for a meal with anyone? It's not anyone's business, will piss some off and who needs to know? If you're concerned about karmic balance, DO donate, but listen, maybe your waiter has mouths to feed and your very generous grat will help greatly. Besides, are you doing this weekly? Monthly? No, you're doing it for an occasion.

                                                                          I think, though that if you have GUILT about it, that's a whole other ball game, and that's something you need to answer for yourself.

                                                                          1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                            Agreed. But then, if he's writing off his Valentine's meal with his girlfriend he's got other moral issues than just his choice of resto. :)

                                                                        2. One of the things you could do to get better value on the meal is to research the wine list. Get them to fax you the winelist ahead of time and find out what the good value wines are on their list. That will also give you an idea of what the markup is on the whole, which will let you decide if you're better off buying wine (not on their winelist, but equivalent to or better than their offerings) and paying corkage on that. If you drink great vintages, you might get substantial savings.

                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                          1. re: limster

                                                                            You think I could BYO? Interesting idea!

                                                                            1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                                              FYI, corkage at Per Se is around $100 a bottle.

                                                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                Sounds like iced tea is a better option....

                                                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                  Heh - thanks. I wonder if I bring my own corkscrew....

                                                                                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                                                    Don't worry. You provide the cork and Per Se provides the scr.... (never mind).

                                                                                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                                                      Well, if they're marking up high end bottles of wine, you might find that the $100 corkage might be less than the markup. You mentioned a price of about $700 per person for lunch, assuming food is about $300, that's about $400 for wine or about $800 for 2 (say 1 bottle). I remember that the markups at the French Laundry were about 2x, even for the high end bottles, so for $800 you'd be getting a bottle that you might find for about $400 at a store or an auction. Add $100 markup and you're paying $500 instead of $800. Of course I'm assuming the usual BYOB etiquette - i.e. you're getting a wine that's not on their list etc...

                                                                                      1. re: limster

                                                                                        holy cow, wine math is a buzz kill!
                                                                                        BobD, maybe you go for cocktails for a relaxing V-day toast elsewhere...

                                                                              2. Bob, I see on Per Se's menu listing for today that $275.00 is for the tasting menus, and the footnote says "service included." I'm not exactly clear on what the "service" consists of since it can vary from venue to venue, but a phone call to find out may well be in order.


                                                                                Three tasting menus are offered for today two of which are ten "courses," and the other is twelve. I can't think of any wine besides champagne that would work with the entire meal, and even that can be questionable. Most places that serve tasting menus also have set of "wine pairings" with a glass of different wines especially chosen for each tasting. These are often a cost effective way to taste a variety of wines of this class, so you might want to talk to the restaurant and find out exactly how things work.

                                                                                The BYOB with corkage fee is a great idea for a la carte restaurants where you have a pretty good idea in advance what you'll be ordering.

                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                  re: Wine Matching -- the alternative is to have a restaurant cook around a bottle (or two) of wine if one is bringing in an amazing bottle (or if one is dead set on a particular bottle on the winelist). I've had successful/delicious meals of this sort at at less expensive restaurant, and would imagine that a place like Per Se should be able to pull that off if they want to. In such as scenario, it's worth calling ahead and having them select/design a whole set of dishes that either match that wine, or better yet, have different courses harmonise with the wine in different ways.

                                                                                  BTW, I think in Per Se's case, "service included" means that one doesn't have to add tip.

                                                                                  1. re: limster

                                                                                    I'm not sure there's an "alternative" at Per Se. The menu changes daily and is comprised of a choice of three tasting menus. It's not a restaurant that I would call and ask for a special meal built around a bottle that I planned to bring or from their very very extensive wine list. But Bob will figure it out. If he decides to go. They are very helpful, offer a wide selection of wines by the glass, and chances are the sommelier could suggest a great selection of wines by the glass to go with the tasting menu for whatever price the diner wishes to pay. For around $200 per person, not an unreasonable amount for wine with a $275.00 meal, a sommelier could probably put together a selection with a different wine with each course. For half that, with half the courses. That would be my preference.

                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                      If one's not sure if an "alternative" menu exists, it's worth asking. Many restaurants like Per Se are willing and sometimes eager to work around a high end bottle of wine -- it's not unusual. And sometimes chowhounding requires chowing out of the box, rather than settling for what's available, to optimise a meal. It all depends on what one's preferences are and working with the restaurant. The important part is to establish (in a cordial way) whether the restaurant is willing and able and to do so ahead of time.

                                                                                      Within the limits of what the restaurant is good at doing, what each person wants will be up their own taste - do they want many different wines by the glass, which are unlikely to be as good as some of the bottles, but offers more flexibility and range. Or do they want to drink something fantastic but be a bit more restricted foodwise. Or do both - get a glass of a very different wine to have with a course or two, and then have the bottle to match the rest of the stuff. It can be extra rewarding to optimise a meal to one's tastes and preferences and to maximally exploit the strengths of the restaurant.

                                                                                      1. re: limster

                                                                                        I'm sure whatever Bob decides will be fine. His call.

                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                          That goes without saying, it's practically an assumption for this site -- we're all happy to share, but everyone is responsible for maximising their own eating experience.

                                                                                          1. re: limster

                                                                                            You miss my point. Per Se and The French Laundry are Thomas Keller's flagship restaurants of his current four eateries. Both specialize and are famous for their tasting menus. Why would anyone, on a first visit to either restaurant, want to call ahead and ask for a special menu to be created for them around a single bottle of wine when they have never tasted the ever changing (new tasting menus daily) menus that are offered and sought after by so many? There's an old saying in the U.S. (don't know about England), "If it ain't broke,, don't fix it." A first visit to try the wares seems a reasonable course before "fixing" things. I'm told that Thomas Keller really is quite a good cook. Why not give him a chance?

                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                              Both restaurants are famous not for tasting menus but for their impeccable technique, top notch ingredients and creativity. Both restaurants offer a whole range of dishes, including both on and off menu items. The menu on their website is only the tip of the iceberg insofar as what they will actually prepare in their kitchen. What is sought after by many is not their tasting menu but the skill of their kitchen (and consequently the deliciousness of their food).

                                                                                              It's not a case of "fixing" something, but optimising the experience of trying their wares, since in reality there is a large range of dishes to choose from as their repertoire of dishes (both on and off menu) is huge, and just like how one could pick a wine to match a dish, the reverse is entirely possible. And not many restaurants will be as well poised as Per Se to pull that off, so this offers a unique opportunity.

                                                                                              In these situations, kitchen won't necessarily create dishes from scratch - they might first select dishes that they were already making. Then they might tweak others to fit with the wine better. And if they're up to it, they could get creative and invent or compose new dishes.

                                                                                              Why is this worth the trouble if one is going after an exceptional bottle? A striking match between wine and food can really go beyond the sum of their parts, that would make the experience way more memorable. And if a restaurant can pull it off, this would be such a place. In fact, I have known restaurants to alter their tasting menus to better match an outstanding wine, without any kind of requests from the customer; asking ahead only makes it easier for the kitchen.

                                                                                              Thomas Keller is a really quite a good chef, plus he's also known for his creativity and skill at improvisation. Why not given him a chance? And at the same time, some of the finest wines around can be outstanding experiences, why not give those bottles a chance too?