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Enough with this "presentation" silliness

What is it with these misguided chefs who consider themselves to be 'fine artists' as well as culinary artists. They insist on piling an odd assortment of mostly unheard of foodstuffs on what appears to be an unwashed plate that is smeared with some sort of sauce, call it nouvelle / nouveaux / fusion cuisine, charge outrageous prices and foist it off on a young, trend-setting generation who walk away still hungry. Shakespeare would have taken one look at the plate and said "What foods these morsels be"?
Well prepared food does not need to be served in a big lump that has to be separated in order to savor the taste of each ingredient.

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  1. Make that an overSIZED unwashed plate dwarfing the amount of food that it actually contains, exclusive of the Jackson Pollock dribbles. David Sedaris has a hilarious story on this topic, in which he writes something to the tune of how bad it tasted, followed by the complaint that there was so little of it. After "dinner", they had a quick hot dog before curtain time. I think it's "Today's Special", which appears in "Me Talk Pretty One Day".

    10 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      Absolutely love David Sedaris! Your reference is right on. Just plain sillyness in the name of avant garde.

      1. re: nvcook

        Thanks, folks. I thought I might be the only one who felt that way.

      2. re: greygarious

        "in which he writes something to the tune of how bad it tasted, followed by the complaint that there was so little of it"

        Oh, please. This was a standard joke of the Borscht Belt comedians fifty years ago. I think Woody Allen used the joke in one of his movies (long ago, when he used to be funny), but he at least had the grace not to pretend it was original.

        1. re: FrankD

          well do we scoff or be happy the old stale jokes are being maintained? (although acknowlegement at the end of the essay would have been nice) hey Milton Berle made a career out of stealing gags, but he was sort of honest about his strategy.

          Sedaris probably deserves a thread just because of having to order everything at the boucherie in plural due to his bad French.

          1. re: hill food

            I once posted to recommend his stories, and another time Garrison Keillor's. Mods removed both. My favorite Sedaris food story is "I'll Have What He's Wearing", about his father's food-hording habit.

            1. re: greygarious

              What book? Tee Hee - I get the best recommendations on CH.

              1. re: JerryMe

                I'm pretty sure it's in Me Talk Pretty One Day. IMO, Sedaris, like Keillor, is most entertaining via CD or audiocassette, rather than in print.

                1. re: greygarious

                  I think you are right. I love Sedaris on tape. On print I do not laugh nearly as much.

            2. re: hill food

              "please may one purchase a double of her fine poultries?" : d

            3. re: FrankD

              Never found him funny not even back in the day

          2. and on a similar note, deconstruction can be taken too far. sometimes the dish needs that simultaneous juxtaposition of flavor and texture, not a little over here and a little over there.

            3 Replies
            1. re: hill food

              When you say "deconstruction" you're implying that a big pile on the plate is the normal, correct way to serve food, and separating the meat, potato and vegetable on the plate is now considered unacceptable.

              1. re: mucho gordo

                what I'm getting at I guess is best represented by the sort of place that would serve a caesar salad as a few leaves of romaine on one side, a single anchovy draped over an enormous crouton on the other and a preserved whole garlic clove floating in an egg, lemon and olive oil 'custard/confit' type thing in an accompanying ramekin and a wedge of parmesan. pretty, yes, a salad, not really, yes all the flavors are represented, but only as distinct and separate objects. y'know, taking apart a complex mesh of flavor into its individual components. which sometimes works, but too often is just kind of unsatisfying.

                but I also understand what you're saying, enough of these stacked piles in a reduction puddle. it seems like I usually want more of that artfully splattered puddle and less of half the things on top.

                1. re: hill food

                  Yes, you do understand and you're right about the salad and it applies to any single dish made with multiple ingredients.

            2. Well, everything in moderation I suppose.

              I think plating is very very important. Ugly food makes a bad first impression, and a first impression can seriously put a dent in your enjoyment of the meal.

              That said, like you said mucho gordo, sometimes presentation can be taken too extremes.

              And I'm with graygarious on the big plate fad (at least I hope it's a fad). Big plates, to me, is a bigger faux pas than over-the-top presentation.

              Hey, didn't tall food go away the same time Members Only jackets became passé?

              3 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Big plates / little meals reminds me of the Dali museum - little paintings, big frames. Gimme smothered quail over mashed, hold the fru-fru.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I think Ipsedixit has it spot on.

                  I do remember a statrement of Julia Child's upon seeing one of the over-presented dishes. 'This has been touched too much. It doesn't look foody to me."

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Tall food was too much work--I don't want to deconstruct my food before I eat it. While I love the look of spun sugar, if it's going to be too hard to break it w/out it shattering all over the place, please leave it out, or shatter it first for me.

                  2. Hahah, Hill Food is bang on with the deconstruction. Especially puddings.

                    TBH though I do really appreciate the effort that goes into it sometimes, and I think it does look nice, even if it is basically the same formula. I just never have time, as I have to plate up and serve as quick as possible to keep it all hot :D

                    Can't find a picture, but Tom Kitchen's "Bramley Old Spot pork with crackling and rumbledethumps" was great. He found a way to make the crackling perfectly straight!

                    I pretty much agree with ipsedixit.

                    1. There is a wide range of presentations from the mess hall sh&t on a shingle to totally deconstructed. And in the right setting and time both ends are OK.

                      Jfood enjoys the creativity of many chefs in their presentations, but he does agree that the example of the caesar salad above crosses the line into silliness. Many years ago jfood created his signature deconstructed hot fudge sundae. One day he was sitting in Friendly's in Schenectady NY and asked for his ice cream in one bowl and the hot fudge in another. Why? It was a fairly hot day already and he saw that others were being served melted ice cream. If he asked for the hot fudge on top, well there would be no ice cream, just cream. Serendipity on this one, he had a full bowl of ice cream and he was able to take some hot fudge (which remained hot) and some ice cream (which remained cold) in each spoonful. He has never ordered or made it otherwise since. Functionally it was the correct move.

                      But in a mid- to high-end restaurant the visual on the plate is the first step in getting in the right mood. And in other places, even a bacon cheeseburger can be served with care or it could be thrown on a plate. If the chef does not care how it looks, does he truly care how it tastes? It is a leading indicator of the chef's and the restaurant's POV. Likewise if they are trying to pass off three peas in a little sauce and a 1 oz cube of braised beef with a little mound of mashed potatoes with a single mushroom on top and call it the Hawaiian Islands Beef Braise, jfood votes no thanks.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: jfood

                        "Friendly's in Schenectady, NY"

                        I thought I was the only one here who could stake that claim! I hope you mean the one on Nott Terrace - brings me back to my younger days and times with my aunts and cousins.

                        1. re: Cachetes

                          Grew up in Schenectady and hit all the Friendly's around town! To this day there is no better ice cream memory than a Friendly's Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Sundae.

                          1. re: mcap

                            Yes! I was partial to the Reese's Pieces Sundae myself, but the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Sundae was a great second.

                            1. re: mcap

                              Used to frequent the one in Troy, NY back in my college days (RPI). Right next to the Price Chopper. Always wondered why the logo was an axe being slung at Geo. Washington's head, until i figured out it was a quarter.

                              Loved the sundae's there! Nothing better than AC and some ice cream on a hot day

                        2. I'm with you on presentation. That said, as jfood mentions, don't just toss the stuff on a plate or slop it into a bowl. Take some pride in how it's served but ultimately to me, these stacks of food with three whole chives balanced on top are a turn off. One reason why higher end food doesn't hold the charm for me that it once did.

                          I do agree that everything in moderation is important but I also agree that a big bowl of goodness in the middle of the table (family style) is just as great as anything.

                          Here are some examples of how I like to see food.
                          http://tinyurl.com/2bpcxzq
                          http://tinyurl.com/29oltav

                          DT

                          1 Reply
                          1. i could not disagree more. style counts. and i'm not some young easily impressed kid. but i like beautiful things in my life. why should my food be any less beautiful than it can be?

                            unheard of food stuff? 1stly it is rarely unheard of by everyone. 2ndly new things to try? HOORAY. that's good news. I love trying new things.

                            I for one am freaking happy i don;t eat the way they did in elizabethan england, shakespeare notwithstanding. Not to mention that at my age, in shakespeare's day, id already have died of old age. or rickets. or something.

                            so i guess the question to me is " what is with these misguided diners who want their food to be the same as their great great great great great grandfather's food, who don't care what it looks like, and fear trying new things, or being exposed to new ideas?"

                            (and btw "trend-setting" means you are creating new things, not blindly following - this has always been a necessary function of youth. it is how society progresses. no trend setting and women would still be unallowed to show their ankles, and blacks would be fed in the back room, if at all)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: thew

                              I guess it also depends on what type of person you are. I don't really "get" art. Others can look at something and see beauty. I wonder what drunken spider stepped in paint.

                              DT

                            2. I'm with you...I'm gonna love you as a chef a whole lot more if it tastes awesome.

                              It can't look gross (baked chicken with mushroom sauce and white rice. Ugh)_ -- but I don't want to have to get rid of an orchid, 3 nasturtiums, and an artfully placed chive to even see my dinner.

                              And don't get me started on foams. Retch.

                              19 Replies
                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Oh yeah! That reminds me, on TV, you see the dedication put into these dishes, and within seconds, they are toppled, crushed and crumbled.

                                I guess it's a good way to point out what's on the plate though.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  but what if the foam tastes awesome?

                                  1. re: thew

                                    I'll spare you the details of what I think it looks like...I couldn't even put it in my mouth without gagging.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      seems a pity to me. i've had a few foams that really made the dishes special.

                                      1. re: thew

                                        I'm with you on the foams, thew. In the right hands they can be divine. An artfully-presented plate is appealing, whether it's haute cuisine or home cooking, doesn't have to be fancy. Tall food is annoying however (glad that trend is over).

                                        1. re: thew

                                          You can have mine. I'm adventurous, have eaten an awful lot of things that would make Andrew Zimmern jealous...but I draw the line at something that looks like bodily fluids.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            think of it as sea foam. or the top of a cocktail. or mousse. or meringue.
                                            all foams

                                            1. re: thew

                                              Nope. Still vile. Wouldn't eat sea foam on a bet (salt water and other flotsam whipped by the wind? yummy), and will scrape foam off the top of a cocktail any time, and have many times.

                                              I figure I can live my life without beets, French andouille (don't stand between me and Cajun andouille, though), and foam.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                I also vote vile on the foam. It summons up imagery of frothing rabid animals. Never was a big fan of cotton candy, either.

                                                  1. re: thew

                                                    That's fine -- mousse and meringue have structure and form.

                                                    Foam is just bubbly slime.

                                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                                    I've kept salt water fish tanks. I know what that foam is. Nasty!

                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                      I used to scoop the head onto the floor when I drank beer.

                                                      Then they developed glasses that made it come back again T___T

                                              2. re: thew

                                                I just read the VF article about El Bulli. Those "foams" which are actually mousses (?) sound fantastic.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  I gotta say I ate at Minibar in DC about 5 years ago, one of those places inspired by el Bulli: foams, emulsions, flavored vapors released on bite and all and it was... pretty damn good. but then one goes in knowing that it is indeed all about concept and presentation. will I go back even if I could get a reservation? doubtful. do I regret it? not at all. did I order a pizza when I got home? you bet.

                                                  but I expected it to be 30+ small bites of beautiful things, and they were all absolutely over the top delicious. to me it comes down to with an event type meal like that it's ok (although these days all are events), if it's any given Saturday I generally choose a place on the basis of the food alone, if it's pretty on the plate, great, so much the better.

                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                    I agree. Esp about "these days all are events."

                                              3. re: sunshine842

                                                The one good thing about foam is that the menu frequently warns you in advance if it's going to be there, so you know not to order it.

                                              4. and as to the "mostly unheard of foodstuffs": Am I the only one who notices that they're not actually unheard of, they just use fancier names? Jams become "compotes", any time there's cheese or breadcrumbs just say "au gratin", etc. etc. It seems like half of being a "chef" is just using fancy names for food.
                                                I could say "A semolina pasta casserole with an aged cheddar mornay sauce, served au gratin" and all I'd be talking about is mac n' cheese

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: peanuttree

                                                  ^ Good point. But sometimes there are subtle distinctions.

                                                  I like it when it happens the other way, like the french laundry - ham and eggs is pancetta wrapped around quails eggs :)

                                                  Clever guy thet Keller feller.

                                                  1. re: peanuttree

                                                    ....or seems like some of being a chef is using the trade lingo, which in this case is the French words for the same things. (macaroni and cheese in French is pates gratinee, by the way)

                                                    1. re: peanuttree

                                                      Your point is well taken, but it's worth noting that jam isn't the same as compote. They differ in the consistency, among other things.

                                                      1. re: peanuttree

                                                        My husband and I have the best time rewording pretentious menu descriptions into something a bit, um, earthier. Your mac and cheese would be something like "hand-drained pasta in a seething viscosity of curdled cow mucus."

                                                          1. re: jaykayen

                                                            You think that's bad?

                                                            Imagine how the bull feels when some strange god sexually harasses his wife (the cow) so that he let her milk spoil and eat it with the bull's friend (the big/bacon). He never even gets the chance to appreciate how silly the plating and wording are. Altho, being a bull, he might appreciate it anyway, even if given the chance.

                                                      2. I don't really have an issue with artful presentation in general - good looking plates of food are always welcome. Pleasing to the eye is important, maybe not as important as pleasing to the nose or pleasing to the stomach but there is definitely a place for presentation in food service.

                                                        Frankly, I'm just bored with the ubiquitous presentation in most places - dollop of sauce; smear with spoon; build layers of everything in the middle; top with edible garnish.

                                                        1. That is a good question. I kind of think this happened a long time ago, or at least I noticed it then more than now. The late eighties and the nineties seemed to serve a lot of teeny, tiny meals on very large plates. I am a small eater so I didn't care that much about the portion size but I will not lick a plate in public and I do not like to pay for raspberry sauce that I can't eat without licking the plate. Makes no sense to me!

                                                          I don't mind the fancy and artistic arrangements if they make sense. Can I eat it without having to scoop it up with my finger? Does it taste good? Is there enough of the topping (or decoration) to go along with whatever it is topping?

                                                          One thing that I've noticed is that the opposite of itsy bitsy food on a big plate is taking over. Since when does anyone need the entire casserole served to them? Wow, do they really think a 5'2" gal is gonna eat five pounds of main course in one meal?

                                                          And, now that I've complained about the Gulliver-sized portions, who can afford to eat out without getting five meals for the price of one? I actually like having leftovers to either eat the next day (or two or three) or to give to the person on the street who asks if I can spare anything. No, I really can't afford to spare cash but, yeah, I can give away my leftovers. Heck if it was good enough to pack up and bring with me, it is good enough to share!

                                                          I do want to state again that I hate anything drizzled on the plate. It may look pretty but I want yummy, not pretty. And, I certainly do not want yummy if I can't get it off the plate so I can eat it. I hate taking a bite of dessert with cream sauce and loving the taste only to find out that I had just the one bite and the rest of the sauce is on the plate. Now, if licking a plate ever becomes acceptable, well, count me in!

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                                            hey Minkey, I've done that too (the leftovers for homeless thing) I get sort of a kick asking them first if they care for Ethiopian or whatever. but yes on the drizzles: last year a friend took me out and me being a light eater just ordered the tuna carpaccio with a wasabi cream. the cream turned out to be 3 or 4 dots on the plate. totally lost.

                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                              I have to ask if your friend tried to eat the cream dots (fingers?) or if it was just left there and a bummer. Better yet, did your friend ask for more sauce? I do wish I had the nerve to do that! Come to think of it, I had delicious beef carpaccio that was so thin it stuck to the plate. I really had to work the fork carefully to get it to release.
                                                              I like the leftovers/homeless or hungry thing, too. Never hurts to ask for napkins and plastic utensils to bring with it, just in case.

                                                              1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                                                it was my plate, i tried to scrape it up and spread a little and ended up smooshing the tuna through what little there was. I should have asked for more but was distracted by my friend's beautifully presented but inedible short ribs (all gristle under the port reduction which was plentiful, I guess I should be glad my fish wasn't similarly disguised)

                                                            2. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                                              I don't understand the light drizzle on the plate, either. When the trend first hit, decades ago, my friend took it to heart. She started to drizzle, very lightly, this great chocolate sauce on the plate below the cake. Someone (his wife jokes that he lacks sensitivity) asked if she could just pour it on top of his cake instead. We all paused because we knew she took pride in her presentation. But, then her husband asked her to do the same and others followed. It didn't look as pretty but it was far easier to eat, you could taste the sauce, and no one had to lick the plate.

                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                I love it!! That inspires me to be more vocal, in case that situation happens again.

                                                                My guy's step father sort of did that. We were at a relatives house and she couldn't stop talking about the ice cream and fresh wild blueberries we were going to have later. This was in Ontario at the right time so the blueberries are a big deal there--incredibly tasty! After dinner, after conversation, she asked how we each wanted our berries. We all went along with what was offered because, well, that was what she offered. When it was his turn, he asked for a bowl of berries with milk. I think her jaw fell on the floor!! I guess it was not a big deal to ask for what he really wanted and he did buy two cartons on berries on our way over. We were all a little jealous but, yeah, why not just ask for what we want?

                                                                I'm going to channel both these instances if needed because I can be a wimp when it comes to asking strangers for anything let alone more sauce and where to put it!

                                                            3. Weren't we all complaining about this ten or fifteen years ago, when Tall Food was all the rage? I do recall a piece of meat flying in my lap when I began to eat. And then there were the ubiquitous sprigs of rosemary. This has been going on for a good while.

                                                              1. SO over these twits plating things with tweezers. Just put the dang food on the plate and let me eat it before it cools off.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: ratbuddy

                                                                  YESSS!! How ugly can a piece of meat, potatoes and veggie be?

                                                                2. On the other hand, my favorite Chinese restaurant always does an aesthetically-pleasing, edible garnish of carved fruit and/or vegetable to accent a plate of amply-portioned food. This makes the plate every bit as attractive as the fingerpainted, erector-set construction of tiny portions in upscale restaurants.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                    Those garnishes are nice, aren't they? Adds to the experience. One of my cookbooks from Taiwan focuses on them - an art.

                                                                  2. While I can appreciate the beauty of some presentations, and the abstract genius behind deconstruction, it's not what I personally want on my plate. I think that high-quality food, well-prepared, speaks for itself. The fusion-tation trend is kind of lost on me: I love the line of Julia's where she says, "this food has been touched too much." Don't get me wrong. Food should be prepared with an eye toward the finished plate, toward color and contrast. There's nothing less appealing than a nice white plate with steamed whitefish, cauliflower and white rice, but I find a salad of baby greens, tossed until it just glistens, topped with paper-thin shaved parmesan, to be as equally sexy and gorgeous (if not more so) as a fussy, overworked two-bite taste of something garnished with 17 other somethings, or a dish that was perfectly fine as conceived being broken down into components that are NOT greater than the sum of those parts put together. Maybe I just don't understand art - because I KNOW I understand food. : )

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                                      Forgot to mention that Cafe Bouloud in NY used a small pencil sharpener to trim the tail ends off asparagus, so all the little pencilly spears had a little pencilly point on the end. At that point, I just lost it. there's taking care, and there's add/ocd/toomuchtimeonyourhands.

                                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                                        I went to one of his places (Bistro DB maybe?) and I don't remember it being that precious, course I was distracted by Carol Burnett sitting across the room and the guy and his paid 'date' getting into a really bad fight at the next table (it was during a blizzard, I was happy for the floorshow)

                                                                        anyway you reminded me of something I've thought about off and on over the years

                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/736411#

                                                                    2. mucho gordo, you are obviously not alone! I like fine food. I like beautiful food. There are even some (not a lot, but some) molecular gastronomy dishes that I think go beyond magic and I would love to try!

                                                                      But... I don't like stuff painted on my plate. If it is supposed to contribute to the flavor of the dish, please, sir, may I have some more? I would like to at least be able to taste it without licking my plate! If it's just there for decoration, then for pity sake, buy some patterned china.

                                                                      I do not like the silly idea of deconstructions. Please do not bring me a plate with a small bit of beans, a taste of sausage, two or three kinds of meats and tell me it's a deconstructed cassoulet. Just bring me a cassoulet! I don't want a plate of plain boiled rice, sauteed veggies and a stack of seafood presented as a deconstructed paella. And I damned sure don't want a crystal goblet, no matter how breathtakingly beautiful it is, with a grape or two sitting in the bottom presented as a glass of deconstructed Bordeaux! About the ONLY deconstructed dish I might consider is meatloaf... Bring on the steak.

                                                                      Pleasing food presentation has been a major part of celebratory western gastronomy for centuries, and it was done very well, thank you, without making me wish I was someplace else where I could get enough food to eat. Maybe there's something wrong with my taste buds, but I need at least three well paced moderately generous bites to check out the flavor of a dish. And I am not at all sure anyone can truly savor a tasting menu. In the fine art of traditional perfumery, there is a standard admonishment to never try to smell more than three perfumes in an afternoon. Apply it to a pulse point, allow it to bloom (takes about a half hour) and then smell it for the first time. Do that with three aromas and your olfactory glands have maxed out their optimum performance for the day. Smell and taste are intricately tied. I do not believe you get maximum enjoyment from a gazillion bites of a gazillion different things in two or three hours. That's a gastronomic lobotomy!

                                                                      However, sometimes there is just no way to convince the masses that the emperor really *is* naked. Not when all those believers are insisting they see his gorgeous new clothes! mucho gordo, I don't think any of the abominable restaurants are going to close their doors because of our opinions. <sigh>

                                                                      1. I am laughing when I read this post. This exists because people insist. We create this concept and the restaurants simply give us what we asked for. Maybe you and I didn't ask for, but sure heck some people asked for these things. So my question is never about these restaurants. They are simply the mirrors. The reflection. My question is always for the people who go there :D

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                          I think I may have asked for it. <squirm> I don't remember doing so intentionally, but I do know that I have exclaimed, upon being presented with my chive-enhanced, sauce-streaked plate, "Oh! That's just lovely!" (There may even have been tiny clapping motions. ugh).

                                                                          While I agree with the general notion of not sacrificing flavor and satisfying portion size for painstaking "tweezer" presentation, I also really enjoy an artfully presented dish that appears to have involved deliberate attention to how the food "tastes" to my eyes (but agree with mcap about the now-boring "smear, stack, garnish, repeat" routine) Also, dining out, much less at a culinary hot spot, is a very rare treat for me, because of cost and the even larger challenge of arranging "date night" with a spouse whose work schedule is nearly opposite my own. Therefore, I have high expectations -- I want it to look beautiful, taste great, and be of quality commensurate with the price. ("Easy there, Princess," right?). I think the best restaurants (and the ones that endure) find a decent balance of all three very important (IMHO) components of the restaurant experience. Bring on the nasturtiums and foams!

                                                                          1. re: CapreseStacy

                                                                            I agree. Sometime we go overboard on the presentation/viusal aspect of foods. Not that it is not important, but some restaurants put a very heavy emphasis on it. It can be cute the first time or so, but it get annoying later because it becomes pretentious, which in turns suggest the eater (me) pretentious -- which of course I resent.

                                                                            1. re: CapreseStacy

                                                                              You made me giggle with a big grin at the idea of you clapping at the lovely presentation!! Thanks. I remember the first time I had a dessert in which the plate was beautifully drizzled and the first pasta dish in which the plate was sprinkled with...hmmm...not chives, i think it was chopped parsley. Looked lovely! Where was that? Monterrey, no, Pacific Grove. I was so happy to have a pretty plate but almost all the parsley went back to the kitchen when I was done.

                                                                          2. I wouldn't mind eating a dish with some kind of sauce on the bottom. Maybe I'm not eating at fancy enough places :(

                                                                            Maybe it's because I eat a lot of steak and pizza...

                                                                            1. I don't want a deconstructed BLT or a sauce that is spooned across the plate, and a 1/2 tsp of "sauce" does me very little good anyway. If I want sauce give me an amount that makes making it and splatting it in my plate enjoyable. JC must turn in her grave seeing what the current fads are or cringes thinking it's an embarrassment to have done things her way. I vote her way not this way.

                                                                              84 Replies
                                                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                If the chef has any talent at all, the food will speak for itself.

                                                                                Kinda like dating the guy or girl who looks like a model, makes a mint of money, but has you considering suicide by spoon by the time dessert comes out because they have the IQ of a 6-year-old combined with an ego the size of the planet....

                                                                                I think I'm trying to say you can't judge a book by the cover. Or appearance isn't everything. Or something.

                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                  style and substance are not mutually exclusive.

                                                                                  i would obviously rather have better tasting food than better looking food. but i would prefer better looking & better tasting food most of all.

                                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                                    Well, of course! My sentiment was that if the food is truly, truly good, then it doesn't need to be stacked, leaned, drizzled, sprinkled, brushed, or dusted...

                                                                                    It has to be attractive enough to catch your attention...but without flavor/texture/personality, all the gorgeous in the world isn't worth much.

                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                      Need? food doesn't NEED to be anything but a source of calories, minerals and vitamins. Need is a poor guide for life.

                                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                                        Meaning any dipstick chef can balance chives on a precious little mound of food-service garbage....but if it tastes like yesterday's leftovers, I don't care what it looks like - crappy food is still crappy food, and I think there's a really horrible trend of trying to take very ordinary food and making it look like some sort of F&W centerfold...when all it is is putting lipstick on a pig.

                                                                                        I, too, would rather it look good...but there's a limit as to how much screwing around taking apart the layers and breaking the spun sugar and picking off the flowers I'm going to do. If you can't cook worth a damn, then dressing it up with garbage isn't going to make it taste any better.

                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                          a agree. but this sprt f argument is disengenuous.

                                                                                          obviously food that tastes worse is worse.

                                                                                          the only discussion that makes sense is 2 plates of equally delicious food - one artfully composed, and the other tossed on the plate as if it were being loaded by a longshoreman.

                                                                                          if that delicious plate of food is also beautiful, artistic, maybe surprising or whimsical, to me, that is a preferable plate to the equally delicious pile.

                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                              so are you saying that given equally delicious plates you would prefer one with the foods tossed on w/no eye to what it looks like?

                                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                                that's not what I said at all. I said (pretty clearly) that the important part is the taste.

                                                                                                Given two equally artful plates, I'll heave the one that tastes like cardboard back at the chef.

                                                                                            2. re: thew

                                                                                              This argument sounds disingenuous to me -- the OP seems to be talking about presentation without deliciousness rather than comparing presentation in light of equally delicious food.

                                                                                              1. re: limster

                                                                                                I'm talking about where presentation seems to be more important than preparation; where chef's pretentiously use tweezers to place each sliver of an ingredient 'just so' on what appears to be an unwashed plate.
                                                                                                It's like Renoir pretending to be a chef.

                                                                                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                  but perhaps renoir was a great chef. and perhaps your chef IS a great visual artist. no pretending needed

                                                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                                                    The chef may be a great visual artist but is he a good cook or does the artistry conceal his inadequacies as a chef?

                                                                                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                      ive been very clear - i am not discussing sub par food presented well. im very clearly talking about food of equal quality, one being plated artistically, the other not.

                                                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                                                        Where food is concerned true artistry is in the preparation. It is to be eaten and savored. Food should not be in the same category as a painting, sculpture or other fine artworks.

                                                                                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                          and there comes a point where it just gets ridiculous. If the dish is cold by the time I dismantle it enough to actually eat it,or if I can't actually SEE the main ingredient under all the crap...you've defeated the whole purpose and I'm no longer interested.

                                                                                                          Hurray. You passed Garnishing 101. Now go cook.

                                                                                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                            why shouldn't it be? it is the act of taking materials and recombining them in a new way to produce an emotional response in an audience. how is that any different than "fine artworks?"

                                                                                                  2. re: limster

                                                                                                    I don't think there's any disingenuity in his post. The OP seems to not only be talking about presentation without deliciousness- from various posts [s]he seems to think that elaborate presentation is necessarily detrimental to deliciousness.

                                                                                                    To be fair this can and does happen. There are plenty of hacks putting foam on dishes where the body and moisture of wet sauce would be better. Or drizzling sauces that are too thin and not concentrated enough to be detected in such small amounts on a dish that may be too dry in the first place. Or choosing garnishes for color without adequately balancing flavors. It happens - it's just less experienced or talented chefs ripping off more talented ones. It's always happened. Before nouvelle cuisine and fusion and molecular gastronomy, there were surely countless awful takes on beef wellington and sole meuniere, plenty of flavorless pointless consommes.

                                                                                                    Thew has only been pointing out what should be obvious - that for any shoddy execution of some plating technique, there's someone who can do it well and in a way that makes his food taste better while looking better at the same time. That good food is even better when presented well.

                                                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                      Point was that the OP wasn't comparing 2 equally delicious dishes with different presentations. It's indeed super obvious that better presentation would be more desirable if two items were identically delicious, I don't think that's even an issue. It sounded to me that it was (among other things) originally an issue of using elaborate presentation to cover up undelicious food or spending more effort on presentation than deliciousness and that folks seem to speaking about perpendicular points.

                                                                                                      1. re: limster

                                                                                                        The original post made NO mention of taste whatsoever (though he seemed to take issue with portion size) and was still decidedly hostile towards modern plating techniques.

                                                                                                        Likewise, the post starting this line of the conversation decried current plating trends while making no real reference to flavor.

                                                                                                        I agree that taste matters most. But don't characterize this as a discussion that's all about taste.

                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                          The issue of delicious is implicit.

                                                                                                          I'm not characterising this as a discussion that's all about taste; I'm characterising this discussion as one where different people seem to be talking about different issues rather than going over a single point.

                                                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                            I'm definitely taking issue with portion size, among other things. If I'm paying big bucks for a piece of meat it damn well better cover most of the plate, not just a small square in the middle. The food is going to taste the same whether the plate is decorated or not. There is nothing ugly or unappetizing about an unadorned piece of meat lying next to a potato and vegetable.
                                                                                                            Is that what it's called....'modern plating techniques'?

                                                                                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                              Or as Wolfgang Puck said, why is it all these new chefs think they have to smudge baby food on the plate next to a steak (or something along those lines)?

                                                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                really, I agree with you chowser.
                                                                                                                what is the point?
                                                                                                                is it to dip the steak into?
                                                                                                                is it to dress the plate in 'clothes'?
                                                                                                                is it to colorize it?
                                                                                                                is it to coordinate mutual flavors?

                                                                                                                I give up, just leave it off my plate please, it's just another schtick

                                                                                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                  I wonder if that sort of thing appeals to anyone other than the younger generation trend setters. It strikes me as being a tad elitist.

                                                                                                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                    I doubt that the appeal is only to young trend setters, as very elaborate presentation is part of various traditional Chinese cuisines, where ingredients may have be sliced very precisely and arranged into various forms and chefs are expected to know how carve or cut vegetables and fruit into various forms and sculptures. A dish might be composed to look like ducks swimming in a lake or assembled in a phoenix etc.

                                                                                                                    1. re: limster

                                                                                                                      Just my humble opinion (I have no facts to support it) that it is probably part of their culture (think of Feng Shui) dating back millenia whereas it is a fairly recent phenomena here starting back a few decades with nouveau/nouvelle/fusion cuisine.

                                                                                                                      1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                        While new ways of cooking can be delicious, I think it's a fair point that foods that have been around for a longer time have been subject to a greater amount of selection and thus have better odds of being good. Those dishes invented 500 years ago that were generally rejected because people didn't find them tasty probably don't exist today; so old dishes that are bad are less common. But it's now our turn to select or reject the foods that are invented in our times, and we need to do so thoughtfully and critically.

                                                                                                                        On a separate note, if one wants to argue that cooking/plating is art, then under that framework, it's worth noting that a simple minimalistic presentation can be as artistic as an elaborate decorative dish.

                                                                                                                        1. re: limster

                                                                                                                          absolutely. i'd say that in plating,a s in most arts, minimal elegance is far harder to pull off than baroque overkill.

                                                                                                                          but minimal presentation is still presentation, and not food dumped on a plate with no eye for how it looks

                                                                                                                          1. re: thew

                                                                                                                            And it would seem to me that that some are arguing against over elaborate presentation when a minimalist approach would have sufficed, at least in spirit if not in words. Such examples might be so understated that perhaps folks haven't articulated them as "presentation".

                                                                                                                            1. re: limster

                                                                                                                              but the OP itself is arguing against artistic presentation as a whole:

                                                                                                                              "Enough with this "presentation" silliness
                                                                                                                              What is it with these misguided chefs who consider themselves to be 'fine artists' as well as culinary artists...."

                                                                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                I think that's a misrepresentation of the OP's intent. The complaints that have been raised by the OP (and other posters) have only been directed at rather elaborate presentations described as "nouvelle / nouveaux / fusion cuisine" by the OP in the next sentence after the one you quoted.

                                                                                                                                His/her idea of "artistic presentation" was very likely only directed at the types of elaborate presentation that he's been arguing against. That's why I raised the point that minimalistic presentations, like "an unadorned piece of meat lying next to a potato and vegetable" which he/she seems to like, is also artistic.

                                                                                                                                Of course, I'd be happy to have folks, including the OP, clarify their positions, as it's more important to understand the underlying spirit and intent, rather than merely taking the words at face value. Otherwise, people might end up arguing for argument's sake rather than having a productive discourse.

                                                                                                                                1. re: limster

                                                                                                                                  Good point. I had just reread the OP and focused on

                                                                                                                                  "They insist on piling an odd assortment of mostly unheard of foodstuffs...."

                                                                                                                                  For me, this is one of the great joys of going to some restaurants. They do combinations of things that I would never have considered or had ever heard of. I'm wowed by that. The one example that pops into my mind is dinner at Babbo a couple of years ago. One of their famous at that time dishes was beef cheek ravioli with crushed squab liver and shaved black truffle. Except for the generic term "ravioli" none of these were ingredients I'd ever tasted and "crushed squab liver" would probably fall into OP's category of "unheard of foodstuffs." It was breathtakingly delicious. Since then I've cooked beef cheeks severals times (not in ravioli yet). I love the occasional treat and joy of reading a menu and not understanding exactly what to expect. To each his own.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                    No, I would not consider that dish "unheard of foodstuffs'. I do enjoy trying new things as long as they are not decorated with 'who knows what'. Just serve it unadorned; there's nothing wrong with that. Like I said; "how ugly can 'meat and potato be?"

                                                                                                                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                      I obviously dine differently than you. I've never eaten any 'who knows what.' I always know what something is before I eat it. And my experiences have been that when something is added to a dish, it's done to enhance not to decorate. So, yes, we dine differently. Doesn't matter to me a bit.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                        Enhance what? The taste of the 'meat'? Enhancements are part of preparation *how it tastes), not presentation (how it looks).

                                                                                                                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                          These are not mutually exclusive in my dining experience. Something as mundane as parsley both decorates and flavors. Edible flowers are the same. Look and taste good. From your perspective, what is an example of something that's done just for looks? I think I'm just not getting it.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                            I'm not sure I can give you a specific example. What comes to mind are the foams, daubs or brushstrokes of a sauce, herbs that can't be eaten but give the dish "color" plus the fact that everything is in one big pile that has to be broken down in order to eat.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                              Well, once you think back to a particular meal you've had that was problematic to you, I'll look forward to reading about it.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                I just explained it. It 's not a specific meal. it's the general appearance of any meal where the chel feels decoration is preferred to substance.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                  I apologize. I didn't realize that you were talking hypothetically while I was talking about meals I've actually eaten. For that reason, I shall retire from this conversation.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                "What comes to mind are the foams, daubs or brushstrokes of a sauce, herbs that can't be eaten but give the dish "color" plus the fact that everything is in one big pile that has to be broken down in order to eat."
                                                                                                                                                ________
                                                                                                                                                Many of the things you seem to hate aren't always bad.

                                                                                                                                                Foams and daubs of sauce on a plate can add quite a bit to the flavor, assuming they are well made, well chosen and appropriately flavorful themselves (many times foamed sauces and sauces in small amounts must be very concentrated and highly seasoned to work).

                                                                                                                                                Herbs/greens that can't be eaten - I agree. Not interested in paying more for a dish for it to be garnished with something inedible or poorly matched with the rest of the food.

                                                                                                                                                Putting everything in a pile - piling foodstuffs on top of each other works very well with foods that are supposed to be eaten together in one bite, as a way of keeping flavors distinct. Of course, it is also often done with inappriopriate dishes, making things harder to eat. You're right to criticize in cases like this. But a hamburger is piled bun/meat/cheese/lettuce/onion/pickle/bun because it's best enjoyed that way rather than spread across a plate. The same thing can apply to non-sandwiches.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                  foams always have a flavor. brushstrokes of sauce have flavor. they are done for taste first. but they are done in a manner that is also artistically pleasing, to the chef at least.

                                                                                                                                                  i cannot think of many (none off the top of my head actually) examples of herbs being added to a plate that cannot be eaten

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                    My take on it too. I don't think I've ever seen a herb that can't be eaten. Sauces brushed on the plate add a subtle flavor has you lightly dredge your protein through it. Personally I don't want a pile of sauce on the side. As far as stacking a protein on top of a starch as cowboyardee said if they are meant to be eaten together I see no problem with it an actually enjoy it.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                                                      I've seen herbs that aren't well matched to the rest of the food on the plate. Ironically, the best example I can think of was the tendency to throw curly parsley on all sorts of plates as a garnish - that was popular with pretty basic meat and potato plates that the OP seems to like BEFORE the more modern plating that he is complaining about.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                        Parsley is an excellent example, C, and the 'hamburger' you mentioned before, is, to me, not a hamburger but a salad on a bun overpowering a small, dry piece of meat. They bulk it up with cheap filler so it looks like WOW! a Dagwood sandwich! but the meat is only a small percentage of the whole. They're telling me that the quality of meat is so bad it has to be covered up with lettuce, tomato,pickle, etc. Shouldn't be anything between the buns except good quality meat. acceptable add-ons are cheese and onion (grilled or plain). Meat should be juicy enough so that no dressing is needed. Mayo would be ok because it is basically bland.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                          Should (like would and could) is a very funny word, as it has no meaning without a corollary phrase defining the why. Your use of "so that" is a good example. But your other shoulds i do not get.

                                                                                                                                                          why are onions acceptable, but a piece of lettuce is not? are you sure both grilled and plain are OK? how are you sure?

                                                                                                                                                          Can i use horseradish mayo? mayo with adobo and chipotle?If i don;t like mayo, why can't i use mustard?

                                                                                                                                                          These are very serious questions - i am not being flippant here, you have a very extreme and strong viewpoint, and i'd like to understand it.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                            I like the basic, unadulterated taste of the foods I eat. Beef should taste 'beefy' not like A-1, mustard (too much vinegar for me), ketchup (too tomatoey), and anything that changes or covers up the primary taste. What's the point in eating a steak that tastes like worcestershire sauce?
                                                                                                                                                            OTOH, you can use whatever 'floats your boat'. I'll use flavored mayo as long as it does not overpower the meat.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                              your "rules" are arbitrary - you are doing nothing but codifying your own tastes as some sort of general rules for others. your argument leads to a place where we should not put salt or pepper on a steak, not ketchup for a french fry, no lemon on fish. a soup? why that's terrible - all those different flavors mixing together. a stew? potatoes and veg ruining the taste of meat.

                                                                                                                                                              flavors meld together and used properly enhance each other. that is the essence of ALL cooking. this talibanesque purism you espouse is a denial of what makes food good. the ketchup, or mustard, or worcestershire enhances the flavor of the meat, if used properly, it does not hide it.

                                                                                                                                                              i like blue and i like yellow. that does not mean green is inferior because it is a mix of the 2.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                                "you are doing nothing but codifying your own tastes as some sort of general rules for others"

                                                                                                                                                                Somewhere along this thread I realized that OP is simply stating his preferences but it was coming across as "rules for others." Big difference.

                                                                                                                                                                And what about meatloaf? Out, I guess.

                                                                                                                                                                I'd like to ask sincerely: are people still seeing "stacked" food? I'm not but that doesn't mean that there aren't pockets of passe-ness :)

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                  "Somewhere along this thread I realized that OP is simply stating his preferences but it was coming across as "rules for others." Big difference."

                                                                                                                                                                  the difference is between stating "Shouldn't be anything between the buns except good quality meat. acceptable add-ons are cheese and onion (grilled or plain). .... Mayo would be ok because it is basically bland." and saying something like "i prefer my hamburger unadorned, except for some onions or cheese perhaps"

                                                                                                                                                                  Big Difference

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                              to me the op doesn't make any sense. first MG says that the price of the plate should reflect the size of the piece of meat (higher price=bigger slab of protein). now onions and cheese are fine, lettuce and tomato are unacceptable, but "high quality" meat is desired? what happened to size? the op should be happy with a cheap 2 lb burger, by the op's own lights, no? does the demand for higher quality meat not mean in most cases, on the plate: the size of the meat portion will be smaller, higher quality, and more expensive, vs. cheap, huge and ugly (what the op seems to be a proponent of)? if we follow the "biggest hunk of meat to least amount of garnish, accompaniments, and "pointless decoration, for the lowest price" we'd find ourselves wearing our wellies and buying an uncut side of raw beef at a local wholesaler, and restaurants wouldn't exist at any level. but if at some point we accept that people are paying for someone else to cook their meal for them, and that when the food arrives in front of the customer, it's *presented* in some way-- whether that "presentation" is a foil-wrapped burger with onions, no ketchup or pickle, or it's an elaborate "presentation" of architectural food straight out of 1988 on a plate where someone's applied vegetable-flavored colored paste with putty knives.

                                                                                                                                                              so what will it be, Mucho Gordo-- do you want big, cheap and ugly, as you've been saying-- or would you rather pay more for higher quality? If there is a point where you'd rather select a *smaller* and *differently presented* plate of food than a chunk of raw hamburger, is it a big stretch to think that someone else would prefer a smaller and higher quality burger that's "presented" on a plate over the giant low-quality one wrapped in foil-- or a third person may prefer a small portion of fresh high quality fish over a huge bucket of not-so-fresh, fried-from-frozen fried cod?

                                                                                                                                                              if quantity was the only thing of value (to the customer) in dining, the only restaurant model would be "the all you can eat buffet." the existence of restaurants where the quality and presentation of food are paramount would seem to point to the fact that diners value food quality and food presentation. does this seem sort of obvious to anyone else?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                Hey, Soup, please reread my post and tell me where I said anything about wanting big, cheap and ugly.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                  okay:

                                                                                                                                                                  <<
                                                                                                                                                                  I'm definitely taking issue with portion size, among other things. If I'm paying big bucks for a piece of meat it damn well better cover most of the plate, not just a small square in the middle. The food is going to taste the same whether the plate is decorated or not.
                                                                                                                                                                  >>

                                                                                                                                                                  i took that to mean that 1) you value quantity of food over quality, and that 2) you do not value presentation at all, as you've stated continuously throughout the thread. also, 1b) there is no reason to pay more for increased quality of foodstuffs, only increased quantity. if i've got it all wrong, please clarify, because i'm feeling a bit confused, myself.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                    #1 is incorrect. I'm willing to pay a reasonable amount for quality ( I wouldn't spend the money for Wagyu or Kobi) but I also want value for my money. I shouldn't have to sacrifice one for the other. $25+ for a 4 oz piece of meat on a large, mostly empty dinner plate doesn't sit too well with me. I don't want to leave the place and still be hungry.
                                                                                                                                                                    #2 is correct. Presentation means nothing to me. It's preparation that counts. Anything can be made to look pretty.
                                                                                                                                                                    I hope this clears it up a bit.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                      so again, what's "reasonable?" so--you are willing to spend some "reasonable" amount of your hard earned cash for a steak, as long as it's big. vaguely big-- more than four ounces, and taking up some real estate on the plate. whatever that means.

                                                                                                                                                                      someone else won't think the price you're paying for a good quality steak is "reasonable" because somewhere, you can get two whole buckets of fried chicken for that-- and not have to deal with any of that pesky garnishing or pretentious vegetable sides!

                                                                                                                                                                      another person may think $35 for 4 oz of Wagyu is a heck of a bargain, and call up their reservation 3 months in advance to get it. you've got 3 customers who are demanding food at 3 levels, and praise be, you've got folks catering to the needs, desires, and restrictions of each group. it is not the fault of the folks catering to the need, that the need exists in the first place. if you want to place blame that way, please aim it directly at the U.S, U.K, or aussie mommy who first cut off the crusts for her widdle precious, so that widdle precious could feel special. the rest of us have been trying to present food in a way that makes the diner feel "special" ever since, just as home cooks show love and caring through their attention to detail on the plates they feed their families. and, if you expect people who work with high quality foodstuffs to just slap it on a plate, lunch-lady portion-scoop-style, well that's just insulting to good quality food, and most folks won't do it. good luck trying to buy unsanded artisan wood furniture and high-quality tailored suits with unfinished seams while you're at it.

                                                                                                                                                                      some foodstuffs are simply more expensive than others-- if people both appreciate them and enjoy them, they're apt to pay the premium price-- whether we're talking single source honey at 2-3 times the price of a hunny bear, or hundreds of dollars for an ounce of iranian caviar.

                                                                                                                                                                      everyone among us is bound to balk at the price of something at some point and decide we can't afford it. that doesn't mean that the people who do buy the item are wrong, or the folks who make their living supplying the demand are also wrong. i get that lots of folks can't afford saffron. i get that there are enough people who *can* afford it, and do enjoy it and buy it, to support a saffron industry. i don't blame the producers of saffron for the price of the item-- that's stupid-- how would you produce saffron more cheaply than it already is?

                                                                                                                                                                      pretty sure everyone's got a threshold for tolerance on how foo-foo they want the presentation on their plate to be. we tend to self-select out of these establishments though--the folks who will appreciate the intricate silver-leaf cage with real mechanized spun-sugar grasshoppers will pay the two grand to say they had the experience of eating such a confection. heck, if i want to spend 2 grand to eat grasshoppers i'll buy a scooter and buzz around an alfalfa field with my mouth open. the point is, pretty much every price point and every presentation i can think of offhand is "reasonable" to somebody. it's just all incremental shifts about where everyone falls on the continuum, and if you or i wouldn't pay for the bucket of chicken, there's someone who sure as hell will, and will keep that system going. same goes for the motorized spun sugar grasshoppers. doesn't mean the folks fixing the plate are the bad guys, or worthy of ridicule-- at either end of the spectrum, as far as i'm concerned.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                        Wow, you are really good. Sam would be proud of you.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                          +1, for all the trauma I've had with SK, That was a very good post.

                                                                                                                                                                          Obviously I don't like the fact that it does kind of knock OP a bit, but from a bit further up he/she has been getting his/herself in a bit of a pickle TBH.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                          "heck, if i want to spend 2 grand to eat grasshoppers i'll buy a scooter and buzz around an alfalfa field with my mouth open."

                                                                                                                                                                          ha! most amusing thing I've heard/read all day.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                            I think it's the most amusing thing I've heard/read all week. Thanks for the much needed dose of humor.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                        I think you dine at different places than I :) What do they taste like?

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                          Nothing. It's kind of like the gold dust that Zack blew onto his dessert in Top Chef Just Desserts. All for show. But, it's just a small amount--it's not like you're eating a whole plate of gold thread (or that you could afford to eat a whole plate of it, especially these days...)

                                                                                                                                                          I found more:

                                                                                                                                                          http://www.businesspundit.com/10-ways...

                                                                                                                                                          I would put these as being pretentious.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                            Holey moley!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have had Goldschlaeger (?sp) and it was so damn pretty. But I was terribly young (20s).

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                              C

                                                                                                                                                              a couple of chocolate makers place a little piece on top of some of their creations. basically flavorless.

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                              I don't remember where I read it, but I've seen gold garnish referred to as 'the ultimate f*** you to the poor." I tend to agree. I like well-presented foods, but gold garnish is just lame.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                Yeah, it is about showing how much money you have.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                  And it ultimately collects in a filter at the wastewater treatment plant. Gold never disappears completely.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                    Now there's a disturbing thought

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                    Like burning a hundred dollar bill in front of peop.e

                                                                                                                                                2. re: limster

                                                                                                                                                  You've pretty much got it right, limster.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                          For you and Thew:
                                                                                                                                          Chacun a son gout, folks. Enjoy!

                                                                                                                                2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                  i think it's actually called: "not eating at old country buffet." ;-P

                                                                                                                        2. re: thew

                                                                                                                          Thew said; "if that delicious plate of food is also beautiful, artistic, maybe surprising or whimsical, to me, that is a preferable plate to the equally delicious pile."

                                                                                                                          I agree with that statement. Not only do I want my food to taste good but if it looks good that's even better. I like to plate my home meals because we eat with our eyes as well as our palate.

                                                                                                                2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                  Uhhhhh ? I'm thinkin you're addressing me but I have no idea what you meant
                                                                                                                  oh well

                                                                                                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                    I put too much ceasar sauce on my BLT on Saturday. It was great, but I used about twice as much, and it all dripped out.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Soop

                                                                                                                      Soop,

                                                                                                                      Too much artistic skill here, my man.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Soop

                                                                                                                        Maybe you could make a BLT with caesar "au jus dipping sauce". Just start with it outside and it won't matter if it drips. As long as the sauce doesn't just get brush onto the plate in an unusable smudge, I'm fine with it.

                                                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                          eh? :)

                                                                                                                          The only leaves I had that were usable (apart from a salad plant I've just remembered) was some basil.

                                                                                                                          But once you've had a BLT with caesar sauce, you can't go back.

                                                                                                                      2. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                        I'm agreeing with you, Divo. Don't worry about it.

                                                                                                                      3. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                        I think of it more like an attractive person w/out too much fuss or an attractive person w/ a lot of plastic surgery, make up, etc. We all have different lines on what we like and don't like. Ginger or Mary Ann? Except, I'm female so that would be Fabio or Harry Connick Jr.

                                                                                                                    2. I suppose some chefs ARE artistic, not just good judges of flavor and skilled cooks. I don't mind pretty or clever or even cute. But after a point, the more prevalent it gets, the more people will be unwilling to pay for it!

                                                                                                                      1. Maybe it's where I dine but I haven't seen "stacked" food in ages. Can't even remember the last time. And while I've not specificially asked,I've always assumed those little dots of sauce are just for minutely touching a piece of food to one and getting just a hint of flavor. It's not gravy-esque.

                                                                                                                        1. For all of us who can see, we eat first with our eyes. Presentation is important! But I agree that there is some "silliness" of presentation, too. People try to think outside the box and attempt new things. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: decolady

                                                                                                                            yes, nobody wants to eat what looks like a plate of dog poop or vomit however tasty it is.

                                                                                                                            remember nouvelle cuisine when it was a new fangled thing in the 80s? isn't that when this overthinking presentation started?

                                                                                                                            1. re: decolady

                                                                                                                              Hear, hear, decolady. I like a beautifully-presented plate as much as the next gal, but if it doesn't look great and is Delicious, I don't much care at the end of the day.

                                                                                                                            2. "They insist on piling an odd assortment of mostly unheard of foodstuffs on what appears to be an unwashed plate that is smeared with some sort of sauce,"

                                                                                                                              I eat at all levels of restaurants in various states throughout the year and I've never noticed this trend.

                                                                                                                              I can count the number of times on one hand that I've walked away from a restaurant meal hungry.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                                Smears are still being used a lot but it's usually a very tasty sauce and the foodstuff is not something unheard unless you live under a rock.

                                                                                                                                I find portion sizes often too large instead of too small so rarely walk away hungry. Now that doesn't hold true in all restaurants. Some higher end restaurants will serve smaller portions in what I consider over sized plates or bowls.

                                                                                                                              2. I've seen some crazy presentations...but I've never, ever not had enough food at a restaurant. It ranges from "enough food for 4+ people" to "a good dinner for one, I even have room for dessert". I don't think I have an exceptionally small appetite, I'm certainly not exceptionally thin. I wonder if appetites vary that much, or if I just haven't been to the limited quantity restaurant.

                                                                                                                                1. Right On Mucho !!!! Layer upon layer of unidentifiable food stuffs..surrounded by somebody's version of "onion jam" and piled high with "fine herbs" that we mere foodies have no access to. Just blindfold me , and let senses ( other than visual) pass judgement !!

                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                  1. re: pastamasta

                                                                                                                                    Could you please give examples of "unidentifiable food stuffs" (I assume you asked WTH they were when you were served). I have to drive about 100 miles round trip to get certain herbs but it doesn't mean I don't love tasting them and even/especially experiencing a flavor that is totally unfamiliar to me. And as others have noted, the sense of sight is linked to the sense of taste. BTW, I made an onion "jam"once as an ingredient for a cheese, argula panina. It was fantastic!

                                                                                                                                  2. If you're a chef in a restaurant I can see trying for the visual appeal. But, as a diner, I don't want my food piled artistically all over itself. I go to a restaurant to be waited on, not have to work. I'm messing with food all day. I don't want to have to separate everything. No. I do NOT want mashed potatoes on my green beans, thank you. I want them separate and I don't want to have to scrape the potatoes off my veg. I don't want the sauce that is supposed to be on the protein on my veg, either. I want to taste the veg! I'm not saying that I want the kind of plates that have the separators in them (ala cafeteria), I'm just saying... Don't make me have to work in order to enjoy my meal. If I wanted to work at it, I would have ordered the whole lobster.

                                                                                                                                    20 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Snafooo

                                                                                                                                      Sounds like you don't like bad presentation. You'll get no argument from me. Food shouldn't be stacked unless it is best enjoyed eaten all together.

                                                                                                                                      But you don't really think that all artful presentation consists of stacking food would be better kept separate, do you?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                        It seemed obvious to me but snafoo, I'm assuming, is saying that food that is not meant to be eaten together should not be stacked. I've had that happen at restaurants where I have to unstack the food to eat it. I don't need a huge stack of crisp fried potatoes above my steak and it can be messy to take apart to get to the steak, especially if the steak takes up most of the plate. Poor plating. But, hey, that was just my take on snafoo's post. Maybe he/she meant food that should be stacked shouldn't as you've read it to mean.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                          But to the people posting here who complain about "stacked" food, isn't that pretty much a thing of the past? I don't get about enough to say for sure but it seems like an outdated technique.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                            I think it's been out of style for just about a decade now. Strange that the anti-presentation people have latched onto it like they have.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                              Oh good, I'm not crazy. Well.... Maybe because it (stacked food) really was rather silly to begin with. I don't know how or why anyone would argue about good food that also looked good on the plate. Seems like a slam dunk to me.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                Silly or not, restaurants do/did it and that's what people are complaining about. Detracting good food with silly presentation takes away from the whole.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                  I guess I'm lucky then. I can't think of a good meal I've had when the presentation detracted from the whole. I'm grateful for that since it's clear that some people see too much of it. Or maybe I'm just a pushover for good food :)

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                    Yeah, I guess if I don't like what a restaurant is doing, I don't go.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                      Maybe you have been lucky. That doesn't mean those of us who've have it are wrong about our experiences. No one has argued against good presentation with good food. Bad presentation, though, can detract from good food. If you ever watch Top Chef or any of those cooking shows, it's pointed out that the overly fussy presentation detracts. I do remember trying to figure out where the heck to put my garnish/food, like the stacks of fried potatoes or onions rings on top of my food, when there is no room on my plate. I think those overly done spun sugar toppings on food fall in the same category.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                That assumes all restaurants remain up-to-date on trends and we all know that isn't true. I even see sundried tomatoes out there.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                  Do sun dried tomatoes stop being a valid ingredient just because the cool kids have moved on to other trends? I don't think so.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                    "I even see sundried tomatoes out there."
                                                                                                                                                    ________

                                                                                                                                                    That's the point - now that sundried tomatoes aren't particularly trendy, I mostly see them in dishes where they are called for. There's not much point of complaining about them - they're just another ingredient.

                                                                                                                                                    The same goes for tall food. It's over - relegated mostly to dishes that are delicious when eaten all together. Yeah, sure, a few restaurants still use it badly - you can find examples of any technique or ingredient being used badly. But railing against it nowadays is like railing against sundried tomatoes. Where are you that you still see restaurant after restaurant stacking all their food?

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                      "Where are you that you still see restaurant after restaurant stacking all their food?"

                                                                                                                                                      I never said restaurant after restaurant. I see it. I rarely eat at restaurants that have foam and fancier presentations as it is. I was just trying try clarify what the PP was saying about stacking food and how I didn't interpret the post as saying he/she probably had a problem w/ stacked food that was supposed to be stacked.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                    stacked as in a lot of vertical height may have gone out a decade ago but layering of item is still being used a lot. Most of the time I'd say the things that are stacked go well when eaten together. A protein on top of a bed of greens or mashed root veg is still very common. If I wanted to eat every thing separate I eat out of a bento box.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                                                      "protein"?? Just curious; is "meat" a dirty 4- letter word now? Awesome!

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                        no dirty word but the "protein could be meat, foul or seafood

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                                                            That's true, however, common usage tends to encompass seafood/fish and fowl under the one umbrella 'meat' (which, like protein, can be broken down into beef, pork, etc.) as opposed to "vegetables", which includes starches, greens, legumes, etc.
                                                                                                                                                            Sorry, didn't mean to ramble on and on.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                                                          I see the difference there. We had a dinner out recently and the appetizer my husband chose was a piece of house-smoked trout over a small amount of black lentils and a little horseradish. It had a lot more (good) going on than just the fish. If THAT'S what people aren't liking in this discussion then I really don't get it.

                                                                                                                                                          BTW, I have some vintage Blue Willow grill plates (the divided ones). I've been known to do a dinner party with meatloaf, mashed potates and green peas. Always a hit :)

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                                                            Meat on top of mashed potatoes doesn't make sense if you have to cut it. Then the mashed oozes out of the sides. What's the point? Sure, serve meatloaf over it. But, if I have to cut it, make it easier to cut. If it's meant to be eaten together, then push the mashed over the meat. Even IHOP puts its butter on top of the pancake and not vice versa.

                                                                                                                                                    2. Ah, glad to see I'm not the only one who finds this ridiculous. If I pay $25 for a plate, I want to see your expertise in the flavor not the presentation. Not saying that I would accept a gray pile of slop but I don't need shavings, and curls, and 3 sauces, and fruit bits I've never seen before along with some name no one can pronounce. That said, give me some good old fashioned mashed potatoes and fried chicken with a new kick and I'm sold as long as it's more edible than it is pretty!

                                                                                                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: marneybrown

                                                                                                                                                          So you like to experience only those things that you already know about and can pronounce? Strange.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                                                            Sounds like you don't approve. Why is it a problem for you? It's not just things we know about or can pronounce but, perhaps some people are a bit more selective in what they choose to eat.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                              I'm selective about the quality but the range of foods is deep and wide. I love the adventure. Some don't. So be it. But don't know what this has to do with presentation.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                Oh, I like adventure and trying new foods also but there are certain things you instinctively stay away from. I'm sure "deep and wide" has limits. As for what this has to do with presentation; beats me. I was just responding to tommy's post.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                  So far, I've never eaten anything that was still alive but I wouldn't rule it out. And Sam said he wouldn't eat a primate which I hadn't thought about but agree. Can'tthink of much else. And, dammit, I'd want it to be well presented :)

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                    i have a similar rule - i try not to eat any animal that passes the mirror test for self-recognition. however if a pig ever passes that test, i will ignore my own rule

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                      I'd better keep my dogs locked up if you come to visit.

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: marneybrown

                                                                                                                                                              please do do not brush others with your inability to pronounce. those shavings curls and sauces. when used correctly, add flavor as well as color and texture contrasts. all of which add to the enjoyment of food, as you clearly understand by your grey slop comment

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                                +1. I had the pleasure of shaved black truffles and crushed squab liver over beef cheek ravioli several years ago at Babbo. It was fantastic. I read the menu, knew what was going to be in/on the dish and ordered accordingly. If I can't pronounce the name of a dish, I ask how to pronounce it. Barring that, one could point and grunt, I suppose.