Is there a correspondence between price and delicious food?
I was creating a list the other day of my favorite dishes and discovered something surprising. All of my favorites are relatively low cost dishes, which would seem to contradict the notion that the best food comes from fancy, high-priced restaurants and exquisitely trained chefs.
Now, a ground rule before I get on to my question: I am talking about dishes that require a recipe here. You may go crazy over a truffle or three year aged parmesan. However, those are ingredients, not dishes. What I am talking about is dishes such as shrimp creole, a Chicago hot dog, a brownie, a Caesar salad (made the traditional way), etc.
My question is why should we spend large amounts of money going to high end restaurants when there seems to be little correspondence between what we spend and how much pleasure a dish gives us?
Lest discussion of this topic become a paean to "down-home cooking" and superiority of the common man, let me also say that I think that French chefs are culinary geniuses and I seek out the experience of a high end French restaurant whenever I can find one and afford it. But the question is why, when my top ten contains none of this fancy food?
<snicker>someone brought in a bag of ripe mangoes today at work...totally free...had a slice a few minutes ago...TOTAL deliciousness for nothing...sometimes these delicious items are free or very little cost (the mangoes go for $1 at store in season)...simple pleasures are the best!
A high-end restaurant experience is about a lot more than just the food. You can't compare a tasting menu at a fine dining place to a taco from a truck. Both can be delicious (or not) but they are two completely different experiences.
Not necessarily. Isn't that what chowhound is all about, finding deliciousness wherever you can?
What I cook and love at home is rarely what I order and eat out. When I want French food with the wonderful sauces I go out--but then it is an evening event and not just a meal. I also would say that many people who post on this board, myself included, would not agree with your premise that "the best food comes from fancy, high-priced restaurants and exquisitely trained chefs."
You say you appreciate high-end French cuisine but wonder why it doesn't make your top 10 most enjoyable meals. One factor I propose:
The more humble fare you prefer evokes (for you) different people, places, times, maybe what you ate growing up or with people you love. It's comforting. You probably didn't grow up regularly eating French restaurant food, and as such it probably mostly evokes French restaurants, which doesn't quite give you that warm and fuzzy feeling. Taste is very psychological.
One thing I take issue with though - you can't just separate expensive ingredients from expensive fine dining and say that's not what you're talking about. Expensive ingredients are probably the single most characteristic aspect of restaurant fine dining.
Generally speaking, if you're paying a lot for a prepared meal, you're paying for one (or more) of the following three things, in descending order of likelihood:
1) Expensive ingredients
2) More laborious cooking, or at least cooking that entails skilled use of some specialized equipment
3) You're paying for the flower arrangement on the table, the fine flatware, impeccable service, reputations of either the earned or unearned varieties, the sense of exclusivity, the delusion of special-ness, etc - in other words, stuff that has nothing to do with the food.
The point is ingredients in large part make a dish. You and I can make a Caesar salad traditionally and still come out with completely different results - whether or not the olive oil is excellent, and the Parmesan is aged and special, and the lettuce is crisp and fresh and flavorful and maybe grown nearby, and the pepper is fresh cracked, etc... makes all the difference in the world.