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chef's tables (eg, Saison) and differences in the sexes

Geanhang May 22, 2012 05:16 PM

My significant other and I are wondering how other couples solve the following issue which comes up for us now and again and most recently in connection with the chef's table at Saison. The reviews I've read convince me that despite the astronomical cost, eating the 20-course meal at the chef's table would be a meal for the ages and something I'd really like to try once in my life. But my significant other says that although she would greatly enjoy the first 10 courses or so, much beyond that would make her feel painfully full and it would rapidly devolve from a very pleasurable experience into a highly uncomfortable one. She says that many women would probably agree and that these kinds of multi-course extravaganzas are tailored for man-size appetites. It's hard for me to argue with that. How do others manage it? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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  1. g
    goldangl95 May 22, 2012 05:22 PM

    1) Inform the waitstaff, for the woman that she wants to stop in about 2 courses (as she's feeling full), and she can take one teensy bite off the man's plate just to taste the remaining courses.
    2) Continue the courses and hope the man can finish both her portions and his
    3) She looks at the menu at the beginning of the night (assuming an adequately detailed one is furnished) and picks a few courses ahead of time to skip

    1. m
      ML8000 May 22, 2012 05:57 PM

      Ask them to speed up the courses (they might tell you to shove off...politely). The volume usually isn't the issue with tasting menus but instead the combo of sensory overload and slow pacing that lets everything settle in the stomach.

      1. g
        GourmetWednesday May 22, 2012 05:59 PM

        Interesting and valid question. Per the Saison website, the menu consists of approximately 20 courses, so many of those will likely just be a bite or two, and not 20 plates of food like she might be expecting. I would say the solution is in saying "how" a woman or others with smaller appetites should proceed, not "if" they should go. As a woman who has never been shy about eating and can put down some food, it surprised me the first time I filled up before dessert and could barely try the last few courses. While I haven't been to Saison, I haved experienced tasting menus at Alinea, Next, wd50, Blackbird, e, and others. What I learned is that I tend to "crash" on the main protein courses. It was when I could only muster a few bites of the famed pressed duck and potatoes Dauphinoise at Next that I knew I needed a strategy going forward. Since then I have learned to pace myself. A couple of times, this has included asking to slow down service a bit (hopefully not obnoxiously so or in a way that would affect their later seatings, just enough to give me a bit of breathing room between courses). The Saison site advises to allow 3 hours, and I wouldn't be surprised if some tables take longer. When there are beverage pairings, and in a perfect world there always are, I have learned to also be attentive to how much and how quickly I am drinking, so as to not fill up too quickly on those and lose space for more food. I hope this helps, hope you both go, and hope you both love it!

        1. r
          rubadubgdub May 22, 2012 06:24 PM

          Sounds to me like your SO is signalling that this kind of meal is not enjoyable for her. I know plenty of good eaters who wouldn't enjoy a long tasting menu not because it's too much food but because sitting at a table for 4 hrs without a break is tedious and uncomfortable. So why not go alone? That's what I would do instead of trying to alter the experience to accommodate. If you manage to convince her to go, she doesn't have to finish every course to get the sensory experience---just a taste. However, I would let the server know about the plan because at that level of service they cue the next course when the table is done eating. Oh, and pace the wine.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rubadubgdub
            Geanhang May 22, 2012 08:12 PM

            THANK YOU to each of you, goldang195, ML8000, GourmetWednesday, and rubadubgdub, for taking the time to give me your thoughts - very helpful and gave me much, much sharper and fuller perspective/understanding. Thanks again.

          2. Robert Lauriston May 23, 2012 08:50 AM

            Saison may be an exception to the rule: "... you need to feel good after you eat. I've gone out to many excellent places where you feel like shit after the meal. I don't want guests to feel that way."


            1. t
              tjinsf May 23, 2012 02:05 PM

              I think perhaps rather than making generalizations that personally in my experience don't apply to any women I know including the one I am married to, you might want to listen to your wife's desires to not do tasting menus. Most places also have a al a carte or a smaller tasting menu and I would suggestion doing just that with her. Another idea is to go with a friend to try the tasting menu. When my spouse was a vegetarian and even now, I often go with a couple of meat eating friends to try new places.

              I've found that most places including Saison that do lengthy tasting menu portion and pace the food so that while it is a large meal ( I usually just do late breakfast or brunch when I do a tasting menu that night) it is not too much. I actually like tasting menu more than al a carte as American portions seem far too large to me.

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