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Why we should embrace fine dining - excellent piece in Eatocracy

Great, well written item from John Winterman the maitre d' at Daniel in NYC.


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  1. This is where he lost me.

    "2. Fine dining is affordable luxury
    Yes, when you start looking at check averages that hover above $200 per person before tax and tip, you start doing math in your head.........."

    1 Reply
    1. re: grampart

      Yeah, I've done some "fine dining" and will do so again, but that piece just, shall we say, left a "bad taste" in my mouth.

    2. So… dinner at his restaurant costs less than a Ferrari or a private jet. It's downright cheap if you think about it like that. Many rich and famous people have eaten there, and they weren't even celebrating a big occasion — so why can't you (yes, you) do the same? The memories will last forever (for one thing, you'll get a monthly reminder from your credit card company).

      1. Maybe it's a snarky morning, but I saw a lot of name dropping and something that sounded like a "1%'s 1st World Problems" list.

        My beef tongue in pork cheek list of 5 reasons for embracing fine dining:

        1. Forget the limits of your vocation. "Life is an occasion." An excellent dinner is more rewarding than paying off the nonluxury car you bought in the last century.

        2. Fine dining is an attainable luxury. That's what credit cards are for, right? So what if you pay 20% interest and the $80 an hour dinner costs twice that by the time you pay it off. No credit card/ available credit? Of course you have an AMEX?

        3. Fine dining has more than one price point. You don't have to have an Entire dinner. A glass of wine, some artfully presented cheese and crackers -- if that's all the fine dining experience you think you can afford, you should still do it, because it's Fine Dining.

        4. Why be oblivious? ALL the famous dress up for fine dining, even sports stars and rockers. Pay attention. Join the crowd.

        5. Sensory devotion. Those maitre d's at Daniel deserve the same glory, respect, and paparazzi hounding as the chefs in the back.

        The thing is, I really wanted to read an approachable, well crafted argument for fine dining tailored to the people who don't think they can/should.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Kris in Beijing

          Live within your means, plan and save for the future. Spend your disposable income however you think it will give the most satisfaction.

          Might be fine dining for some.

          1. re: kengk

            Yep, KGK--
            See-- that's what I wanted, plus some encouragement for those for whom fine dining has never been on the radar.

            1. re: Kris in Beijing

              I suppose the first question would be why it has never been "on the radar."

              Here is kind of a random thought that explains to an extent my willingness to spend more for meals.

              Years ago we took our annual weeks vacation and generally eating out is a large part of the reason for going. This particular year I was worried about money, don't really even remember why. So, we decided to reduce our dining expense. At the end of the week we had not saved that much money and we had a considerably less pleasant vacation.

              I'm not talking about foregoing a place like Daniel and eating at McDonalds instead. We probably reduced our cost by 30% and our enjoyment by 80%

          2. re: Kris in Beijing

            Maybe that's another thread we should start- what would you tell those who didn't think they could/should experience fine dining?

            1. re: hyacinthgirl

              I agree. In fact, there is already quite a lot of thoughtful discussion on CH that outshines this Eatocracy piece. The question seems to come up regularly in the International boards, for example, since there is often a big gap between the big-budget vacationers and well-to-do expats, and the rest of us.

              Here are some previous threads that are sort of on this topic:

              "A question for those that spend a lot eating out."

              "You get what you pay for"

              "Why justify about the cost of a very expensive lunch/dinner?"

              1. re: DeppityDawg


                I posted before researching, and 2 of your 3 are pretty current-- from only about 8 months ago!!!

                I think the 2005 thread could be "refreshed," though.

          3. I'm really not sure what the intended purpose of that article was.

            I have and will continue to embrace fine dining, however not for any of the reasons, or perhaps, explanations as given by that smug @ass.

            1. "Break it down per hour: if you hit $250 per person you will most likely be dining for three-plus hours, roughly $80 per hour. You cannot get a spa treatment for that, nor a lawyer, nor a Ferrari, nor a weekend in St. Bart’s."

              Actually, at $80 an hour times two people times 2 days is $7680 for the weekend and yes, you can have a weekend in St Barts for that money. Flights, hotel, and meals included.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Bkeats

                But I wouldn't go to St. Barts for the weekend if somebody paid me $7,680 to go. Different people do and should make different choices about what gives them value for their money.

                1. re: kengk

                  I wasn't saying to go to SBH. I was pointing out the value comparison based purely on $$ was false. Simply pointing out that you can go there for $80/hour. You really wouldn't go to SBH if someone paid you nearly $8k but you would spend $250 pp on dinner?

                  1. re: Bkeats

                    I truly would not. Nothing against St. Barts, I have "issues."

                    I think value is in the eye of the beholder. Some things are more cut and dried in that regard than others.

                    1. re: kengk

                      I agree that value is in the "eye of the beholder". But getting excited to see Roger Waters dressed up? I mean it's not like it was David Gilmour.

                      1. re: kengk

                        I'm curious as to whether you have been and had a not good experience or if you have an issue with the image of the island.

                        I've had some of the best meals of my life on the island and its not at the tony places like Le Gaiac or Sand Bar. Most favorite place is basically a beach bar - La Gloriette. Nothing like have some cold beer with accras on the beach.

                        1. re: Bkeats

                          Nothing whatever to do with St. Barts, I really have no impression of the place. Borderline agoraphobic.

                2. He kind of sums up the reasons I DON'T like fine dining.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Rick

                    Please expand. I'm genuinely curious.

                    1. re: kengk

                      I'd be happy to. Trying to convince someone that they "deserve" that glass of Krug and plate of foie gras, hoping to see some famous people is very self serving to the business owner. What's so great about seeing a famous person? I never understood the appeal. If you're rich, rich and famous, congratulations and go ahead and have at that Krug and foie gras. Trying to convince someone that has to finance the whole occasion on their credit card just rubs me the wrong way. I see it all the time, people "deserve" that nice new car, that expensive vacation, those designer clothes. Before you know it they have a mountain of debt, the creditors are calling, and all of a sudden all those "deserved" moments don't seem so great when you get the foreclosure notice in the mail.

                      Most of the rich people I know would rather fly under the radar and have no one else know about their wealth. A lot of the people that look the part are the ones financing the fantasy on their credit cards. Of course this isn't a blanket statement and not always the case, those multi million dollar homes can't be had with an AMEX card.

                      1. re: Rick

                        I agree with everything you wrote.

                        I thought the article linked to in the OP was fairly obnoxious.

                  2. I'm not sure that I can fully embrace the outlook of a maitre d' at Daniel to my own experience. While I thought the article was interesting, it's not a guidepost I'd embrace.

                    FWIW, you can fine dine in your own home or be invited to a fine dining experience hosted by others. Fine dining is not exclusive to restaurant situations.

                    But I most def get the phrase: life is an occasion. On the $$$ part of the conversation I think that's a personal choice. I also know some fine dining can be a treadful disappoint at a painfully high price.

                    1. When I hear the term "Fine Dining", what comes first to my mind (rightly or wrongly) is really great food. I know that to many it also includes the service, the ambience, perhaps even the quality of the china and flatware. While I can appreciate these things to a certain extent, the food remains the main attraction.
                      I'd rather splurge on ingredients and present my version of fine dining to my family and friends in the relaxed comfort of my own home. The last time I visited my NJ relatives, rather than take them out to a Daniel sort of restaurant and spend way more than I (or they) would be comfortable with, I made a trip to Wegman's and bought a few Wagyu strip steaks along with the other fixin's and prepared a dinner that was, to say the least, very well received by all. Even at $50 a pound for the meat, I was able to feed everyone for about the same as the tab for one person at a place like Daniel and no friggin tip was required.
                      Just a couple of days ago, the FedEx guy delivered 2 beautiful 7 pound Kurobuta pork butts that I had ordered from Marx Foods. (See photos) Total cost including overnight shipping was less than $140 and they will feed my family twice (1 roasted and 1 smoked) and, at the same time, give them an idea of what pork is supposed to taste like. This my friends is fine dining, Grampart style.

                      2 Replies
                        1. One word....hilarious.

                          I didn't experience 'fine dining' until I was able to afford it.
                          The world kept spinning and I never felt like I was missing anything.
                          The writer's, in my opinion, a little too full of his fine dining self.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: latindancer

                            "I didn't experience 'fine dining' until I was able to afford it."

                            I didn't experience it until someone else was able to afford it. It tastes way better that way.

                          2. Maybe 10 years ago, my niece took her husband to the Ryland Inn in Whitehouse, NJ for his 50th birthday. He had never been there and was a bit of a "foodie" and this was in the heyday of chef/owner Craig Shelton so it was indeed a special occasion. Seven course dinners with the A-list wine selections, it was, I was told, fabulous. The tab with tips and tax was slightly north of $700. When I asked my niece if it was worth it, she said absolutely (what else could she say after blowing $700). She said it was like a mini-vacation. I can't say I agreed, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

                            1. Every weekend we practice the epicurian experience of fine dining. We don't pay nearly as much as Mr. Winterman pontificates in his article. Here's how it rolls for us:
                              I set the table with fresh, clean table linens. Get the good china, silver and set the table.
                              I plan a menu starting with an accompaniment to our aperitif, then we sit down to our entree. The main plat will follow followed by salad and cheese. Sometimes dessert.
                              Yup. I embrace fine dining on my own terms!

                              6 Replies
                                1. re: MGZ

                                  ...and it won't cost you a Ferarri:)!

                                  1. re: jarona

                                    Nope, but I could spring for the Krug?

                                2. re: jarona

                                  Ah finally someone that sees it from our point of view. We skip the linens and fine china, but we buy absolutely anything we want prepare, have an excellent meal, and wind up saving hundreds of dollars a weekend doing it.

                                3. In regards to fine dining at home; we do more what I think of as good dining.

                                  There is some economy of scale at restaurants. I would not spend two hours making an amuse for the two of us.

                                  Sometimes when I really go full throttle on a home cooked meal I don't even want to eat it when I'm done.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: kengk

                                    "Sometimes when I really go full throttle on a home cooked meal I don't even want to eat it when I'm done."

                                    Been there. That's why I wanna go to jarona's house.

                                  2. I found it particularly funny that he referenced Acme in New Orleans (or the, "Look, I'm just like you" bullshit in the beginning). I mean, I've had better oysters at a friend's house on the Eastern Shore than at Acme and they only cost me half my bag o' weed.

                                    As I said, I'm not adverse to fine dining, I've done my share. I just don't think I've read anything so contrived and pretentious in a while. I hope that Daniel gives him a raise for tryin', but it has made me more likely to go to Per Se next time I'm looking to splurge in the City.

                                    14 Replies
                                    1. re: MGZ

                                      "You can come to the lounge at Daniel and have a bespoke cocktail, perfect canapés, maybe try a few artisanal cheeses"

                                      I found the "bespoke" cocktail reference extremely contrived myself. You don't need a fine dining establishment for a "bespoke" cocktail. I've had/made plenty of "bespoke" cocktails at many parties when I was in school and a young twenty-something living in NYC many moons ago!

                                      1. re: jarona

                                        I loathe the word "bespoke".

                                        1. re: MGZ

                                          "Bespoke" is fine if you're ordering a Rolls Royce or a Yacht, not so much a cocktail.

                                          1. re: MGZ

                                            I'm with you. The word is appearing with alarming frequency in the NYT Sunday Styles section. Off putting.

                                          2. re: jarona

                                            I had to look it up and, while I suppose I've had them for the last 45+ years, I would never knowingly go in a place that advertised them as such.

                                            1. re: grampart

                                              Right????? I mean--aren't most cocktails "bespoke"...that is just so ...obnoxious!

                                              1. re: grampart

                                                That's the funny thing. Aren't all cocktails, short of, say, Skinny Girl Margaritas, bespoke?

                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                  Exactly! I'll bet Winterman is one of those people, that, if you are out to a dinner with him, he's just sooooooo annoying because he will tell you the origin of where EVERY bit of food you are serving comes from--then he will delve into a history of everything about it....then he will get the wine and start going all "oenophilia" on you....and he would ruin a perfectly great dinner. I. cannot. stand. people. like. that.

                                                  1. re: MGZ

                                                    I work for a UK company and the Brits all use the word bespoke as a normal part of their vocabulary. If I give it the same meaning that is used at work, I don't think your impression is quite right. Bespoke means specifically designed for a particular customer's needs/wants/specifications. If you are in the habit of asking for a martini with Plymouth gin with a set ratio of Noilly Prat vermouth and a particular number of olives, I guess that's bespoke. I generally don't get that particular with my cocktails. Its martini straight up. That's not bespoke. But I hate the use of the word outside of suits. But that will probably trigger a another outburst from MGZ. ;)

                                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                                      The only thing other than clothes and shoes that i would use the term bespoke in reference to are guns.

                                                      1. re: kengk

                                                        You are now, officially, the 'hound who scares me most.

                                                        1. re: kengk

                                                          Forgot that category. Custom fitted double barrel 12 gauge is a beautiful thing. I have a bigger than normal drop so a custom fit is important.

                                                        2. re: Bkeats

                                                          No outburst. I'll just make you the cocktail you ask for when we get to jarons's, ok?

                                                          For what it's worth, your Plymouth to Noilly, at 4 to 1, could "be speakin'" for me right now.

                                                2. I hope that this pretentious poppycock doesn't put anyone off the idea of dining at Daniel. My husband and I had a wonderful meal there several years ago. The restaurant is gorgeous, the service perfect, and the food wonderful. We did not encounter anyone with this jackass's attitude.