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"Sometimes Formica Beats White Tablecloths" by Mark Bittman


DonRocks
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And I may be the only one who cheered while reading it.

"Nor is there a single conversation between you and your companion(s) that is left uninterrupted for more than five minutes. All this for $200..."

Amen, brother friend.

Give me a restaurant with beckoning technology---where service staff arrived only when unmistakably summoned---and I would fine dine far more often. Probably a topic for another thread, and I'm sure some restaurants have tried this with various results, but it's something I covet nearly every time I fine dine outside my usual and trusted circle.

"...Start with the obligatory greeting. Even done well, it can feel white-tooth phony; done badly, you feel slighted..."

"...The question is, what remains? What works in a restaurant? Obviously if the food isn’t delicious, everything else will just seem annoying, and that happens quite a lot..."

I think Mark is where I am here. Striving for an upscale experience centered on culinary excellence, and if it can't be found, settling for at least authenticity in human exchange. But in a fee-for-service setting like fine dining, where one is financially incentivized to charm, good luck with that whole authenticity thing.

Fine dining is not dead. And fine dining is also not a virus, easily replicable to the environment of every inspired restauranteur who wants to make a go at it. It's more like a rare gem these days, the best shining far more brilliantly than their half-carat neighbors.

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Beautiful. I'm glad I'm not the only one.

And I may be the only one who cheered while reading it.

"Nor is there a single conversation between you and your companion(s) that is left uninterrupted for more than five minutes. All this for $200..."

Amen, brother friend.

Give me a restaurant with beckoning technology---where service staff arrived only when unmistakably summoned---and I would fine dine far more often. Probably a topic for another thread, and I'm sure some restaurants have tried this with various results, but it's something I covet nearly every time I fine dine outside my usual and trusted circle.

"...Start with the obligatory greeting. Even done well, it can feel white-tooth phony; done badly, you feel slighted..."

"...The question is, what remains? What works in a restaurant? Obviously if the food isn’t delicious, everything else will just seem annoying, and that happens quite a lot..."

I think Mark is where I am here. Striving for an upscale experience centered on culinary excellence, and if it can't be found, settling for at least authenticity in human exchange. But in a fee-for-service setting like fine dining, where one is financially incentivized to charm, good luck with that whole authenticity thing.

Fine dining is not dead. And fine dining is also not a virus, easily replicable to the environment of every inspired restauranteur who wants to make a go at it. It's more like a rare gem these days, the best shining far more brilliantly than their half-carat neighbors.

I think Mark Bittman has set up a house full of strawmen, and mowed them down a la "Dead Alive."

If this piece had any raison d'être, it's timeliness passed 5-10 years ago. As it stands, it's a hodgepodge of concepts that are related only by brute force of the author.

"Sometimes Formica Beats White Tablecloths." Well, duh. Nobody is saying every meal should be a fine-dining experience.

"It simply isn’t what I want anymore." So what? I've grown weary of operas - I find the plots stupid (they always have been), recitative bores me, and I can't sit still for four hours, but in no way do I disrespect the art just because I've changed.

"These are temples of ceremony, with (normally absent) chefs as priests; they’re circuses without clowns or trapezes." The problem of absentee chefs is a completely separate issue. Clowns or trapezes? Huh?

"Start with the obligatory greeting. Even done well, it can feel white-tooth phony ...." What on earth has changed about greeting someone in the past 20 years? If a greeting is done well, it feels phony? As opposed to the drive-thru in McDonald's where the cashier is just delighted to see you?

I just got through picking apart the title and the first three paragraphs, and this is just not worth my time to continue picking apart.

From what I'm aware of, this author has a good reputation, so I'm assuming, hoping, this article is just a misstep. It is, at the minimum, a very poor example of persuasive writing.

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Some of this kind of resonated with me, but I think I am just particularly grumpy of late. I can't decide what I want anymore. I want something good and simple, or something wow, the in between is what is getting to me of recent, especially with how expensive that in between is getting. Of course the in between is hard for me to define, without naming names which I don't think is very nice, since this is just a personal rant. I haven't been to some of the new hot spots, something I used to like to do because of this. I am waiting to find out if it is one of the two or in between, then I miss out on places when they were good, but oh well. But is that because I have been traveling and working so much recently that we have been eating out a lot? I don't know. Might be. But I feel bad because I have the luxury to do this, when so many don't. Personal rant over.

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