Sunday, October 16, 2005

Hold The Mayo

Forgive me if I sound like Andy Rooney here, but can someone tell me what Deconstructed Food is? Or more accurately, WHY? I am reading the Washington Post Sunday magazine where one of the great meals featured is "Deconstructed Clam Chowder."

Picture if you will: A large plate on which there sit 4 smaller plates. Each plate contains one element of clam chowder: a hard boiled egg, a fried clam thingy, some corn and potatoes, and a small cup of ingredient-less chowder.

Now tell me: how in the hell am I supposed to eat this? There is no bowl and no spoon. So I guess I'm supposed to use my fork to dip my hard boiled egg yolk into the tiny cup of plain chowder? How so very not yummy is THAT? "Gee, you know what honey, I am totally craving a chowder-dipped hard boiled egg..."

When did food get this ludicrous? Is my "Scottish" showing that I think this dish is a total joke? I know my meat-and-potatoes-salt-is-the-only-spice background predisposes me to disdain "fancy food" as my dad calls it. But seriously. Wouldn't you be so bummed if you went to a restaurant and ordered fried chicken and got a plate with a drumstick, fried batter and a splash of salt and pepper for dipping--and got charged twice as much for your troubles? Seriously: on a purely economic level, isn't the $12 Deconstructed Chowder actually LESS work for the chef? So why am I not getting it cheaper than the real thing? I am doing the work for him!

In my philistinian (philistinic?) defense have tried over the past few years to expand my palate, to try things I would normally gag at; I've done pretty well considering. But there are still three things about fine dining that I can't deal with no matter how hard I try to get over them:

1) The need to argue with a waiter who tells you that "the chef does not prepare it that way" when you ask for well-done or over easy or whatever. I'm sorry, I thought *I* was the customer! If I don't want blood in my steak, why is that non-negotiable with Le Chef? I've always thought about just taking the food the way the chef has mandated and then refusing to pay on the theory that "I do not pay for food I don't like." He's got his rules, I've got mine.

2)As mentioned above, food that is half done. I once ordered cioppino (seafood stew) at a restaurant here in DC. I was so excited to eat it; it sounded nice and warm and hearty on a cold night. Imagine my gag reflex when the bowl arrived with the crawfish and shrimp still in their shells, still with their eyes on, just hung over the edge of the bowl like candy canes at Christmas. You mean I'm supposed to crack those babies open while they're looking at me and then put the meat in the stew myself?! What? Is the kitchen short-staffed tonight? How is it that *I* am doing the plating here?! Good god. I damn near became a vegetarian again that night, looking deep into the eyes of my dinner. Bleah.

3) Two words: climate control. How is it that I can be paying you $40 per entree and you still can't figure out how to stop the cold outside coming screaming in the door and through the restaurant every time the damn door opens? I can list the restaurants where I have sat at my table with the coat on, praying that people would stop arriving so I could actually enjoy my $40 dinner. It's simple, people! How about a big thick curtain at the door? Or how about you take some of the money you used on the authentic Palauan wall sconces and imported teak table legs with diamond inlay from Russia and put in a double freakin' door?!!

After all, how am I supposed to enjoy my deconstructed chef-mandated super-rare steak dinner when I'm wearing mittens?


misterfed said...

We tried out a new Korean restaurant in the neighborhood recently. It was so cold in there that you could see your breath. No, really. They said they were working their air conditioning out. Also, they were giving the stink-eye to the kids. Maybe that was cultural, I don't know.

Joe Tornatore said...

i just read an andy Rooney book. that is something he would write about. cute.

E said...


When do you go on Oprah?! Keep us posted.