Posts Tagged ‘Alinea’

Like A Modern Day Willy Wonka

Dessert

It’s been a while, I know.

Which is why I thought it was high time to pass along some poorly lit food porn photos.

You see, last week I had the opportunity to dine at Alinea in Chicago.

I’m not going to let all the goodies out of the bag yet, but I had to share this photo of one of the (more visible) sweeter courses on our tasting menu.

The reddish disc in the background was called a raspberry transparency, which was a lot like a fancy stained glass fruit roll-up.  The tube in the foreground was filled with hibiscus jam, vanilla creme fraiche and bubblegum flavoured tapioca pearls and to eat it, you grabbed the tube and sucked it back in one big gulp, before it started shooting out the opposite end.

(more…)

The Lexicon Of Food Snobbery

Ah, eating.

Aside from the simple act of breathing, there isn’t really any other consumptive requirement that equalizes society more (because we all have to do it or else we die).  So, it seems only logical to me that as a species we should be more than a little preoccupied with the W5H of our food.  If essentially (we’re talking extremely drilled down here) nourishment boils down to a matter of life or death (do I have food enough to eat or will I go hungry?) why wouldn’t you want to concern yourself with it to the nth degree?  If you were to ignore the question of food for long enough, it’s possible that your own survival would be at stake as your body began to starve.  Yet for some odd reason the people who do consider these things aren’t the norm, and instead are labelled foodies; an insipid little word which inspires disdain even amongst those who would fall into such a category.  As such, foodies have become culinary outliers, a fact easily proven by watching the eyes of non-foodies glaze over whenever someone who appreciates food discusses the intricacies of their favourite edible creation in their vicinity.

There’s an inordinate number of people in the world who would consider me to be something of a food snob based primarily on the fact that I am very selective about what foods I will allow into my body.  But I’m not a snob; far from it, actually.  It’s simple, really.  If it doesn’t taste good, it’s not coming in, that’s all there is to it. Why is it that having passion for any subject has become synonymous with snobbery? I’m not as big a hater of the word foodie as most people either (obviously), but I generally try not to frame myself through definitions of character or personality.  I grew up in a house, in a place, in a family that professionally and socially cooked and placed a high value on food and kitchen table camaraderie.  Subsequently, I was nurtured and engaged in food myself, and to this day not only do I love to cook but I relish eating, too (surprisingly, I don’t love to eat nearly as much as I love to cook, though).  To me that’s normal and not something I regard as smacking with even the slightest bit of pretension.  Rather, I think of food and cooking and eating as elemental, because it unites us with our forebears via its commonality.

While I may not eat some foods because I don’t think they taste good (the vast majority of processed foods would be a perfect example) I don’t believe that being discerning is sufficient grounds for being labelled snobbish.  My brand of food fascination is a blend of a quest for authenticity over watered down fare, tempered by occasional bouts of obsessive compulsive behaviour.  Case in point; I can be just as easily satiated by a $4.50 baby cow sandwich from Commisso Bros. as I have been with the $275 a head tasting menu at Eigensinn Farm – it really just depends on the situation.  The cost of food is irrelevant when you consider the rich tableau of atmosphere, companions and occasions that formidable memories are born of.  For instance, in Chicago I desperately wanted to visit Alinea, but it was something that time just wouldn’t allow.  It would have been a meal costing several hundreds of dollars I’m sure, but the cheap and dirty food from Fat Willy’s Rib Shack that formed our last taste before getting back on a plane was just as appreciated as Alinea would have been because it too was prepared with passion.  In that respect I’d say I’m closer to a culinary egalitarian, really.  Put simply, I enjoy good food.  Whether I cook it for myself, or I pay someone else to cook it for me, taste integrity is unanimously the mitigating factor in what I choose to eat.  Though realistically, as much as I’ve come to enjoy restaurant food, 99 times out of 100 I’d much rather cook something for myself because only I understand precisely how I want that something to taste.

In fact, I personally believe that people who choose not to cook are the true snobs, because paying someone else to do something you don’t want to do reeks of superiority.  At some point during the 1950′s, cooking went from being perceived as a nurturing part of a decent home life to being painted as an intolerable chore.  Cue the montage of ads about liberating women from the drudgery of their kitchens by replacing home cooked foods with frozen dinners and ready meals to make my point for me.  Or this quote from a recent article in The Toronto Star For me in recent years, cooking has been a bit like dentistry: I hear there are people who still do it themselves but it just makes me shake my head sadly.” (I know it comes from an article about the Slap Chop, but I find such a sentiment disheartening still). I’m not going to disagree with the fact that cooking and preparing food from scratch is hard work.  You’re reading the website of a girl who cooks her own food, bakes her own bread, cures her own meat, preserves her own jams and churns her own butter, so believe me when I say I do understand.  But look instead at what’s been lost.  Society has become so far removed from the taste of real food that manufacturers can layer on salt and fat and sweet and chemicals just to make their food seem palatable because most people are unfamiliar with how delicious unadulterated food can be.

Paying someone else to prepare your food (either via restaurant or the shelves of the supermarket) is rife with undertones of servitude.  With the obvious exception of celebrity chefs, cooking is still considered one of the humblest professions out there, staffed mostly by uneducated masses.  And before you start to disagree with me, consider for a moment what other profession requires you to work 80 or more hours per week on your feet for such meagre and thankless pay?  Or think on the fact that many of the unsung heroes in a kitchen are immigrants who are just thankful to be gainfully employed, even without the benefit of sick days, vacations, etc.  Cheffing is hard, brutal work that many attempt but few prevail at, and it certainly is not an industry for the weak.  Yet, why don’t we acknowledge their legitimacy when we’re basically putting ourselves into their hands by outsourcing our food to them more and more each day?  Again, it sounds like snobbery to me.  The clincher for me is that more often than not, the people who cook mid to high end food do not make enough money to even patronize the places they work at themselves.  How’s that for irony?

At a time when The Food Network feels it needs to add a whole other channel to accommodate a demand for additional programming, it would seem that what we eat should be a more important topic than ever.  Instead, it’s been shown that more people love to watch food television than actually cook anymore, with the backlash of artisanally-minded people like me still somewhat in its infancy.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Taking food into your own hands is not an indicator of snobbery, it’s an opportunity to exert a modicum of control over what you want to eat instead of letting Big Food (or anyone, really) decide that for you.

(more…)

The Wish List…

For awhile now I’ve been formulating a list in my head.  A list of all the places I want to eat at that I’ve never been to before.  They’re not all fancy, sit-down kind of places, just places that seem to typify the kind of eating philosophies I support.  Right now, that list includes:

Colborne Lane

Treadwell Farm To Table

Gilead Cafe

Alinea

Moto Restaurant

(more…)