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Gastrotourism, travelling to eat


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#1 Jonathan Day

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Posted 23 March 2003 - 03:02 AM

Some people travel to see the world. Others on business. Others, to eat.

I love to eat, and I try to eat at interesting places wherever I travel. But something stops me from travelling solely in search of food.

Part of this is a sense that food has to be appreciated and interpreted within a context. The great Japanese food I have had in Kyoto would not provide the same experience if served in London, even if the identical molecules of food and place setting could have been transported there. I need some sense of the landscape, the buildings, the people. And I'm not particularly interested in going through ugly environments even if wonderful food is to be found inside them. Part of the joy of travelling to France and Italy is about enjoying great food in beautiful settings, in places that you would go to even if the food were not as good.

Another thing holding me back is a general dislike of travelling to places where there is personal danger or likelihood of catching a nasty illness. I like places where you can drink the water. And hence I go to Hong Kong more often than the Chinese mainland (though I have visited the latter).

Finally, living in a major metropolis means that most foods are readily available, often at high levels of quality. Purely gastronomic travel is often unnecessary. Of course there is only one Arpège, only one el Bulli. But even a forthcoming trip to el Bulli would probably not have been arranged if good friends had not been going there as well. I don't like travelling alone just to eat.

I guess this makes me less than a truly devoted gastrotourist.

But what about you? Do you travel long distances solely for the purpose of eating?

Will you travel alone to find wonderful food?

Will you travel through a dangerous or otherwise unpleasant environment, if great food is to be found there?
Jonathan Day
"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

#2 wingding

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Posted 23 March 2003 - 03:26 AM

I've enjoyed traveling to search for a certain foodstuff-while on a trip ,traveling to a small town to find a rare local product.Colatura[fish sauce] in Cetara,sburlon[quince liquor]in Modena,kodampoli[fish tamarind]in Kerala.The search,and other things and people encountered in the search is more than half of the fun.My most vivid food and travel memories are of street markets,in New Dehli,Oaxaca,Paris,Kingston,Palermo...with hopefully many more to come.The fancy gastrotourist thing is way beyond my means,so I don't have to agonize about whether I'm gonna do that or not.

Edited by wingding, 23 March 2003 - 04:20 AM.


#3 Wilfrid

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Posted 24 March 2003 - 09:24 AM

I think it depends how one frames the question. If travelling just for food means that one doesn't intend to do anything on the trip other than eat, then I (just about) never travel for food. On the other hand, if food plays a key role in deciding where to go, then perhaps I do. Would I go to France if it didn't have the cuisine? Yes, for a number of reasons, but certainly not as frequently. Ditto New Orleans, for example. But food is always one of the things I take into account when deciding where to travel (for leisure, of course; one has eaten very well on business trips, but that's just good fortune).

I think there are some pure gastrotourists out there, who languish in their hotel room between meals, poring over menus and restaurant guides. They are missing a great deal.

#4 anil

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Posted 29 March 2003 - 06:24 AM

Actually two things are necessary for us to travel - Food and culture; or Food and weather :)
Taking those criteria - HKG,IST,CDG,EZE,SIN among cities in the past two years.

Food and Floriade triggered last year's AMS visit. HongKong has historically been one the cutting of food. As a major gateway, the British saw the city flourish gastronomically. SIngapore another city-state was the confluence of ethnic chinese,indian,malay and few others to give it another unique position - Then there is Istanbul :biggrin:
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#5 Pan

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Posted 29 March 2003 - 07:20 PM

EZE? Jeez, do I have to look that up on an airport code reference site? :rolleyes:

#6 ballast_regime

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Posted 29 March 2003 - 09:14 PM

food in general and restaurants specifically dictate where i travel. i realize the world has too much space and great food on its side, and i have limited time and resources on mine; therefore, i allot most of my travel for food, which is probably one of my life's greatest passions. there is no place i wouldn't go and no price i wouldn't pay (assuming i could afford it) for a great experience.

i love sharing experiences with a lot of my friends, who, like me, are in their twenties; unfortunately, they also have limited means, so i often dine alone. when i can, i will save up money and take them, even if that means i cannot eat out at as many places as i would've liked to. i have been to many small towns and major cities within the US, and have travelled throughout mexico extensively. i am planning on making my first voyage to paris later this spring--maybe alone--so i can dine at gagnaire and other michelin-starred restaurants.

it's funny, because when i hear a place mentioned. . . a restaurant or food automatically pops in my head. if someone is making a trip somewhere, i will go just to eat.

currently, my girlfriend and i are caballing, trying to figure out our next big destination. for her, it's about culture and art; for me, food. one mutually desirable place is asia. it has been beckoning lately, and i would like to go (she wants to brush up on her mandarin, and i want to consume gobs of street food). i pull out extra student loans (my school is already paid for completely) so i can travel and eat on that money, which means i have an opportunity most people my age don't.

i eat alone (often), and also watch movies by myself. travelling by myself is a cheap option, and i don't mind. other than living expenses, 70% of my year's income goes to food and "gastrotourism." maybe more.

iml
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#7 Fat Guy

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Posted 30 March 2003 - 02:02 AM

i pull out extra student loans (my school is already paid for completely) so i can travel and eat on that money

I am ashamed that this strategy never occurred to me. I never innovated beyond registering for multiple no-credit-necessary student-offer credit cards in order to visit Europe and the Middle East, and to support a ridiculously expensive (by student standards) dining habit. I too, however, often found myself paying for others on account of the priority I assigned to dining, though I usually only paid for one other (female) person at a time.

The overwhelming majority of my travel, for both business and pleasure, for the past six or so years has been gastronomically driven. I can't recall ever visiting a museum in Paris. Seriously. I figure I live 9 blocks from the Met, I have a membership, I can see all the art I need to see there -- when I have time to devote to art. In Paris, I just eat. If there are hours in the day that aren't consumed by eating, I walk.

Sometimes, because I'm married to a travel writer, I tag along on trips that aren't gastronomically oriented. When that happens, I really don't know what to do with myself. So I usually figure out a way to turn it into a gastronomic trip anyway. Even in places where the food isn't particularly good, I find myself ferreting out the one good local speciality and then going in search of every example of it.

I was on a press trip in Quebec once -- and this was a food-oriented press trip -- where the other alleged food writers in the group felt I was being too intense in my search for the best poutine. I wound up alone in the suburbs with Pierre (the designated guide from the tourism office) eating poutine while the others went swimming in the hotel pool or whatever. I hope he got overtime.

The only non-sexual things that can compete against food for my attention are theater and opera. When I go to London, I often choose theater and opera over dining. That may also be indicative of the relative strength of theater and opera (and also ballet) versus food in London!

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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#8 =Mark

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Posted 30 March 2003 - 07:42 AM

I've attended close to 10 eGullet events (Drove an hour and a half for Rutts Hotdogs). Travelled to Mass. and Virginia for BBQ and Chilehead events. Flew to New Mexico for the Fiery Foods Festival. Maybe pedestrian and domestic, not overly dangerous, but I'll travel for food...
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Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.
Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

#9 davidscooking

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Posted 31 March 2003 - 09:10 AM

My favorite culinary tours have been in Jamaica, along the south coast between Negril and Alligator Pond. Lots of places right on the water, with the very fishing boats that brought in your meal beached a few yards away. Two elements of national dishes, ackee in ackee-and-saltfish, and pimento (allspice) wood for jerking chicken, an generally unavailable outside Jamaica. I cook Jamaican, but there's no match for the real thing....

#10 cdh

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Posted 31 March 2003 - 09:36 AM

While spending a few months in London, I went out of my way to fly off to Piedmont to experience the truffle festival in Alba... don't know if I'd have done that while living in the US, but the cost and convenience of intra-european hops made the Alba jaunt irresistable.

In choosing venues for my last serious vacation, Thai and Malaysian gastronomy certainly influenced my choices (but the seriously cheap airfare from Malaysia Air was a greater factor in the decison... that and the scuba diving)...

In a more local sense, I made a 1.5 hour drive up into otherwise uninteresting Northeastern Pennsylvania on the rumor that a texan had set up a BBQ joint up there that was out of this world. (It was, but sadly didn't survive as a business.)

While passing through Northern California, I happened to be there when the Gilroy Garlic Festival was going on, and had to see that... though I'd not known it was going on during the time of my visit, so it wasn't planned...

I don't know that I would go more than a daytrip out of my way for a one-food-only destination... particularly one with little else to recommmend it... But find me a hidden shangri-la of epicurian delights, and I'm there for a good while... hold on, New York already is that... and not so hidden... no wonder most of my weekends are spent there.
Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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#11 lizziee

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Posted 31 March 2003 - 03:57 PM

I definitely engage in gastrotourism. In fact, most of our trips are planned around what restaurant I want to try or go back to again.

Two years in a row, we planned a trip around one goal -- eating at El Bulli.

In fact, each year I pick a different region, most notably in France, based on the cuisine I want to explore. This year, thanks to eGullet members' suggestions, I have planned a trip with the purpose of "discovering" San Sebastian.

It is hard for me to plan a trip with another goal in mind. That is not to say that I spend the time holed up in a hotel room pouring over menus and guide books. Most of the reading and pouring is done in advance at home. This actually makes the trip more exciting as this advance work allows months and weeks of pre-savory experiences. It is as if I have taken the trip many times in my mind before I step off the plane.

In between, 2 to 3 hour lunches and 3 to 4 hour dinners, there is always time to explore the markets and specialty shops. I try for culture and art, but there never seems to be enough time! Although, we did get to the Dali museum in Figueras (worth it) and have planned to go the Guggenheim in Bilbao this year. And who said I don't do culture?

#12 awbrig

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Posted 31 March 2003 - 10:35 PM

(Drove an hour and a half for Rutts Hotdogs).


Was it worth it?

#13 gsquared

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Posted 02 April 2003 - 12:40 AM

I figure I live 9 blocks from the Met, I have a membership, I can see all the art I need to see there -- when I have time to devote to art

Art is art is art? Surely not!
Does the following make sense, Fat Guy? :-
I can't recall ever visiting a restaurant in Paris. Seriously. I figure I live 9 blocks from the local MacDonalds, I can eat all the food I need there -- when I have time to devote to food. In Paris, I just visit art galleries.
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#14 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 April 2003 - 06:19 AM

Art is a heck of a lot more portable than food, though. The two million works on display in the Met are from all over the world -- a painting or a sculpture doesn't become something different when it gets moved, unless it was removed from a larger whole -- and many of the collections are quite comprehensive. A lot of the rest of the best art in the world comes through on traveling exhibits. They even brought the Temple of friggin' Dendur to the Met and built a whole building around it. With a few exceptions -- like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and other installed works that really can't be moved -- I don't feel the need to travel to see art, especially not when I live on Museum Mile in New York City. But ultimately, although I don't consider myself art-impoverished (I'm sure I have access to more and better art within 1,000 yards of my house than 99.99% of the people in the world), I also don't consider myself to be particularly serious about art. I am, however, serious about food. And I don't think it's possible for a serious food person to get by without visiting France from time to time. So, for me, time in France is better spent eating than looking at paintings.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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#15 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 02 April 2003 - 07:02 AM

I also don't consider myself to be particularly serious about art.

FG, although your point of view is depressing, I note that at least you like music. I don't think it's a matter of being "serious"; rather of being motivated.

Btw, it is possible to eat and look at art in the same visit to Paris, with time left over for walking, but you know that.
Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

#16 Jonathan Day

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Posted 02 April 2003 - 09:29 AM

One thing that limits my "pure" gastrotourism is a general inability to eat and drink heavily for several meals or days in succession. I simply can't handle a really serious (2/3-star) meal in each of 3 successive days, without losing appetite and a sense of well being. And for me, that sense of equilibration and well being is such an important part of enjoying fine dining that I am usually reluctant to fit too many meals into a given trip. This is less true in Japan, where the food is often lighter (less fatty) than it is in France.

That means that my gastrotourism is either a quick strike (as with tomorrow's trip to el Bulli) or a more extended period, allowing for pauses between heavy meals and alteration of lighter meals / salads with more serious eating.
Jonathan Day
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#17 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 April 2003 - 10:10 AM

FG, although your point of view is depressing, I note that at least you like music. I don't think it's a matter of being "serious"; rather of being motivated.

Btw, it is possible to eat and look at art in the same visit to Paris, with time left over for walking, but you know that.

But motivation flows from what motivates us, and from what needs and desires we have. Were I going to Paris from Peoria, all other things being equal, I'd be plenty motivated to divide my time between art and eating. But since I practically live at the Met, I allocate my time differently because the unique value of Paris to me involves food not art. Some people go to Paris exclusively to shop for clothes and handbags and whatnot. I don't find that depressing. It's just not my preference. In the end, it's not possible to do everything, so we make choices. Moreover, eating is not the only food-related activity available in Paris. When I'm not eating I'm at markets, in gourmet shops, etc.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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#18 Wilfrid

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Posted 02 April 2003 - 12:36 PM

And one might add that art is not the only thing Paris offers apart from food; but we'll all do what interests us.

I was struck by Jonathan's comment about capacity. I agree with that; my ability consume multiple meals decreases steadily as I get older (young Steven is barely out of diapers, of course). But even if I physically could eat a 2/3 star meal every day for three days, I wouldn't. Doing so, or building a trip around one spectacular restaurant, seems to me to be only a part of gastrotourism. However, the majority of travel destinations, sad to say, do not offer upscale restaurant experiences far beyond the level of what one might enjoy at home (if home is New York or London, anyway). An important part of gastrotourism, for me, is figuring out what people eat and enjoy outside of upscale restaurants. Markets and food shops, as Steven says, but not necessarily "gourmet" shops. Local supermarkets and grocers, street food, domestic food (if one gets the chance), simple restaurants; all of this helps to build up a picture of the local cuisine.

Looking at the countryside (if any) helps to, as does a knowledge of the country's history and culture. Which can often be found in museums and galleries, as well as - above all - in the streets.

#19 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 02 April 2003 - 01:30 PM

FG, although your point of view is depressing, I note that at least you like music. I don't think it's a matter of being "serious"; rather of being motivated.

Btw, it is possible to eat and look at art in the same visit to Paris, with time left over for walking, but you know that.

But motivation flows from what motivates us, and from what needs and desires we have. Were I going to Paris from Peoria, all other things being equal, I'd be plenty motivated to divide my time between art and eating. But since I practically live at the Met, I allocate my time differently because the unique value of Paris to me involves food not art. Some people go to Paris exclusively to shop for clothes and handbags and whatnot. I don't find that depressing. It's just not my preference. In the end, it's not possible to do everything, so we make choices. Moreover, eating is not the only food-related activity available in Paris. When I'm not eating I'm at markets, in gourmet shops, etc.

I understand. I'm still depressed.

Just out of curiosity, how often do you go to the Met?

In response to the subject of the thread, Mazal and I have never planned a trip with eating as the motivation, but we have never been anything less than energetic in seeking out what there is good to eat wherever we go.
Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

#20 marcus

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Posted 02 April 2003 - 02:58 PM

As much as I love food, I love the Louvre more. Fortunately, no choice is required as one can have them both. I don't see how visiting the Met obviates one's desire to visit other museums any more than having fine restaurants in NYC make it unnecessary to visit restaurants anywhere else. I can only conclude that this attitude underlies a fundamental lack of interest in art, which is depressing. I would like to believe that aesthitic interests, among which I include food, are more broadly based in individuals with such inclinations.

#21 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 April 2003 - 03:13 PM

Just out of curiosity, how often do you go to the Met?

Do visits to the gift shop count?

In response to the subject of the thread, Mazal and I have never planned a trip with eating as the motivation, but we have never been anything less than energetic in seeking out what there is good to eat wherever we go.


What would be some examples of non-eating motivations for your trips? I know that sounds like the complete opposite of the topic, but I'm interested in getting a picture of what does motivate people to go places. It seems to me that if we listed the top dozen or so reasons people go places -- and no doubt that list would include things like "great factory-outlet shopping!" -- cuisine might not come out so badly. In addition, I find cuisine to be an excellent tool of communication and cultural exchange.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
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#22 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 02 April 2003 - 05:18 PM

What would be some examples of non-eating motivations for your trips? I know that sounds like the complete opposite of the topic, but I'm interested in getting a picture of what does motivate people to go places. It seems to me that if we listed the top dozen or so reasons people go places -- and no doubt that list would include things like "great factory-outlet shopping!" -- cuisine might not come out so badly. In addition, I find cuisine to be an excellent tool of communication and cultural exchange.

Non-eating motivations:

-To see natural beauty. Anyone touring the wonders, particularly the parks, of America should leave the hope for eating well at home.

-To relax. Until recently, and still in some places, good eating and many resort destinations did not go together. On a trip to Bermuda some years ago, we discussed the feasibility of eating only breakfast and chicken until we could get the hell out of there.

-To see art, architecture and other cultural attractions. Fortunately, this often involves cities where good food can be had.

-For business, in which case, one does business and tries to keep one's mouth shut about food.

-To visit family and friends, who often want to take us to "the best place in town", or to cook at home. Neither is promising.

That said, eating and hopefully eating well is always on our minds when we travel anywhere for any other primary reason, and we always make an effort, occasionally with success, to sniff out a good meal. Once, somewhere along the coast in Connecticut, returning from a wedding, we hunted down a lobster shack that was unfortunately closed. Turning back up the road, I reverted to one of my most relaible methods for finding a good local meal. I stopped in front of a house where a woman was getting out of her own car. She looked over at us and, apparently deciding that it was safe, came around the driver's side and asked if she could be of help. "I want lobster", I said. "Follow me", said the lady, and she got back into her car and led us to a local favorite where the lobsters were sweet as could be. I have done this many times in many parts of the world, with a very high success rate. For this and many other reasons, I agree with you that food and eating are a fine vehicle for communicating with the people in a strange place. Most always, food and eating bring us together.
Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

#23 pixelchef

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Posted 03 April 2003 - 10:16 AM

I do travel specifically for food reasons, but I also travel specifically for other reasons as well.

Like Robert, seeing natural beauty (landscape, people of different culture, etc.) is up there. As is creating a memorable experience with someone I love (for me, food doesn't have to be a highlight for this to occur). Finally, art. Art is probably my biggest passion in life. Food is close, but art rules my world, I'd have to say.

A trip to NYC for example could satisfy all of these desires. Awesome food, awesome theatre, great art, and the potential for many memorable experiences. Lots of other destinations achieve this for me as well (Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand, etc.)

I loved reading this tread.

#24 Ripley

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Posted 04 April 2003 - 06:05 AM

While I am a major foodie, I cannot imagine traveling to distant places just for the food. I love to eat and love trying new foods and would certainly do that while I am visiting a different country but to go there just to eat blows me away. That is truly single minded devotion and I just don't have that kind of focus nor do I have that kind of money!

#25 Jonathan Day

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Posted 05 April 2003 - 09:55 AM

For me there are a very small number of "vaut le voyage" (worth the trip) restaurants. Fortunately they tend to be in places where there are other natural or artistic attractions. Paris, California, the Costa Brava are all interesting and pleasant places to go. I wouldn't go somewhere unpleasant, even to find a superb restaurant.

Robert Schonfeld mentioned business travel. Yes, you have to keep silent about food (sadly, I sometimes end up breaking this rule, and too many colleagues and clients know of my food interests). But it is sometimes possible to break away from an organised dinner and go somewhere more interesting. The recent trip to Ledoyen was an example: a colleague and I needed a private discussion, and we left a much larger group dining at a far less interesting restaurant.

I love art, and rarely travel on leisure without visiting museums or galleries. But I will freely admit that I now know more about gastronomy than I do about art (this was not always the case), and my current reading tends to increase that gap.

As mentioned at the start of the thread, I have less energy for gastrotourism on my own. It is far more fun with my wife, or even better in groups of 4 to 8.

Edited by Jonathan Day, 05 April 2003 - 09:55 AM.

Jonathan Day
"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

#26 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 05 April 2003 - 10:10 AM

It is far more fun with my wife, or even better in groups of 4 to 8.

Interesting, Jonathan. While Mazal and I always enjoy the company of others who share our interest in eating well, we very much prefer to eat alone together. I wonder about others.
Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

#27 Jonathan Day

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Posted 05 April 2003 - 12:59 PM

Robert, Melissa and I often dine alone, and we frequently go out to eat on our own when we travel with the children. But the dynamic is different: we do talk about the food and enjoy it, but gastronomy isn't the only focus. With more people, the tempo of the conversation is faster, there are more riffs and cross-comparisons of items, and there are often more dishes on the table.

OK, this raises another question: suppose you are dining with friends, and the primary object of the meal is gastronomic rather than just having a good time or catching up on news. Perhaps you have travelled to Paris together and snared that elusive table at Astrance.

Now:- Do you get nervous if some diners are more food-obsessed than others? What if some are eGullet members and some are not? Do you explicitly try to balance the makeup of the group between foodies and normal people?

- Do you relax and let everyone order whatever they want, or do you insist that everyone chooses something different? Or does one member of the table try to direct others' choices?

- Do you insist on tasting others' dishes? Do you try to get others to taste your dishes even if they don't want to?

- What happens when diner A says "This is really good" and B tastes the same thing and criticises it?

-
Jonathan Day
"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

#28 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 05 April 2003 - 02:29 PM

If we're out with other people whose taste we respect, and with whom we share an interest in food, then my goal is to try to learn from them. What are their impressions? What do they like, what don't they like? Why? We also prefer to have different dishes, with tastes from the plates of others. Increasingly, I prefer this to a tasting menu, even if two different menus are served at once, because the portions are so small as to obviate the possibility of getting a good taste. If I see something that looks good on someone else's plate, I'll ask for a taste, and will willingly give one in return, except for ice cream. I don't share ice cream. Once at Harry's Bar in Venice, I got a waiter to give me a taste from a risotto he was serving to the next table.

If our companions are friends but not food nuts, then the critical aspects of the meal are relegated to near nothing. It is often freeing to have this kind of meal, which ties in with another recent conversation on being a critical diner all the time, and being disappointed as a result, or something like that.
Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

#29 jprather

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Posted 13 May 2003 - 02:10 PM

Then there is Istanbul  :biggrin:

Could you tell us more -- lots more -- about eating in Istambul?

#30 Jonathan Day

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Posted 14 May 2003 - 06:09 AM

The Search Engine will take you to many threads on dining in Istanbul (including some about dining in restaurants with the name "Istanbul" that are actually located in New Jersey).

Some interesting ideas are here.

I share your hope that Anil will contribute more on Istanbul dining, but the place for them is probably the "Elsewhere in Europe" forum.
Jonathan Day
"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."