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Here's $1000 from Aunt Tilly.


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#1 robert brown

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 02:26 PM

During a recent conversation I had with the well-traveled gastronome Vedat Milor (vmilor), we were talking about the high cost of eating in Paris at Restaurant Arpège, the three-star establishment of chef Alain Passard.

Figuring that it would cost a couple about $1000 (£600) to dine there, I asked Vedat if he would rather spend such a sum on a meal at Arpège or on a truly great bottle of wine. We both agreed that we would find it more interesting to spend the money to experience the art of the chef than that of the winemaker.

However, some of you may feel differently about it; so let's say that a family member gives you $1000, with a choice of spending it on a great meal (no special occasion involved) or on a great wine now ready to drink. Choose the meal, and you could dine at, say, a French three-star or at one of America's great restaurant's such as the French Laundry, Charlie Trotter's or Daniel, or a London gastronomic palace such as Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road, Le Gavroche or Sketch. Or would you spend your gift on a Château Petrus or Lafite-Rothschild from a great vintage; a Montrachet from Comte Lafon, Domaine Ramonet or the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti; or a Romanée-Conti itself; or a Richebourg or Musigny from Madame Bize-Leroy?

Would you prefer to spend your gift on a fancy, possibly no-holds-barred dinner or would you prepare a meal well suited to a great wine and drink it at home?

#2 beans

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 02:33 PM

Chef all the way. The experience is with you forever in so many dimensions.

Perhaps I haven't had a $1000 bottle yet... :hmmm:

#3 mcdowell

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 02:40 PM

Gleneagle in Scotland where, after some basic training, you can take out a Harris Hawk and kill rabbit. The chef will take the rabbits and cook them to order for you, working an exceptional magic. From kill to table in a few short hours.

Add wine, after dinner drinks, and a room for the night, and the thousand is gone.

I would trade a lot of wine to relive such experience.

#4 awbrig

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 03:09 PM

Definately the dining.

#5 robert brown

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 03:19 PM

Awbrig, care to elaborate why?

#6 Steve Martin

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 03:41 PM

So far my most expensive wine has been a fifth as expensive as my top meal. This ratio is unlikely to change.
I suggest that our past record is a good indication of what we would do with the grand.

1000 should allow for a very fine with the meal anyway, although I prefer lesser, more anodyne, wine with the finest cooking.
The sour faced sommelier at Bras informed me that 'good food needs good wine'.
I don't agree. Good wine needs good food, but all good food needs is good company.

Thanks for the money, by the way. I will opt for no publicity.

#7 vmilor

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 03:42 PM

Now that I think of it for $1000 I prefer to dine out with good wine. But if I am given the choice of any dinner I want or any bottle of wine I want I would choose the latter. I always felt envious when some aficianados speak about pre-phyloxera wines. Once in an Int'l Food and Wine society dinner(at San Francisco when the late Dr. Haskell was at the helm) I had an unforgettable sip of 1870 Lafite but I can not pretend to say that I drank a bottle. Now I would like to have all of this bottle to myself--although Mrs. M. can get a sip if she treats me well that day :smile: But unfortunately $1000 is too meager a sum for this.

#8 Bill Klapp

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 04:51 PM

Without disagreeing with the posts above, and being a serious wine buff myself, my thought is that there are risks inherent in both choices. The disappointment of a corked $1,000 bottle of wine would be considerable, and likewise a meal of that order of magnitude that did not meet expectations. On that basis, the meal seems the better option, on the theory that I cannot recall ever having had a supremely expensive dinner that missed on all cylinders (although I have had many that, while good or better, simply could not measure up to the hype). On the other hand, two $500 bottles of wine or four $250 bottles (lowering the corked-bottle risk a little!) with a fine dinner at home has strong appeal...
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#9 pirate

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 05:51 PM

Here's a dinner for which I would pay $1000 ( for 4 people $4000)
Sashimi with 1996 Krug
Sole Sully (see Wechsburg "Blue Trout and Black Truffles) 1997 Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet
Grilled Matsuzaka strip steaks with Cepes 1964 Musigny Comte de Vogue' (magnum)
Brie de Meaux Fermier
Raspberries with creme pistache
Cafe filtre'

#10 robert brown

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 07:20 PM

Pirate, I think it's called splitting the proposition down the middle. It sound delicious, though. But if you had the dinner at home, you would be coming down on the side of the wine store.

#11 Fat Guy

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 08:24 PM

Two issues that need to be addressed are diminishing returns and ability to appreciate.

Diminishing returns: with wine, in my experience, diminishing returns set in severely at approximately the $150-bottle level. Though it's hard to quantify these things, it certainly cannot be said that on average a $300 bottle is twice as good as a $150 bottle, or that a $600 bottle is twice as good as that, etc. In fact I bet if we were able to reduce it to numbers the $1000 bottle of wine would be something like 50% better than the $150 bottle.

Ability to appreciate: even the above assumes the person drinking the wine can discern the salient differences between the $150 bottle and the $1000 bottle in such a way as to appreciate those differences enough to make the uptick in price worthwhile. The ability to appreciate is tied in closely to experience. For most people, your first taste of a $1000-per-bottle wine will be wasted. These things don't show well out of context. If you're going to get into drinking $1000 bottles of wine, you should be in a position to drink enough of them to develop a rich appreciation of that level of product. This, in addition to being stupidly rich, is how one combats the diminishing returns issue.

When it comes to food, I think the diminishing returns falloff is not nearly as steep. The meal you get for $1000 will potentially be in its own league. Moreover, the top levels of dining can be appreciated -- if not fully then at least to a healthy extent -- by anybody who has a basic background in fine dining.

So for the average person I think the choice is pretty clear: the meal. Only a wine connoisseur of means (or someone who just doesn't like food) would be economically wise to choose the wine.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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#12 Bux

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 08:54 PM

The consensus seems to be with the meal. (By the way, it appears to have been suggested that it's a meal for two, or one bottle shared or not.) I think Fat Guy has stated the reasons well. Pirate is simply trying to have his meal and the wine. :biggrin: Bill Klapp raises an issue beyond that of wanting four $250 bottles. I might want five $200 bottles myself, but I wouldn't trade a $1000 meal for two $500 meals and there's the clinching argument -- that meal is going to have greater significance to me than the sole bottle of wine which will be an experience too far removed from all my other wine drinking experiences.
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#13 Fat Guy

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 09:04 PM

It's also worth noting that, while we have a healthy Wine forum, we are overwhelmingly a food site. I wonder what kinds of answers we'd get if we asked this question on a dedicated wine board. I've found that there's a bigger gap between the food people and the wine people than is often assumed. Some people are both, but most are in one camp or the other (i.e., they view wine as subordinate to food or vice-versa).

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#14 robert brown

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 09:32 PM

FG, we didn't want this to turn into a poll, but a forum in which people could write why they value one choice over the other, or at what point one becomes more appealing than the other, even though we defined the question in terms of where you can spend $1000. for two for dinner. Although I expressed a preference for consuming a meal prepared by a great chef over a bottle of one of the world's great wines, some of my most treasured evenings have been at dinner parties at which the host uncorks very serious wine.

#15 pixelchef

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 09:51 PM

Personally, I'd choose the meal. Though I love wine, I do love food infinitely more. I'm not as knowledgeable when it comes to wine (yet), so I don't feel that I'm able to appreciate it as much as a wonderful meal. When it comes to food, I basically know what I want, what I love, and what I don't like. When it comes to wine, I'm still learning. I'm still trying to figure out what I truly love in a wine, or what I SHOULD love in a wine (from what I've read). I'm not at the point where I can appreciate a great wine as much as I could a great meal. That may change in the future, but for now, I want to eat.

#16 KatieLoeb

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 10:02 PM

Do I have to blow the whole wad on ONE bottle??? How about I go to my favorite wine store, spend the thousand on several mixed cases of wine, and enjoy preparing meals to go with those selections for some time to come. Sounds like a plan to me...and a lot likelier what I would do if the constraint was only that Auut Tilly wants me to spend it on fine food and wine.

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#17 KNorthrup

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 10:50 PM

I would select the dinner over the wine for two reasons. First, I don't have a very well-developed palate (ie, appreciation) for wine and I would just feel such a bottle was wasted on me no matter how much I enjoyed it. So that guilt would detract from the pleasure. Second, and more importantly, I consistently prefer variety, and a meal would be a wide range of flavours and new experiences rather than just the one.

#18 Jonathan Day

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 02:57 AM

A few thoughts on this interesting thread. (I had a great-aunt Tilly, by the way, and my daughter insisted on naming her hamster Tilly, even though I don't think I ever mentioned the aunt to her).

Steven's "diminishing returns" idea makes a lot of sense to me. Economists speak of "hedonic price functions" that describe consumers' willingness to pay for specific characteristics of a product. For example, a bottle of wine might be characterised by the rating of its winery (r1) , a rating of the vintage year (r2), and perhaps some ratings of the region (r3) and varietal (r4), plus a Robert Parker rating (r5). Then, says the theory, a consumer will pay a price P that is a function of these characteristics:

P = f(r1, r2, r3, r4, r5)

and we can use statistical methods with names like "hedonic regression" to estimate the price impact of a change in r1, r2, r3, r4, r5...for example, a one point uptick in the Parker rating is worth $...

Orley Aschenfelter, a Princeton economist, has done a lot of work specifically on wine ratings, and Robert and I hope to involve him in an eGullet roundtable at some point.

On the personal side, I have to say that my preferences are very situational. Other things equal, I would choose the meal, simply because it offers more dimensions of pleasure than a bottle of wine (service, ambience, multiple courses, etc.). But if I had an evening to discuss the state of the world with a good friend, especially one who loved good wine, I think I would choose the wine over the dinner.
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#19 pirate

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 04:42 AM

Robert Brown: I don't believe the menu can be done at home because of Sole Sully and the freshness of sashimi. I should have prefaced by stating that under no circumstances would I let a restaurant choose the menu. I've never had a "tasting menu" that I fully enjoyed; they are usually excessive , erratic or both. It is with this premise that I picked the menu.

#20 Fat Guy

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 05:36 AM

But you could buy a $150-$200 bottle of wine with your own money and have the $1000 meal another night. Here, let's say you want a 1982 Bordeaux -- that's surely going to be at the top of the heap in terms of wines-of-a-lifetime. You can walk into Morrell in Rockefeller Center today and walk out with any of these wines:

1982 GLORIA St. Julien RP:88 $95.00
1982 CALON SEGUR St. Estephe RP:92 $145.00
1982 Beychevelle St. Julien RP:91 $145.00
1982 La Lagune Haut-Medoc RP:92 $165.00
1982 LEOVILLE POYFERRÉ St. Julien RP:93+ $195.00
1982 FIGEAC St. Emilion RP:93 $245.00
1982 GRUAUD LAROSE St. Julien RP:96 $245.00
1982 TROTANOY Pomerol RP:97 $595.00
1982 LAFITE ROTHSCHILD Pauillac RP:100 $795.00
1982 MARGAUX Pauillac RP:98 $795.00
1982 CHEVAL BLANC St. Emilion RP:100 $845.00

RP indicates the Robert Parker scores. For me, 1982 Figeac is just fine. I don't need to spend $600 more to upgrade to Cheval Blanc.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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#21 Jonathan Day

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 06:02 AM

In FG's small data set, each additional RP point is worth on average about $62, but there is a large non-linearity between 96 and 97 points. The attached plots dollars (vertical) against points (horizontal).

Attached Files

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#22 Ruth

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 06:19 AM

It's also worth noting that, while we have a healthy Wine forum, we are overwhelmingly a food site. I wonder what kinds of answers we'd get if we asked this question on a dedicated wine board. I've found that there's a bigger gap between the food people and the wine people than is often assumed. Some people are both, but most are in one camp or the other (i.e., they view wine as subordinate to food or vice-versa).

I don't think the replies would be very different if the question were posed on a dedicated wine board. Food and wine are inseparable. Every wine lover can remember occasions when a moderately priced bottle gave greater pleasure than a super expensive cult wine. I once took part in a blind tasting of highly rated Australian shiraz wines. Several of the under $100 wines had more body and fruit and were therefore more enjoyable than the Grange. A great wine does not have to cost $1000. Restaurants are a different matter. The experience of eating at one of the world's restaurants is incomparable and unforgettable (even when it is disappointing) although it is sometimes sad to have to order a so-so wine because the wine one would really like to drink would triple the cost of the meal.
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#23 Exotic Mushroom

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Posted 02 September 2003 - 01:52 AM

As a passionate lover of both food and fine wine, I'm going to go the other way and say I'd take the wine. I think this has at least something to do with the fact that the money would be unexpected. While I make an effort in my everyday life to save up and indulge in fine restaurants as often as I can, I do not make room in my budget for truly spectacular wine. Therefore, for me, the wine would be an otherwise out of reach experience, whereas the dinner out would just add another point in my series of fine meals. I'd rather go for the option that is more out of reach in my normal life.

I was lucky to grow up with wine lovers/collectors as parents, and had the opportunity to taste many of the world's finest offerings. I still do so when I visit them, but simply can't afford expensive wine myself. I do think that using the $1000 on wine would be wasteful for someone without a strong wine background and exceptionally well developed palate. It takes a lot of training to really be able to appreciate the differences between this super premium class and other excellent wines enough to make the increased cost worthwhile.

I would use the money on a truly spectacular bottle, and bring it back home to drink with my parents, accompanied by a truly fabulous dinner cooked by yours truly. The meals I've shared with them while drinking amazing wine remain some of my most treasured memories, certainly more so than any meal I've eaten at a restaurant.

I do think that, were you to pose the question on a wine board, the answers would probably be stacked more on the wine side than the dinner out.

#24 dctus

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Posted 03 September 2003 - 06:43 PM

I definitely respect your proposition; I tend to favor the food because it is a more interactive experience than a bottle.

But, I think the crucial question is "With whom would you share this $1000 dinner or $1000 wine?" Focusing only on the meal or wine is missing the point - my fondest memories of food and wine have been the company that made the food and wine memorable. Food AND wine are meant to be shared.

So, YES! Go for that meal or that wine. But tell us who you'd share it with!

#25 badthings

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Posted 04 September 2003 - 12:19 PM

Do I have to blow the whole wad on ONE bottle???  How about I go to my favorite wine store, spend the thousand on several mixed cases of wine, and enjoy preparing meals to go with those selections for some time to come.

Word.
Except I might blow it on one case of good wine, comprised of nice but un-astronomical Hermitages and Montrachets that I could not normally afford, but nothing Petrusian.

Alternatively, I would go out to eat somewhere with a good wine list.

Though I couldn't graph it, food has a similar curve of diminishing returns for me. I am more interested in quality than artistry, which I guess makes me petit bourgeousie.

#26 chefjack

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Posted 27 September 2003 - 09:44 AM

I agree with Ruth:
I think to pay $1000 for a wine that may be spoiled or just as good as a $100 - $200 bottle. I would take the $1000 and spend it on a meal, for I cook for a living so to go out and eat and let someone else cook is ideal!
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#27 JulieB

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Posted 28 September 2003 - 07:53 PM

some of my most memorable meals and bottles of wine have been gifts from friends..."is there anything you don't care for may I cook for you?" or the Grange Grunge pulled out to impress a mutual friend that moved back to town....as a foodie that dated a wine guy for years and drank exceptional wines in the course of our romance ...I would still go for asking a talented chef to cook for me ....of course including a wine mentor that would love to compliment the fine meal with great wines and twinkling eyes would make the experience oh so much finer. :wub: