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High Standards


jaybee
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A pedant writes...

None of you know what linear means. And its opposite is not multidimensional but non-linear.

OK, just had to say that. Carry on.

Careful there Johnson, they are arresting pedants right and left in the UK you know.

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High standards may breed a thirst that confers the pleasures "of the chase" for one's subjectively compelling meal experiences. As such, standards could add further purpose to one's dining endeavors. They could make decisions more deliberate and more internally deliberated. One could pursue restaurants that one believes have a chance meet one's standards, or one could *knowingly* pursue some other facets of another restaurant. Either way, high standards may permit the diner to more knowingly choose.

Very well put Cabby. Let me ask you this. Did you experience ecstasy (at meals) more often before you began your quest for "pleasure of the chase" ...or after?

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I happened to be looking at my orginal posts re El Bulli and came across what is quoted below. I think what I wrote then sums up how a diner can not only maintain that sense of enthusiasm for dining, but is, in many ways, an active participant in a meal. Having high standards should not mean that dining ceases to be fun.

Quote (lizziee @ April 13 2002,17:06)

"Juli Solter, the GM, and his team picked up on our unique perspective and appreciation for cuisine coupled with the joie de vivre that we bring to dining experiences"

"Can you explain the above quote a little as to why your perspective is unique and perhaps an example of how your joie de vivre manifests itself when dining?" (Andy)

--------------

Andy,

As to why Juli Solter picked up on "our unique perspective and joie de vivre", this is something we experience in most restaurants. I do not think it is because we are that much more knowledgeable (although after years and years of fine dining experiences and almost as many years in the kitchen, we do understand food). I think we approach each dining experience with excitement. I am never jaded or give the impression of "show me what you can do." I really want to have a wonderful time and love and respect the profession to the utmost. I do not expect the "last meal on earth" experience every time we go out. Instead I so appreciate the effort of both the front and back of the house that I think this sense of "I am ready to enjoy myself and truly love what is served" conveys itself to the staff. Because we are so willing to let ourselves be willing participants in a restaurant, the restaurant willingly tries to give us their best. Also, if one dish doesn't live up to expectations or there are missteps along the way, I am willing to chalk it up to experience. We try not to put a staff on edge or give the impression that you had better "wow" us. I think because we are so enthusiastic that enthusiasm generates even more enthusiasm from the staff. At one restaurant we go to frequently, the chef commented to us, "we love seeing your name on the reservation list." I think the reason he feels that way as we are ready to try whatever is offered. Sometimes this can be very difficult as when I am served a dish I really don't like, I know that the chef inspects my plate and I have been known to tell the waiter, busser to somehow "bury" the uneaten portion.

In France, we try to go to a restaurant, particularly in the provinces for at least 3 meals. The first one is sort of a "what kind of diner are you?" The next meal is much more relaxed. By the third, it is fun, I hope, for all of us. Of course if the first meal is a disaster, we do alter plans.

A perfect example of this is at Puymirol, Trama's restaurant. We had been there in 2000 for 2 wonderful meals, wrote him a note when we returned home and planned a second visit in 2001. When we arrived this year, he did remember us and took us for a tour of the new facilities, kitchen, dining room and salon de fume. That night we ordered his degustation menu. About 20 minutes into the course of the dinner, he came to our table and said,"eat lightly at lunch tomorrow, I'm making your dinner tomorrow night." The next day, I happened to run into Michel Trama at the Tabac and he said,"I've decided to devise your lunch menu as well." (those notes are posted on the France board). Suffice it to say all meals were wonderful. Again, we were nothing special except enthusiastic.

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This is simply not what 'better' means. Similarly 'complex' is not a synonym for 'good'. If you want to say that a more complex preparation has the potential to be better, fine. But you can't just redefine words to mean what you want them to mean.

Glyn -This is simply not true. Among restauranteurs, chefs and pastry chefs, one would very likely here them use "better" in this way. A prepared dessert is "better" then just plain fresh fruit because their is more complexity to it. That is why dessert menus at high end restaurants aren't littered with fresh fruit choices. People want a "better" dessert then fresh fruit.

It all gets back to understanding how I am using the word, and agreeing it's an appropriate use. Because it can be used in a number of different ways. For example, Sauvignon Blanc is a better wine then Musacdet. But as my pal SFJoe said recently, Domaine de Pepiere's Muscadet is a better wine then Lucien Crochet's commercially made Sancerre which is made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. But that one example doesn't defeat the original proffer.

But isn't this the idea behind Craft?

Truman - Well it's all a matter of degree isn't it? Craft isn't serving peaches unadorned on a plate. They might served them uncooked (unlikely) but sliced and served with something like a peach cream and a peach sorbet. So just because they have minimal intervention doesn't mean that they don't apply the requisite amount of technique. Even in their raw fish courses the fish comes in a dressing and showered with things like chopped herbs or scallions to enhance the flavor.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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I disagree again, Steve. A prepared dessert may be 'better' to people who prefer a prepared dessert, just as plain fruit may be 'better' to people who prefer that. We cannot say which is 'better' - we can only prefer one over the other.

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I disagree again, Steve. A prepared dessert may be 'better' to people who prefer a prepared dessert, just as plain fruit may be 'better' to people who prefer that. We cannot say which is 'better' - we can only prefer one over the other.

you see, that's where you're wrong.

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This is simply not what 'better' means. Similarly 'complex' is not a synonym for 'good'. If you want to say that a more complex preparation has the potential to be better, fine. But you can't just redefine words to mean what you want them to mean.

Glyn -This is simply not true. Among restauranteurs, chefs and pastry chefs, one would very likely here them use "better" in this way.

Would Steve Klc say that an asafoetida and peach sorbet, with fish sauce and grated Hersheys is “better” than a raw peach because it’s more complex?

Of course not. Like everyone he’d say it was more complex and worse.

I repeat: complexity and quality are different concepts. To conflate them means that we no longer have terms with which to discuss the simple and good and the complex and bad. That just won’t do.

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I disagree again, Steve. A prepared dessert may be 'better' to people who prefer a prepared dessert, just as plain fruit may be 'better' to people who prefer that. We cannot say which is 'better' - we can only prefer one over the other.

No you are describing preference and not evaluating the two desserts in a vacuum. Make a list of what each one has to offer. How does the prepared dessert not come out ahead because it has all the attributes of the same peach raw, but is enhanced by bringing contrasting and complimentary textures and flavors into the mix? You might not like those additions, but it isn't about liking. It's about recognizing the differences.

Would Steve Klc say that an asafoetida and peach sorbet, with fish sauce and grated Hersheys is “better” than a raw peach because it’s more complex?

This example is really a non-starter because you are confusing off-pairings with the concept of complexity. When I use the word complexity, I mean complex and complimentary. That is why if you took the perfect peach and you peeled it, and you slow roasted it and kept basting it with vanilla until it became the perfect consistancy, and then you halved it and served it with a light whipped cream that was lightly flavored with lemon and sugar, you would have a "better desssrt" providing that you were in a nice restaurant and not sitting on a dock after eating a bucket of fried clams. Then a perfect but raw peach would be better wouldn't it?

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it's been years since i had a really good watermelon--when they're good--firm, sweet, juicy--there's nothing better in the world--but the drought the last four years has really effected the quality of the melons in GA. same with strawberries and blueberries--when they're in season, i enjoy them most picking them and popping them straight into my mouth. i bring home bucketsful and make all sorts of yummy desserts, but the bottom line is that the sun-warmed, ripe juicy blueberry eaten while standing beside the bush is the QUINTESSENTIAL berry. of course, one can't enjoy the berries this way all the time--right? sure, cooking has allowed us to invent some really delicious foods--but a perfect piece of fruit? others may agree with me that it can satisfy one very deeply. my grandfather used to grow canteloupes, and i still remeber the way they tasted, when they were just picked and we cut them open in the back yard and ate the slices, letting that warm juice run down our chins--i have never enjoyed canteloupe as much since those days.

of course it's about context, but it's also about the way that fruit tasted.

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No you are describing preference and not evaluating the two desserts in a vacuum. Make a list of what each one has to offer. How does the prepared dessert not come out ahead because it has all the attributes of the same peach raw, but is enhanced by bringing contrasting and complimentary textures and flavors into the mix? You might not like those additions, but it isn't about liking. It's about recognizing the differences.

?

Each one has something to offer *the person who wants it*. It's funny, because I think you are describing preference, not me.

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No you are describing preference and not evaluating the two desserts in a vacuum. Make a list of what each one has to offer. How does the prepared dessert not come out ahead because it has all the attributes of the same peach raw, but is enhanced by bringing contrasting and complimentary textures and flavors into the mix? You might not like those additions, but it isn't about liking. It's about recognizing the differences.

?

Each one has something to offer *the person who wants it*. It's funny, because I think you are describing preference, not me.

Liza, this seems ironic to me. The ism wants to discuss with you/us, but we can never be right. The ism just is what it is. We have to accept it for what it is and what it isn't--an ism.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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This example is really a non-starter because you are confusing off-pairings with the concept of complexity. When I use the word complexity, I mean complex and complimentary.

No, I am not confusing the two. I have clearly distinguished, several times, between complex/good, complex/bad, simple/good and simple/bad. 'Complex' simply does not imply that that result is good and anyone who claims different doesn't know English.

However, I note that for the first time you’ve acknowledged this by introducing the term ‘complementary’ which, in context, is synonymous with good. So you’re learning. Keep it up.

Edited by g.johnson (log)
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Each one has something to offer *the person who wants it*.

But that statement doesn't get us anywhere. Does the person who thinks that frozen strawberries are as good as perfect fresh ones have a credible opinion? No, frozen strawberries fail because of objective reasons that have nothing to do with what one likes.

We discuss these things like they haven't been decided already. It's already been decided that fresh fruit is generally inadequate to be served as a dessert in a nice restaurant. If that wasn't the case you would see them serve it more often but they don't. And that is the case even though you might not prefer it that way.

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But a ripe aged Stilton or perfect piece of Camembert isn't?

There's not much you can do with cheese except to serve it plain or paired with a complimentary wine, or perhaps even with a chutney/spread/fruit/nuts/appropriate garnish, and by the standards expounded here, a simple piece of cheese would be appropriate in a nice restaurant -- but isn't complex in the same way that a white peach napoleon with peach sorbet and caramelized peaches and white pepper is.

:blink:

My two cents. I'll go back to the peanut gallery now.

SA

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Each one has something to offer *the person who wants it*.

But that statement doesn't get us anywhere. Does the person who thinks that frozen strawberries are as good as perfect fresh ones have a credible opinion? No, frozen strawberries fail because of objective reasons that have nothing to do with what one likes.

We discuss these things like they haven't been decided already. It's already been decided that fresh fruit is generally inadequate to be served as a dessert in a nice restaurant. If that wasn't the case you would see them serve it more often but they don't. And that is the case even though you might not prefer it that way.

Sorry, Steve. I'll just have to keep disagreeing with you even as you change the goalposts (regarding fresh vs. frozen strawberries and the people who prefer frozen).

It doesn't matter to me what *everyone* has decided is appropriate to be served at restaurants - that, to me, does not make it the *best*. What I like is the best to me and no one can disuade me of that, just as surely as no one can disuade you that what you like is the best. I'll just posit that why you don't see fresh fruit served at restaurants is because patrons want the chef to have futzed with it - otherwise, you'd be hearing "I could have done that at home". That's a very different justification - and a valid economical one- for fruit desserts, and one which makes sense to me.

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However, I note that for the first time you’ve acknowledged this by introducing the term ‘complementary’ which, in context, is synonymous with good. So you’re learning. Keep it up.

But you've posed it in a way that is rhetorical and doesn't represent the manner in which people who are knowledgable about these things speak. When I drink a 1959 Latour and say the wine is tremendously complex, people who understand wine know that the concept of complimentary is subsumed in the concept of complexity. Because among the trade and amateurs of wine, that is indeed what complex means. And if the complexity wasn't complimentary, I would probably just saysomething like the wine is bad or that it has complexity but is not harmonious. However I described it, I would qualify complexity in a way that the reader would know it was complex in a way that made it bad.

Cheese's complexity comes from a combination of the way it is produced and the way it is aged. A restaurant only serves it. And while you might serve it with a garnish, it never really is combined with external ingredients like fresh fruit is.

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And if the complexity wasn't complimentary, I would probably just saysomething like the wine is bad or that it has complexity but is not harmonious.

Good. You are acknowledging that complex is not necessarily good. And therefore that when the gourmet/connoisseur describes a cheese or wine as 'complex' it is merely shorthand because, in this context, complexity is often good.

However, you have now revealed the error of your original argument. If complex is not always good you cannot measure the quality of dish/cuisine solely by complexity of taste, still less by complexity of cooking technique. I'm glad you've come round to our way of thinking.

Edit: Crap punctuation.

Edited by g.johnson (log)
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It's already been decided that fresh fruit is generally inadequate to be served as a dessert in a nice restaurant.

No, it hasn't. I have eaten fruit and cheese at the end of a meal in dozens of nice restaurants. Yes, in Italy.

Tell you what, though: I agree that it would be inappropriate to be served or to eat fresh fruit after a French haute cuisine meal. However, I believe that it is considered appropriate to do so after a fine Japanese meal.

By the way, we're all clear that the perfect peach is just a metaphor for the simplicity/good box on the matrix, aren't we?

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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If complex is not always good you cannot measure the quality of dish/cuisine solely by complexity of taste, still less by complexity of cooking technique.

I can't think of a single instance where something being less complex has more value or is considered better then something more complex.

No, it hasn't. I have eaten fruit and cheese at the end of a meal in dozens of nice restaurants. Yes, in Italy.

I don't think you should reward the fact that they are incapable of making a proper dessert with that type of statement.

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A prepared dessert may be 'better' to people who prefer a prepared dessert, just as plain fruit may be 'better' to people who prefer that. We cannot say which is 'better' - we can only prefer one over the other.

Opinion is used to refer to matters of taste, belief and judgment. However, it depends on what definition of opinion you have in mind. For example, you may ask a friend about your new car to which he would reply that it is ugly. In this case, it would be foolish not to challenge his opinion, for it’s obvious that by opinion he means his personal preference. What you disregard is another use of opinion which is based on objective judgment and which forms standards that are there to follow, accept and learn from. For instance, consider when the Supreme Court has delivered its opinion in a controversial case. Obviously the justices did not state their personal preferences, their mere likes and dislikes. They stated their considered judgment at which they arrived after thorough inquiry and deliberation. Their decision was based on following certain standards, rules and regulations that allowed them to achieve a judgment that can be objectively validated. The same pertains to the process of establishing standards of what is considered to be “good” or not so good based on objective judgment through extensive inquiry and deliberation of experts. It is not a personal preference; it is an objective judgment.

The only rationally accurate part of this post is the first seven words, in which you correctly confirm what I wrote  The rest is just semantics and sophistry.

macrosan, I was extremely impressed by your pedantry, where there is apparently no fret of wasting your time on counting words. :laugh:

Weightwatchers would not say ripe fruit was not good, they would (or might) say it was not good for them.

Whether Weightwatchers believes that the ripe fruit is not good because it is not tasty or just not good for them for other reasons, it still falls under the category of a personal preference where the reason for their dismissal of the ripe fruit is irrelevant and in no way affects the actual value of the ripe fruit which is evaluated through an objective judgment.

As to personal preferences and opinions, in Great Britain, for instance, there is still a Flat Earth Society. As the name implies, the members of this organization believe that the earth is not spherical but flat. Each of us is free to take as bizarre a position as we please about any matter we choose. When the telephone operator announces that it’ll be ninety-five cents for the first three minutes, you may respond that it won’t, and that it’ll be twenty-eight cents. Being free to hold an opinion and express it doesn’t, of course, guarantee favorable consequences. The operator may hang up on you.

"Experts" would not say ripe fruit was good, they would say that ripe fruit was good if you wanted to eat raw fruit.

I would certainly agree with this statement had the dessert menu included different categories like Raw fruit with the items underneath it: Ripe fruit or Not Ripe fruit. However, since the dessert menu includes no categories whatsoever and rather consists of Ripe fruit or Poached fruit placed side by side, we are by default obliged to compare these two categories in assessing “Dessert” menus to evaluate which is the better of two options.

What is "good" absolutely need have no relationship to price.

According to general economic and market analysis, consumer perception links price with value. The connection between the price and the value may differ depending on the product; however, more often than not a free product carries little value whereas an expensive product carries more value. From the economic perspective, price is usually taken to be the amount of money that is paid when a service is provided or the product is purchased. Value is something of worth to someone which can often be determined by the price that the person is prepared to pay to obtain that value. This is generally known as sales value. Considering that Webster definition of the word “value” is “…worth, merit or importance,” I assume “good” is one of the merit’s properties and therefore can be determined by price. Moreover, in an attempt to establish a standard in assessing the product, price is the best tool as it takes into the consideration both the cost and the demand to establish an objective judgment of the worth of the product independently from some individual preferences.

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in an attempt to establish a standard in assessing the product, price is the best tool as it takes into the consideration both the cost and the demand to establish an objective judgment of the worth of the product independently from some individual preferences.

If price = merit (or even if it is the best guide we have to it) then why would we need tools like restaurant guides, eGullet and restaurant critics? Could we not save time and money by simply choosing the most expensive item in the most expensive restaurant in town?

Jonathan Day

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

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[According to general economic and market analysis, consumer perception links price with value.

And this is the nub of your argument, Lxt ? You spent most of your posts in this thread arguing the merits of soundly based opinion against less soundly based opinion, of expert against non-expert, of objectivity against subjectivity, and finally you concede that the central issue, the relationship between market price and worth is determined by the total marketplace of hundreds of millions of people, the large majority of whom lack (by your definition) the qualifications to hold a valid opinion :sad:

Actually, you are exactly right about that. It's an interesting point that the price of (say) Kobe beef is determined both by what the wealthy connoisseur is prepared to pay for it and by what the average person is not prepared to pay for it. So we have a position where people who have no knowledge of Kobe beef are contributing significantly to its price. But surely they cannot contribute to an understanding of its value :wacko:

I cannot accept that people who perfectly well understand worth, and know how to define it in its own terms, and can perfectly well argue the case for A being of higher merit than B, insist on using market price as an indicator or form of measurement. The only reason I have ever been able to deduce for this intellectually irrational position is that such people wish to place a non-intellectual and non-negotiable barrier in the way of outsiders who might wish enter their wealth-based elite.

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I can't think of a single instance where something being less complex has more value or is considered better then something more complex.

The history of science is littered with a range of complicated theories. I'm so glad that these have triumphed for their explanatory power over such simplistic and valueless accounts as gravitation or evolution.

Wilma squawks no more

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I can't think of a single instance where something being less complex has more value or is considered better then something more complex.

+ complexity = + price = + profit

perfect peach $2.50

peach cobbler $4.75

peche melba $8.00

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