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jamiemaw

Aspirational Dining

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We buy things because they reflect who we are, or even whom we aspire to be.

The same might be said to be true of our dining and food procurement choices. Much of this is subconcious of course.

In 500 words or less, how do your dining or food shopping choices reflect you - or your aspirations?

Come clean now . . .

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*Manolos--Ritz-Carleton dining--Versace aspirations ...

Reality: loafers from Bass, dinners at local restaurants offering tasting menus, and truffles replaced by chanterelles ...

(*The Pope wears red Prada loafers, really!)

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Oh dear, Jamie, are you ready to be the culinary Freud? Here goes...

As I read other members' posts on how many cookbooks they own or various (expensive!) kitchen gadgetry, I think of my sparely appointed kitchen and think that my parents are largely to blame -- or credit. My parents are extremely conservative with their money, and I find myself deliberating over the costs of just about everything. I have no food processor or stand mixer. I have few cookbooks and rely heavily on the library, the Internet, and food magazines abandoned at my gym for food reading and recipe inspiration.

That said, I'm much more interested in true value rather than absolute cost. For example, I recently subscribed to a CSA. Getting over the $660 sticker shock was significant for me. Especially since $420 of this was paid out in February as deposits for Spring, Summer and Fall crops (first box this Friday!). The child of a child of the Depression in me balks at the upfront cost, but the food lover in me is dreaming of making baby beet ravioli and pureeing up local organic rutabaga for my infant.

So what I am now is an ever-learning home cook working to get over my tightwad tendencies.

But what will my food-loving friends say at my funeral? That I was fearless in the kitchen? That I explored cultures and lands through food? That I instilled the love and respect of cuisine in my children? I hope so.

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Living beyond my culinary expenditure tribe :rolleyes:

A love for the finer things in life: expensive ingredients (boutique olive oils, outstanding wines, truffles, pine mushrooms, lobsters, game) and kind of a lemming following the pack of stylish and trend setting writers from Conde Nast, Gourmet Travel, Wallpaper...you get the idea. My wife and I have a soft spot for great hotels, restaurants, culinary travel, and exotic world locations. Although Vancouver is home, we have yet now in our mid forties, decided where we truly feel at home. Home in the past has been London, Madrid, and Barcelona OH! these places have all of the above I just mentioned how strange :smile:

Stephen Bonner


Edited by SBonner (log)

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Call me an anti-elitist elitist.

Or maybe more accurately, I'm not into conspicuous displays of status via consumer goods. (I much prefer using verbal and linguistic skills to do this, sprinkled with the occasional bit of name-dropping here and there [viz. my personal e-mail address-- sandysmith80 @ post . harvard . edu].)

My father was a cheapskate but a better cook. My mother had fun but racked up a pretty good pile of debt. I seem to have inherited both of their traits.

How this plays out gastronomically is:

--I'm an aggressively thrifty shopper: I play the amateur version of The Grocery Game, playing supermarket specials off each other, clipping coupons promiscuously and buying the store brand unless a name brand is simply so much better as to make it worth the price difference.

--I'm a sucker for exotic cheeses and would gladly blow my paycheck at DiBruno's if I could.

--Most of the time, when I dine out, it's in places that serve everyday fare at modest prices: diners, hoagie shops, pizza places and the like. But every so often, I like to drop serious coin on a really good, inspired meal at an interesting restaurant. However, I'm more likely to do this when someone's reimbursing me for the effort. Otherwise, it's more accurate to say I'd like to do this more often.

--I'm not ashamed to buy basic tools at the dollar store. But I learned the difference between price and value when I finally got a good chef's knife as a Christmas present.

--I'm somewhat adventurous, but as often as not, I will go for the familiar: My repertoire of dishes is heavy on a relative handful of favorites (especially my chili) but I try to throw something new in every so often.

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Cookbook upon cookbook upon cookbook. This is in part an extension of my general passion for all things book-related, and in part an expression of my belief that by reading about it, I can become an expert at doing it. Although, in this conviction, the French Laundry cookbook has proven me wrong. :wink:

Similiarly, my obsession with dinnerware, flatware and table linens is analagous to my love of clothing (favorite designers are Prada, Nanette Lepore, Michael Kors, and Carolina Herrerra) and shoes (Manolo, Kate Spade, and Prada - again). I am drawn to a mix of classic/timeless/sophisticated and frilly/bohemian/girly. And there's no such thing as enough.

As for cooking choices, I tend to choose simple recipes I know I can do well. Those recipes often feature one or two standout ingredients, but the preparations are rarely complicated. I like to feel in control, and I prefer something simple and delicious to something complicated that I've butchered. :laugh:

Dining out? I ultimately prefer places that are slightly upscale but where I can still wear jeans. Where the food is excellent and the service attentive, but where I feel comfortable laughing out loud. I suppose I aspire to a life of casual luxury. Sigh.


Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

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Dining out?  I ultimately prefer places that are slightly upscale but where I can still wear jeans.  Where the food is excellent and the service attentive, but where I feel comfortable laughing out loud.  I suppose I aspire to a life of casual luxury.  Sigh.

Well said and very thoughtful.

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Similiarly, my obsession with dinnerware, flatware and table linens is analagous to my love of clothing (favorite designers are Prada, Nanette Lepore, Michael Kors, and Carolina Herrerra) and shoes (Manolo, Kate Spade, and Prada - again).  I am drawn to a mix of classic/timeless/sophisticated and frilly/bohemian/girly.  And there's no such thing as enough.

I'm pretty conservative in my fashion tastes, but even though I own some designer stuff, I have no particular label fixations--though I do like Kenneth Cole's social consciousness and wit. (However, the only Kenneth Cole I have is from his lower-priced "Reaction" line and stuff I bought at either his outlet store in Franklin Mills or an off-price store. Edited to add: Oh, I forgot--I have a couple of pairs of Kenneth Cole socks that I got at a clearance sale at his Walnut Street boutique. To translate into other cities: "Walnut Street" = "Fifth Avenue"/"North Michigan Avenue"/"Rodeo Drive" (well, it has a little ways to go to reach that rarefied plateau).)

Given what I like about Kenneth Cole, I should probably shop at Whole Foods more than I do. Given how I acquired my Kenneth Cole, the fact that I don't shop there much should not be surprising.


Edited by MarketStEl (log)

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Great topic.

  I suppose I aspire to a life of casual luxury.

This, perhaps, is the best way to live. A life where possessions and material experiences are valued not for their $$ price but for the personal satisfaction they bring. With that idea, however, is the tangential implication that one doesn't have to look or care about price tags.

For now, I take pleasure where I can get it and probably live far beyond my means. When it comes to food shopping, prices really don't register with me. Granted, I'm not buying pounds of caviar, but the occasional truffle or extra handful of porcinis has been known to make its way into my shopping cart.

While I have no problem spending hundreds of dollars for a single meal, I flat out refuse to accept mediocrity. A experience touted as world-class with a price tag to match should match those expectations. Paying for a trend seems foolish to me if it doesn't measure up in quality.

But with all that said, sometimes the simplest, humblest things can be best. There are those who can't conceive paying $100 for a meal, and there are those who aren't able to derive any pleasure out of life's simplest offers. Both types of people are missing the point of food and dining it seems.

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When asked where I learned my culinary skills and interests, I flatly reply, "PBS." I was a latch-key kid in the 70s and 80s raised on a hearty diet of Julia Child and Jeff Smith. So while my peers ate twinkies and ding dongs, I was exploring petit fours and creme anglais. My food is indicative of my life - quickly bored, always seeking novelty, refusing to be restrained by the boundaries of life or recipes.

I literally have never repeated a recipe after its initial glorious moment. It is rare that I return to the same restaurant (when I lived in bigger cities that had options).

That is me. Exotic to the unfamiliar observer, yet in reality comfortable in simply peasant foods and experiences...just like Julia and Jeff.

Thanks for asking...and show me the Rorschach blot and I assure that I'll see Tibetan butter tea.

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Great topic.
  I suppose I aspire to a life of casual luxury.

This, perhaps, is the best way to live. A life where possessions and material experiences are valued not for their $$ price but for the personal satisfaction they bring. With that idea, however, is the tangential implication that one doesn't have to look or care about price tags.

Needless to say, I don't quite agree with that last statement, except to the extent to which it means "If it's worth it, you should buy it." But I wrecked my credit rating taking that phrase literally. Mr. Micawber may have been too reductionist in his expression of the philosophy, but one should always strive to live within one's means. Saving up for something really swell makes the satisfaction all the greater when it comes.

But with all that said, sometimes the simplest, humblest things can be best.  There are those who can't conceive paying $100 for a meal, and there are those who aren't able to derive any pleasure out of life's simplest offers.  Both types of people are missing the point of food and dining it seems.

Agreed 110%.

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But with all that said, sometimes the simplest, humblest things can be best.  There are those who can't conceive paying $100 for a meal, and there are those who aren't able to derive any pleasure out of life's simplest offers.  Both types of people are missing the point of food and dining it seems.

Amen.

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I aspire to the life I have now, which is not really fancy but very satisfying and uniquely mine. The Manolos I love spend less time on my feet than the paddock boots I wear three seasons a year ... I don't foof very much, but am extremely picky about my haircuts, earrings and wristwatch. I love my kids but they don't rule me; I love my profession but it doesn't rule me, either.

I set my entertaining table with a mixture of fancy good china and Santa Claus dishes, my husband's family silver and what odd pieces I've picked up at yard sales ... all accented with my Pig Salt & Pepper Shaker collection. My food when I entertain is simple, with a few ingredients or techniques that one doesn't see very often. The wine is always the best we can find. and the people and their comfort are more important to me than any of that.

Is it worth it? is what I ask myself. Treating people well to a meal at my home is always worth it. Good bread, tomatoes, chocolate, fish, meats, are all worth the ten miles or more I drive out of my way to find them and the hours I spend preparing to serve them. I ask myself if it's worth it to fly to Yountville to go to the French Laundry, turn around and come back (yes, YES, it was!), but wonder if a trip to Alinea wouldn't make me feel the same blissful way for years after. In-N-Out Burgers? Worth it. Quarter Pounders? Nope. Foie gras? Worth it, sometimes. Chicken Liver? Depends.

Is this 500 words?

Chatty Fabby.

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i'm in the prioritize-to-suit-the-moment tribe!

I love to splurge on a nice restaurant and try out dishes not easily accomplished at home - when i have the money. I love to try out new recipes and techniques, spending three hours on a single dish - when i have the time. and i love to eat a quick and cheap lentil and rice dish when i have neither. And, i am a stressed out medical student so, on occasion, I've derived guilty pleasure from a one a.m. TacoBell run :raz:

For me, priorities on my time and resources definatelly rule everyday life...but on a day when i'm not feeling the threat of impending medical board exams, i try to eat and shop according to principle - so i'm not a vegetarian but i always try to buy cage-free eggs and free-range meat, and have vegetables, grains and fruits make up the majority of my diet.

Lately, though, it's been bread and butter with sea salt, and a frosty Cherry Coke!

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Call me an anti-elitist elitist.

Or maybe more accurately, I'm not into conspicuous displays of status via consumer goods.  (I much prefer using verbal and linguistic skills to do this, sprinkled with the occasional bit of name-dropping here and there [viz. my personal e-mail address-- sandysmith80 @ post . harvard . edu].)

Cunning linguist aside, Sandy, I had absolutely no idea you were a pilot. Trainee or instructor?

One reason I was prompted to post this topic was Frank Bruni's introduction to a scathing (mile wide and inch deep) review of Morimoto's new Manhattan outpost today in the Times:

"It's a stunning piece of work: a sparkly wonderland for glittery people, who always get the word and always hop onboard. They drink their bright cocktails, fiddle with their chopsticks, survey their compatriots and tap-tap into their cellphones and other devices, presumably checking on the whereabouts of less fortunate friends, perhaps informing them that the place to be is right here, right now. It's Morimoto's moment."

This in turn reminded me of a local food columnist's review of a popular Italian restaurant here a few years ago. In it, she spoke of the lovely giardino, the pleasant, mainly Tuscan food, and the glittery crowd, which - she also allowed - she couldn't stand. And then she took a firmer stand, stating quite chastely that she would prefer not to dine around this 'type'.

Hmm, I was given to wonder, first about the crowd: Excess cash flow chasing social validation? Or merely dinner? Well, both. One thing that a restaurateur can't entirely control is who shows up: the socially-aspirant broker, the moth-eaten food critic, or even the increasingly rare sighting of Genus Wing-Tipped Tourista Winnebraskas.

Each has his or her own pupose for being there though. Mainly, I strongly suspect they are looking for people who look just like them.

Or slightly more so.

Tribally yours,

J.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

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This picture is a clue to my tribal affiliation

gallery_16307_2060_56577.jpg

I resist shoes, jewels, frou-frou of all sorts, but I can't resist affordable little items from other countries, particularly when they're food items. When this photo first made its appearance in my eG food blog it was because these treats were all stuff that I'd dug out of my deepest cupboard, where some of them had rested peacefully for...years. Uh, I just like to be prepared. I might need candlenuts some day.

So, the tribe? Citizens of the World's Kitchen. Just because I'm a norteamericana by birth, there's no reason I can't make a Cambodian dessert if I feel like it (and Jamie, I do have Pnomh Penh's fermented rice and Shanghai yeast ball dessert bubbling away at this moment). Mastering the use of a new-to-me ingredient gets me high, like learning some words in a new language. Tasting a new dish, or the original, non-Americanized version of a familiar dish, is a thrill. Having someone teach me how to prepare the dish, then taste it with me, that's the intimate language of my tribe.

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Call me an anti-elitist elitist.

Or maybe more accurately, I'm not into conspicuous displays of status via consumer goods.  (I much prefer using verbal and linguistic skills to do this, sprinkled with the occasional bit of name-dropping here and there [viz. my personal e-mail address-- sandysmith80 @ post . harvard . edu].)

Cunning linguist aside, Sandy, I had absolutely no idea you were a pilot. Trainee or instructor?

One reason I was prompted to post this topic was Frank Bruni's introduction to a scathing (mile wide and inch deep) review of Morimoto's new Manhattan outpost today in the Times:

"It's a stunning piece of work: a sparkly wonderland for glittery people, who always get the word and always hop onboard. They drink their bright cocktails, fiddle with their chopsticks, survey their compatriots and tap-tap into their cellphones and other devices, presumably checking on the whereabouts of less fortunate friends, perhaps informing them that the place to be is right here, right now. It's Morimoto's moment."

This in turn reminded me of a local food columnist's review of a popular Italian restaurant here a few years ago. In it, she spoke of the lovely giardino, the pleasant, mainly Tuscan food, and the glittery crowd, which - she also allowed - she couldn't stand. And then she took a firmer stand, stating quite chastely that she would prefer not to dine around this 'type'.

Hmm, I was given to wonder, first about the crowd: Excess cash flow chasing social validation? Or merely dinner? Well, both. One thing that a restaurateur can't entirely control is who shows up: the socially-aspirant broker, the moth-eaten food critic, or even the increasingly rare sighting of Genus Wing-Tipped Tourista Winnebraskas.

Each has his or her own pupose for being there though. Mainly, I strongly suspect they are looking for people who look just like them.

Or slightly more so.

Tribally yours,

J.

Jamie,

As a bit of a lemming I would probably go for the hype of the place.

Stephen

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Similiarly, my obsession with dinnerware, flatware and table linens is analagous to my love of clothing (favorite designers are Prada, Nanette Lepore, Michael Kors, and Carolina Herrerra) and shoes (Manolo, Kate Spade, and Prada - again).  I am drawn to a mix of classic/timeless/sophisticated and frilly/bohemian/girly.  And there's no such thing as enough.

Eegads, Megan - no Blumarine, no La Perla? :biggrin: I've certainly noticed one thing recently: these days restaurants are looking more and more Prada and way less Lada.

At some, I'm rather shocked that they'll let me in. And then, on the Groucho maxim, I'm rather disappointed that they did.

I won't soon forget a lunch at the late and lamentable Le Cirque 2000. It had recently opened. We sat down next to some X-Ray ladies-who-lunch. Eva looked around the room and said, "These chairs will have to go."

"Why?" I asked.

"The backs are too high and the Nan Kempers and Pat Buckleys can't see each other."

"Here's looking at you," I said, raising my glass of hysterically over-priced Bolly.

No sooner had we returned to Vancouver than Florence Fabricant or someone else at the Times wrote a short piece on the replacement of the chairs at Le Cirque.

Blame Joe Baum. He kind of invented this dining as spectacle thing in 1957 with the Forum of The 12 Caesars, even if it's been going on since long before the real Romans.

Of course even they endeavoured to dine with people in their own tax bracket.

Still aspirating,

J.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

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This picture is a clue to my tribal affiliation

gallery_16307_2060_56577.jpg

I resist shoes, jewels, frou-frou of all sorts, but I can't resist affordable little items from other countries, particularly when they're food items.    When this photo first made its appearance in my eG food blog it was because these treats were all stuff that I'd dug out of my deepest cupboard, where some of them had rested peacefully for...years.  Uh, I just like to be prepared.  I might need candlenuts some day.

So, the tribe?  Citizens of the World's Kitchen.  Just because I'm a norteamericana by birth, there's no reason I can't make a Cambodian dessert if I feel like it (and Jamie, I do have Pnomh Penh's fermented rice and Shanghai yeast ball dessert bubbling away at this moment).  Mastering the use of a new-to-me ingredient gets me high, like learning some words in a new language.  Tasting a new dish, or the original, non-Americanized version of a familiar dish, is a thrill.  Having someone teach me how to prepare the dish, then taste it with me, that's the intimate language of my tribe.

Most excellent, Abra. And just so you know, my tribe dances to a different drummer too.

Dinner smells Phnomenal!

J.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

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I pretty much buy, cook and eat whatever I want.

SB :cool:

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"Aspirational" is a word that implies hope and desire, two words that nicely sum up my life as a cook, grocery-shopper, hostess and -- not frequently enough -- diner out.

I long to discover new culinary landscapes, maybe Wales and Nepal? I hope to continue to suss out even more variety in my beloved immigrant food markets: shop with a group of people who still speak a foreign language as their first language and the variety and quality of ingredients goes up, while the prices go down. I'm confused and lazy about much of my life, but I redeem myself in my kitchen because planning and cooking dinner is still the most important action of my day. Every day.

I aspire to be confused with Charlotte Rampling or Catherine Deneuve as I age: a slim woman in a vintage St. Laurent trouser suit and sunglasses, drinking wine and eating steak frites outside at a cafe table, my companion an Alain Delon/Marcello Mastroiani type in some serious Savile Row tailoring. I'm picturing a lazy spoiled lapdog yapping at my beautifully shod feet.

Sigh. A girl can aspire.

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Of course even they endeavoured to dine with people in their own tax bracket.

Oh that kind of tribe...the ones who can order a bottle of wine that costs more than my monthly mortgage payment. :blink:

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Eegads, Megan - no Blumarine, no La Perla?  :biggrin: I've certainly noticed one thing recently: these days restaurants are looking more and more Prada and way less Lada.

Well, I wouldn't turn my nose up at either. :wink:

And to clarify: just because I love it doesn't mean I own a lot of it. :laugh:

I will not be going to Morimoto any time soon - too much of a manufactured scene for me, as is most of the Meatpacking District. I'm more of a Hearth kind of gal...(quiet) casual luxury.

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I pretty much buy, cook and eat whatever I want.

SB  :cool:

Why?

I'm cursed.

SB :blink:

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