Sophistication... Or Conceit? - I always wanted to be a gastronomer Blog at - 304619

I always wanted to be a gastronomer

Sophistication... or conceit? 
Jun. 16, 2013 12:49 am 
Updated: Jun. 22, 2013 11:11 am
Well howdy doo all you AR folks. I know I know, I've been away for some time and it's a my bad thing but I'm here to tell you that I'm back, all decked out in a shiny suit with a brand new 45$ badge from AR! A good part of my reticence in re-upping is this disturbing trend among companies in offering new customers deals on products that I must pay full price for, thereby devaluing the goods and services I enjoy while playing bait and switch with folks they have intent on being duplicitous with once their loyalty is assured....

There, I got that out of the way. Man that makes me mad.

Ok Ok, I promise, I'll get over it. Evidently I have because here I am and really, it's all your fault. I missed coming on here and letting it spill all over the place. Ever since those Superman tights....

I digress, the title of my blog, sophistication or conceit? It's something that occured to me when reviewing a new restaurant in the town where I'm now working. I have an Ap on my Iphone called Trip Advisor that I find myself turning to when looking for a restaurant to try. It gives you ratings and reviews and allows you to submit your own. And of course, I'm either sophisticated or conceited enough to believe that my thoughts on that particular restaurant are valid. Where the problem comes in, or question, is whether my belief in my opinion is rooted in a genuine need to alert people or to make myself feel better at the expense of some poor schmucks trying to make a go of it running a restaurant.

I mean, I'd LOVE to have the dollars and resolve to open up my own restaurant and make a go of it but for now, I've neither the wherewithal or willingness so really, despite the implied invitation to do so, do I really have any right to be honest about my thoughts on an Ap like TA?

ok, the restaurant is billed as a bistro serving traditional slavic fare. Russian to the core. I had to drive a while to find this and it was hidden deep in the maw of a huge neighbourhood strip. The interior of the place was...well, Russian, spartan and absent... well, money. It was the kind of place where you walk in and go ok, the food has just got to beat the pants off of the decor and thats how they can get past the stark strip mall presentation. The fact that there was a large contingent of family folk seated and dining was a tip in its favour. I opened up my menu, service was fairly prompt given that we had one guy doing the till, serving, bussing etc... and behold, pierogis and borscht et al. There were more things, cabbage rolls and some un pronounceable things that I tried. The food was completely home made, fresh and in a number of ways it was very very good. It was an accurate representation of what a good russian home cook might prepare for his or her family on any given day and that my friends is where I had my problem. There wasn't one thing that I had that I didn't know a better way to prepare. I started with a pretty good borscht and it was good but compared to my own? A 5 to my 10! Not that my own belongs to me, a recipe stolen from someone over the years but it's the one I routinely prepare and it made the one they served look pale and tasteless.

So if I say that, am I being conceited because I know I can do better? Or do I take the time to write out that I believe their soup to be edible but not divine? My entire meal was like that. Everything I tried was something that I've built in my own kitchen with good effect. Read, easily superior results. Yet, the food as a whole was 10 times better than the fare offered from an easy 100 chain restaurants that pepper this community. The cabbage roll had a great sauce but they were sparse with it and the roll was rice heavy which diminished the great spicing in the ground beef. It was better than any cabbage roll I've ever had in a restaurant before but wait a minute, it was the first cabbage roll I've ever had in a restaurant! The downside is that I bought some 'premium' cabbage rolls at my local Safeway that were probably just as good, if not a little better. Then I think of my own, with basmati rice, lamb and veal.... and man, I gotta make those again soon. Would I go back to Siberia to have them? Not a chance in Gaol, but you know what? Once again, that cabbage roll was probably 50 times better for me than a Big Mac. Sigh, so how do I be honest in a review? Succinct yet entirely truthful? If I say too little, I just sound conceited, yet how do I convey my...sophistication in cooking, my expectation that what I will be served will transcend the norms of that dish with gastronimical artistry? An artistry I'm able to demonstate myself.

In the end, I gave them 3 of a possible 5. I applauded them for their merits but decried their limits. I think I did ok but my feelings were pretty mixed so it lead to this somewhat silly self doubt.

I'll just bet I'm not alone in this.
Jun. 16, 2013 6:01 am
LOLOL! You are right, you have been missed. Boy, do I know what you mean about the restaurants. We rarely eat out because we can usually fix it better at home. Recently we tried a new pizza shop. My review-the crust tasted like they bought it off a food truck, their toppings were sparse and their cheesy bread was awful.
Jun. 16, 2013 7:29 am
Welcome back! You have been missed. I have mixed feelings about Yelp and Trip Advisor in that a few bad reviews can sink a family owned business while the big chain restaurants continue to prosper. That said, I have had a couple of less than stellar meals out recently. One was a burger place - how do you mess up a burger when it is your speciality? The other a steak place, that served me one of the toughest ribeyes that I had ever had. I won't be back to either place. One thing I notice is that if we eat out I prefer to eat something that I don't cook well. We have a great little Thai place that I love but you see, I don't make Thai food at home very often and certainly not as good as they do. Another thing I am guilty of is looking at the bill and thinking of what I could do at home for that same amount of money. But then I would have to wash the dishes too!
Jun. 16, 2013 8:48 am
welcome back. ist- yep it bites that ar expect loyal paid members to re-up at full price...really gripes my tail. 2nd- check out the canadian movie, " bitter feast." but, i'm with you, i rarely rate after eating out. i share the same concerns as others mentioned already. i believe i can make it better and definitely cheaper. i prefer family run places and local specialities when traveling. and as someone else mentioned, i also try and go to places where i know i wouldn't have the time,rare ingredients and/or skill to prepare the meal. but i do believe we all think along similar lines no matter where we eat, be it a church pot-luck, resturant, or a friends house.
Jun. 16, 2013 11:44 am
I seldom go out to eat any more for all the reasons stated above. One of the most enjoyable meals I did have out lately was from a food truck at the beach. It was easily as good or better than they serve in their restaurant. Maybe the salt in the air or just the unexpected treat but I did enjoy it. Usually, I am singing your song.
Jun. 16, 2013 6:07 pm
I won't review a bad meal or a good meal. What I will review is something I have eaten many times but this time prepared in a manner that makes me love it! Having been raised when "Thigh of Sabre Toothed Kitty" was all the rage,I can safely say that my dining experiences are vast and diversified and, though lacking education that could make me a stuffy epicurean, I do know what will make me aware of an excellent meal as well as making me aware that what I feel is bad food might be another persons dining delight.
Jun. 16, 2013 6:08 pm
One more thing. WELCOME BACK, RANDY!!
Jun. 17, 2013 5:42 pm
LOL, hey thanks for the WB you guys. I'm happy to BE back. I really was ticked about the half price offering for new Supporting Members. CAT HILL, I think it's that sophistication thing, you get good at cooking and then you go 20 steps beyong that and it just keeps getting tougher to find a stock kitchen that can out perform you. I think thats why I adore ethnic restaurants so much. BAKING NANA, yeah you nailed it. I find myself even begrudging the tip when the food has been second rate...but I tip nonetheless and bite my tongue about telling the server the tip is just for them. GDERR, I'm with you but I am still hopeful so I'll try any place that I haven't tried yet, you know? Like I've never been to a Carls Jr, so one day, I will stop in and try them. lol. Maybe they'll have a half price introductory offer...I've never heard of this "Bitter Feast", I'll look that up, BIGSHOTS, you've been watching that food truck show haven't you? I LOVE that show, makes me wanna run away and join that circus, the food always seems so awesome. MIKE, ok what the heck is "Thigh of Sabre Toothed Kitty"? I know what you mean about the food being another persons delight, that is exactly what I was getting at with the food at the restaurant I reviewed. It probably was someones favourite place to go but to my let's say, somewhat more educated palate, it was far too pedestrian. Bug hug old friends!
Jun. 17, 2013 7:43 pm
I believe our dear Mike was referring to meat served in the Stone Age, ala Flintstones. I'll bet he grilled a mean brontosaurus burger back in the day. PS, welcome back!
Jun. 18, 2013 12:22 pm
Hey Randy You know I was a food critic when I lived in Southern California, right? So I will tell you, it even for a professional critic, this dilemma of whether to tell readers the value for their money without hurting a business so much it will cost them more than that one meal's worth. I usually ended up just describing my own experience and food without making judgmental statements. For instance, "the cabbage roll was rice-heavy, which masked the great spicing of the beef." Saying you can make it better is interesting, also, and really IS pertinent to whether you found value for your (Canadian) dollar. :) Anyway, there is balance, and I don't really think it has anything to do with conceit or sophistication. A review is one man's (or woman's) opinion. But it does influence, and that is a responsibility. And, just to make sure you know you're not conceited, you have two spelling errors. :) P.S. Do NOT pay me back for that snarky snipe.
Jun. 18, 2013 12:23 pm
wow. what a bad 2nd sentence. Here it is again: Even for a professional critic, it was a dilemma of whether meal's worth. So now you all know I shouldn't be corrected anyone's spelling.
Jun. 18, 2013 12:29 pm
Oh, and welcome back. I didn't know you were gone. :(( Guess I haven't been too regular on here. And, thanks for your comments on my blog. I really appreciate it. Would love for more people to let us know about their favorite coffees.
Jun. 18, 2013 5:22 pm
Ok, bussing and gastronimical. Bussing is a spelling mistake, astronimical was a typo so just one spelling error my dear, hehe. Yeah, I recall you saying you were a food critic. I don't know that I would want to do that, sacrifice my personal viewpoint on the altar of objectivity...brrrrr Oh and by the by, I wasn't 'gone', I just didn't re-up for 4 months and couldn't blog.
Jun. 19, 2013 9:58 am
Welcome back to blogging! It's a gripe of mine, too, that I had to pay full price to renew when the newbies are getting a deal, but I sucked it up and did it anyway. And I am right there with you, too, on food in restaurants. Usually we come away thinking, "well, it was ok, but we can make it better at home and for less money, too". Therefore, we don't eat out very often, and like Baking Nana, we pick things that I don't make at home or can't make as well. Indian is usually one of those. While I do a couple of pretty good dishes, it's never as good as our favorite Indian restaurant. And I never bother to rate the ones we aren't overly impressed with; we just don't visit them again. Great topic for a blog, too.
Jun. 20, 2013 10:10 am
Agree with others that I like to go to restaurants that serve food that I do not! I'm just getting into Indian food, but I don't do it nearly as well as my favorite little place. My Vietnamese friend is my scout for Thai and other eastern foods. If she likes it, then I know I will, too. Her main criterion is "fresh". She orders for me, too, lol!
Jun. 20, 2013 8:08 pm
WISWEETP, thanks for the wb. The only reason I started rating resaurants was because I started using an Ap on my Iphone that advised on the credibility of restaurants by virtue of it's user ratings. I figured I was probably a much better judge of a restaurants victual viability than 95% of the population, thusly did I rate lol. BIBI, yeah that's me too. It's kind of why I chose a Russian restaurant. Funny you should mention Vietnamese food, I just today found a Vietnamese sub sandwich shop near where I work. I had a sate chicken, noodle salad and I was ecstatic, yummy stuff.
Jun. 22, 2013 11:11 am
I love Yelp and use it for just about every place I eat. I also still love to eat out and try new places, even IF I could make it just as well at home. I don't see any reason not to say what *I* loved or what *I* didn't. It's not conceit or sophistication to know what you make well and what others make well, it's a matter of taste. Nothing but an opinion and I like to read them all and hope others enjoy reading mine as well.
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About Me
Let's see, in keeping it to a subject, at age 22 I had a filet doused in Bernaise sauce aboard a train. That was it, I was hooked on fine food. Living in a small town necessitates learning to cook well to maintain that stellar menu.
My favorite things to cook
Oh man, only a thousand characters? My favorite things to cook are items that make YOU happy. I'll try anything and thus far it would be far easier to list those things I don't like than those I do. So far, I hate Cilantro and I'm allergic to green chiles. It's a short list.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My Christmas dinner. Usually in December, sometimes early January. I've a waiting list of people who wish to be invited. Alas, I've only a service for 10. We're talking silver, Noritake, crystal stemware, crisp linens, fine wines paired appropriately and a menu that's usually derived from a theme.
My cooking triumphs
Every smile, every gasp of delight, every accolade, such sweet victory!
My cooking tragedies
A Cioppino recipe I found here. I served it as part of one of those Christmas dinners and the cod was a poor choice. It was terrible, ghastly fishy taste. I've since learned a thing or two about freshness in fish. Prior to that, hmm perhaps when I was 10, I made a spice cake that called for whole cloves....hey, that's what it said on the outside of the bottle, whole cloves....
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