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Old 03-15-2015, 10:31 AM   #1
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Too Beautiful To Eat

After watching a few dozen Masterchef's, Australia/New Zealand/Britain something vaguely disturbing has crept into my mind.
I watch as dozens of home cooks attempt to give the judges what the contestants think the judges are looking for. Why not?
What I see are dishes, some very elegantly plated with the main ingredients piled one on another. Celeriac puree then the steak then the baby carrots. Everything teetering about to fall over. Same with the incredible deserts. Almost too beautiful to eat.
Everyone knows what I mean.
OK. That’s what’s ‘trending heavily’ now. Or at least last month.
This is not what’s bothering me. It’s the “almost too beautiful to eat”.
What happens when we see a beautiful culinary masterpiece carefully, lovingly set in front of us? Something we are willing to pay our hard earned money to then own.To do to it as we wish.
We look at the little teetering mountain of edible delight. We think: ‘This little beauty is setting me back fifty bucks but JUST LOOK AT IT! It’s beautiful!
What happens inside our brain when we then take hold of two sterling silver cold hard tools specifically designed to destroy such beauty?
We stare at the object of our desire then with all the conscience of a Jeffery Dalmer .We attack fast! Intent to destroy and obliterate and consume all on the plate.
The beautiful offering. A veritable ‘virgin-on-a-plate’ becomes an old broken down used and abused ‘smear on a plate’.
Nobody wants to even glance down for fear of the enviable deep feelings of guilt and disgust coming up like bile.
“Waiter! We are finished with this plate. Please take it away.”
I believe this dichotomy of emotions really does have an affect on diners. We leave the one star restaurant vaguely ashamed. Ashamed of what we have done. What we have spent. Knowing, like an addict, we will be back to repeat the gruesome deed again when we can.
I offer a salve to these dark hearts.
Encourage chefs to plate different items on the plate with some small distance between each other. We can then delicately choose a morsel of mashed spuds with perhaps a drip a gravy added. A modest mouthful. Then a taste of the green beans located well away from the Salisbury steak.
No more destruction of the beautiful tower with the first stab of the fork. No more shame as we watch the ‘Omelette Norvegienne’ look like a large goose dropping after the first forkful.
What damage is this doing to the psyche? Does this explain why so many ‘grazers’ must always be seeking a new darkly lit banquette to do their gruesome work? Like the shame of the man walking down the street with his wife and having a women approach him and asking: “How come you never talk to me when you see me in town?”

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Old 03-15-2015, 10:35 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by puffin3 View Post
...What happens when we see a beautiful culinary masterpiece carefully, lovingly set in front of us? Something we are willing to pay our hard earned money to then own.To do to it as we wish.
We look at the little teetering mountain of edible delight. We think: ‘This little beauty is setting me back fifty bucks but JUST LOOK AT IT! It’s beautiful!...

My first thought is, "Someone in the kitchen has had their hands all over my food."
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Old 03-15-2015, 10:40 AM   #3
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Not to beautiful to eat. just too ridiculous!

I always ask why must they pile everything up?

Those towering burgers with multiple patties, slaw, fried onions, fried eggs (!) etc., make me want to buy one To Go so I can take it home and make several meals out of it.
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Old 03-15-2015, 10:45 AM   #4
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When I see everything stacked on the plate I think of the dogs dinner!

I think it is a gross affectation, ok so I'm not a gourmet!
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Old 03-15-2015, 12:25 PM   #5
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When I see everything stacked on the plate I think of the dogs dinner!

I think it is a gross affectation, ok so I'm not a gourmet!
I think the days of the 'foodtowers' are coming to an end.
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Old 03-15-2015, 12:40 PM   #6
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I think the days of the 'foodtowers' are coming to an end.


Along with the gigantic 14 inch plates used to serve a microscopic piece of cake that has been splattered with various sauces until it looks like a Jackson Pollock!

IMO good food doesn't need gimmicks or distractions.
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Old 03-15-2015, 01:08 PM   #7
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This is one reason why I so rarely visit so-called "good" restaurants. No matter how good the food, I can find properly prepared food, more reasonably priced, but intended to be eaten not admired.

For me properly prepared food is appetizing on it's own - no "presentation" required.
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Old 03-15-2015, 01:21 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by puffin3 View Post
After watching a few dozen Masterchef's, Australia/New Zealand/Britain something vaguely disturbing has crept into my mind.
I watch as dozens of home cooks attempt to give the judges what the contestants think the judges are looking for. Why not?
What I see are dishes, some very elegantly plated with the main ingredients piled one on another. Celeriac puree then the steak then the baby carrots. Everything teetering about to fall over. Same with the incredible deserts. Almost too beautiful to eat.
Everyone knows what I mean.
OK. That’s what’s ‘trending heavily’ now. Or at least last month.
This is not what’s bothering me. It’s the “almost too beautiful to eat”.
What happens when we see a beautiful culinary masterpiece carefully, lovingly set in front of us? Something we are willing to pay our hard earned money to then own.To do to it as we wish.
We look at the little teetering mountain of edible delight. We think: ‘This little beauty is setting me back fifty bucks but JUST LOOK AT IT! It’s beautiful!
What happens inside our brain when we then take hold of two sterling silver cold hard tools specifically designed to destroy such beauty?
We stare at the object of our desire then with all the conscience of a Jeffery Dalmer .We attack fast! Intent to destroy and obliterate and consume all on the plate.
The beautiful offering. A veritable ‘virgin-on-a-plate’ becomes an old broken down used and abused ‘smear on a plate’.
Nobody wants to even glance down for fear of the enviable deep feelings of guilt and disgust coming up like bile.
“Waiter! We are finished with this plate. Please take it away.”
I believe this dichotomy of emotions really does have an affect on diners. We leave the one star restaurant vaguely ashamed. Ashamed of what we have done. What we have spent. Knowing, like an addict, we will be back to repeat the gruesome deed again when we can.
I offer a salve to these dark hearts.
Encourage chefs to plate different items on the plate with some small distance between each other. We can then delicately choose a morsel of mashed spuds with perhaps a drip a gravy added. A modest mouthful. Then a taste of the green beans located well away from the Salisbury steak.
No more destruction of the beautiful tower with the first stab of the fork. No more shame as we watch the ‘Omelette Norvegienne’ look like a large goose dropping after the first forkful.
What damage is this doing to the psyche? Does this explain why so many ‘grazers’ must always be seeking a new darkly lit banquette to do their gruesome work? Like the shame of the man walking down the street with his wife and having a women approach him and asking: “How come you never talk to me when you see me in town?”
Oh, I DID enjoy this post!

The "tower" idea has been fashionable for many years and I agree with you that it's over done and passé. I'm all for the plate of food looking attractive but by the time the tower has been assembled the components are cold and the plate has to go into the m/wave to re-heat it, so that often it's over-cooked. Perhaps it's time for food fashion to go back to your idea of placing items on the plate so the diner has the choice of what s/he puts on his/her fork and with what.
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Old 03-15-2015, 01:25 PM   #9
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Along with the gigantic 14 inch plates used to serve a microscopic piece of cake that has been splattered with various sauces until it looks like a Jackson Pollock!

IMO good food doesn't need gimmicks or distractions.
It really annoys me when a dish, which the menu describes as being served with this or that sauce, arrives and the sauce is just a few dots decorating the plate.
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Old 03-15-2015, 03:05 PM   #10
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Well, I'm completely and totally in the opposite camp. I ENJOY IT when we eat somewhere and the chef has served us something totally creative. It's called "Food As Art" and the whole idea behind it is that food is capable of being more than something you simply shovel into your face; it can also be a thing of beauty and a feast for the eyes and senses.

My wife and I go to these types of restaurants - not all the time - but maybe once every few months or so. It's enjoyable to go with a group of friennds and marvel at what's going to come out of the kitchen next. It's fun to see what they've done with each ingredient and how the flavors play off of each other.

If all I want is a "plate of food," I can have that anytime without leaving the house. To see what some of these chef artists create is enjoyable to me. If it isn't to your liking, so be it. I'm okay with that. But why criticize and tear it apart for others?

Below are a couple of the dishes we were served at a place Friday night when we went out.

And by the way, I have NO trouble eating them when the time comes.



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Old 03-15-2015, 03:28 PM   #11
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Well, that first one may be art, but it doesn't look like anything I want to eat. I nothing appetizing about it.

The second one looks okay, but nothing special. A plate of sliced meat in a puddle of some brown sauce, with a sprig of some sort of mushrooms on the side. And I don't even want to know what it cost.

I've eaten in fine dining restaurants, and I usually get great food. I've also eaten in fairly plain restaurants, and also gotten great food, at a much better price. I like to eat, and I like to try new things, within certain limits, but I'm not remotely a "foodie". After 68 years, I know the types of foods that I don't like, and I avoid them.

That top photo with what appears to be raw meat and a raw egg yolk.... sorry but there is no possible way to make that look appetizing to me except by applying some heat to it.
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Old 03-15-2015, 04:08 PM   #12
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Well, that first one may be art, but it doesn't look like anything I want to eat. I nothing appetizing about it.

The second one looks okay, but nothing special. A plate of sliced meat in a puddle of some brown sauce, with a sprig of some sort of mushrooms on the side. And I don't even want to know what it cost.

I've eaten in fine dining restaurants, and I usually get great food. I've also eaten in fairly plain restaurants, and also gotten great food, at a much better price. I like to eat, and I like to try new things, within certain limits, but I'm not remotely a "foodie". After 68 years, I know the types of foods that I don't like, and I avoid them.

That top photo with what appears to be raw meat and a raw egg yolk.... sorry but there is no possible way to make that look appetizing to me except by applying some heat to it.
The first dish is called steak tartare and it's a classic dish that's been around since the early 1900's - way longer than you or I. My parents even used to eat it.

My wife and I enjoyed the meal. The food and wine was excellent and sparked great conversation. The atmosphere was beautiful, as well.

This being a cooking website, I would think that people here would have more appreciation for those who try to take it to another level. It's like saying you love art, but only if it's paint-by-numbers. Have we all become so old and boring that everything has to be meat and potatoes? I'm sorry but, good or not, there's nothing much exciting about that kind of food.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking meat and potatoes, but every once in a while it's nice to get out and try something that's a little different.
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Old 03-15-2015, 05:43 PM   #13
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Well, I'm completely and totally in the opposite camp. I ENJOY IT when we eat somewhere and the chef has served us something totally creative. It's called "Food As Art" and the whole idea behind it is that food is capable of being more than something you simply shovel into your face; it can also be a thing of beauty and a feast for the eyes and senses.

My wife and I go to these types of restaurants - not all the time - but maybe once every few months or so. It's enjoyable to go with a group of friennds and marvel at what's going to come out of the kitchen next. It's fun to see what they've done with each ingredient and how the flavors play off of each other.

If all I want is a "plate of food," I can have that anytime without leaving the house. To see what some of these chef artists create is enjoyable to me. If it isn't to your liking, so be it. I'm okay with that. But why criticize and tear it apart for others?

Below are a couple of the dishes we were served at a place Friday night when we went out.

And by the way, I have NO trouble eating them when the time comes.




I'm with you. I love beautifully plated dishes and really relish creative plating along with the food.

That steak tartare looks fabulous!!

Around here most chefs are over the old tall horizontal plating trend and tend to go in a vertical direction.

The problem comes when inartful chefs create inartful or incongruous presentations, or worse by including garnish ingredients that don't work.
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Old 03-15-2015, 05:48 PM   #14
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Thank you Steve. Those plates look amazing - I would love to join you in that meal.

I firmly agree with the adage that you eat with your eyes first. It tells me that I have something exciting to look forward to. Eating involves more than taste. It involves sight, smell, and texture as well. In some cases,it can even excite your sense of hearing. Haven't you ever ordered fajitas in a Mexicen restaurant and been excited by the sizzle when the platter arrives?

This is a food forum. I would expect us to be interested in exploring new and different experiences in food. If I didn't appreciate anything outside meat and potatoes on a plate, with white space between them, I wouldn't waste time here.

At my time in life, I no longer waste my time or money on fast food or ma-and-pa diners. When I go out or travel to a new city, I am looking for an experience. I can't possibly decide that I don't like something if I've never tried it.

I belong to 4 food forums, and 3 of them have been overtaken by old folks (my age) who just love to say yech, and bleah to food outside their comfort zone. It's not just too bad that they are closed to anything different, it's getting irritating that they are so critical of it. It seems most of the real foodies have left, and for some perplexing reason, it's become a badge of honor to state that one isn't interested in learning anything new or different.
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Old 03-15-2015, 06:04 PM   #15
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Too Beautiful To Eat

I think the plates look lovely, and I would absolutely eat them!

Years ago, we went to Morimoto's in Philly with Baby Bro and his wife. We all had the Chef's tasting menu, and sat at the kitchen grill bar. Let me tell you, it was the most unusual and beautiful presentation of food I'd ever seen. Outrageously expensive, but a total blast.
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Old 03-15-2015, 06:39 PM   #16
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Steve, your portions look absolutely generous compared to what was presented to us the times we've been to one of "those" type of restaurants. "Those" being the special occasion places that you know are upscale, both in price and portion.


Quote:
Originally Posted by puffin3 View Post
...What happens when we see a beautiful culinary masterpiece carefully, lovingly set in front of us? Something we are willing to pay our hard earned money to then own.To do to it as we wish.
We look at the little teetering mountain of edible delight. We think: ‘This little beauty is setting me back fifty bucks but JUST LOOK AT IT! It’s beautiful!...
I can tell you the first words out of Himself's mouth when we encountered our first mini-meal: "Where is the rest of my meal?"

We have experienced an upscale meal a few times, but certainly not frequently. Fortunately, most of them have been at corporate expense, being the suit-and-tie sort of dinner out. But to experience high-price, gourmet dining often? Let's just say that the taste buds are willing, but the budget is weak. Thank goodness I am one terrific cook.
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Old 03-15-2015, 07:46 PM   #17
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I love the rare occasion when I go to the city and enjoy a nicely plated dish at an upscale restaurant - as has been mentioned, we eat with our eyes first. I don't want my dish covered in sauce, and it's fun to see food art.

Heck, I usually have a bunch of parsley in the fridge and even though there is little flavor in it, I chop some to top my dinner just for a little greenage and décor - even when no one is here to enjoy it but me. :-)


Not that that has anything to do with fine dining, but I'm with Steve....every now and then it's fun to pamper oneself and enjoy the food art.
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Old 03-16-2015, 08:40 AM   #18
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I believe healthy criticism is important. Note. I was being nice about it. Even a bit humorous I hope.
It appears I'm not alone in my opinion.
From the first photo I see you are an adherent of the 'negative space' that is "trending heavily now" in plating food.
"CHEF! What are we going to do? We don't have enough food to fill the plates like we did last month!"
Chef: "Don't worry. I just read an article in the latest copy of Bon Appetite. We are going to start putting half what we used to on the plates and charging an extra four bucks."
Relax. I'm just poking a bit of fun at what's "trending heavily". Next year the 'food-towers' will arrive at the table on white plastic laminated circular placemats. No plates required. Under the plastic are scenes from famous cities/regions which correspond to the type of food being served. You ordered pizza. Guess what's under the see-through coating? Hint? The building is leaning.
Sorry. I've just been told is already being done in Seattle.
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Old 03-16-2015, 09:01 AM   #19
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BTW Steve. I notice the first plate has the items separate from each other. Which was part of my point. When I see half the plate empty for no reason at all the area in my brain that asks: "Is someone taking the piss?" lights up. The plate could easily have been half the size. I also see the items are not stacked like planes waiting to land.
When I compare the two plates the second is much less attractive. It's basically monochromatic. The food is floating in a bath of sauce which means pretty much every bite will include the sauce. Not so the first plate.
So the first plate actually makes my case: Slightly separating each item is a more elegant presentation hence visually more appealing.
I recommend to anyone who is really keen on food and how it's presented to watch all the episodes of Masterchef Australia and New Zealand and Britain. Don't bother with Masterchef US or Canada. They are basically afternoon culinary soap operas.
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Old 03-16-2015, 09:53 AM   #20
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