Secret Food Confessions

Here’s the thing. . . I’m just not that enthused about Craft. It feels a little like heresy to admit it when the restaurant is so important, so beloved by so many people whose writing and palates I respect, but it’s true. When I first read about it in Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte, it looked exciting. I love that share bites, family style of dining and the sort of mix and match format of the menu seemed fun. But the more I learn about the restaurant, the less interested I become. After reading the recent post on the subject at the always delightful Amateur Gourmet and perusing the menu at menupages.com, if I was in New York, it probably wouldn’t be on my To Eat List.
It’s not that I don’t think the food looks yummy, because I certainly do. I’ve been reading through chef Tom Colicchio’s Craft of Cooking, and most of the recipes look as though they’d be delicious, particularly when made with lovely, high quality farmer’s market ingredients. In some ways, that’s precisely the problem. It all looks very much like the kind of food I cook myself; fresh ingredients in simple preparations. Beet salad, roasted Atlantic salmon, sauteed sugar snap peas these are many of my favorite foods, but for all the to-do I keep hearing about Craft, I guess I just expected something more. Particularly considering that these dishes are $16, $26, and $11 respectively.
I completely get that quality ingredients simply prepared are beautiful things, but that just seems excessive, particularly for food that is so plainly presented, basically just food on plate on table. I even understand that a person’s eyes and palate can become exhausted from plate after plate of elaborate, fussy food and that such a person would long for carrots that taste like carrots and that aren’t garnished with crispy fried leeks and a drizzle of tomato oil. In a city like New York where every type of luxurious food is available around almost every corner, a city where the population is constantly seeking out the next new taste, a city where crudo has been done, foam is almost passe, and even smoothies are flavored with yuzu, perhaps less is more. But for me, when I eat at a restaurant marked by five dollars signs in the guidebooks, I want them to do a little more of the work for me. I like tasting menus specifically because I don’t have to choose the courses and combinations. My favorite chefs are ones who combine flavors and textures in ways that challenge and surprise me. The idea of lamb on one plate, turnips on another, lettuce on a third, all chosen by me, presumably to complement each other and make a full dining experience leaves me a little cold. I guess I dine out to enjoy the chef’s craft, not my own.

Posted in Food, Tasty Ponderings

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