not-so-fine dining

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Big news in Sydney this week is Restaurants in recession: Sydney kitchens face harsh winter. The comments are worth a read even if the article is a run-of-the mill SMH offering.

Also from SMH there’s Appetite for Sydney: our campaign to support restaurants offering deals “including minute steak with French fries, salad and a glass of wine or beer for $25, or two courses and two bottles of premium wine (minimum four people) for $75 a person”, pre-empting similar usually on offer in October via the Good/Sydney Food Festival or whatever name it’s going by in 2012.

When I’m over something I’m over it. Not even this is enough to tempt me. I can’t imagine why.

Despite their best efforts SMH doesn’t have great cred with readers. Mostly when SMH provides a list of best foodie anything there’s a flurry of comments citing the real world beyond the CBD/eastern suburbs/inner west… and fair enough. I guess the reviewers don’t get a big taxi allowance from Fairfax but neither do diners further afield.

I’m thinking even SMH’s endeavours aren’t going to save the gastronomic sinking ships. At best they’ll shift where people who were already dining out for lunch or post-work dinners are spending their dollars but won’t significantly attract an influx of dollars diners.

All this led me to reminisce…

It’s been quite a while since I was a regular restaurant patron. Once it was a habitual part of hectic & heady work days. I benefited from dining at fabulous and/or well known restaurants: occupational wining & dining. Since I wasn’t paying I wasn’t too fussy, enjoyed the artificial sense of entitlement, and a few too many glasses of wine.

Nowadays I mostly make our dinner at home, and when I want a restaurant experience I occasionally:

in the snootiest voice I can muster, decline the G.O.’s request for a reservation for 2 at 8pm.

cook, throw the food on a plate or serve it with a shitty attitude. Then hover and ask “is everything all right?”

for variety, forgo the shitty attitude and make a nice meal out of ingredients I select, cook how & when I like but not put the meal on the table when we’re hungry… maybe an hour or more later when the bottle of wine is empty and we have barely strength & wit to use a knife & fork.

omit or substitute ingredients randomly with no explanation.

serve the salad or veges slightly later than the main in a side bowl as if it’s a separate dish, sometimes only after enquiry from the G.O. as to its whereabouts, and pretend they are an exorbitant extra rather than include them as part of the meal. If we’re fine dining I’ll do this for the potato side as well.

reply, “it’s a vegetable” when the G.O. queries the identity of an item on his plate. Can’t have him being better informed than me.

prepare the G.O.’s steak the way I want rather than as he prefers and execute a contemptuous shrug should he have the audacity to mention it.

serve what we call “leftovers”. They’re cheap but if you tart them up quite acceptable. We enjoy them frequently and are honest about it. Not quite as restaurant though as recycled chips or other nasties from the probably-not-so-urban myths of the commercial kitchen.

avoid making eye contact or being in the vicinity of the G.O. for at least 30 minutes after asking him what he’d like for dinner.

omit putting a tablet in the dishwasher so the wine glasses entertain via a visual history. Ruby Woo or Russian Red?

find the G.O.’s wallet after dinner and extract most of the notes, and look at him accusingly if there’s not enough for a tip.

Also, I have mastered the illusion of eye-bulgingly priced restaurant tipples: tap water, wine from Dan Murphy’s & coffee from the machine taste just like those on offer at a restaurant.

… all for the cost of ingredients and electricity to cook & run the dishwasher.

Bon appétit.

Dinner a la Gorgeous One
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17 thoughts on “not-so-fine dining

    The Wanderlust Gene said:
    July 3, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Poor poor GO:)

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      EllaDee responded:
      July 4, 2012 at 6:06 am

      Thnx 🙂 I hope you’re not feeling sorry for the G.O. re the baked beans & sausages. I buy them for him but myself, wouldn’t eat them unless under the direst of circumstances,,, but otherwise he’s fine.

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        The Wanderlust Gene said:
        July 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm

        Would never feel sorry for someone who enjoyed baked beans for dinner:)

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    roughseasinthemed said:
    July 3, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Really enjoyed reading this. Eating out is so not on our list of evening entertainment (the Pizza Express meal was an exception and the previous meal out had been two years before for our silver wed).

    Interesting to read the list of places in Sydney participating in the deal. Sydney’s foody image came well after I left, or if it was there, I never got to participate. Doyle’s was about the poshest anyone knew of, but being poor hostellers, our meals out were steak sandwich (around three bucks) at the Rex in King’s Cross – it was great value, and it included chips and salad – or a meal at one of the Leagues clubs.

    Baked beans and sausages are a great combo. Add mashed potatoes and you have a gourmet meal which I am sure you can describe in glowing and totally OTT prose … ‘from the heart of Sydney, comes a wonderful meal, just like mama used to make, and with a little added sophistication (cue – throw in dried herbs) guaranteed to leave you craving for more..’ etc etc I suppose you could even buy that dried mashed potato mix too 🙂 ‘tender buttery mashed potatoes with that perfect fluffy texture..’ OK, I’ll shut up.

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      EllaDee responded:
      July 4, 2012 at 6:12 am

      Thnx. I thought you’d be on the same page about restaurant BS. If we eat out it’s usually at a pub or maybe cafe. We haven’t gotten into the club food thing around here but they can be great value. Re the baked beans & sausages, as I commented to TWG it’s not likely I would eat them in that form. Strictly G.O. food. He loves to indulge on nights when I work late 🙂

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    Richard Guest said:
    July 4, 2012 at 2:28 am

    Ha, ha, brilliant (similar to over here, then) – although I have to admit a weakness for baked beans and sausages (but perhaps not as a main). 🙂

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      EllaDee responded:
      July 4, 2012 at 6:14 am

      Thnx. I suspected the baked beans & sausages were a man thing. There’s always 2 emergency tins in the cupboard for the G.O.’s dining pleasure.

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    Kourtney Heintz said:
    July 4, 2012 at 4:05 am

    I really enjoyed this. You illustrated why fine dining is no longer fine nor dining experiences. It’s a lot of money for a so-so or just plain not good experience. 🙂 Thanks for the chuckle!

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      EllaDee responded:
      July 4, 2012 at 9:24 am

      Thnx. You’ve summarised it perfectly. One of the comments I read re the SMH article yesterday gave me pause for thought – it was along the lines of if certain restaurants didn’t worry about expensive fit-outs and all the hype but concentrated on good + value for money food, they’s be faring much better.

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    robincoyle said:
    July 4, 2012 at 5:47 am

    What is SMH?

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      EllaDee responded:
      July 4, 2012 at 6:17 am

      Sydney Morning Herald, one of the 2 main Sydney newspapers, commonly referred to as SMH or the Herald. The other is the Tele or DailyTelegraph 🙂

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        robincoyle said:
        July 4, 2012 at 6:22 am

        I had a feeling it was your newspaper.

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    intuitivejuliemarie said:
    July 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

    It really IS all about the ambiance, or the illusion of same…love the spotty glasses tactic.

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      EllaDee responded:
      July 5, 2012 at 9:54 am

      Thank you. Sometimes I think restaurants put too much money/effort into the restaurant fit out & style rather than create ambience via good service. The wine glass idea came from a pub/bistro we used to go to where in 6 years I never got an umarked wine glass…

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        intuitivejuliemarie said:
        July 5, 2012 at 10:09 am

        Agreed. These days, it is often more about the appearance of quality, than the actual experience of it. Besides, food prepared with love, even sausages and beans (with red wine, of course), beats most of what you can get ‘dining out’.

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    philosophermouseofthehedge said:
    July 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Sounds good!
    Dining routines have changed in the city with the economy. And so many good restaurants are turning out mediocre food with bad service for outrageous prices. We have more fun buying fresh, and grilling ourselves – and the weather is usually cooperative….the best – no traffic to fight and waiting for a table.

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      EllaDee responded:
      July 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      That’s us too. The whole foodie movement means we get to have the fun with the food 🙂

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