Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tiny Food, Big Prices – The Omnivore’s Nightmare

You should expect many things if you plan to spend four hours and $250 a person on a dinner billed as a "farmer's feast." One of them isn't a post-meal craving for pizza.

Yet I was jonesing for a slice. Or five. So was my wife, and she had splurged an extra $150 on wine pairings.

teeny burgersObjects may appear larger in photo than on your plate.
These may or  may not be sitting a on a toothpick.

We had just finished grazing the night away at a farm-to-table restaurant so exclusive even our vehicle's GPS couldn't locate it (but then our vehicle is a minivan). We had been anticipating this dining experience for two months, not that we normally plan our meals that far in advance. Our tastes run more toward the culinary school of "I better grill this chicken tonight before it gets all plaguey." However, when my wife called to make a reservation, two months forward was the first available seating and, dang it -- someone had given us a $250 gift certificate for this place.

The foreshadowing commenced when I asked My Love what I should wear to dinner. She wrinkled her brow: "What's that word you use for phrases like `jumbo shrimp'?"


"Yeah, it was something like that," she said. "Oh, I remember. The website said: `elegant casual.'"

I considered a tasteful ensemble of sports jacket, tie and jogging shorts. However, by winter's end my calves are whiter than a Vermont college town at the peak of ski season, so I donned pants.

We arrived early and had a drink at the bar. I figured ordering a beer, even at $55 a bottle (because it's a 25-ounce bottle, you peasant), might be considered gauche, so I chose the restaurant's specialty old-fashioned: a rich, velvety and generous mix of rye, bitters and brown-butter roasted chestnuts. If I could have spent the entire $250 on those old-fashioneds, I would have been happy and satiated until I inevitably passed out in a pool of my own overindulgence.

But, no. We insisted: Bring on the feast!

I lost track of the number of courses we "ate" around the time the server encouraged us to nibble on an anemic potted plant. (In fairness, he sprayed fennel oil from a silver atomizer into the air about a foot left of the scraggly greens, inhaled the mist, and then served us the plant.) I recall a row of embryonic vegetables, heavily salted and spiked on a block of pins -- a dish fit for a family of four Lilliputians with low blood sodium levels. There was cracker topped with phytoplankton, which my son tells me is the stuff krill eat before a whale eats the krill. All I know is it smelled like low tide during a long August heat wave. There was a raw quail's egg, a spoonful of yogurt, a fingernail-sized clam that smelled like it had recently gotten funky with the phytoplankton.

And beets. Lots of beets.

Beet sausage. Beet sliders. Beet-laced beets in beet sauce. All in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and the Borscht" portions.

"Beets are our primary winter crop," one of the 87 people who served us our miniaturized courses told us. I should have asked what month brought prime rib season.

In fairness, we did eat some things you would expect at exorbitant prices and in minuscule portions. A quarter-teaspoon of caviar atop a stunted baby potato. A domino-sized piece of foie gras encased in slivers of dark chocolate to fool your brain into thinking "Kit Kat" rather than "fatty goose liver." We also received a solitary slice of grass-feed brisket and another of roasted pork belly, both of which would have fully satisfied a midget Venus flytrap with hipster tastes.

Uh, oh -- I might have just given the chef an idea for another course. And another $50 charge.


  1. "stunted baby potato." Snort.

  2. We did a tasting dinner at Per Se (long before the recent health department snafu). Had a $500 gift certificate and that covered just about half of our final bill. Yeah. Then again, we overdid it with the wine selection.

    We shared an order of steak frites at a French cafe that served until 2AM later that night. Yeah.

  3. i am sharing this! You do this well, where was this?

    1. Blue Hills at Stone Barn just north of Tarrytown


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