Tuesday, June 24

Transcendently Delicious

I recently dined at the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley. My experience was good...but not excellent. Perhaps the build-up of literally a lifetime of laudatory commendations propelled my expectations into the utterly unachievable realm. The meal was very good, and the wine was superb, but I don't know that I would call it extraordinary. I was relaying my experience to Nancy (yes, she has her own tag, too), and she posited this compelling query:

Okay, this is a legitimate question: have you ever had food that IS mind-blowingly good? That is transcendently delicious, as good or better than you imagined?

For this, I defer to my readers' thoughts. (But you can see my answer in the comments section)


cmoore said...

Your question about mind-blowing good food is very legitimate and very hard to answer. I think my simple answer is, yes. My marker for really incredibly good food is when I find myself slowing down my eating experience: when tasting becomes more important than consuming. Which I guess should happen all the time, but it doesn't, and when it does I know I've found something special. I think of the truffled stilton fries we had in Santa Fe, or the molten chocolate lava cakes in San Diego. I don't think the experience lasts long, and I don't know if it's recreate-able, but I think it's possible. I do overdo expectations though...especially when cooking. I don't know that I've ever made food I consider mind-blowing good. And I derive a ridiculous amount of pleasure from reading about food and planning menus, and walking through aisles of bright produce, etc. But ultimately I find that the simpler the food is, the more potential for a really sublime eating experience.

Rachel said...

YES. I most certainly have:

1) The goat cheese concoction at Apamate a couple of weeks ago.

2) A goat cheese and chicken mousse I had years ago in London. I thought it was going to be chicken with a goat cheese-based sauce on top. It was not. It was pureed (???) together and chilled. I don't even know. I just know that it was transcendently delicious and I still haven't forgotten the taste.

3) A goat cheese salad in Paris, the likes of which I have never encountered since.

Allison said...

My answer is yes, but I definitely have categories in which it is harder to blow my mind, thus making them more prized memory instances. When I am impressed with a dessert, for instance - that will stick with me longer than if I'm served an amazing pasta. ((An instance that sticks out is when I had this amazing goat-milk gelato creation in Vancouver...my brother casually ate half of it off my plate in one spoonful & I almost burst out in remorseful tears)

As a vegetarian, I often wonder if my scale is different for this than carnivores? With restaurants, there are usually two choices from which to choose & rarely have as much thought as to taste combinations as a lot of the other menu dishes.

Rachel said...

My goodness, I just realized that everything I listed involved goat cheese.
I do eat things other than cheese.

Nancy said...

EVERYONE said goat cheese!

I'm not one to buck a trend, sooo...

Yesterday I answered my own question in the affirmative. Food CAN be transcendent, amazing, better than expected.

I'm part of a monthly cheese-wine-beer-food-talk club called The Bueno Queso Social Club (cute, right)? http://buenoqueso.org/ and yesterday we had a class devoted to American sheep's milk cheese, American charcuterie, and American beer.

1. I don't like sheep's milk cheese very much -- it's waxy. sometimes it doesn't taste like anything at all, and other times it tastes like its origin in the worst possible way.

2. I don't really drink much beer, especially if given the option of wine.

The last pairing was a "Brebis Blanche" from 3-Corner Field Farm in Shushan NY (http://www.dairysheepfarm.com/) paired with Baltic Thunder Porter from Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, PA.

The cheese is categorized as a "farmer's cheese." It was just a week old -- light, fluffy, not unpleasantly sheepish (ha) and ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE.

There were little black flecks mixed in, which I took to be black pepper. Until I ate some and washed it down with the porter (which tasted, on its own, like a mix of english toffee and an iced mocha). Then I realized that there was CHOCOLATE in the cheese.

Robert, a cheesemonger/fanatic who leads the class, chopped up 60% Valhrona chocolate and mixed it in on a whim. As a "dessert" course, the cheese and porter was tangy, sweet, yeasty, and reminiscent of coffee. So, so good. And so, so unexpected.

So maybe that's the key -- reading over Rachel and Allison's posts, it seems like the element of surprise works in the favor of the transcendent food experience. Most food-interested people know the lore of Chez Panisse, and imbue into it whatever WE think of as "the best food ever." On the other hand, I never expected to find myself with a mouthful of sheep cheese, chocolate, and 10% ABV porter... and I loved it. There were no expectations to live up to, and no dissapointment had things not turned out so well.

And isn't that the way we should view the world? Taking things in as they come our way and judging them in the moment of interaction? Rather than building up an experience that can never match the detail and perfection of our (my) imagination? I think so.

ps can we go to Chez Panisse when I come to CA?? I hear it's INCREDIBLE! ;)

Nancy said...

1. that was real long.

2. my tag isn't tagged!

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