Pretentious Dining Redefined
Which came first: pretentious foods or pretentious people? Did one create the other? Pretentious foods are foods of luxury. Foods that are not attainable or enjoyed by the average eater. In my mind, the definition of pretentious foods is caviar, escargot, truffles, and edible gold. All swallowed down with a glass of the notorious Dom Perignon.
Why do we feel luxury foods are only meant for the finer occasions in life? Celebrations. Togetherness with a loved one. Sending one-off with cheers. A high rise on Park and 5th, yachts, country clubs have all seen their fair share of luxury foods accompanied with fine dining. I have eaten all of the mentioned foods. With no pretentiousness or dining on 5th Avenue. The clink of champagne flutes sounds the same in suburban living rooms as on the most affluent yachts.
Where did the idea of pretentious food begin? Where did the label “finer foods” begin at the grocery store? Some of the most expensive foods in the world don’t seem that luxurious—the humble vanilla bean. A pantry staple used in daily baking in kitchens around the world. Cutting open a fresh vanilla bean, scraping out the rich filling; fittingly called caviar. Vanilla can be misleading on the spice aisle. Found in bottles, which are majority alcohol. Madagascar vanilla is currently at $600 per pound. 1-2 beans at Whole Foods Market cost around $9. These little beans are worth the price and add much richness to your cupcakes, icecreams, and puddings.
The spice aisle is filled with these hidden gems. Saffron is another luxurious, yet commonly found spice in most major grocery stores. Adding threads of heat to Moroccan tagines or Spanish paellas. Currently listed as the most expensive ingredient on the planet. Ranging from $5,000 to-10,000 per pound. Threads of saffron are a deep fiery red. Delicate in appearance, heating up your palette with each robust bite. These ingredients may feel common, as they are readily available.
Luxury foods date back as far as the Romans. They believed in excessive eating. The Latin word Luxuria by definition means extravagant excess. The idea of fine dining originated in France in the 1700s. New York City opened the first fine dining establishment in 1837. Delmonico’s was the first to offer private dining rooms with expensive wines to accompany their menu. Fine dining stretches across our country with abound. The finest restaurants boast chefs that have achieved James Beard Award or a notable nomination. Only awarded to nominated chefs and their esteemed restaurants. There is no higher achievement for a fine-dining chef. Five chefs receive this award in the U.S yearly. In February 2022, Las Vegas was home to three chefs on the semifinalist list.
Fine dining, paired with luxury, piled high with access is the definition of Las Vegas. Sin finds your palette by adding touches of luxury to seemingly common dishes. Hot dogs topped with truffles, hamburgers bursting with culinary divinity. The infamous $5000 burger is topped with truffles, foie gras, all left shimmering with edible gold. Sin City houses some of the most prestigious chefs in the world. Unfortunately, the opportunity to dine at Joel Robuchon or Fleur by Hubert Keller comes with a hefty price tag. Ranging from $599 per person.
The pandemic that struck our country deeply affected our way of life. Many restaurants closed. The definition of fine dining is narrowing. With staff shortages, raised food costs, much uncertainty touches this industry. YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok are leading us to the new inspiration behind the stove. For those who never cooked, learning through these channels as dining out was not an option for many months.
Many of us will not have the privilege of dining at a James Beard winner. Meals that exceed your mortgage are not worth the splurge for us all. The appreciation for finer foods is not for every palette out there. Do you need award-winning ingredients to make a luxury meal? Or is the beauty in the eye of the beholder? I have found that my favorite meals invoke memories.
Dishes that I want to share time and again with those around me. There is no caviar, no rich buttery snails, or fatty foie gras. Just simple food prepared in a simple kitchen. It is possible you will hear the clink, pop, fizz of a bubbly cocktail. A good toast with charming words. The words from the mouths of those you love. Cheers! and words of adoration, far more memorable the meal. Memories made sitting picnic-style around my coffee table with my beloved. His love, words of adoration. Carrying more meaning than what is at the end of my fork.