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Paris--the obsession with eating and restaurants

Paris--the obsession with eating and restaurants

Feb 10th, 2006, 05:42 AM
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A friend of mine finished with her boyfriend because he was a picky eater and didn't think much to eating out. Sound extreme? Not when you hear what she 'roughly' said to him.

"This is never going to work. I love food. I love cooking elaborate meals for friends and watching all the cookery shows on TV. I love scouring the papers for the latest restaurant reviews. I love dining out, 3 times a week. I love trying new foods, from foreign places. But you don't. You don't want to spend money eating out, because you think it's a waste. When I slave over a meal, you pull faces and pick at things. You won't eat anywhere where you can't order chips. You refuse to try curry, thai, chinese, japanese, malaysian, french or spanish cuisine because you 'know' you won't like it, even though you've never eaten it. Food is my hobby. It's not just eating, it's laughing with friends and adventure and memories. This is why WE will never work".

So I guess it's either important to you, or it isn't. This is why I could never travel with a non foodie.
Kate is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 05:58 AM
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Kate, your story reminds me of a rather far-fetched story in the latest issue of Time Out NY. So this is the Valentine issue, and there is a section on strange breakup stories. Maybe I'm remembering this wrong (the magazine is not here) -- some guy broke up with his girlfriend because she ordered "two eggs any style" on the diner's menu. The reasoning was that the woman didn't know what to order for breakfast.

Maybe there's a joke there I'm failing to appreciate. But it seemed scarier than funny.

I'm telling the story to the best of my recollection (and no, I'm not making this up).
111op is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 06:07 AM
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Isabel, if you'd read some of Julies' other posts, you see that she "thought she was gonna die" when someone said the price of a meal at L'Ami Louis could be around 300 euros. And that her one and only previous trip to Paris was for merely a few days--hardly enough time to draw such sweeping conclusions about Paris dining options and the choices people make.
Moreover, the Fodorites who seem to take the most umbrage at others' food/loding choices tend to be the budget travelers. As in "we stay in 2 or 3 star places because we want to meet *real* Europeans" (which is both arrogant and wrong--assuming the "real" Europeans can't afford to stay in 4* hotels or that nonEuropeans who stay in them are superficial and wasteful). And numerous posts along the lines of "why do you spend so much on" food, clothing, shopping, lodging, whatever.
That's nothing more than reverse snobbery. And reverse snobbery is no better than any other kind.

I've yet to see a Fodorite who stays in 4* hotels or dines at fine restaurants start a thread berating those who would *bother* staying in a cheaper hotel or demand why some posters have an "obsession" with eating at inexpensive restaurants.

There is a vast difference between enjoying fine restaurants and being "obsessed" with them. Are Fodorites who dine at these types of restaurants supposed to keep their experiences a secret to avoid offending the reverse snobs?
And if a poster is a gourmet cook, shouldn't they be pleased when someone talks about how much they've enjoyed a meal--regardless of how much (or little) it cost?
BTilke is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 06:17 AM
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I make no apologies for enjoying good food and good wine. I will admit it is a plus that Paris has both but that is not the only reason that we will be taking our 3rd trip there this May. The great meals are the cherry on the sundae. I love how Parisians take their meals so seriously and how much care is taken in the experience. I am always shocked back into reality when I return home and am rushed thru a 3 cours meal and it takes only an hour. Plus, this is a vacation. If I choose to spend 3 hours at a dinner, that is my choice. Frankly, I think you are really missing out on something, but that is your choice.
plambers is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 06:29 AM
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BTilke: "Are Fodorites who dine at these types of restaurants supposed to keep their experiences a secret to avoid offending the reverse snobs?"

That's an interesting point, I must admit. It is quite a fine line, I think -- how to talk about something you enjoy without making it seem as if you're trying to put the other person down.

I guess that's what makes these internet forums interesting.
111op is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 06:36 AM
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I fnd that often the highlight of our vacations is sitting down together at a nice meal (with wine!) at the end of the day, talking and laughing.

Out trips tend to be as much about being together as about being someplace.

That's all the foodie in me I guess.
wliwl is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 06:50 AM
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julies - to answer your question simply - "yes" I feel like you, too.
canterbury is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 06:50 AM
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I may be a bit of a foodie but my take is a bit different. Typically when we go Paris I go to cook (& eat, & drink) of course. Although I love to dine in Paris, w/all of the markets there is no better place to try & put your own meals together. Eating is a necessity (except for movie stars & super models) so why not make that portion of your day special as well ? I don't keep track of restaurant names & such, but I know where they are & what I have probably eaten there...I can also probably tell you where to get the best deal on wine and what bakery has the freshest bread, etc. Eating can be expensive in Paris, but it does not have to be !
SAnParis is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 08:05 AM
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One more thing--I think there is a distinction to be drawn between giving a lot of thought to eating and restaurants and spending a lot of money on eating and restaurants. The two can, but needn't, go together. Again, in reflecting on my own travel planning and my own decisions about what to share in my trip report, one of the reasons I took so much time on the restaurants portion was because I didn't want to spend huge amounts of money (not because I find it crazy to spend on meals, just because it wasn't in the budget for this trip) but did want to eat very well, and wanted to help others who felt the same. It seems to me it's teasing out those exemplary middle range or budget places that is especially challenging and fun and rewarding. I hope that if you are going to the very highest end, you can be confident that the experience will be amazing, without a huge amount of preparatory research, though of course reading about meals at such places can also be fun for those of us who are food fantasists.
emnyc is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 08:15 AM
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"[the high end] you can be confident that the experience will be amazing"

I'm not sure if I agree, actually. I find that that's when I'm most likely to be disappointed. Ultimately I think that it's really hard for a meal to be worth several hundred dollars. Can something really be *that* special? That's why I try to be careful about spending money.

My friends and I still joke about the dinner we had in Daniel in NYC. It was "only" about $150 per person, so not exorbitant, but one friend was a vegetarian and her main course was a risotto. Well she did drink a lot.

For me usually the experience is all the more disappointing when I've spent a lot of money, as I start expecting more (when really, it's just food).

If I'm confident that each time I spend a lot of money I'll have a spectacular experience I think that I'd be more likely to spend. But to me, the value question is there for both budget and high-end places. Unfortunately I'm not one of these people where money is no object.
111op is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 08:41 AM
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Well, I agree that I have had better and worse very expensive meals. Since Parisian haute cuisine is another level of expense above the very expensive meals I have had, I guess I liked the notion of guaranteed bliss being part of what you must be purchasing, but you are right that it is unlikely that is technically true. I still think it's easier, however, to make a safe bet when you are focusing on the highest end restaurants in a particular city, though this is not absolutely foolproof.
emnyc is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 08:51 AM
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I bet that risotto at Daniel was just slathered with truffles!!
ekscrunchy is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 08:56 AM
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No, it's hard to have a foolproof method, I think.

As an example, Enoteca Pinchiorri (in Florence, not Paris), seems to have bipolar reviews. Some of the reviews are quite bad (just take a look at the reviews on Fodor's itself -- not in this forum, but in the destination guide, for example).

As for the Paris restaurants -- I've seen inconsistent reviews for Helene Darroze and Tour d'Argent.

Of course, someone could be a fan for these restaurants, and I've not been to either of these, so I can't say. But inconsistent reviews (that sound credible) will make me think twice if I'm going to splurge for an expensive meal.

I think that the trouble with a lot of these expensive restaurants is that they're more or less scared cows, and Michelin is unlikely to demote them. So research is still important -- unless, of course, money is no object.
111op is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 08:56 AM
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LOL, I guess by late last evening, I was too tired to make that much sense.
But then again, if I were going to Japan, food would only be important to me if I were concerned about eating things raw, but when I go to Paris, where they are known to cook well ( and where I can read the menu) , I do look forward to the food.
Meaning that it is impossible for me to read a Japanese menu, I would normally be more concerned about meals that contain quite a bit of raw food and that in Paris I can read the menu and they do cook the food , and cook it well..sorry if you were confused
Scarlett is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 08:56 AM
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I'd happily go for a 300-Euro lunch if someone else was paying, and I enjoy reading about them. On one hand, it's conspicuous consumption for sure, but then again, any leisure travel to Europe that involves long flights across the ocean is pretty much conspicuous consumption too, even if you are traveling on a low budget.

I do like Italian and Greek and Arab food better than French food, though, at least so far as I have tried it, so that makes the idea of spending 300 Euros on a Parisian lunch less appealing. If I felt assured of a once-in-a-lifetime extraordinary experience, I would definitely consider a high-budget meal.
WillTravel is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 09:00 AM
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111op, I know it was just a typo, but the image of Helene Darroze and Tour d'Argent as a scared cows really made me laugh.

I've been to some nice/expensive restaurants here at home--I'm thinking French Laundry--but, as WillTravel notes, I wasn't paying for the meal. I guess my expectations might be higher if I were shelling out all the dough.
Leely is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 09:02 AM
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I have trouble understanding how:

someone can willingly spend $500 on a ticket to the Superbowl when there is a tv at home;

someone can spend $75000 on an automobile when a used car or a new one at half that price will still get you where you want to go;

someone can spend $100 on a new outfit when there are perfectly wearable clothes in thrift shops;

someone can spend money on lawn care when mowing it yourself is so much less expensive;

someone can spend more money for soft toilet tissue when there is cheaper stuff available


the point being, we are all fortunate enough here,to indulge in a luxury, big or small, from time to time, and one person's luxury, or pleasure, is another person's waste of money, and vice versa.
This range of preferences covers most things in life, and is not to me something that blows me away. Most of us save up our time and money for vacations, and have goals or interests that contribute greatly to our own enjoyment of the trip. Chacun a son gout.
Julienas is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 09:05 AM
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"I bet that risotto at Daniel was just slathered with truffles!!"

Honestly, I don't think so. I think it was asparagus (?). Maybe there was a lot of it. It was funny for the rest of us having meat dishes, but I think that she was a bit disappointed. And ironically her birthday was right around then too (but she paid for herself).

In any case, my meal wasn't that special either -- not to the extent I could remember what I ate. But I do remember the wine lists, which came in two thick "binders," even though I know nothing about wine. As I said earlier, part of the fun is seeing a spectacle (unless you're the one paying $150 for risotto).

Now, in retrospect, I guess $150 is not so expensive, as restaurants have become more and more expensive in the city. Per Se and Masa (neither of which I've been) cost (much?) more.

I don't think that I've spent over $200 per head for a meal myself. However I've picked up the tab for $300+ meals for two. After doing this once or twice, it becomes less shocking each time.

And as time goes on, the money spent is not really such a sting for me. It's fun thinking back about the experience, which of course is priceless.

But then, yes, I understand that walking along the Seine is free, and that gives you a memorable experience too. So people have different tastes and priorities.
111op is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 09:14 AM
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Unfortunately (for me) spending money is always tied up with expectations -- so I agree with Leely and WillTravel that whether you're paying really does affect your perception.

I took a friend to Le Cinq for lunch. I paid (about $300, I think). He said that it was nice. I thought it was ordinary. If he had paid, I'm sure I'd have felt differently.

But I did stay with him for free.

When I travel with my mom we'll also splurge once in a while. We're both careful spenders, and she wouldn't spend the money herself. So my thinking is that if I spend a little money and she's happy, that's also priceless. Of course, there's always a little sting when the bill arrives (somehow the bill is always more than what I think -- I wonder if others have the same experience ).

I do want to try French Laundry -- and as I said, I've not tried Per Se (Keller's restaurant here). However since Fat Duck overtook FL last year, I should work on Fat Duck first?

But of course, I understand that one can be perfectly happy without spending money, but I do think that there's something about fine dining that appeals to me.
111op is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 09:31 AM
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LOL julienas!
I am sorry I missed the Scared Cows! I have been to both by the way, didn't notice the scared part at the time
Scarlett is offline  

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