How the Tasting Menu Became Chill

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Once decadent and gluttonous, the tasting menu has taken on a chiller, more manageable vibe in the past few years—which makes tackling one far more fun, and far less scary.

It’s a very specific first-world problem: You go out to eat at a restaurant that’s touted as a life-changer by all the food publications. You jump through hoops to get the reservation. The day has arrived. You show up. Maybe you even flew to get there. The procession of courses begins, and suddenly, you’re on hour number two, tackling the tenth course out of thirty, and you’re already tired and full. It dawns on you that you are being held hostage, and, maybe worse, fed to the point of illness. Do you stop eating, or do you partake in it all, then pay for the privilege of feeling like you want to die?

It’s easy to be resentful when these are the options. That may also be why tasting menus have been steadily moving away from the captive-audience.

These days, there are appealing alternatives for diners who’d like to try the best of what a chef has to offer—which is, essentially, what a tasting menu is—but who don’t want to submit to the price, the time commitment, or the sheer quantity and richness of the food.

The best tasting menus either show off what a restaurant does best, or leaves the diner wanting more.  We have a new generation of eaters coming up, and they’re not used to those grand tastings. Some think customers are eating less than they were years ago. They’re more price conscious, they eat out more—they’re probably eating out tonight and tomorrow night, and probably the following night.

A general shift toward vegetables, foraged plants (ahem, noma) and sustainability at fine-dining restaurants takes the emphasis away from rich luxury ingredients that can be overbearing

Tasting menus are lightening up in more obscure ways, too. These days, humor is a currency as important as taste. Usually, the most memorable dish in a multi-course menu is the one that make you smile.

Source:  gq.com, July 2017

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