Not a Foodie
I’m not a foodie.
I can’t be; I was officially disqualified ordering a McDonald’s DOUBLE Filet o’ Fish sandwich years ago. In my defense, those of you who know; there is something about that patty that is special. We’ll just leave it at that…
I like good food. Really good food. Gourmet food.
Unapologetically, I am a human at the top of the food chain. I’m not going to make excuses for being a carnivore, omnivore or whatever type of “vore” is currently under attack (I once got into a conversation about not eating any food that once had eyes.)
The very best meal I ever had was when I visited 11.47, the restaurant at Hotel Aranjuez in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica a couple of years ago. I had the “tasting menu” where they just fed me whatever they wanted to.
I am back in Costa Rica, at the Hotel Grano de Oro (Golden Grain, for you unilinguals out there), seated in the most beautiful dining room I have ever entered, with hushed tones, linen tablecloths and incredible native wood everywhere (it was Central America, after all, where much of that beautiful exotic wood originates).
I was conflicted. There were four items on the menu I wanted, and that was just the entrees. For an appetizer, I chose the Carpaccio de Corvina: Seabass carpaccio, marinated with lemon and orange, capers, gooseberries, candied ginger and cilantro, sweet potato chips. After careful, conflicted deliberation, for an entrée I decided to go with the Lomito Pistachio: Costa Rican beef tenderloin with a pistachio crust, mushroom reduction and macadamia nut foam (this last item represented on the menu as “espuma de macadamia,” which I found amusing).
The Carpaccio arrived, and it was beautiful. Upon tasting, it was… good. But not nearly what I had been anticipating. Sea Bass is my favorite fish (despite some suspect claims about it being unethically fished). We’re talking Carpaccio here, which essentially is sashimi, and I needed it to have a little more “tooth.”
The entree arrived, beautifully plated, and it was … very good.
When the waiter, who was a bit stand-offish (which I understand is de rigueur in some of the high falootin’ places) set my plate down, he also presented a tiny facsimile of a cast iron Dutch oven (sans lid) with a puree of some sort inside.
I slowly sampled everything in front of me, and whatever was in that cast iron ramekin blew everything else away. I dipped everything on my plate into it: the obligatory vegetables, the beef itself (forget the macadamia nut foam). I may have even scooped the last of it out with my finger. What was it? I tried to trace back to the menu. What else was listed? Rutabaga? No, I probably would have remembered that. Obviously some root vegetable, pureed the living daylights out of. It wasn’t poi, that I was absolutely certain of.
When the surly waiter reappeared, I asked him, “What IS that?”
With what may have been a bit of a smirk, he replied, “Mashed potatoes.”
Later, ten days into vacation, I had lunch at Citrus, in Ojochal. I ordered the TRIO DEL MAR AL AZAFRÁN: vieiras, corvina y camarones con salsa cremosa al azafrán, mousse de coliflor, picadillo de maíz y chorizo. Or, for you Spanish-challenged (like me): Scallops, seabass and shrimps in a creamy saffron sauce, cauliflower mousse, corn and chorizo.
For the last ten days, I had sought out the “best restaurants” on Travel Advisor and been generally underwhelmed. Consequently, I had lowered the bar considerably until this plate was put in front of me.
Know ahead of time, the only cruciferous vegetable I generally consider eating is broccoli, and even then, I eat it only because I know I should. Wait… What? This creamy puree shmeared artistically across my plate is CAULIFLOWER? But it tastes… good.
Looks kinda like mashed potatoes to me.
Now, I’m confused.
Mashed potatoes? Simple, right? OK, maybe not those. I’ll bet there was a process (or at the very least, a processor) involved.
Cauliflower mouse? Nothing simple about that (If Kim’s most excellent Thanksgiving pumpkin mousse is any indication).
What does it MEAN? I mean, in the grand scheme of things? I thought the mashed potato thing was supposed to be a metaphor for simplicity. I mean, c’mon, the filet had a macadamia nut FOAM on it! (Kim and I joked about how there would be no foam at home. ET hilarity ensued, of course, but, digressing…)
But I am on vacation, therefor being allowed extra time to THINK.
I don’t WANT to be a foodie. I hate the pretense of it all: deconstructing a recipe, dinner as “theater” (on this trip, I actually had a course presented in a retro metal lunchbox, with the restaurant logo emblazoned across the top. I had smoke blown into a glass dome to infuse the flavor into the chicharones).
As a don’t-wanna-be-foodie, we also can’t have this conversation without talking about wine. I like wine. That being said, anything over $20 a bottle is probably being lost on me. I know some people have a “nose,” but my palate simply cannot discern the cherries from the raspberries or blackberries. Or the “OAK,” the precious “OAK.” I once jokingly referred to a wine that had been “bold” without being audacious. My audience wasn’t sure if I was being serious or not…
To me, part of being a foodie means a level of persnickety, considering someone lesser who might not be able to perceive the undertones of pomegranate in their Bordeaux.
So, it’s like art. Yes, we are going to go down THAT path. I know what I like (the classic refrain of those that don’t know any better). Food can be artistically presented (plated,” thank you). And that can add to its appeal. But we are not going to just look at it; we are going to EAT it. It is sustenance, it is fuel, it is necessary for survival.
And, in its highest form, it should taste good. Really good.
What’s my point? I’m not sure. Again, I thought this treatise was going to be about the merits of simplicity (mashed potatoes, right?) But I really liked the cauliflower mousse, too. I guess I should feel fortunate that I can partake of both, given the choice.
But can I get fries with that?