Sunday, August 24, 2008

dining finely: thomas keller's ad hoc

(note: i don't have a lot to add to this one, so i'll just periodically interject as such. -l)


capitalism was killing the arts. if you dont think cooking is an art, then youre probably starving. im not starving (i 'm just Fat). eating is supposedly a necessity, but in an overpopulated civilization, it has turned into a privilege. i am a white male,so im fairly privileged. i want to eat well (by 'well', i dont mean healthily, necessarily) but because i am accustomed to eating well. i eat relatively well because i can occasionally afford to. recently, i was able to afford to eat well; finely in fact. disclaimer: we saved our change for months, then cashed it in at the bank. we took the money and used it buy a dinner. we spent more than we have ever spent on a single meal. weird, right?


at 48$ a person (prix fixe 4 course meal), ad hoc is thomas kellers least expensive restaurant. its in yountville, in the napa valley nestled side by side w his other higher priced creations, bouchon and the french laundry, surrounded by bucolic vineyards, and exclusive resort style hotels. kellers apparent intent was to create an affordable, casual, fine dining alternative to the overpriced eateries surrounding. his success in that endeavour exists only in relation to the price range of the other capitalist monstrosities lining the boulevard ad hoc lies on. but napa is napa and rich cunts are rich cunts. all people, not just rich cunts should be able to enjoy high quality food, so by bringing down the price, keller believes that he will be able to create an accessible restaurant experience for all. ah yes, and there it lies, a real working mans oasis! come one, come all, enjoy the bounty of our mother earth, a common treasury for everyone to share! pull up a chair, boys, tonite we dine-- finely! see the waiters? why lookee there, they wear the garb of a commoner-a work shirt and jeans! the price? well, its only 48 dollars a person! pocket change! no dress code, neither! cletus, put on them cover-alls and come grab some grub! soups on!


when we arrived our knowledgeable and sober waiter gave us a brief rundown of the menu. he seemed to rush our ad hoc primer slightly, but that was ok. i dont fancy any type of meal where i need a briefing to dig it. he did, however, emphasize the importance of enjoying the meal, having fun with it, not worrying about being held to any sort of fine dining standard as a customer. hey, just like olive garden! upon the waiters recommendation my mate ordered a sparkling wine. i ordered a beer, sudwerks out of davis. excellent, both (l.-as the only other 'high quality' wine i enjoy is the pink andre, i found this almost unpalatablely delicious. also, one glass of it costs as much as three bottles of andre, pink or otherwise.).



the first course was a salad of iceburg (l.-butter lettuce! mayhap you know it as boston lettuce.) lettuce, radishes, andouille sausage, medallions of corn on the cob and a creamed black pepper dressing. our server mentioned specifically the importance of eating the corn with our hands to maximize the casualness of it all. he also spoke briefly about the vegetables being raised on the keller restaurant farm so it was organic, seasonally fresh and local. huzzah! the food is delivered family style so we served ourselves. at first i felt slighlty shy, embarassed that i was ignorant of proper etiquette in front of the food. but, remembering our new best friends advice i lightened up. besides, it was amusing watching the rich cunts ignore obvious advantages of feasting handily on corn and scramble with forks after it like they was hunting an endangered species. the waiter humored them with humoring and spent much time speaking in great, florid detail about the quality of the food. more time with them than us. the food was delicious- fresh crunchy, flavorful vegetables complimented by the peppery kick of the dressing.



second course was steak and potatoes with asparagus and heirloom tomatoes under a red pepper sauce. it was pretty great. the steak was cooked sous vide, where the meat is vacuum sealed in a bag to preserve natural flavors and immersed in boiling water at a very precise temperature. it emphasizes the meaty, formerly alive qualities of the steak, preserving gristle, fat, veins and the like within a tender, medium rare prison of pink flesh. holla! the vegetables were, again, fresh and flavorful; the sauce, friendly and giving . (l.-the piquillo pepper sauce, my lord!)



the third course at ad hoc is always a cheese course. we got some kind of goat cheese (i forget the name), hard and salty like parmesan, with olives and almonds. this was without a doubt my favorite course. as an avowed salt freak, i ate each bite with a little of each of the ingredients. holy cow, ive never tasted that before. the flavors were perfect compliments to each other, fitting together like puzzle pieces.


throughout this whole affair, our waiter would return periodically to update us on the next course. we felt slightly rushed, like he was trying to get us out of there quickly. we did not recieve the same attention he flattered the other diners with. perhaps he thought our comparatively shabby attire (i was wearing a collared shirt and slacks[!] and my mate was dressed in business casual (l.-actually, one of the servers-not-waiters took this opportunity to compliment my "style," in such a way that i felt, though she may be blind, she was not making fun.) represented our tipping limits. meanwhile, the place was filling up and i felt ill at ease. why were the rich cunts so well dressed? oh yes, theyre rich cunts in napa, and their 'slumming it' was still superior to our 'dressed up'. now, this is the thorn in this rose-- why should i be feeling wiggy? i just want a meal, like any other schlub! (l.-here i am, baby!) but the thing was, in this restaurant for the 'common' schlub, we were the only common schlubs! the other schlubs were rich schlubs. so privileged though i may be to eat out, at what, to me, is a fancy restaurant, i was still getting the evil eye from the regulars! yeah, there was a table of regulars getting preferential treatment from the waiter. he brought them off the menu dishes as he asked about their ivy league offspring.



dessert, the last course, was panna cotta and peaches. it was ok. i was not especially moved. im not a dessert person. (l.- i really liked this. i am a sweets person. it tasted like an elegant and mature cheesecake. i wish the coffee i ordered specifcally because i felt like i was being rushed and wanted to take some more time arrived along with my dessert, but by this point, we were long forgotten. when the coffee did come, though, it took cream incredibly well, and i think was pivotal in my eventual low-brow coffee snobbery.) our grand total came to about 155$, with tip.


ok, youre saying this, then: 'why, shlub, would you go there? youre not welcome, you dont dig the vibes, its pricey, what gives?' and to you i say this-- 'i went because i have never dined finely before and i wanted to see what the fuss was about.and, oh yes, the fuss is about delicious food. the food was amazing; an accessible menu, eating with your hands, casual fine dining! thats groovy, daddy. but look, dont give me the stink eye because everyone is overdressed but us. im not part of your group and i dont want to be. i do, however want to enjoy good food in a receptive, loving atmosphere. even for the middle class, so lowly in the eyes of the napanese, eating is about the social experience, not survival. so many dont have the luxury of that social experience and so few do, and how! alright, buddy, this may not be the place to argue for the redistribution of wealth (i wish), but everyone, every single scum sucking schlub, from the worm schlubs to the rich cunt schlubs should be able to eat good food all the time. dont give that casual dining shit when its just another jerk booth for rich cunts and the panderers who yearn to be in their numbers. yeeesh!'

(l.-in my sociology lecture at a large state university, the professor really drove it home [with a chart] about taste vs. money, as in, us liberal art students had high taste (liked ethnic food), but no money, the nouveau-riche had lotsa money and low taste, (he left out low money/low taste because, at the time, there was not enough space on the internet for the bloggable fury incited by talking about poor people in front of 500 rich white and liberal 20 year olds) and, he alone as a professor had high taste, much money (debatable). anyway, i've never been transported so abruptly back to that moment of some run of the mill power-douche jumping on his desk and screaming, arguably word for word, about how much better he was than me (and the people filling up the rest of the hall). the association alone kind of slowed down the good time i had been having with this meal and i gradually grew more and more self conscious that no matter how much i love food, and how many (all of them) of the technical terms the waiter described in patronizing detail i already knew, and whatever else, this meal was Not for Us, it was for Them.)


now, capitalism is the art. the artist produces a product or object and trades it for money. the patron of the arts is the lynchpin in this lifestyle of exclusivity for artist and patron, brandishing the art (status) object as an advertisement for themselves, their class, their club, their comfort. the privilege of people who can afford to be arts patrons seems a given to them as schlubs of the world trudge wearily to their minimum wage job, unwitting noble savages in a post agricultural world, killing time for rich cunts-- patrons of the arts and of ad hoc.


so, kellers aim is supposedly righteous, but he misses the mark. he is a chef to be respected, a restrauteur to be admired, a capitalist (artist) to be feared. he disguises his notions of class and status behind an all too transparent veil of community and equality. his patrons and their ilk sour the arts experience with their putrid stink--the empty smell of money. the fresh, local, organic trophies of luxury that should be available to all, they congratulate themselves with. the souvenirs of lifestyle will rot soon enough in their bellies, falling into greasy, useless detritus in 'the house where every man goes', perhaps the only equalizer in the civilization of More and Less.

8 comments:

Spill said...

I could sometimes try and maybe feel what its like to be dinning on a nice restaurant, I love to eat at home cook my own food and hopefully imitate the way restaurants cook their food..

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