I was in New York City for a week at the beginning of December (last month), and made sure to have dinner reservations set up ahead of time for just about every night. One of the reservations I snagged was for the Omakase Bar at Morimoto, named after Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.
At the back of the restaurant is a sushi bar where people walking in might be lucky enough to find seating (the restaurant is usually otherwise fully booked a few days in advance). However, you can also reserve seats at the bar for a chef’s “omakase” – basically the Japanese version of a chef’s tasting menu. I made that booking for two, and then scrambled to find a dinner companion as Linda and the kids were still back home on Bonaire.
I was happy to learn that my friend David Gelles was in town and free, and so come December 9th, after a drink at Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain in midtown, we made our way to Morimoto in the warehouse district of New York City for our 7pm reservation.
That's me at left and David Gelles at right, with our chef for the night in back (and I feel terrible because I forgot his name)
We spent the next five hours enjoying a dozen courses, each specially made for us, and we even order seconds of one dish.
This was by far our favorite dish - raw oyster with foie gras, uni, a sweet sauce, and black truffles. We liked it so much we ordered seconds.
Along with the meal we consumed a couple of bottles of sake, and some nice desert wine after that. Details blur, but thanks to my trusty Canon S90 point and shoot camera (the best small camera I have found so far for natural light photography in restaurants), I have a visual record of the entire feast.
Toro tartare with ossetra caviar
The full set of 36 photos from our gastronomical engagement can be found here on Flickr.
Something that always puzzles me is how certain things get classified in ways that don’t really make sense.
A classic example is the ever popular peanut. Also known as earthnuts or ground nuts, peanuts are not nuts at all. They are legumes, a fancy word for beans.
Peanuts grow underground or on the ground. Real nuts grow above ground, typically in trees.
However, popular culture has lumped peanuts in with almonds, cashews, filberts, and others.
That’s much like saying that tomatoes are vegetables. They are not – they are fruits. But someone decided at some point they should be classified as vegetables. Likewise, bananas are actually berries and not fruits, although for most of us that distinction is less significant.
All this false classification is almost too much for a logical person to handle.
Fortunately it’s Friday afternoon meaning that the weekend is just about here. Tomorrow we pack, and on Sunday we’ll be in Washington, D.C. We have a whole bunch of food things lined up. We’ll post the results of our food experiences here as they happen.
One of the common misnomers about folks who consider themselves foodies is that they are food snobs. Food snobs are people who turn their nose up at ordinary foods because, well, they are ordinary, common, or pedestrian – choose your description. Food snobs require expensive bottles of wine to show their food elitism. They order foie gras or dishes with truffles because they are considered to be delicacies, and not necessarily because they like those things. They turn their noses up at BBQ and home-style country cooking. Food snobs won’t try regional dishes like guinea pig, stinky tofu, or pig’s intestines.
And food snobs probably ask to have their meals modified when they ordered. A scene from the 2006 movie with Queen Latifah “Last Holiday” where a table full of diners orders various specialties and then asks to have them modified in ridiculous ways comes to mind as an excellent example of this type of food snobbery.
A true foodie delights in trying local cuisine wherever he or she happens to be. A true foodie will, barring allergies or significant dietary restrictions, also trust a chef to produce a dish properly, meaning with all the ingredients and accoutrements the chef designed the dish with. This applies as much to single courses as it does to so-called “chef’s tasting menus”. Back to “Last Holiday”, Queen Latifah’s character is a true foodie, taking her passion as far as to order multiple main courses just to try the various combinations of flavors and textures.
Diners who presume to tell a chef how to cook and what to serve or not are food snobs, not foodies.
And people who denigrate ordinary foods merely because they are not expensive or rare are not foodies either. An example of an ordinary food that comes to mind would be a side dish of fresh green beans boiled with bacon that we enjoyed at the homey Calico County Restaurant in Ft. Smith, Arkansas this past August. It was only a side dish, and simple home cooking, but it was heavenly, as were the cinnamon rolls served with the meal. And I’m pretty sure no food snob would even enter that wonderful place because of the simple exterior and kitschy interior.
In summary, a foodie is passionate about good food, regardless of its source. A food snob adds artificial criteria in his or her evaluation of food, many times including what other people think of the food instead of trusting their own senses.
This blog is about foodie moments, but some folks might not share our concept of what a “foodie” is. So, in a first of a number of posts on the subject, let me share some thoughts on the matter.
What is a Foodie – Criteria #1:
A “Foodie” is someone who enjoys food for more than its perceived nutritional value. Said another way, a foodie relishes understanding and discussing food preparation, presentation, and flavor. Being a Foodie involves passion for food, and not merely acceptance of what’s on the plate in front of you.
More on this subject later.