Friday, November 23, 2012

On Eating Out

We found a new vet and V took Dale in this afternoon. We were trying to convince ourselves that he's back to his usual self but of course we wanted medical advice. It is not good news. The poor mutt has multiple problems including an abdominal mass and a possible infection. The vet was compassionate and competent and prescribed medication. We're supposed to check in with her again on Monday. For now, Dale's quite comfortable, being fed extra biscuits and napping in his bed near a heating vent. Thanks to everyone who's sending him good wishes.

I went back and forth about whether to continue posting daily this last week of NaBloPoMo. But truly it gives me something to think about rather than watching the dog anxiously so I sat down to write this post. And writing is always therapeutic.

Archana asked, "How often do you eat out and what do you guys like to eat?
What's the fanciest meal you've had and would you be willing to shell out big dough for good food?"


V and I have very different personalities and interests. He loved sports, history and science fiction. You know what I love- reading, crafts and cooking. Our evenings are often spent doing things in parallel, enjoying each others company while doing different things: me knitting while he's watching a game and so on. But we share a love of good food and we both absolutely love eating out- it is our favorite shared interest. The thing about eating out is that it is only a special experience if you don't eat out every day.

We end up eating out once a week or so. In pre-Lila times, that was often a Friday night. We would cap off the work week and get the weekend off to a good start by going to a favorite restaurant or trying a new one. Or we'd meet friends for dinner someplace on Saturday night. Now with a little one in tow, we tend to eat out at brunch or lunch on the weekend.

While I wouldn't like to eat out all the time, we always have a couple of go-to places where we can eat out during the week. It is our back up plan for when we're too tired to cook or have to work late. Even if it takes only minutes to make khichdi or even cook a packet of Maggi, it is always nice to have the option of picking up a hot meal. Everyone has days when they feel like they just want to be taken care of. In NYC, our back ups were a taco place and a pizza place. In St. Louis, there was a Lebanese deli on the corner where we could get hot-from-the-fryer falafel and tubs of hummus and tabbouleh. Here, we have a lush food store nearby with a well-stocked hot and cold food bar.

As for where we tend to eat: We are both vegetarians and always choose places that have good vegetarian options. Some of our favorite cuisines are Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Mexican and all the Middle Eastern cuisines. I'd say that other than steakhouses and French restaurants (both of which typically have slim picking for vegetarians), we try just about everything. We're always looking for good pizza wherever we go! We do go to Indian restaurants but it is difficult to find Indian restaurants that have something to offer than I don't already make decently well in my own kitchen. My great joy in eating out is to enjoy something that I can't easily make at home. I'm thinking of experiences like the dozens of appetizers of Chinese dim sum or the tangy injera and irresistible curries of Ethiopian cuisine. I always keep a running list of new places that I want to try.

Eating out is very important for me. I'm usually the cook in our family and it gives me a break from the daily cooking. We tend to go to small, locally owned restaurants and I like supporting these businesses. Trying new flavors in restaurants is always an inspiration and I often go home trying to think of ways to recreate a favorite dish. Trying different cuisines is an affordable way to travel the world without getting on a plane. Trying new restaurants is a small way to add adventure to everyday life- you never know what gem you're going to discover. It also takes us to different neighborhoods in the city.

We don't tend to go to fancy restaurants at all. Most fancy restaurants have a meat-heavy menu and I have no desire to spend hard-earned money on some afterthought of a dish like the one pasta that's put on the menu for those pesky vegetarians. I definitely vote with my dollars, and anyone who can come up with inventive meatless dishes (served without a side of condescension) will get my business. There are very fancy vegetarian restaurants in the bigger cities but somehow I've never managed to go to those either. I think basically I love comfort and hate luxury. When something smacks of luxury and excess and opulence, I don't enjoy it. I've only seen those exquisitely plated meals on TV and read about them in the memoirs of chefs. And you know what? When I read about the tension and drama and wastefulness in fancy restaurant kitchens, I'm quite happy not to eat in those restaurants. Food should be cooked in an atmosphere of love and gratitude, right? Or am I just a hopeless philistine?

Tell me, what do you enjoy about eating out? Have you eaten in a fancy restaurant and was it worth it for you?

33 comments:

  1. Nupur that's just the way I think too! Comfort is most important. You are lucky though to have a varied range of cuisines from across the globe. Here those options are available only in luxury restaurants. I can count on my fingers when I have eaten at a five star or higher restaurant. I have cringed at the richness of the food. You know how Indian food they think is best in heavy cream, cashew paste and ghee. Due to family being part of the airline industry and also another serving the business scions of India, we would get lots of food from the best of Hotels in India. I remember out of the 8 kids in my family none would touch those packets and the food would get passed on to our neighbors, who valued it more than us, more because they did not have access to those big hotels. Except that our cakes for birthdays came from La Patisserie and were always memorable.

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    1. Oh yes, my very favorite restaurants in India were the Udipi ones! And the ones serving regional thalis. But I have fond memories of rare trips to the Taj Bakery for pastries too.

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  2. Big arthritic old dog hugs to Dale from Loki! (And good thoughts from us humans...)

    Fancy restaurants can be great but I agree -- as a vegetarian, I often feel like an afterthought or an annoyance.

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    1. Oh Loki- you sweet doll. I hope she's doing well. Dale's doing well, the antibiotics and upped steroids seem to be perking him up some.

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  3. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that about Dale! Hoping there are some good measures you can take to help him. Meanwhile love him lots, and give him lots of petting and ear rubs.

    I can enjoy fancy meals, but I don't do it often. I travel a fair bit for work eating out there, so when I am home I prefer to cook and eat at home. But yes, I've gone for the splurge meals from time to time and enjoyed them immensely as a rare treat.

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    1. Yes, Diane, we're just keeping him warm and comforted. But he's feeling a lot better this weekend.

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  4. Hugs to Dale. I hope he feels better.
    -- Rehana

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    1. Thanks for the wishes, Rehana- Dale actually seems to be much better this weekend.

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  5. Dale, he is family to many of us too. Hope he feels better and good wishes to the human members of the family.

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    1. You're very sweet, Indosungod. I certainly appreciate the love he gets via the blog. The wishes are working and he's better this weekend.

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  6. Sending lots of hugs and healing vibes to Dale.

    We usually eat at small, local restaurants. Occasionally, we go to "Farm-to-table" kind of restaurants which tend be fancier than the ones we normally eat at. But with a toddler in tow, it's mostly family-friendly places that we've visited often where the waiters/owner know us.

    Mamatha

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    1. Thank you, Mamatha. Yes, I agree, with a young kid, we pick restaurants carefully but Lila loves eating out and we do want her to learn restaurant etiquette as she grows up.

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  7. I hope Dale feels better.
    We stopped being vegetarians when eating out. We do fish sometimes when we dont have a lot of vegetarian options. I feel the same way about indian restaurants. We tried one fancy restaurant on a friends recommendation and even though the plating and ambiance was good, the food was pretty bland. We need to try out and Ethiopian restaurant but my husband is not adventurous when it comes to food. he would love to eat pizza (as specific one) everytime we go out.

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    1. I think your husband would take to Ethiopian food very quickly- the dosa-like injera and the curries and vegetables and sauces are so delicious and would appeal to the Indian palate.

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  8. Good wishes for Dale. Illness in the family is v upsetting. We love eating out too but it is limited. My Taurean pragmatism means I like tasty, reasonably priced food- absolutely no fancy restaurants.we have a Dosa place nearby that makes fantastic paper dosas. I am also a big fan of the panera med veggie sandwich. The fanciest place we ate was at a Mozart concert in Salzburg. People had come very formally dressed in evening suits. We went dishevelled after a hectic day of sightseeing :-)
    I'm a big fan of semi- homemade meals. When I want a night off I'll make restaurant style meals at home from ingredients at Trader Joes( stuffed pasta, components of tiramisu eg)...lovely to eat in your pjs in the comfort of your home.

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    1. Yes, that's just it, when someone in the family is ill, it just is so upsetting. Oh yeah, I completely love the concept of semi-homemade meals for an evening off from regular kitchen duties too!

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  9. I love eating out, my husband prefers home-cooked food, so it's always me dragging him out to try a new restaurant. I can't even threaten not to cook as he's a pretty nifty cook himself.It's like you said, there are days I love being taken care of. It's hard to argue with him when he's doing exactly that by cooking for us.
    There are fancy vegetarian restaurants here that are quite good. Otherwise, there are always good vegetarian options as long as you stay away from the steakhouses. NorCal is quite conscious and fond of its produce. So it gets heavily showcased in restaurants, even in the pizza. So good!

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    1. LOL yeah, but it is so much fun to try new restaurants! An adventure that breaks up the routine. You're very lucky to live where you do, of course :)

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  10. Thank you for taking my topic suggestion. I'm happy to read that we vegetarians tend to gravitate towards similar cuisines that offer more flavor than just potatoes and grilled portabella mushrooms :)
    I like thatbyou want Lila to develop restaurant etiquette. I never thought about it that way about my 20 month old son who has just hit this new phase and yells screams and throws a tantrum at the drop of a hat. Since I love eating out too I need to actively start training him instead of working around his tantrums.
    Last but certainly not the least, lots of good vibes coming Dalu's way.

    Archana

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    1. Archana- You might like this article about tips when dining out with kids:
      http://www.feaststl.com/online-exclusives/the-feed/article_e5cfebea-12e6-11e2-b0d9-0019bb30f31a.html

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  11. I love the fact that you are a hopeless philistine ;-) That's what makes you so special and endearing. I can relate to almost everything you have written in this post. We love to eat out and prefer Italian or Mexican food. That's one thing we both agree upon without arguing much ;-). But, after moving back to India, (esp in Hyd) finding decent Mexican food is like trying to find a needle in hay stack. Very disappointed and all we could do is reminisce the good times & food we had back in States.

    Siri

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    1. But living in Hyderabad, you probably have access to wonderful Indian restaurants. I wouldn't mind that!

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  12. This topic is so dear to my heart! :) We love eating out as much as we love cooking at home. We are both foodies. We too prefer comfort over luxury and have been immensely lucky to have found great made-from-the-heart food in 'hole in the wall' establishments as well as in a very 'luxurious' restaurants. We love to visit places that are run by people passionate about the food they cook, these are places that create food for the soul. We don't hesitate to go for an occasional splurge but restrict it to special occasions or trips. We like to do our research before we visit such places and have never regreted it. More than the type of cuisine we try to find who's cooking it and what they believe in :) if its a hole-in-the-wall place we interact with the people managing it to undertand this, if its a big place we find reviews online. I have been suprised at many occasions to find great vegetarian options that are not just there for 'in case'.

    For the person who had asked about this topic : We do not feel awkward spending money on things we like to do, we think we deserve it. We successfully maintain our savings goal and think that an occasional indulgence is really allright, it doesnt mean we have forgotten the values we grew up with or don't know the value of money (heck! we are earning it afterall!). Our parents generation (and many from ours too) may not understand it and its ok, we do not understand or approve of everything they did or do. If it gives you happiness, if it inspires you, if you are passionate about it...do it! It can be dev-puja for some, it is pet-puja for others. :) to each his own.

    - Priti

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    1. Oh yes, there is a special pleasure in seeking out places with passionate chefs/cooks, no matter how big or small the restaurant.

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  13. lovely post nupur...we love eating out too esp on a fri ..its something i look forward too. i believe in going to small, reasonably priced places where there is good value for money. spending an extravagant amount on a fancy restaurant is a strict no no for me. it seems to be such a waste of money..love to see them plating these extravagent food on tv shows but other than that ..no ...

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    1. I do occasionally enjoy watching those shows on TV too!

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  14. Nice post..You said that you love comfort and hate luxury. But probably you have not experienced the comfort in luxury. Especially in restaurants which are high end and serve utterly delicious food..vegeterian options are not an after thought in those restaurants..Service is impeccable and the luxury is remarkable.
    So, there really exist expensive restaurants which serve unbelievably tasty food and pamper you at the same time. Albeit, these type of places are for very special occasions, unless one can afford to visit them more frequently.

    - Nira

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    1. Nira- it is the impeccable service and pampering that makes me uncomfortable. Rather than bringing me pleasure, it just makes me sad about living in a world where some can enjoy such luxury while others starve. I'm not criticizing these places or the people who eat there but just saying why I don't personally prefer that kind of an experience.

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  15. blog of this kind makes me humble. i see there are so many people practice simplicity without preaching. also the reactions by readers indicate far mature generation that been credited to.

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  16. Nupur, if/when you come to Atlanta, you must visit Cafe Sunflower. I love the food they serve.

    On steakhouses.. one time my boss took us out to a Brazilian steakhouse. He knew that I am vegetarian but he also knew that I could eat my heart out there... Surprised? This place had the best salad bar ever! Hearts of palm, butter beans, pão de queijo, roasted plantains... mmm. Wrote about my visit on the blog - http://therichvegetarian.com/what-does-a-vegetarian-eat-at-a-brazilian-steakhouse/.

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    1. Such a fun post! Loved reading about your experience at the steakhouseCafe Sunflower looks wonderful- I hope to go there soon.

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  17. When eating out I look for the item on the menu that takes the most time to cook and prep. I'm not a vegetarian but I still don't see much value in a "Steakhouse" meal out. Grilling a steak and baking a potato are so easy to do at home. But dicing, slicing, or chopping all the meat and vegies that go into so many dishes at ethnic restaurants or the long slow braising time some dishes require in ethnic and American comfort food coking? That's worth paying for.

    Good thoughts to you regarding Dale. He's a treasure.

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    1. You're right- it is worth it getting out and enjoying something you can't easily make at home.

      Thanks for the wishes for Dale. He's feeling a lot better.

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