Craig Giesecke: Dining out, one tough choice at a time

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Craig Giesecke

I have several foodie friends who are financially comfortable enough to go out to eat pretty much anytime and anywhere they want. Must be nice. Maybe I should spend more time with them.

At least several times a week, they arrange to meet up with friends at the newest and latest go-to spot (and there are new ones nearly each week) or spend a couple of hours at some old favorite. They fill their blogs and Facebook pages with comments about new wines, twists on classic dishes, their favorite servers/owners and plenty of banter about why one place is better than another. The arguments can get intense.

Most of us don’t have that option. Going out to a decent place to eat is still An Event– particularly if we’re meeting friends or entertaining someone from out of town. Matter of fact, thanks to schedules and work and other Daily Life Stuff, a lot of us only get to do this once or twice a year. It’s at that point the choices are so many they can momentarily paralyze the average couple or small group. Do we risk our money on someplace new or do we return to an old favorite? Do we take a chance on that entrée we passed on last time or do we return to that dish we’ve been dreaming about since the last time we went?

A lot of us (TBK and I included) get stuck in a rut. Oh, we talk about going to this place and that but, when it comes to the actual going, our list quickly narrows to less than a half-dozen places. I think most of us are like that — and it’s why so many New Orleanians haven’t been to some of the “classic” restaurants in the city. The choices are simply too many and locations too convenient to our particular parts of town. It’s difficult to work up the enthusiasm to go to, say, Mid-City when there are so many places as good or better Uptown. Or vice-versa.

There’s also the apps vs. entrees conundrum. It’s difficult for me anymore to do the old appetizer/salad/entrée/dessert thing anymore. I simply don’t want that much food and, being honest with myself, I’m not going to eat the rest the next day. Do we order several apps and share them or do we go old-school, get the entrée and whatever it comes with and leave some on the plate?

I guess I’m old-fashioned enough to feel bad about leaving food on the plate — particularly if it’s nicely turned out. Seems like an insult to the place and, really, I’d get a little offended if something I worked hard on came back only partially consumed. Folks say, “it’s so much food!” and I get that. I really do. But, dammit, it’s really good and I busted my ass on it. Eat.

At the same time, I sometimes have trouble sharing appetizers. If I’m in the mood for X, I want all of X. I don’t want a little X, a little Y and a little Z, as good as they might be. I get the feeling someone else is getting the X that should be mine. Dining is and should be a communal experience, but I prefer to limit its community to conversation and not the particular appetizer I want. You might be my friend, but I’ll stab your hand with my fork. Fair warning.

….so then you get through with your nice meal and you have some dessert (usually the one item I WILL gladly share) and you have your after-dinner drink or your coffee and you get in your car or on the streetcar or in the cab and, on the way home or wherever, you pass some restaurant where you’ve never been and you say, “we really should go there sometime.” And you should. One day you will. Next time. Maybe.

There are so many places in this wonderful food city that are mysteries to me. I’ve walked or driven by them dozens of times. I always intend to go but, when it comes down to actually going, I simply haven’t. It’s not that we don’t go to new places because we do. It just takes us awhile.

I’m sure all of us have been simply amazed when we hear a long-time New Orleans resident say they haven’t been to eat someplace where, well, simply everyone has eaten. I have a friend who’s never been to any of Emeril’s restaurants except one in Orlando when he was at a convention and someone else was paying. In my own case, I’ve never been to a John Besh restaurant. It’s not that I don’t like the guy and it’s not that I hear any really bad reviews. I just haven’t been. Yet.

Next time.

Maybe.

Craig Giesecke has been a broadcaster and journalist for over 30 years, including nearly two decades at the AP and UPI covering news, sports, politics, food and travel. He has been the owner of J’anita’s for five years, serving well-reviewed upscale bar food and other dishes. Comments are encouraged and welcomed.

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