Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A New York Times Restaurant Review of Saison in San Francisco Says All There is to Say About Eating in America

And Yes, You Will be Nauseous

Food is becoming a hot (pun intended) topic in America as various food writers like Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman gain popularity and credibility  Food should be simple, inexpensive, nourishing and not make a person pre-maturely old and ill.  In short, food should be nothing like what the typical American eats.

Food is also a luxury in some circles, and in fact the more luxurious the better for many people.   Yes if you have a lot of money you can spend it as you wish, but do you really want to flaunt your wealth on hundred dollar dinners when many in America go hungry and have to depend on food banks to feed themselves and their children?  Apparent the answer to that is yes, as illustrated in this restaurant review in the New York Times about a meal at Saison in San Francisco.

I found myself asking a question that comes up increasingly often at the high end of American dining: How much are we willing to pay for an extraordinary dinner?

We are not talking solely about money here, although the tab for a tasting menu at Saison, which starts at $298 before drinks, tax or tip, is not pocket change.

The answer to the question of how much we should pay for an extraordinary dinner is about $10 to 12.00.  That is what it costs for a great meal in a local (usually ethnic) restaurant.  And the good service is thrown in for free.  Not so at Saison

There is the price of being late: the meal will start without you, and, as the Web site puts it, “any missed courses cannot be made up.” The price of changing your plans: Saison charges the full $298 if you cancel with less than three days’ notice. The price of dietary restrictions: Saison accommodates few of them. The price in time and control: dinner lasts more than three hours, and menus are not posted in advance.

So Saison would not pass The Dismal Political Economist’s test, which is would he eat there if someone else were paying.  But the food critic for the Times comes to a different conclusion.

The issue is whether Saison, which has won two Michelin stars along with its share of mixed reviews, delivers enough pleasure to justify the pain. After my latest meal, in the restaurant’s new and costly concrete-chic space south of Market Street, near the ball field where the Giants play, my answer has gone from a reluctant no to a definite yes. 

But he is wrong.  This is not eating, this is greed and gluttony.  And emblematic not of the real America, but of Mitt Romney’s America.  In Mitt's America men and women can pay more than $300 for a meal and not throw up.  That is just one way they differ from the rest of us.  One can easily imagine the boys as they sit around and contemplate the $400.00 check (for $298.00 you only get the house wines, who wants that) and complain about how the 47% are taking their money and ruining their lives.

Oh, and what is so special about Saison?  Well there is this.

At Saison, the most important kitchen tool is the oldest of all: fire. Mr. Skenes calls it “the heart of the restaurant.” Nearly every dish at Saison contains something that was smoked, grilled or roasted by a wood fire.

But if that is what you want the solution is simple.  Go to Asheville, North Carolina, find 12 Bones, (it’s on the river in the arts district) something The Dismal Political Economist does many times in a year despite the distance from his home  and get a half rack of ribs, two sides (select the collards and you will be thanking this site for months)  and a piece of cornbread.  That will set a diner back about $12.00, but with the satisfaction that he or she has eaten something better than Saison will ever serve and been treated far nicer than you ever will be at Saison or any of its ilk.

President Obama has eaten there three times since 2008.  Agree or disagree with his politics, the man knows his BBQ.

12 Bones

No, this is not the restaurant, just a look
at the neighborhood.
We make everything from scratch. Our meats are smoked long & slow over select hardwoods. Our recipes are both old family favorites & new ones we've just come up with. We believe that simple ingredients & lots of care in preparation make the best food. Some things on the menu change daily...if you can't live without a rib flavor you had 2 weeks ago then holler, we'll make it again if you make enough of a fuss!

Thanks for coming in...
Tom, Sabra, and all of our dedicated staff

How can you harass us?

For individual takeout, call either location directly to place an order:
RIVER STORE: 5 Riverside Drive · Asheville, NC 28801 · Phone 828-253-4499 · Fax 828-253-4426

SOUTH STORE: 3578 Sweeten Creek Road · Arden, NC 28704 · Phone 828-687-1395 · Fax 828-687-1396

Bulk catering line 828-606-7880

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