This story from Esquire caught my eye, The Death of the Entrée. Perhaps I should mention this is a story I bookmarked in October of 2011. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had anything to drink tonight, but I thought the story would be worth some conversation.
Anyway, the premise is that the entrée is cliché, that no one really cares anymore, and that what we’d rather have is lots of little tastes. Allow me to excerpt a bit (which you should read in full) for your reading pleasure.
… You’re ravenous, then, for the appetizers. You thought of getting the crab cakes, but they’re always disappointing, so you let your girlfriend order them. You get the grilled octopus, butterflied into a kind of bouquet, with the preserved-lemon coulis and the paprika Chef smokes himself, in his own backyard, with his six-year-old son. You’re damned glad you did, too. “Taste this,” you hear yourself saying to your girl, though you really don’t want her to, and probably only made the offer because you want that second little lemongrass crab cake of hers, flecked with the local purple ramps pickled in pink sea salt. Nevertheless, you hold out your fork to her, and as her tongue grabs your octopus, she closes her eyes and says, “That’s amazing,” and you fall in love.
So the pasta course is pure pleasure, both prelude and aftermath all wrapped up in one bowl of veal’s-tongue ravioli with celery cream (yours) and one plate of macaroni and cheese made with sheep’s-milk cheddar, chipotle whey, and a deep-fried crab apple from the tree in front of the restaurant (hers.) You share; you each profess to prefer what the other ordered; and it’s all so good that when you’re done, your waitress makes a comment about you licking the bowl. You fall in love with her, too.
I love the writing, and the article raises an interesting question; is the entrée dead? Would you rather your entire meal be made of small plates of food, rather than the explosive climax of a huge steak and baked potato being placed in front of you? If you read more of the Esquire article, it claims that the entrée is boring, that it is “the CD in age of the single; it is marriage in the age of friends with benefits”. I think this is so much piffle, unless, as the article points out, you order a fish entrée, in which case you get what you deserve.
Personally, I want the big ending. Sure, it is nice to get little tastes which laud the brilliance of the chef., and maybe it’s just me, but if I don’t have the big finish, I feel… cheated. I got dressed up for this meal, damn it! (In my case, that just means I put on shoes, and hopefully zipped up my pants, but still…)
What do you think? Is the entrée dead? Do you need the big crescendo with the cannons and fireworks at the end? I look forward to your comments.
R. Hamilton says
Had not really thought about it but Yes I am not enchanted by ‘standard’ entree meals anymore.
I prefer a selection of small servings that sound/look interesting to me.
I think both can co-exist. There are times when I want to graze and sample and there are times when I want an old fashioned meal. Tapas or tapa concepts for non-Spanish based food work for the small plate meals (think Toro Bravo or Castagna). I really like the three course concept at Tabla, although now that they have a good pastry chef, they should go to 4 courses. Why limit our options to one mode of eating or the other.
Bertha Pearl says
I think there needs to be room for both…I love Aviary, but I don’t want that all the time..small plates of explosive flavor is fantastic, but sometimes that cheese enchilada platter with a margarita is all that I crave. What is perfect, having exactly what you want when you want it.
Good Food For Me says
Sounds like a question for Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Atlanta – always packed and over 120 appetizers only!
I go out with my parter to eat quiet often and we always order 2-3 appetizers and share an entree. I like variety and find it hard to stick to just having an entree especially if you are on a small budget.
Chef Adam says
Seems as if, when one food trend begins another must fall. Why would the entree have to die for the mere fact that “grazing” has become more popular. Throughout the world, meals are comprised of tantalizing teasers that usually accent and embellish the main course or largest portion of the meal. Americans have been so structured with meals in the past, that to have a variety of eating styles is absurd….well phooey on that! Depending on the occassion both styles of eating can co-exist. More importantly, isn’t it all about the “experience” of eating a meal, as opposed to in what degree food is eaten?? Yes, I do look forward to going out and diving into a huge plate of succulent lamb racks or a buttery halibut filet…..but how can you forget the petit fours for dessert???