This quote from Michael Laiskonis' latest blog entry entitled Tiny Dots captures my own view towards food and what I love about fine dining.
comes down to refinement, an idea, which like everything else, might
mean different things to different people. But it continues to evolve.
And for better or worse, fashions and trends will continue to push us
in this direction or that. In the end, I do believe that good food is
good food, but if it looks amazing, the same dish just might taste that
much better. As long as the element doesn't detract from the
composition, every drop of reduction or smear of puree is valid. Maybe
my quest is not ultimate minimalism, but rather a sense of delibrate
intent, making the right choices, and making everything count. And if
those artfully placed dots of sauce make the dish better, then it's all
good. And if they don't, well, I guess that's ok too."
The same notion applies to other enhancements of food. I enjoy the infusion of humor and cleverness into a dish as well as the creative use of technique and ingredients so long as the dish ultimately works on a taste level. While taste is paramount, the more all of the senses and the intellect are satisfied, the greater the dish. Ultimately, a dish is great or not depending upon how it touches upon our emotions. Certainly not all emotions are necessarily positive. For purpose of this discussion I only refer to emotions that reflect enhancement of pleasure. Emotions such as fear, disgust and revulsion, while valid and may in some circles be sought after, do not apply here. Whether a dish has that extra positive element because it is cooked by a loved one or because it elicits memories of dishes cooked by loved ones such as what the critic experienced in Ratatouille or because it touches us in other ways, the best dishes always involve an emotional component. That emotion may be based on the past or it may be entirely of the moment. Whichever, it leads to a finer appreciation of a dish. If a dish does not elicit pleasurable emotion it is at best fuel.
As for Michael's blog, I strongly recommend it. He provides thoughtful analysis and insight into his fascinating world.