In the months leading up to my departure from perhaps the best dining out city in the world, I went on a restaurant binge, hitting up all the restaurants I’d read about and always wanted to go. I was extremely sad to leave but in those last few precious months, I was the happiest I could ever be. I was eating at the finest New York had to offer and spending quality time with my closest friends. I savored the food and company, knowing that I would not have the same opportunity for a prolonged period of time.
It was during this time that I realized the importance of a dining companion. I was at Wylie Dufresne’s WD-50 with a friend. Now I have nothing but the deepest respect for her, but she just did not get Chef Dufresne’s molecular gastronomy inflected techniques. She didn’t understand the thought that went into the food.
I realized that whom you eat with affects what you think of the food. Your dining partner reinforces or challenges your perception of the dining experience. I thought it was excellent, she thought it was decent to good. My overall perception of the restaurant was an approximate average of our combined experience.
The best dining companion I ever had, by far, is my best friend from college. Our affair started out in Syracuse, where on the weekends we would check out different restaurants or revisit our favorite ones. And Syracuse for such a small town had really good places to eat. When I moved to New York City, she would visit and we would explore the vibrant dining scene.
So what makes a good dining companion? Well I think a love for food is the first requisite. Now you might think that it’s obvious. But I’m not just talking about liking to eat, because who doesn’t like to eat. But really understanding the food, where it comes from, the concept and techniques.
She is as adventurous as I am. She’s always willing to try new food. We were at Wesley Genovart’s charming and intimate restaurant, Degustation, where we had sweetbreads for the first time. We couldn’t stop talking about that dish and the rest of the dinner for the whole night. There is just something magical when you discover something new together.
But most important of all I think that we have similar taste. Now I say similar, as opposed to same, because if we had identical tastes, we’d be forever doomed to ordering the same stuff. Variety as she likes to say is the spice of life. We like the same general food but order different things so we both eat things that we wouldn’t have normally. It expands our comfort zone with food in a very manageable way, but similar enough that eating together is always a joy and not a compromise. It’s that beautiful chemistry that makes the two of us click.
This post is dedicated to the best dining companion I could ever ask for.
I miss you.