Letter from the Editor
I am often asked where I like to eat out around Maine or what makes a restaurant appealing to me. I often plead the fifth on the first question because, as my father used to say quoting the Latin, de gustibus, non est disputandem, or, “In matters of taste, there are no disputes”. What appealed to me when I was 25 is not what appeals to me 30 years later. Tasting menus can be onerous, my heat tolerance has dialed down, I’m not very “cocktail,” and my preference for ever simpler food has come to the fore. Which makes me pretty useless if you’re a millennial coming into town as a destination diner raring to tie on the feed bag brunch, lunch, drinks, and dinner.
That said, I’m happy to share my basic ideas about what makes for a great eating place.
There are a few things that are absolute musts. A clean, well-maintained kitchen, room, and bathroom. A happy staff, front and back of the house. Delicious food. A varied crowd such that I am not the oldest or youngest in the room. Not too much of anything—portion on the plate, loud music, distracting décor, upsell on the wine, overweening service, “priceyness.” This last I judge by a simple yardstick. Can the restaurant’s farmers and artisan purveyors afford to eat here every so often?
Finally, I often hear customers compliment chefs; very rarely do I hear the opposite. This is a shame because it is only through sincere, face-to-face (vs. online) comment that you make things better. Believe it or not, that is what the good chef wants. And that is because the root of hospitality, the “chef gene”, is the desire to please people, deeply, wholly, honestly.
What do you think makes for the best restaurant or dining experience?
Share your thoughts with me.