Two remarks I read recently here on Chowhound have stuck in my mind. One was by Jim Leff, who reminisced that over the years in his quest to find the best foods and meals he had eaten in some scary places, places where in some cases he had to overcome overt initial hostility when he arrived. I took his point to be that some of the best real chowhound-type experiences may be found at times and in places that might defy the norm.
The other remark was by Joy, who posted her thoughts about eating at MarkJoseph, the new steakhouse in Manhattan, and compared it very favorably to Peter Luger's. She said that while Luger undoubtedly serves up a great steak, she "...was always under the assumption that an enjoyeable dining experience included the service and ambiance as well."
I got to thinking about both these remarks, and one thought I had was that in my younger years I was a lot more adventuruous and would get great pleasure out of Jim's approach to seeking out the great, the unusual, the best. And if the food lived up to expectations, the challenge of overcoming distance, ethnic differences, and attitudes often actually enhanced the meal for me.
But now, as my past begins to grow longer than my future, I am more inclined to agree with Joy's remark, that food is only one element in a meal, and that service and ambiance do count.
So I'm wondering what others think. Are there meals out there that transcend everything else, including service and ambiance? Or would an otherwise great meal be ruined by miserable service and/or terrible ambiance.
Could it be an age thing?