Hello, and welcome back to What’s Cooking?, the open thread where you get to share your brilliant thoughts, advice, recipes, and opinions on all things food-related. This week I want to talk about luxury, darling, and what fancy foods and equipment are worth the premium price tag.
I’ve always been much more likely to spend my money on food and drink than clothing, or some sort of plan for my future. But, even though I’m more likely to plunk down $20 for some charcuterie instead of a shirt for my back, there are still some premium foods and food adjacent items that are just too rich for my blood. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s good—case in point: this thing—but there is a certain amount of “you get what you pay for” when it comes to the edible. I want to hear all about the culinary splurges you consider “worth it.” I have, per usual, prepared some questions.
- What’s the most expensive piece of equipment in your kitchen? Has it made your life better? My KitchenAid mixer, which I’ve had for a decade, is probably the priciest thing in my kitchen, and it does make certain things—like bread making—a lot easier. I’m not sure I would splurge on another one if something happened to this one, but I guess the whole point is that it’s supposed to last forever.
- Do you buy the fancy salt? I always have two types of salt in my kitchen: a big box of kosher salt for cooking, and a smaller box of Maldon for finishing, which my boyfriend calls my “snack salt,” because sometimes I will eat the soft, crunchy flakes right out of the box. (It’s okay, I have low blood pressure.)
- Are San Marzano tomatoes really worth it? I mean, yes, they’re good, but I tend to think the nuanced flavors of canned tomatoes get lost in a sauce, especially if your adding Italian sausage, garlic, and a bunch of herbs (which I am).
- Are Le Crueset Dutch ovens really that much better than cheaper brands like Lodge? I’m not going to lie to you—I really want one some day, but I don’t really have any complaints about the giant one I got at Costco or the tiny, no-name specimen I picked up at Goodwill a few months ago. I also just ordered this beauty para 40 dollars, and I am very excited for it to arrive.
- What’s your go-to luxurious edible treat? Prosciutto Di Parma, forever and for always. The first real fight I got into with my ex-husband was over this cured wonder, which he had dismissed as “weird ham.”
- What kind of snob are you? I can be surprisingly snobby about restaurants, especially if they’re billed as something special. (It’s all about expectations. If you’re going to charge a hundred bucks for a tasting menu, those tastes better be real tasty.) I used to be a huge beer snob, but that stuff makes me sneeze now. I guess you could say I’m a diet soda snob; Diet Coke or gtfo.
- What are you absolutely not snobbish about even a little bit? Though I live in the city of latte art throw-downs and roasting competitions, I simply cannot find a damn to give about craft coffee. I also love McDonald’s.
- What’s the one “premium” food or beverage you just don’t get? I am trying so hard to like oysters, you guys. The little ones are pretty tasty, but I still don’t feel like I fully “get” it. I also think caviar is just okay.
- What was your finest dining experience ever? Was it all you thought it would be? Would you do it again? Portland’s Nodoguro es un transcendent culinary experience that I highly recommend to anyone, and I try to go once a year. Then, on the other side of the country, we have Bern’s Steakhouse—the platonic ideal of a classic, old school, steak-focused establishment with an absolutely insane collection of wine and spirits. Once you are done devouring one of the best steaks of your life, you are escorted through the kitchen for a tour (check out the cheese cave) before heading upstairs to the dedicated dessert room. Bern’s is possibly my favorite restaurant ever, it’s one of the three things I miss about living in Tampa.
- How do you buy wine? My wine palate is still developing, so I stick to the $10-$15 range, and buy whatever those “in the know” suggest. I am, however, a big fan of orange wine, which has a funky flavor similar to that of spontaneously fermented beer.
- Which foods do you buy organic, and why? I buy organic milk, because I swear I can actually taste the difference, and I tend to buy organic meat when I can.
- Do you have a favorite fancy bottled water? I like the tap water here in Portland, but I’m much more opinionated once there is carbonation involved. I’m a big La Croix drinker, but the finest sparkling mineral water out there is Gerolsteiner, which has an aggressive fizziness and bracing minerality (it’s great for a hangover).
- Is there a premium pantry staple you simply must have stocked at all times? Duck fat, obviously.
- What’s your favorite expensive cheese? Dubliner is my favorite sorta-pricey “all purpose” cheese, and I’m pretty obsessed with everything from Cowgirl Creamery.
As always, feel free to answer or ignore any of the above, and talk about anything you feel is even remotely related to our topic. I just want to hear about luxury y decadence.