Tourist food and ‘fine dining’

We are up in Yosemite for our anniversary and finding ourselves wishing we had booked a condo with a kitchen rather than a hotel room. We tried twice to have a ‘nice’ anniversary meal (first at the Wawona Inn and then at the Ahwahnee Inn) – both times we were thwarted by mediocre food passed off as ‘fine dining’ (at fine dining prices) – so much so that we didn’t even consider taking a picture – although I wish we had, so you could grasp just how not elegant the food was. We are beginning to think that ‘fine dining’ just means ‘overpriced’. Perhaps, in the US there is a different term used to describe the elegantly presented fresh food that we are seeking? Perhaps I’ve watched too many reality cooking shows, that my expectations of ‘fine dining’ involve homemade bread that is still warm and vegetables that have never been frozen.

In Canada, if you go out for a nice lunch or dinner at say, a Fairmont Resort/Hotel, you get a nice fine dining experience. The food is fresh and elegantly presented. You leave the meal both satisfied but also having enjoyed the experience. It is a ‘fine dining’ experience.

This experience of overpriced mediocre food isn’t limited to Yosemite either – when my mother was visiting I had hoped to take her out to a nice fancy lunch at the Ritz Carleton in Half Moon Bay. Unfortunately, what we experienced was mediocre and way overpriced.

We have come to the conclusion that good food is not available at ‘tourist’ places. The tourist places get away with poor quality because of the volume of people that eat there only once. They have a continual stream of new tourists, they don’t need to cultivate return clientele. That or the American tourist palette sucks.

We know there is good food out there. We have discovered a couple of the ‘gem’ restaurants near where we live (none of which would classify as ‘fine dining’, but the food could easily be put on a fine dining menu). However, we didn’t look them up in a guide book. We found them through word-of-mouth.

The lesson here – ‘fine dining’ in tourist areas in the US is just overpriced mediocre food. We need to re-calibrate our expectations because Canada has spoiled us.

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