What Is "Fine" Dining?

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I look back at the best meal of my life and I am surprised that it was not at a restaurant. The best meal of my life was in the chefs’ office of the Sands Resort and Casino in Macau, China. He was giving me a tour of the place and asked if I was hungry. I was.

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I sat on an egg crate in the chef's hole in the wall office. I had suckling pig's ear on newspaper with Peking duck crepes and some steamed concoction that tasted like fish but was made of pork.

As a chef, I should have found my favorite meal at some stuffy Napa Valley dinning room, right? But the whole concept of eating with a tie on bothers me. It makes me uncomfortable, and when I am uncomfortable I am not having fun.

So where is the balance? What can a chef do to find that “razor's edge” of casual yet refined? I say take a hint from Chef John Besh in New Orleans. An American Sector is located inside the WW2 museum and has a great shtick. It's a campy '50s-style restaurant with fantastic food.

I ordered the rabbit pate and it showed up in a sardine can. No joke. My father's black-eyed-peas were served in a tin soup can and were then poured over his fried pork cheeks. I was also served a slow-cooked, beef tongue sandwich—technically, a pot roast sandwich. The basics were done very well with a hint of snark and a dash of humor.

Insert my love of eating out in Boise and Nampa. Not one place I love requires a jacket. Not a one. We are a culture of laid-back people and I say we keep it that way. Our food will be better for it.

Randy King is a local chef and writer. Click to follow Randy on Facebook.

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