I was raised to spend money on two things: travel and food. The latter I do everyday and with zeal. I love food more than almost anything else and treat it like a religious hobby.
But like everyone, I appreciate a good deal. Dining out does not always carry a high value proposition over cooking at home. I cannot rationalize spending $12 on an Italian pasta when I can make it with ease at home for $3. I can, however, rationalize spending money on a multi-course, ingredient diverse meal that is too grocery-list intensive, time consuming and costly to prepare on my own.
It is feasible on a normal night to prepare at most three dishes for a meal at home. I expect at least that many when going out to eat. The conventional American orders one entree when dining out. Unless it took 24 hours to prepare or imported some exotic ingredient from a land very far away, I often cannot justify spending double digits on a single entree. At the very least, I need to share entrees with other people. The more, the merrier!
Small Plate Dining.
José Andrés is often credited for bringing small plate dining to the states. More common in Europe, small plate dining embraces the “a little bit of everything” philosophy by offering many dishes too small to sustain an entire meal. The result? You order multiple dishes per sitting and make an entire meal out of appetizer-sized portions. Antipasti and tapas are common on menus and in wine bars where sampling and tasting is a virtue. If you order correctly, you end up with a broad culinary experience nearly impossible and far too expensive to replicate on your own. I will not hesitate to drop three figures on a meal if it presents a large dynamic range of flavors and diverse composition of ingredients.
Research your nearest tapas bar. Show your taste buds a party!