Are You An Epicure?

Feelin’ lucky punk? Then take this quiz and see if you can hang with the Big Dog:

1) A true epicure*:

a) Only eats in celebrity chef restaurants.

b) Never eats in celebrity chef restaurants.

c) Only eats in celebrity chef restaurants when the celebrity chef is there.

d) It depends.

Answer: d). The true epicure knows the value of any restaurant depends on who is at the stoves day in and day out. Restaurant Guy Savoy, Joël Robuchon, and Twist by Pierre Gagnaire do not improve when the namesake is on the premises. They are great because there are top chefs working there every day. The aficionado knows who these chefs are and appreciates their talent as much as the guy (or the Guy) with his name on the door.

2) After being seated in a fine French restaurant, the epicure:

a) Asks to see the chef.

b) Asks to see the maitre ‘d.

c) Asks to see the wine list.

d) Asks to see the bathroom (Ou est la lavatoire s’il vous plait?).

Answer c). Only a nouveau-riche Texan, New Orleans pimp, or Vegas casino owner asks to see the chef before a meal. Once the meal is winding down, it is always appropriate to ask if the chef is busy, because you would like to personally thank him for your experience. One should never have to ask for the maitre ‘d, as he/she should be constantly, almost invisibly watching to make sure you and your companions have what they want/need throughout your meal. The correct answer is c) because anyone who doesn’t ask for the wine list in a good French restaurant is immediately (and properly) branded as a rube.

3) The proper attire for an epicure at dinner is:

a) This guy;

b) This guy;

c) This guy; or,

d) This guy.

Answer: None of the above. An epicure’s attire should never distract or detract from the meal, unless you’re this guy.

4) When presented with a particularly boney fish at a formal Chinese banquet, the proper response is:

a) An expression of revulsion.

b) “Please don’t show it to me with the head on.”

c) Quietly pick out the bones before putting the fish in your mouth.

d) Dive into the fish, place good size morsels in your mouth, then spit the bones out, either in your napkin, on your plate or on the floor.

Answer: d). The Chinese think nothing of spitting fish bones to and fro, anywhere and everywhere during a meal. And if the sight of a fish with its head on disgusts you, you shouldn’t be taking this quiz, attending Chinese banquets….or reading ELV for that matter.

5) True epicures:

a) Love to make a whole meal out of sushi/sashimi.

b) Think raw fish is disgusting.

c) Only eat it at the beginning of a meal or as a light snack.

d) Appreciate the artfulness and subtlety of Japanese cuisine, but only eat it in Japan.

Answer: c). Anyone worth his or her wasabi knows fabulous Japanese food is available throughout the Pacific Rim, and especially in the major metropolitan areas of western North and South America. But they also know individual slices or rolls of raw fish are most commonly consumed, and most delicious, when eaten as a light snack or at the beginning of a much larger dinner. An entire meal of sushi makes about as much sense as an entire meal of steak tartare.

6) When first entering a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris (France, not Ohio), the proper thing to say in English is:

a) “I hear you frogs got sum great grub in this here place!”

b) “We are lowly, unwashed, unsophisticated Americans not worthy of your chef’s greatness.”

c) “How much is this gonna cost me?”

d) “Ya know…you Frenchies have a different word…for everything!

e) “Where is the bathroom?”

Answer (sort of): b). You shouldn’t say it, but you should act that way.

7) As a true epicure, you know Spanish food revolves around:

a) José Andrés’ ego;

b) Julian Serrano’s ego;

c) Ferran Adrià’s ego;

d) Lots of ham.

Answer: d). And please pass the jamón ibérico de bellota.

8) Who said: “The true gourmet knows not only what flesh of the woodcock is most delectable, but can also discern upon which leg it most commonly nested.”?

a) Waverly Root

b) Escoffier

c) Joseph Wechsberg

d) Al Mancini

Answer: a). Can’t you?

9) When in Rome, the epicure:

a) Does what Romans do;

b) Flees to Florence.

c) Beats it to Bologna.

d) Verily avoids Venice.

Answer: c). Epicures have nothing against the other three, but find the allure of Parmigiana-Reggiano, Aceto di Balsamico, and a true ragú, irresistible.

10) When dining with other epicures, your preferred conversation is:

a) A dish by dish comparison of your 47-course meal at El Bulli.

b) Careful and erudite dissection of each element of the chef’s dishes upon which each of you is dining.

c) An historical analysis of the rise and fall of Gourmet magazine.

d) Whether Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame.

e) The finer points of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.

f) None of the above.

Answer: f). An epicure disdains most table talk as a distraction from the food. He will throw out the occasional bon mot about the films of Kevin Spacey or some obscure, Prokofiev concerto, but, in his heart, he knows the only opinion that matters is his own.**


9-10 correct = a true epicurean

6-8 correct = ELV’s staff

3-5 correct = foodie

0-2 correct = most restaurant critics

* In the lexicon of lip-smacking, an epicure is fastidious in his choice and enjoyment of food, just a soupçon more expert than a gastronome; a gourmet is a connoisseur of the exotic, taste buds attuned to the calibrations of deliciousness, who savors the masterly techniques of great chefs; a gourmand is a hearty bon vivant who enjoys food without truffles and flourishes; a glutton overindulges greedily, the word rooted in the Latin for ‘one who devours’. … After eating, an epicure gives a thin smile of satisfaction; a gastronome, burping into his napkin, praises the food in a magazine; a gourmet, repressing his burp, criticizes the food in the same magazine; a gourmand belches happily and tells everybody where he ate…William Safire

* *The Food Gal® can personally attest, give witness, and swear to this phenomenon.

8 thoughts on “Are You An Epicure?

  1. I did fairly well on your test ELV, but I prefer to not be defined by tests. The closest I can come to a quote that mirrors my own excesses (or largess, whichever term you choose), in food and food writing comes from the inimitable Lucius Beebe:

    “I considered my function that of a connoisseur of the preposterous…I did have a fabulous time. I did drink more champagne and get to more dinner parties and general jollification than I would have in almost any other profession.”

  2. You Call Yourself An Epicure? The Curtas ELV and 50 Essential reviews of Bar Masa are so far removed from the actual food there must have been too much BAR and not enough MASA during the ELV visit. I wish I would have put more weight into the Jacobson and Mancini thoughts on Bar Masa.

    After having one of my top ten meals at Carnevino, how could Epicure Curtas be so wrong about Japanese food? I will agree with the freshness of everything served here, but there were no “subtleties“ in our ten courses. A total lack of imagination, little attention to plating or presentation and a meager quantity for the $120 omakase offering. At this price point, I would at least expect professional service. No! Even with the far under capacity dining room, the bus boy served some of the courses with no knowledge or explanation of the preparation and I had to wait, and then beg, for water refills and to order sake. I indict John Curtas as an abettor in this pilferage of my dining allowance and question his self-professed “epicurean” status!

  3. With respect to #5, I submit ELV is, for the first time, mistaken. In candor, I’m surprised reading “[a]n entire meal of sushi makes about as much sense as an entire meal of steak tartare” – a dubious analogy at best. The true epicure surely knows the satisfaction and enjoyment derived from consuming an entire meal of nigiri/sashimi. In fact, this conclusion would be news to many well-regarded temples of raw fish (Yasuda, Mori, Karumazushi, Zo to name a few).

  4. Admittedly, Mori and Zo are located in LA (assuming that is somehow relevant), the other two, NYC. These were provided as examples (US). Does the epicure worth his fleur de sel take dining/eating cues from anything going on in Japan? (Sawada, Kanesaka, Natori, Kyubei, Dai San Harumi, Sukiyabashi Jiro, Mizutani, and Saito to name a few)

  5. This quiz is fairly dubious.
    4. While the Chinese think nothing of spitting out bones, they also wouldn’t mind if you took bones out before putting the flesh in your mouth. I would actually think twice before diving in to the fish and taking out a large morsel for myself at a formal Chinese banquet as opposed to parcelling out pieces for everyone at your table, serving the eldest first with the prime pieces from the belly or collar.

    5. It is fine to love to make a whole meal of Sushi or sashimi. To only eat it as a first course or a snack seems exceedingly restrictive. Also at many traditional sushi restaurants, the nigiri comes towards the end.

    9. This question is just ridiculous. Yeah, I’m sure you won’t be able to find any good parmigiano reggiano or balsamic vinegar in Rome. I’m grant you the ragu but any person who skips the artichokes, the carbonara, and the tripa in Rome is no true epicure.

    This quiz should be retitled what does John Curtas like.

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