My husband turned 30 on Halloween. To celebrate, our dear friend James took us out for a treat that I had heard amazing things about, but had never had the chance to experience myself; the tasting menu at Travail.
If you haven’t had the pleasure, Travail as described by James is “As if fine dining through a frat party.” Don’t let that “frat” part scare you off, that’s a word that usually has me breaking out in hives. It is fun, relaxed, and quirky, especially considering the caliber and of the tasting menu. It was also Halloween mind you, so being served the most beautiful food I have ever seen by a man in a hotdog costume was a unique delight. The evening is comprised of 25 courses of appetizers, pallet cleansers, entrees, more pallet cleansers, and desserts. Yes that’s right, 25 courses. 2-freaking-5, you guys. The real magic is that I didn’t leave feeling overly full. Don’t get me wrong, I was full, but in a satisfied, happy way. Some of their dishes are hearty, some of them are just tastes, little wisps of something incredible, and then you’re on to the next thing.
I am not going to write about the food, because I am far too ignorant to attempt it. It is out of my league as far as evaluations are concerned. I can say that is was all beautiful, and tasted really super duper insanely freaking delicious. That’s about the extent of my culinary expertise.
What I can speak at length about is the beauty of a tasting menu. It fully encapsulates the art of food, the joy of eating with people you love, and the excitement that comes with eating something new. I know that for those who have had eating disorders and issues with serial dieting, going out to dinner is stressful. Something that should be fun, that should be a luxury, is a minefield of triggers. For me, my restaurant anxiety came about a year after I has started to learn to eat again. I really wanted to be normal, to eat normally, but had no idea how to do that. While I was choosing to eat because I didn’t want to die, I still wanted to be thinner, and I still wanted to be as pretty as my friends were. One of two things would happen. Either I ordered the lowest calorie thing on the menu, and stared at my friends as they ate their food that looked and smelled so much better than mine, wishing I could be strong enough to order something that looked that good, or I would order the thing that sounded the best to me, and someone else would order a salad, and I would feel so guilty about ordering something with bread in it that I wouldn’t be able to eat it anyway. I still struggle with this at restaurants. A compulsion that continues to this day, I”ll make two choices at a restaurant, a low calorie option and something that really sounds good to me. Once I have those down, I’ll scan the table to determine who is the thinnest. If it’s me, I’ll order the thing I want. If it’s not me, I’ll wait to order until after the thinner person orders. If they go “healthy” or low-cal (not the same thing but that’s a discussion for another time), I will go with my low-cal choice. If they order something heartier, I’ll feel safe enough to order the thing I really wanted. Pointy chin brain is a crazy bitch, isn’t she?
That’s the beauty of a tasting menu. There is no room for your diet culture bullshit baggage at the table. The chef decides what you’re eating tonight, and it what order. You know what? Chef is right. There are no choices for you to overanalyze or doubt. There is no “should I/shouldn’t I,” there is no “Do you want to split it?” There is only the art of fine dining, and the true bliss that blankets a table of people experiencing it together.
For your food porn pleasure, please enjoy the photos that I took of some of my favorite dishes from Travail. Believe it or not, there are plenty more where these come from, I’ll be posting them on Instagram, follow me @pointy.chin.diaries for more.