Serving ‘food for the starving artist’, Café Tu Tu Tango is an artsy, colorful little venue with a huge spirit of fun and community. Local artists display their work on the restaurant’s walls and strike up conversation with guests, while local ingredients are turned into delicious, tapas-style concoctions perfect for sharing. Try the Argentinean-style orange chimmichurri steak, the adventurous guava-glazed barbecue pork ribs or the chorizo al fuego – a delicious mix of spicy Spanish chorizo served with brandy-glazed fingerling potatoes. The atmosphere at Café Tu Tu Tango is vibrant and bohemian, so prepare to dive into a world where creativity meets community.
These programs prepare you to be a taste authority, a sensory expert, an arbiter and evangelist in the field, but you’re likely not producing anything. Even so, they’re in demand. What is it about this epoch that values such mastery over taste? Were we all truly so clueless and naive about these matters once upon a time? Has life become so fraught and complicated that even decisions over our smallest pleasures now require expert intervention?
Gourmet restaurants prepare dishes from the highest quality ingredients with impeccable technique. They can serve food that challenges the palate or offers a twist from a traditional dish. For example, a gourmet mac and cheese may use Gruyere, a cheese that is almost exclusively made in France and Switzerland. A beef dish such as crab-stuffed filet mignon with whiskey peppercorn sauce is gourmet because the sauce and stuffing are unique and challenge the taste of filet mignon on its own.
Gourmet may describe a class of restaurant, cuisine, meal or ingredient of high quality, of special presentation, or high sophistication. In the United States, a 1980s gourmet food movement evolved from a long-term division between elitist (or "gourmet") tastes and a populist aversion to fancy foods. Gourmet is an industry classification for high-quality premium foods in the United States. In the 2000s, there has been an accelerating increase in the American gourmet market, due in part to rising income, globalization of taste, and health and nutrition concerns. Individual food and beverage categories, such as coffee, are often divided between a standard and a "gourmet" sub-market.
When I move to the evaluation portion, however, I immediately realize I am in way over my head. Any hubris I had cracks when I pop my first sample, a soft-ripened cheese, into my mouth. I chew. It just tastes like … soft cheese. I am supposed to evaluate this based on 70 characteristics and flaws in four categories (appearance, aroma, texture and flavor). And not just the presence of, say, a nutty or herbal aroma or an animal or grassy flavor, but “much too little,” “too little,” “just about right,” “too much” or “much too much.” At the table in front of me I see another candidate spit into a bucket. Wait a minute! I think. Are we supposed to spit cheese when we taste it, like wine? I spit my soft-ripened cheese into the bucket on my table (which is gross, to be honest). Still, I gamely trudge on for almost three hours. When I get to the evaluation sheet for Emmental-style (i.e., Swiss) cheese, there is a category for “Eye Development,” with characteristics such as blind, underset, irregular and dead/dull eyes. So cheese has eyes? When I approach the cheesemongers for a sample of cheddar, I steal a glance at the clipboard of a bearded guy in a Hawaiian shirt and Birkenstocks standing next to me. He marks “seamy” on one of his score sheets. What does it mean to have a seamy cheese? I am so out of my league, I don’t even know what I don’t know.