Playing with your food

Updated: 2011-04-24 08:04

(New York Times)

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Playing with your food

Slip on the white lab coat, adjust the headphones and listen as a voice tells you to close your eyes and breathe. A science experiment? Perhaps. But it's a $20 dessert at Park Avenue Winter in New York, and it was the work of tthe performance artist Marina Abramovic. A flambeed mountain of dark chocolate ice cream and almond sponge cake covered in Swiss meringue and gold leaf was recently served with an MP3 player, on which Ms. Abramovic's soothing voice guided diners through the mental and sensory aspects of the Volcano Flambe: "This is an experiment..."

Well, it used to be called dinner. But now the act of dining out has been turned into a game or gimmick.

And you'd better get your tickets or you'll miss out on the latest culinary spectacle in Chicago. Bidding for tickets to Grant Achatz's restaurant, Next, recently reached $3,000 for a group of seats. The price of all-inclusive tickets ranges from $45 to $75, but bidding wars by desperate diners have raised prices to $500 and up, reported The Times.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is another frenzy: getting the best discount for a meal. A new breed of bargain-hunters is clicking on dining deals through sites like Groupon, BlackboardEats and VillageVines.

"I assume that most of the other people at the restaurant don't have coupons, and I feel good, that I'm a little smarter than them," Lauren E. LaRRusso of Pennsylvania told The Times.

In this "online social-coupon gold rush," Groupon, which says it has 60 million subscribers, is adding Groupon Now, a GPS-based app with local discounts that are time-specific so restaurants can fill off-peak tables.

Timing is everything if you want your favorite bottle of wine at a bargain. Flash wine sale sites like WineAccess and Wines Til Sold Out have popped up in the last few years, offering limited amounts of wines at steep discounts that last only a day or two. It's a race to get that 2006 Chateau Angelus for nearly $100 off the original price of $250.

"Sometimes you have to respond within 15 minutes to get the really good bargain," Jim Barnyak of Seattle, a shopper of the sites, told The Times.

If that pace is too fast, perhaps a round of yoga - followed by dinner - is better as you "taste, smell and digest in a heightened state of awareness."

At "Yoga for Foodies" at Exhale Spa in Manhattan, yoga is followed by pasta, wine and chocolate. Yoga retreat centers are now offering cooking classes and wine tastings where yogis contemplate the awesome significance of every bite taken, said The Times.

"Until you appreciate the fullest taste of a vegetable, you don't know the truth of it," Mary Taylor, a yoga teacher in Boulder, Colorado, told The Times.

Apparently some people appreciate and know the truth of bacon, so much so that they are willing to wear it. Fargginay, a company in Chicago, released a bacon-scented cologne. Pork lovers can choose between Bacon Classic (spicy maple) or Bacon Gold (sizzling citrus).

But, more importantly, are you wearing the bacon or is the bacon wearing you?

Cameron Alborzian, a yogi with a new book on the ayurvedic approach to eating, tells The Times that "food has now become a burden to us. A lot of people don't look forward to life anymore. They just look forward to food. People tell me, 'But I love food.' And I tell them, 'You can't love something that owns you.'"

Anita Patil


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