Updated: Oct 3
The Art of Slow, and a High that Lasts
by Kerry Lindsey
There is usually a peak moment in the dining experiences we remember. This is the part that gets seared into our memories.
For me, the essential ingredients of a culinary experiences that stick with me are; who I was with, why we were there, what was said, expressions of incorporated novelty... (something new like combinations of ingredients I'd never seen before,) the art on the plate and moments of connection with a server… maybe some piece of their life story that felt authentic and vulnerable.
The common factors in any of those expressions are care and authenticity.
It’s not just a meal - it’s an experience in connection.
What surprised me in food experiences, looking back, was that "taste" alone, while it would definitely be a reason I'd return, was not what made the memory stick with me as often as I would have thought. The taste was but one part of the full experience, yet alone, it didn’t make the experience.
Distilled down, it had more to do with experiences of being seen, being valued and then being able to reciprocate in some way by expressing our appreciation - tipping generously, spreading the word about the place - as often as we could.
In a word, it was all about relationship.
Don Boone, a long-time business consultant for the various family business ventures we’ve had over the years, kept reminding us of the business we were really in back in the (Highland Lake) Inn days.
During the long climb from an old summer camp dining room to the number one fine dining experience in the area, he'd always remind us of one thing. “People aren't coming here for a room or a meal, they're coming to get their emotional needs met.”
The average restaurant has to rely on the number of drinks sold, the quick table turnover, and often stroking the customer's ego in formulaic ways in order to get by financially. By the end of that kind of experience, we often don’t really feel deeply nourished by the experience, even though our bellies may be full.
Like everything else in the world, things that last longer cost more. The kind of dining experience that allows for slowness and depth is not something most restaurants can financially sustain.
So, when a memory can be savored for decades...what's really the better buy? A meal that's already losing its glow by the time you're driving home, or real food, enjoyed with real people over real conversations that you take with you days, months, and even years later?
My wife Pat and I prefer the latter.
While we have been known to fly across the country for a particular dining experience, like the outrageous 7 course offering at the Herbfarm in Seattle during our courtship days, what we have remembered most was that at the end of the evening, they brought the full kitchen, service and garden staff forward to be acknowledged… the sheer number of people it had taken to create the experience. It was quite overwhelming, and the shared dedication to the craft was evident in even the shyest of their smiles.
The food, as it turned out, was the best we’d ever eaten… but the standing ovation at the end is pretty much all we can now remember.
The calories have long been used up, but that caring that was served up still lives in our bones.
At Highland Lake Cove, we envision creating a supper club and dining experience that brings as much attention to creating relationships as it does to growing and preparing the food.
We grow a lot of our culinary ingredients here in our garden, which in and of itself is tended to with an enormous amount of love.
The ingredients, the preparation, and the intention of the staff can be felt. We gather together in a centering and intentions circle before the guests arrive. We have thought about the experience we want to curate - from the taste of the food, the environment of the place setting, the experience we foster and the guests who arrive.
We set the intention for a caring and authentic experience that certainly includes delicious food, but where the experience itself can be felt.
Keep an eye out for upcoming invitations to our farm, table and community.