When it comes to dining, that thing is small plates. From mini tea sandwiches, to tapas and sliders, women seem to love them and men seek to avoid them at all costs. Why the division? The He Said/She Said team sounds off.
She Said – by Elizabeth C.
There used to be a restaurant in my neighborhood called Minnie’s. Everything was miniature. From tiny little Reubens and mini caprese sandwiches, to baby bottles of wine and beer – it was my favorite restaurant EVER. And it was also the nightmare of every male I tried to convince to go there.
I often wondered why men found the charming little sandwiches so repellant. We’re not talking about mini organic tofu scrambles here – these were mini burgers and sloppy joes with delicious shoestring French fries – but still, they were looked at with disdain. If ever there were small plates men could enjoy, surely it was those. Still, no dice.
Before I let Phil explain why the idea of mini food and small plate dining is so abhorrent to guys, let me share why I think the concept is so great. It isn’t the cute factor that wins me over, it’s the fact that small plates allow you to sample a variety of dishes rather than forcing you to decide on one entrée.
If we go to a tapas restaurant, I can sample four or five different dishes without being overstuffed. If a restaurant has sliders or mini sandwiches, I can have a burger, a turkey sandwich AND a caprese sandwich. Not only can I try more items, I get a portion that is actually manageable for a normal human appetite, rather than a gigantic burger that I stand no chance of finishing.
Small plates are also a great, less intimidating way to try new dishes because they require less commitment. Normally, if I decide to be adventurous and choose a new entrée and hate it, I’m out of luck because that’s what I ordered for my meal. But with small plates, it’s ok to order one dish you are unsure about, like escargot or bacon-wrapped dates, because if you don’t like it there will be other items for you to eat. It’s a great way to sample new things without fear of leaving the restaurant starving because it turns out you don’t like scallops.
One more perk? Sharing can be fun and can make your dining experience more of an activity than a routine. Ordering several small dishes and passing them sparks conversation and keeps people engaged. You have a built-in topic of conversation because you’re all sampling the same items.
Overall, I’m strongly pro small plate (with an extra emphasis on mini sandwiches – those are the best.) They offer more flexibility than any other dining option and rarely leave you feeling unpleasantly full.
He Said – by Phil V.
I wanted to start out my retort by saying that I don’t have any ill will towards small plate dining per se, it is just that it is not a very enjoyable way to have a meal for my personal tastes for several reasons. That said, I will avoid a small plate dinner at all costs.
Call me old fashioned, but I call a dinner a dinner when each person orders their own meal and goes about enjoying it as they will. Appetizers are for sharing and I can handle that when I know I have my own meal on its way. My own meal to enjoy at my own pace while eating as much, or as little, of it as a I please. Go to the small plate method and now we are inviting a whole host of frustrations and uncomfortable situations that I can do without.
The first frustration that small plate dining brings is the group ordering dilemma. It is hard enough for me to decide on one dish that I will be eating myself, and now I have to work with a group of other people to decide what the table will be enjoying for dinner? I have all the respect in the world for people’s dining preferences, and food allergies are no joke, but when I can’t order guacamole because someone at the table is allergic or the sausage because I’ve just offended our Vegan friend, dinner has gone from a relaxing break from the stresses of my day, to an exercise in patience. Everyone order their own meal and call it day. Spend your time enjoying the conversation with your fellow diners and not figuring out which five dishes meet the dietary requirements of the group.
Now, if you can successfully navigate the order, comes what I find to be the most awkward part; actually eating. Those little plates come to the table, and almost always look and taste amazing, but how much do you take? What if you only like two of the dishes and not the other four? Can I just eat a lot of those? Probably not, because then not everyone would be getting a fair share. What I have found happens is that everyone is so conscious to not over eat that not one really eats enough and definitely not enough of the plates you liked the most. I find myself incredibly stressed during this portion of the meal. I want to be sure to get enough food but at the same time I don’t want to eat more than my fair share. Now, I know the solution here can be to simply order more food, but that begins to become a costly proposition and estimating how much a group of completely different people will eat is no small feat. On more than one occasion I have found myself pretty hungry at the end of the meal and thinking about getting a slice of pizza. The dynamics of navigating this social Rubik’s cube is something I have yet to figure out.
As I come to my conclusion, I don’t think it is hard to see that I am not built for small plate dining. It simply isn’t for me. I appreciate trying all types of cuisines and dining experiences but when it comes to small plates, the only thing I want to use them for are the bones from my rib dinner that I have to share with no one.
What are your thoughts on small plate dining? Let us know in the comments below!