Eating Well in Austin Without Breaking the Bank
By Rachel Feit, Fri., March 2, 2001
Thankfully, many restaurants have formed a solution to the gourmand's dilemma, and offer a prix-fixe (fixed price) menu that involves a preset meal of multiple courses, for a price that is usually less than if each were ordered a la carte. According to 19th-century French wit and gastronomist Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the prix-fixe meal, a longtime staple of the French dining tradition, appeared when a few clever restaurateurs decided to "wed good living to economy by appealing to men of modest fortune." The fixed price menu is one that changes according to the season, incorporating whatever is available and inexpensive at the market that day, and is carefully calculated to fill the average stomach. With the invention of the prix-fixe menu, continues Brillat-Savarin, restaurateurs in France solved an important problem for that country's blossoming bourgeoisie: "how to live well and at the same time live moderately, and even cheaply." In Austin today, a number of the city's better restaurants have discovered the same formula. In addition to their regular menus, they have begun featuring changing fixed price menus. Some are genuine bargains, while others are princely feasts designed to seduce food lovers away from thrift, and away from the regulated moderation proclaimed by experts to define the healthy lifestyle. While not all are economical for every expense account, all of them share a certain economy for their price range. And each in their own way irresistibly proffers tempting combinations of foodstuffs that few of us are able to consume at home.