At the end of last month, news broke that Quince, a triple Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco, has begun serving a white truffle croquette dish called “A Dog in Search of Gold” on top of an iPad. This iPad—which, I guess it needs to be said, is a tablet computer marketed by Apple—loops a video of dogs foraging for truffles in a forest.
I'm having some trouble assessing what's going on in the photo above, so here's what Quince chef Michael Tusk had to say in the article, published by Mercury News. “Living in San Francisco for over 20 years, I have witnessed the tech boom and I wanted to combine a little bit of gastronomy with technology and a little bit of education,” he explained. Interesting. Guests were apparently curious about where truffles come from, so Tusk took it upon himself to educate them through an iPad. To quell any panic about sanitation, Tusk took to Facebook to make clear that there’s a removable plexi sheath that’s washed after each meal; the covered iPad is then placed in “a custom walnut box” for serving.
But an iPad is not a plate, I muttered to myself, dazed, last week. Like me, some perceived this as a curious culinary stunt to pull in a city with stark class divides, fueled in large part by that very technocratic boom that Tusk cites. A gesture like Quince's seems emblematic of a particularly insular, myopic dining culture. This apparent trend isn’t new, and it certainly isn’t unique to San Francisco. Restaurants across “the pond” in the United Kingdom and Spain have done it.
Perhaps my aversion to this stems from the fact that I've never had an iPad. It costs a lot of money I don't have. If I were to own one, I wouldn't put my food on it. I'd nurture it like I would my firstborn. I'm down for people getting creative with food surfaces, but this one strikes me as unnecessary. So, I have a suggestion: As a culture, maybe we should revisit what iPads are meant for.
Read your child their favorite e-book; read your favorite Danielle Steele novel. Go crazy. Read. Amazon Kindle, Google Books, whatever.
A treasured YouTube video with your loved one. A full-length movie on Dailymotion. Netflix. Hulu. Et cetera.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.