Can food be described as 'nice'?
This food is nice;
This dish is nice.
I always thought it could be, but I was speaking to a few friends and they argued (and strongly may I add) otherwise.
"Nice" is used to describe food ... whenever the food deserves that qualification!
OED (1994 edition)
14.Of food; Dainty, appetizing. spec. of a cup of tea.
1712 Arbuthnot J. Bull iii. App. i, This was but a pretence to provide some nice bit for himself.
a1766 F. Sheridan Sidney Bidulph V. 193 We sent her up three or four plates of the nicest things that were at table.
1799 Jane Austen Lett. (1884) I. 224 You must give us something very nice, for we are used to live well.
1852 Rock Ch. of Fathers III. 103 A banquet which usually consisted of the nicest dishes then known.
1853 A. Soyer Pantroph. 284 Some of these pastries would appear very nice to us in the present day.
1899 R. Whiteing No. 5 John St. iv. 38 Her sex’s universal restorative... ‘You shall have a nice cup of tea.’
1928 R. Knox Footsteps at Lock v. 41 You’d have got a nice cup of tea down at the Gudgeon.
1937 A. P. Herbert Nice Cup of Tea (song), I like a nice cup of tea in the morning, For to start the day you see.
1937 ‘G. Orwell’ Road to Wigan Pier v. 88 There is generally a cup of tea going–a ‘nice cup of tea’.
1961 I. Fleming Thunderball iv. 38 The dimity world of the Nice-Cup-of-Tea.
1974 L. Deighton Spy Story xxi. 221 ‘I’ll pour him some tea,’ said Dawlish. ‘There’s nothing so reviving as a nice cup of tea.’
and thousands of recent examples on the web :
In a health book: ... when you are going to wish you had some nice food...
In Melbourne they have: nice food [pubs].
A blog by a Yorkshire person: Really nice food when nice food isn’t enough.
Since your question is about usage, yes, food can be described as 'nice' to mean that it tastes good.
But it is sometimes unacceptable amongst certain Asians (as I've experienced in the past) whose mother-tongue is not English.
While I used to teach in the Emirates, I had lunch with some Indian and Pakistani colleagues. They asked me how the food was and I said it was 'nice'. In response they choked and laughed while translating 'nice' as 'beautiful' in Hindi or Urdu.
So to them the usage was a little odd. However, it is correct and it is widely used.
Going one level further, a single word can be given new implied meanings depending on a given situation. Thus nice could mean: good, cool, beautiful, pleasant and so on...
In certain situation, the opposite is also suggested. For example, a kid jumping on the bed makes a mess. The father may say 'very nice' to mean that's terrible, what do you think you're doing?
But the bottom line, yes, you can say that food is nice.