I and three of my pals from Turkey have written a substantive essay on the above topic. I think you will like it. It is a co-production of Gastromondiale (www.gastromondiale.com) and my newly-renamed site Restaurant Politics. (www.restaurantpolitics.com). I have also posted on my own an essay that is about two polar opposites: The World's 50 Best Restaurants list and the Slow Food's 'Osterie d'Italia".
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Robert BrownMember Since 29 Aug 2007
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Posted by Robert Brown on 17 November 2016 - 09:02 PM
If you feel that Le Coucou deserves a star or two, then for all intents and purposes, it has as many stars as you think it should have.
Posted by Robert Brown on 09 August 2016 - 06:52 PM
We gave up on Tetou two years ago after going every year since ca. 1998. The menu says nothing about wild-caught fish, but when I asked a higher-up, he said flat out that everything was wild. He had to have been fibbing. What's the worst is that there has to be a minimum order of two bouillibaisse, so if you're two people, perhaps even three, you're going to pay up (what, about 150 euros per) for twice as much as you need. The roasted tomatoes are very good, though. It;s also cash-only. They have their hooks into the tourist trade rather big time.
Posted by Robert Brown on 17 May 2016 - 07:37 PM
Champo. I will be passing through Paris on the way to CDG. Which of these restaurants would you recommend for one, and only one, lunch?
Le Kitchen Cinq
Plaza-Athenee (Alain Ducassecroute)
Posted by Robert Brown on 01 April 2016 - 03:26 PM
Dedicated to John Whiting, Voyager, her friend Jake, and all those who love dining in France:
As my gift to the community, I bring you enlightenment to your food TV viewing. Compared to the stuff you see on the Food Network, my preferences are the difference between sophisticated enlightenment and drivel.
I am sure that everyone's cable TV system offers TV5Monde for $10.a month or less. It is worth the money (and if you want to watch on your computer, some of what I am about to mention is free). Now on Tuesday mornings, TV5 presents with sub-titles "Les Escapades de Petitrenaud" and "Epicerie Fine". What they have in common is the food you find in France; the former as manifested by chef-restaurateurs, wine-makers, and bakers, and the latter each half-hour (hosted by the famous Parisian chef Guy Martin) devoted to a single product such as a cheese, a fruit or vegetable, or fish or animal, for example. I have my DVR set to record and save them, such that I just belated watched one of each very recently-- a visit to Brive-La Gaillard in the Dordogne and a primer on Bresse guinea fowl.
Jean-Luc Petitrenaud, a former circus clown (and occasionally a bit of a cut-up) imparts a joie de vivre and lightheartedness to what is mostly restaurant life, about half in Paris and the rest throughout France. Although he makes the occasional stop at the higher-end decorated-chef restaurants, most of his programs revolve around masterful execution of classic and bourgeois dishes by chefs in their restaurants, bistrots and wine bars. While there is the occasional straight-forward making of dishes in the restaurant kitchen, he likes to film outside where the local baker, wine-maker, charcuterie and cheese-store owners and other colleagues, friends and family members all gather round to dig in to mouth-watering dishes. An indication of how compelling “Les Escapades de Petitrenaud” is that when the show ends, I almost always go to Google Maps to find out precisely where the village or town he highlights and to Google itself to look at the websites of featured restaurants and food artisans. In other words, the program makes you (momentarily) ditch whatever vacation plans you have and decide instead to go eat seafood in Brittany, game in Alsace, or, as one program did, buy kosher food in the Marais.
Guy Martin, a bundle of nerves, turns a good part of his program to documentary filmmakers and voice-over narration, then devote the final part of the program preparing a personalized version of a dish around the program’s topic and sharing it with a personage associated with the product; for example the best-known purveyor of Bresse poultry. The exposition is enlightening and a treat for the eyes, telling you what you need to know about how products are grown, raised, caught, aged, and so forth and the best way and time of the year to enjoy them.
If you don’t want to subscribe to TV5Monde, which is something you should do since there are other food programs and life-style and cultural programs, in addition to being a good way to hone your French, a good amount of these two programs are available of the TV5 website and YouTube. It’s good to know that certain glories of French cuisine are alive and well, even if it is not always obvious in a growing number of restaurants there.
Posted by Robert Brown on 22 January 2016 - 11:24 PM
Posted by Robert Brown on 20 October 2015 - 06:40 PM
To get started, here's the first of my back and forth with Meyer's outfit
Dear Friends,I am writing to share some important news about Union Square Hospitality Group that we want you to understand before your next visit to one of our restaurants.Recently, our entire company has been engaged in a robust conversation about how we can provide even more meaningful career opportunities and advancement for our 1,800 employees. It has become increasingly clear to us that a major obstacle in this endeavor is the practice of tipping.There are countless laws and regulations that determine which positions in a restaurant may, and may not share in gratuities. We believe hospitality is a team sport, and that it takes an entire team to provide you with the experiences you have come to expect from us. Unfortunately, many of our colleagues—our cooks, reservationists, and dishwashers to name a few—aren’t able to share in our guests’ generosity, even though their contributions are just as vital to the outcome of your experience at one of our restaurants.After a thoughtful, company-wide dialogue, I’m proud to let you know that Union Square Hospitality Group will eliminate tipping throughout our family of restaurants. Starting at The Modern in late November, you will no longer find a tip line on your check, and there will be no need to leave additional cash at the table, the coat check, or the bar. Our other New York restaurants will make this change over the course of the next year.Once these changes are implemented, the total cost you pay to dine with us won’t differ much from what you pay now. But for our teams, the change will be significant. We will now have the ability to compensate all of our employees equitably, competitively, and professionally. And by eliminating tipping, our employees who want to grow financially and professionally will be able to earn those opportunities based on the merit of their work.We are making a bold decision for our team and our guests, and we don’t take this lightly. We encourage you to share your thoughts and feedback at a Town Hall Meeting we're hosting for guests on November 2nd at 7:30pm in the Martha Washington Hotel. Space is limited, so please RSVP here. You can also email us your questions at HospitalityIncluded@ushgnyc.com.We remain more committed than ever to our promise of delivering excellent dining experiences with warm hospitality—and we hope that you will both support our team and join us on this journey.With gratitude,
My first of several replies. More later.
In paragraph 5, line 3 what do you mean by "competitively"? Is that within the organization or compared to restaurants in general or that comprise your competition? Also this:
And by eliminating tipping, our employees who want to grow financially and professionally will be able to earn those opportunities based on the merit of their work.
Does this mean that someone will be comparing one person's work with others? Who will be doing the judging? How do we know it will be fair?
When I tip, the amount I give is often determined by the specific actions and skills of a specific person or two. Why would you want to take this away? Because it appears that a waiter or wine server won't directly be receiving tips, are you going to raise their wages?
Let;s see how all this flies on some of the food boards.
Posted by Robert Brown on 16 October 2015 - 10:48 PM
Excuse the double post. I tried to edit it a posteriori to isolate Meyer's quote.
Posted by Robert Brown on 26 September 2015 - 06:17 PM
Age and experience has a lot to do with a person’s preference for dining formats. It never happened to me, but I am sure that if I engaged some codgers when I was running around from one “Nouvelle Cuisine” to another, at least one of them would have said, “ Too bad you never ate at Restaurant de La Pyramide when Fernand Point was alive, or La Cote d’Or when Alexandre Dumaine owned it. Maybe that’s why veteran diners like Sneakeater and I are on the same wave length and, bringing up the rear, Wilfrid.
But to answer Wilfrid regrading formats, of course there were prix fixe menus you saw a lot in tourist restaurants in Paris in mid-century Paris. When I was starting out, there was for example at Restaurant Alan Chapel a fixed, no-choice menu called “Un Moment de Mionnay” in which you had in full portions three or four savory courses the classics of the house. At the same time (circa 1975), in his one and only cookbook, Chapel took aim at tasting menus by writing that they were for people who hoped to experience everything about a restaurant in one sitting, which, of course, was impossible, particularly at his. Now I never recalled a “menu degustation” at an exalted restaurant at the time, but I did remember a restaurant in Paris (maybe two stars at the time) that did have one. I forget the chef’s name, but soon after he moved to DC and opened a restaurant. ( It wasn’t Jean-Louis Palladin). So I’m guessing that this period was the beginning of the tasting menu.
To skip to today, I am getting the notion that we have a new phenomenon designed to rip us off , which is a legacy of tasting menus. Perhaps you could call it the a la carte tasting menu. The end result is that a growing number of chefs are serving you half the amount of food you used to get for twice the price. (Recently I experienced this at the last two “major” restaurants I went to: Untitled and Cosme, both of which offer very nice dishes you wish were copious). At least you get some modicum of choice, but it’s really difficult to share dishes unless you order two or more of the same (which no doubt the restaurant wants you to do) and awkward if you’re with friends to order dishes in the middle of a meal.
Posted by Robert Brown on 25 September 2015 - 08:47 PM
Below is an essay I wrote over a year ago. I sent it on a lark to the New York Times Op-Ed page and to Edward Behr at the Art of Eating. It remains unpublished, but I believe I make an interesting and even controversial argument, which is that tasting menus have played a major part in the debasement of dining in better restaurants. I derive it from being a veteran eater, cutting my gastronomic teeth most notably in highly-rated and otherwise interesting restaurants in provincial France in the last 30% of the 20th century, and as a former student of change in mass or popular culture. As a result, I have witnessed, noted and participated in the changes between upper-level restaurants then and upper-level restaurants now. I think that the primary phenomenon that has driven the change between then and now is is that when fine dining lost its elitism and became imbedded in the popular culture, the inevitable dilution and quest for monetary maximizing created what we have today, which is mainly that chefs are more concerned with being empire builders than devotion to the kitchen; that there are increasingly sinister ways to diminish, if not destroy, the value-for-money aspect of dining in the upper-echelons; and the public’s preoccupation with chefs and restaurants that are non-gustatory in nature.
Whenever I’m in a restaurant with ambitions and a waiter asks me if I have any food allergies, I mention a handful such as tasting menus, truffle oil and overly-decorated food on my plate. Nonetheless, it’s the first one- tasting menus- with their contrivances and artifices- that are in a class by themselves as they are the most influential development in fine dining over the past two decades: bigger even than Asian fusion cooking, molecular gastronomy, the Spanish revolution or the farm-to-table movement. Unlike any other recent culinary manifestation, the tasting menu is a profoundly-influential innovation that plays the biggest role in the infrastructure and conduct of restaurants of a certain standing and the repertoires and recipes of what the chefs create and serve. There is no doubt that the tasting menu formula is a fancy chef’s best friend. By tailoring his operation around it (essentially turning it into a glorified catering hall since most, if not all customers eat the same meal), a chef is able to run his restaurant with a smaller kitchen staff, determine with precision his food purchases, and enhance his revenue by manipulating, if not exploiting, his clients by exercising near-complete control over them.
Conceptually, the tasting menu is a losing proposition for the client even in the happenstance of an enjoyable dish. If and when you get such a dish, it is usually never enough, thus making you desirous of something you can’t have; i.e. more of the dish. When you have a dish that is less than stellar or just plain bad, the chef has foisted on you a dish you didn’t bargain for, thus debasing your meal in the process. The perfect or near-perfect meal is all but unattainable when your waiter brings you six or eight or twelve, sometimes even many more, tastes. Given the intrinsic hit-and-miss nature of tasting menus, I have never come close to having such a meal. As with great dramas, musicals, concertos, or operas, culinary perfection is almost always found in divisions of two, three or four.
The “epater la bourgeoisie” nature of tasting menus largely comes from the over-all experience of eating one after another the numerous courses the constantly in-your-face waiters bring you in impossible-to-recall, rapid-fire succession. However, an observant gourmand doesn’t need Kitchen Confidentialia to be able to identify the ploys and the formulas of tasting menus by analyzing the dishes one-by-one: Insipid or uninspired courses used as a filler: morsels of meat; fowl or seafood bulked up with vegetables and grains and otherwise slipping in what I’ve noticed to be an increasing amount of modest ingredients; and prettified little dishes made more for reproduction on websites, food television and magazines. (I call their plating “slicey-dicey, drippy-drabby”, which consists of propped-up slices of fish, fowl or meat on top and surrounded with greens and flower petals and Abstract Expressionistic splatters and puddles, is sweeping the restaurant world world-wide and limiting the way chefs make their dishes.)
What I find the most significant about tasting menus is that for the first time in the nearly 300 years of the history of restauration, economic and financial concerns, as opposed to culinary developments and innovation, are playing the primary role in its evolution. We can see this by the way tasting menu practitioners have all but done away with a large percentage of fundamental time-tested approaches to fine cuisine. The tiny scale that these chefs work in eliminates many delicacies served on the bone and offered in their whole state such as fowl or game and various sea creatures, all of which provide on their own a variety of tastes. The large number of small dishes made by fewer cooks requires preparation in advance, quick cooking and the need for shortcuts, as witnessed by the increasing use of sous-vide food preparation. So while preparing restaurants meals is still labor-intensive, the work goes into preparing a very large quantity of dishes without form or structure that seldom conjure up a sense of place or culinary history. And now that the popular culture has elevated these celebrity chefs (many of whom never acquired killer technique) to “artiste” stature, none would be caught dead making anything other than their own little “hardly-any--knife-needed” dishes. Last, but hardly least, having your meal pre-determined discourages the back-and-forth, question-and-answer gathering of knowledge prior to the start of a meal that helps one develop the awareness and quickness of mind that result in better culinary outcomes
Posted by Robert Brown on 21 September 2015 - 03:37 PM
Try to find cooked salmon mixed with smoked fish/salmon dishes at Russian Daughters Cafe or Blarney Greenstone. In any event. it's not so much the specifics but that there is sous-vide apparatus to begin with. It begs the question of what else does Melissa use it for?
Posted by Robert Brown on 08 July 2015 - 02:50 AM
Posted by Robert Brown on 12 January 2015 - 03:34 AM
Posted by Robert Brown on 08 January 2015 - 05:24 PM
From March 10-14 the oyster will be my world. A long-over due visit to Chez Roellinger, for which I can't explain the oversign, especially given my latest dictum: "Don't trust a chef under 50". I haven't been to this neck of the woods since I was a teen-ager, barely knowing the difference between an oyster and a mussel.
M goal is eating 100 oysters in 3.5 days, including some of the wild, jumbos "pieds de cheval", the availability of which which will depend on the catch. As I plan on having three or four dinners at his Chateau du Richeux, does anyone out there have lunch suggestions or between-meal food between St. Malô/Dinard and Mont Saint-Michel?