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According to Eater   Let the grumbling begin.

Even now when everybody has seen pictures of all the major reviewers, there's hope for anonymous restaurant reviewing.

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Even if the marginal diner isn't super sensitive to quality, he or she is going to be following critics and tastemakers who hopefully are!

 

But I think we maybe explain too much (or too little?) when we focus on the connection between "farm-to-table" as a movement and all the increase in restaurant quality. Is Le Coucou farm-to-table? I mean, I'm sure they're sourcing very carefully, but that's not part of the story they tell – nor does it have to be.

 

As Adrian has pointed out earlier, what farm-to-table really coincides with is the rise of the New American style of cooking. There's always going to be some narrative, because marketing requires it – but farm-to-table is the narrative of New American cuisine more than the narrative of careful sourcing at mid-level restaurants in general.

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There are also a few restaurant customers who shop and who cook (albeit occasionally). For those customers (me being one of them), I do happen to think that the sourcing makes a bit of a difference.

 

Of course, in the hands of a hack cook, none of that matters. But all things being equal, I'll bet a strawberry from a New Jersey or New York farm, picked within the last day or two, is gonna taste better than a strawberry from Watsonville, picked 10 days ago. Same for a chicken that's been allowed to live for an extra few weeks, and processed properly, vs. a Perdue/Tyson bird.

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Of course, in the hands of a hack cook, none of that matters.

You talkin to me?

 

Of course you're right. A good cook can make great ingredients sing. A bad one can make them seem ordinary.

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There are also a few restaurant customer who shop and who cook (albeit occasionally). For those customers (me being one of them), I do happen to think that the sourcing makes a bit of a difference.

 

Of course, in the hands of a hack cook, none of that matters. But all things being equal, I'll bet a strawberry from a New Jersey or New York farm, picked within the last day or two, is gonna taste better than a strawberry from Watsonville, picked 10 days ago. Same for a chicken that's been allowed to live for an extra few weeks, and processed properly, vs. a Perdue/Tyson bird.

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@joethefoodie: Right, home cooks too. I'm just trying to offer a plausible mechanism by which food quality goes up even if the majority of the dining public is in some sense uninformed. Or, alternatively, why every restaurant didn't end up in the category of "food is better than it needs to be".

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But I think we maybe explain too much (or too little?) when we focus on the connection between "farm-to-table" as a movement and all the increase in restaurant quality. Is Le Coucou farm-to-table? I mean, I'm sure they're sourcing very carefully, but that's not part of the story they tell – nor does it have to be.

 

"Farm-to-table restaurants" are those that: A) Source locally to a considerable extent; and B) Make that fact a part of their marketing spiel. There must be plenty of places that do the former, but not the latter.

 

Sourcing carefully has nothing to do with sourcing locally. I am sure that Masa sources very carefully, while importing most of his fish from outside of New York.

 

As Adrian has pointed out earlier, what farm-to-table really coincides with is the rise of the New American style of cooking. There's always going to be some narrative, because marketing requires it – but farm-to-table is the narrative of New American cuisine more than the narrative of careful sourcing at mid-level restaurants in general.

 

I am not so sure about that: the phrase New American was around well before anyone coined the phrase "farm to table".

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I'd imagine most restaurants that care about produce are sourcing locally.

 

What I mean is that the restaurants that make that part of their marketing spiel tend to be New American restaurants, and that this has certainly been a large contributor to the rise of that sub-style of New American, such that this is now the dominant style of cooking at mid-level restaurants.

 

You think of a generic NBC restaurant, and you think – what? Careful, predominantly local sourcing, the (actually not historically inaccurate) locavore marketing story, and New American food.

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What I mean is that the restaurants that make that part of their marketing spiel tend to be New American restaurants, and that this has certainly been a large contributor to the rise of that sub-style of New American, such that this is now the dominant style of cooking at mid-level restaurants.

 

Just pause for a moment, and consider how empty a statement that is. Go to a great French restaurant in France, or a great Japanese restaurant in Japan. Of course most of the ingredients will be local. Practically by definition, an indigenous cuisine is going to develop with the ingredients that are characteristic of the time and place. This is why no other country has a "farm-to-table" movement quite like this one. Anywhere else, the idea that the local cuisine would be sourced locally is a tautology.

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But I think we maybe explain too much (or too little?) when we focus on the connection between "farm-to-table" as a movement and all the increase in restaurant quality. Is Le Coucou farm-to-table? I mean, I'm sure they're sourcing very carefully, but that's not part of the story they tell – nor does it have to be.

 

"Farm-to-table restaurants" are those that: A) Source locally to a considerable extent; and B) Make that fact a part of their marketing spiel. There must be plenty of places that do the former, but not the latter.

 

Sourcing carefully has nothing to do with sourcing locally. I am sure that Masa sources very carefully, while importing most of his fish from outside of New York.

 

As Adrian has pointed out earlier, what farm-to-table really coincides with is the rise of the New American style of cooking. There's always going to be some narrative, because marketing requires it – but farm-to-table is the narrative of New American cuisine more than the narrative of careful sourcing at mid-level restaurants in general.

 

I am not so sure about that: the phrase New American was around well before anyone coined the phrase "farm to table".

 

 

I respectfully disagree on both counts. A restaurant can be "farm-to-table" without labeling itself as such. Indeed, the best ones don't. If a restaurant says it's "farm-to-table" at this point, I'm suspicious of it. It's resorting to shtick.*

 

On the second point, Adrian isn't talking about the "New American" style that developed in the '80s (which in many ways was mainly the application of Nouvelle Cuisine to American food and thus might have more accurately been called French/American fusion). He's talking about a style of American cooking that has arisen along with the "farm-to-table" movement. Wilfrid has called it "American bistro." Adam Platt memorably called it "Haute Barnyard". I think it's hard to deny it's congruent with the "farm-to-table" movement.

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* It may be, then, that we're all talking about different things. Maybe what you and Lex are talking about are restaurants that announce they're "farm-to-table" and pound the table with their purveyor lists. The f-t-t proponents in this discussion are talking about restaurants that are farm-to-table, encompassing places like, say, Hearth and Battersby -- not that say they are.

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What is this new New American cooking? Jeramiah Tower used the phrase in the '80s.

 

 

See my post above.

 

This is a fairly New York-centric discussion. "New American" here in the '80s meant Quilted Giraffe and Arcadia and Hubert's, very different from what Jeremiah Tower was doing on the Left Coast. More particularly, New York-style 1980's "New American" wasn't very ingredient-driven -- and made use of the same crappy vegetables as everybody else used here, using sauces to mask them.*

 

The "farm-to-table" movement really brought a more California view to food here -- and the new American (note small "n") that Adrian refers to really is the adaptation of the California approach on the East Coast. (Of course, you guys win at this approach because you have much better produce. I'd say we only hold our own when we stay East Coast vernacular, which is why I'm so batshit crazy about Delaware & Hudson.)

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* Not that that was wholly a bad thing. One complaint people have about the new (small "n") American style now prevalent here is that NOBODY MAKES SAUCES.

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Thanks. I think the reason these terms seem overly complicated is that farm to table is essentially our NorCal lifestyle.

 

http://www.sanfrancisco.travel/article/san-franciscos-top-13-farm-table-restaurants

 

"It’s actually impossible to determine what the best farm-to-table restaurants are in San Francisco when you consider more than 200 chefs shop regularly at the CUESA Farmers Market at the Ferry Building. Farm-to-table is just what we do here. But here are a few places that do it really, really well."

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That's the point. I think Oakapple and Lex are objecting to "farm-to-table" as an advertising slogan, whereas Adrian, taion, and I are saying that the advertising slogan is a part of the transformation of the way restaurants -- and more importantly, patrons -- look at ingredients and sourcing.

 

As I've been trying to say, it succeeds when the best farm-to-table restaurants don't call themselves "farm-to-table" (and when the restaurants that do call themselves "farm-to-table" are a little suspect for doing so).

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Yes, okay, sorry, not "New American". Let's say "haute farmhouse".

 

What I mean is that most restaurants that make a big deal out of sourcing locally – i.e. that call themselves "farm-to-table" explicitly – fall into this haute farmhouse/Californian/whatever genre (not New American, as noted above, sorry).

 

So I think:

 

1. The rise of the farm-to-table movement and the haute farmhouse style has made customers care more about sourcing

2. Chefs in general who are worth their salt are going to be sourcing quality produce locally anyway, so that's not so much a function of the farm-to-table movement

3. The farm-to-table movement still has made a difference by making American customers more engaged with what they're eating (by caring about sourcing, farms, heritage cultivars, &c.), but balance that with demographic changes having been in a direction that was good for mid-level dining anyway (the aforementioned dinkyuppie scourge)

4. Nevertheless, we've gotten probably as much mileage as we can out of (3), and now we're hitting limitations of that haute farmhouse style, like the restaurants in question having absolutely no clue what sauces are

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