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Obnoxious Global Dining Trend


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Gill's a clown. Did you listen to the audio? He derides hushed three stars (because you can't have fun there! I can) and then goes on to say some of his best meals ever were at Noma (before it was famous and, implicitly, before it was degraded by Michelin) and el Bulli for the very last dinner ever! So he's not really complaining about tourist restaurants, he's complaining about uncool restaurants.* Gill is the archetypical tourist diner. Look, there's always going to be haute couture, like it or not, but I think the complaint about the SP restaurant is that it makes it increasingly difficult to eat haute couture food outside of the eight hour, eight hundred course, call six years in advance model.**

 

*and it seems somewhat odd to complain about Michelin now that we live in the world with a credible outside alternative (the bistronomique)

 

** which is fine for me, because I can't afford to eat at these places with sufficient frequency***

 

*** though there was something charming about being able to do a thirty minute lunch at JG and eat three star food.

Gill's a clown, but he's not a hipster tourist - he's an unthinking contrarian.

 

ETA: Which doesn't make him unentertaining

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I've been fulminating in various threads in various contexts against a current global restaurant trend that I dislike very much. You might call it the Global Destination Restaurant. Or the New-Age T

Not much to be done about this trend, I'm afraid:       As for the meaning of "tasting menu," my beef is not about the no-choice aspect. It's about the conflation of what used to be called the t

Gill's a clown. Did you listen to the audio? He derides hushed three stars (because you can't have fun there! I can) and then goes on to say some of his best meals ever were at Noma (before it was famous and, implicitly, before it was degraded by Michelin) and el Bulli for the very last dinner ever! So he's not really complaining about tourist restaurants, he's complaining about uncool restaurants.* Gill is the archetypical tourist diner. Look, there's always going to be haute couture, like it or not, but I think the complaint about the SP restaurant is that it makes it increasingly difficult to eat haute couture food outside of the eight hour, eight hundred course, call six years in advance model.**

 

*and it seems somewhat odd to complain about Michelin now that we live in the world with a credible outside alternative (the bistronomique)

 

** which is fine for me, because I can't afford to eat at these places with sufficient frequency***

 

*** though there was something charming about being able to do a thirty minute lunch at JG and eat three star food.

Gill's a clown, but he's not a hipster tourist - he's an unthinking contrarian.

 

ETA: Which doesn't make him unentertaining

 

Yes. But his job description means that he's not developing relationships outside of London but travelling to the next hot restaurant to write a feature.

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Gill's a clown. Did you listen to the audio? He derides hushed three stars (because you can't have fun there! I can) and then goes on to say some of his best meals ever were at Noma (before it was famous and, implicitly, before it was degraded by Michelin) and el Bulli for the very last dinner ever! So he's not really complaining about tourist restaurants, he's complaining about uncool restaurants.* Gill is the archetypical tourist diner. Look, there's always going to be haute couture, like it or not, but I think the complaint about the SP restaurant is that it makes it increasingly difficult to eat haute couture food outside of the eight hour, eight hundred course, call six years in advance model.**

 

*and it seems somewhat odd to complain about Michelin now that we live in the world with a credible outside alternative (the bistronomique)

 

** which is fine for me, because I can't afford to eat at these places with sufficient frequency***

 

*** though there was something charming about being able to do a thirty minute lunch at JG and eat three star food.

Gill's a clown, but he's not a hipster tourist - he's an unthinking contrarian.

 

ETA: Which doesn't make him unentertaining

 

Yes. But his job description means that he's not developing relationships outside of London but travelling to the next hot restaurant to write a feature.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that reading Gill for anything more than a chuckle is pointless.

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The reason I cited Gill's essay is because it makes a point I've been thinking about, and making obliquely, over the last few weeks. (Even a contrarian clown can make a good point every now and again -- it's like throwing darts.)

 

Haute cuisine used to have some basis in underlying, oh let's call them, autochthonous cuisines: you know, the stuff people actually eat. It was a highly elaborated, tarted-up version -- but it still sprang from the indigenous cuisine of the locality.

 

Now, in some quarters, it's almost become untethered. Rene Redzepi's New Nordic is an interesting example. For all his insistence on using only ingredients found in his locality, he makes (and could make) zero claims that people actually eat the way he cooks. (I'll bet you could visit different traditional Danish homes every night for a year and never eat a seabuckthorn, or a dish plated with grass.) His foods aren't elaborations of old traditional Danish recipes. His foods have no basis in traditional Danish cooking. Or in anything else that existed before Redzepi made this stuff up.

 

Yet, David Chang says, "at last the Danes have a cuisine."

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The reason I cited Gill's essay is because it makes a point I've been thinking about, and making obliquely, over the last few weeks. (Even a contrarian clown can make a good point every now and again -- it's like throwing darts.)

 

Haute cuisine used to have some basis in underlying, oh let's call them, autochthonous cuisines: you know, the stuff people actually eat. It was a highly elaborated, tarted-up version -- but it still sprang from the indigenous cuisine of the locality.

 

Now, in some quarters, it's almost become untethered. Rene Redzepi's New Nordic is an interesting example. For all his insistence on using only ingredients found in his locality, he makes (and could make) zero claims that people actually eat the way he cooks. (I'll bet you could visit different traditional Danish homes every night for a year and never eat a seabuckthorn, or a dish plated with grass.) His foods aren't elaborations of old traditional Danish recipes. His foods have no basis in traditional Danish cooking. Or in anything else that existed before Redzepi made this stuff up.

 

Yet, David Chang says, "at last the Danes have a cuisine."

'Tis weird - Danish food isn't very different from German food, which is probably the rootstock of middle american food the way southern italian is the rootstock of red sauce.

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Isn't a traditional Danish meal started with a small block of cheese place on every plate, to be followed by a larger one?

There is often a piece of brown bread frosted with butter next to the small block of cheese.

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Okay Adrian, I be back!!! Thank you very much for the kind words. What do you think of Toronto dim sum? I found it to be great out by the airport at the Doubletree-Hilton.

 

This is a very nice thread. Anyone here remember the early eGullet days before management i.e. Fat Slug got rid of, scalp by scalp, the elite international diners? That was great fun while it lasted. People like Bux, Cabrales, Plotnicki and others would all be on-line at the same time, such that it was like watching and being in a tennis match at the same time.

 

I like to think that by virtue of my spending a few months a year in Nice which, if you use the six-hour-drive-in-any-direction criterion (except due south which puts in the water), is the gastronomic center of the universe, I have something to say about primacy of ingredients, But before beginning, let me share a fantasy with you. If I had lots of money to throw away, I would charter two airplanes; one leaving from California and the other from, say, Paris. Each would be laden with the same prime examples of fresh produce (fruits, vegetables, poultry, herbs, etc. ) and both would land at Santa Maria Airport in the Azores where a panel of judges would run onto the tarmac, where Jean-Luc Petitrenaud would have set up one of his al fresco cooking tables, and gather for a blind tasting in order to determine which country had the better example of whatever. It could be the agricultural/creature –raising equivalent of Steven Spurrier’s 1976 legendary wine tasting “The Judgment of Paris”.

 

The best I can do for now is to give my subjective and, I trust, unbiased opinion of the relative standing of European produce versus American. For the sake of brevity, I’ll restrict myself to fish for the moment. I find that around here ( New York City), we are fish-deprived relative to France, Spain, Italy, etc. primarily because the Mediterranean is of uniform depth and a lot more shallow than the Atlantic. For whatever reason, however, the seafood on the other side of the Atlantic in the Bay of Biscay, Galicia and the French coast is so much better than what we get. One reason I beat the drum for gastronomy in Italy is the variety or abundance of seafood along both coasts. Every chance I get, I go to La Pineta on the Tuscan coast and Uliasse on the Adriatic. (Try da Maria in Fano, just North of where Uliasse is, for an unforgettable repast of a dozen different varieties of seafood all caught in the waters abutting the town) To me, these places are my personal summits of eating especially since my reasons for going to Japan are history. (By the way,Italy and Japan fit into my theory that the best countries for food are peninsular (Italy, Japan, and Thailand).

 

Just for the record, I dined at Can Fabes about eight years ago. Santi was in attendance. It was very good and, of course, miles ahead of Can Roca.

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The best I can do for now is to give my subjective and, I trust, unbiased opinion of the relative standing of European produce versus American. For the sake of brevity, I’ll restrict myself to fish for the moment. I find that around here ( New York City), we are fish-deprived relative to France, Spain, Italy, etc. primarily because the Mediterranean is of uniform depth and a lot more shallow than the Atlantic. For whatever reason, however, the seafood on the other side of the Atlantic in the Bay of Biscay, Galicia and the French coast is so much better than what we get. One reason I beat the drum for gastronomy in Italy is the variety or abundance of seafood along both coasts. Every chance I get, I go to La Pineta on the Tuscan coast and Uliasse on the Adriatic. (Try da Maria in Fano, just North of where Uliasse is, for an unforgettable repast of a dozen different varieties of seafood all caught in the waters abutting the town) To me, these places are my personal summits of eating especially since my reasons for going to Japan are history. (By the way,Italy and Japan fit into my theory that the best countries for food are peninsular (Italy, Japan, and Thailand).

 

Just for the record, I dined at Can Fabes about eight years ago. Santi was in attendance. It was very good and, of course, miles ahead of Can Roca.

 

Are we really talking about the quality of the raw materials here, or the quality of the cooking? People keep mentioning various restaurants but if I look at European fish markets the stuff comes from all over the place, including the US, but there is more demand so you get better material. Japan also imports a lot of seafood, but they are willing to pay (even more than Europeans) for the best. And then they know not to cover it with foam, dirt, grass or chipotle bacon.

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Are we really talking about the quality of the raw materials here, or the quality of the cooking? People keep mentioning various restaurants but if I look at European fish markets the stuff comes from all over the place, including the US, but there is more demand so you get better material. Japan also imports a lot of seafood, but they are willing to pay (even more than Europeans) for the best. And then they know not to cover it with foam, dirt, grass or chipotle bacon.

 

Talking about the average +/- 1 stdev quality will lead you to dramatically different conclusions than talking about the tails. Yes, most of the fish you see in a typical European fish market are mostly similar and often worse - the same farmed branzino/dorade/tilapia from the same places that's usually a week out of water, salmon and tuna are usually horrible compared to what we get in the US, monkfish is monkfish...

 

But when you go to the coastline, or to markets in a few places where people are unusually interested in quality, or to specialty shops that sell stuff that didn't go through Rungis/Mercabarna/Perpignan and their parallels in other countries then you see the real difference - a variety of live seafood (scallops, urchin, various snails and sea cucumbers), fish that is caught at the right place at the right time (bonito swimming down after fattening themselves up in the black sea, wild spot prawns right about now, slipper lobsters in late April, Boquinete in the winter, etc.) - often the same fish could have been processed in a better manner so that you could enjoy it a few days later anywhere in the world, but usually it's not.

 

 

There are some efforts to create this type of market in nyc right now, I'm not sure any of them will make it, we'll see.

 

Japan, of course, is an entirely different story. The average is shifted up substantially, but the cultural obsession with quality means rather than having to go to a fishing village to find that fresh amberjack, there's a more or less efficient market for hundreds of fish species - so you can be pretty certain the amberjack you're going to get at a $400 restaurant is what it should be, and that the one at a $40 restaurant is generic farmed stuff, or that the fugu specialist is serving you the best three wild varieties available that day for $600, or you can get farmed blowfish for $5 a pop...

 

eta: Preparation is important too, of course, but people seriously underestimate the difference in quality between unintentionally aged farmed fish fillets and the good stuff.

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Here's what I think is a good question: How much does the quality of produce matter when someone cooks it sous-vide? I need an answer to bolster one of my culinary dictums, among which are "Restaurants only get worse". So it was nice to see Tyler Cowen elaborate on it, most recently in a recent New Yorker story by Malcolm Gladwell.

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Are we really talking about the quality of the raw materials here, or the quality of the cooking? People keep mentioning various restaurants but if I look at European fish markets the stuff comes from all over the place, including the US, but there is more demand so you get better material. Japan also imports a lot of seafood, but they are willing to pay (even more than Europeans) for the best. And then they know not to cover it with foam, dirt, grass or chipotle bacon.

 

Talking about the average +/- 1 stdev quality will lead you to dramatically different conclusions than talking about the tails. Yes, most of the fish you see in a typical European fish market are mostly similar and often worse - the same farmed branzino/dorade/tilapia from the same places that's usually a week out of water, salmon and tuna are usually horrible compared to what we get in the US, monkfish is monkfish...

 

But when you go to the coastline, or to markets in a few places where people are unusually interested in quality, or to specialty shops that sell stuff that didn't go through Rungis/Mercabarna/Perpignan and their parallels in other countries then you see the real difference - a variety of live seafood (scallops, urchin, various snails and sea cucumbers), fish that is caught at the right place at the right time (bonito swimming down after fattening themselves up in the black sea, wild spot prawns right about now, slipper lobsters in late April, Boquinete in the winter, etc.) - often the same fish could have been processed in a better manner so that you could enjoy it a few days later anywhere in the world, but usually it's not.

 

 

There are some efforts to create this type of market in nyc right now, I'm not sure any of them will make it, we'll see.

 

Japan, of course, is an entirely different story. The average is shifted up substantially, but the cultural obsession with quality means rather than having to go to a fishing village to find that fresh amberjack, there's a more or less efficient market for hundreds of fish species - so you can be pretty certain the amberjack you're going to get at a $400 restaurant is what it should be, and that the one at a $40 restaurant is generic farmed stuff, or that the fugu specialist is serving you the best three wild varieties available that day for $600, or you can get farmed blowfish for $5 a pop...

 

eta: Preparation is important too, of course, but people seriously underestimate the difference in quality between unintentionally aged farmed fish fillets and the good stuff.

 

we're talking past each other. I agree that the best European markets are better than the best American ones. (My fish guy in Munich is miles better than anything I could get in Philly for example) but this is an argument about how they handle seafood, not about what species swim around in which waters. For example, I remember Steingarten's piece about Japan importing its best sea urchin from the American west coast.

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