Posts in Articles on Food
The Michelin/Visit California Guide Rush

With pronouncements vouching for Michelin’s “unrivaled integrity, independence, and expertise”, the Director of Visit California was apparently unaware of, wasn’t in a position to know about, or chose to ignore, events in Michelin’s recent history that created the transformation of the Michelin Guides from an unbiased source of rectitude, inscrutability, deliberateness, and discretion to one that has refashioned itself in the digital age by engaging in commercial ventures and activities as the sales of its guidebooks have fallen.

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One Part Genius To One Part Hype: Nouvelle Cuisine Française Clarified

The term “Nouvelle Cuisine” is not as new as one might think. Marin codified 18th-century French cuisine, while Menon (pseudonym) vulgarized it, but in return helped to create a broader base. Generations of cooks learned from no less than 200 years ago by studying the “Cuisinière Bourgeoise”, first published in 1746.  Both chefs, Marin and Menon, created a founding legend of cooking styles with the catchy formula “Nouvelle Cuisine”, which subsequent generations of chefs would use to promote and market their own style. Throughout the centuries, cookbook authors have judged the “old cooking” of their direct predecessors as “gothic,” “complicated,” and “heavy.” 

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Gastromondiale's Madeleines of 2018

At Gastromondiale, we are moved by dishes that entice our senses and only subsequently instigate us to consider the technical or semiotic dimensions of a dish. The organoleptic aspects may provoke comparisons. One tastes the rey fish at Güeyu Mar and the variegated textures also encountered in wagyu are superseded by a depth of flavor more profound than any beef. The historical relevance of a dish can equally follow suit. Alain Passard’s vegetable pasta transports the diner to an alternate history of Roma, where the spaghetti carbonara might have benefited from the minerality of potatoes. Suffice it to say, both dishes send one uncontrollably on a path of rumination. In their initial, visceral appeal, they resemble madeleines. It is in this spirit that we appropriate the Proustian icon to denote three privileged moments from the dining year 2018.

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The Poet of the Palate: An Appreciation, Appraisal and Analysis of the Writings of Jonathan Gold

On the continuum of critical writings, restaurant reviews fall somewhere between the Venice Biennale and the toaster ovens in Consumer Reports. When the restaurant culture began to take off in the 1960’s, the review media barely existed, but with the expansion of the restaurant business, reviewing grew likewise. Despite the inevitable hacks and the legions of bloggers with their cellphone photos, restaurant reviewing can be a legitimate form of journalism, and it has had some who are enjoyable to read beyond a review’s sell-by date. Also there is at least one master whose writings could conceivably remain immortal as the Annales school of historians that studies accounts of every day life will be having a field day with his output. That is Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold who showed how much the form has evolved since The New York Times’  Craig Claiborne began in 1962 writing short, perfunctory descriptions and soon after giving one-to-three stars to New York City restaurants.

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Tributes to Bernard Pacaud, Part II: The Last of the Mohicans

Inconceivable these days, Bernard Pacaud began his apprenticeship with the Lyons culinary legend La Mère Brazier when he only 15 years old. Her demands on the quality of ingredients of all kinds defined Pacaud’s cooking philosophy very early: “Only use the best. The guests end up paying for it”, he says.  Pacaud also does not pose for front pages and rarely appears on television. “I’m just interested in doing my job as well as possible,” he says. But Bernard Pacaud is disillusioned: “Just look at what has become of gastronomy!”

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Tributes to Bernard Pacaud, Part I: The Silence of the L’Ambroisie

In terms of experiencing this Age d’Or de la Gastronomie, which is what we think every aspiring gastronome who already hasn’t should, there are luxury hotel restaurants to go to where you can be surrounded by opulence with formality dating back to the late 19th-century such as L’Epicure, the main dining salon in the Hotel Bristol or the Alain Ducasse Restaurant Le Louis XV in the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, where the cuisine and service hark somewhat back to this Golden Age. Yet in our estimation, no restaurant quite captures the undistilled essence of fine dining in France of the last 30 years of the 20th-century than L’Ambroisie.

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Chef Guy Gateau Recalls Joël Robuchon

It is no wonder that I revere Guy Gateau. In a remarkable twist of fate or coincidence he prepared the cuisine at both my all-time favorite bistro and formal restaurant: Le Petit Coin de la Bourse in the Paris IVth and Restaurant Alain Chapel in the outskirts of Lyon. About 15 years ago, I tracked Guy down when I was doing some research into Alain Chapel after I saw Guy's name in a photo caption in the magnificent and detailed book from 1978 “Great Chefs of France”. We have had several get-togethers and have always kept in touch. Guy has now written this personal tribute to Joël Robuchon which I share here.

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Feeding Off Each Other: Brandon Granier & Robert Brown Discuss Les Maisons de Bricourt–Olivier & Jane Roellinger’s Brittany Seafood Haven

Le Coquillage is not a restaurant that attempts to solicit diners. This is a rare case where the “figure” of the chef is probably not a PR fabrication. Chef Roellinger eschews marketing himself or his products according to the expediency available to him, such as the “free trade” tag for his spice blends. He could avail himself of that tag but chooses not to. Meanwhile José Andres and David Chang harness their benign stance against Donald Trump as if it were some radical gesture when it is a facile way to monetize their commodified empires. So I admire Roellinger, as I do his refusal to, for instance, open a seafood restaurant in Japan, precisely because he believes in a sense of place.

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Gastromondiale's Madeleines of 2017: Part II (Contributors)

At Gastromondiale, we are moved by dishes that entice our senses and only subsequently instigate us to consider the technical or semiotic dimensions of a dish. The organoleptic aspects may provoke comparisons. One tastes the rey fish at Güeyu Mar and the variegated textures also encountered in wagyu are superseded by a depth of flavor more profound than any beef. The historical relevance of a dish can equally follow suit. Alain Passard’s vegetable pasta transports the diner to an alternate history of Roma, where the spaghetti carbonara might have benefited from the minerality of potatoes. Suffice it to say, both dishes send one uncontrollably on a path of rumination. In their initial, visceral appeal, they resemble madeleines. It is in this spirit that we appropriate the Proustian icon to denote three privileged moments from the dining year 2017. 

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Gastromondiale's Madeleines of 2017: Part I (Editors)

At Gastromondiale, we are moved by dishes that entice our senses and only subsequently instigate us to consider the technical or semiotic dimensions of a dish. The organoleptic aspects may provoke comparisons. One tastes the rey fish at Güeyu Mar and the variegated textures also encountered in wagyu are superseded by a depth of flavor more profound than any beef. The historical relevance of a dish can equally follow suit. Alain Passard’s vegetable pasta transports the diner to an alternate history of Roma, where the spaghetti carbonara might have benefited from the minerality of potatoes. Suffice it to say, both dishes send one uncontrollably on a path of rumination. In their initial, visceral appeal, they resemble madeleines. It is in this spirit that we appropriate the Proustian icon to denote three privileged moments from the dining year 2017. 

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Paul Bocuse: Larger than Life

When a living legend is no longer living, the air immediately after the demise is filled with no shortage of eulogies, remembrances, idolatries, and platitudes. Never is heard an oft-told discouraging word until someone writes an unauthorized biography of the subject in question. The loss of Paul Bocuse, while waiting for such a biography, is no exception. As I have a gastronomically-oriented Facebook feed, nearly half of the posts I received on January 20 were chefs’ tributes to Bocuse or obituaries from publications throughout the world.

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My 2017 You Can Never Go Home Again (Or Can You?) Tour

In recently planning the most rigorous European dining trip since going back to living full-time in the States, my goal was to find out to what extent I would be able to dine for two weeks in London, Glasgow, Paris and Cancale by returning as much as possible to my formative dining roots; in other words, going home again, gastronomically-speaking. Accomplishing the goal meant doing away with tasting-menu-only restaurants and fixed three-or-four course meals such as those belonging to the class of bistronomy restaurants. 

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Form Swallows Function: The Tyranny of Tasting Menus

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 stuying 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. 

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The Society of the Illusionists: The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List

Once a year in the early spring, the restaurant world holds the equivalent of a beauty contest for restaurants and their chefs called the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. This initiative's metamorphosis from a modest initiative aiming to “provoke discussion and spark debate” into a supposed “absolutist food-first ranking” conceals certain flawed and disheartening aspects to the undertaking. 

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Man Bites Truffle: Eating and Drinking in Piedmont in Late Fall

The world looks like a bigger place when you stand on the edge of a hill in Piedmont, Italy. Light blue, dark blue and green… These are the colours that you can see on the horizon in Piedmont, Italy. It is clearly a landscape with an inspirational spectrum of colours for any artist. But, if you are into food, the colour that you should associate with Piedmont is actually white. That is because of tartufo bianco, which almost single-handedly places the region on the world gastronomy map.

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Michelin: A Friendship That Went Sour

I started serious dining out in 1986 when I had a fellowship to study for a year in France and lunch menus in three star restaurants were affordable. [...] Nowadays things are very different. While it is still very difficult to get the highly-coveted third star, many three star restaurants are not worth the special trip. This is the bad news. But the good news is that there are still quite a few great product-driven destination restaurants. They are simply not captured by the criteria used by Michelin. 

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Bruce Palling and Wall Street Journal: Poverty of Western Restaurant Criticism and Ibai in Donostia

We are witnessing a very interesting moment in history today, regarding food and wine criticism.  On the one hand, there is a proliferation of bloggers, some with very good taste and the capacity to shape customer preferences. On the other hand, the established professional critics/judges are losing ground and credibility. This is for good reason. Maybe the common disease is that many critics may be able to tell good from bad ingredients, but they do not know about nuances and relative ingredient quality.  Hence they focus more on techniques applied to transform ingredients, and they are in a constant search for “novelty”. Such as Mr. Bruce Palling of Wall Street Journal. I read his review of Ibai in San Sebastian with awe and disbelief.

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Stravaganza Mediterranea

The participants in the event included Albert Adrià of elBulli, Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz, Alain Passard of L'Arpège, Pedro Subijana of Akelaré, Santi Santamaria of Can Fabes, Martin Berasategui of the eponymous restaurant, Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, Claude Bosi of Hibiscus, and Oriol Balaguer. Chefs, such as Heston Blumenthal, Gianfranco Vissani, and, probably my favorite under 30 years old chef in the world,  Fabio Barbaglini of  Café Groppi in Trecate, were among the guests.

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French Haute Cuisine: Dead or Alive? Reflections on L'Ambroisie and Le Cinq

Sensationalism and marketing gimmicks aside, is it true that the Haute Cuisine in France is on the verge of death? My answer to that question may sound equivocal at first: Yes, and No. Yes, it is dying when the French cater to the level and expectations of an international clientele and start cutting corners in classical dishes, or, supposedly move in a “fusion” and creative direction by, say, imitating techniques and using ingredients from Asian cuisine in a superficial way. 

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