Ruth Reichl’s and Alice Steinbach’s new ones
If you love Paris and Gourmet, then “Remembrance of Things Paris: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet,” edited by Ruth Reichl (The Modern Library, New York, $16.97 from Amazon.com or 21.46E from Amazon.fr) is for you. One of the few benefits having been on earth a goodly time is that you pick up a book like this and find so many old friends, even if the minute details elude you. Reichl has gathered in this volume (as she did in “Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet”), almost 50 priceless gems on Paris from Gourmet’s 60 years of publication. Written by a dozen people, from Naomi Barry through Joseph Wechsberg to (my current favorite contemporary critic) François Simon, the pieces reflect more than restaurants, e.g. perfume, haute couture, cinema, chocolate, jewelry, flowers, famous people, etc. In addition, there are many articles about the city itself, the products and places (e.g. Les Halles) and there are recipes up the gazoo (so many that cover such a comprehensive scope that it almost qualifies as a cookbook too).
But the authors and chapters do discuss restaurants, from the original bistros to current favorites, from traditional cuisine through the nouvelle cuisine to fusion cooking, from restaurants long gone to those currently very hot. These include, in order of mention: La Mediterranée, Voltaire, Au Cochon de Lait, Polidor, Restaurant des Arts, Chez Vincent, Coupole, Maxim’s, Au Pied de Cochon, Grand Comptoir, Pharamond, Le Père Tranquille, L’Escargot-Montorgueil, Le Chien Qui Fume, L’Alsace aux Halles, Allard, Lasserre, La Tour d’Argent, Aux Amis du Beaujolais, Chez Pauline, Chez René, Au Petit Coq, La Chope d’Orsay, Chez Michelle et Bruno, L’Auberge de l’Argoat, Le Bistrot de Paris, Prunier, Lucas-Carton, Le Relais Plaza (Athénée), Taillevent, Le Pot au Feu, Au Pactole, Le Pré Catelan, Jamin, Tan Dinh, Chiberta, Guy Savoy, Les Élysées du Vernet, Le Vaudeville, L’Épi Dupin, L’Ardoise, Bookinistes, Pierre Gagnaire, La Régalade, La Tour de Monthéry : Chez Denise, Bofinger, À Sousceyrac, Le Petit Marguery, Au Trou Gascon, Carré des Feuillants, L’Ami Louis, Mère Poulard, Chez Georges, Le Cinq, Héléne Darroze, Café Ruc, L’Esplanade and McDo’s.
Criticism : Reichl should have gone to the time, effort and expense to index the collection, by the chefs (e.g. so you know which chef was at which restaurant, when), the restaurants (e.g. Maxim’s is discussed during at least three different periods in its existence) and the recipes (so you could easily distinguish between the soufflés at Le Divellac and Gagnaire). On the other hand, it’s a fun read or re-read as the case may be.
Disclosure: Reichl’s book was a present from a friend, the writer Alice Steinbach, whose experience at the Ritz-Escoffier École de Gastronomie Française I deal with next.
Alice Steinbach is an author who hates to be categorized as a travel writer, so I’ll call her an author of books dealing with being in foreign places. Her first book “Without Reservations,” published in 2002 in the US was a success in both the States and France. She returns to France in the first chapter of her recently published (US, April 2004, Random House, New York, $16.97 at amazon.com and 25.34E at amazon.fr) book “Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman.” Along with the focus of eGullet, I’ll only mention this chapter, which deals with her two week stint at the Ritz, home also of the Restaurant L’Espadon. As best as I can tell, it presents pretty accurately the pluses and minuses of such training and I suspect would be of interest to anyone contemplating such an immersion course, especially at the Ritz.
Edited by John Talbott, 23 July 2004 - 06:24 AM.