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Everything posted by robyn

  1. Randy B - I agree with your point about being ripped off - but I think $50 for food is low - especially in cities like New York and Paris (it's even somewhat low for the Jacksonville Florida area where I live - at least in the higher end restaurants). I'd bump the number up - perhaps $75-125 or more for food in higher priced areas - something between $50 and $75 in lower priced areas. I am not sure the chefs who do a mediocre or worse job of cooking "creatively" could do any better cooking simply with great ingredients. There's a lot of work that goes into sourcing great ingredients - although it's easier in some places than others. E.g., it's easy to get great cheese in France - easy to get great vegetables in California - and hard to get great anything where I live . Of course - the greatest chefs are those who combine great ingredients with great technique and imagination. And - contrary to what the person in the NYT wrote - they still exist in France IMO. Robyn
  2. I realize fried chicken is perhaps a novelty in New York City - but - living in the south - where it is more or less a staple - the idea of spending $96 for a fried chicken dinner for 2 is somewhat laughable. Even with cocktails and a couple of glasses of wine (unless the cocktails were George V quality - and cost the 24 euros that they cost at the George V). FWIW - we get really good fried chicken dinners here for less than 10 bucks a head (sometimes less than 5 bucks a head). Although we don't eat fried chicken that often (it tastes great - but is far from the healthiest food in the world). Robyn
  3. robyn


    Just curious - do you have a rheumatologist handling your case? Robyn
  4. I couldn't swear to it - but I recall that on average a restaurant must charge about 3 times what its ingredients cost to make a modest profit. In many restaurants - sales of alcohol make the difference between a loss and a profit. And there are many other overhead items other than employees and decorating. How about rent (or mortgage payments if one owns instead of renting) and associated items like utility costs - numerous forms of insurance (everything from liability to workers' comp to health insurance in some places) - licenses and taxes and other fees - etc. I don't know exactly how it works in France - but - in a lot of US restaurants - the servers survive on tiny wages and tips (I know French servers earn a higher basic wage - but I don't know the details). Robyn
  5. Barbara - You and your husband are the opposite of me and my husband (he's the wine drinker in the family). He has usually had good luck at all kinds of places ordering wine by the glass simply by indicating what he is eating - what kinds of wines he usually likes - and about what he would like to spend. He was pretty happy with the wines he had in France - especially considering that he knows almost zero about French wine (most of the wines he drinks at home come from south America or "down under"). Robyn
  6. Don't look now - but the euro is now at about 1.27 - down from its most recent high of about 1.60 - a 20% drop. FWIW - I agree with you that currency rates are irrelevant since they do fluctuate - sometimes a lot over intermediate time frames. And now that there are currency ETF's (exchange traded funds) - which can be traded cheaply at discount brokerage firms - it is very easy to hedge the cost of a trip 9 months in the future if one is inclined to do so. John - I think the answer "it depends" when it comes to whether a particular meal is worth what it costs is correct. E.g., the food may be superb - but not to one's taste. Or maybe the service was substandard. Or there was something else one didn't care for about the meal (like who you were dining with ). A meal is frequently an experience that is more than the sum of its parts. And Weinoo - the point of my message was to respond to your statement: "But what if one is not concerned about money and just likes those kinds of places?" Robyn
  7. Can't remember where I read it - WSJ? - but the recent truffle auction went badly. Prices down more than 50% from last year. Bad crop? Lousy economy? Or perhaps a combination of both. I can't remember. Robyn
  8. I especially liked all the dessert courses . I am Jewish - and we had lunch there the day before Yom Kippur (day of fasting - which starts in the evening). Not a bad way to start a fast . Robyn
  9. Weinoo - Remember - there are people who live in Paris who have money too (it's not exactly a city of paupers - especially in certain areas). We were the only non-locals at Guy Savoy the day we had lunch here. Note that my husband worked on his French for a year before we went - and he sounded pretty good. At Guy Savoy - we got the menu in French - and our initial conversations with the maitre 'd were in French. He apparently thought we were French. We were very relieved when we found we could get a menu in English - and that his English was flawless (there are a lot of language subtleties when it comes to high end food). FWIW - I don't pretend to be anything other than what I am. A person with some money who enjoys luxury travel. I don't spend hours (or sometimes days) on airplanes to stay in someone else's apartment (which would probably be less nice than my house) or to find great values in dining (there are plenty of those here at home). No sin in that IMO. You and YMMV. And there is no sin in that either. Pierre45 - I would personally avoid places like Guatemala and Peru simply because of crime and food safety concerns. My cousin (an oral surgeon) goes to Guatemala once a year to do cleft palate surgery. He's been held up by bandits. My last housekeeper was from Peru - and her children refused to allow her to travel home because they feared for her safety. Also - I am really awful when it comes to taking the necessary food precautions in second and third world countries. So these countries aren't a good match for me. Again - YMMV. I thought Japan was relatively cheap compared to most of western Europe. And it was absolutely safe - and there are no food problems. My kind of country (except it is a totally exhausting 2 day trip for me to get from here to there - leave home on Monday - arrive there on Wednesday). I don't know anything about Morocco. We were thinking about a RTW trip next year - with stops in places like Moscow and Mumbai and Dubai. After the events of last week - that is off our radar screen. We will probably wind up exploring south South America (Chile and Argentina) - assuming things stay somewhat stable in that part of the world. FWIW - I have been to London, Paris, New York and Tokyo in the last 4 years or so. With the exception of Tokyo - I was underwhelmed. Perhaps that is because I had been to London, Paris and New York multilple times before - but had never been to Tokyo. Robyn
  10. For what it's worth - I don't think this is a problem that is unique to France. I have also seen it in varying degrees in Canada - the UK - Japan and Germany (the only other countries where I have traveled in the last 4 years or so) - and - of course - in various parts of the US (where I live and travel frequently - in cities as diverse as Chicago and Miami). So I - unlike the author of the article - would not have picked on France in particular. I have to say - I thought we had pretty good eating in general in Paris. Then again - I spent hours going over restaurants - and didn't pay much attention to prices. I know from experience that I do not in general like "this week's restaurant of the year" - so I tried to avoid those places. Which I don't always do in the United States (since I travel more often here than out of the country). I have however pretty much given up writing negative reviews of places like this in the US - because I get too much flak from "friends of the restaurant" when I do so. And to Swiss Chef - we took a look at the cafeteria at the Pompidou - and what it was serving looked really awful (little sandwiches wrapped in plastic - etc.). Robyn
  11. In Zurich I would be hapy to get an omelette for $11. Prices here are very high and modestly priced food is often depressing. I had understood from Ptipois that the problem was the traditional food is gone. Expensive food is everywhere in Europe now. Prices in Italy have more than doubled since the Euro came to town and it is very difficult for the locals to eat out. It sounds like the US may be the best place to dine out, from a value perspective. ← I can't say that the United States is the best value in the world - because I have only seen a small part of the world . But it is in general good value - except perhaps for a handful of the best (or at least the best known) restaurants in the country. And the good value extends far beyond restaurants in most of the country (to things like housing and clothing and gasoline - etc. - etc.). Apart from getting some "sticker shock" when I visit other countries - I wonder how average people live (I usually meet people when I travel - and I usually find the answer is not as well as they would like)? To give you an example - we met a cab driver in London a few years ago. He has 3 kids - and every year he takes them to Disneyworld (in Orlando Florida) and buys all of their clothes for the year at Walmart. He said he saves enough on the clothes to more than pay for the trip. Robyn
  12. Ptipois - I was thinking of wriitng an answer like yours - but thought I didn't have enough experience to be credible. I can only say that after spending a week in Paris recently - I agree with what you say. There are some exceptions - like we had good omelets at a reasonable (for Paris) price in the 8th near our hotel. But it is important to emphasize - for Paris. About 8 euros - 11 US dollars - for an omelet and some bread - that's it. Not even a sprig of parsley. By way of contrast - we have lots of places where we live where you can get the omelet and a side of meat (bacon/sausage) - grits or potatoes - some type of bread - and coffee or tea for about $6-7. I think that average people in France earn about what average people in the United States earn - give or take a few euros or dollars - and the average American cannot afford to spend $11 for lunch every day at work (not to mention that the omelet plus bread isn't a meal many larger younger men would find satisfying). I suspect the average French person can't afford it either. Which is probably why McDonald's at La Defense was the most crowded restaurant we saw in the complex. Robyn
  13. Just passing through this forum to look up something else. But this topic caught my eye. We have Kitchenaid 30" double convection wall ovens. Model is about 12 years old. With digital controls (guess this was version 1.1 or something like that). Very easy to use. Perhaps things have gotten more complicated since then. Only problem with the digital stuff now is the timer count-down display has dimmed a bit - so it is hard to see when the sun is shining on it. Only significant problem we had with the oven is the 30" ovens used light duty springs designed for 27" inch ovens. So they broke when the oven was almost new. Since Kitchenaid didn't sell replacement springs (duh) - even though next year's model had heavier duty springs - it replaced the entire unit for a nominal sum (although the unit wasn't under warranty - I threatened to sue - and we reached an amicable settlement). FWIW - I had to buy a new washing machine last month and wound up with dials only. The stories that I read about buying washing machines with digital controls make the stories here about ovens with digital controls sound like a walk in the park. Also FWIW - whatever you do - and no matter where you live - buy a brand that people in your area know how to service - with parts that are kept in stock. A fancy brand (whether analog or digital) will get tiresome really fast if you need a 50 cent part that has to be special ordered from Europe (by way of contrast - our local repair guy had the parts to repair our 14 year old Maytag washer in stock in town - although the repair turned out to be not worthwhile in terms of what it would cost). Finally - here is a handy hint that may save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. A year or so ago - our oven seemed to die. Nothing - no matter what buttons you pushed. I figured - **it - we'll have to buy a new oven. But I hit the blogs first - and found a blog run by an appliance repair guy. He told us to turn off the circuit breaker on the oven - let it sit off for about 10 minutes - and then turn it back on. And - when we did - lo and behold - the oven "rebooted" - just like a computer (it actually went through a "boot up" routine on the display panel). And it worked perfectly. I was totally amazed. Robyn
  14. I think Julot has mentioned more than a few times that there are many restaurants - including higher end ones - where dinner is a much better meal than lunch. Perhaps the restaurants you dined at fell into that category? We had a pretty good (and reasonably priced) dinner at Le Cinq - and the service was exceptional. I can say that even in early October - most of the people dining at the restaurant weren't hotel guests. They were locals - and people staying at other hotels who couldn't afford to stay at the George V. We had similar experiences at the bar at the hotel. Perhaps most hotel guests max out on their budget simply by staying in the hotel? OTOH - lunch at Guy Savoy was fabulous. Perhaps one reason for good lunches there is there are lots of local "business regulars". Since this is one of the most reasonably priced excellent lunches in town - I would be curious to see how its business is doing. If it is really down - then I would conclude that the malaise is just about everywhere. Robyn
  15. I don't know - although Julot speculated a while back that this is one reason for the lighter food served in some places. FWIW - to me - lighter doesn't necessarily mean just the kind of foods you mention - but smaller quantities (of just about anything). My husband and I had room service for dinner in Paris a couple of times - where it's easy to order one main - maybe one starter - and split everything. Without guilt (we wouldn't do that at a restaurant). Robyn
  16. I didn't say that (and I realize some of these chefs have excellent training and solid technique). But the restaurants you mention are basically "best of breed" (except for Maze - which I'm not sure is in the same genre as the other places). I have had the misfortune of dining in some places which were far from "best of breed" (maybe they were the "runts of the litter"). Robyn
  17. One thing that is interesting about Picasso - and probably useful when thinking about chefs and cooking and creativity - is that - as a young man - he was an extraordinary figurative painter before he started doing what we normally think of as "Picasso paintings". In other words - he could make a great buerre blanc before he did the painting equivalent of Fernan Adria. Robyn
  18. Could you please translate this French for me? On my part - I think there are places to eat in the world other than New York (and Paris - the NYT sometimes acknowledges the existence of the latter ). I am not sure why. But - as I have gotten older - I have become much more appreciative of simple preparations of wonderful ingredients - as opposed to creativity simply for the sake of creativity. 20 years ago - the creative stuff by chefs like Robuchon still tasted like delicious food. Today - I find more often than not that "creative" means I have to think about it more than I enjoy how it tastes. But there are many places to find food like this. Large parts of the US (although I am particularly partial to the food in northern California and the Pacific northwest and BC in Canada). Japan. France and Germany on our last trips. I've not been to Italy for a long time - but I am a really good Italian cook - making my sauces from scratch (too lazy and it is too humid here most of the time to make my own pasta). And I'm sure all of you could add dozens of other countries/cities. I am particuarly partial to fish and things like sausages. Hence my appreciation for places like the western US - Japan - and Germany. You know what I really hate. Going to a place and being told that I have to work and study to try to enjoy the food they're serving. Life is too hard these days (maybe it always was) to study how to enjoy my dinner. I am a decent home cook and one of my regrets in life is I don't have enough time to make things like veal stock. Robyn
  19. FWIW - many (perhaps most or all) of these unknown - hard to find - great value - etc. - etc. Paris restaurants hit Travel and Leisure magazine this month. So much for "off the beaten path" (even if that had been true in the past). Plafield - I agree about being rushed. As for elbow to elbow - depends how close the elbows are - and what I am drinking/eating - and paying. At a place like Cafe Boulud (NYC) in terms of food quality and prices - the elbows are too close for me. And if I am remembering correctly - we walked by CLJ one mid-afternoon and it looked definitely claustrophobic even when it was empty. OTOH - a crowded outside cafe in Paris is fun for drinks and nibbles. It's apples and oranges. Pierre45 - I'm not sure what you're trying to say. I wouldn't compare Paris with Orlando. But I would compare it with other large cosmopolitan cities like Tokyo. It is perhaps easier to compare hotels than restaurants - because there is less subjectivity. The Four Seasons room that costs about $700 in Tokyo will cost more than $1200 in Paris. And Weinoo - it is pretty easy to eat at Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach for $60/person (without alcohol). The best way I can say what I think about these restaurants is that they're a kludge. Which is a computer term - not a restaurant term. An inelegant way to work around a problem. The problem in Paris being that almost everything which is higher end is ridiculously expensive - so people who aren't spending tons of money and want to dine there have to find a workaround. My husband and I don't travel as much as we used to - but we still travel a fair amount. We aren't travel snobs - and we don't put down places that don't cost a lot of money. But - IMO - there's a huge difference between going to Texas BBQ country - which we did a couple of years ago (and we had probably the best beef BBQ there in the whole world for peanuts - because we love great BBQ) - and going to Paris and trying to spend less for a week eating than it would cost to buy a small car because you can't afford the higher end alternatives. I'm not sure how to say it - it's the difference between indulging in whatever you want to do - and worrying about skimping all the time. If I were somewhat budget-constrained (I'm not talking about a backpacking student - just a regular middle class traveler) - and thinking about a trip - I'd probably pick a place where I could get the best possible of what it had to offer - instead of going to a city like Paris where I would have to worry about money all the time. There are lots of places like that all over the world. Robyn
  20. Those of you in France probably have many favorite places where you buy your cheese. Since I am not in France - and live in a place where you can't even buy something like Pont l'Eveque - I don't. Anyway - my favorite place for ordering cheese from France is fromages.com. I am sure it is not the best cheese in France - but it is good cheese - and the service is excellent (overnight Fedex). If you order by late morning in the eastern US - the cheese will be on your doorstep next morning. Anyway - it is having a sale through 12/2 - 15% off cheese. Promo code is 281108. Only problem these days with buying cheese from abroad is customs (Department of Homeland Security). It will not allow through any cheese that isn't aged for at least 60 days. So if you have a favorite cheese that is past its prime at 60 days - don't order it. Fromages.com follows the rules - so your shipment doesn't wind up being rejected when it enters the US. BTW - I say this not to invite discussion of this rule - but only to bring it to your attention. BTW - I have nothing to do with this firm - except I am a satisfied customer. Robyn
  21. Couldn't agree more . Robyn
  22. Is a split of wine a half bottle - or an "airplane sized" bottle? A menu degustation at 45 euros - which is about $120 for 2 without liquor - is more than you will pay to sample Daniel Boulud's fare in Palm Beach (excellent food in a beautiful seating). Perhaps you are off the beaten path in terms of fashionable areas in which to dine in Paris - but you are still paying a healthy amount of money for that meal. Like I said - I think Paris taken as a whole is a poor value for a traveler. Robyn
  23. What about stopping in a cafe in the area where you happen to be - and having an omelette with a hunk of bread? If that's not enough - you could always add a side of potatoes (funny - grits were never an option in Paris ). We had a couple of meals like that - and weren't disappointed. Robyn
  24. I care everything about quality and almost nothing about price when I travel (except I will always try to get business or first class air tickets using FF miles). I'm not a Russian oil billionaire (perhaps there aren't any left in Russia either ) - so I'm not going to stay in the Presidential suite at the George V. Or order a $4,000 bottle of wine (especially since I don't drink wine). But I don't bat an eyelash at spending $750 for 2 for dinner. Perhaps one reason for this is we don't travel that often. Maybe one big trip and a couple of smaller trips a year. Another is that the food scene where I live isn't wonderful. The 2 restaurants I think are the best in this area probably wouldn't merit one Michelin star. And it's almost impossible to spend more than $65/person for food at either. So our restaurant costs at home tend to be relatively modest. As for hotels - my house is a *very* nice place. I see no reason to travel to big cities to stay in the type of surroundings I haven't lived in since I was a student (if I were an "adventure traveler" - hiking in Patagonia or something like that - my calculus would be different - I'd probably be in a tent). I can tell you that the first time I went to Paris - as a student - I stayed at the Hotel d'Angleterre on Rue Jacob - for about $10/night. I know they have gussied it up - but you will never be able to persuade me that it is worth over $200/night. OTOH - the price/quality ratio has to "click". I don't like to throw my money away. Which it is easy to do at all levels of restaurants and hotels everywhere. But spending less isn't a guarantee of anything in particular either (except spending less). That said - I can tell you that - overall - I thought the entire city of Paris was a poor value for a traveler - with the exception of our meals at Guy Savoy and Senderens - neither of which was particularly expensive. Especially compared with our other recent trips abroad. To Japan 2 years ago - and Germany last year. Tokyo was about half the price of Paris (smaller cities were cheaper) - and German cities cost less than that. And I am talking about luxury hotels and 3 star restaurants - not conveyor belt sushi or Turkish cafes. Note that exchange rates aren't the main issue. The exchange rate on the euro was about the same when we went to Germany as it was when we went to Paris. Japan will be somewhat more expensive now - the yen is about 15% more expensive than it was during our visit. It is simply that Paris - and - to a lesser extent - London - are ridiculously expensive cities - at least in terms of visiting. Perhaps those of you who live there can say whether they are also ridiculously expensive places to live. Living in the kind of place that I live - I think that many lower end in terms of prices Paris restaurants may perhaps be the most grossly overvalued places to eat in town (we ate at a few). For example - I can get a very decent plain grilled fish dinner (I prefer the grilled trout) at a local higher end chain - Stonewood Grill - for about $17. A similar dinner in Paris would probably cost $30-40. If Stonewood Grill charged over $25 for this dinner - it would be out of business. Not that the meals we had like this in Paris were bad - they were just overpriced IMO. The lunch we had at Le Zinc was fine - and reasonably priced - using a Paris barometer - about $25/person with the daily fixed - not carte - menus. Dinner would have been double the price - and not worth it IMO. OTOH - I thought the few food items we purchased - cheese - bread - wine - sweets - etc. - were great values. Excellent quality. Not expensive at all. We bought a loaf of bread to die for in the Marais for about $1.50. If I could buy things like that at our local markets - I would never dine out! Anyway - that is my 4 cents (message is too long for 2 cents). Will be interested to see what others have to say. Robyn P.S. I am not sure where our next long trip will be. South south America (Argentina and Chile) is a strong contender.
  25. Since there doesn't seem to be much in the way of new and exciting judging from what others have said - I would recommend (based on my very limited experience from our last trip) that you do Le Cinq at dinner on Saturday night. It's a very beautiful room which I think shows best at night (and that would be especially true IMO during the holiday season). And perhaps the 100 euro lunch special at Guy Savoy on Friday (which was the best meal of our trip). The place isn't new but it is still great - and the decor is very appropriate for a high end lunch (it is elegant - but somewhat spare - I liked it - but Le Cinq would definitely be a more sumptuous place for a dinner). If you do go to Le Cinq for dinner - make a reservation at the bar for a drink before dinner (reservations are necessary because the bar post-renovations is too small for the hotel). Not only are the drinks excellent - but it is a cozy room with a big fireplace. I was grateful to have the fireplace even in October (but - then again - I am from Florida - and 50 degrees is cold for me). Don't know what your budget is. But - if you have one - best way to keep costs reasonable IMO is to trim them on the alcohol side of the meal. FWIW - if you do find anything "new - exciting - hot" - and especially somewhat inexpensive - Saturday night is usually the worst night of the week to dine at such an establishment (whether it's in Paris or elsewhere). Robyn
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