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Robert Schonfeld

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Posts posted by Robert Schonfeld

  1. Reasons I went:

    1. Hope springs eternal.

    2. I still haven't run out of ways to be disappointed with the New York City upper middle.

    3. It was easy walking distance from our apartment.

    But to be honest it's my fault.

    Likewise; hence the subtitle of this thread.

  2. I have no reason to think it was anything but a coincidence that the chef didn't greet us. On the other point, every time we have made this request at Gramercy Tavern, to give just one example, it has been greeted with enthusiasm.

  3. Please clarify: By ignoring what? And what did the chef have against you (which is what you seem to be implying)?

    By ignoring our request. Please excuse my eccentric grammar. I don't mean to imply that the chef had anything against us. Not at all. He just declined an opportunity to rise to the occasion, which was disappointing. Or, he could have a prejudice against tall bearded men with no hair, even in the company of beautiful women.

    We liked the food. It tasted good. So does a lot of food. Some of it was very good. So is a lot of food.

  4. Not Italian. Not Italo-American. A New York City restaurant with some Italian emphasis. One example: “Roasted Maine Lobster/puntarelle (chicory), manila clam and guanciale ragu.” A pleasing and well-prepared dish with a greater relationship to the American East Coast (Maine lobster), New York markets (manila clams), and New York trendy Italianizing via the lusty Batali (pork products in general, guanciale in this case) than anything really Italian.

    The room has a vaguely 60’s Manhattan sleekchic nightclub feel about it, although personally, I dislike walls hung with fabric.

    A fairly extensive list of Italian wines, with many titles the four of us did not recognize. We drank a Massavecchia Vermentino “Arrento” ‘98 in place of a Verdicchio on the list but not available, and a very nice Querciabella Chianti Classico ‘96. The otherwise helpful and friendly server tried to upsell us another bottle, some sort of “bastard amarone” at $69 with just a few bites of food left in a seven course tasting menu.

    By ignoring it, the chef, Scott Conant declined our request for a meal designed by him that would be enjoyed by a table experienced to a certain degree with Italian food. At the end of the meal, he stopped just short of our table when making his rounds.

    We sampled eleven or twelve dishes. All were professionally prepared and tasted good. Some, like “fricassee of seasonal mushrooms/creamy polenta, truffle reduction”, “yukon gold potato gnocchetti with eggplant/preserved tomato and crispy parmigiano”, and “moist roasted vermont capretto/baby artichoke and potato “groestle’ and natural reduction” were spot on, and had discernible Italian relations, if not a Nona or a Mama. At least one, “strigoli al nero di seppia/calamaretti, sea urchin, shrimp and mussels”, was a loser. The handmade pasta was poor, and a tasting portion offered insufficient participation of the seafood. Desserts were perfunctory and unmemorable.

    More important, none of the Italian dishes evoked Italy, or comparable things eaten there. Instead, they left the impression of a succession of adaptations that had been devised through a process in order to match their market, in this case, repeat customers at the $100 - $200 per person price point (alcohol, tax and tip included) with no special interest in, nor certainly insistence upon, authenticity. Our friends opined, accurately, as it turned out, that the meal seemed to be the work of a CIA graduate. Batali succeeds so well at this because of his larger than life persona. Impero succeeds because it very carefully tunes its delivery system to the needs and wishes of its target market.

    On the way out, one of our friends asked a man dressed in chef’s whites if he was responsible for our meal. “Only if you liked it”, he said. We liked it - the way we like fifty other restaurants in New York.

  5. Lewis and Finch are onto some of the most interesting ideas yet broached on egullet. Any good quality thinking that wrests emphasis away from gravitational Francophilia (Finch), and which shows up much of well-regarded restauranteurship as just so much putting one over (Lewis), is bound to raise the bar for debate. I'm reminded of that moment when Cinemascope was introduced in theaters and the curtains widened to reveal the rest of the screen.

  6. The dominant tendency to return to the French model for ideas of luxury undoubtedly extends beyond cuisine, and in some way may be a celebration of the economic liberation of the masses by the market system, allowing them to pursue at least symbols of that which was formerly reserved exclusively for the Court, whether food, clothing, furnishings, or pictures, and whether so pursued in reaction to religious asceticism or not. Luxury as a pursuit for citizens after the 18th century defined itself, and continues to define itself in French terms. This comes as a surprise to certain Asian and sub-Asian cultures, as well as to a minority of freer-thinking Americans. In a sense, the prevalence of lml's aptly-put "combination" aesthetic, is a marketing coup of generational proportions.

  7. In my view, the idea of balance goes beyond the conception of individual dishes, beyond the orchestration of a succession of them. It inlcudes the temperature of the room, where one is seated, one's companions, even the weather and what kind of day one has had to that point. While it may be that approaches to balance are different among cultures and cuisines, I don't see any value in insisting on a single set of scales on which to weigh a great Japanese meal, for example, against a great French meal. Each can be balanced within the context of its own culture. I would agree with the idea that, while a restaurant can offer its best with respect to a balanced dining experience, it will be the diners use of their self-knowledge, their skills of communication, their sense of time and place, that will add the last dimension of personal satisfaction to a meal.

  8. A Vietnamese marries a Jew. Their daughter marries the son of a Mexican and a Minnesota native with Scandanavian roots. Their children branch off until, 50 years from now and more, some of their descendants wonder why they light candles on Friday night, and make chicken soup with lemongrass. There is no American except all of us together. Notwithstanding the gnashing resistance, from the beginning right up to now, to keep the lines from mixing, the meaning of American is in the mixture. Lml is right. Fusion and American are the same thing, albeit not to the exclusion of "myriad immigrant cuisines" developing their own streams, nor of same process taking place elsewhere.

  9. Forgive me, for I am young and have little of the attribute known as "sensibility" -- I don't even have enough of it to know what it means! Can some of the more experienced, wiser, older folks around here flesh out this concept for me? I shall then, armed with my positivistic and handy definition, go out into the world and attempt to acquire sensibility, which I'm sure will annoy a great many.  :laugh:

    Of the attributes you request from your flesher-outer, I am only older for sure. I can offer this, though: you don't acquire sensibility with age, you're born with it. It can't be learned. It can be imitated, but it will always be only an imitation. It isn't necessary on the resume of a food writer who has seen the road to his or her own fulllest expression.

    Thanks for this interesting discussion.

  10. Coming late to this thread, I'll just second anything that has to do with Marcella's "Classic" volumes.

    It's well worth making the risotto to go along.

    Last time I made this, I got the butcher to cut two shanks so I could have the two largest pieces from each. They were over a pound apiece. Four of 'em, at $9. a pound. Still, worth it.

  11. robert, in my estimation, Arun is very well known.  i live in new jersey, as plotz so gleefully points out (as a character flaw of course of course) and i knew about Arun 6 years ago when i was a wee-foodie-in-training.  it's been written up several times in the main stream food mags, and has most likely been mentioned on TV programs. 

    and, it was certainly one of the best thai experiences that i've had (outside of NJ  :biggrin: )

    Nobody tells me anything.

  12. We had an outstanding meal at LOS about two years ago, also under the care of the owner. Memorable, and worth returning again and again. The flourescent lights, travel posters and formica tables are soon overlooked, mainly because one's eyes are tearing from the heat.

    But the single most extraordinary Thai meal we've ever had outside Thailand was at Arun in Chicago. Why this place isn't on the national radar is beyond me. In a discussion with a new, highly expert egulleteer, Arun (the man and chef) was described in terms that put him in a league with the biggest shots in the business. This was also a few years ago, If the restaurant is still functioning at the same level, it is worth a trip to Chicago for no other reason.

  13. They have beauties there [asparagus] that they serve simply steamed and which are served with a butter sauce, steamed potatoes, and raw or cured schenken (ham.) It's a terrific dish.

    An example of the simple/good box on the matrix

  14. You have to boil the noodles first.

    I always make green noodles for lasagna. Marcella Hazan suggests 3/4c flour to one large egg. Of course, the amount of liquid the flour will absorb depends on the type of flour, the humidity, etc.

    Store bought ingredients just can't compare with handmade noodles, a long-simmered ragu, and the rest of the items custom made. People are amazed with the result.

  15. I am also needling you guys because your lists seem woefully inadequate based on your claims about the food.

    I'm the last one to object to a little needling, but this assertion doesn't even merit a reply.

    As for your list, I think you've got quite a few names by now. But face it, you're going to come home bitching and you know it. Go to France. Write nice stories. Repeat.

  16. I do note that Robert S.'s and Peter's lists seem to be more about dining experiences they remember fondly because of the setting...

    And Shonfeld, that your two classic meals happened 18 years ago doesn't do a great job of supporting your contention about Italian cuisine. Mind you, I said cuisine, not food.

    Seven of the eight experiences I mentioned offer no setting, just the name of the restaurant. But even if they had focussed on setting, which they didn't, isn't that part of the dining experience? I brought up the clams on the beach because they are taken out of the water and brought to the table. Each one is as big as your little fingernail. The table is set in the sand, under a stretched piece of canvas. Somebody boils some water, there's a pan, some wine, some parsley, some oil, and the next thing you know, you're sitting there in your bathing suit having a perfect ten eating experience. Didn't you just write a nice little story about eating in a market somewhere in France?

    If I hadn't dated those two meals, you wouldn't have known any better. Similar experiences are available today. But for the umpteen gazillionth time: eating - excuse me - cuisine - in Italy is not about what you call "classic", by which you mean French high style dining. I can only recal one really disappointing meal in Italy, at Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence. Not because the food was bad, but because the place was pretentious, trying to be something out of place.

    It's nice that there's some Italy talk on the boards recently. Come along for the ride. Or don't. But don't keep trying to grab the steering wheel.

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