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Jonathan Day

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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    London and Mougins, France

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  1. An amazing man has been taken from us. I had the privilege of working with Steven through eGullet's maturing. His energy and work ethic were nothing short of amazing. E-mails from London that reached him in the middle of the night were answered within minutes. We met a few times in New York and spoke now and then, most recently just before his move to Quirky. He had optimism, vision and wisdom. I will miss Steven. Deepest condolences to Ellen and PJ, and to all of Steven's family and friends.
  2. John, a very happy birthday to you...and many more to come. That cassoulet looks delicious. Thanks for sharing the preparations with us.
  3. Please do linger. What do you mean by "chef dialectics"?
  4. Luc Dubanchet, former editor of GaultMillau, and Laurent Seminel, former art director, seem to be the originators of Omnivore and of the "Generation C" idea. They have published the first guide dedicated to "Jeune cuisine", covering 150 restaurants in France. Sample comment: That means, roughly : Why don't we give out stars or numerical ratings in our guide? Because both cuisine and culinary criticism need, at long last, to abandon the infantilising schoolroom system in which they have been imprisoned. How can one compare, on the same grading scale, a wonderfully innovative bistrot against a magnificent "palace"? Click here for a list of the restaurants of the "Jeune cuisine" chefs. It isn't clear how young these chefs are; at one point the site says, « jeune » n’étant pas une question d’âge mais d’état d’esprit -- i.e. that youth is not a matter of age but of attitude. On the other hand, the "Prix du Jeune créateur" competition they will be holding during their food festival in February is open only to cooks who have achieved the rank of chef patron (owner), sous-chef or chef de partie and are younger than 31 years old. The whole idea of "Generation C" reminds me somewhat of Les Six, the group of "avant garde" (for the 1920s) composers who assembled around Erik Satie.
  5. My father's mother was a Home Economics teacher. She was an enthusiastic cook, and one of the worst cooks I can remember. More than anything else, she loved to put together a big family dinner at Christmastime, with all of the uncles and cousins and brothers and sisters and grandchildren in one house. She would burn hams, make horrid floury soups, and, each Christmas without fail, make Green Bean Casserole. The relatives on that side of the family were not particularly discriminating in food, and generally hungry, so most of the glop disappeared quickly. Her brother, Clement, was a notorious miser. He hated to throw away any food. Uncle Clement gnawed cabbage cores and cheese rinds, saved bits of leftovers and fried them up in olive oil for his breakfast each morning. My grandmother's ham always had a scorched skin; he would cut this into small pieces and chew on them. My father's family was prolific as well as hungry; when my grandmother celebrated her hundredth birthday there were something like 80 very close relatives present. One Christmas we had around 40 of them in her house. Grandma was excited about the number of people she had to feed, and she made a huge vat of Green Been Casserole. This time the casserole was so horrible that nobody ate more than a few bites of it. So the Green Been Casserole pot went back into the fridge, and it came out the next day, and the next. Finally, several days after Christmas, she again served warmed-up Green Been Casserole with lunch. Uncle Clement looked at it -- by now a grey-green porridge -- on his plate. Then he stood up, went to the stove, took the pot (still about half full of casserole) and tipped all of it into the bin. We were stunned. "Uncle Clement is throwing away food!" whispered one of the younger cousins. My grandmother quietly left the kitchen. I don't recall her serving Green Been Casserole again.
  6. At today's rate £55 = about US $95. Remember, though, that despite the exchange rate something that costs $1 in the US usually costs about £1 here. I couldn't tell from the review site whether the indicated price was for 1 or for 2, with or without drinks.
  7. I'm as much of a Francophile as anyone. But the French are high alcohol consumers, the highest in Europe according to the table shown below. It is drawn from a paper, "Alcohol and suicide in 14 European countries - A comparative time series analysis" by Mats Ramstedt of the Stockholm University Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRad). It translates consumption into litres of 100% ethanol equivalent, so that a bottle of wine (750 ml) at 13.5% alcogol would count as about 0.1. Hence the table below says that the average French person, 15 years or older, consumes the alcohol equivalent about 215 bottles of wine per year. Annual alcohol consumption per capita 15 years and older (litres of 100% ethanol) Low-consumption countries Finland 6.4 Norway 4.4 Sweden 6.5 Average 5.8 Medium-consumption countries Austria 13.1 Denmark 9.3 Belgium 11.1 Ireland 7.9 The Netherlands 7.7 The UK 7.5 West Germany 11.4 Average 9.7 High-consumption countries France 21.6 Italy 15.6 Portugal 15.9 Spain 15.5 Average 17.2
  8. Try The Food Room, on Queenstown Road in Battersea. This used to be an upmarket Aussie place called Stepping Stone; now it's French ("modern European") and they are doing some interesting work. I believe it's 3 courses for ₤25; you can also have a cheeseboard for a modest supplement. Nearest tube would be something like Vauxhall, though that would be a hike. Better way to get there would be overland rail to Queenstown Road; it's not a long taxi ride, either.
  9. I wandered into the Marylebone High Street Divertimenti today. The display featured Falcon range cookers (now owned by Aga) and wine refrigerators. There was a brochure for a Falcon fridge (the usual kind, not limited to wine), that looked pretty good. I asked the clerk for the cost. After five minutes of shuffling through notebooks, calling various people, calling Aga, the answer was...we don't know. In fact, we're not even sure if we can get these fridges. Call Aga on Monday, they told me. Maybe they can sell you one. If Divertimenti are owned by Aga, the new owners have some work to do...
  10. Suppose that you were a gros bonnet, a well known, multi-starred chef. Suppose that your restaurant were profitable, but not hauling in the big money. You could establish a second restaurant, and a third, and a fourth; you could write cookbooks. Or, you could make a deal with Picard (a leading manufacturer and distributor of frozen food) or Unilever (whose Best Foods division owns Knorr and similar lines) to lend your name to their products. The money-to-effort ratio in the second option is overwhelmingly better. Opening restaurants and writing cookbooks is hard work and risky, from a purely financial point of view. And, if you were approaching the end of your cheffing career, the temptation to cash in by endorsing powdered sauces and frozen quiches could be hard to resist...
  11. I'm surprised at the surprise. Here are just a few websites of French producers of ready-made foods: http://www.metro.fr http://www.distram.com http://www.ubffoodsolutions.fr These products are intended for "collectivités" (schools, hospitals, prisons, etc.) and "petits unités" (small restaurants). Do you really think that the little restaurant on the corner lovingly simmers stocks, to turn them into fond de veau and that into classical sauces? In all likelihood it doesn't. Quite a bit of the ravioli you find in restaurants is industrially made and frozen or chilled. Lots of the fish you eat in restaurants, some of them starred, has been frozen. What about those lovely patés, terrines, rillettes on offer in the traiteur or charcuterie? Many of them are industrially made, in large quantities. A few traiteurs still produce their own products, but this requires long hours and hard work. Here, from one of these sites, is a recipe for "Blanc de brochet, Nantaise" (pike in cream sauce), for 100 persons: Take frozen pike fillets, heat them in a steam oven, hold warm. Boil 5 litres of water and add 500g of KNORR PROFESSIONAL BEURRE BLANC SAUCE POWDER. Bring it back to the boil. Off heat, mount it with 500ml of thick crème fraîche and 1.25 kg of butter, cut into small pieces. Coat the fillets with the sauce; season and serve. If serving in England, you may leave out the additional cream and butter. (Last sentence was the translator's addition...) In some cases, these products aren't as horrid as they sound, though many are far from the real thing. But if the reviewers and the customers can't tell the difference, it's not surprising that restaurateurs and shopkeepers cut corners. You can always ask the traiteur or waiter whether the product they are selling is made in house (fait maison).
  12. Good point. I think in some cases the owners live in "the flat above the shop" or not much further away. The butcher we use has a very short drive from his shop. Taking a break is practical. Another reason, of course, is that customers expect these shops to close. Nobody is outraged if a shop is closed at 1 pm, because nobody shops then. To implement a system like this in the UK, you'd have to get all of the shops in an area to change hours together. Otherwise, one shop would be tempted to stay open and grab custom. Nobody would want to go first.
  13. I think opening times and peoples' work and home schedules have a huge effect in the choice of where to shop for food. I know it's why we sometimes end up at a supermarket when I'd rather be shopping at Borough or Northcote Road in London. One thing that works well in some parts of France and Italy is that specialist shops (fishmongers, fruit and veg, butchers) open very early -- our butcher is regularly at work by 6:30 am and often earlier -- and close late, around 7:30 pm and sometimes later. They compensate for this by closing daily from around 12:30 or 1:00 pm to around 4:00 or 4:30 pm. They tend to close on one day of the week but stay open on Sunday morning. Hence a notional schedule for a butcher or specialist shop in the south of France is Monday, closed all day Tuesday, open 7:30 am to 1 pm and 4:30 pm to 8 pm Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday ditto Sunday, open 8:00 am to 1 pm This may seem odd, but it's convenient. Offices and banks tend to be open roughly from 9 am to 5 pm, with a relatively short lunch break. So you can shop early in the morning and be done for the day, or stop at the end of the day. Supermarkets tend to be open longer hours these days -- 8 am to 8 pm, often with no lunch break (the French word for this is "non-stop"). They will typically close either Monday or Sunday. Everything is closed Sunday afternoon. In Britain, the supermarkets seem to be moving closer to the American "we never close" model; unless the specialist shops and markets can somehow adapt, it's hard to imagine the Tescobury's world domination plan (or at least UK domination) failing.
  14. I second the recommendation of La Cave du Septier. I have not visited the shop but use them regularly, ordering by Internet or telephone for delivery within France. Their service has been consistently reliable and the people online and on the phone well informed.
  15. I don't think they have a child menu -- it's not that kind of place. I've always found the staff at RHR friendly and accommodating, but the room is not large and the menu is ambitious. Definitely worth a call beforehand, to check on the kitchen's flexibility, and on pricing. You could end up with a very expensive dish of pasta and cheese... Or why not send your brother to a group like Pippa Pop-Ins to relax while you enjoy your meal?
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