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Jonathan Day

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Jonathan Day

  1. I think the key word here is "trust". When a genuine trust develops between diner and kitchen, it can be very pleasurable to turn the ordering over to the restaurant, knowing that they will do their best and will not take advantage. When Moby and I went to L'Ambroisie (which, if I recall correctly, has no set menus, only a carte) we asked the restaurant to assemble the meal for us -- and, as noambenami suggests, they responded positively, sending out an additional course, gratis, "to thank you for having trust (confiance) in us." It's not unlike being invited to a friend's house for dinne
  2. Isn't "destination" somewhat relative to your local situation and mobility? There are local restaurants we love to revisit (e.g. Les Arcades, in Biot, or Au Rendez-vous des Amis, north of Nice, or Mantel, in Cannes) but wouldn't make a journey for. There are places in Liguria we are interested in exploring, and that requires something of a journey. This is a "detour" -- you're in the area, but the restaurant requires planning, and something of a journey. But I think of a "destination" restaurant as one that you would plan a journey around, one where you wouldn't make the trip if the restau
  3. Let's see...with the pound at just over $1.80 and petrol at about 90 pence per litre, we're paying about $6.20 per US gallon over here. And this has been the rough price level for some time. Fuel prices are high in the UK because the government takes something like 66 of those 90 pence in taxes. Restaurants in London are still busy. It's the shock increase, not the absolute price level that impacts spending. Eventually, people will adapt to a higher price.
  4. Do you suppose you would have dined better had you had more choices? Or is is just as well that you had less array and a more controllable quality? Or to phrase it differently, were your expectations thwarted by the short menu? ← Margaret, my guess is that we won't be back to Reims for at least another year. And then it's likely that we would try Les Crayeres, the other celebrated restaurant in town. So in this case, the short menu didn't matter, and in fact it meant that my children had an easier time making their choices. On the other hand, if we lived nearer Reims, and if the dishe
  5. There are still chefs out there who are trying hard. Last week we dined at L'Assiette Champenoise, in Reims, a two-star where Arnaud Lallement -- I believe he is the son of the founding chef -- is aiming high. The dishes didn't quite have the purity and focus of those I tasted at L'Ambroisie, but several of them were very strong indeed, and it's clear that this place is serious about the food it offers. L'Assiette Champenoise was, for me, far more impressive than other two-star restaurants we had recently visited (e.g. Chibois in Grasse, or Le Moulin de Mougins under the new chef, Alain Llo
  6. Of course there's le menu self where the customers have to go into the kitchen and cook their own food. And le menu plongeur, where you get to wash the dishes afterwards. The possibilities are endless...
  7. Le menu surprise: dining as entertainment. See a related exchange about Borough Market. We've often been in tiny restaurants in Italian villages where there is no menu; the owner comes out of the kitchen and tells you what you'll be eating that day. It's almost always good. Is this the same thing as a menu surprise?
  8. Is it wrong to find food entertaining? Nothing wrong with finding food entertaining, as such. It's a bit sad when entertainment value displaces food quality -- as at certain 3-star restaurants, where some large percentage of your $/£/€ goes to delivering THE GEN-YOU-WINE (name of chef -- Bocuse, Ramsay, Blumenthal, etc.) EXPERIENCE instead of great ingredients, beautifully prepared. See, for example, Moby's recent post about the "Disney land logic" of a meal he had at Michel Bras, where the restaurant seemed more focused on entertainment than on delivering great food. If you have unlimited
  9. Interesting. Our 3 children consume a great deal of water in the course of a meal -- either drinking it or spilling it. At restaurants from simple cafés to 3-stars, all across France, we've asked for a pitcher of tap water (eau du robinet). We've never been turned down. We'll avoid cafés in St Maur from henceforth!
  10. I'm guessing that the issue for Lipp is less "salad vs meat" than the size of the minimum order they will countenance. If you walked in and ordered nothing but a dish of oeufs en gelée (8 euros, if I read that menu correctly) and a glass of wine, you are occupying a table that might otherwise consume a main course; you're getting bread and butter and waiter service; etc. It's not a "salad" as such, but it's not giving them the revenue they want. I've sometimes wondered what would happen in one of the 3-star gastronomic temples if a customer simply ordered a dish of asparagus from the carte,
  11. Rue Mouffetard is well worth a visit. A very pleasant hotel in the area is the Hotel des Grandes Ecoles, rue Cardinal Lemoine. Unusually for a Paris hotel, it is separated from the road by a small courtyard and hence has a degree of tranquillity that's hard to find in this part of the town. When we stayed there the rooms were simple but comfortable -- no television, which was a big plus. Their website has more details.
  12. Juanito, thanks for a very good point -- especially since this fridge is in a kitchen with an Aga cooker, which already produces a lot of heat. We'll go with a domestic model, I think.
  13. We're on the edge of buying a new fridge. I had leaned toward commercial units, as they are far less fiddly than high-end home fridges. And, for the space and function you get, the prices are very good. You won't get built-in icemakers or filtered water fountains in the door, or piped in music when you open the butter bin, but (except for the ice makers) who needs those things? BUT, my impression is that commercial units make a great deal of noise. Every commercial fridge I've been around in a restaurant or butcher shop has been extremely noisy, mostly because the compressors and motors ar
  14. Actually the best restaurant in burgundy is the 3 star Lameloise.Its traditional food at its best.Its also a very reasonable 3 star. Bon appetit ← I love Lameloise, but I believe it has lost one of its stars. And I have to say that the dinner we had not long ago (before it fell to 2 stars) was not at a 3-star level; the flavours were slighly muted and lacked the clarity and intensity that I experienced at places like L'Ambroisie and Ledoyen. Still, it's a pleasant place to stop for dinner and breakfast on a trip through Burgundy, and it's a stone's throw from some fine vineyards.
  15. Folks -- I've removed a number of posts that were about planning a dinner. It sounds great, but this isn't the place for doing that -- the PM system is. Because we should have cleaned this up a long time ago, I've kept track of the participants, so that you can reach one another via PM: Ian PoppySeedBagel Origamicrane Jon Tseng Carlovski Janice Brithack Ai Leen Thanks for your understanding.
  16. Adam, enjoying your blog already. I spent over 2 years in Edinburgh in the early 1990s; it was a good time, but I was happy to return South. You've clearly found some good food sources. The quality of light in Edinburgh, though, especially in high summer, was very special. In London this year much of July has been grey and almost icy; a perfect foil for explosions and other diversions. Has the weather been better up there? It's hard to tell from your pictures. Valvona and Crolla, back then, was a busy but not overly elaborate Italian shop. Has it now turned into a big operation? Is the
  17. Jack, I wonder if part of what you're getting at is the prevalence of food shibboleths*. A shibboleth is a kind of password -- the story comes originally from the Bible, Judges 12.1-15. The Ephraimites and the Gileadites fight (the whole book is full of fighting, smiting and slaying); the Gileadites win and set up a blockade to catch the fleeing Ephraimites. They ask each person who passes to say the word "shibboleth", which means either "ear of corn", "stream" or "George W. Bush" depending on your views of Ancient Hebrew. Anyway, the Ephraimites were unable to say 'sh', since there was no
  18. Thanks for the reference to Sayell Foods, Matthew. Have you tried the sucking pigs they sell there? They look good, and at £6.50 or so per kg, for the small ones, not outrageously priced.
  19. I would miss Borough, but life would go on. Northcote Road, in my neighbourhood, has almost everything I would want at Borough -- fine meats, fruit and veg, fish, cheeses, wine, Italian delicacies, specialty flours, etc.. Not quite as many mushrooms as Booth's, but, in season, a good selection. Other things come through the Internet, and there's Sainsbury's and Waitrose and Ocado for 'chemicals' (washing up liquid, toilet rolls, etc.) and special childrens' requirements (crisps, baked beans, etc.). I'm grateful that the Borough trustees have encouraged the development a cluster of fine foo
  20. I have to admit that I'm now a bit confused about what Borough is supposed to be. Perhaps this is because the same space is used for someaht different purposes, depending on the day of the week. From the organisation's website: My recollection is that, at one point, the Saturday market (now extended to Friday) was more about giving ordinary punters access to some of the wholesale traders. But perhaps this was never the case.
  21. Adam, I wasn't terribly unhappy with the prices I paid for those chanterelles. My fishmonger has a small display of vegetables outside his shop, and he had the same chanterelles (same supplier, he claims) for ₤17.50 per kilo, 50p more than Borough. It's the ordinary things that have become expensive -- good but not exotic British cheeses at high prices, for example. Jane Grigson's aphorism applies here, I think: We have more than enough masterpieces. What we need is a better standard of ordinariness.
  22. Of course nothing is truly "raw" -- a bunch of carrots, with stems still attached and dirt clinging to the roots, is still a "made" product. Our local fruit and veg supplier in France has a large proportion of "raw" products, but they are selected with exquisite care, and the higher prices they charge reflect that added value. I find the premium for intangible value and "brand" more irritating. With Neal's Yard, I wonder if it isn't a sort of reverse globalisation phenomenon: once the product is sold around the world, you can raise the price in London, since travelling tourists won't find
  23. Hunting and gathering at Borough Market this morning. I came home with some good things. Beefsteak Beetroots Samphire, as fine and delicate as I've ever seen it. I brought this to show my fishmonger, who sells good samphire that's coarser and larger, though very good. This stuff comes from Israel, he says; his is proper British samphire. I had this Israeli samphire for lunch, with a baby sole. It was delicious. Mutton chops. "Cook them slowly", said the butcher. Girolles. They looked good; at ₤17 per kilo they should look good. They will go with the beefsteak, I think. Two differen
  24. Back to Nathalie for lunch yesterday; again, we were the only customers. Again, the food was good, and good value at £14.50. We had the no-choice "French bento box" lunch this time: green beans, grilled vegetables, goat cheese and lentils, sea bass, beef, strawberry bavarois, all served at the same time. They come in a tray, on six square plates. As a service concept, this didn't work that well for me -- the plates rattled around on the tray a bit and it was all slightly messy. And having that strawberry bavarois sitting there until the end felt odd -- more like an airplane food service t
  25. It's easy enough to take shots at a piece like this, especially with its howlers like Roasting as a preservation method? Or the silly claim, discussed earlier in this topic, that French sauces are all about disguising inferior meats. Given Powell's recent immersion in Julia Child, and especially her trip through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, it's possible to see how she reached the conclusion that cuisine was primarily about technique. The first volume of Mastering appeared in 1961. There were some farmers markets back then, but I'd guess that the "wonderful fresh ingredients" mov
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