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Jonathan Day

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Jonathan Day

  1. Just to be clear: I feel the same way. I hate to throw out food, and I take a lot of pride in being able to make delicious things from meagre ingredients. But clearly this is not part of the haute cuisine. An Italian cook would make a brodo from a few bones and scraps -- and probably stop there. But a serious French cook would make stock from fresh meat with remouillage (stock made from previously boiled bones) as the liquid, then clarify it with more fresh meat...and eventually this would be reduced and more meat would be added to make a brown sauce...and so on. I sometimes think the goal of
  2. But many courses in Italy are served "by themselves" -- it is more common to see vegetables, as contorni, served as a distinct dish, rather than plated along with a meat dish. Personally I enjoy this presentation style: it forces the chef to make each plate stand on its own, and it calls more attention to the quality of ingredients and preparation. Well perhaps we are splitting hairs (or hares) here. But I think most people would view a dish of pappardelle with rabbit sauce as primarily about the rabbit, not about the pasta. Of course the pasta has to be good. And I am well aware that the Ita
  3. I am struggling both with the premises and the conclusion here. I have never felt pressured to eat pasta, risotto or polenta in any Italian restaurant (most recently Da Vittorio in Bergamo, two Michelin stars, but also including some very humble places). Yes, starches are on offer, but even when they appear in a set menu I have seen diners who don't want risotto or pasta ask for a soup or a vegetable in its place, and the restaurants have always been accomodating. I remember a tiny village restaurant where bistecca alla fiorentina was the only thing on offer. When an Italian friend asked about
  4. No, no, no. Robert, haven't you been listening? Pasta forms no part of haute cuisine. Pasta and other starches are the antitheses of haute cuisine. The poor Italians (every one of 'em) never made it onto the list of hautes cuisiners. Why? Because they were too busy choking down masses of pasta and risotto. You must not make the same mistake. So you should eliminate the pasta, puree the sauce, flame it with cognac, mount it with butter (lots of butter), add those truffles, then sauté a nice piece of meat and pour the sauce over the meat. This is a Fundamental Transformation of Haute Cuisine: s
  5. Peterpumkino -- I disagree with some of the conclusions that Steve has reached, and I have some issues with his style of argument. But why waste everyone's time and cause unnecessary offence by deliberately misspelling his or any member's name? All that does is add heat, not light, to the conversation.
  6. We recently had the 7 course tasting menu at Chez Bruce, and I posted a brief review: (click here). Chez Bruce is far from perfect, but I struggle to see how it can be described as "very very ordinary", given both the ambitiousness of the cuisine and the quality of the experience they deliver. I wish there were a lot of restaurants in London of this calibre, but there aren't.
  7. I'm honestly not sure exactly what question we are debating. But if it is "has Italian cooking had significant influence on French grande cuisine?" then it would not be hard to assemble evidence in the affirmative. I am biased in this regard because much of my serious eating goes on in the South, where the Italian influence is very strong. But it is difficult to eat at a two or three star restaurant (Ducasse, Chibois, Maximin, etc.) in that area without encountering some pasta preparation, risotti, and occasionally even some dish done with polenta. Ravioli of all sorts are very popular as star
  8. Steve, I think you were exaggerating here to make a point. Fine Italian cooking doesn't have the layers of sauces and pre-preparations that French grande cuisine does, but it involves a lot more skill than shopping for the best ingredients and then following some simple recipes. The difference between a perfectly prepared pasta and a mediocre one is enormous, and, one Italian chef here (Giancarlo Caldesi) tells me that it has taken him years to get the technique exactly right.
  9. This may be the key. Nothing worse than an area that still has associations of "highly desirable" but has in fact slipped in favour. Even the shops no longer seemed as interesting or ambitious as those I recalled from 1990. And it may explain why the eating seems to have slipped. BLH -- agree with you about many of those places (with the notable exception of Bibendum) but most of them aren't, strictly speaking, in South Ken...alas, Bibendum is. Vanessa, I only ate in Daquise once. The pierogis were flavourless and leaden and the service was dreadful. Perhaps they were having a bad day, but I
  10. I have eaten at the Fat Duck but have yet to try the Riverside Brasserie. I understand that the menu at the latter is more traditional. Could you tell us to what extent you are using your innovative methods (low temperature cooking, flavour encapsulation, distilled flavours, etc.) at the Riverside Brasserie? What "niches" or "spaces" do you see the two restaurants as occupying? When would you want to eat at one as opposed to the other?
  11. I was excited to learn that you are developing some new dishes and a style that you feel will be uniquely yours. Could you give us some clues as to the kinds of experiments you are now working on, or the sorts of dishes we can anticipate at the Fat Duck?
  12. 12 years ago we moved to the UK, starting out in a flat in Onslow Gardens, South Kensington (much of South Kensington happens to be called Onslow Gardens or at least Onslow Something, but that's another story). We left the area after a few months and have not been back. Trips to the museums or the park somehow haven't entailed a stop on the Old Brompton Road. This weekend I arrived in S. Ken somewhat early for a rendez-vous and had a pleasant walk around the old neighbourhood. But I was surprised at how poor the food offerings seemed to be, at all levels. I had hoped to find an espresso and a
  13. In my experience it is always helpful to reserve in France, except at tourist places that are basically designed for walk-in customers. A call at 5 pm for the same evening is helpful even when the place is not full, because you tend to get a better table and better service. A growing number of restaurants have non-smoking areas (Chibois in Grasse has a beautiful non-smoking dining room) and an advance call is useful for one of these tables, if that is your preference. For Loulou I would book at least three days in advance. In high season Chibois tends to get booked a week to 10 days ahead,
  14. No. I was asking whether the concept of haute cuisine appears, in "native" form, in other languages: Italian, Spanish, German ... or whether the idea is fundamentally a French one. It doesn't seem to translate naturally into English. "Gourmet cooking" doesn't work. One further definition of haute cuisine might be that it always responds to a need somewhere higher than hunger on a scale (e.g. Maslow's) of basic human needs. In other words, if someone's only (or fundamental) need were to relieve hunger, it's hard to imagine them running down for a quick meal at the Grand Vefour. Haute cuisine m
  15. The English translation of "haute cuisine" seems to be "haute cuisine"....or would someone suggest a better (non-French) rendering? Does this imply that the concept is essentially French? Do similar concepts exist in other languages (alta cucina, etc.?). Is there a German equivalent?
  16. I recently had dinner at Midsummer House in Cambridge. Whilst the menu was more traditional than those I've enjoyed at the Fat Duck, Daniel Clifford added a number of touches that were reminiscent of yours, most notably the green tea "palate cleanser" to start. Could you tell us what you think of other chefs imitating or adapting your innovative dishes? Similarly, it would be interesting to understand how free you feel to adopt dishes or techniques developed by other chefs?
  17. I would like to urge some caution here. Sometimes the application of skill and technique is a good thing, sometimes not. There is merit in knowing when and when not to gild the lily. A lot of "French" cuisine went too far in this direction, especially as it made its way to America and to Britain. Many of us have heard the likes of John and Karen Hess's fulminations about bad sauces covering mediocre ingredients. Elizabeth David wrote in a similar vein (see "Chez Gee-Gee" in An Omelette and a Glass of Wine), as have other thoughtful writers. Yes, the great French chefs take fine ingredients as
  18. I was only doing so in order to comment on the degree to which French cooks try to do more to / with their food. In the introduction to her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child claims that its subtitle might have been "French Cooking from the American Supermarket". The flaw here was that she didn't push her readers to insist on high quality products, though in later writing she said a bit more about this. But she was right in that French methods can be used with a larger variety of foods and a wider range of qualities. The cook has more options for doctoring and balanc
  19. Setting aside issues of innovation vs tradition, it seems to me that Italian cooks at all levels do fewer things to the foods they prepare. In the "fine dining vs cheap eats" thread I gave the example of two different hare preparations: Similar comments could be made about fond de cuisine (stock, French style) vs brodo (Italian). There's more to talk about in the French case because the cook does so much more to the food. Alice Waters once showed up at a charity dinner where the dish she had elected to prepare was a perfect salad. As she unloaded crates of young greens, another chef commented
  20. Steve P's take on this might be useful in keeping us from returning to the morass of the "superiority of French cuisine" thread. Is there something in the nature of Italian menus that robs them of variety or gastronomic interest? That would be a new topic worthy of debate. I personally have experienced no lack of subtlety or complexity in the best Italian restaurants, and especially at the homes of some very experienced and passionate cooks in Italy. Nor have I felt pressured to eat pasta, polenta or risotto at every meal, though at least one of these is invariably on offer. Friends on the Atk
  21. The key is that phrase "admitted" in the Time Out guide. In my experience this means "very grudgingly". We've taken our three (now 7, 9, 12) to all sorts of restaurants in Spain, France and Italy, but we avoid taking them to fine restaurants in London. Our initial exposure to London views on these things was an attempt to bring a 9 month old (asleep in a baby carrier) into a pretentious and horrid Chinese restaurant in South Kensington, only to be rudely pushed into the street by the waiter. If they are admitted at all (and you must check beforehand, not relying on guides), you may well fin
  22. I completely missed this thread...I can only plead absorbption in the Passard/Ducasse thread. Steve, I enjoyed and learned from that writeup. You have a gift for making these places live. Thanks for keeping your reservation and for taking time to share it with us.
  23. Have they in fact agreed with this point of view? Earlier in the thread, Steve Shaw wrote that Is this "innovation" of a different order or nature that the innovations of a Passard or a Gagnaire? I am not in any way defending Ducasse, only seeking to understand what is meant by "innovation" in the discussion.
  24. Steve, I can assure you that the last words the conductor would address to his orchestra before the performance would not likely be a reminder of the importance of the musicians’ feelings. I have heard many conductors asking musicians to "play with more feeling" (or "more schmalz", or any of a variety of locutions) but this is not at all the same thing as asking the players to experience particular feelings or emotions themselvses.
  25. Robert's point about the appeal to authority gets to the heart of this debate. I have read enough of professional cookery and restaurant review writers to agree that their work is a ladder to climb up and then kick away -- in no small part because of the factions and cliques that develop within the tribe. And the views of chefs may be valuable but ultimately limited for those in search of a great dining experience, because I suspect that they experience food and service in a very different way. Even the small time I have spent "on the other side of the kitchen door" has changed the way I react
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