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Jonathan Day

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Jonathan Day

  1. As suggested earlier in this thread, Elizabeth David had a huge influence on Alice Waters and her philosophy and culinary style at Chez Panisse. (Waters's other shaping influence was Richard Olney, who was close to Elizabeth David). But let's not forget the impact that David had on the general standard of cookery and eating here in Britain. For a long time it was pretty grim, especially outside London. Olive oil? A small, expensive dusty bottle on the chemist's shelf. Garlic? Brown and smelly, if you could find it. Rocket? Sneak some seeds in from Italy and try to grow it yourself. Br
  2. A shocking number of years ago my wife and I were staying in Paris and took a day trip to Chartres. We had a tiny flat on the rue Jacob, where there was a compact but very good market. We picked up paté, bread, ham, cherries, olives (etc.), caught a train to Chartres and spent an enjoyable morning climbing around the Cathedral and hearing Malcolm Miller talk about the windows. Around 1 pm it started to rain, and the rain turned icy. No way to sit outside and eat...and no easy place indoors. So we put the food back in the bags and wandered into town. Up one street...down another...and we fo
  3. Has anyone tried the sometimes-touted method of following routiers (truckers) to the cheap restaurants they frequent? You get behind a truck or a convoy at around noon. I have done this occasionally, with mixed success: 6 out of 10 times, the food is both good and inexpensive, the other 4 it's pretty awful. It's astonishing and more than a bit frightening to see the quantities of wine that the drivers consume before getting back in their trucks. The restaurants are unfailingly child-friendly. Even in Mougins, a town that tends toward the upscale (cuisine bourgeoise and grande cuisine!) has
  4. I have had good luck using dried cherries in ice creams, especially the less sweet ones you can sometimes find. I've simmered the cherries in a bit of warm water until they are slightly softened; then the "cherry fumet" gets added to the standard custard/double cream mixture. The cherries get roughly chopped and added at the start of the churning. The product is a rose colour with the dark cherries in contrast, and very deeply flavoured. Occasionally I find that double cream, if not cooked in advance, churns into lumps of butter in my machine. Have others experienced this? Finally, Andy me
  5. I wonder how strongly motivated Keller was to win this award, in the same way that Gordon Ramsay was apparently obsessive about winning a third Michelin star. From some accounts -- Ruhlman, Bourdain, etc. -- I get the impression that Keller is competing only with himself, that he sets standards that are different (and usually tougher) than those imposed by outside judges. Ruhlman's book suggests that Keller would have been contemptuous of certifications like the CMC. Yet the website dedicated to the French Laundy makes much of his consecutive Beard Foundation awards. Would he do poorer work
  6. Bux, neither of those quotes in your last post was from me. The first was from Steve. The second was from Eugene Zuckoff. I'm not sure why it was attributed to me but would appreciate it if you would correct the post. For my part, I am of the "thinking" persuasion: not that every mouthful should be analysed, but that a well conceived and executed meal, at home or in a restaurant, can be an artistic statement, capable of being interpreted by the diner.
  7. There are many threads in this discussion, though it has been interesting: cars vs trains, Paris vs the provinces, olive oil vs. butter vs goose fat, staying in one place vs travelling around... What makes French food particularly fascinating for me is that there is a kind of hierarchy that -- at its very best -- goes right from farmers up to the 3 star temples. I've stayed on farms where geese were being slaughtered and fattened livers extracted, and have eaten stuffed goose necks on chipped plates. And I've had foie gras served with elegant garnishes in gastronomic palaces. But there's a
  8. After the painstaking reviews by Cabrales et al I thought the very least I could do was to take along a little notebook to keep track of what I'm tasting. If nothing else it gives my wife and friends an occasion to laugh at my seriousness about all this. Michael Winner, the British film director and Sunday Times restaurant columnist, takes a pocket tape recorder and dictates his comments into it while he is eating. He had the table next to ours at the Fat Duck, in Bray, about a year ago; he said little to his gorgeous female companion but constantly muttered into his tape machine. You wou
  9. This can also be true for flights. I have booked very cheap London-Nice flights, a segment we use a lot, by going to sites like Travelocity or Expedia on a "virgin" (no cookies) computer. Of course the site then assumes you are US-based. Prices for direct flights on BA or Air France were quoted in US dollars. If I recall correctly we found direct London-Nice returns for 3 adults and 3 children for under US$500 in all. The site happily arranged for delivery of the tickets to our home in London for something like an extra $12. Of course it then had a cookie and the next time I tried for sea
  10. Why not let people tackle France in whatever way they want? If people really want to visit multiple 3-star places, and their livers can handle it, so much the better for them. I personally prefer to stay in one area for at least two weeks, and to have a kitchen available. That makes it much easier to feed the children, who have yet to acquire the French habit of sitting quietly through a long meal. We then manage a mix of small places, sometimes recommended by the locals, sometimes found by wandering around; and places recommended by Michelin, Gault Millau, Chowhound and eGullet. These ten
  11. I had forgotten to record the most unusual thing about that dinner at L'Oasis. This was a seawater granita that they served with the oysters. Sounds trendy and horrible, I know, but it wasn't; it was gently salty, with wonderful mineral flavours that matched the oysters perfectly. If it were possible to have nothing but those oysters with the granita, I would go back. I am resolved to re-create this dish some day...
  12. I have eaten once at the Mas Candille, last fall. The property is old; it had once been popular amongst locals but had fallen into disrepair. When we arrived it had just been taken over by an ambitious new team and completely renovated. The welcome was warm and the setting beautiful. We had drinks in a small bar, near a fireplace. The restaurant doesn't seem that large, perhaps because it is divided into smaller rooms. It felt very comfortable, yet it was clear that the team was aiming high. The service and food suggested that they already envisioned their first star. Unfortunately I d
  13. We recently visited L'Oasis in La Napoule. Unfortunately I've lost the notes I took, so this will be a bit sketchy. It is a lovely room and it must be even nicer when the interior terrace is open in summertime. The staff were not as impressive as those at Chibois, but friendly nonetheless, with a cadaverous headwaiter and a slightly bumbling (but earnest) table staff. Two of the four of us wanted to order from the carte, two wanted different menus. In the end we were strongly "encouraged" to take one of the two fixed menus for the whole table, I think because it made co-ordinating the cou
  14. On a recent visit I was amazed by the vitality of the Marché Forville. As a previous poster has commented, it beats anything in Nice. The fish were fresh (most of them still live) and the range and quality of fruit and veg was very good. What I hadn't quite realised was that this market seems to sell as much to the catering trade as to ordinary punters. So I wondered where else you can find a major market in a large town that is equally open to customers and to the trade. Borough Market in London certainly distinguishes "trade" days from "retail" days. You can get into the market at Rungis
  15. The kitchens in some French gites and even some fancy rental villas are truly awful. For some reason the Italian places we have rented have had better equipped kitchens. I remember one gite in Britanny where I had to scrub the kitchen for several hours before it was safe to cook anything in it, and the pots that didn't leak were rusty. For a long time I packed a good cooking knife on every trip we took. It is nice to see that many rental listings now have a more detailed description of the kitchen. I agree with Robert: the Côte d'Azur is a good place as the centre of a gastronomic holida
  16. Steve, I misunderstood you. I thought you were saying that terroir was a matter of preparation method. During the 80s I was either in the US or Japan, with one or two trips to London/Paris, never to the South. So I never tried the Moulin. In France I have a copy of Les légumes de mon Moulin and as I recall it was focused around his garden. As far as I know, there isn't much of a garden left at the Moulin, perhaps because of the motorway extension that has caused Vergé so many problems. Robert Carrier (Feasts of Provence, 1992) gives the Moulin lavish praise. He mentions the following dish
  17. The chocolates at the Fat Duck are made by the wonderful Artisan du Chocolat (89 Lower Sloane Street, London SW1, 020 7824 8365; they also sell at Borough Market). The commercial brains behind the outfit is a former colleague of mine; she described her negotiations with Heston Blumenthal. The tobacco flavour has become something of a signature for L'Artisan and is typical of their range. So I would be surprised if Heston Blumenthal had invented the flavour, but I don't know for sure that he did not.
  18. About three years ago my wife and I had dinner at the Grand Vefour. We had come to Paris from the south, where suits and ties were nowhere to be seen. I arrived in neatly pressed navy trousers and a starched button-down long-sleeved shirt, but no jacket and no tie. It was a hot summer day and jacket and tie didn't seem necessary. Wrong. I was taken into a small room, handed a tie and an ill fitting jacket and told to wear them. After that we were treated with great respect and care and we had a very good dinner. But it was clear that jacket and tie were de rigeur. I think the Grand Vefo
  19. A minor and respectful disagreement. For me, terroir (not to mention "local terroir") is not about whether luxurious ingredients are used, or even whether the preparations are elaborate but (1) local ingredients, sources known to the cook, with real care for quality and freshness; (2) preparation that respects the character of the ingredients: "food that tastes like itself". You can have a strong sense of terroir in a simple meal, or in a very fancy one. I am looking at a menu from Raymond Blanc's Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, in Oxford. Here is his take on Salade Landaise: "pressed duck confit
  20. Loulou and La Petite Maison have both been on my list of places to try, for some time now. I agree that there are many small places with less pretension than Chibois, Maximin, etc., but high quality ingredients and a desire to cook them well. But they will never earn Michelin stars! I agree with Steve about the high levels of development on the Côte d'Azur, but still find it easy to locate peaceful areas within a quick drive of Nice or Cannes. We chose the area because of the relative ease of getting there from London after a short flight and a drive of less than 30 minutes. So far it has n
  21. In some circles the Côte d'Azur has a bad reputation for food. And it is indeed possible to eat very badly there. There is a theorem in culinary economics to the effect that transient and uncritical tourists lead to terrible food. And as some friends have complained, usually after reading Peter Mayle, "after all, the Côte d'Azur isn't Provence". This last claim is at least debatable because the boundaries of Provence are vague. The entire area, right through to the Italian border, is part of the region called PACA (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur). Julia Child, the American television cook, wr
  22. Rhubarb fool ice cream A rhubarb fool has rhubarb and thick cream. I think this is even better, because it's an ice. This can be made with whatever quantity of rhubarb you have available, though you may have to run more than one batch through your ice cream maker. Rhubarb Creme fraiche or thick cream Sugar Water Slice rhubarb into roughly 2cm pieces, discarding ends and removing stringy bits. Put it in a saucepan. Make sufficient sugar syrup with equal weights of sugar and water (i.e. 100g of sugar to 100ml of water) to barely cover the rhubarb slices. Poach the rhubarb in the syrup
  23. Rhubarb fool ice cream A rhubarb fool has rhubarb and thick cream. I think this is even better, because it's an ice. This can be made with whatever quantity of rhubarb you have available, though you may have to run more than one batch through your ice cream maker. Rhubarb Creme fraiche or thick cream Sugar Water Slice rhubarb into roughly 2cm pieces, discarding ends and removing stringy bits. Put it in a saucepan. Make sufficient sugar syrup with equal weights of sugar and water (i.e. 100g of sugar to 100ml of water) to barely cover the rhubarb slices. Poach the rhubarb in the syrup
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