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Jonathan Day

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Jonathan Day

  1. In some of her books, Alice Waters describes herself as a "restauratrice", not a chef. She has hired chefs (e.g. Jeremiah Tower, Paul Bertolli) from the very start of Chez Panisse. Should we be thinking of her not primarily as a cook, but as a restaurateur who, even though chefs were doing most of the work in the kitchen, has imparted a real gastronomic vision to the entire Chez Panisse operation? Or is the distinction irrelevant in an age of celebrity chefs, TV chefs, etc.?
  2. Mike, welcome to eGullet. I haven't been to the Moulin de Lourmarin -- as noted above, it was closed when we came through the area. Robert Brown's views on these matters are always reliable; I would re-read his comments (click here) as you make up your mind. Why not try both and post a comparative report? I'll add, though, that the wine prices at the Auberge were surprisingly reasonable; perhaps this is one reason the sommelier was enthusiastic about the place.
  3. I'm not sure why the Louvre has been equated to a tourist joint. Over the years I've seen plenty of French customers dining at Cafe Marly, the outdoor restaurant overlooking the Louvre. Tourists do flock to the Louvre, but there is no shortage of French visitors there. I'm also guessing that Alice Waters wouldn't have thought of a venture like this in terms of "target market", "customer segmentation", "return on investment" or any of the other businesslike terms that apply to many restaurant developments. There's nothing wrong with these things, but as John Whiting's history suggests, the
  4. The French would easily have identified a category for a restaurant that was primarily about beautiful ingredients, very simply prepared, "shopping" rather than "cooking": Italian.
  5. I will add that many American food "gods" seem virtually unknown in France, except perhaps in very international circles: Julia Child, for example, or Jacques Pepin (even though he is French by birth and worked there for awhile), or Alice Waters. Gordon Ramsay seems better known, perhaps because of the football connections.
  6. I think Bux was referring to the widespread influence of Robert Parker, the American wine writer.
  7. Isn't the Cool Whip a bit of a red herring here? (I know, I know, it's not a fish, it's a synthetic dessert topping). Suppose Hostess reached into her fridge and brought out a container of the richest, best creme fraiche, just flown over from Normandy where it was produced by the finest artisan with milk from France's happiest cows. Suppose that everyone thought this was the best accompaniment for brownies possible? Isn't it nonetheless a bit obnoxious to want to doctor something that someone has brought to a potluck? A bit like a dinner guest going into the kitchen and correcting the seas
  8. Syngenta, the Swiss-British seeds company, claims to developed a brussels sprout that children like because the acrid flavour has been bred out of it. Details here. According to Syngenta's spokesman, "There was no genetic modification involved, only techniques that have been in place since Adam was around." The sweeter sprouts also passed a series of blind tests conducted on children. The spokesman again: "They even asked for second helpings until they realised what it was they were eating!".
  9. "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one should be silent," wrote Wittgenstein. He wasn't speaking about food, but his comment applies to the lunch that Moby and I had at L'Ambroisie. There were a number of moments when we simply fell silent, not because the food was bizarre or elaborate or in any way surprising, but simply because there was nothing to be said. Moby had called ahead to check that Bresse chicken "demi deuil" (with truffles) would be available, and the restaurant had remembered this. "Since you're having chicken with truffles, we would suggest beginning with scallops with truffl
  10. Goodness, I wanted to like this place. It had garnered favourable reviews, and the setting was beautiful. We even had a table next to the window. The staff were friendly and well informed, and the cooking was clearly "serious". Unfortunately virtually nothing worked for me. Flavours were muddied or weak, from one end of the meal to another. A starter "cone" with a parsnip mousse was set next to a little cup of mussel soup; the flavours didn't blend well, and the mousse was heavy and messy to eat. As a follow up starter, duck was served in several different ways (carpaccio, parfait of foi
  11. I wonder if there isn't a simple economic explanation of the way the industry works: this is a winner-take-all market, where a few restaurants and chefs at the very top collect most of the profits. A number of the creative industries follow a similar pattern -- aspiring actors, for example, will work for very small sums in order to "break in". Parents spend huge sums educating their children in order to get them into the "best" schools; the aspiring superchef who accepts a low wage in order to work in a top restaurant is effectively doing the same thing. For a non-technical example of such
  12. There are a lot of these Confréries and Commanderies; they seem to be a cross between economic development groups, social clubs and craft guilds. Some of them have elaborate rituals and robes for their members. I think my favourite is the Académie du Melon du Haut-Poitou -- an "academy" founded in 2002 to promote the sale of melons. Like the melon academy, many of these groups were founded relatively recently -- some in the 1970s, many more recently. Most have a patron saint, often St Vincent, patron saint of winemakers. Here's a partial list, assembled from a number of sources. The numbers
  13. Ah, two great new words: squidy and chilliy. Very useful for a future Scrabble match. And Suzi, thanks for providing the address and phone number of the joint!
  14. Mme St Ange (La Cuisine, 1927) writes about an omelette soufflée au rhum -- my translation and paraphrase of the recipe: The recipe calls for 4 egg yolks, 6 whites, 125 grams of sugar and 100 ml of rum. You work the yolks and sugar until it "forms the ribbon", add a tablespoon of rum to the yolk mixture, then fold in the beaten whites, first adding some of the whites to the yolk mixture to lighten it. This goes into a long or oval cooking-serving plate, which has been heavily buttered and dusted with powdered sugar. The top is smoothed over, and then a sort of trench, 3 to 4 cm deep, is cu
  15. There are "mini chains", groups with more than 1 but fewer than a dozen outlets. Some of these aren't at all bad. An example would be Bar Meze (www.barmeze.com), which has 5 restaurants in and around London. This enables some economies of scale without a complete loss of character.
  16. I liked Nandos when it first opened. The shops were clean, the service cheerful, and, as Suzi said, they did one thing and did it well. It was a pleasant stop on a family outing. About 2 years ago we went to a Nandos on the Clapham Road. The place was filthy, the service slow and surly. Ah, that's all right, I thought, the chicken will be good. Unfortunately it wasn't. It was dry and overdone. I haven't been back, but after these positive comments it may be time for another try.
  17. 10th, the restaurant in the Royal Garden Hotel, Ken High St. Food OK, views outstanding. Le Suquet, Draycott Ave. The Belvedere, in Holland Park Axis, 1 Aldwych Joy King Lau, off Leicester Square; dimsam with the children on the way to the cinema Zuma, a Japanese in Knightsbridge +++ Good company at all of these; food nothing to write home about.
  18. Winot, I agree. A year or so ago I had one of these nightmare trips that landed me on a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Buenos Aires without having eaten for the previous 18 hours. I was famished, and hence broke my usual rule of avoiding food on long-haul flights. Lufthansa offered a chicken bonne femme prepared from a Raymond Blanc recipe: chicken, lardons, potatoes, etc. Even though Hunger ist der beste Koch ("hunger is the best cook"), this was really good, and it was the kind of dish that stands up well to advance preparation and re-heating. I'm told that Lufthansa now have flat
  19. To Holly's point, there have been a number of restaurants in London that serve "school dinners" -- toad in the hole, spotted dick, sticky toffee pudding, etc. -- usually done to a better standard than the schools. Some of these are very exclusive and expensive. No doubt Virgin are picking up on this trend.
  20. The advantage of first or business class travel (and Virgin Upper is basically a business class fare) is sleeping, not eating. BA Club (business) now has flat beds, somewhat smaller than the BA First beds but often quieter, because on overnight flights they tend to serve food on the ground and don't offer a hot dinner in the air. Virgin's Upper Class, in the new configuration, has large and very comfortable flat beds, and they are arranged so that you never need to climb over a neighbour. Virgin also offer a "snooze zone", a part of the plane that stays dark and where no meals are served.
  21. The debate on this topic suggests that "haute cuisine" is no longer as clear cut a category as it once was. It wasn't that long ago -- perhaps as late as the 1960s -- that most French people would have agreed an operational definition: haute cuisine was the cookery practiced in large, expensive restaurants. It was haute because of the effort and skill that it took to prepare it: making and refining stocks, preparing sauces, turning vegetables, and the like. Haute cuisine was defined by the métier (profession) of the people who prepared it. Home cooks would not practice haute cuisine, any mor
  22. Jonathan Day

    Hot Ice Cream

    It certainly shouldn't be impossible to create a dish with a hot or warm interior and a cold exterior -- the reverse of the deep fried ice cream mentioned above. Make a sphere of ice cream with a hollowed out centre, then at service use a pipette to fill that centre with a very hot filling e.g. warmed Grand Marnier, and re-seal the sphere. But by "hot ice cream" do you mean something with the texture of ice cream, but warm?
  23. Cheese in fine London restaurants can be dicey; often the selections are good but the cheeses aren't well kept, and they end up dry or ammoniated. The two best cheese services I have had in London have been at Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road, and Chez Bruce, on Wandsworth Common. In both cases, the cheeses are consistently in good condition, and the staff clearly love cheese and are knowledgeable about it. Bruce's English cheeses come from Neal's Yard and his French ones from La Fromagerie.
  24. Robert, it's harder to shave even slices from the smallest white truffles. You can grate them, but you can't get as many slices per gram of whole truffle. I wonder whether this has something to do with the higher per-gram prices of larger truffles...
  25. Restaurant Simon, 182 avenue de Rimiez tel 04 93 84 40 61 Au Rendez-Vous des Amis 176 avenue de Rimiez tel 04 93 84 49 66 You leave the A8 at exit 54 (Nice Nord) and work your way on ave de Gairaut toward Falicon. Eventually you'll turn right on the D114, which is the avenue de Rimiez. Get yourself a good map and take a couple of tranquilisers before setting out. The route is bloody difficult but both restaurants are worth the journey.
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