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robert brown

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  1. Having just come back from Nice, I was reminded of one restaurant that if you have good dining luck can be the best seafood around: Bacon in Cap d'Antibes, Note,however, that it is expensive and a haunt of well-to-do foreigners. You have to be alert, ask the right questions, and not be intimidated as the servers can be somewhat arrogant at times. I have had some of my better fish meals there, however. Also they don't offer every type of fish or crustacean on the menu that they have, as exemplified by the time we were able to order a cigale de mer. Le Bistro des Viviers (or Les Viviers) in the center of Nice is likely the best seafood restaurant in town. We returned there after a lull and found it to be more memorable than before. The chef is a veteran, trained even by the great Alain Chapel in the early 1980s. The fish soup is our favorite one in the area. The selection is copious and rather reasonably priced. Ask, though if the fish you want is farm or wild as I suspect two dorades we ordered were the former. Our dessert of an authentic old-time chocolate souffle was a really good one. Restaurants like this are falling by the wayside.
  2. For years it has been no secret why Jewish peoples go out for Chinese food and almost always early Sunday eve. They eat a late breakfast of bagels, lox, CC, whitefish, sturgeon, and sable such that they get hungry around 5:30, six o'clock and crave an antidote to all that appetizing. What more polar-opposite than Chinese food, especially Cantonese. So-called European/American fine dining is out of the question if only because these restaurants open later, whereas the Chinaman is open all day. Japanese food is also out of the question since lox, sturgeon, etc. are a form of sashimi. Eastern European food is too heavy even though you would expect the Jews to have an affinity for that, given their roots. So there's your answer. Or as my grandmother used to say, "That's it and settled."
  3. Dave, if the names are the same (Guide Gourmand de la France), then Gault and Millau used the name of 1970 book for its annual guides. The book is 1112 pages long, had six collaborators besides the two men, and 128 itinerairies with many sub-itineraries, long essays about each region an, d major towns and cities, an index of regional dishes, a restaurant list, and on and on. It even dwarfs the Slow Food publications in its scope and detail. I see that it is published as one of the books in the "Bibliotheque des Guides Bleus". No doubt much of what it describes and documents no longer exists.
  4. Dave, I'm not talking about the annual Guide Gault-Millau. The work I am recommending pre-dates their first restaurant guide (Guide Julien, I think) and the first one, soon after, under their names. This one-time-only book covers gastronomic France town-by-town and road-by-road exactly like the Guide Bleu. It was never to be replicated or updated again: an amazing piece of work. I don't think it has even been made into a reprint, which it so obviously calls out for.
  5. Although written 40 years ago, nothing comes close to what you want than "Guide Gourmand de la France" written by Henri Gault and Christian Millau. It's laid out like the Blue Guides and covers every bit of France in terms of its culinary landscape. It's in French. To get it, try the big antiquarian book sites like ABE Books or Alibris. Maybe Amazon has a used copy. It's unbelieveable.
  6. I recently shared the veranda at La Pineta with the son-in-law of Giacomo Bologna who strongly recommended Ciau di Tornavento, saying that since the restaurant changed hand five years ago, the food has gotten to be very good. Any fresh visits anyone can report?
  7. For all the fish lovers on eMullet, here's what the gurnard, sea bream, turbot and pandora ("pageot") look like just off La Pineta's own boats. I hope to elaborate soon. http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/12409508..._6664_20965.jpg
  8. hazardnc, now and next month is the best time for shellfish, but even so, it is really hard to score it in Nice, at least for me. Cafe de Turin has hit the skids badly, and to tell you the truth, I don't go to the Negresco anymore. That place may be your best bet in Nice. Hostellerie Jerome does a good job with shrimps of San Remo, which I believe are available much or all of the time. This restaurant is in La Turbie, about a 25 minute drive from downtown Nice. White fish such as dorade, loup de mer, and pageot end up best around Nice, say La Mere Germaine in Villefranche. Rouget as well. Nice just isn't as satisfying as Italy. I always tell people to hop across the border to Balzi Rossi just a stone's throw from the old border crossing on the sea at the Menton Veni8tmiglia line. Even better for fish, but about a 75-minute drive from Nice is La Conchiglia in Arma di Taggia, the next town after San Remo. If I get good fish at a few new place I want to try this month, I'll let you know.
  9. For what it's worth, I recall from my lunch two years ago that the folks there were really very accomodating when they let me and my wife order whatever we wanted. If memory serves me right, it was pretty much a la carte ordering from more than one tasting menu since there were dishes I had read about that weren't all on the same menu. Fat Duck is really a very nice place and we had one of the best meals we have had in several years.
  10. Let's figure it this way then: If Richard can return to Normandy in the not-too-distant future (and since he apprently lives in Belgium, he can easily do so), then he can take it or leave it now as far as Sa Qua Na is concerned. However, if such is not his situation and his trips to Normandhy will be few and far between, I can't see why he would want, given the vagaries of life, to pass over a chance to visit a young chef considered by the cognoscenti to be a genuine future great. I don't know or can't tell which posters have been to Sa Qua Na, but I have had two meals there that made me glad I did, and I would recommend it to anyone. And I'm glad to hear that Ptipois enjoyed Les Vapeurs recently.
  11. I went last summer to Sa Qua Na where I had two very interesting meals. The chef was in charge of Michel Bras' restaurant on Hokaido and served time in Laguiole as well. It's stupid not to go there since you're not going to find him anywhere else. By all means you should go. While I am not a partisan of forced feeding, I found both his large and small fixed menus captivating. Also an intrepid international eater just came back from France raving about the place. The large menu is now 80 euros. On the same trip, a re-visit to Les Vapeurs in Trouville was depressing. It had been years before that we had the moules a la creme of our lives. This time ( last June) the place was sad and empty. So be prepared and hope otherwise. Still, maybe it was a fluke this last time. Who am I to tell you not to give it a whirl? It's a classic situation regardless. And it's just one meal.
  12. Having been obliged by the internationalization, democratization, and economic forces that have altered the face of great dining during the past 20 years, I've had to change my destinations away from provincial France to Italy, where I now seek out rigor, tradition, discipline and impeccable material, nowhere more so than along the Ligurian and, especially, Tuscan coasts. In so doing, I have belatedly concluded that fish/seafood represent the brass ring of eating, and nowhere do I find it better than in that part of the Western world. As I am about to spend a week going from Nice down to Maremma and back, I have started playng around with Microsoft Autostreets mapping restaurants. There's no shortage just from my putting down pushpins based on 'Osterie d'Italia" and "Gambero Rosso". While this isn't my first trip down there, I've barely scratched the surface. Therefore anyone from Fortedei to whomever who wants to make suggestions for me and the readership will have my great appreciation.
  13. I ran through the Google translator a recent story in an Italian wine publication that semed to say that the restaurant has been closed, but without any insight as to why, or if and when it would reopen. In 1995 I had one of the top two or three meals I have ever had in Italy at the restaurant, but upon returning two years ago, my meal (and my wife's) were pretty much a disaster. The chef has no successor in the family as one of his sons was helping out in the dining room, which he told us he did from time to time. It sounds ominous to me. I am sure someone will have an better answer later. I, for one, will be just north of San Vincenzo later this month to have several meals at La Pineda in Marina di Bibboni. The article recommends doing likewise.
  14. I can see now that the distribution of names on the list (indeed the entire exercise itself) is predicated on the vagaries of each participant’s restaurant-going for the past 12 months( or is it really 18 months?). It is at its core a random walk through Gastroplanet that has no rhyme, reason or rigor. Rank-ordering or codifying restaurants of the world flys directly in the face of the axioms “There is no accounting for taste” or “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”. As I’ve stated before, each person needs to evolve into his own best gastronomic critic, and having mumbo-jumbo like this from so many people who are shilling, sucking up and on the take contributes nothing to this end.
  15. The questions we always need to ask in such exercises involving rank-ordering are (1.) Is the exercise rigorous?; (2) Does it purport to measure the subject at hand (this is, after all, a quantitative exercise) with accuracy and validity? (3), Do the participants (all 800) report or judge on an equal basis and are they subjected to the same and entire phenomenon under analysis? (4) Do all the participants work from the same set of data? (5). Do the participants have full empirical knowledge of what it is they have been asked to judge? I strongly suspect the answer to all of these is no. That the establishment at the top of the list (four years in a row, no less) is one that almost no restaurant goer can gain entry to, let alone 800 of them each-year, is the best indicator of how fraudulent and intellectually useless this “50 Best” exercise is. In reality, it is nothing more than a circle jerk comprised of people whose notion of “best” is limited to restaurants that innately provide the most fodder for the media mills and who desire to create an artificial buzz with an awards dinner thrown in.. I would even go so far to say that it is counter-productive to the notion of the acquisition of gastronomic connoisseurship. How many of these restaurants tie your hands at the moment of ordering, avoid the necessity of cooking whole smaller fish and animals, “mechanize” their kitchens and reduce numbers of staff, and all of whose cooking never transcends the restaurant and the chef’s ego themselves. . Ironically, Ferran Adria has just about christened a simple fish restaurant in his town (Resaurant Rafa in Rosas) as among his very favorite (if not his number one favorite). Yet, such restaurants i.e. those that offer uncomplicated, down-to-earth and time-tested preparations using products of such impeccable quality and pristineness that are rarely encountered in these “50 Greatest” establishments, despite the fact that any truly experienced and open-minded gastronome will count such restaurants as represented by seafood restaurants on the French and Italian coasts, lobster pounds in Maine, Piemontese restaurants offering truffles in the fall, and meals taken in some riyokan in Japan as being among his most memorable meals in a culinary life. People criticize other “Best” compilations and awards such as the Oscars or the National Book Awards for some of the same reasons some of you criticize this one. However, with a book or a film, those that judge these competitions at least deal with manifestations that are identical and fixed; not restaurants, which are constantly changing in personnel, dishes, consistency and economic or financial tinkering in the drive for profits and, especially now, survival. (Books and movies don’t have good days and not-so-good days). In both this 50 Greatest Restaurants and the James Beard Foundation awards, you can almost hear the organizers jimmying the system. “It’s about time we gave an award to this chef or this restaurant”. “Let’s add in some restaurants of other countries” “Why haven’t we ever including XYZ; isn’t it time?” In other words, let the restaurant industry—its chefs, restaurateurs, PR and journalistic shills—have its annual plaything regardless of whether some or all take it seriously, while those of us in search of culinary truth give it nothing more than the quick glance it deserves. (I won’t count the hour or two it has taken me to post this).
  16. Margaret, I'll see first-hand what's what next month. I had in mind the restaurants that offer cheap prix-fixe set menus as well as what I see happening in New York. Yet, it is good to hear your findings since it supports my thesis that gastronomic travel these days is no longer best for the quest for the cuisine of chefs, but for time-tested traditional dishes made with impeccable ingredients by those who learned them young and never stopped practicing them.
  17. This is the first restaurant in Piemonte we went to. A graphic designer in Aosta highly recommended it. We had a great time, but as it was more than 10 years ago, my memory of it has faded like a long-shot leader at the clubhouse turn. In that entire time, I don't think I've read more than one or two references to it, which is odd because it is a delightful restaurant in a pretty spot, and clearly still has a good kitchen. Thanks for the report and the reminder.
  18. I think that some of the differing perceptions and insights we are getting in this thread are rooted in the ages and experiences of peole like Robyn and myself and those who are much younger. If you're too young to have ever experienced restaurants with 20-30 chefs in the kitchen, menus offering eight choices in each of the categories of warm appetizers, cold appetizers, fish, and beef and dessert "chariots" laden with every kind of dessert you could wish for and cheese carts with a few dozen varieties and no limit to the number you could point to and chose, then your concept of special dining is something different; i.e. along the lines of not having to have lengthy discussions with maitres d'hotel trying to chose the most harmonious and rewarding meal; sampling many dishes in small portions; and generally putting your trust in the chef who you assume will give you his best shot of the moment. Our generation of diners has different expectations than the younger one. We lament certain practices and the absence of various products and preparations. The new generation doesn't, so long as a restaurateur or chef keeps the new generation of diners engaged. Pacaud at L'Ambroisie will throw in the towel before the owner of a chamber restaurant does because Pacaud's roots and standards are less likely to survive a sustained downturn, and rather make changes in the kinds of produce he could theoretically buy (more humble) and reduce his operation to a handful of workers, he'll close his restaurant and retire while his son goes elsewhere and opens up a new style restaurant. As for the economic outlook, I'll go along with my nephew who is a Princetonian and a very well-read stock trader who says we have hit bottom, but will have to wait several years before we see again the 14,000 level in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. In other words, we'll bump along at a rather reduced level for longer than people hope. Be ready, then, to say goodbye to some of the great names in restaurants and many others that are badly managed and ill-conceived.
  19. That L'Ambroisie is suffering along with the restaurant of some unnamed three-star chef is rather telling anecdotal evidence of what the recession is doing to the rewards of dining. No one calls today’s world economy a depression, but some of you offer unintentionally evidence of the distressing culinary one currently unfolding. Just because a restaurant is fully booked is not in and of itself a clear-cut sign that nothing is really amiss. I don't know about the reservation book of L’Astrance, but what I suspect what’s happening there (and at other “hot” boutique restaurants) is what you see at its Manhattan counterpart Momofuko Ko, which is that while the restaurant is full every night, it is now a snap to book a dinner reservation for two on its web site every day after midnight, a marked change from when people spent hours at their computer hoping to capture the fleeting moment of a rare cancellation. I’m afraid that what one has to hope for is that a turnaround begins now because if it doesn’t the 11 euro-dictated meal will be what defines dining out, while highly-civilized dining will be in the past the same way that the orgiastic, no-holds-barred, client-is-king kind of dining of the later 20th century is now. The argument that because one’s favorite restaurant is full every day means that the crisis is not a meaningful factor vis a vis dining out doesn’t strike me as meaningful-- not when your favorite restaurant is trimming its choices and offering you mostly a lot of starches, vegetables, various types of filets and cheap cuts of meat.
  20. Phyllis, you do right to mention the silver lining, which is the establishments with integrity and of retained culinary will survive. A good shakeout is beneficial in the long run. I feel like I'm reliving the late 1970s and early 1990s where the greedy people--those who thought the good times would never-end got their comeuppance. Unfortunately sometimes the people who deserve to stay on don't or can't, which is always sad.
  21. Here's the reason why I am spending more time in Italy chasing honesty, impeccable produce and time-honored and time-tested local and regional traditions. It's also unfortunate that it's happening everywhere, just more so with ego-centered cuisine. Comments? Traction, I hope. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=206...id=a3v3g_nzVhYQ
  22. Since someone should respond after three days, I can pass along this morsel: I am not familiar with any of the three restaurants you cite, although Arche used to be considered the best in Verona many years ago. I have to say I'm a bit bewildered that Il Desco offers so few dishs on its a la carte menu. Trouble there? Since I'm a practitioner of Italian traditional dining, I can say that I had a good and fun lunch four or five years ago at Tre Marchetti in the shadow of the Arena. A Pompiere was a recommendation from one or two people I find trustworthy, but I found it to be rather mechanical and cold, but with decent food. It's a bit of a scene and an effort to be authentic, but unsuccesful in that effort in my opinion. This is not to say you wouldn't like it. It's in the commercial center, so maybe you want to stick your head in the door upon arrival. Lots of younger people appeared to be having a good time.
  23. Thanks for the news. I hope it's universal.
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