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John Whiting

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  1. Mary and I had lunch yesterday at Wild Honey. We were wild about it.

    I suspect that Anthony and Will have a sense of humor. The menu invites you to start your meal with a Wild Honey Cocktail. If at the end you go to relieve yourself, you will find a framed display of Victorian Wild Honeys posing provocatively on the walls. Mary tells me that the Ladies is similarly decorated. Perhaps they were left behind from racier days, when the members of the gentlemen’s club were no gentlemen.
  2. :wink: with Aux, À la and Chez and the like, the prepositions tend to be included in the whole name (so Chez Géraud and Aux Fins Gourmets would be indexed just like that).

    I've noted in the past that the French edition is not always consistent. But a foolish consistency, wrote Emerson, is the hobgoblin of little minds. :biggrin:

    P.S. Congratulations to Ptipois on reaching her epistolatory millennium! [applause]

  3. My copy, on order from Amazon, has just arrived. A search doesn't bring up any mention of it, which rather surprises me, inasmuch as three of the four translators are among the luminaries of eGullet.

    Since my French is, to be generous, rather on the primitive side, I'm very grateful for a pony. From what I've looked at thus far, it seems to be a translation rather than a revision. But someone in editorial should be hung, drawn, quartered and sous-vided. Who on earth made the decision to include French articles (le, la, l', les) in the alphabetization of the index? Also the prepositions a, au, aux, chez--in fact every every single word or letter that precedes the normal point of reference for alphabetization. I can't think of a single good reason for not following the logical format of the French edition. Any Anglophone who doesn't know what the French articles are will be incapable of relating the English translations of all the dishes to the French originals in the restaurant cartes.

    EDIT: Since the Paris restaurant cartes change so often, I can imagine an army of long-suffering waiters having to explain over and over to non-French speakers that neither roasted sea bream from Brittany with fresh fennel and anise sauce nor grandmother-style sautéed veal kidneys happens to be on the menu today. :biggrin: This, of course, is not a criticism of the translators, who do not customarily make such decisions.

    Further note: I see that there has already been a response while I was editing.

  4. I've written up our tea at Claridges

    If Claridges did not exist, it would be impossible in the 21st century to invent it. The Reading Room, which is what they staidly call their central ground floor restaurant, has been given a thirties-modern ambiance with art deco cut marble fireplaces, leather columns and banquettes, and suede walls. Hercule Poirot would feel quite at home. The sound insulation is excellent—you can scarcely hear Gordon Ramsey fulminating nearby in his eponymous kitchen....The crustless sandwich triangles looked much like what you might get in any tearoom, but both the bread and the filling actually had flavor, so that when we were offered seconds, we accepted....The scones were about as good as they get; these were up there in that stratosphere where comparisons become pointless....The pastries were also excellent. At the very end an extra one arrived with a candle, Happy Birthday written on the plate in chocolate...Having done it once so happily, we’ll no doubt do it again. Afternoon tea doesn’t get any better than this!
  5. (other places mature which is why some critics like Rosa Jackson wait a long time before going)

    Which probably helps Time Out Paris Eating and Drinking to remain the most all-round useful guide in English, despite the longish gaps between new editions. It's the right put-in-your-pocket guide for those who care more about decent food at decent prices than being in the vanguard of peripatetic foodies.
  6. Christopher Millinship at Auberge de Castel-Merle in Sergeac makes prize-winning black truffle oil. His secret, which he willingly shares, is that he puts bits of truffle into the oil and then puts the bottles in the freezer for a few days. When they come out, the extreme cold seems to have set the flavor and aroma in some fashion; he offers no scientific explanation.

    I've seen his oil in the bottle and it certainly contains bits of truffle. I've also tasted it comparatively with fresh truffles. The flavor is not exactly the same, but it's recognizably similar and quite delicious in an omelette or scrambled eggs..

  7. The New York Times spends, by some estimates I've seen, something like US$175,000 on the dining budget, and the chief critic dines out on average ten times a week.
    I find it hard to imagine that anything approaching anonymity can be preserved when (1) the same face appears three times within a relatively short period and (2) a very small amount of the food on the plate is eaten. If the latter is not the case, then, with ten restaurant meals a week, with proper sampling of multiple courses, the reviewer would make you, Steven, look like a zero size fashion model.
  8. I've always been certain that the "several visits" made by critics, like the "finest ingredients" used by chefs, are a matter of rhetoric--a custom more honored in the breach than in the observance. If first-string critics covering a lot of restaurants were to visit them all several times, they'd be eating out 24 hours a day. And how many visits is a publisher prepared to pay for these days?

    A single visit will often tell you after the first course--or even before--whether you want to come back. You couldn't do Parkeresque point-based ratings on such scant evidence, but you'll probably know whether a particular restaurant has what you want. It's as instinctive as whether or not you think a stranger is beautiful or likeable. It's the job of the critic to convey these impressions, together with enough personal style to suggest to the reader whether or not to trust your judgment. For instance, anyone reading my review of Ze Kitchen Galerie or L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon will know exactly what my rather strong bias happens to be. For some, my dislike might even be a positive impetus to go there.

    There, John--has the point degenerated enough to call for a split-off?! :biggrin:

  9. Some wise elder stated a long time ago: de gustibus est non disputandum. A good example is the bearded e-Gullet Johns two different takes on Ze Kitchen Galleries. Both are experienced gastronomes but one loves it the other hates it.

    Even my fellow-curmudgeon John T would have voiced his displeasure at the India-rubber strips of calamari I was served. My only satisfaction is that a Google search brings my detailed protest up on the first page. Vengeance froide is a delicious dish. :raz:

  10. I can't resist putting in a plug for Najac, a substantial village that's hiking distance from Dave's domicile in Aveyron. The photo tour on their rather antiquated website will give you some idea of what it looks like. There are no great shops, no great restaurants, it's tortuous to get to by car--but all these negatives mean that it's not overrun with tourists and the sleazy enterprises that corrupt a village's ambiance and bleed the punters dry.

    Michael Raffael, describing the village perché Saorge, used the perfect descriptive phrase which I would apply to Najac, though it doesn't do justice to the ruined castle: "no special places of interest worth visiting except for the place itself".

  11. I find no mention of Marius--perhaps I missed it. Charles Shere of Chez Panisse wrote me the following:

    Kees Elfring was here for a week a couple of weeks ago, and it was fun to see him. I don't know if I told you about our latest two meals at his Amsterdam restaurant, which the major Dutch food magazine has proclaimed the second best in Amsterdam, the seventh best in the entire country, and among table-d'hote restaurants the best restaurant in the nation. And I truly believe the press has this right. Marius is a magnificent thing: comfortable and homey, complex and subtle, fun and serious. There should be such a place in every city, but it is, in my experience, unique.

    Restaurant Marius

    Barentszstraat 243, Amsterdam

    Verstuur via SMS T: 020 - 422 78 80

    I haven't eaten there myself but I know Kees's cooking from his Het Pomphuis (The Pump house) in Ede, which was sublime.
  12. Tea at Claridges recently confirmed my happy memories of forty years ago. There is a range of specially selected teas--their "afternoon tea" blend was splendid!--and, judging from their general attitude, they would be helpful to dietary restrictions if given advance notice.

    The full tea service is a few quid less than the Ritz (which on our last visit had become a Disneyesque assembly line), and we saw others who were not having the full service--in fact, one table was having sushi.

    To my taste, Claridges is still a fine institution which, if it did not exist, could no longer be invented. And the sound insulation is good enough so that one does not hear Gordon Ramsey cursing in his eponymous kitchen.

  13. John T has rightly pointed out to me that postings should not consist of mere referrals to another website. (What I intended as modesty might well be taken as blatant self-promotion. :smile:) Accordingly, here is the nub of my criticism, minus the rhetoric:

    When our dishes started to arrive, the “kitchen galerie” conceit became self-explanatory. Each was a carefully composed visual structure—it was like edible Andy Goldsworthy! My colorful dish of mackerel promised a culinary forte but in the mouth, alas, it was a bland pianissimo….Mary found her soup pleasant enough but not as exciting as it looked; the pattern would repeat itself.

    My photogenic squid and octopus proved to be virtually inedible. I’ve encountered tough overcooked calamari in cheap Greek restaurants, but this was like chewing strips of rubber tire. For variety and color, there were a few short lengths of stringy leek. Once again, the green apple and turmeric sauce was so bland as to provide small compensation for the masticatory gymnastics. Even Lewis Caroll’s Father William would have found it tough going.

    Mary and Frank’s “Grilled” Vegetables & Wok with Herbs Juice (the wok was not forthcoming but it would have been almost as easy to chew as my recalcitrant cephalopods) were another pair of sculptures only marginally related to hunger. They consisted of a few green vegetables together with a cooked (!) radish, a baby carrot and a tiny turnip—scant carbs, no protein. For a main course costing 25€ (only 3.50€ less than the lamb), one might even  call it a rip-off.

    Mary, curious about the desserts, opted for the “Glanduja” (hazelnut) chocolate on the grounds that it was likely to be the most substantial. It proved to be a little meringue mushroom surmounting a crunchy melange of chocolate, nougat, glace coco and unchewable little nuggets of indeterminate origin. It was super-sweet comfort food, very like a Mars ice cream bar.

    EDIT: John, remembering your canny habit of going for up-market lunches rather than dinners, I can imagine that my response to ZKG might have been more generous if we had paid half-price. But those impregnable calamari...

    I should also add that John's recommendations of Les Fines Gueules, L'Ourcine and La Cerisaie led to some fine meals which I have tried to do justice to.

  14. A recent week in Paris yielded new reviews, with photos, of Les Fines Gueules, La Cerisaie, L’Ourcine, Ze Kitchen Gallerie, L’Ambassade d’Auvergne and Le Bouledogue, with return visits to L’Ecurie, L’Ardoise and Terminus Nord. The choice was of course heavily influenced by the other bearded John.

    They can all be found by going to my index page, where new and recently updated entries are highlighted in red.

  15. For fifteen years or so we've been making special journeys to Longuyon to eat at M. Tisserant's splendid Restaurant La Mas in his Hotel de Lorraine. He was serving inventive tasting menus on demand that changed daily back when they were usually just an excuse for bringing out the same old expensive ingredients served up in the same old ways.

    Every couple of months or so he has week-end soirées with two nights of music and tasting menus, two nights hotel accommodation, and two breakfasts, all for an inclusive 208€ per person (single supplement 20€ per night).

    Hotel de Lorraine, place de la Gare, 54260 Longuyon, Tel 03 82 26 50 07, email mas.lorraine@wanadoo.fr

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