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Fat Guy

Does Italy lack culinary relevance?

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Even at the highest end, Alvo Altar (sp?) furniture doesn't sell for the same prices as pieces by the French deco masters like Ruhlmann, Chareau etc., let alone pieces by Giacometti.

Er, Giacometti wasn't French. He was from the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. I assume you are talking about Diego in this context, although obviously the same is true of his brother Alberto.

Just like to contradict you once a day, to keep in practice. :raz:

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He was Ticinese? But his studio was in Paris correct? Maybe I should amend my statement to say, French, or practiced their art or craft in France.

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Only if you want to be hidebound by the facts. :laugh:

Alberto certainly had a studio in Paris. I don't know much about Diego, except that he was more renowned for the design/furniture stuff, which I thought you were talking about.

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They all (which is to say a lot of artists, famous and otherwise) had a studio in France until the War, Steve. Then, most of them worked in New York.

Francesco's comments about a certain kind of restaurant in Itay are illuminating and welcome, but they fall into the trap of Steve's criteria, or those which he inferred from the FG's original question. No cookbooks in English, no English language (or other than Italian language) press, no international "buzz", no advancement of technique as defined, etc.

Rather, it might be interesting to hear in some detail about what is available at these restaurants named, and to consider it on its merits, and in relation to the rest of Italian cooking, as well as cooking elsewhere. I guess for the time being, we have this to look forward to.


Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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Robert - Well that would be terrific if someone could illustrate techniques that are worth knowing about which are currently in use by some high end Italian chefs. In fact I would very much like to read that a certain restaurant in Italy is on the "must go to list" like Troisgros or El Bulli would be.

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"Gee I didn't notice any difficulty sitting in that $200,000 Pierre Chareau chair. Nor did I notice that my haute cuisine dish that included truffles and foie gras tasted bad."

one thing at a time, so

1) most chairs recognizable as chairs can be used for sitting. question is: how well do they perform? now, if the effort is put in impressive presentation, often function will suffer. this i find the case with much french design (from c. 1600-2002). but there is more to it than that. many of the 20th cent. scandinavian designers were pragmatic socialists who were driven by a wish to be honest with whichever material they were working. the elegance in their work is very rarely flashy. it isn't obvious, but the more exquisite for that. a variant of "less is more". and damn cheap compared to your chareau!

2) truffles and foie gras is out of the place with, say, vanilla ice cream, at least in my experience with vanilla ice cream, foie gras and truffles. i'll admit that i can imagine a dish composed of all three, and that i might find it interesting as an intellectual happening, but as part of a meal supposed to be enjoyed? i doubt it. now, that seems to be exactly the kind of experiments going on in some modern haute cuisine, perhaps driven by a wish to make "art".

i'm still not sure how relevant this is...


christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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For those who didn't see Heston Blumenthal's excellent answer in regards to this question, I am posting a link to that thread.

Modern Italian cuisine

I thought he did a good job of hitting the nail on the head. And I'm looking forward to going to Torino to eat with a scuba diving mask. Fortunately for me, I am going to be in Torino next week and I will try to get there.

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Chef Blumenthal's reply to my question was not only a good one, but was consistent with the point made repeatedly in this discussion that Italian cooking in large part continues to be driven by tradition and regionalism; and that that is not a bad thing. At the same time, he refers to work being done of the sort that would capture the attention of cutting edge enthusiasts, thus confirming, or at least encouraging our suspicion that this aspect of Italian cuisine may be under-reported or under-investigated.


Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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Robert Schonfeld = Chief Italian Cuisine Apologist :biggrin:

Well I am going to try and eat at that place in Torino next week if I can figure out the name of the restaurant. Otherwise I agree with you. But you have to admit that if there is interesting cooking hdiding out in the Italian provinces, the reason it is going unnoticed is because past attempts at doing something interesting wern't tremendously successful. Also, the ecnomic and cultural centers of the country didn't create the equivelent of the type of high end, hybrid of dufferent region cuisine that you see in Paris. They cook regional even in those places.

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Robert Schonfeld = Chief Italian Cuisine Apologist  :biggrin:

Well I am going to try and eat at that place in Torino next week if I can figure out the name of the restaurant. Otherwise I agree with you. But you have to admit that if there is interesting cooking hdiding out in the Italian provinces, the reason it is going unnoticed is because past attempts at doing something interesting wern't tremendously successful. Also, the ecnomic and cultural centers of the country didn't create the equivelent of the type of high end, hybrid of dufferent region cuisine that you see in Paris. They cook regional even in those places.

I'd rather eat it than defend it. I think I said more than a year ago that Italian food hardly needs the likes of me as an apologist.

Please have Mrs. P take a picture of you with the mask on, Steve. That's one we'll all want to see.


Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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I thought he did a good job of hitting the nail on the head. And I'm looking forward to going to Torino to eat with a scuba diving mask. Fortunately for me, I am going to be in Torino next week and I will try to get there.

Steve. Please. Please please please. Do this. And write about it. Please.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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And I'm looking forward to going to Torino to eat with a scuba diving mask. Fortunately for me, I am going to be in Torino next week and I will try to get there.

Now that I think about it, still photography isn't nearly good enough. This is an event that should be filmed. Where is Fellini when we need him?

Are we talking Modernist? Modern? Postmodern? Futurist? Surrealist? Symbolist? Who knows? But I have a feeling this could be one of the defining moments in contemporary gastronomy, whatever its label.

Anyone care to take a stab at the lead for the press release?


Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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Anyone care to take a stab at the lead for the press release?

MAN PROVES THAT A SUCKER IS BORN EVERY MINUTE

MAN SAYS "I feel total cheated, the young man said it was amyl nitrate, but it smelt like badly made meatballs!".

ROBOT WARS MOURNS DEATH OF "PAPA PLOTTERS", DUE TO ACCIDENTAL INHALATION OF COW: Story link:

ITALIAN CHEF ARRESTED FOR CHARGING DINERS TO INHALE COW FARTS, CLAIMS "BUT THIS IS HIGHEST EXPRESSION OF ITALIAN COOKING, YOU FOOLS!"

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A propos of things Italian, there's a "100 page survey" on Italy in the November number of Wallpaper. In addition, you get articles about the new modern art museum in Ft. Worth, Texas and an article on and map of Houston.

It may lack culinary relevance, but it's pretty good for $8.75.


I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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There was also Giovanni Giacometti who made what poster historians consider to be the first artistic Swiss travel poster (ca. 1898). Better late than never, having missed the discussion first time around.

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Just ran across this bit of info that might explain the whole thing (it pertains to Tuscany, but can be basically implied to Italy as a whole considering the vast impact the Estruscans have had on the country):

What is surprising about Tuscan cuisine is that its appeal lies not in artistic flourishes but in utter simplicity. During the fifteenth century there were actually Tuscan laws forbidding extravagant dinner parties of more than three courses. In a land where opulence was once a crime, it's understandable that frugality and a dislike for haute cuisine still lingers.

Edit: typo


Edited by Hopleaf (log)

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." -Ernest Hemingway

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But they don't cite it based on their modern cooking techniques or philosophies. They cite it based on simple and traditional cuisine using local ingredients. Personally I believe that the pasta course kills any possibility of Italy ever creating a modern cuisine. To think that there *has to* be a course in the middle of the meal that is entirely devoted to starch makes no sense in the world of modern gastronomy. I mean the trend is away from starches in the first place as people want to eat lighter. Did you ever see Dr. Atkins recommend pasta? If you impose either pasta, rice or polenta on every meal, let alone as it's own course, when would you serve things like an egg with maple syrup or "perfect" food? Oh that's right, the guy who serves the perfect food also serves pasta. Gee Sandra was right about those circular arguments  :biggrin:.

Gavin - The easiest definition of modern gastronomy in this context is the restaurants and cuisine(s) that foodies and chefs talk about. You don't hear much chatter on this website about Al Sorriso, Don Alfonso, Enotecha Pincchiori, San Vicenzo or other restaurants in Italy that have 2 or 3 Michelin stars. You hear some, but they aren't really destination restaurants other than for Italophiles who are travelling in Italy anyway. Not much talk about "I'm dying to go to San Vicenzo."  You also don't have the same demand from chefs for cookbooks and recipes from Italian chefs as you have with French and Spanish chefs.

Steve: Fair point on the pasta. However, if you stick to fresh tajarin in the Piemonte, the best is (well, SEEMS to be) 90% egg yolks and 10% flour (40 eggs to a kilo of flour in many places), with a nice rabbit or sausage ragu on top. That will keep you well within the Atkins tolerances! (I thought that I recalled from an earlier thread that you were allergic to pasta.) I do note that my Piemontese friends tend to have pasta only at lunch, or, in keeping with tradition, after midnight (similar to the American custom of getting drunk, closing the bar and then having breakfast at an all-night diner at 2 in the morning!).


Bill Klapp

bklapp@egullet.com

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Bill - Ate at La Broche in Miami last night. They served basil pasta which was made out of basil juice and gelatin. Not bad because it wasn't starchy :wink:. Yes I gave up pasta 12 years ago. Don't ask. I can still smell when it's good though.

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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 Atkins diet (a strange idea, to my view, but then I'm no doctor) do struggle in Italy. But is that not more a matter of weight control than gastronomy?

I have found that individual Italians, in general, seem to have somewhat stronger ideas than the French about what constitutes a "proper" meal, especially in the ordering of dishes and tastes. So perhaps they have embraced innovation less warmly than have the French.

Or perhaps Rebecca Spang's analysis is correct (long after Wilfrid's prompting, I am finally reading The Invention of the Restaurant): the French, in the form of Grimod de la Reynière) "invented" the idea of gourmandise and  educated, classified taste -- a fairly late invention, by the way.  Hence what some are experiencing is not some inherent inferiority of Italian cuisine but rather the lack of a developed language for talking about that cuisine.

I'm in the "Catherine de Medici not only taught the French how to cook, but also how to eat with something other than their fingers" camp myself!


Bill Klapp

bklapp@egullet.com

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I don't remember seeing Jonathan's post originally though I might have. But as I have stated on other threads, my comments are limited to current cuisine in Italian restaurants. If in their homes they are secretly making the greatest cuisine in the world, well that's terrific. But the Italian restaurant scene is pretty bad if you ask me, unless you want what is the equivalent of home cooked food. That's fine but......

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the Italian restaurant scene is pretty bad if you ask me

A self-evident truth at this point, and the reason no one is asking you.


Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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