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France for French Food Dummies


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It seems to me that everyone is getting just a tad touchy. Rather than enter into the discussion about where one's pilgrimmage to the land of three stars ought to go, might I ask an entirely different question (one having nothing to do with car rentals or differential airline rates)? Has anyone out there had a completely seamless meal, or are we all just going from place to place accumulating piecemeal (ha,ha) memories?Is everyone just collecting Michelin merit badges? Is anyone actually having a good time? Are we all wandering into expensive establishments expecting to be disappointed, or even hoping we will be? Should I be asking this sort of question on this particular site?

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Feel free to ask that sort of question. Let me ask in return why you feel anyone is expecting to be disappointed, or even hoping to be. I don't sense that. I see signs of the opposite. There are those who worry they will not get their money's worth. Many of us, myself included, see dining as a sort of hobby not unlike buidling model airplanes, stamp collecting, visiting museums or attending the opera. There's an element of intellectual appreciation and a desire to understand the food and chef's work in the same terms one might follow the progress of a painter or playright. If I've memtioned that I've seen all of Truffaut's films, would you think I was collecting merit badges? If someone flew all over Europe rushing from  opera house to opera house to attend performances, would that indicate an interest in opera or would they be criticised for shallow motives? What do you mean by seamless?

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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I agree with Bux and lizziee.  I have had a number of "art"-like meals (see "Chef of the Century" thread under "General"), and have had an exhilarating time sampling various three-star and non-three-star restaurants (even ones that offer disappointing meals, for there is some value in the process of discovery).  :raz:

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I think there's great value in discovery of all kinds at the dinner table, and wherever food is found. I'm a bit sorry so much of the conversation is about haute cuisine and multistarred restaurants, although I'm as guilty as the next person on that score and it's easy to understand. Some meals are just so much easier to talk about because so much thought has gone into them.

Discovery is what travel should be all about and eating local foods is a chance to go beyond immersing yourself in the local culture. It's a chance to literally consume and digest part of that culture. Oddly enough it seems that the vast majority of travelers take in the museums and sights, but look for either basic sustenance without regard to flavor or to the most familiar foods when they travel. Out of curiosity raised by Gopknik's Paris to the Moon we ate in the Balzar, a very moderately priced brasserie recently taken over by the Flo chain. It wasn't as dire as all tour groups, but there seemed to be a lot of Americans eating there. Then again it's near the Sorbonne and likely to have attracted tourists for a long time. The foursome near us may not have been typical, but in my mind they represent a large segment of my countrymen abroad. They had come to this "typical" brasserie and had selected a meal that could not be described as untraditional, but the French roasted chicken, the French lamb chops, the French vegetables and the French salad were nothing you couldn't have found on a small town American restaurant menu in the fifties. Maybe I'm unfair and there was an element of finesse that was a revelation to them, but I don't think I'd find a post of that meal all that interesting. My guess is that they remember the atmosphere more than the food.

On the other hand, I find those travelers who frequent the multistarred restaurants far more adventurous and they just tend to eat more interesting things in or out of the elegant places they love to talk about. I think the intrepid diner has a better time than the one who searches for the good and comforting meal, but admittedly, it's not the path for everyone. I may prefer elevators, but I won't ask if the moutain climber is having a good time.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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I've been watching this thread and I have to admit I don't know what to think of it. It seems to be a tug of war but everyone is using a different rope so the conversation doesn't seem to have any real traction. So in the hopes of trying to tie it all together, here goes.

I think that there are two different types of dining in France. There is French regional cuisine and there is haute cuisine. Yes of course many of the 3 star establishments cook in the style of their region but I submit, if you want to understand Alsatian cuisine, Auberge d'Ill isn't the place to learn it in the first instance. Better off doing most of your eating at winstubs and brasseries in the smaller villages and have one or two meals in top places to understand both where the cuisine has come from and where it has gone. Then there are people who only view food in its international form. Like Jordyn they have done a fair amount of eating in the U.S. and they are more interested in understanding how food in the U.S. is derived from French cuisine.  While I find the latter a valid way of spending one's vacation (and a delicious one too I might add,) if you really want to understand French cooking and a good portion of the history of modern cuisine, I would spend my time in bistros sampling cuisine from every region in France rather than embarking on a string of 3 star meals.

The first thing people should learn about French cuisine is the difference between the three different cooking fuels. Not only is there a culture of cooking with olive oil and herbs in the south, butter and cream in the north and goose fat and garlic in the southwest and northeast, they are fully formulated cusines and range from peasant dishes to sophisticated recipes. The taste differential between the three is quite startling. I mean eating a real bouillabaisse, cassoulet, choucroute and a bresse chicken in a cream sauce all in the span of a few days can rock your culinary world.

Fortunately the French, good self promoters that they are built a place where it is easy to sample these three cuisines, and all the sub-variations on them without having to travel great distances. That place is called Paris. And for anyone who wants a primer on French cuisine, I would suggest that they go to Paris for a week and stay there, whiling away their daytimes in museums and shops and dining away their meals in a way that gives one an overview of what makes France, France. Of course, a 3 star meal or two thrown into the mix won't hurt things. In fact it's a good idea just so one can understand things within context. And if I was to travel to another region it would be to the coast. Provencal cooking is one region that is not recreated well in Paris. So much of the cooking is dependant on the enviornment and fresh ingredients that it loses something in the translation to Paris.

I don't think one really gets enough out of a tour of starred establishments unless they have an understanding of regional cuisine under their belts. Not that it won't be enjoyable, but it will be missing a level of understanding I think is necessary for any serious eater. But if one was determined to set out on one, I would stick to the strategy of sampling cuisines with three different cooking fuels. It can be easily done if you stay within the southern half of the country during your week there. And if there is a reason to distinguish between places like Bras and Veyrat, I don't know of any other reason to choose one over the other than to try and sample meals that originate in different culinary strategies.

As for Eugene's point about people collecting merit badges, I happen to agree with him that there are many people out there who include eating at starred establishments in their itinerary simply because that is what one does when in France. One stays "here" and eats "there" because that is what you are supposed to do. That type of diner never bothered me. I mean they are entitled. Not everyone has to be as interested in eating as I am. But I also think that Bux's examples of being an opera or Truffaut buff aren't comparable since those activities are missing the obvious conspicuous consumption aspect that comes with 3 star dining.

France for a small country is a big place. In some ways it's really about 15 different smaller countries thrown together. One can get a lot out of it if one approaches it the right way. Fortunately, if one appraoches it on a merely international level it offers great benefits too. I just think that what makes France great is that there's a soul to the place. And that soul is much less obvious at today's temples of cuisine.

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All very sensible, and I just thought I'd add that a good way to add the historical and geographical detail to what Steve has said is to read Waverley Root's The Food of France.  It's an old book now, and many of the dishes described seem to have vanished, but his conceptual structure for explaining French cuisine still seems sound.

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Wow, I go away for the weekend, and come back to a controversy that I've inadvertantly created.

Of course, never one to back away from a controversy, I'll confess that I find Freida's message to be a bit condescending and paternalistic.  It goes withotu saying that there is more to France than food, and more to French food than three star restaurants.  I asked for some thoughts on certain Michelin starred restaruants in particular for several reasons:

1) There aren't very many of them.  Whereas there are probably hundreds or thousands of places serving authentic regional cuisine, there are twenty-whatever Michelin three star restaurants.  So, while I feel confident that I can get some great suggestions for places to eat practically anywhere I go in France, I feel less confident in asking "hey, here is a list of random towns that my friends said were cute and had good cheese shops in them; please tell me where to find the closest three star restaurant".  It may turn out that I've chosen towns not particularly close to any restaurant of the sort I'm after.  Conversely, Cabrales has already pointed out things other than eating at Bras that I can do in

2) Reservations. They can be hard to get at some of these places; I would guess less so at local places.  So, I need to plan farther in advance for the Michelin starred places.

3) This is a food board.  There are many places where I can learn about the enormous variety of non-food related things in France, and I do appreciate it when I do pick up tips about how to get around France, or interesting activities near where I am going, but there are many places where I can pick up a lot of this information, but there is only one egullet.  So, I ask my food/restaurant questions here, and ask my questions about pretty churches at prettychurchdiscussion.com.

Other than that, I'd like to thank everyone for their helpful feedback.  Cabrales in particular seems to have a frenetic style of travel that matches the sort of trips I often take, at least in terms of pacing, so it's good to see what she's capable of.  (On this trip, I'm aiming for a slightly slower pace, but it's a good reference model at least.)

Finally, to Steve's P. suggestion of staying in Paris.  While I admire the utility of the suggestion, Paris is such an easy trip from New York that I can't see spending one of my rare week-long vacations there.  I can return to Paris for countless three or four day weekends, and slowly sample its charms.  Such an approach isn't nearly as practical in the provinces, I don't think.

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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 continuity between the levels (and I would add a "bourgeoise" level between Steve's regional and haute).  And there are regional overtones that, more often than not, survive all the way up to the 3 star places -- though I agree with Steve that the regional element is progressively muted as you ascend the hierarchy and as local ingredients are augmented with "technique" and with international elements (caviare, etc.).

AND, at bottom, all of it is recognisably French.

Perhaps Chinese food has a similar unity-within-variety characteristic, and a similar range from local to highly elaborated.  I don't know.  Italian cookery seems different: the hierarchy a bit flatter, and the regional variations (when you can find them) more differentiated, even in the names things are called.  And there are elaborate palaces in Rome, Milan, etc., but they don't seem to take on the significance they do in France.  

I certainly don't experience the link from farm to haute cuisine in the UK or US in the same way, perhaps because the distribution systems operate at larger scale...and hence are more productive.  But something gets lost in the process.

For me the best way to experience the French system and to connect it to a broader cultural understanding has been to stay in one region for a good while, sampling a wide range of restaurant and domestic cookery, ranging from local spots to starred restaurants.  And, most of all, to get to know some of the markets and the more thoughtful suppliers, to get a sense of what matters to them.  I've learned a lot talking to butchers.

Frances Mayes has clearly been trying to do this in her books on Tuscany, though I have to admit I found the exposition somewhat sentimental, sloppy and self-serving.  Richard Olney was aiming for a similar understanding in his work -- he lived in Solliès-Toucas and got to know the region and its wines very well.  And he generally wrote with precision and rigour.  In the end Olney somehow achieved an amazing level of mastery of the national cuisine(s) in its (their) entirety, wines included.

But personal preferences, time and circumstances don't always make it possible to go for this sort of local, in-depth understanding.  And it would be better to go from one 3-star spot to another, either in Paris or in the provinces, than never to experience France.

So I suppose if I were limited to a week a year, or a week every few years, I would aim each at one region: the ile de France (Paris and environs), Alsace, the Southwest, the Côte d'Azur, high Provence, etc., each time staying in one place and seeking to get to know it well.  

Of course this would mean returning several times.  But there are worse fates.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Please allow me to take whatever part of my foot is in my mouth, out. I've spent some weeks in most of the last twenty years trying to eat my way through France (a good thing). For the most part, I travel on bicycle, planning the routes around (primarily) starred Relais & Chateau hotel/restaurants.    

    I am in the habit of pouring over the menu in the morning before riding out in order to give me the better part of the day deciding what combinations of dishes would work, etc., etc.. In fact, it is hard for me to pass any restaurant without examining the menu. It is probably fair to say that I live to eat, always hoping that the greatest meal of my life will be that evening, regardless of the level of the establishment, and try to take from each what succeeded, not what failed.

    I suppose my plaint has to do with being jaded and overanalyzing. It seems to me that the urge to fly from one restaurant to another intellectualizing every mouthful chewed can not, finally, be really enjoyable. That's what I meant in asking whether anyone out there was having a good time. And what I meant by a seamless meal was one which left one speechless, unwilling to analyze.

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It seems to me that the urge to fly from one restaurant to another intellectualizing every mouthful chewed can not, finally, be really enjoyable. That's what I meant in asking whether anyone out there was having a good time. And what I meant by a seamless meal was one which left one speechless, unwilling to analyze.

For me, how a diner approaches, takes in and analyzes (if at all) a meal is generally subjective and personal.  Analysis, comparison and contrast (during and following the taking in of cuisine) are for me an integral part of an "art"-like meal, just as eugenezuckoff and other diners might find their unwillingness to analyze a meal an indicia of a special meal.  :raz:

I agree that, very generally, a more leisurely approach with respect to visiting restaurants facilitates contemplation of dining experiences. However, the demands of work, family and friends, curiosity to visit a restaurant earlier and numerous other considerations may mitigate against a more leisurely approach under certain circumstances.  :wink:

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I also think that Bux's examples of being an opera or Truffaut buff aren't comparable since those activities are missing the obvious conspicuous consumption aspect that comes with 3 star dining.

There is no more conspicuous consumption than that of a sleeping man in a prominent box at the opera. The reference to Truffaut films is just that one can want all one can get when one appreciates something and sensory overload seems nigh onto impossible for the real fanatic/connoisseur.

It seems to me that the urge to fly from one restaurant to another intellectualizing every mouthful chewed can not, finally, be really enjoyable. That's what I meant in asking whether anyone out there was having a good time. And what I meant by a seamless meal was one which left one speechless, unwilling to analyze.

Some people intellectualize every facet of their lives and others go thought life seemingly without thinking about what they are doing. I suppose we all think our one life style is the happy medium. For my part, I don't understand how one can eat and not think about it. I'm trying to think if I've ever experienced a meal or a work of art so thrilling that I was unwilling to analyze it. I think not. My disappointment with my persona is not that I over analyze, but that others express it better. Thus I am often speechless, but still thinking.

:biggrin:

One more vote for Waverly Root's The Food of France, and perhaps a nomination for AJ Liebling's Between Meals. They were contemporaries. American newsmen in Paris at overlapping times.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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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.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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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.

I have no idea how your name got attached to one of the quotes. Undoubtedly a careless cut and past on my part, for which I appoligize profusely. I've corrected my previous post--or at least I hope I have.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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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.

That's hardly a prerequisite for membership here, but I think you'll find that a large percentage of those who post regularly will probably share that attitude to some extent. I suspect that those who don't think as much about food will hardly care to spend time talking about a subject they don't spend more time thinking about.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Jordyn, I did not mean to be condescending, paternalistic or even maternalistic, more conform my gender.

Of course, everyone has the right to follow his or her path of culinary enjoyment in France. What saddens me, and made me write my previous post, is the tenor in the France Forum that only the 3-star restaurants, ok a few 2-star, are worth a trip. A 1-star is treated as a local bistrot, in case the loftier ones are fully booked. If you follow this route, you'll seldom meet a live French person, apart from the waiting staff. Perhaps that was not your intention to begin with (I admit to a bit of p/maternalistic tone here).

On other eGullet forums I find informative discussions on wild mushrooms, prizes for best questions or other silly things. But the French forum sticks out as the sugary domes of Hotel Negresco, over-priced and over-done.

Frieda

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The problem you decribe, and I would acknowledge it as a problem, stems partially from the fact that most of the posters are tourists in France and there for a short period at a time. Those who reside in an area usually have a different perspective. Nevertheless we've had posts on markets and shops. I'd hope we could attract more residents to our board. That this is an english language board may be part of the problem, although I'd have no problem having messages in French.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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I have noticed a Catch 22 situation cropping up from time to time on this board.  While admitting a lack of familiarity with French food and customs, members planning first trips to France have asked for advice about 2 and 3-star dining rooms. It is frequently suggested that they start closer to the beginning of the French food chain and build an understanding and appreciation of the basics of French eating. Sound advice, but there is little follow-through with the alternative suggestions that would send people out to country gems and small, lesser known Paris treasures.  One has to read every post carefully not to miss jewels like Vieux Pont and Chateau de Pasredon. The preponderance of posts remain discussions of 3-stars.  It is not surprising that lurkers and new travelers think of them as the only reasonable destination for even beginning visitors.

For reasons totally unrelated to cost, my husband and I choose restaurants that hover around the 1 and 2-star level (GM 15-17 points) over the prestige houses, and I have therefore been disappointed to find so little interest in these venues on this board.  I’m sure that the lack of discussion re these lesser places is a case of “been there and done that”, but I think there is a real need for both referal to and coverage of these restaurants that may be more the essence of French food than the 3-stars.

I don’t believe that one has to be a native to either know of or patronize 1 and 2-star establishments, although one reason we do prefer them is that you are surrounded by “real French people” as well as a few English, and blessedly almost no Americans.  We aren't anti-American, but we do travel to experience something different from what we can find at home. And then again, we do delight in a quote from A J Liebling referring to his father in  Between Meals :  “He was a patriotic man at home, but he was convinced that in Paris the presence of Americans was a sign of a bunco joint.”  :raz:

I did start a thread on our spring visit to 1 and 2-star restaurants in Pays Basques this year, but quit after the first installment on the 1-star Table Ibarboure because there was little interest, although our visit continued to several pleasurable and traditional hotels and dining rooms that would be perfect for newer travelers, yet would not disappoint experienced ones (La Patoula in Usteritz, Ithurria in Ainhoa and La Galupe in Urt).  

I do wonder, are there any sub-3-star lurkers out there who care about the best of “ground floor France” and who would like to share dining and travel experiences?  

eGullet member #80.

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La Galupe is a two star restaurant and no place for dummies :wink: Surely it is on the itinerary of top star seekers in the Basque country. La Galupe is a dangerous place where one can be tempted to seriously overeat.

I find one star no guarantee of anything other than that it's better than other restaurants in the area at its price. I've eaten superbly at one star restaurants, and I've been severely disappointed. I've also been diappointed more than once at three stars and disappointed even when I've had a pretty good meal. My most rewarding meals have been at two star restaurants, although some of them went on to become three stars. Then again I've been diappointed at two star restaurants too.

For whatever it is worth, I have it on very good authority that one of the world's greatest Pastry chefs thinks the best lièvre à la royale is had at a small rather nondescript and unstarred restaurant in Paris. I didn't know that and ordered the cassoulet, while my wife ordered the pork cheeks. The cassoulet was better than okay, but the pork cheeks were excellent. I still don't think of it as a destination restaurant and might not reserve it from NY in advance, but I might jump at the chance to return if the mood struck me while I was in Paris. To some extent that's what I mean by natives having different references to restaurants than tourists. It's also why I dislike having all my reservations set in advance.

It is frequently suggested that they start closer to the beginning of the French food chain and build an understanding and appreciation of the basics of French eating. Sound advice, but there is little follow-through with the alternative suggestions that would send people out to country gems and small, lesser known Paris treasures.
It's good to offer the suggestion, but if that suggestion doesn't bring a response, it seems fruitless to make the individual recommendations.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Steve P writes, beginning:

I've been watching this thread and I have to admit I don't know what to think of it. It seems to be a tug of war but everyone is using a different rope so the conversation doesn't seem to have any real traction. So in the hopes of trying to tie it all together, here goes.
Lifting this post out of the context of this needlessly controversial topic, I find it one of the best very short essays I've encountered on how to approach French cuisine. The key point, which is so often ignored, is using Paris, not just as a great splash of "Frenchiness", but as a menu degustation of the country's intimate detail. Steve, at some point I'll be in touch about incorporating this mini-essay into my own web site.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Bux writes:
one of the things I love about fastronomic menus. . .
I'm sure it's a misprint, but what a great word! It sums up the lightning tour of gastronomic Meccas, the jet-propelled pilgrimage from star to star. :biggrin:

Indeed a typo. I almost wish I could honestly take credit for coinage of a new term.  Someone should make a collection of fortuitous typos online.

If and when Steve redoes his post on eating one's way through the provinces without leaving Paris, for you, I'd offer the suggestion that he echo a bit of JD (London)'s point that there are more than two sorts of French cuisine. My own feeling however is that a full appreciation for the regional food will only come in the region and that understanding the regional food and the differences between the foods of different regions can be had in Paris just a bit better than the foods of Europe can be appreciated by going to French, Spanish, Italian, German, etc. restaurants in New York.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Patrice -- On peut faire ce qu'on veut.  :raz:

Returning to rapid itineraries, a visit of three-star restaurants can yield a number of interesting non-gastronomic adventures. Consider the example of cathedrals in France. In Rheims, a diner at Boyer Les Crayeres can visit the famous cathedral at which certain French monarchs were crowned. The structure has gorgeous Marc Chagall stained glass windows in hues of blue. In Bourg-en-Bresse (close to Georges Blanc at Vonnas), there is a cathedral. Similarly, in accessing Buerehiesel, Auberge de L'Ill and/or L'Arnsbourg, one can visit the beautiful clay-red-colored cathedral with the single tower (and see the astrological clock inside). At L'Esperance (formerly three-starred, now only two), there is a well-known church with a special midnight mass on Christmas Eve.  Of course, continuing the architecture theme, Barcelona (from which El Raco de Con Fabes, etc. can be accessed) has Gaudi structures that one either likes or dislikes.

On other activities, ski enthusiasts during the wintertime can take advantage of Megeve's sports facilities while accessing Veyrat's Ferme de Mon Pere. Spa-goers can visit Guerard's spa at Pres d'Eugenies.

On activities close to Laguiole, I'd like to reiterate how interesting Roquefort-sur-Sulzon could be (at least to me). Apart from the large producers Papillon and Societe (each of which, of course, produces Roquefort in different caves; e.g., Societe Cave des Templiers is quite common, but there are other caves resulting in differently-labelled Roqueforts), there are smaller producers in the region. The caves along mountainous regions in which Roquefort are produced will be covered when I next visit Bras. At one point in the road from Montpellier through Millau to Laguiole, a 35-40 mile trip would have taken me to Roquefort-sur-Sulzon.

While many travel destinations are chosen based on my desire to visit specific restaurants, I do not necessarily limit my activities at the applicable destinations to gastronomic ones.  Admittedly, taking in a long lunch with usual quantities of wine tends to reduce productivity prior to dinner. And taking in full dinners renders mornings less productive. Where one ends up in balancing gastronomic versus other activities is, of course, subjective.  :wink:

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 For whatever it is worth, I have it on very good authority that one of the world's greatest Pastry chefs thinks the best lièvre à la royale is had at a small rather nondescript and unstarred restaurant in Paris. I didn't know that and ordered the cassoulet, while my wife ordered the pork cheeks. The cassoulet was better than okay, but the pork cheeks were excellent. I still don't think of it as a destination restaurant and might not reserve it from NY in advance, but I might jump at the chance to return if the mood struck me while I was in Paris. To some extent that's what I mean by natives having different references to restaurants than tourists. It's also why I dislike having all my reservations set in advance.

Your experience is precisely the thrust of my post. Bux, this is exactly the type of restaurant we try to ferret out, and the kind we most enjoy.  Would you be inclined to post the name?  :wow:

eGullet member #80.

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