Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Daniel Patterson on CA cuisine


JAZ
 Share

Recommended Posts

Daniel Patterson talks about Northern California cuisine -- its merits and limitations -- in the New York Times Style section.

To the Moon, Alice? (I believe free access is limited to a couple of days.)

And therein lies the problem. We all love Chez Panisse - maybe too much. Chez Panisse, the progenitor of what we have come to call "California cuisine," has become not just one voice but the only voice speaking out on the values and the mission of that cuisine, particularly in Northern California. Alice Waters, the restaurant's founder and a tireless promoter of fresh and local food, has become to us what Beatrice was to Dante: a model of righteousness and purity, reminding us of our past sins while offering encouragement and inspiration on the path to heaven. The only path to heaven.

Is he right? Has Chez Panisse ruined culinary creativity in the Bay Area?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

JAZ, Daniel Patterson provides a good thought-provoking argument.

I was wanting to ask you and the other NorCal members whether you feel trapped in this "culinary Groundhog's Day" that Patterson describes?

If you noticed in the very beginning part of the article, there was a brief mention that Patterson was planning to open a restaurant in the area. Perhaps he wrote this article to get people's reaction. In a sense, to "test the waters" (no pun intended :rolleyes: ).

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought it was a very self-serving and unprofessional article. There are chefs who are more concerned about expressing their own creativity rather than pleasing the diner. Most Bay Area diners are too savy a group to fall for it.

I say most, because there are always that group that has a need for the most trendy place. The type that define eating out as more about the entertainment value.

Patterson says "Today, there are two points on which most people seem to agree. The first is that the majority of the food in the Bay Area is delicious; the second is that it is not very innovative. "

There have been a number of innovative restaurants in San Francisco. They failed not because of some imagined 'food tyranny' but because the food wasn't all that delicious.

Currently, Winterland is not doing turn away business, despite the El Buli influence. Daniel Humm at Campton Place is very innovative, and yet you can walk in without a reservation on a Friday night. The staff seems to believe that people don't like to eat at Hotel restaurants. They sure did when Bradley Ogden or Jan Birbaum was heading the kitchen.

While I agree that delicous and different can co-exist, so far no one in the Bay Area has really done that.

An article like this could only appear in the NY Times. They don't get it. Yes. there are delicous and innovative restaurants in NY. The culture is different. Also, there isn't the availability to the spectacular produce other foods that California enjoys. The lettuce that has to be shipped accross country to NY in December has to be tortured into something creative, because the quality isn't there.

It is also amusing that while critisizing the price of dinner at Chez Panisse and complaining about the price of a $5 heirloom tomato he says How can we build an egalitarian society based on a lifestyle that so few can afford?"

Clearly, he is not going to be cooking for the masses. It is certainly not the dollars of the Food4less group that he is targeting. The movement that Alice started touches all levels of our society. Even working class farmers markets like Alemany have a organic, heirloom produce at affordable prices. It is a movement that has even filtered to McDonalds where they weill be selling organic coffee soon on the East Coast.

I'd worry more about Patterson's point of view if the diners in the Bay Area didn't have such good taste and sense. We are not amused by gimmacky cooking ... unless it is also as delicous as what Patterson calls "comfortable home cooking with no particular point of view."

I certainly hope that Patterson's restaurant will be the new beacon of both creativity and good taste.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I started reading the article in a local coffee bar and had to double-check the date on the cover. The only explanation I could come up with for its existance was that the magazine was, oh, let's say 10 years old.

Shocking to see that it was present-day.

Things have changed.

I almost started laughing when it said that Delfina was an example of the "tyranny of Alice Waters". Ummm... perhaps a visit to Da Delfina in Italy would be in order for the author?

fanatic...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Always liked Patterson from the old ElisabethDaniel jewelbox.

"The issue is that everyone seems content with one narrowly defined style of cooking." --that's why SF restaurants are so boring and homogenous.

But what can shake it up? He's right about the rigidity of class: look around you next time you're asked to eat at ZuniA16IncantoOliveto. See much variation in color, politics, etc?

Despite it all, I still love Chez Panisse. It's the offspring that's tedious.

Anyone know about Daniel Patterson's upcoming restaurant?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

just out of curiosity: how would you describe the similarities between zuni, chez panisse and oliveto? (besides those of sociology and, sorry as i am to have to say it, that seems to me to be true of every major city in the us--the dining class seems to be small and fairly uniform).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There were so many issues raised in this one short article I find it difficult to put my finger on what's amiss. I was confused about egalitarianism. Surely Patterson can grasp that any restaurant that's flourished for over 35 years will have evolved beyond the founder's original vision. And as for it's range of influence, it extends far beyond the Bay Area. I'm not sure it's true that Chez Panisse assimilated into the mainstream because it played a critical role in redefining the mainstream.

So are La Folie, Aquerello, Fifth Floor, Cortez, and Gary Danko offering "comfortable home cooking with no particular point of view? Cause, man, those are homes I want to live in.

...I've read the piece several times. Patterson opens the article by saying he's a chef, about to open a new place. Fine. This piece is part marketing. Got it. Intrigue me.

There were interesting observations, other people's opinions, historical background, some inside dope, and...that's it. He raised issues in connection with other people's work but didn't explain how he's going to deal with those issues. He doesn't tell me how he's going to do it different/better, so the piece is fundamentally coy and therefore unsatisfying. It doesn't leave me with a favorable impression, which is a shame.

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Patterson seems to be discussing just one level of dining in San Francisco. Is that all he has experienced about SF cuisine? Is he failing to take into account the rich universe of casual dining that includes tapas bars, eclectic Mediterranean, and Mexican food eateries, all of which have access to fresh local produce, cheeses, nuts, olives, etc.? So isn't it oversimplification to point to Alice Waters as if she is the entire trend? I think the bar for flavor and dining experiences in the Bay Area is already very, very high. I don't think that dining in San Francisco is boring and homogenous at all! But then, I guess if you filter your dining experiences by reviews, trendiness and hit to your wallet, it would definitely limit your options.

_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

Find me on Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Patterson makes a perfectly valid point that successful restaurants in the Bay Area for the most part share the Chez Panisse philosophy of preparing simple and delicious dishes using great ingredients. Why torture the Frog Hollow peaches we get all summer into something unrecognizable, when a simple grilled peach with crème fraiche is so satisfying? Have you seen the greens that White Crane is selling at the Ferry Plaza farmers market? They clearly should be served in a simple way. Chefs here have the luxury of serving amazing fresh ingredients year round - no need to truck your veg across the country. The short winter days bring an end to the peppers, tomatoes, and stone fruit but they also bring the mushrooms, citrus and winter greens.

What I disagree with is Patterson’s argument that the result is bad. Delfina, Incanto, A16, Zuni, Quince, 1550 Hyde, etc, etc, etc are all serving seriously delicious food. Isn’t the point supposed to be making food that tastes good?

The now defunct Antidote in Sausalito is a prime example of a restaurant that ignored the advice offered by Chez Panisse 25 years ago that you should do what’s best for the ingredients and the end result will be good. Their food by many accounts was awful and they closed their doors. Winterland is a ghost town; they are on the same path as Antidote went down. It isn’t that people don’t want to eat interesting food, people want to enjoy their food.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alice Waters did not invent ingredient-focused cooking. Just because she is well known for bringing this point of view to the US doesn't mean it was unknown elsewhere (or, really, for that matter here) before her.

Go to Da Cesare in Albaretto della Torre in Piemonte. Is Patterson claiming that their simple, "homey" and ingredient focused (and driven) cooking was learned from Alice Waters? If I were to work at Da Cesare and then move to SF and open a restaurant based on what I'd learned working for Cesare would I be "tarred with the Chez Panisse brush"?

I find the article to be incredibly self-serving, self-centered and parochial.

fanatic...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alice Waters did not invent ingredient-focused cooking. Just because she is well known for bringing this point of view to the US doesn't mean it was unknown elsewhere (or, really, for that matter here) before her.

Of course she didn't invent simple cooking. But her restaurant has directly or indirectly trained an entire generation of chefs and it really is impossible to ingore the impact it has had on cooking in the region.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Always liked Patterson from the old ElisabethDaniel jewelbox.

"The issue is that everyone seems content with one narrowly defined style of cooking." --that's why SF restaurants are so boring and homogenous.

But what can shake it up? He's right about the rigidity of class: look around you next time you're asked to eat at ZuniA16IncantoOliveto. See much variation in color, politics, etc?

Despite it all, I still love Chez Panisse. It's the offspring that's tedious.

Anyone know about Daniel Patterson's upcoming restaurant?

Having returned recently from a trip to San Francisco - I didn't find the dining "boring". Far from it. And if I hadn't read that the chef/owner of Quince was an alumnus of Chez Panisse - I wouldn't have known (the food at the 2 places was very different). I didn't sense any rigidity in the city at all - except the rigid insistence on eating good food.

By the way - I am curious what people in this thread mean when they use the word "innovative" to describe a restaurant. What are the "innovative" restaurants in New York (or other cities in the US - just to give me a frame of reference)?

As for variations in color, politics, etc. - well - I have to laugh at that one. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. I live in a very red area of a red state - and the differences between San Francisco and NYC must be cultural sub-variations that only someone from Manhattan can understand :smile: . Robyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alice Waters did not invent ingredient-focused cooking. Just because she is well known for bringing this point of view to the US doesn't mean it was unknown elsewhere (or, really, for that matter here) before her.

Of course she didn't invent simple cooking. But her restaurant has directly or indirectly trained an entire generation of chefs and it really is impossible to ingore the impact it has had on cooking in the region.

and, of course, judging from the article anyway, it is her and judy rodgers' throwing of fire bombs through non-organic restaurant windows that has kept the tyranny in place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course she didn't invent simple cooking.  But her restaurant has directly or indirectly trained an entire generation of chefs and it really is impossible to ingore the impact it has had on cooking in the region.

Oh - there is no doubt about the fact that she has had a huge influence.

But not every chef in SF was trained by her and lumping all SF restaurants that focus on the quality of their ingredients into some sort of "Waters Hegemony" is simple ignorance.

As I said earlier - the article is really out of touch. It would have seemed somewhat inflammatory but perhaps true, oh... 15 years ago. But not now.

fanatic...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I remember correctly, the last NY Times Food and Living Style magazine featured a glowing article/interview with Mr. Patterson about his work at Frisson and the upcoming aromatherapy book. It was a bit inconveniently timed and neglected to mention that he had parted ways with Frisson at the time of publication.

<snarky>

Is Patterson the only chef in the bay area they can find with the time to talk to them?

</snarky>

I agree with most of the folks in this thread. He makes some interesting individual points and gives us some gossip; but, fails to present any sort of cogent thesis about where cuisine in the bay area should be going or insight into the challenges of opening a high profile restaurant in this very competitive city.

Hopefully his new venture will answer some of the questions his article raises.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi All, I hope it’s ok if I drop in on your conversation and clarify a few small points, and maybe add one or two of my own.

Editorial decisions, such as headlines and artwork, were made by the Times. They also injected the mention of my new restaurant into the text, as well as the fact that I’m a cook who lives in SF, correctly pointing out that most people outside the foodie world have no idea who I am.

This was a reported piece. I talked with about 20 people for the record, and at least that many informally, and there were only two people who disagreed with the basic premise that CP style of simple, traditional (ie culturally authentic), ingredient based cooking, dominates local food culture. The piece contains many of these supporting quotes. So when you dismiss my point of view out of hand, bear in mind that you are also dismissing the point of view of a wide range of chefs, food writers and editors, both locally and nationally.

I stated this explicitly in the article, but it’s worth repeating: I like, admire and respect Alice and Chez Panisse – I would eat there every week if I lived nearby and I could afford it. Zuni, Delfina, Oliveto, et al are some of my favorite places in the world. In no way was I or am I critical of those places. I am not saying “instead of”, I am saying “in addition to” – there’s a significant difference. I also am not in any way denigrating the importance of organic/sustainable ingredients. I have walked that walk since my first restaurant in ’94, in terms of what I use myself, both in restaurants and at home. I know all about the prices for organics at the Ferry building because I shop there several times a week. Both of those issues are red herrings.

I am also not saying one thing is better than another. I am not going to proselytize for a certain style of cooking. I know I won’t win this one – some people think I injected myself too much into the argument, some not enough. I wrote an analysis of a cultural phenomenon, not a food review, and what I personally like or don’t like is beside the point. I love all delicious food, both simple/traditional and modern/complex. Not all simple food, after all, is delicious, nor is all delicious food simple. As to what does and what does not qualify as delicious food, that’s an entirely different discussion. I only advocated for diversity, which I think would strengthen our food culture here.

The phenomenon itself did raise more complex issues, ones that extend beyond the kitchen. I wish that I had another 1000 words so I could have elaborated, but I had to settle for asking some open-ended questions. Some questions I could only hint at, like why is it that Alice’s mission has succeeded almost exclusively in liberal areas? Here’s a quick-ish 2 cents:

Before Alice there was Julia Child, and before Julia Child was JFK and Jackie O., who brought in Renee Verdon to be the first French chef at the White House. The Kennedys wed 60’s liberalism to an imported vision of a beautiful, glamorous and French-centric life. When CP opened in ‘71 it fused the 60’s Berkeley ideology, one that it shared with the JFK era, of making the world a kinder, better place, to a beautiful and seductive agrarian fantasy of an idealized lifestyle that Alice plucked directly from France and planted in her back yard, where it flourished. Part of that agrarian fantasy was a way of cooking, shopping and eating that she tried – and largely succeeded – to replicate here, and over time the politics, the fantasy of a beautiful life, and a specific way of cooking and eating, fused together into a catechism, irreducible into its separate parts, to be accepted in full or rejected outright. It has become in a sense our secular religion, the heirloom tomato becoming not just an heirloom tomato, but a symbol of a way of looking at the world and ourselves. By buying that organic tomato, and more importantly by cooking it only in certain prescribed ways, and by supporting restaurants that do the same (because there is little difference between CP-style cooking and good home cooking) we connect ourselves to that beautiful life while confirming our basic moral goodness as people. To reject that specific way of looking at food is to reject the liberal ideology and world view it represents. The reflexive way in which the article has been immediately dismissed by some, or its true points obscured by tangentially related arguments, might be seen as bearing this out to some degree.

But all world views are not created equal, and I live here because I happen to agree with Alice and most everyone else here, about both ingredients and politics. The fact that we San Franciscans can go years without having an in-person conversation (argument?) with a died-in-the-wool blue state type is not necessarily a good thing, and I think that it shrinks our understanding of the world outside our own area. As one food editor I talked with pointed out, “Like-minded people are increasing moving into like-minded societies, and it’s polarizing us as a nation.” I worry about the possibility of devolving into a collection of ideological city-states – the SF city-state, the NY city-state, the Houston city-state – each full of moral certitude, constantly waging intellectual and political battles with one another. The fantasy of an entirely self-sustaining regional culture is an infinitely appealing one, but this isn’t 15th century Italy. We are a massive, sprawling country, with the well-proven ability to inflict huge amounts of suffering on both ourselves and the rest of the world, and if we cannot learn how to communicate with each other in a human way, and find commonalities amongst the differences, it doesn’t bode well for anyone. I think that sooner or later we’re going to have to throw down the drawbridges and all wander out to talk to each other as people. For what it’s worth, I think that the online communities, as valuable and interesting as they are, have exacerbated the drift towards impersonality and polarized identities, and that the relative anonymity of the internet emboldens some to express themselves in ways that they never would in person. In that sense I wonder if it has become too easy, even here in such a civilized forum, to wander off the clean, well-lit path of intelligent and sensitive discourse, into the primordial swamp where baser emotions – fear, hatred, intolerance – thrive.

I learned from my grandmother when I was very young that cooking is not merely a collection of ingredients processed in a certain way, but a transfer of emotional energy between one person and another. It is at its most basic level an act of giving, an act of generosity, and above all something indelibly human, linked to our heads, but also to our hearts. Accepting divergent points of view in food is really about accepting a society in which there is a place for everyone. Is that really such a bad thing?

daniel

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First let me thank you for coming here to discuss your article. Your point that Chez Panisse style cooking is common in the bay area has some merit but I believe that without Chez Panisse the bay area restaurants would eventually get to the same place they are now.

I think that if simple rustic cooking is to be attributed to Alice Waters then the tyranny of Chez Panisse extends past the local restaurant scene and into the homes of most people who shop at the area farmers markets, those who fish, forage, hunt, and grow the ingredients they cook with. Food doesn't need to taste good for a restaurant to succeed - look at the Olive Garden and all the other chains that pollute our suburbs. If you've got a perfect frog hollow peach, do you eat it out of your hand or do you cook it into a cobbler? Those dirty girl dry farmed tomatoes... do they get cooked into tomato paste or served in an arrabiata or rubbed on grilled bread? I know when I pull a wild salmon out of the ocean it gets stuffed with fresh herbs and some sliced citrus and thrown on the grill. In the middle of the winter when I'm eating salmon from the freezer, I get more creative with it.

There is a place for cooks who are making interesting and creative dishes, but rent is already astronomical, good ingredients are expensive, how much labor can go into a dish and still make it to the table at a price people are willing to pay? The reason there aren't more restaurants like the French Laundry and Manresa is because there aren't very many people able to cook at that level even though there are a lot of people happy to charge those prices. Success at that level requires not just creativity, amazing ingredients, a well trained brigade, and a lot of luck, but it also requires the food to taste better than what is available down the street at half the price and that's where most of the more creative restaurants in the bay area fall flat on their face.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Daniel - You are certainly very welcome in this discussion. Certainly more so than I am (after all - I'm just someone who visits San Francisco once in a while).

What you say is very interesting (although there's a typo in your message - you typed "blue state" instead of "red state"). I am from northeast Florida - a very red part of a red state.

I find your use of the phrase "agrarian fantasy" particularly intriguing. A few years back - my husband and I attended a session at Cornell Adult University (we did that frequently - and I can recommend lots of the courses there - they are basically one week intensive courses for adults covering a huge number of subjects). This course was called "Farming in the Finger Lakes - The Myth of the Family Farm". Taught by a professor of agricultural economics in the ag school. Five mornings of lectures - five afternoon field trips to various agricultural operations. The point was that even in a "liberal" area like Ithaca NY - although there were some "boutique" type operations that did ok - the vast majority of local farmers - if they wanted to succeed - had to go "big and corporate" - whether they were dealing with dairy cows or chickens. What one sees at places like Union Square in NYC is not necessarily representative of the majority of people upstate who make a living raising animal or vegetable food products.

Florida is a very agricultural state (agriculture is second only to tourism in terms of state income). But most of our agriculture is huge and corporate (even when it's not "corporate" - it's very large - e.g., the Mormon Church has huge land holdings where it raises things like citrus). It's basically an economy of scale. There are a few boutique places that raise organic and/or exotic fruits. But most of the world wants/needs plain old juice oranges. At the lowest possible price (which is one reason why Florida continues to lose market share to lower cost countries - like Brazil). I was talking with a beef cow herd owner at the county fair last week - and although he still sells at the county fair - he has moved all of his herd to Oklahoma - because the cost of raising beef in Florida - it used to be the second largest beef state in the country - is no longer all that competitive (most of the cattle land has become too expensive for cattle).

In my particular county - the two largest crops are cabbage and potatoes. More cabbage and potatoes than you can imagine. The farms aren't small boutiques. You're not going to find purple heirloom potatoes or heirloom cabbages (is there such a thing as an heirloom cabbage :smile: ?). But the produce is good and fresh when bought locally and served up by some of the best restaurants in the area (like Opus 39 in St. Augustine) - or sold at local markets (even if they are large chain markets like Publix). Apart from cabbage and potatoes - and collards in the winter - okra in the summer - some local pepper products - and shrimp from the local shrimp fleet (we do have wonderful local shrimp) - everything we get comes from somewhere else - even if "somewhere else" is south Florida - which is over 300 miles away.

People have asked me why north Florida can't be like San Francisco or other places - why we can't have wonderful farmers' markets filled with local bounty. And the simple answer is not that much can be raised here. We're 90+ in the summer - have hard freezes in the winter. Sometimes months without rain - then 5 inches in a day. We can raise things like tomatoes for only a few months a year - when the 90+ days start in May - the bugs come too. As an amateur gardener - I can tell you that it would take a whole bunch of chemicals to keep all those bugs out of the tomatoes until June (and forget about July and August). I just lost all of my Meyer lemons (they split before they got sweet in the first cold of the season - so I had to settle for bitter Meyer lemon juice) because we had too much rain this summer. I suspect my area is typical of most areas in the US. You can grow/raise some things - but there's not a lot of variety. And - in most parts of the country - you can only raise the items that do well in a particular area at certain times of the year. That is certainly one reason why regional cuisines developed. Perhaps San Francisco is the regional cuisine of "agricultural abundance" most of the year?

Anyway - that is my "food for thought" tonight. And I have to ask you (as I asked in another message in this thread) - what do you think is "innovative cuisine"? When I looked at the front page of the style section in the New York Times this week (where your article appeared) - I had no idea what it was. So I had to look it up inside (and found out it was a lobster claw with a laboratory pipette filled with lobster essence - from MiniBar in Washington - accessorized with some diamonds). It looked very dramatic - especially the diamonds :smile: - but is there anything all that innovative about putting the sauce for the lobster in a piece of plastic? Glad you can join us. Robyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Editorial decisions, such as headlines and artwork, were made by the Times. They also injected the mention of my new restaurant into the text, as well as the fact that I’m a cook who lives in SF, correctly pointing out that most people outside the foodie world have no idea who I am.

This was a reported piece. I talked with about 20 people for the record, and at least that many informally, and there were only two people who disagreed with the basic premise that CP style of simple, traditional (ie culturally authentic), ingredient based cooking, dominates local food culture. The piece contains many of these supporting quotes.

I am also not saying one thing is better than another. I am not going to proselytize for a certain style of cooking. I know I won’t win this one – some people think I injected myself too much into the argument, some not enough. I wrote an analysis of a cultural phenomenon, not a food review, and what I personally like or don’t like is beside the point. I love all delicious food, both simple/traditional and modern/complex.

The phenomenon itself did raise more complex issues, ones that extend beyond the kitchen. I wish that I had another 1000 words so I could have elaborated, but I had to settle for asking some open-ended questions.

By buying that organic tomato, and more importantly by cooking it only in certain prescribed ways, and by supporting restaurants that do the same (because there is little difference between CP-style cooking and good home cooking) The fact that we San Franciscans can go years without having an in-person conversation (argument?) with a died-in-the-wool blue state type is not necessarily a good thing, and I think that it shrinks our understanding of the world outside our own area.

I hope you will understand that I don't question your right to have an opinion or to explore the opinions of others. My criticism remains that it's a first-person piece; it was not written as an objective analysis as I take your word "reportage" to mean.

It still lacks an essential element -- what the writer, who has told us he is a chef about to open a new restaurant -- will himself do given the situation he describes. How will he meet this challenge? Of course there is no conclusion about the macro issues that are raised. These are beyond the scope of any article, another 1,000 words or no! The author does a pretty good job of describing Alice Waters' passion, despite his somewhat wry attitude towards it. But to finish the piece, he needed to supply his own answering passion. A description of his friend's recipe doesn't do it.

I'm frankly lost on the whole egalitarian issue raised. (BTW, CA is a blue state. And plenty of us have contact contact with those who do not share individual political views.) I work for a SF employment law non-profit and the restaurant industry is rife with sexual harassment, discrimination, wage/hour violations...they're businesses, some wonderful to work for, some not. I respect CP and other businesses like it because they have integrated ethical principles and business practices. Not perfectly. But better than many.

And I have to really question the assertion that there's little difference between CP cooking and good home cooking. I ate at CP a few weeks ago. My mother's a fantastic cook but it ain't anything like CP. They have plenty of technique.

I think we can all agree that what CP lacks -- profoundly, utterly lacks -- is the now prerequisite usage of foam. Tsk, CP, tsk.

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And I have to really question the assertion that there's little difference between CP cooking and good home cooking.  I ate at CP a few weeks ago.  My mother's a fantastic cook but it ain't anything like CP.  They have plenty of technique.

The cooks at Chez Panisse may be better cooks than those at your home and the homes of people you know, but the fundamental dishes aren't difficult to reproduce without a recipe. The dishes may not be as good when you or your friends make them, but they will be identifiable. The same isn't true if you were to attempt the foie gras custard at Manresa without a recipe or Thomas Keller's oysters and pearls.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Melkor - I have a question. What if an ingredient for a dish - or the products of a particular purveyor- aren't available in San Francisco? Is there any orthodoxy about what one should or shouldn't do? E.g., I don't think there are fresh local saltwater shrimp in northern California. Does that mean no one does/should cook with shrimp? What if Niman Ranch (I assume that is the favored beef purveyor in San Francisco) is out of beef? Keeping in mind that some things (like shrimp) tend to travel well - while some things (like local crabs - whether they're blue - stone - or Dungeness - don't - at least in my opinion).

And should those of us who live thousands of miles from where salmon live never eat salmon? Should neither of us eat bread because we can't get local wheat?

I've read a fair number of chef comments on menus about not serving certain kinds of fish because of environmental concerns. But I've never seen a similar comment on a menu about rice - even in California - which is one of the silliest places to raise rice I've ever seen.

I think that what Mr. Patterson is complaining about is not the bounty of the area you both live in - but an orthodox approach to food which might preclude a chef from serving shrimp in San Francisco or salmon in Florida because neither is "local" (I won't get into the organic/non-organic argument - if Florida farmers tried to do "organic" - in most cases - everyone who ate organic would be eating more bugs than produce). Or an orthodox approach to food which might preclude a chef from serving an item which is politically incorrect (as publicized as the foie gras wars are - I think California rice - which requires so much scarce water - is actually the greater evil).

I have some understanding of what a local orthodox approach to food here means. There's a "settler village" exhibit here which - once a year - puts on a production. One of the highlights is how the settlers used to eat - from local sources. You can sample as much as you want. It isn't all that tasty - or even nutritious. So I for one am glad to have access to the best the world has to offer me these days.

By the way - the "main" I had at Chez Panisse for lunch was leftover beef (not specifically leftover Niman Ranch beef :wink: ). Parts of short ribs - brisket - etc. Shredded - assembled into kind of a small burger - seasoned - and lightly fried. The dish had an Italian name (forget what it was) - but it was basically a way to deal with leftovers (which in my opinion is one mark of a good chef - not wasting anything!). Didn't seem very orthodox - but it was mighty tasty. Robyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you miss my point. I agree with Chef Patterson that the Chez Panisse style cooking is very common in the bay area, but I don't find that to be a bad thing, he apparently does. California grows more rice than most rice producing countries nevermind the other states. I think the place to draw the line on the local vs shipped in debate is around things that travel well and things that don't. I wouldn't ship a ripe tomato to florida nor would I ship a fresh loaf of bread, but why not ship dry goods or sturdy meats? Niman is far from my favorite purveyor of meats, and their animals are raised all over the place, but they are a fair example of a producer that gets (got) a lot of menu placement. Salmon outside the pacific states is a tough example, sure you could pay for it to be shipped overnight or eat farm raised salmon, one is expensive the other an inferior tasting product - its your call.

So Robyn, that dish you had as your main at Chez Panisse, could you make it at home given a few containers of leftover meat?

edit: holy crap is this post incoherent.

Edited by melkor (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

dave: you make many good points, except that i am not advocating for less of anything - just more of other things. i have two questions for you: why are so few talented cooks who also see food differently drawn to this area? (as you pointed out, much of the "different" food we get here is not good) why didn't sf more strongly embrace laurent gras, who used terrific ingredients, great technique, and had a strong and divergent point of view? (i was sad to see him go, i thought he added some spice to the mix, so to speak)

ingridsf: thank you for pointing out my state color mistake, i can never get that right. thank you also for sharing your feelings about the article - the nature of a polemical argument is that some people will agree, in part or in whole, and some will not. but it started a conversation, which maybe made a few people think about things they might not have thought about otherwise. now, is foam the fifth horseman? because then we're all in trouble. think sabayon or zabaglione - those were new at one point as well, as was beurre blanc, hollandaise, etc. in foam's case, it fits the modern style of intense flavors combined with lightness of texture and less fat. it might be worth thinking about why it triggers such a vehement reaction, not just for you, but for many people - does the fact that it is not part of cp's repetoire mean that it shouldn't be anywhere? there are those who use new techniques like that in a way that fits nicely with their overall vision of food, and is not an artifical appendage. (see below)

robyn: thank you for your nice florida ag post - the agrarian fantasy alludes more to european landed gentry, not real working people who get up at five am and have cracked callouses and actually labor. anyway, i think that "innovative cuisine" varies according to time and place - what was innovative a century ago (beurre blanc, late 1800's i think) obviously loses that tag as it becomes familiar. judy rodgers at zuni was doing very innovative things with offal and other untraditional foods and techniques when she first started at zuni - not new for the world, but new for the area in that kind of restaurant, and she was very influential in developing the local food culture. now the rest of the area has caught up and many are doing something similar, but she went beyond cp in terms of adventurousness when she first opened. i think david at manresa is "innovative", but i said that in the article. michel bras is possible the perfect fusion of innovation and tradition. his voice is highly personal and unique, yet he is deeply wedded to the land. he uses local organic ingredients, including wild herbs and flowers that he and his staff gather from the local countryside around the restaurant. he serves a transcendant version of the traditional dish of aligot to everyone who eats there, connecting his food to the soul of the local culture, but he also uses sous vide and foams. i think that anyone who feels that new techniques - innovation if you will - have no place in food should eat chez bras, which i think is both soulful and exhilerating.

thanks for letting me participate, i appreciate the opportunity. but i am going to gracefully bow out now. this is not my cause, after all - it was just an article. i mostly wanted to be clear about my respect for the local chefs and the wonderful - because there is no question of that - food culture we have here. i was proposing only that even wonderful things can sometimes be improved upon.

warm regards.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On re-reading the piece again, I have to admit, Daniel, it is extremely well written. And I now see that you were building toward this point:

If, in the words of the chef Rodgers, "the accretion of good sense by a community of cooks leads to good cuisine," then perhaps an infusion of individuality, culinary experimentation and openness to new ideas can lead to great cuisine. We need more chefs like David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos, who uses local ingredients, precise technique and a generous helping of imagination to create a modern, innovative and highly personal style of cooking. As Jan Newberry, the food editor of San Francisco magazine, asked: "Why isn't there room for all of it? It's not an either-or proposition."

Can you tell us what gave you the creative itch to do these interviews and write this article? :smile:

I'm also curious as to your opinion relating to my earlier question, but let me phrase it differently . . . does the bounty of fresh foods that San Francisco enjoys affect diners tastes and expectations at all levels? If someone accustomed to buying fresh and really high-quality take-out sushi for lunch, or all the incredibly stacked and innovative sandwiches you see everywhere, or collecting fresh salad and soup ingredients at farmers' markets, or attending cooking classes at Copia or local wineries--is this kind of dining clientele going to be harder to please at a high end level? Or even jaded about dining out?

As for Alice Waters, speaking for myself, I enjoy the food immensely and I respect her tireless efforts to promote good quality ingredients and respectful cooking, but I think she is also busily promoting herself, and while I respect her business acumen, I get just a little tired of constantly having others point to Alice Waters as the sole voice for the organic foods trend.

Edited to add: Walked away from my desk mid-post . . . did I just miss him? Dang! :sad:

_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

Find me on Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As for Alice Waters, speaking for myself, I enjoy the food immensely and I respect her tireless efforts to promote good quality ingredients and respectful cooking, but I think she is also busily promoting herself, and while I respect her business acumen, I get just a little tired of constantly having others point to Alice Waters as the sole voice for the organic foods trend.

I don't get the impression that Waters is promoting herself so much as her cause. Others are using her as a punching bag or a saint to make their points (both pro and con) but her passion is getting people to eat well, which is far bigger problem in this country than whether innovation is possible in the San Francisco restaurant scene.

She has an agenda and people can use her to put a face on the cause, but she could be on Campbells soup cans if she wanted and she's not. The only endoresement I know of was for Ball canning jars (promoting home grown food).

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...