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Pete Wells Praises Paris' L'Arpège

Pete Wells Praises Paris' L'Arpège


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This week, Pete Wells traveled to Paris to sample chef Alain Passard’s vegetable tasting menu at L’Arpège, and wax philosophical on the rise of farm-to-table dining.

The restaurant opened in 1986, specializing in slow-cooked meats but in 2001, it underwent a major transformation, with Passard switching his focus to vegetables. Currently, L’Arpège’s menu is “beyond organic,” with food sourced from Passard’s three French farms.

Wells was hugely impressed by the hugely priced ($375 for his dinner alone), dozen-course tasting meal that “started with a plate of leafy radishes followed by a small cabbage turnover, and ended with a garlic crème brûlée whose burned-sugar shell had been liberally spritzed with lemon confit.”

Of his nearly meatless dinner, Wells wrote “Mr. Passard’s cooking pulled me in like a conversation with a smart, literate, funny friend,” adding, “If vegetables can have feelings, these did. They tasted happy.”

Wells also took time to comment on France’s place in the culinary word, writing, “You’ve probably read that France stopped mattering after nouvelle cuisine flared down,” adding “I’m sorry to say this, but that narrative is a lie dreamed up by people who want to put France in its place… The most dramatic example of a restaurant that won’t fit into that story is L’Arpège.”

Wells finished the review with more praise: “For its lightness, brightness, beauty, and elegance, my single meal at L’Arpège was in an eye-opening class by itself.”

You can find Wells' full review here.


&lsquoIf you&rsquore going to kill a holy cow, use a bazooka&rsquo

A canape likened to “a condom that’s been left lying about in a dusty greengrocer’s” a starter of gratinated onions that is “mostly black, like nightmares, and sticky like the floor of a teenager’s party”, and a dessert featuring “milk skin draped over it, like something that’s fallen off a burns victim” – restaurant critic Jay Rayner didn’t mince his words when writing about his €600 dinner at Le Cinq, the restaurant at the Four Seasons Hôtel George V in Paris.

The scathing review, which appeared in Sunday’s Observer newspaper and online, “has been viewed nearly 1.2 million times”, its author told The Irish Times on Monday. It has also attracted a record number of reader comments, 2,595 at the time of writing – “the largest number of comments I’ve ever had”, Rayner said.

Chefs’ reaction

Reaction to the review from chefs came swiftly on Sunday. “WOW!”, tweeted Michel Roux Jr of French restaurant Le Gavroche in London, while Irish-born chef and restaurateur Stevie Parle responded with: “As I think AA Gill once wrote: If you’re going to kill a holy cow, use a bazooka”.

The furore raised by the review of the three-course meal, plus canapes, that featured starters costing €70 and €92, main courses at €95, and a single dessert at €36 was such that Le Cinq was trending on Twitter in the UK on Sunday, and the volume of traffic to the writer’s own website caused it to crash. (It is still wobbling slightly, but as he instructs, repeat the request a few times and you’ll be allowed in.)

The cost of the second dessert Rayner and his dining companion ordered, which he described as “cheesecake with lumps of frozen parsley powder”, was deducted from the bill when he told a staff member it was “one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten”.

The reviewer and his companion each drank a glass of Champagne, and a glass each of white and red wine, with mint tea at a whopping €15 a cup, bringing their beverages tab to an almost, modest by comparison, €170.

Rayner is no stranger to the French capital’s temples of gastronomy and their wallet-lightening abilities. “My bill at L’Arpège in Paris was bigger, and I liked more of that,” he said on Monday, and Irish food writer and former resident of the French capital, Trish Deseine, recalls “having eaten most joyfully in Paris with him”.

Blistering critique

So what turned what Rayner said he expected to be, less a review than “an observational piece, full of moments of joy and bliss, of the sort only stupid amounts of cash can buy”, into one of the most blistering critiques he has ever written?

The key to understanding the emotion fuelling Rayner’s invective, without actually tasting what he described as the “shamefully terrible cooking”, lies in the photographs he and his companion took of the dishes presented to them, versus the restaurant-supplied press shots the newspaper used to illustrate the review, after they were refused permission to shoot their own images, as is the usual procedure.

On his website, Rayner reveals, “Apparently it was too expensive for them to make these dishes just for them to be photographed.”

The most startling difference is with the gratinated onion dish, which in the images supplied by the restaurant has a burnished golden glow, punctuated by pools of darkness, alleviated by domes of vibrant green. You’d certainly want to eat it (whether you’d want to pay €70 for it is another matter). But in the images captured by the reviewer and his fellow diner, it is indeed “mostly black”, and compellingly unappetising.

But could it just have been an off night (not that those should occur, at those prices and with three Michelin stars over the door)?

Trish Deseine says no. “I went a few years ago, with a French companion, when Le Cinq had two stars, and before [current head chef, Christian] Le Squer. We disliked the stuffiness and the frankly strange cuisine. At least at L’Ambroisie, where you are treated even more haughtily, you are always blown away by the food.

“My companion is one of the most elegantly dressed men I know and they made him wear a horrid, cheap blazer which did not help l’ambiance.

“It had the reputation of a bit of a doomed dining room, stuck in the past, and has been trying for three stars for years, until finally they pulled it off last year.”

Deseine says reading the review, “made me miss AA Gill a little less. No hysterics or ego, more sadness and disbelief. I loved it”.

‘Sacred cows’

Gill, no stranger to the wielding the hatchet, also lampooned several “sacred cows” of the culinary world in the Sunday Times restaurant review column he wrote until his death late last year (including, in 2014, the restaurant at Ballymaloe House in Co Cork).

And, writing in the New York Times, critic Pete Wells revised the score given to Thomas Keller’s Per Se, where dinner costs $325, downwards from four stars (the publication’s highest rating, awarded by Wells’s predecessor Sam Sifton), to a scandal-inducing two. Keller responded by posting an apology to his customers on his website.

Le Cinq is unlikely to follow this approach. On Monday, Rayner said that he, and the newspaper, “have had no contact from the restaurant”.


Hugo Desnoyer Paris's Butcher to the Stars

PARIS -- You might call Hugo Desnoyer the butcher to the stars. With an amazing roster of Michelin-starred chefs and equally conscientious bistro owners, this tall, lean, modest 33-year-old has every reason to be proud of his devoted clientele.

Photo of Hugo Desnoyer at his butcher shopI first heard of Hugo from restaurateur Claude Colliot (sadly, now departed from his 7th arrondissment restaurant Bamboche) after commenting on the chef’s fine quality of his lamb and veal. Soon, Desnoyer’s name was being mentioned everywhere, from bistro owner William Bernet of Le Sévero in the 14th arrondissement and on to the very demanding Michelin three-star chef Pierre Gagnaire, with the restaurant that bears his name in the 8th arrondissement.

While growing up in the Mayenne in France’s rich Loire Valley , Hugo dreamed of being a chef but found the milieu not very welcoming. He needed a job, apprenticed to a local butcher, and moved up the ladder as far as his ambitions would take him. He opened his own butcher shop on the rue Mouton-Duvernet in the 14th arrondissment on April 1, 1998. Soon he was drawing the attention of Gagnaire, Bernard Pacaud of the three-star L’Ambroisie, Alain Passard of the three-star L’Arpège, Bernard Guichard of the two-star Jamin, Patrice Barbot of the one-star l’Astrance, as well as the chefs at L’Ami Louis, where lamb, beef, and chicken form the cornerstone of the menu.

When Desnoyer opened the shop he and his wife, Chris, were the only employees. They now number seven, supplying the French minister of education as well as many faithful Parisians who eagerly cross town to sample his tender three-month-old lamb from the Lozère in the center of France, where the animals graze on fragrant wild cumin, pimpernel, and sweet clover as well as his well-marbled beef from an ancient breed of cow that closely resembles a bison – the Salers – a meat that cooks and diners love for its forward, beefy flavors and, some say, a mild perfume of hazelnuts.

In the small, modest-looking shop, clients also find dozens of ready-to-cook preparations, ranging from veal roast stuffed with ham and cheese pork roast stuffed with prunes, figs, peaches, or apricots chicken brochettes marinated with coriander or chickens boned and stuffed with truffles, wild cèpe mushrooms, apples, or chestnuts.

Each morning at 3 am Desnoyer arrives at the Rungis wholesale market, where his meat and poultry is housed after being transported from his suppliers in the French countryside. He works directly with the farmers, whom he visits on vacation and who have become like members of his family.

Despite the excellent products he finds today, Desnoyer feels that the quality of French meats are not what they once were. “And the reason is quite simple,” notes the butcher. “No young Frenchman today is going to go out, buy land, and start raising a few animals. “

He feels that in France the role of the family farmer has been undervalued, and there is no incentive for farmers to raise quality meats. “Before 1980, almost ALL French meats were top quality. One can’t say that today.” notes Desnoyer.

Despite all that, he notes “It’s crazy. It’s so simple, really. The cow didn’t invent anything. He only eats grass. Everyone, including farmers, are too impatient today, too much in a hurry.”

Despite the long hours, Desnoyer’s reward is, of course, dining in all the fine restaurants he supplies, to see what the chefs are doing to his meats and poultry. His toughest customer is chef Bernard Pacaud of L’Ambroisie, who, according to the butcher, has the highest standards of any chef. The chef who gives him the most pleasure is Pascal Barbot of l’Astrance. “he is just so grateful. He calls all the time to just to say thank you, thank you, and thank you.”

But even the housewives on the street can give him a hard time. “The meat may look great, but be insipid, with absolutely no flavor. If that’s the case, they let me know, for sure.”


All the Wine That’s Fit to Print

The first mention of wine in a weekly New York Times restaurant review was concise: “Wines in bottles and carafes.” It appeared on May 18, 1962, in the first installment of a series called “Directory to Dining” by Craig Claiborne describing Gaston, an “inspired French kitchen” at 48 East 49th Street. Over the course of Claiborne’s decade-long role as a critic, the father of the Times’ restaurant review never wasted much ink on wine. Even when these short missives developed into starred evaluations in 1963, wine was mentioned when it comprised the base for a bordelaise sauce, or when a misstep in service provided Claiborne with occasion to cast his sly humor on the interaction. Every so often Montrachet, Pouilly-Fuissé or Saint-Émilion got a generic shout-out, sometimes with a vintage, but wine mentions were mostly deployed as a scale of pricing.

To be fair, there wasn’t very much to write about in those days. Only three decades removed from Prohibition and the Great Depression and two from World War II, America’s cellars were still relatively homogeneous. If you were eating Italian, you drank Italian. Anywhere else, you drank French. When a wine list was written up as “good” or “adequate,” there was little explanation for what constituted such a conclusion. Colman Andrews, co-founding editor of Saveur, recalls the state of dining criticism in the late 1960s, when he began writing: “I noticed critics around the country almost never mentioned wine, or when they did, it was quick mention, not very considered,” he says. “There was a lack of awareness of what constituted a good wine list.”

This trend of glancing appraisal continued through critics Raymond Sokolov (1971-1973), John L. Hess (1973-1974) and John Canaday’s (1974-1976) tenures at the paper. But in 1976, something shifted. Not only did May 24th’s famed “Judgment of Paris” (the first instance in which California wines were rated over French in a blind tasting) bring domestic wine into the global spotlight, but Mimi Sheraton joined the Times as food critic, giving the post a new sense of studied authority.

A tireless researcher who once famously collected 104 corned beef sandwiches in a day for a piece about delis, Sheraton began to call out wines by producer. It wasn’t very often, and it rarely garnered more than a line, but her choices strayed from the traditional. In a 1977 review of Gargiulo’s, in Coney Island, she notes a Bolla Bardolino for $6 a bottle and “a tangy, refreshing Sicilian Alcamo Rosso” for $7.50 (about $26 and $33 today, respectively). In a 1977 review of Pantheon, a Greek restaurant in the Theater District, she enjoys “a sharply astringent resin-tinged retsina.” At Red Tulip, in 1978, she tastes a “dry, gold-colored Tokay Szamorodni” and an Egri Bikaver, a historic Hungarian red blend, both for $8.50 a bottle. In 1980, she writes about the joys of Austrian whites at the four-star Upper East Side restaurant Vienna ’79 and takes pleasure in a “smooth Spanish red Rioja bottled by Federico Paternino[sic]” in 1984.

Sheraton also began the practice of evaluating wine lists, calling out the now-institutional Raoul’s back in 1976 for not listing prices, and faulting Le Cirque for its expensive, “unimaginative and unexciting” list in 1977. She praises “21” for its “outstanding collection” rife with “exceptionally good buys” including a 1976 Châteauneuf-du-Pape for $15 and a 1969 Nuits-St.-Georges at $18 (today $62.07 and $75, respectively). In 1980, she deems Grand Central Oyster Bar’s selection a failure, calling its repertoire of California whites laudable, but its lack of reds unfortunate.

“ While Claiborne and Sheraton broke ground, Miller ushered in a new way of seeing restaurants. ”

As with her criticism of food, Sheraton was unflinching in her evaluation of wine, but it was still mostly in service to scene-setting and comparative pricing. The real turning point arrived with Bryan Miller’s tenure in 1984, following a short stint by Marian Burros. While Claiborne and Sheraton broke ground, Miller, during his near-decade career as critic, ushered in a new way of seeing restaurants. “Bryan was pivotal by nature of being there at a pivotal moment,” says current critic Pete Wells, describing the rise of chef-oriented dining culture in America, and with it, the introduction of carefully honed restaurant concepts. Miller took note of this new milieu as well as the currents shaping wine: the introduction of Australian and South African wines the inertia of California and Washington the Cruvinet microtrend the advent of wine pairings Wine Spectator–sponsored lists, ratings included and Brooklyn’s first wine bar, De’Vine, a Park Slope haunt with 45 wines by the glass.

Miller also makes, according to my research, the first mention of a sommelier by first and last name (back in ’72 and ’73, Sokolov tipped his hat to “Victor,” a tastevin-wearing sommelier at Brussels on East 54th Street). In 1985, he writes about Hubert’s, a three-star “untraditional American” restaurant, saying, “Few restaurants in the city make such a serious attempt to match food with wine. Josh Wesson, the encyclopedic and erudite sommelier, never fails to come through with felicitous suggestions, which often include little-known wines that are a delight to discover.” In subsequent reviews, he shines a light on Philippe Nusswitz, a 23-year-old “wine Wunderkind” at Coq d’Or, and Raymond Wellington, who caters to “sophisticated wine drinkers” at The Post House. Miller, whether he and his successors realized it or not, set a standard for the kind of attention a New York Times restaurant critic would be expected to devote to the subject and its relationship to American dining culture.

In 1993, when Ruth Reichl ventured east from Los Angeles, where she had been the food and restaurant editor at the Los Angeles Times, she’d already given plenty of thought to how wine should be treated in a review. In that previous job, she often assigned short supplemental wine columns to writer Dan Berger as a way to balance the short shrift given to wine programs in the reviews themselves. “I’ve never understood why that isn’t done more. It had a huge impact on both the quality of the lists and the price of the wines,” says Reichl, explaining the reviews’ power of checks and balances on restaurant markups.

There was a real chauvinism in wine that changed as sommeliers started to be women, as women started to be hosts.

During her six years at the Times, Reichl, known for her many disguises and diplomatic lens, took note of not only the blossoming role of sommeliers as personalities, but also of wine service, and its relationship to socioeconomics and gender. In a wonderfully ferocious review from 1993 she states, matter-of-factly, “Women and wine are an uncomfortable mix at Le Cirque,” going on to recount the way in which a waiter snatches a wine list from her, before insisting that the half-bottle of riesling she’s ordered doesn’t exist. (In a redemptive 1997 review, she gives credit to the restaurant for its inclusive list, put together by Ralph Hersom.) She tells me that while dining with another woman at Palio, a Midtown Italian institution, she discovered the bottle they’d ordered was corked when she alerted the sommelier, he dismissed her out of hand. “There was a real chauvinism in wine that changed as sommeliers started to be women, as women started to be hosts,” she says.

In those years, French food still had a hold on the New York dining scene, but a new wave of restaurateurs—Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Alain Ducasse—were reevaluating the approach, and along with them arrived a cadre of apt sommeliers. Reichl writes of Roger Dagorn’s bighearted approach to wine at Chanterelle (“few restaurants offer such pleasant and such unintimidating wine service”) Jean-Luc Le Dû’s taste for the unusual at Café Boulud (“his eyes shine when he tells you about the people who make them”), Nicola Marzovilla’s excitement for Barolo at Tempo and Daniel Johnnes’ everyman approach at Montrachet (he “reels off a list of delicious and inexpensive bottles, discussing them as lovingly as if they were grand crus”).

Little gets by Reichl’s studied eye: a stenciled glass decanter at the theatrically old-school Il Giglio in 1997 stemless wine glasses at the polemical, boundary-pushing Tabla in 1999 and a deftly reprinted menu at the lavish Lespinasse to reflect the cellar’s up-to-the-second status, prompted by her order of a sold-out 1992 Chassagne-Montrachet La Romanée from Verget (she is offered an older vintage from Colin-Deléger for the same price). She also notices when Jean-Georges hires women and people of color, noting “it is so rare in fancy French restaurants.” In Reichl’s distinctive rendering, wine in the pages of the Times revealed the progress and anachronisms of a city in flux.

The dining scene Reichl left behind for Gourmet in 1999 is one still embroidered with the old world—including lingering gender norms—but teed up for the gastronomic boom of the early aughts. By the time William Grimes settles in as the Times’ critic, farmers market fare is no longer solely Californian, Keith McNally and Danny Meyer have secured a permanent slot in the spotlight, and prestige cellars built upon financiers’ private collections are the norm in fine dining. The city Grimes turns his eye upon is rich with drink. Expectations for which wines were appropriate to a restaurant’s theme had been set, and he goes about making the point that a wine list can and should complete a restaurant’s point of view.

Continuing in the tradition of Reichl, Grimes spends a great deal of time observing the burgeoning role of sommelier. Andrea Immer of Wild Blue in the World Trade Center is noted for her 1,200-bottle list. Le Dû, now stationed at Daniel, champions Oregon alongside Chablis and Côte Rôtie. Robert Bohr appears for the first of many times at Colina after a stint at Babbo. And at Ilo, Kim Anderson has become a “missionary” for Madeira. Following September 11, Kevin Zraly garners his own paragraph in Grimes’ 2001 ode to Windows on the World. “The wines at Cellar in the Sky came from an extraordinary list developed by a 25-year-old wine salesman named Kevin Zraly, who so impressed Ms. Kafka that she urged Mr. Baum to hire him. He never left.” It’s finally in Grimes’ era that wine comes to bear regularly in a review. He demonstrates that sitting down with an original wine list can hold the same promise of adventure as any food menu.

Frank Bruni’s era, which began in 2004 and ended in 2009, was one cleaved by the Great Recession. In the beginning of his tenure, he dines at Cru, watching Robert Bohr, “a man [who] lives to decant,” “mulling microclimates” and shepherding a 3,200-bottle list bequeathed by owner Roy Welland. In 2005, Bruni notes the $18 Ciroc Martini at Ducasse, as well as the list’s lack of bottles under $100. In the same year in a dispatch from Chicago, he encounters a “glass of deconstructed white wine” at Alinea (“a translucent rectangle of grape jelly with pinpricks of herbs, nuts and fruits often evoked by wine”). In 2006, Gilt at the Palace Hotel debuts a menu of red wines by the glass that range from $20 to $1,000.

Then, in 2008, the spiral downward begins. Recession specials abound, and the era of biodynamic and organic wines—“natural” was not yet common parlance—starts to take off. It’s around this time that Bruni notes a new kind of hybrid emerging, “a wine-bar evolution so thorough that nomenclature can’t keep up.” In a column devoted to Gottino, Terroir and Craftbar, he foretells the boom of wine-focused restaurant-bars to come. He tells me that he arrived to the job as a wine lover and spent a quite a bit of time thinking about the subject in relation to the restaurant’s identity and intentions, always asking the question: “Was it trying to keep an interesting wine adventure within reach?”

“ He observes the concept of a wine-forward restaurant being twisted into a hideout of punk rock dissonance. ”

Even as wine was experiencing a cultural overhaul, its presence in restaurant reviews falters with Sam Sifton, who served a quick two years between 2009 and 2011 before taking over direction of the paper’s food section. On the occasion he dedicates space to wine, it’s often less about context or trends, and more to note price point or spectacle. At SD26, it’s the 1,000 choices available on a tablet computer. At Annisa, it’s Jennifer Scism’s female-only producer list, a concept he calls “hamstrung by a presumably laudable conceit that would be winning if it didn’t seem so anachronistic.” On the sommelier front, Josh Nadel pops up often, Michael Madrigale takes the reins of Café Boulud and Hristo Zisovski expands the definition of Northern Italian at Ai Fiori. In context, the paring back feels austere—perhaps a harbinger of the teetotaling generation to come—but also like a missed opportunity, considering the flourishing scene.

The dearth of wine coverage follows current critic Pete Wells through the first couple years of his term. Where Wells does become enthusiastic about wine, however, is the place where Bruni’s observation about the blurring of bars and restaurants burbles over into full-on movement. Starting with Pearl & Ash in 2013, the bygone Bowery project known for its bar-top Champagne-sabering ritual, he observes the concept of a wine-forward restaurant being twisted into a hideout of punk rock dissonance. He notes sommelier Patrick Cappiello for his “humane markups” and Cappiello’s transformation from stuffy suit at Gilt into a Black Flag T-shirt–clad dissenter—unwittingly marking the moment when we’re introduced to the “somm.”

In 2014, Wells applauds Racines, the elevated spinoff of the Paris-based bar à vins, documenting its industry following. Cappiello’s 2015 follow-up, Rebelle, gets points for supporting the “small-scale winemaking rebellion.” Jason Wagner is an apt decoder of mondeuse and macabeo at the short-lived but beloved LES restaurant Fung Tu, and Jorge Riera at Wildair gets cred for championing “winemakers who believe in letting nature have its way.” Many paragraphs are devoted to Robert Bohr and Grant Reynolds, the Zalto-democratizing, celebrity-hosting duo behind Charlie Bird, Pasquale Jones and Legacy Records. And, more recently, the five-year-old Four Horsemen gets proper recognition for being not only a trailblazing concept equivalent to the American bar à vins, but emerging as a restaurant worth the full Times treatment.

“Maybe the thing I’m describing is a scene where it’s gotten harder and harder to tell restaurants and bars apart,” says Wells, articulating the nature of the topographical shift during his tenure. “At the same time, who drinks wine in New York has changed and what they drink has changed. Younger people are drinking wine with a seriousness and confidence they didn’t have 15 years ago. That’s part of what I’m seeing out in the world.”

Within the lineage of Times critics, Wells sees himself as continuing a studious tradition of documentation, of stowing textured details away in a time capsule, so to speak, so that one day they might be exhumed, and held up to the light and interpreted. (Even during this protracted suspension of public dining, he continues writing about the state of American restaurants.) For nearly 60 years, the ultimate role of the dining critic has been not only an interpreter of the present, but of the past: What does it say about us that we built these restaurants? What does it say about us that we ate this food, that we drank this wine?


EUROPE

Gut Purbach, Purbach
“This elegant country inn in eastern Austria, close to the Hungarian border, specializes in Austrian game dishes like sandpiper and red-legged partridge.” Georges Desrues, food writer

Toklarija, Sovinjsko Polje
“The most memorable dish is in the hills of Istria: a tangle of homemade tagliolini piled high with a bounty of truffles shaved tableside.” Fiorella Valdesolo, editor in chief of Gather Journal

Kadeau, Bornholm
“Precise and delicious cooking in one of the most beautiful locations on the planet.” Matt Duckor, senior editor at Epicurious

Amass, Copenhagen
“One simply cannot live without Matt Orlando’s fermented potato bread.” Seen Lippert, former Chez Panisse chef and world traveler

Manfreds, Copenhagen
“The kind of place you can while away an afternoon, drinking natural and biodynamic wines paired with edible haiku like spring onions with pistachio cream and elderflower.” Bill Addison, restaurant editor at Eater.com

From the mad mind of chef René Redzepi came Noma.

Noma, Copenhagen
“Name a restaurant trend of the past ten years and it is likely to have originated from the mad mind of chef René Redzepi. There are plenty of imitators, but there’s only one master.” David Prior, contributing editor

Relæ, Copenhagen
“Any restaurant that opens these days promising affordable tasting menus and creative cooking probably owes chef Christian Puglisi a great debt. Six years in, and now overseen by executive chef Jonathan Tam, Relæ remains one of the most influential and thoughtful in the world.” Gabe Ulla, food writer

Market Bistro, King’s Lynn
“This place is a revelation—unpretentiously locavore-ish, welcoming, and personal. The house-made breads are brilliant.” Kate Sekules, food and travel expert

The Clove Club, London
“This is where young British chefs take aspects of gourmet pub fare and good local ingredients and bring them to a whole new innovative level. I had super-tender fried chicken with pine salt that was excellent.” Dominique Ansel, baker

Gymkhana, London
“The city’s most ambitious and luxurious Indian restaurant, right in the heart of elegant Mayfair.” Peter Jon Lindberg, contributing editor

James Knappett of Kitchen Table in London is a "freaking savant."

Kitchen Table, London
“James Knappett harvests his own samphire from the Cornish coast, collects verbena from his mom’s backyard in Cambridgeshire, and makes biscuits with pine. He’s a freaking savant.” Peter Jon Lindberg

Kitty Fisher’s, London
“A devilishly cozy restaurant hidden away in Shepherd Market, with wood-paneled walls, dusty-pink velvet banquettes, and raffish, informal service. The aged Galician beef is a must.” Skye McAlpine, food writer and Instagrammer

The Ledbury, London
“Sophisticated tweezer food that’s never cloying, just exactly precious enough.” Peter Jon Lindberg

Lyle’s, London
“Chef James Lowe’s food—like his springy salad of pea shoots, podded peas, and Ticklemore cheese—represents an evolution of British cuisine from sturdy nose-to-tail cooking to an elegant celebration of the delicacy of the English seasons.” David Prior

Lyle's represents an "elegant celebration of the delicacy of the English seasons."

Nopi, London
“Amazing and surprising use of Mediterranean herbs. Sit at the communal table downstairs, right by the kitchen pass, with a view of all the action.” Steve Wilson, co-founder/CEO of the 21c Museum Hotels

Ognisko, London
“Like being invited to the most fabulous dinner party. I love the blini with herring, the goose confit, smoked eel salad, golonka, and steak tartare.” Kate Sekules

The Quality Chop House, London
“Warm, unpretentious, and just plain delicious—with food and wine to match.” Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group and founder of Shake Shack

The River Café, London
“Quite possibly my favorite Italian restaurant in the world.” Danny Meyer

Rochelle Canteen, London
“Everything works for me inside the walls of Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold’s art-world lunch spot.” Andrew Tarlow, owner of Wythe Hotel, Diner, and Marlow & Sons in New York City

Spring, London
“By far the prettiest dining room in London—and the food is exquisite.” Skye McAlpine

St. John, London
“Buttery Eccles cakes with Lancashire cheese, meat pies, and tongue with pickled walnuts—all cooked to perfection. You’ll wonder how Britain ever came to suffer from a poor culinary reputation.” Skye McAlpine

We plan layovers in Paris just to dine at Au Vieux Comptoir.

Courtesy Au Vieux Comptoir

La Ferme de la Ruchotte, Bligny-sur-Ouche
“Frédéric Menager trained in some of Paris’s best kitchens before turning his hand to rearing poultry. Every weekend he cooks lunch beneath his family home, serving the best local produce from the area.” James Henry, chef at Belon in Hong Kong

Brasserie Georges Lyon
“An Art Deco jewel serving traditional local cuisine like tablier de sapeur, or pan-fried tripe, and wonderfully fresh seafood. It’s also one of the few brasseries to brew its own beer.” Georges Desrues

Paul Bocuse, Lyon
“Everything on the menu is classic and delicious. Eat it all, if you can.” Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli, chefs/co-owners of Frankies Spuntino and Prime Meats in New York City

Restaurant Chez Michel, Marseille
“The best bouillabaisse I’ve ever had in my life.” Daniel Humm, chef and co-owner of Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad in New York City

Le Bistrot du Paradou, Paradou
“Stone floors and walls, family tables, pastis, and beautifully executed recipes that Grandmother would have cooked. Go for Friday lunch.” Libby Travers, food writer

42: The number of countries our sources nominated restaurants in.

Au Vieux Comptoir, Paris
“It would be a shame to miss the magret de canard, but you can never go wrong with the specials. I plan layovers in Paris just so I can devour their mind-bending sweetbreads.” Dawn Hagin, chief inspiration officer at Lark Hotels

Chez L’Ami Jean, Paris
“Still a top contender for best traditional bistro in town, albeit more Basque-inflected than your typical place.” Peter Jon Lindberg

Clamato, Paris
“I go for a glass of wine and wonderful-quality oysters. It reminds me of how the city was when I first lived there.” Alice Waters of Chez Panisse

Clown Bar, Paris “Where you’ll find all the best chefs on a Sunday night after their own restaurants close. There’s insanely good offal dishes and a natural-wine list.” Peter Jon Lindberg

Frenchie, Paris
“I usually secure a reservation before our flights are even booked. Chef Grégory Marchand’s technique blows me away.” Ford Fry, chef/owner of The Optimist, BeetleCat, and others in Atlanta

L’Ambroisie, Paris
“Everything here is special, from the gorgeous 18th-century decor to the chocolate tart, which is the absolute best.” Daniel Humm

Chef Alain Passard of L’Arpège "is a vegetable virtuoso."

L’Arpège, Paris
“Chef Alain Passard is a vegetable virtuoso.” Tim Ryan, president of The Culinary Institute of America

L’Astrance, Paris
“The most balanced and joyfully bright tasting menu. Always inspired and perfectly executed.” Seen Lippert

Le Baratin, Paris
“The lovely veal brains with lemon butter sauce, chives, and soft baby potatoes are simple and perfect.” Dominique Ansel

Le Chateaubriand, Paris
“The tasting menu is executed at just the right rhythm, and the wine pairings are phenomenal. Call exactly three weeks ahead for a reservation.” Deana Saukam, food writer

Le Comptoir du Relais, Paris
“It’s always crowded. Go for lunch and order the oeufs mayonnaise, terrine of pâté, and whatever seems seasonal.” Mitchell Davis, executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation

Le Servan, Paris
“The super-talented Levha sisters have updated the classic bistro.” Peter Jon Lindberg

Miznon, Paris
“Probably the best lunch spot in Paris. Get the whole roasted head of cauliflower, legendary in the inner circles of Paris.” Ken Oringer, chef/co-owner of Uni, Toro, and Coppa in Boston

Septime, Paris
“Thoughtful food that lets the produce tell its story, alongside a delightful wine list and an ambience that feels like home.” Libby Travers

Le Club 55, Ramatuelle
“This place near St-Tropez has some of the best beachfront dining anywhere. Crudités with anchovy dipping sauce and whole grilled fish are my go-tos.” Ken Oringer

Shiso Burger, Berlin
“I’d fly back for the bulgogi cheeseburger alone.” Sarah Khan, food and travel writer

Ristorante da Cesare, Albaretto della Torre
“I have fever dreams about Giaccone’s local wild mushroom and peach salad.” Fiorella Valdesolo

Ristorante Battaglino, Bra
“A traditional Piedmontese restaurant with dishes like the mythical finanziera, a stew of offal and cock’s crests.” Georges Desrues

Buca dell’Orafo, Florence
“I long for the tortino, a simple omelet made with artichokes or porcini, depending on the season. It’s so delicious it defies science.” Mitchell Davis

Lo Scoglio, Marina del Cantone
“You could try to reproduce the three-ingredient zucchini-garlic spaghetti. But even with the addition of the secret ingredient—a bit of starchy pasta water, which gives it an ineffable creaminess—the whole experience is the very definition of gestalt.” Pilar Guzmán, editor in chief

L’Alchimista on the Piazza, Montefalco
“This is Umbria on a plate. Rabbit worth crossing the globe for.” Julie Gibbs, cookbook publisher

"Thoughtfully rendered classics" at Cesare al Casaletto.

Courtesy Cesare al Casaletto

Cesare al Casaletto, Rome
“Thoughtfully rendered classics like cacio e pepe and pasta alla gricia, and so many dishes that have virtually vanished from Roman menus: skate and romanesco soup, brisket meatballs, and roasted liver.” Katie Parla, co-author of Tasting Rome

Trust us, Da Laura in San Fruttuoso, Italy is worth the trek. It’s likely that the food would taste just as incredible even if you didn’t have to hike over a mountain or take a ferry to get there. But the simple food is worth crawling here for: fat sheets of fresh pasta napped in Ligurian pesto spaghetti with chopped mussels grilled fish filleted tableside. All enjoyed with bottles of house wine, of course. —Christine Muhlke, editor at large for Bon Appétit

Roscioli, Rome
“If you love French wine and Italian food like we do, you’re in the right place.” Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli

Dal Pescatore, Runate
“The cooking emphasizes excellence and comfort over gimmicks: chestnut gnocchi with bottarga, saffron risotto in a pool of aged balsamico, and grilled eel from the Po River.” Alan Sytsma, food editor of NYMag.com/Grub Street

Ardigna, Sicily
“Deep in the Trapani hills, you’ll find a never-ending parade of old-school Sicilian hits prepared by Italian grandmothers— literally.” Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli

Da Vittorio, Sicily
“The spaghetti with sea urchin is the best in the world.” Deana Saukam

Viri Ku Cè, Sicily
“Seafood served straight from the boat—raw, marinated, fried, grilled. There’s no menu, they just bring you whatever is fresh that day until you tell them to stop.” Deana Saukam

Da Celeste, Venice “A family-run restaurant on one of Venice’s fishing islands. You sit out on the pier, with lagoon views and not a soul in sight. The whole oven-baked turbot is exquisite.” Skye McAlpine

THE NETHERLANDS

Rijks, Amsterdam
“Great people, stunning food and concept—I go here to be inspired.” Margot Janse, executive chef of Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek, South Africa

Maaemo, Oslo
“Chef Esben Holmboe Bang may be Danish, but he’s redefining Norwegian cuisine at this innovative eight-table spot by turning ingredients like salted mutton and pine butter into craveable tasting menu staples.” Matt Duckor

Zé Bota, Porto
“Big multi-ingredient platters blend the flavors of sea and land. Standouts include the veal in Madeira sauce, the miraculous cod, and the leite creme for dessert.” Dawn Hagin

White Rabbit, Moscow
“Vladimir Mukhin gives a futuristic twist to obsessively researched 16th-century Russian recipes and archaic Slavic ingredients most Russians know only from fairy tales. Get the Forward to the Past tasting menu, which might include moose milk or the caviar of an albino sturgeon.” Anya von Bremzen, food critic and memoirist

White Rabbit in Moscow is a trip, in more ways than one.

Asador Etxebarri, Apatamonasterio
“There’s a considered approach to every dish—house-salted, house-churned, house-made—and then there’s that ice cream. Incredible.” Libby Travers

La Paradeta, Barcelona
“Queue outside until they let you in, choose the raw seafood and the way you want it cooked, then pay and collect it from the kitchen. Super-simple, canteen-style." Margot Janse

Paco Meralgo, Barcelona
“A breezy tapas bar doing the classics right. Order cuttlefish fritters, grilled fish, Iberian sausage, and lots of wine.” Matt Rodbard, food editor/writer

4 to 6 months: That’s how far in advance you should book a table at Asador Etxebarri, in Apatamonasterio, Spain—the most recommended restaurant in the world, according to our experts.

Quimet & Quimet, Barcelona
“An always-packed, always-fun wine bar where everything comes out of a can or a jar, conservas-style.” Ken Oringer

Elkano, Getaria
“Most of the seafood is prepared on a large outdoor grill, which you can smell as you approach the restaurant.” Daniel Kessler, co-owner of Bergen Hill in New York City

Ca Na Toneta, Mallorca
“The owners source everything from the island, even some of the clay for the plates.” Andrew Tarlow

Rafa’s, Roses
“The sweetest percebes (goose barnacles), briny house-cured anchovies, and John Dory on the bone almost brought tears to my eyes.” Luke Burgess former chef at Garagistes in Hobart, Australia

Fäviken, Järpen
“The breakfast is outrageously good: porridge served with cloudberry compote, fresh whey cheese, and black currant juice.” Matt Duckor

Ekstedt, Stockholm
“Niklas Ekstedt took all the electricity out of the kitchen and cooks purely with live fire.” Peter Jon Lindberg

We imagine the Most Interesting Man in the World would eat at Matbaren in Stockholm.

Matbaren, Stockholm
“The beauty, tradition, and craftsmanship of Scandinavian food. The best seat is at the bar.” Marcus Samuelsson, chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author

SWITZERLAND

Kronenhalle, Zurich
“The food is delicious, the champagne and wine list extensive, and it has a museum-quality collection of art from the likes of Miró, Chagall, Picasso, and Matisse.” Daniel Humm

Kantin, Istanbul
“Chef Semsa Denizsel’s Black Sea anchovies with spiced rice alone are worth the trip.” Katie Parla


Le Servan: A favorite new bistro of 2014

I am not alone in rating Le Servan one of my favorite new bistros of 2014. Ever since opening in the spring of last year, sister team Tatiana and Katia Lehva (in the kitchen and front of house respectively), have met with rave reviews for their welcoming modern bistro, that serves simple yet impeccable food, striking a happy balance between a local eatery and destination restaurant. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls and celestial remnants of the boulangerie that formerly occupied the space make this a bright and airy setting, with a menu to match, in this ultra-trendy corner of the 11th arrondissement. The food, like the atmosphere and service, has character, showcasing Tatiana’s flare for unusual ingredient pairings – crab,hazelnuts and sweet corn sashimi mackerel, pomelo and sesame – that hint at her Philippine heritage. Tatiana’s mastery of technique and love of fresh and interesting produce reflects her impressive resumé of working in the kitchens of Alain Passard (Arpège) and Pascal Barbot (Astrance). Everything is immaculately arranged on the plate, even the most simple dishes are presented with care, but without pretention.

A recent meal began with a small zakouskis (hors d’oeuvre) plate of boudin noir (blood sausage) fried wontons, that had a deep, rich and creamy flavor, cut through by a sweet chili dipping sauce, a dish which I found to be a clever and satisfying meal starter. The soupe de courge (pumpkin soup), often a banal and ordinary dish, was brightened up by a creamy sabayon foam and the scattering of katsuo bushi (dried and smoked Japanese bonito or skipjack tuna flakes), that was a surprising element yet felt strangely familiar and comforting. Had the fish dish been the merlu (whiting) as indicated on the menu and not the lieu noir (black pollack – a lackluster, strangely textured fish that I always find a cop-out choice for chefs to put on their menus) that was actually served, this could have been a near-perfect fish course – served with potatoes, broccoli and a lively beurre blanc sauce, with the crunchy addition of just a tiny touch of super-salty salicorne (Breton sea greens grown near salt marshes) and thinly-sliced preserved lemons, for an extra zesty kick.

Tatiana excels at carefully cooked cuts of meat and fish, that marry cleverly with invigorating sauces and garnishes that add personality and drama to the dish. Her desserts, while simple, pretty, and tasty, are often a little underwhelming. Never bad, just perhaps less remarkable than the other dishes she offers.

The 23€-three course lunch menu is unbeatable. Evening menu is à la carte 40-50€.


Brett happens

At the Mo’ Wine Group’s recent Jura tastings, the vin jaunes were served with old Comté and walnut bread, a classic pairing that brings out the best in the wines. A few attendees asked about other vin jaune-friendly dishes and I promised to post a couple of recipes, one for lobster and another for chicken. You’ll find them after the jump.

There are, of course, other options. White meats, poultry (especially from Bresse), escargots, sweetbreads, crayfish, lobster and langoustine, often in preparations involving cream, curry and/or saffron, are frequently recommended. More specifically, a French food and wine-pairing book suggests veal Orloff, duck à l’orange, chicken waterzoï and pork curry (by which is meant pork cubes in a cream sauce mildly flavoured with curry powder) and even tarte Tatin. While I’ve never tried serving vin jaune with dessert (the wine’s dryness would seem to rule out such pairings), I admit to having enjoyed it with the Masse amande aux noix et au curry, a cube of barely sweetened walnut- and curry-flavoured almond paste in a bitter chocolate shell, created by the exceptional Arbois-based chocolate maker Hirsinger specifically to go with the wine.

Note that for cooking purposes, Marcel Cabelier’s 2003 Château-Chalon ($44.25, 10884778), the least expensive vin jaune available at the monopoly, is perfectly adequate.

LOBSTER ROASTED WITH VIN JAUNE

The preparation method comes from Alain Passard of Paris’s L’Arpège while a less pricey adaptation (using fino sherry and olive oil with a little honey to round it out) can be found in Patricia Wells’s At Home in Provence. This recipe draws on both and includes a few changes of my own. Despite the lengthy description, it’s really quite easy to make.

For 2 persons, start with 2 small lobsters, about 500 g (1 lb.) each. Bring a pot of water to boil, add salt and then the lobsters. (For the fanciest presentation, tie a long metal spoon to the underside of each lobster’s tail before boiling to prevent the tail from curling.)

Simmer for 4 minutes. Remove the lobsters from the water and let cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220ºC (425ºF).

Pour a generous 250 ml (1 cup) vin jaune into an ovenproof oval Dutch oven or turkey roaster. Place the lobsters (spoons still attached) into the pot. Cover and roast for 10 minutes. Transfer the lobsters to a cutting board. Strain the cooking juices into a small saucepan. Turn the oven down to 160ºC (325ºF).

Carve the lobsters and remove the sand sack, tomalley and coral, if any. (Freeze the tomalley and coral for another use.) For the simplest presentation, simply split the lobsters lengthwise. For the fanciest presentation, twist the large claws off, crack them and extract the meat, preferably in one piece, then carefully detach the tail from the torso, remove the spoon, cut the tail in half lengthwise and each half in half lengthwise again. Leave the tail meat attached to the shell.

About 5 minutes before serving, moisten the lobster meat with 1 or 2 spoonfuls of the cooking juices and reheat in the turned-off oven.

Add a scant 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger to the cooking juices. Bring to a simmer. Off the heat, mount the sauce by whisking in cold pieces of butter (2–3 tablespoons). Add salt if necessary. Whisk in hazelnut oil to taste (about 2 tablespoons) and, to soften the texture, 1 tablespoon of crème fraîche.

Plate the lobsters, spoon some of the sauce over and around them. Serve with sautéed chanterelles and any remaining the sauce on the side.

The combination of lobster and the nutty vin jaune sauce is magical. While you can drink the remainder of the vin jaune with the dish, it is perhaps a little too powerful for the delicate sauce. A better choice might be another Jura white, one of the fine, slightly oxidized Chardonnays or more subtle Savagnins.

POULET AU VIN JAUNE ET AUX MORILLES
Chicken with Vin Jaune and Morels

This recipe, adapted from Le meilleur et le plus simple de la France, is Joël Robuchon’s take on one of the most celebrated dishes of Franche-Comté, the region that encompasses the Jura. I’ve listed a few comments and adaptations after the recipe. Robuchon says the dish may be successfully prepared without the morels, in which case he suggests serving it with a basmati rice pilaf cooked in chicken broth. With or without mushrooms, the only recommended wine is, of course, vin jaune, although I’ve also enjoyed it with a Savagnin-based Côtes du Jura.

1 free-range chicken, about 1.8 kg (4 lbs), cut into 8 pieces
400 g (1 lb) fresh morels
2 shallots, peeled and minced
80 g (6 tablespoons) butter
2 tablespoons peanut oil
200 ml (generous 3/4 cup) vin jaune
400 ml (1 2/3 cups) crème fraîche (substitute heavy cream)
2 egg yolks
A few drops of lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh chervil sprigs
Freshly ground white pepper
Salt

1. Clean the morels: cut them in half, trim the stems. Use a small brush to clean away any dirt. Rinse quickly under running water. Dry well with a towel.

2. In a skillet, melt 40 g (3 tablespoons) butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and sweat them, stirring with a wooden spoon and adjusting the heat so they do not brown.

3. Add the morels, salt and pepper. Sauté for 3 minutes. Set aside.

4. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Put the remaining 40 g (3 tablespoons) butter and the peanut oil in a heavy Dutch oven and turn the heat to medium low. Add the chicken pieces and lightly brown them on all sides, taking about 20 minutes in all. Tilt the pan and remove as much fat as possible.

5. Add the vin jaune to the chicken and allow it to bubble for a few minutes. Add 300 ml (1 1/4 cups) crème fraîche, cover the dutch oven and simmer gently around 10 minutes.
Remove the breasts, which take less time than the legs to cook. Place them in a casserole, cover and keep warm.

6. Add the morels to the Dutch oven, cover and simmer gently another 15 or 20 minutes until the chicken is done.

7. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken thighs and mushrooms to the casserole that contains the breasts, cover and keep warm.

8. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the remaining crème fraîche. Slowly add one cup of the cooking liquid, whisking all the time, then whisk this mixture into the remaining cooking liquid.

9. Correct the seasoning with salt, white pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.

10. Arrange the chicken and mushrooms on a serving platter. Season lightly with white pepper. Nap with the sauce. Decorate with chervil sprigs and serve.

A good friend who’s a native of the Jura gives Robuchon’s recipe two thumbs up while making several pertinent points.


June 27, 2007

The World is My Oyster (Not Yours!)

Ed's Lobster Bar. Photo: Oscar Hidalgo/The New York Times

Sometimes, Rebecca Charles wishes she were a little less influential.

She was, she asserts, the first chef in New York who took lobster rolls, fried clams and other sturdy utility players of New England seafood cookery and lifted them to all-star status on her menu. Since opening Pearl Oyster Bar in the West Village 10 years ago, she has ruefully watched the arrival of a string of restaurants she considers "knockoffs" of her own.

Yesterday she filed suit in Federal District Court in Manhattan against the latest and, she said, the most brazen of her imitators: Ed McFarland, chef and co-owner of Ed's Lobster Bar in SoHo and her sous-chef at Pearl for six years.

The suit, which seeks unspecified financial damages from Mr. McFarland and the restaurant itself, charges that Ed's Lobster Bar copies "each and every element" of Pearl Oyster Bar, including the white marble bar, the gray paint on the wainscoting, the chairs and bar stools with their wheat-straw backs, the packets of oyster crackers placed at each table setting and the dressing on the Caesar salad. [. ]

In recent years, a handful of chefs and restaurateurs have invoked intellectual property concepts, including trademarks, patents and trade dress — the distinctive look and feel of a business — to defend their restaurants, their techniques and even their recipes, but most have stopped short of a courtroom. The Pearl Oyster Bar suit may be the most aggressive use of those concepts by the owner of a small restaurant. Some legal experts believe the number of cases will grow as chefs begin to think more like chief executives.

Glossing the article my eye stops here:

Charles Valauskas, a lawyer in Chicago who represents a number of restaurants and chefs in intellectual property matters, called their discovery of intellectual property law "long overdue" and attributed it to greater competition as well as the high cost of opening a restaurant.

hey, more jobs for lawyers

"Now the stakes are so high," he said. "The average restaurant can be millions of dollars. If I were an investor I'd want to do something to make sure my investment is protected."

Ms. Charles's investment was modest. She built Pearl Oyster Bar for about $120,000 — a cost that in today's market qualifies as an early-bird special.

it always boils down to the smell of money, or so it seems

She acknowledged that Pearl was itself inspired by another narrow, unassuming place, Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco. But she said she had spent many months making hundreds of small decisions about her restaurant's look, feel and menu.

So she acknowledges she was influenced by a pre-existing "narrow, unassuming" place, but there's always a "but".

Those decisions made the place her own , she said, and were colored by her history . The paint scheme, for instance, was meant to evoke the seascape along the Maine coast where she spent summers as a girl .

"My restaurant is a personal reflection of me , my experience, my family," she said. "That restaurant is me ." [emphasis mine]

Really? And where does she think she comes from? direct from heaven?

Even worse is this. What a hypocrite:

But the detail that seems to gnaw at her most is a $7 appetizer on Mr. McFarland's menu: "Ed's Caesar."

She learned it from her mother, who extracted it decades ago from the chef at a long-gone Los Angeles restaurant . It became a kind of signature at Pearl. And although she taught Mr. McFarland how to make it, she said she had guarded the recipe more closely than some restaurateurs watch their wine cellars.

Yikes. It is really all about money, with a smoke screen of sentimentality sown as a public relations ploy.

The entire premise of the article itself is fallacious -- the restaurant owner is intending to sue over "intellectual property rights" without really specifying what those are (copyright, patent, trademark). Moreover, the journalist implies that "intellectual property" rights exist as an actual atom of law which can be litigated over, something that is not the case.

Furthermore, what isn't made clear (and what I'm sure Tim Wu went to pains to make sure they understood) is that recipes nor ideas can be owned like property, or even copyrighted. Though another chef mentions this, it's dishonest and misleading for the journalist not to properly include these facts.

I'm working on a letter to the editor.

Comments

Ed's Lobster Bar. Photo: Oscar Hidalgo/The New York Times

Sometimes, Rebecca Charles wishes she were a little less influential.

She was, she asserts, the first chef in New York who took lobster rolls, fried clams and other sturdy utility players of New England seafood cookery and lifted them to all-star status on her menu. Since opening Pearl Oyster Bar in the West Village 10 years ago, she has ruefully watched the arrival of a string of restaurants she considers "knockoffs" of her own.

Yesterday she filed suit in Federal District Court in Manhattan against the latest and, she said, the most brazen of her imitators: Ed McFarland, chef and co-owner of Ed's Lobster Bar in SoHo and her sous-chef at Pearl for six years.

The suit, which seeks unspecified financial damages from Mr. McFarland and the restaurant itself, charges that Ed's Lobster Bar copies "each and every element" of Pearl Oyster Bar, including the white marble bar, the gray paint on the wainscoting, the chairs and bar stools with their wheat-straw backs, the packets of oyster crackers placed at each table setting and the dressing on the Caesar salad. [. ]

In recent years, a handful of chefs and restaurateurs have invoked intellectual property concepts, including trademarks, patents and trade dress — the distinctive look and feel of a business — to defend their restaurants, their techniques and even their recipes, but most have stopped short of a courtroom. The Pearl Oyster Bar suit may be the most aggressive use of those concepts by the owner of a small restaurant. Some legal experts believe the number of cases will grow as chefs begin to think more like chief executives.

Glossing the article my eye stops here:

Charles Valauskas, a lawyer in Chicago who represents a number of restaurants and chefs in intellectual property matters, called their discovery of intellectual property law "long overdue" and attributed it to greater competition as well as the high cost of opening a restaurant.

hey, more jobs for lawyers

"Now the stakes are so high," he said. "The average restaurant can be millions of dollars. If I were an investor I'd want to do something to make sure my investment is protected."

Ms. Charles's investment was modest. She built Pearl Oyster Bar for about $120,000 — a cost that in today's market qualifies as an early-bird special.

it always boils down to the smell of money, or so it seems

She acknowledged that Pearl was itself inspired by another narrow, unassuming place, Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco. But she said she had spent many months making hundreds of small decisions about her restaurant's look, feel and menu.

So she acknowledges she was influenced by a pre-existing "narrow, unassuming" place, but there's always a "but".

Those decisions made the place her own , she said, and were colored by her history . The paint scheme, for instance, was meant to evoke the seascape along the Maine coast where she spent summers as a girl .

"My restaurant is a personal reflection of me , my experience, my family," she said. "That restaurant is me ." [emphasis mine]

Really? And where does she think she comes from? direct from heaven?

Even worse is this. What a hypocrite:

But the detail that seems to gnaw at her most is a $7 appetizer on Mr. McFarland's menu: "Ed's Caesar."

She learned it from her mother, who extracted it decades ago from the chef at a long-gone Los Angeles restaurant . It became a kind of signature at Pearl. And although she taught Mr. McFarland how to make it, she said she had guarded the recipe more closely than some restaurateurs watch their wine cellars.

Yikes. It is really all about money, with a smoke screen of sentimentality sown as a public relations ploy.

The entire premise of the article itself is fallacious -- the restaurant owner is intending to sue over "intellectual property rights" without really specifying what those are (copyright, patent, trademark). Moreover, the journalist implies that "intellectual property" rights exist as an actual atom of law which can be litigated over, something that is not the case.

Furthermore, what isn't made clear (and what I'm sure Tim Wu went to pains to make sure they understood) is that recipes nor ideas can be owned like property, or even copyrighted. Though another chef mentions this, it's dishonest and misleading for the journalist not to properly include these facts.


Patricia Wells

You'll love the crunch of the polenta, the richness of the Parmesan, and the touch of spice from the ground red peppers.

Average user rating 0 / 4 Reviews 0 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 0 %

Honey Brioche

Make it as a whole loaf or turn it into rolls any way you bake it, it’s a winner, and you can use this method to create all sorts of variations.

Average user rating 3.5 / 4 Reviews 7 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 100 %

Chocolate Satin

I have to confess that I have been known to obsess over a recipe, and this one became a big-time obsession. I tinkered with it over an entire summer, working to find just the right proportion of whipped egg white and cream and the best kind of chocolate to use, to create a dessert that is at once creamy, fragrant, full-flavored, and, well, unforgettable. And of course it can also be made in the spring, fall, and winter! This dessert differs from a classic chocolate mousse, which would contain egg yolks as well as whites. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and I have seen guests literally scraping the serving bowl clean. I consider this a success!

Average user rating 3.5 / 4 Reviews 24 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 96 %

"Cold-Fry" Frites

Traditional fries are prepared by tossing potatoes in hot oil, usually cooking them twice: first poaching them once in a not-too-hot oil and then finishing them off in hotter oil. Not simple. In this method, the potatoes and oil begin cooking together at room temperature, totally defying all the rules of deep-frying. The potatoes cook in a large pot, eventually reaching high heat, emerging golden and greaseless in less than 30 minutes. One pot, one cooking session, no blanching, no double frying, no electric deep-fat fryer, no thermometer. All you need is a good, large, heavy-duty cast-iron or stainless steel pot.

Average user rating 3.5 / 4 Reviews 7 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 100 %

Ginger and Almond Bars

Fresh and candied ginger team up to make an uplifting, zesty treat that can be prepared in any season. This quick yet impressive dessert lends itself to endless reincarnations, using various dried fruits and citrus zests, or even cocoa for chocolate lovers—see the recipes that follow for ideas!

Average user rating 3.5 / 4 Reviews 4 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 50 %

Magic Cèpe Mushroom Soup

I call this crowd-pleasing soup my magic recipe. It is so amazing that so few ingredients—and a soup made in a matter of minutes—can have so much depth of flavor. It really is a fine example of the miracles of infusion. The dried cèpe (porcini) mushroom powder packs a maximum of fragrance and flavor and takes well to many variations: Pair it with paper-thin slices of raw domestic mushrooms or seared domestic or wild mushrooms showered in the bowl at serving time prepare with dried morel powder in place of cèpes top with thin slices of raw black truffles or add a dollop of mushroom-powder- infused whipped cream.

Average user rating 4 / 4 Reviews 4 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 100 %

Asian Chicken and Cilantro Meatballs

My love for Asian food is never-ending, and this easy, quick chicken meatball creation is a favorite. The secret here is to steam the meatballs so they remain tender and succulent. Searing briefly afterward adds a wonderfully caramelized crust without overcooking.

Average user rating 4 / 4 Reviews 2 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 100 %

Asparagus, Ham, and Poached Egg Salad

On an afternoon in May, a favorite Provençal bistro served us this utterly delicious and totally beautiful spring salad of blanched asparagus, a perfect poached egg draped with a shiny, fragrant slice of ham from the French Basque region, and a tangle of soft greens.

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My Cobb Salad: Iceberg, Tomato, Avocado, Bacon, and Blue Cheese

Robert H. Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood, is said to have invented this salad in the 1930s as a late-night snack for himself. No wonder it has remained an American classic. With the crunch of the iceberg and onions, the soft richness of the avocado, the saltiness of the bacon, the sweetness of the tomato, and the bite of the blue cheese, this salad has it all! And it is beautiful to boot.

Average user rating 4 / 4 Reviews 1 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 100 %

Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing

Along with a classic vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar and red-wine vinegar, this is an all-purpose dressing I turn to time and again.

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Yogurt and Lemon Dressing

I think we all play favorites in the kitchen I know I do. At this writing, this is my most loved dressing, and I drizzle it on everything I can get my hands on!

Average user rating 0 / 4 Reviews 0 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 0 % View “ Yogurt and Lemon Dressing ” recipe

Patricia Wells's Cobb Salad: Iceberg, Tomato, Avocado, Bacon, and Blue Cheese

Robert H. Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood, is said to have invented this salad in the 1930s as a late-night snack for himself. No wonder it has remained an American classic. With the crunch of the iceberg and onions, the soft richness of the avocado, the saltiness of the bacon, the sweetness of the tomato, and the bite of the blue cheese, this salad has it all! And it is beautiful to boot.

Average user rating 3.5 / 4 Reviews 6 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 83 %

Lobster Salad with Green Beans, Apple, and Avocado

I first sampled a version of this light and lively salad as a meal at chef Yves Camdeborde's Le Comptoir in Paris's 6th arrondissement. Yves and I participated in the New York marathon in 2006, and I am sure that the strength gained from this protein-rich salad helped me make it to the finish line! This dish has it all: color (the red bits are lobster roe), crunch, and a light touch imparted by a dressing of yogurt and mustard.

Average user rating 3 / 4 Reviews 12 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 78 %

Yogurt and Lemon Dressing

I think we all play favorites in the kitchen I know I do. One day I am all over my Tahini-Lemon-Yogurt Dressing, dreaming up salads and dishes that would marry well with its salty tang. Then, suddenly, I abandon it in favor of another dressing and another direction. At this writing, this is my most loved dressing, and I drizzle it on everything I can get my hands on!

Average user rating 2.5 / 4 Reviews 8 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 80 % View “ Yogurt and Lemon Dressing ” recipe

Winemaker's Grape Cake

Come September, I prepare this cake often, taking advantage of whatever clusters of grapes I can find on our vines after harvesting. At Chanteduc, we grow a mixture of Grenache, Syrah, and Morvèdre grapes, each of which contributes its own personality to the wine and to this cake. I love the rustic crunch that seeded grapes impart, and so I also recommend trying Zinfandel, Cornith, and Cabenet grapes. For seedless grapes, try Red Flame. The original recipe was given to me by Rolando Beramendi at Italy's fine Tuscan estate Capezzna, where this intriguing not-too-sweet cake appears frequently at the table during the fall harvest. Note that the cake is prepared with half butter and half olive oil, producing an unusually light and moist cake.

Average user rating 3.5 / 4 Reviews 17 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 88 % View “ Winemaker's Grape Cake ” recipe

All-Star Herb Salad

Rather than making herbs part of a green salad, why not make these fresh, flavorful greens the salad. The idea comes from Paris chef Alain Passard, who years ago served me an all-tarragon salad at his Left Bank restaurant, Arpège. When tarragon is fresh in the market or your garden overflows with this extraordinarily powerful herb, why not serve it with honor as a salad on its own? Years later Passard expanded what I call "the tarragon tangle" to a full-scale mixed herb salad—just a few well-dressed bites on a small salad plate—as an accompaniment. The idea really is to mix and match judiciously. Just don't use so many herbs that they lose their personality. Good combinations include parsley, mint, and tarragon. Or consider an all-mint salad to accompany grilled lamb, an all-tarragon salad to accompany grilled chicken, a sage-heavy salad to accompany roast pork. Other herbs that can be added to the following salad mix include a very judicious addition of hyssop, sage, chervil, and marjoram. Just be sure to include leaves only—no cheating—leaving all stems behind!

Average user rating 3.5 / 4 Reviews 3 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 100 % View “ All-Star Herb Salad ” recipe

Tagliatelle with Rosemary and Lemon

One summer this was the recipe of the season. I had a guest and we ate this beautifully simple pasta for dinner three nights in a row. I could have gone for a fourth, but we went out to dinner instead. What could possibly be bad about the trio of fresh golden pasta, lemons from the tree, and rosemary from right outside the kitchen door? A touch of Parmesan, a sip of wine, and the celebration has begun!

Average user rating 2 / 4 Reviews 7 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 60 % View “ Tagliatelle with Rosemary and Lemon ” recipe

Anne's Goat Cheese Gratin

Anne Macrae is a Scottish neighbor in Provence who shares my love of simple, big tastes. She served this luscious gratin one spring evening and explained that she devised the recipe when she and her husband, John, lived in an isolated part of northern Provence, in the Drôme. There were no fresh-produce markets nearby, but thanks to neighboring farmers she always had plenty of fresh goat's milk cheese—known as tomme. Her larder was always filled with the meaty black olives from nearby Nyons, and wild herbs were as near as the back door. In summer months Anne prepares the sizzling, fragrant first course with fresh tomatoes, and in the winter months she uses canned tomatoes. That evening she served the gratin in the individual gratin dishes, but I suggested it might be easier to make one huge gratin and pass it around. "I used to do that," she countered, "but people got greedy and never left enough for the other guests!" So controlled portions it is! This dish lends itself to endless variations: Think of it simply as a pizza without the crust. Add julienned bits of proscuitto, a bit of cooked sausage, sautéed mushrooms, or marinated artichokes. It's also a convenient dish when you're alone and want something warm and quick. I always add fresh hyssop, for the Provençal herb's pungent, mintlike flavor blends well with the tomato-cheese-olive trinity.

Average user rating 3.5 / 4 Reviews 11 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 100 % View “ Anne's Goat Cheese Gratin ” recipe

Almond Cakes

(FINANCIERS) The little rectangular almond cakes known as financiers are sold in many of the best pastry shops in Paris. Perfect financiers are about as addictive as chocolate, and Iɽ walk a mile or two for a good one. The finest have a firm, crusty exterior and a moist, almondy interior, tasting almost as if they were filled with almond paste. Next to the madeleine, the financier is probably the most popular little French cake, common street food for morning or afternoon snacking. The cake's name probably comes from the fact that a financier resembles a solid gold brick. Curiously, as popular as they are, financiers seldom appear in recipe books or in French literature. The secret to a good financier is in the baking: For a good crust, they must begin baking in a very hot oven. Then the temperature is reduced to keep the interior moist. Placing the molds on a thick baking sheet while they are in the oven is an important baking hint from the Left Bank pastry chef Jean-Luc Poujauran, who worked for months to perfect his financiers, which are among the best in Paris. The special tin financier molds, each measuring 2 x 4-inches (5 x 10-cm), can be found at restaurant supply shops. Small oval barquette molds or even muffin tins could also be used.

Average user rating 3.5 / 4 Reviews 34 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 85 %

Grilled Chicken with Mustard and Red Pepper

Poulet Grillé à la Diable In French cooking, any meat or poultry seasoned with mustard and hot pepper and then coated with breadcrumbs is called à la diable, since the devil, or diable, is associated with anything hot and fiery. Cafés and bistros all over Paris offer versions of this classic. I like to make mine with a combination of sharp Dijon and coarse-grain Dijon mustard, and with a good hit of spice, usually what the French call piments langues d'oiseaux, or bird's-tongue peppers. This is a great picnic dish as well, and I often make it for our lunch when we take the train to Provence. When we eat at home, I serve this chicken with steamed rice or sautéed potatoes and a green salad.

Average user rating 2.5 / 4 Reviews 13 Percentage of reviewers who will make this recipe again 82 % View “ Grilled Chicken with Mustard and Red Pepper ”

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Japanese People Contributing Worldwide

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Fumiko Kono, a Japanese culinary creator, has won international acclaim in the world of French gastronomy. Kono graduated at the top of her class at Le Cordon Bleu, the famous cooking academy in Paris, in 1997. Working at L’Arpège, a threestar restaurant in the French capital, she advanced to the position of second chef. In 2000 she went independent so as to be able to create her own recipes. She quickly achieved global recognition with her successful work at parties attended by international celebrities, including a reception hosted by Bernadette Chirac, France’s first lady at the time. With her cooking equipment packed in a suitcase, she flew around Europe and to more distant destinations, such as the Middle East and North America, where she delighted gourmets with her creations.

Kono (front, third from left) was part of the team of eight chefs headed by Alain Ducasse (fourth from left) who prepared food for French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (second from left) and other international dignitaries at the “Goût de France/Good France” celebration of French cuisine in March 2015.

In 2005, Kono was recruited as executive chef at Fauchon, a renowned producer of gourmet foods. She continued to distinguish herself, collaborating with Pierre Hermé, the “Picasso of pastry,” in creating a new menu for the rooftop restaurant at Galeries Lafayette, an upmarket department store in Paris, and teaching at the cooking school of Alain Ducasse, the grand master of French gastronomy. Ducasse sings her praises, declaring, “She has a palate with ‘absolute taste’ like the ears with absolute pitch that some others have. She creates recipes that magically balance the Japanese and French culinary cultures” (L’Express , June 3, 2015). Kono herself suggests that her work may reflect the influence of traditional Japanese cooking, citing such distinctive elements as presentation of dishes that evoke the seasons, delicate flavoring, and careful arrangement of food on the plate.

In March 2015, “Goût de France/Good France,” a celebration of French cuisine, was held at restaurants and embassies in 150 countries. Kono was one of eight chefs chosen to prepare dinner for ambassadors to France and other distinguished guests at the Château de Versailles, the main site of the celebration. Looking back on this occasion, she declares, “When people from different countries sit around the same dining table, they converse about shared topics, and through food the links between countries become stronger and their relationships deeper. I felt that gastronomy is truly ‘diplomacy.’”

Though she has achieved the status of a first-class chef, Kono is unique in her firm stance of continuing to work as a “traveling chef” she has no restaurant of her own and has declined offers of posts from top-ranking establishments. She now travels regularly between Tokyo and Paris and has broadened the range of her activities, appearing on cooking programs, producing airline menus, and authoring books. Looking ahead, she says she hopes to open a salon-like café where many people will gather—a place oriented to contributing to society, where the profits will be donated to organizations like UNICEF to help children in impoverished regions. Another idea is to cooperate with relief efforts by developing preserved foods of high nutritional value. Through such activities, she would like to offer up some of the enthusiasm that she has devoted to gastronomy, putting it to work for the sake of those in need.

“Soupe de Miró,” one of Kono’s signature dishes, was inspired by the image of a painting by Joan Miró.


Watch the video: Chef Alain Passard, LArpege Restaurant Paris (May 2022).