Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Eating the page

Like many foodies, I am a longtime subscriber to Gourmet Magazine. October 2006 bills itself "The Restaurant Issue," tackling the onerous duty of ranking America's Top Fifty Restaurants.

In what is iikely to be food gossip worldwide (maybe it already is), Alinea has bumped Chez Panisse to number two.

For those of you who do not follow food gossip, Alinea, owned by young Grant Achatz, expresses itself via "Molecular Gastronomy", a form of cooking relying heavily on fucking with the diner's head. Achatz's tasting menu includes Kobe beef with watermelon, cocoa, and red wine. Langoustines are listed with "vanilla fragrance" . Technique demands use of things more often found in science labs; presentation is all. Further investigaion of the Alinea site led me to the Crucial Detail Shop, where one can purchase the serving items found in the restaurant. The Bow, for hanging food. The Cork Presenter. The Eye (I think you serve liquids in this).

I haven't a doubt the food tastes wonderful. Mr. Achatz is clearly gifted. But this sort of cooking--in this case, a term stretched, it seems, to the limits of its definition--leaves me cold. It is cold--all about presentation, novelty, and awe. Certianly these things have their place in the dining experience, partictularly in restaruants. But I can't imagine eating peach with smoked paprika and carrot, presented on an invented replacement for a plate, and feeling satisfied in any conventional sense. Beguiled? Sure. Intimidated? Yes. Pleased? In the sense that seeing Cirque de Soleil would please me--amazing stunts I could never pull off myself, interesting to see once, all the while knowing those young, lithe contortionists were setting themselves up for an arthritic middle age.

By comparision, tonight's menu at Chez Panisse:
Monday, October 2 $50
Green bean and sweet pepper salad with sardine filet and capers
Pollo alla cacciatore: spit-roasted Hoffman Farm chicken with tomatoes,
chanterelle mushrooms, and herb noodles
Golden Delicious apple and huckleberry tart with crème fraîche ice cream

What would you rather eat tonight? What would you rather eat in a decade?

Myself, I'm sticking with Alice's Restaurant.


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