Now that I’m back from my Europe trip, I’ve had some time to synthesize my experiences eating at nice restaurants in four different countries (Scotland, England, France, and Germany). Coming from Los Angeles, where the restaurant scene is as vital as anywhere else in the U.S. right now (possibly the world), it felt a bit like stepping into a history book; or, to put it another way, like watching a bunch of classic movies after a Quentin Tarantino marathon. There’s no question that America is setting the trends these days; the hottest restaurants in Paris are all popular because they’re considered “Très Brooklyn.” What, then, might a modern American restaurant have to learn from a modern European restaurant? Here’s my attempt to answer that question with a list.
One Night in Strasbourg (Lunch at Chez Yvonne–Featuring Choucroute Garnie–and An Epic Michelin-Starred Dinner at Buerehiesel)
Once I made up my mind that I would travel to Paris from London by train, I looked at a map and realized it would be silly to return to London to fly to Munich (where I’d be meeting Craig for the Munich Film Festival two days later); a far more sane idea would be to keep moving east, via train, stopping over somewhere along the way. When I put the question to Twitter, a follower (I forget who; sorry follower!) mentioned Strasbourg. Before I knew it, I was reading about one of the great world’s food cities–on the border of France and Germany–in the Alsace-Lorraine region where we get Riesling, Alsatian pizza (aka: tart flambée), and a dish Jeffrey Steingarten celebrates in one of his books called Choucroute Garnie. Needless to say, I booked a EuroRail ticket, booked a hotel (the Hotel Rohan, nice and reasonable), and after kissing Paris goodbye on a Friday morning, boarded the train to Strasbourg.
Almost a decade ago, when I started my scrappy little food blog, an e-mail arrived all the way from Paris, France from a young woman named Clotilde Dusoulier who had her own food blog called Chocolate & Zucchini. She told me that she liked what I was doing; I checked out her site and I liked what she was doing. We became fast friends–digital pen pals, you might say. We had a dinner at Babbo in New York (documented here with pictures erased, sadly), a dinner in Paris at Ze Kitchen Galerie (those pictures work!). She went on to write several books, including Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, and–most recently–a book so gorgeous I have to show you a picture of it.
My hands flew to my face several times last night.
It was 1:30 AM and I’d made a mistake. At midnight, exhausted after testing four recipes, I loaded up “Kings of Pastry” on AppleTV just to see if it was something I wanted to watch. To say that I was immediately hooked would be a profound understatement; I was so engrossed, that by 1:30 my heart was beating so fast and I was biting my nails so nervously, there was no way I’d ever get to sleep.
After yesterday’s cookbook slaughter, I thought I’d steer the blog to sweeter waters and talk about a subject I’ve never addressed on the blog before: my secret cookbook gems.
No, I’m not talking about books that I actually cook from. Those would be my favorite cooking cookbooks and you can find those on the lower right hand corner of the page under the heading “The Amateur Gourmet Recommends.” These books, my secret cookbook gems, are the ones with the most sentimental value: the ones that I cherish the most, the ones I’d grab first if the apartment was on fire.