fine dining

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.

Chicken Cooked in a Pig’s Bladder (Chef Eric Frechon at Daniel)

Maybe I’m crass, but when I think bladder, I think pee.

When the bladder comes up in conversation, it’s usually in the context of “my bladder is going to explode, please pull over” or “ouch, don’t sit on my bladder, I just drank a liter of Coke.” It’s rarely: “Mmm, you know what would be delicious? Puffing up the bladder of a pig and cooking a chicken in it!” If someone said that to you, you might stare at them, mouth agape, wondering how quickly you might get to the nearest exit. Yet, at some point before I arrived at the NYT 4-star Michelin 3-star restaurant Daniel on the Upper East Side, the visiting chef–another Michelin 3-star chef, Chef Eric Frechon from The Bristol in Paris–made that very statement. And no one recoiled in horror; in fact, they helped him do it.

No Jacket Required (An Anti Dress-Code Manifesto)


The man was a regular. He walked in confidently, with an air of entitlement about him. I’m not sure what he did for a living–was he a stock broker? An investment banker? A bestselling novelist?–whatever he was, it didn’t matter. He smacked of success; he glowed with accomplishment.

He moved briskly from the door to the maitre’d, an equally polished man who stood alongside an equally polished woman, there at the entrance to one of the city’s finest restaurants: Le Bernardin.

“Good afternoon, Monsieur,” said the maitre’d.

“How are you?” said the man in a deep, resounding voice, shaking the hand of the maitre’d. “I know I don’t have a reservation, but can you squeeze me in?”

The maitre’d carefully, but subtly, looked the man up and down. And the man, who possessed charisma and charm and a killer smile, lacked the one thing the maitre’d was looking for: a suit. The man was wearing shorts and an untucked buttoned-down shirt.

“I’m sorry, sir,” said the maitre’d. “Perhaps if you went home and changed?”

“Oh right,” said the man, laughing. “I’m not wearing a suit.”

“We’re sorry sir,” said the maitre’d. “We have to uphold our dress code.”

“I understand,” said the man, making his way for the door. “Thanks anyway.”

He exited and I felt like I had just witnessed something important, something I wanted to write about. As for myself, I was wearing a suit I hadn’t worn since law school, waiting to meet my friend Phoebe Damrosch. When she came, she complimented me on looking so dapper and the maitre’d happily led us to our table. Maybe it was because of what I had just witnessed, but the feeling was nothing less than triumphant.

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