Bittman Attacks French Food

July 26th, 2014 § 0 comments

Mark Bittman, the seemingly omnipresent food writer, did a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times bewailing the state of restaurants in France and their reliance on food “cooked at a faraway factory.” He is quite harsh in his opinions concerning Paris restaurants (he has to research and eat at three in order to find one good one). Bittman exaggerates (slightly). Sure, there are bad restaurants in France (as in every country) where owners pay more attention to profit than dining pleasure. And, sure, Paris is no longer the dining capital of the world. New York has taken over that spot. In addition to world class dining experiences like Per Se, Bernardin, etc., mighty Noo Yawk has an almost limitless array of interesting ethnic restaurants ranging from the entire spectrum of Korean and Chinese restaurants in Flushing to Ghana taxi driver food on the Grand Concourse in The Bronx to Uzbekistan eateries in Rego Park. And, if you want to recapture the golden age of French cuisine replete with lush flowers, deft service and classic dishes, one can turn back the clock and empty one’s wallet at La Grenouille on Manhattan’s posh upper East side. And, then there’s Brooklyn with its astounding metamorphosis into the world’s center of hipness with a multitude of food experiences to match its style. But, Paris, though no longer the ultimate gourmand destination, still has much to offer. Super baguettes and Poilane bread. Very good oysters (and guys who know how to shuck them). The best cheese and butter (Bordier). Wine shops stocked with splendid affordable vintages. Cafes, for the most part, offer mediocre food but world class viewing of stylish women (of all ages, thankfully). Bittman has a point. It’s not easy to find restaurants where fresh food is prepared on the premises. HG’s advice: Consult Alec Lobrano’s Hungry for Paris guide and John Talbott’s website. In Paris, HG spends much time at museums and cinemas. When it comes to food, HG is downscale. Favorite hangout is the back room of La Cave des Abbesses, a Montmartre neighborhood wine shop. In this very bare bones place, HG likes to linger over a platter of cheese with a carafe of red wine. In season, there are oysters for one Euro a piece. HG manages to get down a dozen with ease. La Cave is a nice place to visit after listening to the street musicians (usually quite talented) on the Place des Abbesses. HG also likes the gritty Arab/African neighborhood of Montmartre for couscous and other Maghreb specialties. Jour et Nuit is a good place for a hearty meal with the locals. Big flavors. Tiny prices.

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