Archive for March, 2007

This Week – L’Arpege and Manresa

L’Arpege and Manresa are two restaurants whose paths have been criss-crossing for awhile. It started a long time ago when there were various disputes about the origin of the now-infamous Manresa egg (which some called a blatant rip-off of the more famous L’Arpege egg.) The two chefs met each other last year at a cooking function and began trading ideas back and forth. This flirtation culminated, for now, in the L’Arpege/Manresa dinner a few weeks ago. This week’s reviews will look at the full range of permutations these two restaurants have offered:

- L’Arpege Truffle Menu from February
- L’Arpege / Manresa dinner from early March
- Manresa dinner from last week

The immediate similarities between the two chefs are their love affairs with their gardens, their search for perfect ingredients, and purely expressing the flavors of their ingredients. The L’Arpege/Manresa dinner highlighted more of their differences than similarities but the full reviews of each dinner should reveal some complementary themes. It should be an interesting set of reviews to read and compare.
- chuck

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Pierre Gagnaire (Paris) – Truffles and Value

Pierre Gagnaire has served me the best meal of my life. Along with Mr El Bulli, he is probably acknowledged as the most creative chef on the planet. Unlike the El Bulli derivatives and disciples, he approaches his experimental edge from a more “organic” angle as opposed to the chemicals and scientific laboratory equipment. He probably uses, or has influenced, such techniques but his end result more resembles our traditional notions of food. Unfortunately, the notions can still be challenging or uneven as I found out in my October 2006 meal.

Pierre Gagnaire is my favorite dining room in Paris. It’s formal and proper but spacious and relaxed. The waiters are friendly without being overbearing. It’s a warm experience unlike the austerity of Alain Ducasse or Les Ambassadeurs. We perused the truffle tasting menu, a look of terror swept the table after seeing the price, but ordered it anyways. Pierre Gagnaire has had well-publicized financial troubles in the past and he might have found a solution – one-up L’Arpege for Paris’s most expensive meal. Is that even possible?

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Gaya (Paris) – Beware of Empires

The biggest threat to fine dining may not be opportunistic government officials (or chefs), laboratories posing as restaurants, or global warming (can’t we blame it for anything these days?) – it may be greed and an ill-informed dining public. “Chefs” have discovered a formula – use your popularity, whether from Food Network or an embarrassing display of Michelin stars, and open a lot of restaurants.

What are the problems with this from a fine dining perspective?

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Amano Ocumare – Best Chocolate (bar) in the US!

We interrupt these tales of Paris and truffles to bring you late-breaking news – the discovery of Amano chocolate bars.

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Pierre Herme vs Laduree (Paris) – Macaroon Might

Laduree is the old guard on the Champs Elysees, Pierre Herme the rock’n'roll master on the Left Bank. Laduree’s macaroons are more traditional in flavor; Herme’s current collection revolves around the theme of “Fetish.” Laduree has a tea shop, no doubt a symbol of its properness; Pierre Herme launches his new dessert lines at strip clubs. Herme used to work at Laduree and apparently felt stifled.

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