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Robert Brown's Profile

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2015 Guides

Until recently I bought nearly all the Italian guidebooks, given that I spend several weeks a year in Nice. I now buy two or three such as Gambero Rosso and Osterie d'Italia. The only factor I lose is that restaurants not listed in one guide or another will be included in others. If I had just one book to buy, it would be Osterie d'Italia mostly because the kind of food it deals with (traditional, time-tested, revealing of time and place) and is non-judgmental about each restaurant. I've found my way to very few duds and with some frequency some real diamonds in the rough.

What I do now is to rely on restaurant websites. If they post complete menus and provide several photographs, you can tell more about the restaurant than any guidebook. First, the information is up-to-date or a season behind, You can usually tell how generous the restaurant is. how much choice and leeway it gives you, and the style of cooking. I never know the "politics" of a guidebook or how competent and intelligent are the inspectors they send out. Of course it helps to have one's own objectives, or what one looks for in selecting a restaurant ( I think it's called connoisseurship) as opposed to running around getting notches in your belt be going to the highest-rated restaurants.

"Internazionale" is no longer just a reference to the Italian dishes that one founds everywhere otside of Italy, but to this placeless, international way that chefs make you eat what they want you to, create these dishes without form or structure and decorate their plates gratuitously and around the edges instead of the visual appeal coming from the creaiton itself. Of course the ingredients themselves are of a place, but after that, you can just for the most part kiss Italy's culinary patrimony per se goodbye.

Dec 01, 2014
Robert Brown in Italy

South of France Itinerary Restaurant Recommendations

Apparently since you stopped going, Dominic LeStanc who had two Michelin stars at the Negresco (and a Chapel-trained fellow) bought La Merenda. It is impeccable execution of cuisine Nicoise and a delight to go to even if the comfort level is on the low side (as always).

Sep 22, 2014
Robert Brown in France

South of France Itinerary Restaurant Recommendations

Interesting!!! I gave up on Mirazur after my last visit. It is one of the most unaccomodating restaurants I have visited recently, and I found nothing memorable or even very good among the dishes we ordered, Bras was much better and more free-wheeling when Michel Bras was in his prime and had two stars in his restaurant in Laguiole village. But he's a great one and still seems very good based on what others tell me. Loubet was a favorite until my last meal there 16 months ago. I think now you have to be lucky by ordering full-portions ( a la carte) and hope for the best. Louis XV is one of the best restaurants in the world, The experience can vary between excellent and sensational. You have to be generally creative in ordering as this is an extremely accomodating restaurant that lets you mix and match to your heart's content even if you order a theme menu. It's really expensive, but you get a ton of food. Even the local wines under 100 euros taste delicious there. The choice has shrunk considerably over the years, but there are no, or very few, disappointing dishes. Bistrot de la Marine is uneven, but catch it on a good day and it's a treasure. As for La Table du Chef, we go there every time during our 3-4 stays a year. There is very little choice, but almost every dish hits the mark. It's real food from a Golden Age. Several of the places you visited are new to me. If I see on a restaurant's website this universal way of composing dishes and not having an a la carte option, I simply won't consider it.

Sep 07, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Jake, if you send me your email address, I will send you my Flocons report that I wrote to my foodie pals.

Jul 19, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Dear Jake and Masha

I didn't return to Flocons de Sel this year, but I will see if I can retrieve my notes about any dishes that are still offered. One that should be is the smoked "fera", a fish from Lac Leman. We liked it a lot.

Pere Bise I'm up-to-date on. We stick to the historic dishes of the Auberge. One requires four people, the chicken Souvarov which apparently is a glorified chicken pot pie, that has to be ordered in advance. A second is a blanquette of lobster which I haven't had. However, there remains the gratin of crayfish tails, a dish invented by Fernand Point that is very delicious, and the Bresse chicken with tarragon sauce for two. It is a whole chicken that comes in a copper serving dish and served in two services; one with rice and the other with vegetables. Also there is soufflé "Marguerite" (Bise) that I enjoyed. It comes with violet bonbons of Toulouse inside. You can also order the house pastries that includes Point's Gateau Marjolaine. However, we weren't blown away by the several cakes, etc. that you choose from. I would stick with one of the soufflés. I eat this way because Sophie Bise is not a really good chef, but she is great at recreating her father's and grandmother's dishes.

If you stay overnight at Flocon you'll be able to have one of the great breakfasts of the world. It's extremely generous and varied. Also a server will go in the dining room and bring you any cheeses you want from the cheese cart. I'm particularly fond of the Persille de Tignes, a sharp, crumbly cheese, and my favorite blue cheese, Bleu de Termignon. I hope they will be available when you are there. But otherwise the Haute-Savoie is blessed with so many great cheeses--my favorite cheese region in the world.

Jul 18, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Erick you lucky lad getting to go to Japan so often. I started going again, and I have to think that it's the most engaging country for gastronomes.

I'm afraid that France is like a setting sun in this regard. I think that between its terrible economy and the bars the government trows p to entrepreneurs that it's getting increasingly difficult to eat well. Having just spent 10 days on the Lake of Annecy, I am confident in saying that the dining situation in Annecy is no better than in most cities in the USA. Nonetheless, the Haut-Savoie is worth a detour for a couple of places; i.e. Flocons de Sel and L'Auberge du Pere Bise, the latter at which you can grab a few of the classic post-WWII dishes from Fernand Point and Margurite Bise.

Jul 17, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Erick, Thanks for sharing your photos. I wish it were humanly possible to capture taste with a camera, appetizing as they may be. I'm wondering which restaurants you liked and which you didn't (as much). Generally, there looks to be structural similarity to these dishes, so did you ever get bored or wish you could have a whole something (fish, fowl,etc.) or more skin and bones? Did any of the restaurants offer a robust a la carte selection?

Jul 17, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

I forgot to mention that anyone thinking about dining at Tetou should know that there is a two-bouilliabaisse minimum; so if you are dining as a couple, you have a big problem. Oddly enough, a table for three works out the best. I no longer go, but if I had to, I might be happy there if I could have a table by the window and look at the sea.

Jun 07, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Boulliabaise between Marseille and Nice?

FrankD, isi it my email you want? I don't ride a bike.

May 30, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Restaurant in Nicel

La Merenda is touristy only in that a lot of not-Nicoise people go there. It is, however, in a class by itself for Nice cuisine. It's small, rather uncomfortable as stools are what you sit on, there is only one red wine available, and the food comes rather fast. However, the owner-chef Dominic LeStanc is a former two-star Michelin chef (ex-Negresco) formed by Alain Chapel. In season the tomato tart is memorable, but just about all the Nicoise cuisine dishes are highly-agreeable. Off-season you usually can walk in and get a table, but in the shoulder and high season you run the risk of getting shut out. To get around that, stop in at 7:00 and try to get the waiter to hold a table for you at whatever time he figures there will be one, although arriving at 7:00 may be good enough to gain immediate entry.

Almost as good, and a couple of doors away, is Lou Pistou. It's throw-back to the good old bistro days with warm and lighthearted attention by the chef's wife and a decent choice with one or two plats du jour. At dinner you can usually walk in and get a table. It's my regular spot even if it's a shade below La Merenda. The food here is local and tasty. More wine and more comfort.

Apr 26, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Do you remember the name of the goat farm

Apr 24, 2014
Robert Brown in France

South of France Itinerary Restaurant Recommendations

I appreciate your thanks. I enjoy trying to help by sharing what I know about a small corner of France.

Apr 13, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Are you ever lucky to have a place to keep food around. Your first excursion should be to Carpentras to stop by Jouvet, a terrific pastry and chocolate shop and Vigier, a cheese store. Think about Mondragon and La Beaugraviere for tradition and a sensational wine cellar.

Apr 13, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Great!! Let us know when you get back.

Apr 11, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Thanks, Eric. I don't have a photo blog as I don't have the patience or the expertise. However, I take a lot of photos at the table with a Blackberry or Samsung. So far no one has told me to stop. Sometimes the flash goes off, but with no repercussions. Recently I saw an article somewhere(NY Times?) that some restaurants are taking exception, which is hypocritical since a lot of fancy restaurants are prettifying their offerings and making relevant recipes so as to look appealing on their websites.

Good travels and great dining!!!!

Apr 11, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Take the "s" off "experiences". As for Loubet (Bastide de Capelongue), I have been following him for more than 10 years, mostly in his place in Lourmarin before he moved his main operation to Bonnieux. I always ate well there, and even agreed to go from my house in Nice with another couple who were our house guests (and big fans of Loubet as well) a year ago. We all agreed that the meal we had was sub-par. We chatted with Loubet in the kitchen before dinner, and we also all felt he seemed deflated, if not burned out. My friends like tasting menus, so my wife and I went along with that since we otherwise like to lose ourselves in what we hope are the best single dishes of a restaurant. So of the many dishes we had, I remember none of them except for his "signature" lamb chops cooked with wild thyme which suffered in a tasting menu portion. (If anyone goes, my suggestion is to have this dish a la carte. It really is a classic of its kind.)

He and his mother have really poured a lot of money in the place even if the construction is on the flimsy side, and I suspect that he is lamenting the lack so far of the final piece of the puzzle--a third Guide Michelin star. The establishment may well be the most souped-up one in Provence. I'm not saying not to go especially if you're looking for a splurge. The surrounding countryside is beautiful and there is a certain level of comfort and service. I'm just reporting back, that's all.

Apr 11, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Just to throw out an old chestnut, but has anyone thought of La Beaugraviere in Mondragon? It's traditional cooking well-executed, but if you are a wine lover, the cave there is amazing for Rhone Valley bottles. It's best known as a Rhone Valley truffle restaurant best enjoyed from November-March, but it's worth considering. It's also about a 20-minute drive from Chateau de Rochgaude, a former Relais & Chateaux place, but still very comfortable and picturesque. It's big, nicely-situated and rather historic.

Apr 11, 2014
Robert Brown in France

From Bourg en Bresse to Annecy, Talloires, or .. Chambéry?

It's Conte, not Coat, the two-star in Veyrier. One of the best cheese fondues I have had is at the Chalet La Pricaz in Montmin which overlooks the lake and is about a ten-minute drive from Talloires. The tartifflete there is a killer; even too rich for me. The view of the lake from above is worth the visit as well.

Apr 11, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Boulliabaise between Marseille and Nice?

The best part of the museum are the old menus on the top floor. Most enthralling, however, is the framed knife of La Mere Filioux, ca. 1905. She invented the Poularde de Bresse en demi-deuil (the chicken with the black truffles under the skin). The museum is somewhat small, but you'll like it very much, I am sure

Apr 11, 2014
Robert Brown in France

From Bourg en Bresse to Annecy, Talloires, or .. Chambéry?

I take a week to ten days to spend at a house on the sweet spot on the Bay of Talloires and I have spent many other days and weeks over the decades. My advice is to have a meal at Pere Bise and order two great dishes from the restaurant's three-star days: the gratin of crayfish (pattes rouges) and poulet de Bresse in a tarragon sauce. It's the most beautiful restaurant setting in France. To have coffee on the terrace beside the lake is idyllic. Otherwise think twice if the sound of these dishes don't resonate. Sophie Bise is not a great cook if left to her own devices/imagination. But she cooks her grandmother Margurite's dishes exactly as they were.

There are no good restaurants in Annecy. Close des Sens I boycott because they told me they prepare dishes sous vide. I don't know about the Coat guy's cooking in Marc Veyrat's house in Veyrier.

If you can find a way to spend a night at Flocons de Sel, you'll have a very dinner and one of the great breakfasts in the world.

Apr 10, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Just for the record, I wrote last summer to Rabenal and asked if it was possible to have any dishes in full portion and if there was an a la carte menu. I got a negative answer to both with no offer to try to accommodate me. I then asked if they cooked any dishes sous-vide, at which point someone named Muriel, with whom I had been communicating, threw up her hands by telling me to do so with the maitre d'hotel. Soon thereafter, Rabanel appeared on Les Escapades de Petitrenaud shaking a whole fish in a pan to the accompaniment and rhythm of some of that tortured gypsy music.

Apr 10, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

I am sorry. I mixed you up with Lucy V.

Apr 10, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

If your goal is first cultural, you are right to go to these three towns. They are all special. But if gastronomy is by far your priority, get off in Lyon and stay there for three days. Meet up with petitpois.

Apr 09, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Boulliabaise between Marseille and Nice?

On another thread today that should be near the top, I mentioned La Colombe d'Or. It's a tourist destination for both the ambiance and the works of art inside. The food is good, honest, but not truly great, and the price is medium-high medium. Good historical dining.

Alain Lorca has a hotel-restaurant at the entrance to St. Paul, but I only know his cooking from his defunct restaurant in Cagnes-sur-Mer and the Hotel Negresco. For a while he had a piece of the Moulin de Mougins. Eat there at your own risk. I don't trust the guy, which is any I have no plans to go there.

Maybe it's 20-25 minutes from Cagnes-sur-Mer and St. Paul. I'm pretty much a regular at Bistrot de la Marine of Jacques Maximin. It's a bit of the roll of the dice. I have had spectacular dishes (Consomme de coquillage avec langoustines, bourride, carpaccio if made with a not-salty fish, his take on Salade Nicoise that he altered according to what's in season, and any number of the fish dishes for one or two people. His menu is always changing depending on what his fishermen come up with each day. Don't get the cheap fixed menu. It uses farmed fish. Not a big wine list, but decent Provencal whites at not-exhobitant prices.

Visit the Escoffier Museum between the two towns. Google it for location and hours. It's a treat.

Apr 09, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Let's see now. The Department of the Yonne is the most northern part of Burgundy. There in Joigny you have the three-star Cote St. Jacques. It's touch and go for Vonnas. It straddles the border between Burgundy and Le Lyonnais. I think, however, that Georges Blanc is considered to be a Burgundian restaurant.

Anyway, I think I mentioned the latter part of the 20th century in Burgundy and the Rhone Alps. Let's hear it for Alain Chapel, Paul Bocuse, Les Freres Troisgros (close enough to Lyon), L'Esperance, Loiseau, Restaurant de la Pyramide, Auberge du Pere Bise. What's there now? Regardless, I don't pay attention to Michelin. What are the credentials of their inspectors?

Apr 09, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

Parigi, you missed the point. The fact that there was only one three-star at the time is indicative of the nature of Provencal cuisine. It just was never great restaurant territory unlike Burgundy and Rhone-Alps. Read my reply on what is likely the head-thread at this moment.

Apr 09, 2014
Robert Brown in France

South of France Itinerary Restaurant Recommendations

I go to my house in Nice a few times a year and have the eating scene down pretty good. To be succinct:

No one mentions Bistrot de la Marine de Jacques Maximin i Cagnes-sur-Mer.) There's some inconsistency there, but when this legendary chef is turning out glorious dishes, only Le Louis XV is better. It may run you between 150-200 euros for two.

Forget Tetou.Have bouillabaisse in Marseille, although Fonfon is the only place I have had it there.

I'm not a fan of Mirazur. There is nothing startlingly good that I have had; the choice is limited; and the chef is inflexible, Go a kilometer or two further to the Balzi Rossi just over the border by the sea (Ventimiglia). It's better than all but a relative handful of restaurants in Provence-Cote d'Azur.

L'Ane Rouge gave us a really bad meal in November. Antoine is okay. We have given up on Cafe Turin. Something really went wrong there; the shellfish isn't fresh unless perhaps you hit it on "arrivage" day.

The only restaurant I go to in Cannes is the petit La Table du Chef. A one-man show in each the kitchen and dining room, but the highly-limited choice at lunch is also tasty and classic as the chef ran Guy Savoy's Bistrot de l'Etoile for 20 years or so. Book ahead. I only go for lunch. Dinner is a "menu surprise" which I always avoid.

The best cuisine Nicoise is still at La Meranda, now owned by former two-star chef (Negresco) Dominic LeStanc. No reservation. Get there early (dinner only) as in May it will be full. Or ask about a late table if you feel like waiting around for an hour or so.

I have been to Antoine once. It was okay,

Touristy as it is, La Colombe d'Or in St. Paul-de-Vence does a good job with classic dishes. Ask for a table under the olive tree. I order kidneys there as this is a slowly-disappearing dish. Chicken in cream sauce is also good. Lots of people order crudités and charcuterie as an appetizer. I don't know about that. Some very good pictures on the walls inside.

For a change of pace in Nice, I have Vietnamese-Chinese at Le Mandarin near the Negresco and L'Amoureuse on Boulevard Stalingrad (near the port) for the only good (read Napolitano) pizza in town. You need to reserve by phone at 10:30 am or 5PM.

I haven't been to Bacon in several years, but I always liked it, Also in Antibes there is Christian Morrisett's Restaurant du Figuier on the ramparts. He was the chef at La Juana for years. It's no-nonsense, well-executed dishes evoking the Golden Age (late 20th-century). It's charming inside as well. (Yes, there's a fig tree inside).

Apr 09, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Boulliabaise between Marseille and Nice?

Tetou has gone to seed. Don't go. I haven't done a boulliabaise survey in all the years I have been spending a few months year in Nice. I have the impression that Marseilles is where to have one.

Apr 09, 2014
Robert Brown in France

Need Help in Provence foodie itinerary!

I haven't had a great meal in Provence in years. The last one was six or seven years ago at Loubet's place (Bastide de Capelongue), but when I went back a year ago, it was depressing. Loubet seemed burned out and the meal was lackluster. People make a big deal over Provencal cuisine, but it seems to me to be more of a domestic one. That you had to go from Vienne to Mougins to visit a three-star restaurants late 20th-century says something except for L'Oustau de Baumaniere which might still be the best of the lot. That's just a hunch as I haven't been there since Thuillier died and the tremendous cave got depleted.

Apr 09, 2014
Robert Brown in France

The ultimate Italian road trip

I simply want to second the notion of buying "Osterie d'Italia". You don't need to read Italian to use it well. If you combine it with Fant's Dictionary of Italian Cuisine (or whatever it's called), you'll do well. I swear by the Osterie book. It's on the money 80% of the time.

May 29, 2013
Robert Brown in Italy