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Robert Brown's Profile

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Meltaways or Melt-a-ways??? Not the cookie or candy

Do you remember the name of a cookie Nelligan's sold at their East Side Bakery in the 1950's and 60's. It was made with molasses and had a hole in center and a thin icing?

Aug 29, 2015
Robert Brown in Home Cooking

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

Allende, well spoken. A lot of what's called truffle oil is completely chemical. You could look it up. The website "Alba Tartufi" is one I look at for prices (yes there are down a lot from three or four years ago) and the general state of the material as the season progresses. Eventually it always seems the quality picks up in early or mid-November.

A few years ago some friends treated my wife and me to a fall dinner at Jean-Georges here in New York. The wife insisted I have an $80.00 supplement of truffles, which I didn't want to do for my host's bank account. Since my friends never complain, I kept quiet when the waiter brought out the pasta dish with the truffles already on it and no opportunity for me to select one truffle from several. It's another example of the loss of ritual in the dining room. One reason Italy is my favorite country for dining is that there is still some guarding of rituals, be it in serving truffles or the elaborate wine-serving ritual you still find. And cheese as well, as no-choice, limited number of slices cheese service has taken over in America and, increasingly so, in France.

Aug 15, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

Here's a jumping off spot to pose a question that has been on my mind about Alba truffles. People tend to characterize the truffle season as good or bad, period. I once asked one of Guido's sons how long it takes for a truffle to go from germinating to being harvested. His answer was five weeks. Yet people say that ff the summer is a scorcher, the truffle crop won't be good, and if it is not a scorcher and there is a lot of rain, the truffle season will be good. But if it only takes five weeks, then truffles should be good every year past a certain point when the temperature is fall-like. I always go to eat truffles after Thanksgiving and never have been disappointed. However, I have the recollection that sometimes when I have them, they can be bigger or smaller than in past years. Therefore the question is: Does the temperature and precipitation become less of a factor as the season progresses?

Aug 15, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Itinerary Review - Paris and Nice, September 2015

Flavadav, I should add that if you have never done any food slumming in Cannes, it's a fun place for it. You should arrive no later than 11 and go to the Marche Forville, my favorite market in the area--much more engaging than the Nice one. After you're finished with the covered market, you should walk down Rue Meynardier which begins just to the left of where the market square begins. There is good pastry, charcuterie and other prepared food and a bit further down the cheese shop Ceneri, one of the more renown ones in all of France. You would have to go Tuesday-Saturday to catch all this and La Table du Chef on the same day.

Aug 08, 2015
Robert Brown in France

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

Are they on vacation?

Aug 07, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Itinerary Review - Paris and Nice, September 2015

Thanks for the confidence. You should know that I tend to dig deep rather than go broad with the result that when I find a restaurant I like a lot, it becomes part of a somewhat-limited go-to list. I have tried many restaurants that I discard after a visit or two, but there are still names from other posters that I am not familiar with. Also as a result, I don't know the restaurants in Cannes because we always go to La Table du Chef. Bruno the chef spent a long time in Paris running one of Guy Savoy's bistrots (de L'Etoile) and his old school approach suits us a lot. (By the way, go for lunch as dinner is a "menu surprise" which I happen not to approve of). Also, the food shops tend to make people with kitchens more prone to cooking at home as there are cheese shops, butchers, fish sellers,etc. whose wares are a lot better than what we have here in New York. But I have to say that I am well-above average in making people happy who take my suggestions.

Aug 07, 2015
Robert Brown in France

Itinerary Review - Paris and Nice, September 2015

If you are dying to return to the Cafe Turin, find out the days they get their oyster delivery. It used to be Tuedays and Saturdays, but apparently something changed (new ownership sounds vaguely familiar). I've recently had good oysters at La Virginie, but there is not much atmosphere or joie de vivre there. Chez Edgar was good the one time I went a long time ago. Check that one out.

After so many years, we finally discovered what in our minds is the clearly best gelato or glacier in Nice: Arlequin Gelati. Check out their site. Near the train station and an easy tram ride.

Aug 07, 2015
Robert Brown in France

Itinerary Review - Paris and Nice, September 2015

One restaurant on my list is Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit on the ramparts in Antibes. The owner-chef was for many years the head chef at the Hotel Juana in Juan-les-Pins. It's in the style and from the epoch of La Table du Chef in Cannes with a pretty atmosphere to boot. Again a rather limited choice, but good-size portions a la carte, or smaller portions in a fixed menu. Just look on-line. As the train station in Antibes is outside of the town, you could take an Uber from there to the restaurant. Off-peak Ubers are not expensive.

If you want to dine by the water, you could try the restaurant at Plage Paloma in St. Jean-Cap-Ferrat. It isn't great quality, but better than you would get in Villefranche. Ask for a table in the first row. They usually have at least one wild fish (the rest are farmed, at least on my last visit.) Otherwise the food is simple beach food (mozarella & tomatoe, gazpacho (small amount), etc. I think the menu is on-line. It's very pleasant. I prefer dinner there just for the ambiance. Book a day ahead to get a table right by the water. You can get close by bus.

I'll keep thinking

Aug 07, 2015
Robert Brown in France

Itinerary Review - Paris and Nice, September 2015

Flavadav, how will you be getting around? I will send you my short list after as it has an address or two outside of Nice. For the moment I can say with confidence that there are no interesting restaurants by the port of Villefranche. The major one, La Mere Germaine, cooks only farmed fish. I know this because I asked. In that vein, a lot of people like the African Queen in the port of Beaulieu, but that's not very good either.

Aug 07, 2015
Robert Brown in France

Itinerary Review - Paris and Nice, September 2015

I would just add that Cafe Turin has hit bottom. My last two (and final) visits were exercises in rank products. Le Virginie by the Riquier train station has only a few choices in oysters, but at least they're fresh each time I have been. I wouldn't call Mirazur a place for service issues, but rather real service problems. Besides the meal not being at all inspiring, it is one of the most inflexible, dictatorial places I have been to in years. It was actually better when it was the second restaurant of Jacques Chibois. Speaking of Le Fooding, their top, or near-top choice of Flaveur is a joke.

Aug 06, 2015
Robert Brown in France

Itinerary Review - Paris and Nice, September 2015

Not your fault, but the list of restaurants for Nice is bound to lead to disappointment. I haven't eaten in all of them in my parts-of-seventeen-years in Nice, often for a reason. It's also not your fault that the quality of restaurants has markedly declined. Of those on your list that I have been to (six of them) Most would not make my very short list. (Au Petit Gari, Kamogawa, Bistrot Gourmand and L'Ane Rouge are disasters; Bistrot de Viviers is actually one of the better fish restaurants;; Bistrot d'Antoine is hard to get into unless you reserve. It strikes me as being a decent bistro.)

La Merenda is likely the best for cuisine Nicoise. No phone, no reservations. Show up early or late. I understand now that it is open for lunch, but owner Dominique LeStanc is sometimes quirky as to when he is open. L'Aromate is owned by a talented chef making gorgeous good dishes on a limited-choice scale, but full portions. For good rotisserie and beef tartare, Chez Fabien is simple and dependable. If you go to Cannes, I highly recommend La Table du Chef. Very limited choice, but generous, tasty, no-gimmick cooking as it was in the1990s. You can easily walk from the train station.

Aug 06, 2015
Robert Brown in France

Any suggestions for great Verona > Bologna > Modena > Reggio Emilia > Parma restaurants?

La Buca was on my list for years and finally was able to take it off about two years ago. I hope to return. I see it's a bit of a schlepp by bus from Parma. I am guessing you would need to go for lunch or else stay overnight in one of their rooms. ( Ground floor, right, was ours. It was spacious and comfortable enough). It's a friendly place with down-to-earth, very good food, although I haven't dined in years and years in Parma. I enjoyed coming in the house in the morning and watching mama and daughter peeling vegetables as in an era long past. Oddly though, there was no breakfast to be had. La Buca is an institution. If you have the time and place, buy some culatello di Zebello right there from the source.

Aug 06, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

Seriously, all I can say is that by all appearances going only by the Coccinella website, Ciau dei Tornavento is clearly the more elegant and refined restaurant. Less-traditional as well, but not over the top (reinterpetation, let's say) It's in an interesting "Fascisti" Art Deco building with tables the proverbial mile apart, an enormous picture window looking out into a vineyard, over-all spit and polish and a rock-em, sock-em wine cellar. Probably two times or more more expensive than Coccinella. I am sure Coccinella has its partisans as well.

Aug 06, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

I have not eaten at Coccinella, but have eaten at Tornavento five times and would not miss it.

Aug 06, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Any suggestions for great Verona > Bologna > Modena > Reggio Emilia > Parma restaurants?

Kevin, I would call Hosteria Giusti as soon as you can (I believe they are closed in August) and ask for Ciara. She speaks English and is a family member. You never know, but I have reserved three lunches this way and never was shut out.

Aug 06, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy
1

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

I haven't been there since 1997. People like it, but perhaps it's all relative. I have no desire to go there as I know it is almost certain that I would be disappointed. Then again, I am not speaking empirically and one might be pleasantly surprised. I believe the odds would be against us if only because things ain't what they used to be. Also, it's a real schlepp to get there and back.

Aug 05, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

All I know is that I recently saw a photo of the famous "Gargouille" of baby vegetables and it was like an emaciated version of what I had when the dish was new, which was at the same time he opened the current place. In the original restaurant he handed you a book that showed the herbs of the region from which he made a seemingly-unending parade of remarkable, intensely-flavored dishes that were original without being phony or forced. Back then we took him in our car so he could stop by the side of the road and take out his scissors. He must have known exactly where to find which of the dozens of herbs he needed. Now it looks like everyone orders one tasting menu or another.

Aug 05, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

All I knew was that the chef told me he came from Nantes. I always wondered why he never left. I miss the restaurant. Your sentiments are on the mark.

Aug 05, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

Thanks so much, Jeff.The Slow Food people published a book on Italian cheese that's in English. Make sure you go to the cheese store Giolito in Bra. It's very good and comprehensive. They have a good website that is also in English. You will learn a lot from it. Then you can pick off more information from the Internet.

Aug 05, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

Allende, are you talking about the owner or his French chef? Our first visit was maybe 15 years ago. How we got there was that we had booked into the newly-opened Relais & Chateau L'Albereta in Erbusco. It was so new that they neglected to mention when I booked that the kitchen wasn't ready. They wanted to send us to some nearby restaurant, so I took out my Michelin and saw a one or two star restaurant about 20 miles away. I made the hotel drive us there and back. Miramonte l'Altro was the destination. I call it one of my more fortuitous incidents of gastronomic racing luck. I have sent a few friends there and everyone loved it to pieces. I had the best squab I could ever remember, and our waitress told us it came from Transylvania!!! There were cheeses from north of the restaurant that I never knew about and don't think I have ever encountered since. I will have to check my Italian cheese books.

Aug 05, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

I was going to recommend Elkano to Peter, but wasn't sure if he wanted to stick to just contemporary Spanish. It's a rather simple fish"asador" with impeccable product. It's on a par with La Pineta, for example, but I think even more basic. I love turbot, and these two restaurants are where it has been the best I have had. I recall one of the owners saying May and November were the best turbot months. He also said that the turbots come from the waters right outside the restaurant.

Aug 05, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

Peter, I'll be interested to hear how your trip to the Basque region goes. I haven't been in five years or so. I certainly enjoyed it. Some of these restaurants are so different than the ones that exist in Italy, as you certainly know. I guess Osteria Francescana comes the closest. I had my worst meal of 2013 at Can Roca in Catalonia (Girona), but the restaurants in San Sebastian and Bilboa are a lot more interesting. I am very anti-sous-vide, particularly in "traditional" restaurants like the French Laundry/Per Se. Spain is the sous-vide capital, but the Basque chefs don't seem to use it as a short cut. I am sure I enjoyed lots of sous-vide dishes in the Basque region, but having to do with textures and temperatures, not short-cuts.

Aug 05, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

A Week in Piemonte: Returning to Past Favorite Restaurants

Does this mean a tasting-menu-only restaurant?

Aug 05, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

We had the same experience with Regis Marcon. I think he had two stars when we first went ca. 1985. We liked it there a lot and went back once or twice more. Out of curiosity I recently went to the web site and saw how greatly diminished the offerings are and the formulaic nature of them; i.e. it appeared you had to take a no-choice menu. So I sent an e-mail and asked if I could order a la carte, making sure to mention that when I had been there there was a copious selection of a la carte dishes. Six months later I am still waiting for a reply.

The situation is somewhat analogous to Michel Bras.When he had two stars in his rather modest hotel-restaurant in the center of Lagioule, the food was spectacular. As we went there maybe four times in two years, you could see he kept coming up with one great dish after the other, after the other. It stayed that way for a while when he built his modern place outside the town. But now I wouldn't go for somewhat the same reasons I won't go to Marcon. This phenomenon is everywhere in France now. Lameloise was great at that time too. It doesn't look so appealing now. Peter, I miss the cheese and dessert chariots as well, but they have all but disappeared. (One of favorites, last I knew, is at Miramonte l'Altro, outside of Brescia).

Aug 05, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

A Week in Piemonte: Returning to Past Favorite Restaurants

Allende, you took the words right out of my mouth. One of my dictums (which I recently sent to the American girl at Le Calendre) is "With expansion comes dilution". I would hope that Luciano's son Andrea (who struck me as quite lazy) would run the new place with a new chef and that Luciano would only pop in from time to time. The Trip Advisor photos make it seem that the new restaurant is down-to-earth country local without, of course any fish. But I fear you are right, and the fact that you have never seen a first restaurant keep its quality when the chef branches out makes me anxious.

Aug 05, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

Check that. The lemon pie was from the Hotel Pernollet in Belley. For what it's worth.

Aug 04, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

That was the only restaurant where the whole famiiy was together. As I recall, they stayed together after Guido died and then mama went to Relais San Maurizio and the two sons to near or at the Slow Food university.

I managed to miss Le Chapon Fin. I don't recall if Georges Blanc expanded the operation (hotel,etc.) where Chez la Mere Blanc was or if he moved it to a different spot. I missed a few important addresses around there. Greuze was very good, but we only went there once. The first time we went to La Cote d'Or, Bernard Loiseau was running it for a M. Verget in Paris. It was very good and then never as good for us after Loiseau took it over. During two summers (1975 qnd 1976 we rented a small chateau on the Lac-du-Bourget and went to Pere Bise from there, sometimes just for tea and sweets on the terrace. We were also near Pernollet, which was where Brillat-Savarin was from. There was a hotel there that had a memorable lemon pie. Of course the place is no longer there. Ombremont is still there with its two stars. Did you ever get to La Mere Bourgeoise, once a three-star place prior to WWII. We went a couple of times. maybe as late as 1982. It had a tiny kitchen and was relatively modest, but La Mere Bourgeois was legendary and the food was divine even though she wasn't alive then.

I wish I had kept a food journal. All I have are a relative handful of menus. Throwing out all my Gault-Millau magazines was one of the more stupid actions I ever took. Same for the their annual guides. I loved those two fellows.They were really on top of emerging restaurants.

Aug 04, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

I was wondering if and how many times you were in the basement restaurant. I think we only saw Guido himself one time, but we also were there before the family left and went to the San Maurizio and Bra. We did eat Lydia's cooking at the San Maurizio. Good, but it made us miss the original restaurant. I can never forget the vitello tonnato. Guido could really run a restaurant.

Were you at Chez Blanc when it was "Chez la Mere Blanc" on the river (or stream)? We went one time in 1975 and had the famous chicken dish. We went a few of times to the present place. What sticks in the head is the simple but delicious tarte Bressane. We stuck with Chapel. We must have been his best non-resident, foreign-based customers. I lost track of how many meals we had there for the 16 more years he was around. Do you remember your first meal? Ours was the salad d'homard; the gateau de foie blond; and the chicken in raspberry vinegar. When I cut into it, I said to my wife,"I've never seen a chicken like this" It was white as snow and delicious beyond what I could have imagined a chicken could taste like.

Aug 04, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

Jen, I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for the lead.

Aug 04, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy

Piemonte 2015 and some links to prior years

Allende, don't worry. Gastronomes like us are next to impossible to find. NOw I see that it's not completely impossible, though.

Aug 04, 2015
Robert Brown in Italy