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Steve Plotnicki's Profile

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Would any Boston restaurants get any Michelin stars?

First of all the idiosyncrasies in the Michelin Guides do not occur in a place like Columbus Circle that is overflowing with starred restaurants. They occur in less affluent areas of major cities where the price points are lower. Besides that, if you eliminate marketing as an explanation for idiosyncrasies in the Guides, the only reason for them would be errors in judgment. Having owned a business for over 30 years I can tell you that is highly unlikely for that to be the case. So whether they are "relatively honest" or not is not really the issue because I agree they are. The question is, when you see a restaurant that is a clear outlier, and it happens to be in a location that is not overflowing with starred restaurants, did something other than quality have an impact on their decision.

Would any Boston restaurants get any Michelin stars?

The Michelin Guides are terribly unprofitable. So the answer to your question is probably a function of their P & L more than anything else. In fact one can't be sure that Michelin would have gone to the US or Asia if it wasn't for Zagat and guides like the 50 Best. But again, that is merely speculation on my part. Look at Los Angeles, why did they discontinue their guide there?

Would any Boston restaurants get any Michelin stars?

Sorry I didn't explain it correctly. Michelin is a tire company. Their restaurant guide was built on giving people information about good places to eat that were worth travelling to. So if you look at their guides, it appears they go out of their ways to come up with a starred restaurant in unexpected places. It reinforces their brand. For example, when they first published in NYC, two of the restaurants that got one star were Dressler and Saul, which were located in two different parts of Brooklyn. Had those restaurant been located near Columbus Circle, I am not sure they would have received the star. Like I said this is only my take on it but, to me it seems like it easier to get a star in the 13th arr. of Paris than it is in the 8th which is overflowing with stars. Something else about Michelin is they like to be iconoclastic. Like it is sort of ridiculous that Noma doesn't have three stars. But they come off as if, don't tell us who to award three stars to. We'll decide. Possibly one of the worst things that can happen to a restaurant is if another guide awards them their highest honor before Michelin.

Would any Boston restaurants get any Michelin stars?

Since my site is linked, let me say the following about Michelin. And this is merely speculation on my part but it comes from observing their rankings for many years. Some restaurants appear to receive stars due to their location. For example, if Michelin came to Boston and created the types of geographic sub-divisions that they have created in other cities, a restaurant located in Somerville, like Journeyman, stands a better chance of getting a star than a restaurant located in the Back Bay which has places like Cleo, Uni, L'Espalier etc.

Atera

Andy T. - You make a good point about reference points and the role they play in helping someone evaluate a meal properly. If you are someone who has done their fare share of dining at modernist restaurants in Europe, you would find no shortage of reference points to in Lightner's cuisine. However, if you have not, I can understand how you can see the cuisine as sui generis.

May 20, 2012
Steve Plotnicki in Manhattan

Atera

Adam Platt weighs in. Looks like I'm prescient. (I would add a wink emoticon hear if I knew how to do that).

http://nymag.com/restaurants/reviews/...

Apr 27, 2012
Steve Plotnicki in Manhattan

Humm and Guidara's Nomad

I was there week before last. The food was tasty but nothing to write home about. Although I didn't have the chicken which they claim is their best dish. It is a leveraged version of Daniel Humm's cuisine - sort of an Eleven Madison Park lite - and it reminded me of the relationship that Nougatine has with Jean George. Except at Nougatine, the food is prepared in the same kitchen as Jean George with its monumental staff. I believe that three people are turning out the food in the Nomad kitchen. As I said to my wife when we were leaving, I would have no problem going back, but I wouldn't make it my business to go back. There are so many other original dining experiences to be had in NYC that I don't see the need to eat at a copy. Which I guess is why I never go to places like Nougatine or Perry Street.

www.opinionatedaboutdining.com

Apr 16, 2012
Steve Plotnicki in Manhattan

Atera

"First things first: I want to say that Atera very professionally contacted my husband and made up for our disappointment by hospitably inviting us back. Clearly our experience was unfortunate and unusual. I imagine Atera had read my post but they made no mention of it"

That's because I sent them a link of your post. My blog started getting a lot of hits from your review so I sent it to them. But your post demonstrates why I always tell people to pass on wine pairings when offered (even when they are talking about 1/2 bottles). I'm not tryng to insult my sommerlier pals but I find they rarely match up to the food. It's much easier to bring/buy a bottle of something you know you are going to enjoy and then buy the odd glass if a particular course needs something different.

The only time I have found that wine pairings work well is if the party is large enough to consume an entire bottle of wine with each course, and you tell the sommelier to choose a specific bottle from the list for each course.

www.opinonatedaboutdining.com

Apr 05, 2012
Steve Plotnicki in Manhattan

The Farm and Fisherman

I think that Josh is still finding his way and creating his own style. What I liked about the beet dish was in addition to it being terrific as a stand alone dish, it demonstrates a logical progression of the style of cooking he did when he was working for Dan Barber. Give Josh another 6-9 months and he will probably come up with other good dishes innthe same vein. If you are up in New Jersey horse country, the cuisine Juan Cuevos at the Pluckemin Inn has many of the same attributes as Josh's cuisine. But that's because he was the executive chef at Blue Hill in Manhattan.

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The Pluckemin Inn
359 US Highway 202, Bedminster, NJ 07921

Jul 08, 2011
Steve Plotnicki in Philadelphia

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

"For example, you say to limster below, "I don't need to taste something if I know the ingredients they use are of poor quality." On the one hand, tasting something is likely to be a lot quicker than determining the quality of all the ingredients some other way. "

Which is why writers who can discuss what you will find in any dish are of more value than those who limit their commentary to saying it was delicious. So yes it is perfectly consistant with the statement of mine that you quoted in that what tastes good is a function of quality.

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

I haven't missed your point at all. I simply don't accept it as a valid point. All you are doing is claiming that your opinion is empirical evidence when it is merely your opinion. But when someone puts forward actual empirical evidence, like the chicken is made out of dreck, you don't want to consider that a valid part of the discussion.

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

Limster your logic doesn't hold. The arepa lady isn't playing a game of chance with the quality of flour she uses. Her arepas are good because she makes sure the flour she uses meets her standards.
Explain to me how she can have standards but you don't?As for finding a better one, I don't need to taste something if I know the ingredients they use are of poor quality.

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

That's a different point. I agree that an increase in quality doesn't necessarily make a dish better. But I haven't claimed it does. What I said was that when you can find a difference in quality you will be able to reduce the difference to something tangeable.

So while better lard or better flour doesn't always make for a better tamale, when you happen to find a better tamale, better flour or lard is likely to be the cause of it.

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

Howler your position doesn't make any sense. If better ingredients and better preparation doesn't make a dish better, explain what does? How can Dish A be better than Dish B without it being because of the ingredients or degree of preparation? What other component can it possibly be. The beautiful sunset? The sound of the El flailing above you while eating an arepa? The gas fumes from the traffic on Second Avenue when I'm having a taco? Please tell me what makes something better other than ingredients and preparation.

It comes down to the following;

It isn't good because you like it, you like it because it is good.

That means taste is calibrated to quality and not the other way around which is what you keep saying.

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

The point about the ingredient quality doesn't assume a perfect correlation. It simply assumes a high correlation. And you know what, there is a high correlation as set forth in the DiFara's example and I can name many others. I'm even certain that if we were to analyze what makes people flock to the arepa lady, we would find out that what sets her apart is either what she uses to make them or her process for making them. What else could it be, voodoo?

But the most important point that you seem to be missing is the ceiling that ordinary ingredients place on deliciousness. You seem to be saying that running around and tasting tacos might preclude the impact that hyper-injected chickens have on the limitations of its deliciousness. While I understand the fun in running around your city trying different taquerias, you haven't yet explained how the activity changes how infrerior ingredients impact how delicious something can be?

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

No reading about them is more efficient. That's because reviewers at weed them out and at least limit the number you have to bother with. But if I had to eat through ever taqueria in the city to know where the good tacos are, I'd end up mostly wasting my time. And I'd rather spend my time enjoying myself than wasting my time.

But I am trying to make a slightly more nuanced point that the one you are addressing. If Sietsema gives two Uzbeki restaurant 3 stars, and one uses ingredients that are clearly inferior to the other, shouldn't he tell me that? But a discussing quality is not an integral part of the discussion about ethnic and other forms of inexpensive dining. And to take it a step further, some people claim that the issue isn't a valid one to raise.

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

But that is an inefficient and ineffectual way of finding them. A better way of finding them is to read about them. But in order fora recommendation to have true meaning, the person writing about it has to do a better job of explaining why something is good than saying I liked it. Because what if the person who liked ir can't tell the difference between good and bad?

Should we give the recommendations of a person who likes the way chickens that are pumped up with hormones and antibiotics taste the same level of credence as the recommendations of someonme who has the ability to reject that type of chicken? I can't imagine you are going to stretch your assertion about "its all about what tastes good to you" that far. Please explain how chickens loaded with chemicals can possibly taste any good? Isn't the person who thinks they taste good simply uninformed about it and isn't their opinion worth less than someone who has an informed opinion? And that isn't to say that you have to agree with them. But the issue I raised with the Times is that it is wrong to reject that type of informed knowledge out of hand.

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

But how can you seek out good chow if you do not know what to look for? Better arepas do not grow on trees, are not made by magic, and are not a product of divine intervention. They exist because a more competent chef used better quality ingredients.

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

He did a pretty good job of working around the flaws don't you think!

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

What I often find is that the same people who are perfectly happy to reject something when they don't find the taste exceptional are quick to call someone elitest when they exhibit greater knowledge. It is a convenient way to ignore standards by claiming that quality is whatever you say it is.

But we are getting far afield from my quote because I was trying to communicate a different point. The writer asked me why so many people have left Chowhound and I was trying to explain that some people wanted to discuss why something tasted good, but that Jim wssn't that interested in making the why of it all a major focus of the discussion here. And as a result, some people left and started their own forums.

http://www.oad.typepad.com

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

But many people have this skill. It isn't hard to pick it up, this it's just a matter of tasting practice. But let me flip this on you and ask you the following question. Isn't it the case that DiFara's is better pizza because they don't use the same commercial dough, cheese and sauce as Ray's Famous? So please explain to me that if better quality ingredients makes for better pizza, isn't possible that someone makes better pizza than DiFara's?

What I'm really getting at is a response of "it tastes good to me" is not an answer to a question that asks, why is it good? Those are the competing concepts here. People want to claim things are good because they taste good to them, but that doesn't explain why it tastes good to them. There is no way to analyze why without getting into the issues I have raised.

http://www.oad.typepad.com

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

I guess you didn't read what I wrote. I said it was a hypothetical. But you don't have to taste them to know that she doesn't use artisanally grown organic corn. Street vendors simply don't use ingredients of that quality because of cost. Once you know that fact, how can her arepas be "sainted"? And that doesn't mean they can't be delicious. Just that ideals should be calibrated to actual quality. I could make the same point about many things I enjoy eating like gorditas from the taco cart on 97th Street off of Second Avenue. They are really delicious but I am realistic about exactly how good they are because ultimately they are made using the same commercially produced masa and and pork that everyone else uses. If I exhausted my highest rating for gorditas on commercial masa, what would I say about ones made from higher quality ingredients?

http://www.oadtypepad.com

Jim Leff and NY Times Article 11/22/06

Sorry I didn't see this sooner. My quote about the arepa lady was indeed a hypothetical as I have not had the good fortune to have eaten her arepas (can't stay up that late). But the point I
was trying to make was about the difference between standards based on personal taste and standards based on ideals. For example, if someone makes arepas using artisanally grown organic corn, how canm can arepas made from mass produced commercial corn be "sainted"?
And don't tell me it's the way the person making them goes pitty pat with the corn in dough form. Technique goes a long way but it can't make up for quality. At best it maximizes what you start out with.