jasonlockwood

Great Coffee and Fine Food Worldwide

91 posts in this topic

Starbucks (and it does NOT taste like instant, perish the thought!!!!!)

On the contrary, go long the thought:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=206..._swco&pos=6

Schultz was better paid than any banking CEO for more than a couple of the past few years...

It's not clear from the above but sales of instant coffee have boosted profits. Hence my amusement at Vespasiano's comment :)

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In general there is a wide cultural gap between America and Europe when it comes to enjoying fine food and drink.
I'm not disagreeing with your assessment concerning attitudes about alcohol, but I wonder what explains the gulf in QUALITY? It seems to be a contradiction in a way because in many ways, Americans demand quality, but when it comes to what they consume, the standards completely drop.

Does anyone have ideas about this?

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In general there is a wide cultural gap between America and Europe when it comes to enjoying fine food and drink.
I'm not disagreeing with your assessment concerning attitudes about alcohol, but I wonder what explains the gulf in QUALITY? It seems to be a contradiction in a way because in many ways, Americans demand quality, but when it comes to what they consume, the standards completely drop.

Does anyone have ideas about this?

I'm afraid I must disagree with the central thesis here, at least as a general statement. As someone who has dined at some of the Europe's finest restaurants as well as their American peers, I can say without hesitation that, in terms of quality, the food available at America's best restaurants and other eateries is just as good as and, in many respects, superior to what one encounters in Europe.

Americans need not "apologize" to anyone about our great dining options.

The difference, as far as I can see it, lies in some Americans' preferences for pre-packaged "junk" and/or "snack" foods, something that until recently one didn't encounter so much in Europe. However, if my experience at the local grocery near the house I rent in Italy (Tuscany of all places!) is typical, that is rapidly changing.

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I'm afraid I must disagree with the central thesis here, at least as a general statement. As someone who has dined at some of the Europe's finest restaurants as well as their American peers, I can say without hesitation that, in terms of quality, the food available at America's best restaurants and other eateries is just as good as and, in many respects, superior to what one encounters in Europe.

They ought to be, because the greatest money and potential are here in America, not Europe.

My point was for the tastes of the general populace, and the general quality of food you get at average restaurants. Virtually no average Americans I know have an appreciation for fine chocolate, wine, cheese, etc, the way a European does. What many Americans appreciate is getting a large bulk amount of food for a modest price.

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I'm afraid I must disagree with the central thesis here, at least as a general statement. As someone who has dined at some of the Europe's finest restaurants as well as their American peers, I can say without hesitation that, in terms of quality, the food available at America's best restaurants and other eateries is just as good as and, in many respects, superior to what one encounters in Europe.

They ought to be, because the greatest money and potential are here in America, not Europe.

My point was for the tastes of the general populace, and the general quality of food you get at average restaurants. Virtually no average Americans I know have an appreciation for fine chocolate, wine, cheese, etc, the way a European does. What many Americans appreciate is getting a large bulk amount of food for a modest price.

Similar examples of this can be seen in the fact that most people of my young generation have virtually no cooking ability at all. The young European students I know however can do things like bake pies completely from scratch; a skill you only see stereotypically amongst grandmothers in America.

These observations I am stating have also been independently been arrived at by many Europeans I know who have lived in the US.

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In general there is a wide cultural gap between America and Europe when it comes to enjoying fine food and drink.
I'm not disagreeing with your assessment concerning attitudes about alcohol, but I wonder what explains the gulf in QUALITY? It seems to be a contradiction in a way because in many ways, Americans demand quality, but when it comes to what they consume, the standards completely drop.

Does anyone have ideas about this?

My explanation, at least for Texas, is that there can't be very much refined culture in an area that is so young and recently settled. Near my hometown we have +100 year-old farm houses with dug out areas under the home where people would hide when Native Americans came to attack. It was a rough, harsh world where only cattlemen, outlaws, and oilmen, and these are the people who built the first settlements there. You didn't have sheep farmers living in Texas in the mountains for +800 years making Parmigiano-Reggiano and fine wine and passing down those traditions to their grandkids.

Europe is the birthplace of all this fine culture.

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Americans need not "apologize" to anyone about our great dining options.

As a disclaimer, my purpose is not to snobbishly lament the "coarse, vulgar culture" of Americans vs Europeans or anything like that. I'm just pointing out very interesting facts that have become undeniably apparent over the last year.

In the end I prefer America and Americans for the freedom and sense of life of the people. I can earn triple the money here, and just buy European food at a fancy shop :)

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I'm afraid I must disagree with the central thesis here, at least as a general statement. As someone who has dined at some of the Europe's finest restaurants as well as their American peers, I can say without hesitation that, in terms of quality, the food available at America's best restaurants and other eateries is just as good as and, in many respects, superior to what one encounters in Europe.

They ought to be, because the greatest money and potential are here in America, not Europe.

My point was for the tastes of the general populace, and the general quality of food you get at average restaurants. Virtually no average Americans I know have an appreciation for fine chocolate, wine, cheese, etc, the way a European does. What many Americans appreciate is getting a large bulk amount of food for a modest price.

In my experience -- and my experience in Europe is a bit dated (the late '80's and early '90's) -- The highest cuisine in France is at a culinary level exceeding all but the highest in the U.S. in excecution. The quality of the ingredients, with the exception of the pastries, are superior in the U.S. Meat in the U.S. is generally of higher quality, although the USDA has gone out of its way to downgrade the grading scale over time (a 'yearling' can now be called 'veal', the current 'prime' used to be 'choice', etc.).

But my brother was a 'stageaire' (apprentice) in 3 great French restaurants, starting with George Blanc, and the French have a nifty system in which they pay only room and board and all foreign apprentices, from schools like CIA (that's Culinary Institute) and the French Culinary Institute (which my brother attended), are essentially outstandingly-trained free labor, 40 a night, at a restaurant like Bocuse or Georges Blanc, and it's hard to compete with that largesse of talented labor for almost nothing. They can assign a team of future stars to shaping the pastry scales on a fish en croute, or preparing the dozens of sauces, etc., while an executive chef like Blanc or Bocuse or Terrail periodically casts a critical eye over the proceedings.

The greatest restaurants in the U.S. often do with a little less quantity of talent, but someone like Thomas Keller, of The French Laundry, is such a god of the kitchen that he can certainly cull the best young cooks who would give their left oven mitt to learn from him. And he's tough. From the stories I've heard, Thomas Keller in the kitchen is the closest thing we have to a real, live Hank Rearden. A friend of my brothers told him that, once, at 5 minutes to closing, it was announced in the kitchen that a party had just arrived for dinner and one young cook let out a small groan. Keller said 'you're fired'. The kid protested that he wasn't serious, but Keller said something to the effect that 'every person that walks into this restaurant is the reason we're here.' The afternoon before I had a reservation, I went to the restaurant to pick up a copy of Keller's French Laundry cookbook. I asked if I could have him sign it and they said, sure, I think he's out in the herb garden, across the street. I walked out there and he was in a field, carefully inspecting the herbs with fierce intensity. I waited for several minutes, not wanting to disturb his concentration, but when he finally looked up, I asked if he could sign the book and his face softened into a smile and he walked over, asked my brother's name, and inscribed it with personal attention. I told him we would be dining there and he said 'we'll look forward to it.' The dinner was spectacular in every respect, from the service to the tiniest detail of plating. I had a similar experience in the great restaurants of France, La Tour d'Argent and Bocuse in particular, but the personal vision in The French Laundry cast a spell over that dinner. The closest thing in France was a small restaurant near Macon, recommended by the maitre d' of Georges Blanc, who even lent us his Citroen C-3 to get there :). Everything in that little place was hand-made to order, including bread, pasta, ice cream, and pastries. Because my brother was a chef, the owner gave us a tour of the kitchen and his love of every aspect of his art was evident in his narration. I've never had pear ice cream since and never had ice cream of that freshness and texture period.

I just realized that this has absolutely nothing to do with coffee.

I did have an excellent espresso with dessert in each of these restaurants if that counts. :)

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For the record, it wasn't a central thesis I had. More of a thinking out loud as someone who has lived in a lot of countries and travelled extensively. I get the idea that Americans (and I am one, to be sure) want value for their money. That may be the answer I was looking for, but didn't phrase it well. I also know that fine dining is readily available in America. My two most favourite restaurants are in Phoenix, as it turns out.

I think what I notice most is in daily living, the general quality of food and drink in Australia is superior to America, but in the category of fine dining, the distinction isn't there.

I will say I have never had coffee in America that comes close to what I routinely get down here - not in your average cafe OR in a fine restaurant. I think we've discussed that enough, though. :)

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My experience (and I will expand later today):

- at the very top of the scale, the best is still French (specifically the independent minds like Marc Veyrat, although I haven't tasted his cooking). When I taste San Sebastian 3* food, perhaps they will displace the French.

- in the mid-range fine dining, e.g. lunch for $40, London is so far the best out of the 90+ cities I have visited in 15 countries, including NYC and LA. Admittedly it is also where I have lived longest.

- in the cheap range, nothing beats the US.

- I haven't visited Asia except for India (which has terrible top range food and fantastic cheap, as fits one of the poorest countries in the world).

Paris mid-range is terrible. I speak as a Frenchman. It's expensive, boring, and often sloppily executed. NYC mid- and top-range (e.g. Jean Georges) tastes bland and is 15 years behind London. Paris top range - Gagnaire etc. - often strikes me as too experimental. It doesn't focus on making the dinner feel awesome, just on presenting works of art. Which is fine if you are a regular fine diner who wants to be surprised. Not so fine if you are an occasional one seeking an exceptional experience (not singling out Gagnaire who is actually spectacular, but thinking more of Les Ambassadeurs, etc.).

In terms of quality of ingredients, again I must single out Britain. To understand what I mean, get a rare breed dry-aged ribeye or some Scottish grouse. Vegetables of course leave much to be desired but again, they are imported. I have, however, heard from a French food industry person I met in New York who is starting stuff there that it is possible to get exceptional quality ingredients in NYC, so I reserve judgement on the US, and the theory that the most prosperous country in the world would have the best food in the world makes sense to me (it is said Moscow in the 90s had the best food in the world).

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specifically the independent minds like Marc Veyrat, although I haven't tasted his cooking

(I've actually tasted his non-fine-dining food at his "fast food" place and it is spectacular, hence my assertion - as well as from hearsay - that he is - was - the top chef in the world)

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These observations I am stating have also been independently been arrived at by many Europeans I know who have lived in the US.

To say nothing of the fortunes blown by food professionals from around the world who come to the States thinking that they've IDed an untapped market in the gap between US foodies and the average American.

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These observations I am stating have also been independently been arrived at by many Europeans I know who have lived in the US.

To say nothing of the fortunes blown by food professionals from around the world who come to the States thinking that they've IDed an untapped market in the gap between US foodies and the average American.

The defining feature of the middle-upper class American is that he thinks himself a foodie.

I'll leave it at that :)

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Virtually no average Americans I know have an appreciation for fine chocolate, wine, cheese, etc, the way a European does. What many Americans appreciate is getting a large bulk amount of food for a modest price.

Questions: Which Europeans “have an appreciation for fine chocolate, wine, cheese, etc.”? All of them? Are there any for whom this is not the case? If so, how are these “non-appreciative” Europeans different from the “average American” of 2010? Are there no Europeans who "appreciate . . . getting a large bulk amount of food for a modest price"? How do these Europeans differ from the "average American" of 2010?

It is my experience that there are plenty of people, both in Europe and the U.S., both “average” and “not-so-average”, for whom “an appreciation for fine chocolate, wine, cheese, etc.” lies very low if at all in their constellation of interests. The same is true for those who look for the "biggest bang for their bucks".

Furthermore, having been raised in a typical lower middle-class environment in a small steel-town in Western Pennsylvania in the 1960s (where Velveeta ruled!), I consider myself to be precisely the average American of whom you speak. And yet . . . I have as much if not considerably more of an interest in both the finest foodstuffs and the art of fine dining than many if not most of the “not-so-average” individuals with whom I am acquainted both American and European. Nor do I think I am alone in this regard.

Finally, the American markets for imported as well as domestically produced fine foodstuffs, coffee, wine, cook books, food-related television shows and films, restaurant-quality cookware and appliances, etc., are enormous. At the very least, this would indicate that someone in America, whether “average” or not, has enough of an interest in and appreciation for these items to produce, purchase, view, read and/or consume them.

I find that your generalization here, which I grant might have been more-or-less accurate 50 or 60 years ago relative to the bulk of non-moneyed Americans (as they most certainly were for the non-aristocratic masses of Europe 100 or 150 years ago who ate whatever they could, if and whenever it was available, recurring European famines notwithstanding), do not reflect a general reality of today. That some Americans may have food preferences, styles of dining or volume-to-dollar values that may, in some ways, differ from those of their European contemporaries does not necessarily constitute a lack of “appreciation”.

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Virtually no average Americans I know have an appreciation for fine chocolate, wine, cheese, etc, the way a European does. What many Americans appreciate is getting a large bulk amount of food for a modest price.

Questions: Which Europeans “have an appreciation for fine chocolate, wine, cheese, etc.”? All of them? Are there any for whom this is not the case? If so, how are these “non-appreciative” Europeans different from the “average American” of 2010? Are there no Europeans who "appreciate . . . getting a large bulk amount of food for a modest price"? How do these Europeans differ from the "average American" of 2010?

It is my experience that there are plenty of people, both in Europe and the U.S., both “average” and “not-so-average”, for whom “an appreciation for fine chocolate, wine, cheese, etc.” lies very low if at all in their constellation of interests. The same is true for those who look for the "biggest bang for their bucks".

Furthermore, having been raised in a typical lower middle-class environment in a small steel-town in Western Pennsylvania in the 1960s (where Velveeta ruled!), I consider myself to be precisely the average American of whom you speak. And yet . . . I have as much if not considerably more of an interest in both the finest foodstuffs and the art of fine dining than many if not most of the “not-so-average” individuals with whom I am acquainted both American and European. Nor do I think I am alone in this regard.

You are an Objectivist, well educated and obviously very knowledgeable in many realms of fine culture (music, art, food, etc) and are not representative of the average American, nor are you statistically significant.
Finally, the American markets for imported as well as domestically produced fine foodstuffs, coffee, wine, cook books, food-related television shows and films, restaurant-quality cookware and appliances, etc., are enormous. At the very least, this would indicate that someone in America, whether “average” or not, has enough of an interest in and appreciation for these items to produce, purchase, view, read and/or consume them.

I find that your generalization here, which I grant might have been more-or-less accurate 50 or 60 years ago relative to the bulk of non-moneyed Americans (as they most certainly were for the non-aristocratic masses of Europe 100 or 150 years ago who ate whatever they could, if and whenever it was available, recurring European famines notwithstanding), do not reflect a general reality of today. That some Americans may have food preferences, styles of dining or volume-to-dollar values that may, in some ways, differ from those of their European contemporaries does not necessarily constitute a lack of “appreciation”.

I'm not meaning for my generalization to mean that all Americans are this way, and all Europeans that way. I've just noticed that there is a greater tendency for Europeans to appreciate fine culture in food, and a lesser tendency to find this in Americans. My conclusion is also drawn from diverse and numerous personal observations, and is shared by many others here apparently. Since our disagreement is based on conclusions drawn from personal observations, I don't think there's much else we can say.

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Since our disagreement is based on conclusions drawn from personal observations, I don't think there's much else we can say.

Indeed. But that's almost always the case when discussing such matters as these.

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Virtually no average Americans I know have an appreciation for fine chocolate, wine, cheese, etc, the way a European does. What many Americans appreciate is getting a large bulk amount of food for a modest price.

Questions: Which Europeans “have an appreciation for fine chocolate, wine, cheese, etc.”? All of them? Are there any for whom this is not the case? If so, how are these “non-appreciative” Europeans different from the “average American” of 2010? Are there no Europeans who "appreciate . . . getting a large bulk amount of food for a modest price"? How do these Europeans differ from the "average American" of 2010?

It is my experience that there are plenty of people, both in Europe and the U.S., both “average” and “not-so-average”, for whom “an appreciation for fine chocolate, wine, cheese, etc.” lies very low if at all in their constellation of interests. The same is true for those who look for the "biggest bang for their bucks".

I agree with this. My family regularly mocks me when I am around because I seek proper coffee (they are fine with instant), in fact it is a running joke that I talk about the great meals I have had recently. And they're fairly moneyed although not upper class. Most "normal" (i.e. outside the Paris centre) French people I know happily sip on disgusting Robusta-based instant coffee, eat plastic-tasting supermarket chocolate (Lindt is super-premium), and consider it a festive occasion to open one of these wine crates from Carrefour (supermarket chain).

A constant source of bother between us is that I can "taste" the can, when canned tomatoes are used for tomato sauce (which is ridiculous, in my view, when extremely high quality, large tomatoes are available so cheaply thanks to the EU - read, German and British - taxpayer). I swear they now do it to get a rise out of me.

The whole "relaxed" French European lifestyle is really a myth, or skilful marketing. Most French families just defrost some ready meal, shove it on the table, or - at the delight of the kids - opt for a fast food meal at Quick (the French McDonalds) or McDonalds if it is there. I recently paid $30 for 2 medium pizzas at Domino's. A few mothers valiantly resist, and will cook simple meals (few vegetables fried in olive oil, with rice) for their kids.

And most surprisingly... I have never had worst food, on average, meal after meal, as I had in Rome, with the possible exception of Prague. It really bummed me - I expected it in Prague, which after all was a communist city not more than a decade or two ago; but in Rome?! The supposed birthplace of European culture? And bear in mind I spent 10h+ looking for the best, most interesting places.

I've been unfortunate enough to do consulting work outside London in the UK. I recommend the experience to any American who believes they are badly served by their national fast food infrastructure... you haven't "lived" (or wished to die) until you have had a lukewarm Wendy's triple burger with paper-tasting bun on the way to such cheerful places as Derby or Newcastle.

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These observations I am stating have also been independently been arrived at by many Europeans I know who have lived in the US.

To say nothing of the fortunes blown by food professionals from around the world who come to the States thinking that they've IDed an untapped market in the gap between US foodies and the average American.

The defining feature of the middle-upper class American is that he thinks himself a foodie.

I'll leave it at that :)

When I wrote "average American" I was referring to the average eating habits. Genuine foodies in this country come from all income gaps and from all regions.

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Finally, the American markets for imported as well as domestically produced fine foodstuffs, coffee, wine, cook books, food-related television shows and films, restaurant-quality cookware and appliances, etc., are enormous. At the very least, this would indicate that someone in America, whether “average” or not, has enough of an interest in and appreciation for these items to produce, purchase, view, read and/or consume them.

And a good deal of the domestic stuff is being exported to those overrated via myth markets. This country also decimated the notion that truly worthwhile wines, cheeses, foie gras, etc., can only come from France.

Nonetheless, though our food revolution has been unprecedented, we still haven't integrated great food into our daily lives to the degree we can still observe in the handful of cultures that showed us the way.

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This country also decimated the notion that truly worthwhile wines, cheeses, foie gras, etc., can only come from France.

Whilst I agree about wine (once had a NZ Pinot Noir that decimated any Bourgogne I ever had - admittedly I haven't tried Romanee Conti yet), I do not agree about cheese. With the exception of a couple of Italian cheeses with a very specific style (PR and mozzarella), and one British cheese (Stilton, again a very specific style) I have never found foreign cheeses to ever get close to the French style (those I can get in France, not our exports).

I don't understand why, either. Wine is much harder to make than cheese.

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This country also decimated the notion that truly worthwhile wines, cheeses, foie gras, etc., can only come from France.

Whilst I agree about wine (once had a NZ Pinot Noir that decimated any Bourgogne I ever had - admittedly I haven't tried Romanee Conti yet), I do not agree about cheese. With the exception of a couple of Italian cheeses with a very specific style (PR and mozzarella), and one British cheese (Stilton, again a very specific style) I have never found foreign cheeses to ever get close to the French style (those I can get in France, not our exports).

I don't understand why, either. Wine is much harder to make than cheese.

If you're ever in NYC, stop by Ideal Cheese or Murray's Cheese and make that statement on a slow weekday. See if they can't change your perception with a barrage of samples. (Given the state of the economy, you may want to do this right before the Holidays.)

As for the reasons French cheese can be far superior to what's made anywhere else:

The French still consume something like 54lbs of cheese per person, per year. That puts them in the #2 slot behind the Greeks, who average time and a half that number. So there's a cultural aspect at play. (Given immigration policies in France and how many if not most of those immigrants don't assimilate, it may be that the French that continue to embrace this tradition consume far more cheese than this stat claims they do.)

Most important, however, is that French cheese is made with unpasteurized dairy. In the States and elsewhere, regulations require that cheeses made from unpasteurized dairy be aged for at least 60 days. That means that when fresher cheeses like Camembert, which are the glory of the French tradition, are made outside France they don't even even come close, though they can be good in their own right. (Of course, the EU is trying desperately to impose it's Health Codes on France. So far, the French have told Brussels to move on.)

You do see some of France's most highly regarded cheese makers and mongers retail these fresher cheeses to customers all over the world. (To get your cheese directly from France is one of those I'm-a-real-foodie things in NYMetro. Yes, it's worth it!)

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As for Italian cheeses: there are many made in Italy that are wonderful. Try or retry a soft La Tur next time you're in a good cheese retailer in the USA. Also, keep in mind that Italy's dairy regions are starting to make their own versions of classic French cheeses - as are the Spaniards. Who knows where that will end?

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