Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Don't Feel Bad, San Francisco

They're French. They don't really understand how we eat around here.
Don't feel bad if you didn't get three stars, or even one.
The Guide Michelin ratings bestowed upon local restaurants yesterday don't mean a thing.
That's the way I see it. I'll continue to live it up at Zuni, Piperade, Isa — really good local places that were completely overlooked by the Michelin people (update: not overlooked; just not awarded stars; my bad).
And I'll still go to Chez Panisse, even if it's only ranked at one star. I've always liked Aqua, but now that it has earned two stars, I'm a little nervous. Will I ever be able to get in again?
It's so sad to see Hubert Keller and Roland Passot feeling bad over their respective one-star ratings. Come on, guys! You're still stars in my book.
It's also sad to see San Francisco feeling so insecure that the Chronicle had to put the story on the front page this morning, above the fold. Are we that easily wounded? (Yes.)
Here's the thing. San Francisco racked up fewer top-ranked restaurants than New York. That's good! I mean it, really good. You don't want to be a New York restaurant, where all the meat is sugared and the produce isn't as fresh as it needs to be and food comes out of the kitchen under a useless metal dome which the server removes with a flourish as if you care and the only reason people go to restaurants is to see who else is there and they just don't get it. At all. No.
Celebrate your starlessness. Celebrate your true California self.
We invented food on the West Coast, after all: M.F.K. Fisher, James Beard, Helen Evans Brown, Julia Child — and only later did our deep, abiding, truly intelligent love of genuine eating migrate east to New York, where, paradoxically, they continue to worship Europe with its calcified culinary rules of tradition and formality and sauces. They're still getting it wrong, thank you very much, Jean-Georges.
I say hooray for us and pooh on Michelin. It's a tire company, fergodsake!
Don't even get me started on Zagat.


Dagny said...

I've never been one for guide books. What do they know that some local critic, or a friend whose taste I trust, cannot already tell me?

Anonymous said...

Good for you, too, Cookie. Love the post.....And so glad to see the name Helen Evans Brown in print. Do you have her West Coast Cookbook (I think that's the title -- the book is packed away somewhere.) She was doing all the local stuff before anyone else, praising it like Beard did. They were real champions of this region and didn't need no French folks to know what's good.

Anonymous said...

Zuni, Piperade and ISA are all in the guide. Being in the guide is a distinction in itself- all restaurants in the guide are selections and are recommended. Stars are awarded for exceptional food. There are about 1000 Michelin one-star, 400 Michelin two-star and 60 Michelin three-star restaurants in the world. The Michelin guides anonymous inspectors did find the best 356 restaurants inthe area.

cookiecrumb said...

Dagny: What friends are for. xx

Kudzu: Oh! Maybe I should do a whole post on Helen Evans Brown. Glad you recognized her.

Anonymous: Ha ha on me. I haven't seen the guide, and I was only addressing the restaurants that actually earned stars, based merely on the news story I read. Of course there would be listings of other restaurants without actual stars. Silly me. Thanks for the perspective.

Anonymous said...

I love you for writing this post Cookie Crumb! I hate NY-Transplants who live in the Bay Area and tell me, "NY food is sooo much better than food in the Bay Area, b/c NY has no room for crappy restaurants, b/c crappy restaurants there go out of business. Real estate and land is precious in NY." (I've had at least 3 different ppl on different occasions tell me this.)

Well, let me tell you NYC-ppl, land is precious and expensive here too! And food is even more so.

I'd rather look at the Mobil Travel Guide, or the "I'm Mad and I Eat" guide anytime over Michelin!

(Yes. I am bitter.)

Kevin said...

On the whole I agree with your thesis that the Michelin folks don't understand serious American food. But I have a quibble with your assertion that, "We invented food on the West Coast."

California evangelized food, but extraordinary meals were being created in New Orleans 100 years ago. And if you think CA confused the Michelin people, NO would asolutely boggle them.

cookiecrumb said...

PE: Well, I've had crappy meals in NY, so what gives? Not that there aren't great places there, but West Coast food/style/taste is just way different from East Coast. You are a sweetie. You are bitter and you eat. :D

Kevin: Of course you're right. I'd love to see the Michelin guys get boggled.
Food fight!

Sara Zoe Patterson said...

oh no you don't cookie - julia is ours (new englander here) - she may have retired to california, but she spent a good long time in cambridge and i ain't giving her up w/o a fight -

cookiecrumb said...

Ha ha. P o' M: She was born in Pasadena and went to high school right here in Marin County. But I will totally grant you that she didn't become a famous American foodie until she returned from France and settled in Cambridge. (Surely she must have acquired just a leetle teensy food knowledge before then?)

MizD said...

We're claiming James Beard for our very own up here in Portland because the Bay Area doesn't get to have everything, nyah nyah nyah.

-MizD, who bristles at "West Coast" generalities more often than she should, simply because she grows so very tired of the misguided perception in some circles (not here, honest) that Oregon is a suburb of California.


PS: If I were ever handed the star-distribution duties for a restaurant guide, I'd be completely subversive and hand out all the two to four-star ratings to taco carts.

cookiecrumb said...

Mrs D: Yes, I was sort of cheating by lumping all those west coast luminaries together. Although I did see James Beard in a San Francisco restaurant once. And Helen Evans Brown is from Southern California, which is an entirely different state from the one I live in. :)

Anonymous said...

Well sorry to say but I think that NYC is way better then any Bay food, I mean that's the whole point behind the stars is to rank the best and the worst ranked places to eat.