D: "BREAAADDD!" D:
August 20, 2014 9:59 PM   Subscribe

A Four-Year Old Reviews The French Laundry (with very cute photos.): "For our fifth installment, extreme fanciness edition, we took Lyla Hogan (favorite food: 'good ice cream in a hard cone') to what Anthony Bourdain has called 'the best restaurant in the world, period.' (It won that title officially in 2003 and 2004 and is still the #1 restaurant in California and #3 in the country). Lyla is the youngest person to eat a full tasting menu at the French Laundry."
posted by raihan_ (188 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
What a useless reviewer. She doesn't even try all the dishes prepared for her.

Send me next time. I'll pretend to be four when I write the review.
posted by dazed_one at 10:11 PM on August 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


I give this review, definitely not delicious.

I am not sure what I expected from a 4 year old. Perhaps i should be impressed she sat there for the entire meal.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:14 PM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I mean on the one hand it is kind of a hilarious idea to have a four-year old eat all kinds of fancy food and basically call them out on being delicious but kinda inaccessible flavours that are served at restaurants that are fetishized by a certain type/class of people.

But on the other hand that's a ton of delicious food and expensive food and it didn't really seem worth the joke?
posted by hepta at 10:16 PM on August 20, 2014 [17 favorites]


"One hopes the regret won’t be too deep when she Googles her name 20 years from now and realizes that she once passed up TFL caviar."

Oh, they're actually aware of what they're doing. Huh.
posted by boo_radley at 10:16 PM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


The kid is cute, but I can't help feeling the point of this is to make people feel like shit that they can't waste money for wry amusement. I'd have pretty much the same reaction to "how does my dog like Kobe steak?".
posted by skewed at 10:20 PM on August 20, 2014 [59 favorites]


This is the best kid they've had do this by a long shot. At least she's willing to try eating things. Some of the others were clearly not into new food, which spoils the fun.

Including babies.
posted by fshgrl at 10:24 PM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


That kid has no taste.
posted by mazola at 10:24 PM on August 20, 2014


I kinda want to gnash my teeth that a girl a tenth my age has been to one of the places I dream of going.

<lawn>off</lawn>
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:31 PM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


"It looks really not good." I see that first picture and I get flashbacks to Prometheus.
posted by Auden at 10:34 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I worked with a young chef who idolized Thomas Keller. He once told me it made him sad to know he'd never eat at French Laundry. I'd far rather have looked at a series of him eating at FL, because he would have appreciated every bite and every nuance of that restaurant; that would have been a joy. I hate these 'kids eat at place I will never be able to afford' features. They bring me no joy at all.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 10:43 PM on August 20, 2014 [55 favorites]


I can't read this right now but are they anything like Restaurant Reviews From a Privileged Nine Year Old.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 10:44 PM on August 20, 2014 [12 favorites]




It's impossible for me to read all the way through this. We called and tried to get in online every day for a week the requisite 6 months or what the fuck ever before my 40th birthday. I guess I should have been 4 instead.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:52 PM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


OK, she is adorable but this whole review put my hackles up. Seriously, getting a reservation here alone is about as easy as buying a hen's tooth, and what these people make is more art than food. What is next -- taking her out to shop for yachts and getting her assessment of one of those resorts that charge thousands a day? Publishing her art reviews?

Maybe these rich folks could leave her with the (doubtless well paid) baby sitter to review the local order-in gourmet pizza next time and just give us the privileged adult diner take on this glorious food temple. That would be irritating too, but to a more endurable degree.
posted by bearwife at 10:53 PM on August 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


Someone should make her parents east a full meal of baby food, and force them to describe it in 4-year-old speak. This is not funny, and I'm not even in a grumpy mood today!
posted by Vibrissae at 10:57 PM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm totally sick of cutesy stories about precocious children doing fancy things. I don't think they are funny or clever or whatever, and I really don't know who the target is for these stories. The adorbs kid's grandma?

On the other hand, if this is a growth industry, I have a LOT of really hilarious ideas. "We took four year old Archer McFalutinpants (favourite smell: leather wallpaper) for a revitalising jaunt to The Cigar Room. He is the youngest gentleman to smoke himself sick, in what some crusty old buffoon terms 'the finest cancer growing environment bar none!' etc.
posted by thylacinthine at 11:04 PM on August 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


I found the photo-essay interesting, enjoyable, and pace alltomorrowsparties, joy-bringing. I liked looking at the photos of delicious food, I found the naiveté of the child cute and amusing, and I enjoyed seeing her enjoyment, represented through well-taken photographs of her face rather than straining conglomerates of multisyllables, of the dishes she liked. Thank you for posting the link, reihan_.
posted by Cucurbit at 11:07 PM on August 20, 2014 [17 favorites]


I am looking forward to the daring parents with too much money who decide to throw all caution to the wind and name their child "Fauntleroy".
posted by benito.strauss at 11:23 PM on August 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I have to chuckle with those irate at the mere notion of a four year old eating at French Laundry. It - all of it, the anger, the four year old eating there, her delightful non sequitur responses to the dishes - highlights the... theatrical masquerade nature of uber fine dining, to me.

Certainly, the idea of a four year old eating those kind of dishes at one of the most prestigious and exclusive restaurants in the world is absurd and absurdly decadent. The mere existence of restaurants like this - the mythologising around them, their prices, their dishes, the whole experience - is equally (delightfully) absurd and decadent in my opinion.

What better way to highlight the emptiness (and satisfactions) of this kind of thing than to have a four year old lay it out?
posted by smoke at 11:23 PM on August 20, 2014 [64 favorites]


Wow, tough audience.

It's a cute idea, made cuter by the fact that The French Laundry is usually reviewed by the kind of critics who use the word bouche more often than French oral hygienists.

A review of the place in basic unpretentious English would be good, but a review of the place in four year old English really makes you consider what food reviews actually are. "I liked this food." "I didn't like this food." Do you really need to know more?

By the way, The French Laundry really isn't that hard to get into if you plan ahead. It's a major birthday or major anniversary destination for most people; it's not hard to plan those a year out.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:24 PM on August 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


alltomorrowsparties: " I hate these 'kids eat at place I will never be able to afford' features."

If this is your mecca, estimates put the tasting menu at $500 for 2. Ludicris for a meal, but not out of reach for the employed-and-saving-for-it.
posted by pwnguin at 11:26 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


TBH I'm pretty sure she's an accurate reflection of how I'd feel about that menu.
posted by PMdixon at 11:30 PM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


So, coming from a background that very much does not include Michelin rated anything besides tires, when you're done at a place like this French Laundry, where do you go to eat?
posted by darksasami at 11:41 PM on August 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


I swear I had the exact same reaction as her to the photos of the salad and the broccoli thing. It makes me think that my tastes are not refined enough for the French Laundry. Which is totally the reason why I am never likely to go there. Totally. The only reason. Yeah.
posted by lollusc at 11:50 PM on August 20, 2014


So, coming from a background that very much does not include Michelin rated anything besides tires, when you're done at a place like this French Laundry, where do you go to eat?

One specializes. For example, while I'm not interested in The French Laundry I did drop similar amounts of money at a particular steakhouse in Kobe, Japan. As a result my lifelong search for a perfect steak is over. (In fact I've probably made the money back by now by not being picky about what I order any more.)

Now I'm searching for the perfect pork chop. Hopefully it will be a lot less expensive.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:03 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


MeFi tasteologists will probably corroborate this, but my anecdotal experience is that my sense of taste and food preferences have been changing a lot as I grow older: for example, I used to like meat grilled to just this side of charcoal - these days I want to see blood. But then again I do not think anybody is taking the food review part of this stunt seriously.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:06 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just started watching the first season of 'The OC', and one of my favorite lines can be applied here:

"You know what I like about rich people bringing their 4 year old to the French Laundry?"

(Throws punch)

"NOTHING!"
posted by hal_c_on at 12:21 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ugh, this is like those videos of a dude destroying a new Playstation after waiting in line 24 hours to buy one.
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 12:33 AM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


darksasami:

A lot of these places end up being surprisingly filling. Yes each dish is small, but there are 15! of them. And they're high in fat much of the time.
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 12:35 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


By the way, The French Laundry really isn't that hard to get into if you plan ahead.

That's right. Likewise, I'm a little sad to hear the anecdote above about a young chef who idolized Thomas Keller but felt he could "never" eat at the French Laundry. I've been, and I'm hardly a millionaire. It's expensive as hell for a meal, yes, but that's not the same as being flat-out unaffordably expensive. A yacht or a condo on Central Park are things most of us can never afford, no matter what. But a pilgrimage to the French Laundry is easily within the disciplined budget of most people who can afford things like cigarettes, alcohol, cable TV, a trip to Disney, etc. It's a question of how you choose to spend.

That's not to say you should go to the French Laundry. Obviously it isn't for everybody. But if you idolize the chef...? Cut out a couple vices for a year and put the money in a coffee can. It's not an easy spend, but it's not a BMW.
posted by cribcage at 1:02 AM on August 21, 2014 [29 favorites]


So, coming from a background that very much does not include Michelin rated anything besides tires, when you're done at a place like this French Laundry, where do you go to eat?

These high-end restaurants where the symbolic function of food--ranging from establishing/affirming power or esteem, to socializing, to experiencing art or aesthetics/pleasure, all depending on individuals' motivations and inclinations--eclipses its nutritive function, do provide cookies and other such take-home nibbles, all packed in elegant logoed bags and boxes, to gently ease you back to "reality" the next morning as you and the people you ate with sigh and reminisce over the delicious shaved truffles or steaks or whatever you had last night. From a business standpoint it's a psychological tactic whereby reinforcing positive memories makes people want to spread the word about their experience, and even go back again.

You can ask to take home bread you didn't eat and the macarons you couldn't finish, and your waiters will happily oblige for exactly this purpose.
posted by polymodus at 1:07 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeesh, so much hate for the kid. I doubt the food went to waste - I'm sure the adults around her finished up. (and for all we know The Bold Italic didn't have to pay much.) The naysayers sound really entitled, IMHO. Seats may be a slightly scarcer resource but they're not impossible.

After two years of trying to get a seat in their lottery, I finally managed to get a spot at SF's Lazy Bear, a pop-up restaurant thing that seemed to work like French Laundry - unusual flavours, tiny plates that are deceptively filling, LOTS of dessert. The bill came to about $110 a person not including tip, which isn't that bad considering there were a zillion courses.

It was the fanciest meal I ever ate (and probably ever will), but I didn't have the sense of "oh no, everything else is going to suck in comparison". For one thing, nothing will beat Malaysian food. But also - ALL THE TASTES! And cuisines! and flavours! of the WORLD! I've had McDonalds burgers that were more delicious than fancy gourmet stuff (mmmprosperityburger). So much of what I love is shabby and rough & tumble (like the Eat at Joes comment from another Mefi thread), because they obviously put all their heart into cooking and it shows.

Thinking the French Laundry and its ilk is the apex of good food just because a few people said so is really denying yourself of the richness of all the world's food has to offer. Hell, even Anthony Bourdain loved street food.
posted by divabat at 1:14 AM on August 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


"This pepper tastes like babies!" is the best single sentence in any piece of food writing, ever. Eat your heart out, M. F. K. Fisher.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:22 AM on August 21, 2014 [22 favorites]


I totally dug this, because they did a great job of cutting down the kid's thoughts and expressions to the best ones.

I did think the dude breaking the game consoles in front of the line was kind of funny, but in a totally different way-- that was schadenfreude over people who would have to wait a few more days to buy an expensive computer that probably won't have all that many great games at launch anyway, and gamers are generally a much more despicable lot than foodies, who might get caught up in pretension sometimes but don't start new virulent hate campaigns on a biweekly basis.

That and I feel like a 4 year old can say shit a real reviewer can't. Imagine a line about the lobster morsel being kinda shrimpy in anyone's food writing about any restaurant, let alone the most fancy-ass one around.
posted by NoraReed at 1:49 AM on August 21, 2014


There is only one mouthful of everything listed on the plate. One broccoli thingie. Two celery shoot whatevers. I find that disturbing! If I eat one mouthful and like it, I want at least a second one.

Also, that was no salad, that was a baby handful of green stuff.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:09 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I liked that post. Maybe because I have a three year old, and wactching her discover new foods is the best. (She didn't like ebi maki, boo.)
posted by Omnomnom at 2:11 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


"This pepper tastes like babies!" is the best single sentence in any piece of food writing, ever. Eat your heart out, M. F. K. Fisher.

I enjoyed her clarification that she had only eaten the extremities of a baby.
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 2:32 AM on August 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


"The waste" is my initial source of dislike for this, but when I give it more than 15 seconds of thought what really bugs me is that it's exactly the same thing as a Larry the Cable Guy "WHY MY CHILD COULD DO THIS" reaction to modern art, but slightly more cleverly couched.

"A child cuts through all the pretension of the French Laundry!" sounds all counter-cultural and Truth to Power on the surface, but when you scratch that surface a bit it's thinly veiled scorn for people who really enjoy something that's been refined to a level where it's a dialogue about what it is, not a meal taken for sustenance.

I have the palate of a wet sock and wouldn't really dig the French Laundry, and that's fine. But I love me some free jazz and I love me some abstract art and I'm sick to the teeth of the "here's something I don't understand, therefore it is not good and I'm going to yell at it until it goes away" thing.
posted by Shepherd at 2:53 AM on August 21, 2014 [19 favorites]


Eh, I think you're reading an awful lot into "this pepper tastes like babies", Shepherd.
posted by smoke at 3:27 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


estimates put the tasting menu at $500 for 2

That actually doesn't seem too bad for the tasting menu at 'the best restaurant in the world', especially if it includes wine, which is where they really kill you.
posted by Segundus at 4:29 AM on August 21, 2014


"The waste" is my initial source of dislike for this....

I suspect the child was accompanied by adults who were more than happy to eat what she did not. I do not expect there was much waste that way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:38 AM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


How much fun for everyone else in the dining room, waiting for the child to start screaming or running around as they frequently do. It must have made it so much more enjoyable for them, not being able to relax.
posted by winna at 5:02 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


TFL is not very pretentious by the standards of its peer group. Its also vastly overrated and marginally overpriced but whatever.

I would consider taking a kid to a place like this that had a carte, ordering them a dish without a lot of luxe ingredients and using it as a teaching time, but a long tasting like this is inappropriate for many reasons. Of course tastings in general are massively over used as fine dining moves from an amazing meal to a dining "experience".
posted by JPD at 5:18 AM on August 21, 2014


"...it’s not very much salad...”
This looks like the opposite of what my idea of a perfect restaurant would be, but I acknowledge that I have food issues.
posted by MtDewd at 5:18 AM on August 21, 2014


Doesn't include wine. Not the best restaurant in the world.
posted by JPD at 5:19 AM on August 21, 2014


Huh? It seemed like she was very into the eating experience. Not every four year old is a holy terror in restaurants, Winna.
If I have any criticism it's that they were probably holding up procedures with all the picture taking etc.
posted by Omnomnom at 5:20 AM on August 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


Nah places like TFL almost expect the idiotic photo shoot thing at this point.
posted by JPD at 5:21 AM on August 21, 2014


I guess I think that the concept is pretty offensive, and the execution was kind of charming. I liked how the kid was willing to try almost everything and was open to new tastes and experiences. She could serve as a role model for some adults with whom I've eaten at restaurants.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:23 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


it's exactly the same thing as a Larry the Cable Guy "WHY MY CHILD COULD DO THIS" reaction to modern art, but slightly more cleverly couched

I don't see it that way, because the Larry the Cable Guy perspective would include resentment of the upper class and some down-home "keepin' it real."

I read this as a child's innocent reactions to food that's much more sophisticated than she's used to. She turned her nose up at a few things, but liked plenty of others. My parents took me to some nice restaurants growing up, and trying food like escargot when I was 9 led to my current appreciation for more varied and adventurous food.

How much fun for everyone else in the dining room, waiting for the child to start screaming or running around as they frequently do. It must have made it so much more enjoyable for them, not being able to relax.

Does the mere sight of children disturb you to the point where you can't "relax"?

My 2.5 year old knows how to behave himself in a restaurant with none of what you describe. We often get compliments on his behavior in restaurants.

Going back to my earlier point, I don't think I would spend the money for somewhere like The French Laundry, but I can envision taking him to a nicer restaurant by the time he is 4. He already likes a wider range of things than the average toddler. He likes your basic mac & cheese, but he also eats tortellini with garlic and balsamic glaze, and Panang Curry. Parents who encourage variety instead of ordering chicken nuggets will have children who grow up to appreciate more things.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:23 AM on August 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


Three or so years ago my wife and I, along with some friends, splurged on dinner at Per Se for our wives birthdays, which conveniently all fell within a few weeks of each other. (For those who might not know, Per Se is also a Thomas Keller restaurant, but in NYC). I'm a huge Thomas Keller fan, and they even made up special menu headers for us wishing our wives happy birthday. (Trivially inexpensive for them, surely, but what a wonderful keepsake)
First off, it is easily in the top three meals I've ever had. At the time, I believe it was the top meal, but that wound up being an unreasonably good year for us, food-wise. There are a couple of dishes in common with TFL, like the salmon cornet as an amuse, and the oysters and pearls. I'd been looking forward to trying Oysters and Pearls for so long at that point and they still blew my hair back.
Top to bottom the whole meal was just mind-blowing, and the highlight came around the third or fourth courses. I'm sitting there totally vibing on my dish and my wife elbows me, pretty hard. I look up and there is Thomas Keller walking right through the dining room towards us. He sees me looking and comes over, shakes my hand and makes polite conversation for a minute before heading back to the kitchen. At this point I'm tingling from excitement, which is saying something since I couldn't give two shits about "celebrity", under normal circumstances. It's pretty unusual for chefs of his stature to be in their restaurants, particularly a secondary spot like Per Se, so I asked the hostess on the way out when he had last been there. She said this was his first time there since October (this was in February), and that he had arrived at 8AM that morning since he would be cooking that day (!!!).

Anyway, sorry for the ramble. I actually came in here to say that I have a 15 month old who I think would have tried and liked almost everything this 4 year old was offered. Shockingly, my baby eats black olives, goat cheese and even this stinky cheese I love called epoisses with aplomb, alongside normal baby fare. It's not like we go out of our way to expand her palate, but we tend to offer her most of what we eat. The epoisses was most shocking because, as my wife says, it smells like horse hooves, and the baby simply couldn't get enough of it.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 5:45 AM on August 21, 2014 [14 favorites]


"A child cuts through all the pretension of the French Laundry!" sounds all counter-cultural and Truth to Power on the surface, but when you scratch that surface a bit it's thinly veiled scorn for people who really enjoy something that's been refined to a level where it's a dialogue about what it is, not a meal taken for sustenance.

These people just paid $1500 to go to the French Laundry so I doubt they have any actual scorn for it; it's an expensive bit if they do. Seems far more likely that they're people who love this kind of food, but also wanted to have some fun with it. That's fine.

I went in expect to hate this, but the more I think about it, the finer I am with it. The kid doing this isn't keeping anyone else from getting reservations, assuming her parents would have gone anyway, the uneaten food likely got eaten by someone at the table, because it was delicious and they just paid $500 for it, and the kid seemed not to be bothering anyone. I think taking a bunch of pictures of yourself in a restaurant is kind of gauche, but I've lost that fight so whatever.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:49 AM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am a burgers and beer kind of guy. Other than the beer, I have the palate of a 12 year old boy. I have eaten at the French Laundry twice both times as the guest of wealthy relative of my (ex) wife. This was circa 2000. I can't speak for the price because free is a great value pretty much anywhere, but I vouch for the food both taste wise and at the end of the evening quantity too. I think this four year old nailed the review.

So the first time we ate there, I learned a thing or two about wine. Wealthy relative ordered the wine. I insisted he not include me in calculation how much to buy as I was a beer guy. So the wine comes and he insists I have one glass, it is amazing wine. I take a few sips and while it tasted good, it was still red wine and well not an ice cold beer. So the meal is wrapping up and he notices there is still an almost full glass of wine in front of me. He asks casually, "Are you going to drink that?" I hesitated and he said very low key, "There is about $300 of wine in that glass." "Oh," was all I got out right before I shotgunned the rest.
posted by 724A at 5:49 AM on August 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


Does the mere sight of children disturb you to the point where you can't "relax"?

This thread does not need to become another endless iteration of people who have kids vs people who don't.

I'm aware that my reaction to this is more abnormal than most people. (I did not find it adorable.) I do apologize that while I don't mind kids at restaurants, about half of the kids at restaurants are not as well-behaved as those of the posters here. (I wish they were! Parents deserve posh nights out, by gum!) Basically, what I'm saying is that you are the judge of your kid's behavior, but if there is acting out and crying at a five star restaurant, I'm hoping you will deal with it as you think best.
posted by Kitteh at 5:50 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's pretty unusual for chefs of his stature to be in their restaurants

this is not true of the flagship places.

Also while Keller isn't at Per Se all the time I believe there is a constant video link between the kitchens in the two places.
posted by JPD at 5:51 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


also - my 18 month old eats that cabot clothbound cheddar for snack all the time. Its good stuff. About 19 a pound I get it for.
posted by JPD at 5:53 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


For anyone bothered that this endeavor was gauche or a burden to other patrons, there's this at the very end:

If you’re interested in having your restaurant or four-year-old participate in a future edition, (especially if you’re in San Francisco or Los Angeles), e-mail jessica@thebolditalic.com.

Given how artfully framed the photos are - down to the placement of the hands that are extending service to the girl - and how bright the daylight is, I'm guessing this was all done with the restaurant's cooperation, during daylight hours before service is open. These photos were not snapped on an iPhone from across the table. And that call to participate in a future edition sure seems to suggest that the restaurants are in on these articles.
posted by jbickers at 5:56 AM on August 21, 2014 [20 favorites]


A decade or so ago (argh!) we went to the Fat Duck (Heston Blumenthal's 3* restaurant in the UK) for my birthday, along with my 18 month old son. He had a blast, and ate nearly everything. The beetroot jelly squares got the "Again!" treatment & were definitely the hit of the meal.

The Fat Duck was a great place to take a toddler (albeit only at lunchtime I would imagine) - the staff were amazing & the atmosphere completely unpretentious. I'd go again if the wallet could stand it - the food was fantastic.
posted by pharm at 5:56 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


As a four-year-old I would have refused everything but the ginger ale. And the article & pictures made me smile.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:56 AM on August 21, 2014


"No mad dogs when the bread comes!"
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:02 AM on August 21, 2014


I'm aware that my reaction to this is more abnormal than most people. (I did not find it adorable.) I do apologize that while I don't mind kids at restaurants, about half of the kids at restaurants are not as well-behaved as those of the posters here. (I wish they were! Parents deserve posh nights out, by gum!) Basically, what I'm saying is that you are the judge of your kid's behavior, but if there is acting out and crying at a five star restaurant, I'm hoping you will deal with it as you think best.

I agree with your post! But I see no reason to suspect there was any acting out in this restaurant. I think this is a derail, or likely to start one (parents vs. nonparents, as you mentioned).
posted by Omnomnom at 6:09 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeesh, so much hate for the kid.

No hate at all for the kid. But annoyance for the stunty bloggers/photographers and parents who are taking advantage of kid-sentimentality (soooo cute spitting out that molecular foam and making a face) and cynically invoking anti-elitist knee-jerkery (whatta con job them thar ritzy joints, amiright) to make a play for viral click-throughs on their site.

My 2.5 year old knows how to behave himself in a restaurant with none of what you describe.

That's great, sincerely.

Surely you understand that's not universal, however. A surprising number of parents completely tune out and let their children run amok in restaurants. Maybe they're tired, maybe they're overwhelmed, maybe they're depressed, maybe they just don't give a fuck; it's hard to say and it probably differs from family to family. But I've actually had children scream at me from close range, throw toys at me, step on my feet, kick me, and crawl under my table. (Not all at fancier restaurants, but all at restaurants of some sort, and in towns in many different areas of the country.) That sort of disregard by parents for fellow patrons is bullshit, and it is not "anti-children" to call bad parents on it. So if your kids don't do this, very cool, and you can stop being inappropriately defensive.
posted by aught at 6:16 AM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


The whole article is worth the absolute joy captured of ginger ale on a fancy glass.
posted by maryr at 6:19 AM on August 21, 2014 [19 favorites]


They're absolutely using kid-sentimentality, but I see nothing in this that's anti-elitist, or making fun of fancy restaurants. They explicitly say that the girl will, in the future, probably be mad she passed up some of the dishes. To me that says that they value the experience. Hell, even the little girl wants to go back.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:22 AM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Man, I was super prepared to hate this based on the concept, most of the comments here, and the fact that I'm not very into kids in the first place, but I thought it was totally delightful. She's a delight!
posted by something something at 6:39 AM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


but I see nothing in this that's anti-elitist

Hm. I guess it might just be my net-crankyness... I'm too easily imagining people sharing this on social media with comments like "Wonder what those spoiled rich folks are throwing away $200 a meal on? This kid will make you feel better about liking your MickeyD's!" -- and the resulting AdSource/Double-click revenue adding up for the bloggers. (In some ways it feels worse that people who themselves appreciate a place might use implicit mockery of high culture for their own profit. So I hope you're right and that's not true, because it would be a little shitty.)
posted by aught at 6:39 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's a cute idea, I suppose. But if the kid's parents actually paid full price so they could write a kind of silly, not entirely original piece, then I'm horrified.

What's hilarious are videos of babies trying lemons for the first time. And Rino.
posted by kinetic at 6:39 AM on August 21, 2014


Man, there are some people in this thread with sticks in their butts.

I am not a parent, and do not particularly enjoy kids ruining fancy restaurants (or airplanes or in movie theaters).

That said, it's totally obvious that they made the tasting menu just for this kid, the parents probably didn't pay very much for it, and it was probably done before the restaurant opened, with the restaurant's cooperation. There was not a lot of money wasted as the cost of the actual ingredients is a tiny proportion of the meal, nor was there a lot of food, since the portions are so small, and lets be honest, not the sort of thing that would have been used at a soup kitchen had this kid not eaten it. The only thing potentially wasted was your time reading it and the chef's time preparing it.
posted by empath at 6:40 AM on August 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


It sure seems like a shitload of envious foodies showed up for the thread. "It tastes like a Tinker Bell popsicle" may be the single best sentence I've ever read in a restaurant review.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:40 AM on August 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


If I eat one mouthful and like it, I want at least a second one.

I actually disagree with this - part of this kind of dining is, in my opinion, the surprise or the joy of that first bite. I want to be left wanting more so that I can remember it fondly instead of wondering why I gorged myself on salmon cornets or whatever.

The other thing about the (almost literally) bite-size dishes is that it forces me to slow down and enjoy it. This is the only bite of this particular dish that I get - rather than shoveling it in my face and pushing it down my gullet as fast as I can, it forces me to chew, contemplate, and really focus on what's in my mouth (no jokes, please). Coming to the restaurant not entirely famished or having a little bit of bread beforehand can help, since then your body isn't trying to tell you to get as much stuff in your stomach as quickly as possible.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:45 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


That said, it's totally obvious that they made the tasting menu just for this kid

Actually, it was probably all from a real tasting menu, though the two or more parents or bloggers or whoever was paying may have gotten different items for the courses where one has a choice, to maximize the total items tasted (the way my partner and I do when we eat at such places and then share tastes, or trade half way through, for the course choices that differ). :)
posted by aught at 6:49 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Parents who encourage variety instead of ordering chicken nuggets will have children who grow up to appreciate more things.

Oh. Oh ho ho. Let me tell you about our first child. We like cooking, and she ate everything we prepared. Other parents sent their kids to creche with sandwiches; ours had Thai noodles or vegetable curry. And then she decided she didn't like (cured, sashimi style, seared, you name it) salmon. OK, fine, she eats everything else. Then cheese, most vegetables, meat - at one point we were down to steamed white rice. So let me give you some advice, as the parent of someone who is still a picky eater: don't boast about what you feed your child. Karma is a bitch.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:50 AM on August 21, 2014 [37 favorites]


This schtick has become about as hackneyed as bluegrass covers of hard rock songs.
posted by thelonius at 6:53 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


My sister and I were both taken to the French Laundry at various points in its pre- and during-Keller era. I was eight years older. I was the pain-in-the-ass picky kid who would really have preferred a cheeseburger and the whole thing was fairly wasted on me, my little sister scarfed up the weirdest foods with great delight.

Which is just to say that age is not necessarily the great indicator of whether this is an appropriate place to take a kid, my toddler sister enjoyed and benefitted from the experience much more than I did as a tween. (Also to say that the mere exposure to variety does not necessarily mean you grow up to appreciate more variety in your food. I'm very much a semi-recovering picky eater, which makes me a black sheep in my food-snob family.)
posted by Stacey at 6:58 AM on August 21, 2014


The line that stopped me:

After all five and a half hours of eating, Lyla said it was her favorite part of the whole meal.

Anyone who would subject a four-year-old to five and a half hours of ultra-fine dining should be arrested, and the child should be checked for tranquilizer dart marks on her back.
posted by delfin at 7:03 AM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Joe in Australia: "So let me give you some advice, as the parent of someone who is still a picky eater: don't boast about what you feed your child. Karma is a bitch."

Yeah, in my experience, the average child's openness to new foods peaks around 18-24 months, then plummets dramatically, hitting a nadir around age 3 or 4, then slowly builds back up until adulthood, with another trough around 12 or 13.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:04 AM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Hey, you know... we'll never know, but maybe she had a great time. A really, really great time. Some four-year-olds have the attention span for that; mine does, sometimes. Maybe she had a really unusual time that she enjoyed a lot, with lots of pictures to look at later, and even the funny things she said written down so she could laugh at them later.

Compare that with what the average adult foodie would get out of going to TFL. I don't think it compares so badly.
posted by gurple at 7:09 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


"epoisses with aplomb" should be a something.

I am favoriting this thread because it's a Rorschach thread and has inspired some great comments.

That aside I just can't see spending that amount of money eating out. I get nervous when there is such an amount of attention paid to me and I would be tense. That amount of money would require that I like the food and wine. No slight to those that can relax and savor and enjoy but I'd only taste fifteen courses of rationalization.
posted by vapidave at 7:11 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


That sort of disregard by parents for fellow patrons is bullshit, and it is not "anti-children" to call bad parents on it. So if your kids don't do this, very cool, and you can stop being inappropriately defensive.

I was questioning the assertion that the child was making people "unable to relax" simply by existing in the same space.

There is a complete lack of evidence that she misbehaved in any way.

I don't see how that makes me "inappropriately defensive." Please keep comments relevant to the facts at hand, and not directed at me personally.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:19 AM on August 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


Now I'm feeling chastened for bragging about my daughter's palate. Hopefully she keeps it up, although now I'm concerned about Joe in Australia's warning!

Oh, and JPD, it sounds like you know better than I do about top tier chefs and their attendance at their restaurants, so I'll defer to you. I mostly meant my comment in reference to non-flagship restaurants anyway.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 7:20 AM on August 21, 2014


Anyone who would subject a four-year-old to five and a half hours of ultra-fine dining should be arrested, and the child should be checked for tranquilizer dart marks on her back.

This was four and a half hours of adults paying attention to what she said as if she had important opinions and taking pictures of her making funny faces.
posted by empath at 7:26 AM on August 21, 2014 [17 favorites]


I just wish that fancy restaurants would have fancy non-alcoholic drinks for adults. Sometimes I just don't want that much wine. #firstworldproblems
posted by madcaptenor at 7:31 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


That aside I just can't see spending that amount of money eating out.

Well, people who have some disposable income all have their particular splurge items, right?

I used to go to a lot of concerts, but in recent years I can't bring myself to spend $100+ dollars on a single ticket anymore. Some people buy cars / trucks that get 10 MPG because they enjoy the experience of power; some people buy jet skis or snowmobiles, or regularly buy expensive tickets to theme and amusement parks, or pay to stay in expensive hotels near beaches in the summer. Some people buy expensive smart phones with amazing data plans that cost them the price of a French Laundry meal every 2-3 months. Some people pay their cable / internet company hundreds of dollars a month so that they can have a thousand channels and premium services and every sports game on the planet available.

They're all splurges, it's just a question of which you consider worth your money. I have a TracFone and a modest home and drive a Honda Civic and am content with basic cable. But I've had a half-dozen meals over the years like the one described at The French Laundry, and eat reasonably often at a notch less-expensive but still very good fine dining places, because I am lucky to have a pretty good job and am frugal in other areas and really like interesting food.
posted by aught at 7:31 AM on August 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


I just can't get into spending that kind of money on something that, hours later, I'm just going to poop out.

Maybe if I can eat it and then have it removed from my stomach intact and put in a plexiglass plaque so I can sit it on my desk and look at it later.
posted by delfin at 7:34 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just wish that fancy restaurants would have fancy non-alcoholic drinks for adults.

Many do! The cherry-yuzu soda at Jean-Georges is awesome.
posted by neroli at 7:36 AM on August 21, 2014


I don't see how that makes me "inappropriately defensive." Please keep comments relevant to the facts at hand, and not directed at me personally.

Okay, I retract that comment, but I guess that also cancels the compliments I gave you in the same comment. ;-)

I just wish that fancy restaurants would have fancy non-alcoholic drinks for adults.

I think many do, though not The French Laundry from the menus I have seen online. We've got a couple upscale restaurants in our town that have non-alcoholic sections in their coctails list.
posted by aught at 7:41 AM on August 21, 2014


Many do! The cherry-yuzu soda at Jean-Georges is awesome.

I should pay more attention, then.

(My wife is a sommelier, so we tend to gravitate to wine, not surprisingly. As a professional drinker, she also has a higher alcohol tolerance than me.)
posted by madcaptenor at 7:41 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Makes me sad...I can't remember the age I was when I stopped wanting to order a Shirley Temple at every restaurant I went to.
posted by fraxil at 7:43 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Well, people who have some disposable income all have their particular splurge items, right?"

Absolutely and I don't begrudge them that at all. Further, it's a trend that has driven an appreciation for food - grocery stores have a vastly improved selection, at least here in the US as compared to thirty years ago. I was brought to the artistry of cooking via the innovative chefs becoming popular. They towed us can-openers along. I eat and cook better owing to them.
posted by vapidave at 8:05 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I get nervous when there is such an amount of attention paid to me...

The service at the French Laundry (and Per Se) is absolutely expert at making people feel comfortable. I visited the Russian Tea Room during one of its later iterations, and the overattention was maddening. Staff lined themselves along the back wall and just stared into the dining room, waiting for some reason to serve you. If, literally, you took one small sip of your water, someone would be darting toward your table with a pitcher. It was annoying as fuck. The French Laundry is nothing like that.

I just wish that fancy restaurants would have fancy non-alcoholic drinks for adults.

Many do. I don't drink, and I always ask about non-alcoholic pairings, and my experience has been that more restaurants are moving toward this. My favorite example was when I mentioned that I don't drink to my server at L'Espalier in Boston, and he said, "Neither does the bartender." They served the best apple cider I've ever had. Actually I'd suggest that everybody who visits one of these places should try non-alcoholic pairings at some point. Many of them are really creative.

I'm guessing this was all done with the restaurant's cooperation, during daylight hours before service is open.

Unlike many similar places, the French Laundry serves lunch.
posted by cribcage at 8:06 AM on August 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Wow this is repellent. Let them eat motherfucking cake.
posted by latkes at 8:15 AM on August 21, 2014


Yeah, overattention is bad service, not good service. The really high-class restaurants pay you exactly as much attention as you need -- waiters and waitresses pop up exactly when you need a refill of water or a new knife or a plate cleared, but they disappear in the meantime.
posted by leopard at 8:30 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


A lot of these restaurants allow the local farmers that provide their food to eat at them gratis, including a family member of mine. Many of these farmers are people who who never in a million years would normally eat at these kind of places and it's hilarious to listen to their reactions. "I don't want [famous chef X] to feel bad, but I really hate sea urchin. I'd really rather just have a steak."

On that subject, the number of people eating at these restaurants for free would surprise you and includes people who work in other kitchens and food writers. I assume the high rollers subsidize us all and from what I know these restaurants don't make very much money, if they make any at all. The whole circus is rather fascinating.
posted by melissam at 8:42 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just wish that fancy restaurants would have fancy non-alcoholic drinks for adults.

Fancy sodas and shrubs seem to be trendy at the moment. Go! Go now!
posted by maryr at 8:58 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


(Or, y'know, make your own, super easy.)
posted by maryr at 8:59 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


How much fun for everyone else in the dining room, waiting for the child to start screaming or running around as they frequently do. It must have made it so much more enjoyable for them, not being able to relax.

OMG, are YOU the woman that freaked out when I brought my (then) 10 and 6 year-olds to Morimoto, after we had saved up for an entire year for that trip? And this was back when a $25 per person deposit was required when making reservations!

We were lectured loudly and at length by another patron when we were seated at Morimoto, who pronounced my taking the Monsters to a restaurant they had BEGGED to go to "a waste", and sneered that she "hoped they could behave like civilized human beings".

Three hours and $1100 (!!!!) later, Elder Monster went up to the sushi bar to thank Morimoto-san in Japanese, then stopped by Madame AssholePants' table to ask her "Were my brother and I civilized enough for you? The live lobster sashimi was amazing, you should have tried it." He's 22 now, a chef, and just launched his own catering business. When people ask him how it is that he is so skilled at such a young age, he always says "My parents never hesitated to take us to really nice restaurants."

I'm just as annoyed by screaming kids in restaurants as the next person, but for heavens' sake, wait til they actually start misbehaving to have a cow instead of getting pre-emptively outraged. A great many children actually DO enjoy dining out, and have been taught how to properly behave.
posted by MissySedai at 9:05 AM on August 21, 2014 [45 favorites]


I did not expect so many strong reactions to this.
posted by PMdixon at 9:09 AM on August 21, 2014


PMdixon: "I did not expect so many strong reactions to this."

children + criticism + fine dining? I totally expected Strong Takes.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:12 AM on August 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


I'm fine with taking children to fine dining restaurants, as long as the parents have them declawed first.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:14 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


My own complaint about the presence of a four-year-old at such a restaurant was not necessarily about the effect on the other diners. I do not know whether this restaurant is the kind that HAS other diners or if it's one of those "one party per night" kinds of exclusive reservations.

In point of fact, Lyla behaved quite admirably for one of her age and was surprisingly tolerant of the marathon experience (or was at least edited to appear so). Good for her.

But five-and-a-half hours of sitting still and being asked to taste wave after wave of penguin cacciatore and prawn sorbet and pureed bat groin and such fine dining delights? That's not mean to other diners, that's mean to the CHILD. That's an endurance test that most adults couldn't pass. The length, the demands upon behavior and the content are all things quite alien to any four-year-old I've ever known.

It's kind of like taking a four-year-old boy, dressing him in a suit and clip-on tie and well-polished shoes and taking him to some formal gathering to stand around and look nice and behave and have pictures taken and refrain from touching anything or anyone. There may be children who enjoy that kind of thing; they are mutants and should be captured, tested and subjected to years of needed therapy. Any normal kid would be clawing at his outfit by the half-hour mark and I would not blame him in the slightest.
posted by delfin at 9:18 AM on August 21, 2014


MissySedai, I wish I could favorite your comment a thousand times. Your kids sound awesome.
posted by jbickers at 9:20 AM on August 21, 2014


I enjoyed the photos of the food. My meal at Alinea is one of the top 3 experiences of my life, and since I'll probably never make it to The French Laundry, photos are the closest I'll come to that experience.

But I'm missing that "Photo Of Any Child = Adorable" gene, so there were way too many pictures of someone else's kid getting in the way of the food for me. So the article didn't work for me, since the adorable is pretty much the point.
posted by jaut at 9:34 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Its also vastly overrated

According to whom, exactly? Not any food critic on the planet, not anyone I know personally who has ever eaten there... or is this just kneejerk contrarianism?

For me at the end of the day: little kid got to have an amazing experience she'll remember for a long time. Only a Grinch would complain about this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:34 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


MissySedai, I wish I could favorite your comment a thousand times. Your kids sound awesome.

Aw, thanks! I'm pretty fond of them, too. Come over, Alex likes to cook for new people. Last night, he messed with the mashed potatoes. I don't know what he did to them, but there were none left after dinner.
posted by MissySedai at 9:42 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would like to cook with him!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:46 AM on August 21, 2014


Four-year-old's are how you get twenty four-year-old's is how you get forty four-year-old's which is how you get sixty four-year-old's which is how you end up in an Oldsmobile with a smooth ride and comfortable seats listening to Neil Diamond on your way to Easter.

The little pisher future cooks have to come from somewhere.
posted by vapidave at 9:55 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would like to cook with him!

Bring your own knives, he bites if you lay hands on his.

We cook together often, unless it's Middle Eastern food, in which case I get thrown out of the kitchen, because I "cook like a white girl". (In my defense, I AM a white girl!)

He and his little brother have been intensely food motivated their entire lives. We have always taken them everywhere with us. Even when they were small, they knew to be polite to the service staff, quiet at the table, and the rule was that they had to try at least one bite of everything. It was OK if they didn't like it after trying it, but they had to at least try. Rowdiness at the table is for at home - and dinner at our house is pretty rowdy, what with girlfriends and friends showing up at random, lots of wine, and everyone happy to sit down together and enjoy each others' company. It isn't unusual for us to be at the table for 2 or 3 hours. We eat late, dinner time is our chance to unwind.
posted by MissySedai at 9:57 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


But five-and-a-half hours of sitting still and being asked to taste wave after wave of penguin cacciatore and prawn sorbet and pureed bat groin and such fine dining delights? That's not mean to other diners, that's mean to the CHILD. That's an endurance test that most adults couldn't pass. The length, the demands upon behavior and the content are all things quite alien to any four-year-old I've ever known.

I imagine that this article was not intended to be something that parents would emulate ("hey, parents, take your kid to French Laundry too!"), and that most parents would be able to gauge their own child's endurance for such an event - and would most likely not take them if they figured their kid couldn't hack it. Or, if it's MissySedai's kids, they'd be able to recognize their kid could handle it and would take them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:05 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bring your own knives, he bites if you lay hands on his.

Wouldn't dream of anything otherwise. And that's gentle. ;)

Unfortunately getting to your neck of the woods seems... unlikely anytime in the foreseeable future. But if you lot ever end up in Toronto, mi cucina es [his] cucina.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:09 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't want [famous chef X] to feel bad, but I really hate sea urchin.

Amen. I dislike sea urchin, truffles, foie gras, and pretty much every #mostexpensive ingredient used by these places. One of my favorite experiences was at Nobhill Tavern. Objectively the menu was very poorly balanced, parading one heavy dish after another with no respite between them: fried chicken, ribeye with potatoes, lobster pot pie, chocolate soufflé, etc. But by God it was wonderful. Simple comfort foods, elevated. That's my sport.

If the French Laundry isn't your thing and you find yourself in the neighborhood anyway, poke into Ad Hoc. It's just down the street. Same chef, but totally different vibe. That's one of my favorite restaurants. Every week or so I refresh the menu just because.
posted by cribcage at 10:17 AM on August 21, 2014


According to whom, exactly? Not any food critic on the planet, not anyone I know personally who has ever eaten there... or is this just kneejerk contrarianism?

TFL should not even be in the conversation for best restaurant in the world (and yes, I've eaten both there and Per Se twice). Hell - Its arguably not even the best place within a hundred miles.

Any statement that says TFL is the best restaurant in the world is just really questionable. This isn't "What's better: Bras, L'Ambroisie, or Ishikawa (insert name of other amazing kaiseki place here if you want)" where its a question of style perhaps. It just doesn't compete. Its arguably a weak three star, strong two in Europe, but incredibly consistent.

So no, its pretty much the opposite of kneejerk contrarianism.
posted by JPD at 10:18 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I did not expect so many strong reactions to this.
posted by yoink at 10:21 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


TFL should not even be in the conversation for best restaurant in the world

Again, according to whom, exactly?

Amen. I dislike sea urchin, truffles, foie gras, and pretty much every #mostexpensive ingredient used by these places.

One of the many, many reasons Adria is my hero (although I love all of those things). All ingredients are of equal value. Which isn't to say, obviously, that he didn't use those ingredients, but they were used (mainly) as just any ingredient would be; something tasty in its own right.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:25 AM on August 21, 2014


Save for the desserts, not a single one of those items looks in any way appetizing.

So I guess I saved several hundred dollars and six months of waiting to eat somewhere while living in the most food-abundant nation on earth. Kid's cute though, I guess.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:39 AM on August 21, 2014


I dislike sea urchin, truffles, foie gras, and pretty much every #mostexpensive ingredient used by these places.

I have two ordering strategies at fine dining places, depending on my mood. I either order the thing on the menu that looks the most disgusting and unappetizing, on the theory that if it survives on the menu but the description looks terrible, it must taste delicious. Or I'll order the most pedestrian thing on the menu, because why would they have 'meatloaf' on the menu at a fine-dining place, unless they were doing something really special with it.
posted by empath at 10:41 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


six months of waiting to eat somewhere while living in the most food-abundant nation on earth

Um...I don't imagine they actually refused to eat for six months until the restaurant took their booking.

Unless we're going to morally condemn all expenditures which do not directly contribute to alleviating the suffering of our fellow mortals, getting on your high horse about "OMG, you spent HOW much on X-Thing-That-I-Personally-Don't-Get-Excited-By" is stupid and almost certainly hypocritical.
posted by yoink at 10:43 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Um...I don't imagine they actually refused to eat for six months until the restaurant took their booking.

Just like that time I didn't listen to music for 4 months while waiting for the concert I bought tickets for.
posted by empath at 10:46 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Just like that time I didn't listen to music for 4 months while waiting for the concert I bought tickets for.

OMG. And you're in the most music-abundant nation on earth, too. You monster.
posted by yoink at 10:48 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Again, according to whom, exactly?

Me. And other people who are experienced diners. I have a friend who literally does nothing but travel the world eating at this point - he actually thinks TFL is actively bad and that Keller is a hack. I don't think that at all. I just think a truly experienced diner who has eaten in Japan and Europe can dismiss out of hand the idea of TFL as the best restaurant in the world. That doesn't mean it isn't an excellent place, but it just isn't in the conversation for best.

I mean look man - you think sous vide is good, you call Adria is a hero. Obviously we disagree. I've eaten in a lot. I mean - a lot - of fine dining places in my life. Keller just isn't all that. I called Per Se the best hotel dining room in the world. TFL has more soul than that, but its still problematic.
posted by JPD at 10:51 AM on August 21, 2014


Well sorry, but basically everyone else in the world thinks you and your friend are wrong, so forgive me if I completely discount what you have to say.

Keller is a hack, puh-leeze.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:59 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Your favorite chef sucks.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:00 AM on August 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Save for the desserts, not a single one of those items looks in any way appetizing.

Funny, because they all made my mouth water. De gustibus etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:06 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't often hear the French Laundry described as the best restaurant in the world. I do often hear it described as the best in the United States, but that's a different proposition.

Personally I think whether it's "the best" anywhere is kind of a stupid dragon to chase, but setting that aside for a moment, I don't necessarily disagree that other restaurants outperform it in various respects. Moto is more imaginative. Felidia is more accessible. Momofuku Ko and Minibar will surprise you more. Joël Robuchon gave you more reason to return the following week. Et cetera. There are plenty of criticisms you can level at the French Laundry that I'd agree with. But it also gets a lot of things really, really right, so you have to sympathize with eye-rolling when Keller is being criticized in totally abstract and nonspecific ways ("overrated," "It just doesn't compete," etc). It does come off a bit too-cool-for-school.
posted by cribcage at 11:15 AM on August 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


I have two ordering strategies at fine dining places, depending on my mood. I either order the thing on the menu that looks the most disgusting and unappetizing, on the theory that if it survives on the menu but the description looks terrible, it must taste delicious.

One of the most talked-about restaurants in Toronto is called the Black Hoof. Many of the items on the menu sound like dares. Most of them are absolutely delicious (I wasn't too fond of the blood custard).
posted by sevenyearlurk at 11:16 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I didn't say Keller was a hack.

And look you're wrong. And I'm confident I have a better palate and understanding of fine dining than pretty much every major critic working in the US.

Remember what your claim is - "Best in the World" - that's a joke and if you think that get on a plane and eat somewhere with a real food culture. I didn't say TFL was a bad restaurant - I said claiming its the best in the world as most Americans attempt to is massively overrating it.
posted by JPD at 11:17 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've been to TFL, and I completely agree with JPD re: "vastly overrated and marginally overpriced". I wouldn't go nearly as far as calling it actively bad.
posted by festivus at 11:18 AM on August 21, 2014


>> PMdixon: "I did not expect so many strong reactions to this."
> children + criticism + fine dining? I totally expected Strong Takes.


I did not expect so many Strong Takes to be about the money aspect. Of all the incredible shit people waste money on this seems like a pretty good once-in-a-lifetime value. You ever take a family of four to Disneyland? The cost is higher and everyone expects to come back next year.

Speaking of which...
> He asks casually, "Are you going to drink that?" I hesitated and he said very
> low key, "There is about $300 of wine in that glass."


I don't like the taste of alcohol, which appears to be an irresistible challenge to some wine lovers. I tell them in advance that I will almost certainly only take a few sips of whatever they're sure will change my mind this time, and yet they still pour by the glass. It is my fond hope that the waiters are polishing off what's left in the kitchen.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:18 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't read this right now but are they anything like Restaurant Reviews From a Privileged Nine Year Old.

Well, that's the most depressing fiction I've read in a while. I came here to laugh, not to feel, McSweeney’s. I'm pretty sure I may have gotten you confused with The Toast again, but still!
posted by Wandering Idiot at 11:18 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Tell Me No Lies: "I don't like the taste of alcohol, which appears to be an irresistible challenge to some wine lovers."

Absolutely. If you want people to buy you expensive glasses of wine, tell them you hate wine.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:23 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


this is the most surreal outragefilter ever.

thanks all
posted by raihan_ at 11:24 AM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Some concrete complaints - and remember where we're at here - this is "best in the world" as a peer group - too much sous vide used in the kitchen, quality of proteins and cheese does not compare well with non-US peers (not his fault, but he's at their price point and remember the question at hand), too many of the technical courses have been on the menu for years - or at least a small rotation. Per Se especially is guilty of putting supplements on almost any luxe ingredient.

The food is pretty much technically perfect. but at this level and I expect it to be technically perfect and have more soul than what Keller delivers.

Also the Wine list in NYC is just terrifyingly priced. I can't remember if TFL is as bad. I suspect not.

I also fundamentally take issue with no choice "tastings" - it allows too many dishes that cloy to work, its too easy to load something up with fat and umami. Not just that it takes a lot of the interest out of thinking about your meal. But that's not a Per Se issue.
posted by JPD at 11:26 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Remember what your claim is - "Best in the World"

I think the only person who actually advanced that claim (in this FPP+thread) was Anthony Bourdain.

"Best restaurant in the world" seems to me a strictly meaningless claim ("best for what?" would be my response. If I'm in the mood for sushi, the "best restaurant in the world" that doesn't happen to serve sushi is no use to me. If I'm in the mood for a hotdog, the "best restaurant in the world" that doesn't serve hotdogs is no use to me. Etc. Sometimes you want Mozart, sometimes you want Miles Davis; there's no "best music in the world.")

But equally saying that some restaurant that someone else adores is not "really" any good is just silly. There can be no arena in which de gustibus non es disputandem is more literally and obviously true. If person A eats at a wide range of restaurants and finds, in the end, that they receive more gustatory pleasure in eating at the Olive Garden than The French Laundry or Momofuku Ko, then the Olive Garden is a better restaurant for that person than either of those others. This is something you simply cannot be wrong about. You can lie about it (i.e., you can pretend you enjoyed something because you thought it made you sound more sophisticated or because you didn't want to seem pretentious or what have you), but you cannot be wrong about it.
posted by yoink at 11:28 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I didn't say Keller was a hack.

No, but your friend did. I never said that you said it. I was dismissing it as the obvious nonsense that it is.

And look you're wrong.

I am wrong that the overwhelming majority of experts, and people I know personally who have dined there, rank TFL as one of the top restaurants on the planet? I'm afraid you're going to have to do a lot better than:

And I'm confident I have a better palate and understanding of fine dining than pretty much every major critic working in the US.

..because that is a breathtakingly arrogant statement to make. Also, it's almost certainly factually incorrect.

Remember what your claim is - "Best in the World"

I said that where? Don't put words in my mouth.

I said claiming its the best in the world as most Americans attempt to is massively overrating it.

That's not, actually, what you said. Your exact words: "Its also vastly overrated and marginally overpriced but whatever."

In addition to not putting words in my mouth, it would also be a good idea if you didn't move goalposts, and didn't pretend to have said things you didn't.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:29 AM on August 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Oh, and I don't feel that it has been said often enough in this thread that the girl in the linked piece is OUTRAGEOUSLY adorable and that the people doing the write up seem to have a nicely relaxed sense of humor and "let her experiment and form her own opinions" about the whole thing. It would have been only too easy for this to become a "my four year old has astonishingly precocious tastes" exercise or, worse, an exercise in mocking her for not "getting" it. They seem like good people and the kid seems to have had a ball. Yay.
posted by yoink at 11:31 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


And I'm confident I have a better palate and understanding of fine dining than pretty much every major critic working in the US.

I know more about fine dining THAN YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE.
posted by empath at 11:32 AM on August 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


It's probably worth noting that of the half dozen or so people I personally know who have eaten at TFL, three are professional chefs, one of whom is extremely well known in Canada, the other relatively so. The third is a sous. I have worked under all three, and no way in hell do you know more about fine dining or have a better palate than Marc bloody Thuet.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:34 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


We feed our 16-month-old many diverse things. I cannot wait to take her to the French Laundry someday. I read this article with much joy and anticipation for the day when Zo can also experience this.

We take daughterbot out at least once a week to a restaurant. We have the opinion that if we want a mannered diner for a daughter, we need to start early. We don't let her get out of hand, and we've mostly picked loud places or off-peak hours so that, if she's feeling squawky, we know she won't cause a huge disturbance.

I'm not about to take her to Addison Del Mar for a 7-course-tasting anytime soon, but I also don't think not taking her out is the answer. The key is to make sure she's (quietly) entertained, and to take responsibility if she isn't, and to not go if she's overly tired or cranky.

So far, it's working. Servers love her (can't tell you how many times a waiter has scooped her up and tried to show her off to the kitchen -- heh) and she loves to go out and eat off our plates. One waiter remembered us and brought her a whole plate of pickles because she goes crazy for them. I'm told eventually "it gets worse", but so far we're doing good, no meltdowns.

(Well, there was one in a Cheesecake Factory when she was three months old, and I had to quickly exit and whip my girlparts out in public and nurse her back to sleep. But that was a timing mistake on our part, and we learned from it. Not that anyone in the noisy, crowded, and dim CF cared.)

I occasionally get worried looks when we roll in, and I want to reassure those people that I don't want a screaming kid anymore than they do. But really, the proof is in the non-screamy pudding. Also, there is some karma here. I was one of those worried eyerollers pre-baby. I just hope when we leave they say to themselves, "That was such a nice baby!" Because gosh, she is!
posted by offalark at 11:36 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh and also:

too much sous vide used in the kitchen

That is a specific choice made due to the results gained. May not be to your taste, but virtually every top-flight restaurant on the planet uses sous vide a hell of a lot now.

quality of proteins and cheese does not compare well with non-US peers (not his fault, but he's at their price point and remember the question at hand)

If it's not his fault, why are you complaining about it? Keller has long championed using local artisanal producers. It is a quirk of the USA that those are much more expensive ingredients than the equivalent would be in, e.g., France or Spain or Italy.

too many of the technical courses have been on the menu for years - or at least a small rotation.

It's his restaurant. He has signature dishes. Chefs do this. The 'all new all the time' thing derived mainly from elBulli--at least amongst restaurants on this level--and very, very few have the time or resources to devote to continuing menu development on a daily basis.

I also fundamentally take issue with no choice "tastings" - it allows too many dishes that cloy to work, its too easy to load something up with fat and umami. Not just that it takes a lot of the interest out of thinking about your meal.

Then why on Earth do you go to restaurants that do this.

Your favourite band sucks, indeed.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:41 AM on August 21, 2014


I know more about fine dining THAN YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE.

I've... seen meals you people wouldn't believe... Sautéed rock shrimp in a creamy lemon and garlic sauce on fire off the shoulder of Felidia. I watched Muscovy Duck glitter in the dark near Momofuku Ko. All those... entrees... will be lost in time, like [small cough] tapas... in... rain. Time... to dine...
posted by delfin at 11:43 AM on August 21, 2014 [27 favorites]


delfin: " I've... seen meals you people wouldn't believe... Sautéed rock shrimp in a creamy lemon and garlic sauce on fire off the shoulder of Felidia. I watched Muscovy Duck glitter in the dark near Momofuku Ko. All those... entrees... will be lost in time, like [small cough] tapas... in... rain. Time... to dine..."

Now I really want to see Plate Runner.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:47 AM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


you are making this defense and you've not even eaten there? Christ.

I know more about fine dining THAN YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE.

Sick burn - except FFFM statements are pretty much an appeal to authority, so its perfectly reasonable for me to assert that I am in fact an authority on this topic. That's not being arrogant. When I read Pete Wells in the NYT not know what the fuck he's talking about week after week it starts to hit you that you are indeed an expert on the topic.

virtually every top-flight restaurant on the planet uses sous vide a hell of a lot now.
They use sous-vide in certain ways. They don't - as per se does - SV things like beef that doesn't have a lot of connective tissue in it or chicken. I said too much sous vide, not that they used any sous vide.

The 'all new all the time' thing derived mainly from elBulli--at least amongst restaurants on this level--and very, very few have the time or resources to devote to continuing menu development on a daily basis. That's just not true at this level. I'm talking about things like the canapes and amuses, not the dishes themselves.

Believe me - when I can I avoid tasting only places. Its only in the last few years that I came to this realization.
posted by JPD at 11:49 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


How dare I assert knowledge about something and the willingness to express an opinion. How. Dare. I.
posted by JPD at 11:50 AM on August 21, 2014


All of you people are peasants. This is clearly the greatest restaurant in the US.
posted by neroli at 11:54 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


JPD: You may wanna read the "in jokes" section of the Mefi Wiki.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:56 AM on August 21, 2014


There are parts of this thread that are such fine world-class examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect that I write to write a paper on it.

It's also really instilling in me a desire to continue to teach my kid how to behave in public so I can take him to the French Laundry when he's four.
posted by FritoKAL at 11:57 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


How dare I assert knowledge about something and the willingness to express an opinion. How. Dare. I.

I will accept that you are the world's foremost expert on what you enjoy eating. I doubt anyone would challenge you on that. I would be very surprised if any food critics in the US know more than you about what you like.
posted by empath at 11:59 AM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Guys! We've already had these arguments! Previously
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:18 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


How dare I assert knowledge about something and the willingness to express an opinion. How. Dare. I.

You understand that it's not your claiming some kind of experience in eating fancy food, but your showing complete contempt for others' opinions that's getting you mocked, right?
posted by aught at 12:22 PM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Take it to Memail, y'all. Please?
posted by Kitteh at 12:24 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I skimmed over the article and thought it felt very staged, it reminded me of those sickening greeting cards where everything but the baby is in black and white. Still, I could see that it would appeal to a lot of people out there so I felt really cynical not liking it and started to feel bad about myself.

Then I read this thread and now I feel really great about myself. I'm not nearly as cynical as I thought. Thanks, Metafilter!

I would very much like to eat at the French Laundry but there is no way in hell I would bring my picky-ass, only-likes-hot-dogs-pizza-and-sushi, child to a place like that. And yes, I, too, was all proud of myself when he happily chowed down whatever exotic food I would give him until one day someone flipped a switch and he decide he only liked three types of food.
posted by bondcliff at 12:50 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know how sometimes gamers or readers here say, after recommending something, "I'm so jealous! You get to read/play this for the first time!"
This is how I feel about the watching that girl eat. And I'm pretty sure it's the sentiment meant to be evoked by the piece, and the reason the restaurant played along. It's not about elite mocking or child mocking or anything antagonistic. It's just pleasure and amusement at rediscovering something faintly silly but delicious through a child's eyes.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:50 PM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


A waste of everything: my time, French Laundry cuisine, pixels, air...

Fuck this cutesy-poo, First World, crap. I'm sure she's a nice little girl, and that her family thinks she's all that--but I don't care what a four-year-old thinks of haute cuisine. (Wild guess: they won't like it.)
posted by Sassenach at 1:09 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fuck this cutesy-poo, First World, crap.

You want gritty, third-world-relevant reviews of the world's most exclusive restaurants?
posted by yoink at 1:17 PM on August 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


No, I'm tired of people thinking everything their toddler says is golden.
posted by Sassenach at 1:19 PM on August 21, 2014


(Wild guess: they won't like it.)

Good job on RTFA, there. (Wild guess: you didn't.)
posted by ApathyGirl at 1:19 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


You want gritty, third-world-relevant reviews of the world's most exclusive restaurants?

I am picturing Anderson Cooper rappelling in through the door now in a flak jacket and I am giggling indecorously.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:21 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


It astounds me when grown ass adults wear having the palate of a picky 5 year old as some sort of badge of realness honor. Grow up.
posted by asockpuppet at 1:23 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


No, I'm tired of people thinking everything their toddler says is golden.

The authors of the piece are named "Jessica Saia" and "Isla Bell Murray" and the child's name is "Lyla Hogan." The piece ends with "If you’re interested in having your restaurant or four-year-old participate in a future edition..."

This four-year-old is really cute BTW. I'm very sorry that you are so tired of being crushed by the weight of precious little kids.
posted by leopard at 1:28 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, the joy that is trying interesting food! I hope this youngster gets many more opportunities to stretch her palate and to eat mysterious and wonderful creations. Food is such an amazing thing.

Dining at a place like this... well, I'm 31. I'd love the chance to experience food like this. We so often think of seeing the world through the eyes of a child; eating at a restaurant like TFL at any age must be like tasting with a new mouth. It's neat to see a kid do it because it further amplifies/magnifies the sensation of trying something new, which is a big part of what restaurants like TFL seem to be all about to me.
posted by sockermom at 1:45 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


They use sous-vide in certain ways. They don't - as per se does - SV things like beef that doesn't have a lot of connective tissue in it or chicken.

That right there shows you don't know nearly as much as you think you do. SV cooking is not necessarily about connective tissue.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:45 PM on August 21, 2014


That's me--tired of precious little kids. I'm a regular Wicked Witch.
posted by Sassenach at 1:46 PM on August 21, 2014


Also (and sorry for commenting so much, but eponysterical etc.) I don't understand why some types of food are considered adults only. People (including the blog authors, I guess?) seem to think it's a gimmick to have a kid eat and critique gourmet food. And some negative comments seem to react negatively to the girl encroaching where she has no business being.
Don't get me wrong, I think that type of dining experience is ridiculous (though looks like fun!) and ridiculously expensive. I don't have the money to spare for it. But if I had the means and inclination to make fine dining part of my life you can be sure I'd take my daughter along, if she in turn showed inclination and appropriate behaviour. Part of the fun of having offspring is introducing them to the good stuff in your life!

Sure, a lot of kids won't be interested and to a lot of parents this falls into "special occasion, hire a sitter" territory. But there is nothing about the food or the establishment that necessarily precludes a child from enjoying it just like an adult would.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:47 PM on August 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


You want gritty, third-world-relevant reviews of the world's most exclusive restaurants?

Having eaten at every place from bus stops to fine dining places in the third world, their palate and taste for food is as good as anywhere else's. But man, I would love if you took someone who ran a roadside pupusa stand in El Salvador or something on a tour of Michelin restaurants.
posted by empath at 2:00 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Guys! We've already had these arguments! Previously

ok, that one was way better, chiefly because the little girl has one of those cool eerie child faces where I can imagine exactly what she'll look like at every point along the way from now til age 95
posted by threeants at 2:06 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why some types of food are considered adults only. ... But there is nothing about the food or the establishment that precludes a child from enjoying it just like an afult would.

Obviously anybody can put anything into their mouth, chew, and swallow. But once you get beyond that, there are a host of reasons why this experience is more suited for adults, and it's all the same reasons why it's perfectly okay to bring your four-year-old to an opera or into a fine art museum but you don't expect the child to get the same value from the experience that adults can.

Over the course of your life, your palate refines. You're exposed to different foods and cooking methods. You gain a frame of reference to understand what's happening in a Michelin menu. You can recognize and appreciate various techniques, as well as hints of cleverness or humor. When the French Laundry serves you a dish called "oysters and pearls," you don't need the reference explained to you. When Moto serves you an entree on a pane of glass that's suspended above aromatic spices, you understand what's happening. Deconstructed dishes, or similar concoctions like David Chang's puffed egg with bacon dashi, rely on your long-experienced expectations.

It shouldn't be controversial, I don't think. Children lack a frame of reference. We are (hopefully) in the process of giving that to them; and if taking a child to the French Laundry is part of it, then great. But there are some fairly simple reasons why a child cannot enjoy these things "just like an adult would." We don't expect kindergarteners to read Pride and Prejudice or to see Giselle or to listen to The Rite of Spring. If you get the occasional one who can, that's wonderful, but it strikes me as an exception to a rather obvious rule. There's a lot more than just "food!" going on in a Michelin restaurant, and if you understand that then I think there's your answer.
posted by cribcage at 2:17 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


You're right, I wasn't trying to imply that children would have the exact same experience, I just put it badly. I do think they can have an enjoyable and unique experience, though!
posted by Omnomnom at 2:22 PM on August 21, 2014


To expand on my previous point:

While sous vide cooking is useful when it comes to proteins with a lot of connective tissue--the low temperatures mean less muscle contraction, and promote breakdown of collagen into gelatine, as well as promoting moisture retention; the principles are basically the same as pot roast or pulled pork from that perspective--that is far from its only use. Sv is frequently used on steaks and chops in order to maintain moisture while cooking to a specified internal temperature; for example, one can cook a steak to 'well' in a sous vide bath without turning said steak into shoe leather, or turning it dark brown. It'll remain red or pink throughout. A walk across the grill when it's done and you have a perfectly cooked steak for a fraction of the effort and time required with more traditional cooking methods. Similar holds true for chicken and other fowl, which are extremely easy to dry out. Rabbit, too.

In addition, cooking proteins sous vide also provides a much more tender end result.

SV cooking is also extremely useful for eggs; you can get perfect soft boiled eggs this way, again with a fraction of the effort. Indeed, you can have a much more fine-tuned approach to the exact textures of yolk and white with SV cooking than you can with traditional methods. To say nothing of cooking egg yolks through to safety (if it's a concern), while still retaining the liquid texture necessary for Hollandaise or zabaglione or salad dressings.

Heston Blumenthal, for example, uses SV cooking to caramelize onions far, far beyond what would be possible in traditional cooking vessels, to the point where he creates what is essentially an onion molasses. I believe, but my memory may be incorrect, that he serves drops of it with lamb.

Sous vide cooking is about far, far more than connective tissues in proteins. It is about precise temperature control, and the effects which result from that.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:22 PM on August 21, 2014


Heston Blumenthal, for example, uses SV cooking to caramelize onions far, far beyond what would be possible in traditional cooking vessels, to the point where he creates what is essentially an onion molasses. I believe, but my memory may be incorrect, that he serves drops of it with lamb.

Oh God...the idea of that is making my mouth water.
posted by yoink at 2:25 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


If memory serves, it's thinly sliced onions at somewhere around 58-65C for something like 24 hours.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:26 PM on August 21, 2014


Not to derail, but once this thread dies down a bit more I'd love to hear anybody's personal home experiences with sous-vide. Last time I looked into it the Anova device was highly recommended, but it's not something I have ever tried. (Yet.)
posted by cribcage at 2:30 PM on August 21, 2014


I've only done it with pro equipment in resto kitchens, though I've been eyeing my slow cooker and considering radical surgery.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:32 PM on August 21, 2014


Of course, the fact that sous vide allows you to do things with "a fraction of the effort" is why restaurant kitchens love it so, and why some tend to overuse it. (I think that was the point being made about FL.) Pulling steaks out of a bag and throwing them on a flattop for a couple minutes is easier for the cook, sure, but as a diner, I hate the weirdly unctuous texture.
posted by neroli at 2:48 PM on August 21, 2014


Different strokes there, neroli; I love the texture of sous vide protein. But in a kitchen like TFL where they can basically have as many people working as they want--for free, no less! (I don't know how many stagiers they have on a regular basis, but I know for a fact that the list of people trying to stage there would reach from approximately the front door to the Moon)--ease isn't generally the primary concern. Precise temperature control is.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:53 PM on August 21, 2014


JPD, your point about sous vide seems to neglect the history of the Thomas Keller restaurants having been a site of innovation in using sous vide techniques—their book Under Pressure published in 2008 was a documentation of their trying to figure out how to use these new kitchen tools, and has since become a well-known reference for many English-speaking chefs. That is, if you are really trying to formulate a criticism of Per Se based on being allegedly injudicious use of SV, then that piece of culinary history (their role, contributions to its usage) is surely necessary to a proper understanding of their motivations and methodologies as a restaurant. This is salient to evaluating the greatness of a restaurant, not just their food as an object of consumption.

I do see that there is an interesting general problem of regional diners being better informed about the spectrum of possibilities at the level of globalized, world-class dining. There's amazing cooking happening all over the world, and it is in this bigger context that the American (media) emphasis on American restaurants may seem overly provincial (and yet is that really a bad thing?). This context makes me interested in a question that naturally follows from this conversation: Instead of the household-name restaurants we all know of such as Alinea or TFL, what alternative restaurants and culinary areas in the world should English-speaking diners be aware of and curious about, in this rich era of culinary performance and creativity? Give us names, and sources of culinary info such as books, blogs, articles…
posted by polymodus at 2:58 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


1/ She has good taste, although
2/ She doesn't like sea food.
3/ Little trouper. I remember one of these where the child cried, halfway through.
4/ One of the pleasures of this series for me has been seeing all these different ethnicities of beautiful mixed-race children and it's not even a thing.
posted by glasseyes at 3:27 PM on August 21, 2014


The fact that I knew this would turn into miserable snarking is why I find myself avoiding Metafilter lately. Everything isn't a contest about who can figure out how to be offended first.
posted by the jam at 3:59 PM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Given how artfully framed the photos are - down to the placement of the hands that are extending service to the girl - and how bright the daylight is, I'm guessing this was all done with the restaurant's cooperation, during daylight hours before service is open. These photos were not snapped on an iPhone from across the table.

I assumed these meals haven't cost the eaters anything, being such excellent publicity for the restaurants involved.
posted by glasseyes at 4:14 PM on August 21, 2014


But man, I would love if you took someone who ran a roadside pupusa stand in El Salvador or something on a tour of Michelin restaurants.

I want to go on a tour of roadside pupusa stands in El Salvador!

I find a particular joy in street food. I drove my husband out of his skull when we were in Mexico recently. He had never been out of the country before (Canada doesn't count, it's only 45 minutes away), so he was nervous. I had been all over Europe as a teenager, and ate everything that looked even remotely interesting.

So we're wandering in downtown Cancun, I'm stopping at every food cart I see, and he's hissing "Oh my god, what if you get sick??" Then we got to the guy whacking up fresh young coconuts, and he finally shut up and started eating.
posted by MissySedai at 4:19 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


i wanna take a toddler and a puppy to french laundry now just to see mefi have another hissy fit

for bonus points we will leave the toddler in the car unattended for up to 20 minutes on a cool winter evening in between courses
posted by elizardbits at 5:43 PM on August 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


Leave the kid a pile of $100 bills to burn for warmth and we'll see what we can do.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:38 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Okay, I'm gonna say I'm roughly in favor of it. This kid was adorable, and made amusing faces, and did try most of the food. Hell, I think I want to try the Tinker Bell dish. I'd probably be against the idea in theory, but in execution it gave me some giggles, and it sounds like the kid somehow survived 5.5 hours of fooding intact and un-crazy (however that happened, perhaps we should check her back) and they weren't booted out. I was entertained, and that was the point.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:47 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


They burned the toast so fuck that place. The little girl is sweet, though, and I guess you can't go wrong with bonbonbonbons.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:00 PM on August 21, 2014


psycho-alchemy: "Perhaps i should be impressed she sat there for the entire meal."

YESSSSSS.

Of course, my son isn't even 3 yet, so who knows. Maybe he will go through some remarkable metamorphosis and come out the other side to be able to be still for any extended period of time that doesn't involve Thomas the Tank Engine.

Am I reading the article right that this was a 5 hour meal?

Yeah, my son would have trashed the tablecloth, the table, and anything fragile he could get his hands on. All the toy trains in the world couldn't keep him at a single table for that long.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:42 AM on August 24, 2014


darksasami: "So, coming from a background that very much does not include Michelin rated anything besides tires, when you're done at a place like this French Laundry, where do you go to eat?"

I haven't eaten at that many uber gourmet places, but my understanding that many high end chefs and food tasters often love, love, love simple fare. Particularly the restaurants that make one thing only very very well.

Rock Steady: "Yeah, in my experience, the average child's openness to new foods peaks around 18-24 months, then plummets dramatically, hitting a nadir around age 3 or 4, then slowly builds back up until adulthood, with another trough around 12 or 13.
"

Wow. I guess our son was early as he started being really picky at around 12-14 months. He's thankfully not down to only one food item and will eat a variety of things so I guess I shouldn't complain, but I do miss when he would everything and I mean everything we put in front of him. Right now he will reliably eat almost any carb and consumes more milk per week than I do in a year. He also has a variety of fruits and vegetables that he will eat according to a very strict schedule which is entirely mysterious to his parents.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:54 AM on August 24, 2014


....I'm guessing this was all done with the restaurant's cooperation, during daylight hours before service is open.

It does say "6 am" right at the start of the article.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:39 AM on August 24, 2014


Empress, I think that was the publishing time. It's hard to imagine the restaurant dragging its staff in that early to feed a 4 year old and two blog reporters.

It looks like they do lunch starting at 11 Fri-Sun. Maybe that's when they did this? 11am on a Friday is as kid so appropriate a time as I can think of for this.
posted by maryr at 9:26 AM on August 24, 2014


It's hard for me to imagine a web publisher a) publishing things at 6 am (first thing in the morning) as opposed to 1:30 am (before going to sleep, and b) putting a publication time on an article in the first place.

On the other hand, little kids get up really early. No, REALLY early.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:20 PM on August 24, 2014


I saw this feature the last time it was posted and I love it. This one was even more fun. The kids are so smart and funny and it's just a fun thing. I think it's cool if people don't like it, but to think it's done during standard dinner service time and offending other patrons or the restaurant itself, or it's some sort of child abuse, is sort of bizarre. Or that her parents paid for the food.
posted by sweetkid at 7:12 PM on August 24, 2014


6 am East Coast is 3am West Coast. More realistic? Also you can queue things.

(The review of State Bird Provisions from a year ago was also published at 6am, but there seem to be other people eating behind the child in all the photos. I really think it's the publishing time.)
posted by maryr at 10:06 PM on August 24, 2014


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