Giveaway: Au Revoir to All That by Michael Steinberger

51vrbop5pll sl500 aa240  At the G8 summit in the UK in 2005, reporters overheard Jacques Chirac murmur about the British hosts to some fellow world leaders, “One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad.”

The irony of this comment was not lost on Mike Steinberger. In his new book, after noting that London is now, actually, a great food city, he turns the tables on Chirac, saying, “Where once the mere mention of food by a French leader would have elicited thoughts of Gallic refinement and achievement, its invocation now served to underscore the depths of France’s decline. They’ve even lost their edge in the kitchen.

Mike is probably best known to wine geeks as the wine columnist for Slate.com. But in Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France, available on Amazon today, he broadens his focus to include food, specifically, haute cuisine in France. Unlike much food writing, which is prone to sometimes excessive praise, Mike takes up the task of analyzing the decline of French food through the lens of a love lost. Imbued with nostalgia and occasional bafflement at the new French ability to turn gold into lead, Mike wolfs down raw milk camembert and praline mille feuilles, talks with leading chefs and restaurateurs, probes the inner workings of the Michelin Guide, cross examines bureaucrats, journeys to Spain, has a glass of water with the head of McDonald’s Europe, meets a struggling vintner who sold his house in order to keep his winery, and contemplates the lack of ethnic diversity in French restaurants with a Pakistani-born chef.

It’s a meaty tale that provokes thought and stimulates the palate: wine and food lovers will want to savor it this summer.

Thanks to Bloomsbury, the publisher, we have three signed copies of the book to give away to readers of this site. To qualify for the drawing, hit the comments below and tell us where you had your best (or at least a great) meal, restaurant and city. If you’re not feeling in an haute cuisine spirit, tell us about your favorite street food experience. Enter by Thursday to qualify; randomly selected winners will be announced here on Friday morning.
UPDATE: Slate has just posted an excerpt about “How the Michelin guide crippled France’s restaurants.”

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80 Responses to “Giveaway: Au Revoir to All That by Michael Steinberger”


  1. Estia – Philadelphia, June 2008


  2. New York West Village restaurant named Annisa BUT the wines poured with the tasting menu were not even close to the quality of the food. Good but could have been great.


  3. Best meal I’ve ever had was at Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA. The food, service, atmosphere, presentation were all first rate. It was a wonderful way to celebrate a very joyous occasion.


  4. This resonates since I live in London. Spoiled for choice, especially if someone else is paying! But, I had a truly unforgettable meal at a restaurant called Steirereck in Vienna. Dessert was a cigar and an armagnac, for God’s sake! Superlative in every way.


  5. Best meal and dining ‘experience’ in a while… Nana Sushi in Chesapeake, VA. I travel weekly so dining alone with my wife is a rare treat. We sat outside, perfect 70 degree weather, slight breeze – enjoyed fresh Hamachi, Maguro, and a tiger roll paired with a bottle of Albarino. One of the few times I can recall being totally ‘present.’


  6. So many to choose from! My most recent great meal was at Gary Danko’s restaurant in San Francisco. Delicious food and unbelievable service.


  7. Union – December of 2007 – Seattle. They custom made us a tasting menu with wine parings.


  8. Summer 1990 — a very extended lunch at a garden restaurant in Fiesole — overlooking the Tuscan hills. Pity I don’t remember the name, but one of these years I’ll go back to Fiesole and find it again, even if I have to eat in every restaurant in town!


  9. A few favorites:

    Eleven Madison Park (New York, NY) Fall 2007

    Peter Luger Steak House (Brooklyn, NY) Winter 2005

    Bussaco (Brooklyn) Spring 2009

    Hen of the Wood (Waterbury, VT) Winter 2008


  10. Outstanding in the Field dinner, June 2009, Secret Cove, Half Moon Bay, CA. An amazing experience. Dinner on a beach with food sourced from local farmers while looking out on the Pacific Ocean.


  11. My favorite: Lola in Cleveland, Ohio. Who says you can’t get good food in a working class town?


  12. Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon


  13. La Gousse d’Ail, St. Remy-de-Provence, late spring of 2001, the last big trip to Italy and France with my wife before the kids were born. Prix Fix: Lamb, she had steak, tomato bisque, good cheese, a trio of desserts, and the owner even talked me down from a Chateauneuf and recommended a Cotes du Rhone Villages instead. And she was right.


  14. Best meal was recently, in Guerneville, California at the Applewood Inn and Spa.

    Second best was A16 in San Francisco on the same trip.


  15. The best meal and wine pairing was created by myself and 5 friends in honor of our aikido teachers promotion to 8th dan.

    Location Haiku, Maui

    Menu:

    6 Course Tasting Menu in Celebration of Curtis Sensei Hachidan

    Sashimi – Kampachi
    paired with a N.V. Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blanc Champagne

    Zucchini Basil soup
    paired with 2006 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese

    Duck Conit Salad
    Paired with 2005 Goldeneye Pinot Noir – Anderson Valley

    Steak tasting prime center cut ribeye with a balsmic vinegar and filet au poivre , garnished with mushroom caps stuffed with truffle cheese
    Paired with 2001 Liberalia Enologica Cinco Reserva Tempranillo

    Carmalized pineapple and fresh pineapple accompanied with Coconut Pineapple ice cream
    paired with 2006 Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Auslese

    Cheese and Chocolate course – Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola cheeses, Bitter Sweet Dark Chocolate
    paired with a 1994 Dow’s Vintage Port

    A 6 hour extravaganza!


  16. Best meal we’ve ever had was in 2007 at Roast in Borough Market, London. They use seasonal, local ingredients, and really showcase the best of English cuisine, in a modern way. Our meal was relaxed but elegant, and tasted amazing. We even had a local wine (yes, from the UK!) with our cheese course.


  17. The best Meal in my mother kitchen..


  18. My best eating experience was in the kitchen of Hotel Tirreno, in Tropea, Italy. My gosh, the food is so good! You eat seafood prepared in giant clam shells, pasta that’s so fresh it feels like… well, like it was picked in the garden or harvested in the sea, and wine sparkling water from deep, glass bottles. I had the fortune to know the family, and was invited in– and waiters practically ran by our table, one stopping to wolf down a glass of wine before going on. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.


  19. I’m going to opt for a “great” meal, and plug my home town a little bit!

    Not that this place needs any publicity, but I had an amazing dinner at Lolita in Tremont (Cleveland, OH) earlier this year.

    Starters
    -warm olives with fennel, chilies, oregano and olive oil
    -roasted beets in honey, ricotta, almonds and orange zest

    Entree
    -wild mushroom pizza with fontina, arugula, rosemary, garlic, and olive oil

    Wine – Prosecco!

    Yummy. Thank you Michael Symon!


  20. I have been to Ubuntu in Napa, CA several times, but on this last occasion (June, 14th) it was extra special. I went to the vegetarian restaurant / yoga studio with my wife and two omnivore friends after a day of tasting in the Napa Valley. I brought along a bottle of 2004 Puffeney Arbois Savignin and a bottle of 2006 Carrick Central Otago Pinot Noir. We opened both wines and ordered just about everything on the menu. The highlights were the Entire Spring Garden, which was a feast of flowers and even a succulent; the Beets with Hazelnut Soil were delicious; the Cauliflower in a Cast Iron Pot has layers upon lawyers of flavor; and the grits dish was divine. I highly recommend this place for the vegetarian and the omnivore.


  21. Lula in Chicago’s Logan Square. Every meal there is always excellent.


  22. The best dining experience of my life was during a trip to Tuscany. We stopped at an organic farm situated atop one of the hills near Serra di Rapolano around lunch time and were offered seats at the table with the family that owns the farm and their employees. The wife of the owner put out the most amazing spread of food I’ve ever seen. All of it (including the pancetta, and lamb) grown right there on the farm. I’ll never forget that meal. The freshest ingredients possible prepared expertly by an Italian farm wife.


  23. The best meal I’ve ever had was when I had the good fortune to be invited for dinner in le Mesnil sur Oger, at Champagne Salon.

    The French might have lost their edge in the kitchen but they still have one (albeit declining) in the cellar.


  24. Valentino: Santa Monica, CA.


  25. Not necessarily the best meal of my life, but probably the most important one to me, was at Jean-Louis at the Watergate in 1994. I was 21, interviewing for a job in DC, and while I liked food I hadn’t done much fine dining. I was absolutely blown away; I’d never had anything like it, and it got me started down the path to food and wine degeneracy that I remain on.

    I must have looked ridiculous to the staff, this geeky kid all dressed up and dining alone, but they were incredibly nice and the food was a revelation.


  26. I have had a lot of great meals in a lot of great cities. But I will say one of my favorites is Chez Philippe, right around the corner from my apartment in Memphis, TN. The staff always remembers me by name, takes care to suggest what they know I will like, and provides a nice intimate atmosphere right in the lobby of the bustling Peabody Hotel.


  27. My greatest meal was in Stellenbosch at the Vergenoegd Estate in a restaurant called Pomegranate. Never have I come across a chef/sommelier that is so amazingly passionate, in this case a single person. He paired gorgeous South African wines with his delish game meat and it was about as great a meal as one could ever hope to have. Not to mention his chocolate pancakes – a couple crepes wrapped around a chuck of extra dark chocolate drizzled with mocha choc. reduction. So hungry right now…


  28. Taillevent, Paris, 1997.

    It was a meal that eventually drove me to abandon the corporate world and got cooking school 4 years later, to cook in Paris at Lucas Carton when it was still called Lucas, and then to abandon all reason and start a wine company a few years after that.

    A 1987 Hermitage La Chapelle was ordered at the suggestion of the Somm instead of the 1985, and it was the only thing I put in my mouth all night that was not incredible. It was replaced by the 1985 – the somm agreed he made a mistake – and in one bottle of wine I was exposed to the magic of aged wines, the critical importance of vintage, the happiness that comes from pairing great food and wine – it was paired with venison in a cocoa nib sauce, the proper way to deal with a Sommelier who makes a poor recomendation, and just how much I love Syrah from the Northern Rhone. I was 21 and that meal literally changed the course of my life.


  29. This is ridiculously hard to answer. I think I’m going to go with Pizzeria Mozza in L.A. at the moment.


  30. One of my greatest meals was in Graton, California, near Santa Rosa at Underwood Bar and Bistro. Excellent food, wine, and service. Great coffee, too.


  31. 1999, Vidalia, Washington, D.C. Celebrated a promotion with my family, brought a bottle of ’58 Georges de Latour cabernet. Food and service were top notch and made for memories to last a lifetime.


  32. I had two great meals recently. The first was at Frontera Grill in Chicago–a lot of pork and herbs from the roof. Excellent margaritas as well. The second was at Tarry Lodge in Portchester New York–a pizza with potatoes and cheese, lamb shanks, Morellino di Scansano wine. Excellent.


  33. The best meal I’ve every had was in Florence, Italy at a small hole trattoria off the beaten path called Quattro Leoni. I was there with my girlfriend and her family and we sat down and first ordered a bottle of 2003 Greppone Mazzi Brunello di Montalcino while we waited for our meal. The food was divine, I can’t remember the last time I experienced so much flavor in food. My favorite was a dish called fiocchetti di pere con salsa di taleggio e asparagi: it was a purse pasta filled with pear and taleggio cheese in an asparagus cream sauce. It will be tough to beat that one.


  34. Gotham Bar and Grill in NYC, back when Alfred Portale first started doing his thing.


  35. I’ve had many great meals, but most recently, and one of the best was at Komi in DC. Good friends, 17 courses of Greek inflected deliciousness, bottles of Moschofilero, Xinomavro and a surprising Refosco.

    Just stunning all around.


  36. I was in San Francisco last week and ate at (among other places) The Slanted Door. Food was creative and made to a very high standard of quality and thought to complexity of flavors. Service was attentive, very well trained and charming. Wine list was creative, well priced and cohesive with the food menu. All-in-all it was great dining experience. Read my full thoughts on my blog at http://www.vintagevino.com


  37. Ekta, indian restaurant on Girard Ave, Philadelphia


  38. The North Point “Dai Pai Dong” (local market stall food) in Hong Kong. Beer from chipped porcelain tea cups. Lobster, scallops, fish straight from the tank, cooked simple and quickly in the Cantonese style. Noisy, dirty, surrounded by people who absolutely understand freshness and living to eat, not eating to live.


  39. Le Grand Vefour, Paris, off the Palais Royal. Simple, fresh ingredients cooked with the steady hand and pleasure one is happy to find when a chef is cooking in their own kitchen. Apologies to Mr Steinberger.


  40. I’ll go with Lala Rokh in Beacon Hill, Boston — we picked a terrific wine and a 3-course meal, and it was extraordinary all around.


  41. WD-50 in NYC. I’m normally a purist when it comes to food and wine but the creativity and execution of Wiley Dufresne’s molecular gastronomy is stunning. My wife and I ordered the tasting menu and could not stop talking about each course until the next one came. Next stop El Bulli!


  42. Most memorable dish of the last few years was a piece of fresh, crusted Jewfish in Margaret River last year. Perfectly cooked, and so moist and tender. Still sticks in the memory. Simple food done well.

    Cheers


  43. The Restaurante Arzak, in San Sebastian (2007), in a sunny Christmas time. Arzak is an incredible experience, full of creativity, curiosity and charm.


  44. It had to have been Trattoria Gigi in Lucca, Italy. Or Cochon in New Orleans.


  45. Most recent great meal in memory was in Lake Tahoe’s European Restaurant “Pfiefer House.” Amazing German cuisine. The imported beer was perfect. The company was close. Hard to forget.


  46. Babbo, NYC. Tasting Menu with wine pairings. It was a complete sensory overload. Thank you Mario.


  47. I am in complete agreement with Steinberger’s sentiments, and I would be one of the last people to defend the superiority of French food (and I live in France). Having said that, one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had was at Marc Meneau’s L’Esperance in Vézelay, in 2001. As disappointed as I am in French cuisine, that meal was sheer perfection.


  48. My most recent “best” meal was in Big Rapids, MI, a restaurant called the Blue Cow Cafe on Michigan Ave. Their specialty, the “Blue Cow Burger”, a blend of ground NY Strip, Kobe and Ribeye steak with gruyere cheese (medium) on a fresh onion roll, lettuce, tomato (I usually don’t eat tomatoes out – these were delicious – bit of a snob, prefer heirloom!), with a spicy mayo…yummmm. Sided with bacon blue cheese potato salad (amazing). Normally I pass on desert but was wooed into a deep chocolate Pot du creme flavored with some local, seasonal cherry. Washed it all down with a CA Syrah that was recommended and surprisingly, thoroughly enjoyed!


  49. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Portland, Oregon and
    Peter Luger in New York.


  50. @Brian Mitchell, glad to hear the Slanted Door is still going strong. I’ve eaten there three times. Each time, the restaurant was housed in a different (and larger) space. I worried that the next move would be to the Moscone Center.

    With regard to the best meal, that’s really a tough question. It may have been the context, as well as the meal, but my last dinner before moving out of Chicago was at Moto. It was firing on all cylinders, a combination of hyper-intense flavor and absurd theatrics. I loved it. (DrV, I know you had your, erm, disagreements with Homaru Cantu, but he and his crew really put together a delicious and memorable meal.)


  51. Best meal?

    Nobu-New York-July 1996. My wife and I were celebrating our honeymoon. I got a reservation because a friend of mine worked there as a line cook. We did the chef’s tasting menu. Amazing.


  52. Best meal ever? Could have been Arzak in San Sebastian, northern Spain. Went for the tasting menu and with not a word of Spanish had no idea what was being served up. But that made it all the more memorable – delicious.


  53. The black truffle liquid filled ravioli drizzled with an English pea puree, at Grant Achatz’s Trio, in Evanston, Illinois,(prior to his opening of Alinea), still haunt my memory.


  54. Le Bon Laboreur, Chenonzeau, Loire Valley. Just the prix fixe, but awfully good. The fact that it was our honeymoon, and we had spent the day at the castle, might have helped.


  55. Always wowed by Blackbird, Chicago IL. With so many choices, no hesitation going back, fresh menu.


  56. It certainly had to be at Three Chimneys restaurant on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, last September. All local ingredients, skillful presentation, and to-die-for tastes. Absolutely seems at the end of the world, but we were sitting next to an Austrian couple who lived in Boston who had traveled to Scotland just to have dinner at the Three Chimneys.


  57. My greatest meal was lunch at Les Crayères in Reims, France, December, 1999. Snow lightly falling outside. Fantastic combination of multiple Champagnes and food. Superb service. An experience to remember!


  58. Ousteau de Beaumaniere, Le Baux (de Provence) France Truffled Ravioli


  59. Mori sushi in Los Angeles, when a first course of a piece of tofu with soy sauce is delicious, the rest of the meal can’t help but be impressive


  60. Recently Krug Tasting at Melisse in Santa Monica. First time I went with my parents to a Michelin rated restaurant. It was amazing to share my passion with them.
    Incredible


  61. black and blue tuna with mushroom risotto

    Blue @ Mashpee Commons, Mashpee MA


  62. Outstanding in the Field dinner last summer . . .
    First one ever to be held in Boulder, Colorado. Dined between the rows of Bob Munson’s cornfield with his farm & other local farmers providing ingredients for the dinner. From Frasca Food & Wine, Chef Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson on food and Bobby Stuckey pouring wines from Scarpetta. A PERFECT evening all around!


  63. I hate to say that it was outside of New York, but Avec in Chicago, great restaurant, great atmosphere, and those chorizo stuffed, bacon wrapped dates, I can’t stop thinking about them.


  64. I have lived in Asia for nearly 15 years, but it was only three weeks ago that a friend dragged me to a side street in Beijing, sat me down on a tiny plastic stool, and made me eat my first… “donkey burger”. The meat, thinly sliced and reminscent of roast beef, came in a pita-like bread that had been lightly fried on both sides and contained parsley and slightly salty and spicy peppers. It tasted even better when another friend showed up with a bottle of Dijon mustard and this, in turn, caught the attention of the Chinese who are regulars – I guess we all witnessed fusion cuisine in the making. Total cost of the donkey burger: four kuai, or about 65 cents. And that stall is now on my list of stops for any visitor coming to Beijing. (Apologies to Daniel Boulud’s restaurant here in Beijing – you guys are good but you don’t offer this kind of value!)

    Cheers, Jim Boyce

    PS We washed down our burgers with Yanjing beer but next time I’m going to bring a few bottles of wine and see what works best…


  65. A not-so-haut, but memorable and tastey street encounter: roasted corn on the cob slathered in mayo and sprinkled with chili powder on a romantic square in Guanajauto, the Concord of Mexicon independence.


  66. Restaurant: Celadon
    Address: 500 Main St, #G, Napa, California 94559
    Web: http://www.celadonnapa.com

    I’ve always had a great food and experience at Celadon whether it’s lunch or dinner and will continue going back. I love this place! It’s a place that is inviting and gives you a warm relaxing feeling. Their service and staff are excellent. Chef & Owner, Greg Cole, is always hospitable and you will frequently find him out on the floor talking and getting to know his customers.


  67. Gramercy Tavern tasting menu, June 2005. Thanks to Pastry Chef Michelle!


  68. Folk – Philadelphia
    reasonably priced, simple, delicious, good people.
    http://forkrestaurant.com/


  69. What immediately comes to mind is a meal at Tommy Toy’s in San Francisco over 20 years ago. The food was superb, fresh popping flavors, steamy temps (even with the waiter’s deft, swift handling, splitting everything table side), simple but beautiful presentation. The service was perfect, minimal but not wanting for a single thing, always magincally there at the right moment, not hovering. Romantic ambience, warm, but not too dark.


  70. Thank you for sharing these fine memories!

    I was interested to see that it took over 20 comments for anyone to mention a restaurant in France but French restos did gather some steam in later comments.

    Whether you are a winner or not in the drawing, you are in for a delectable treat when you read the book. For a taste, check out the excerpt published on Slate.com or Mike’s discussion on BBC 4 Radio.

    So, who are the winners? Well, I just surfed over to random.org–my destination for all my random integer needs–and generated three numbers: 2, 14, and 41.

    So Dave H, Torie, and Patrick, come on down! Or, at least send me your mailing address and I’ll get your signed copy out to you ASAP.

    And if anyone stumbles on this post later, feel free to share your favorite meal with us or thoughts about the book.

    Cheers,

    Tyler


  71. Best meal ever, easily: squid ink pasta in Agrigento Sicily. A dish of jet-black spaghettini that left me gasping …

    Toro magazine has published a nice review of Au Revoir To All That: http://www.toromagazine.com/?q=node/1893. Cheers.


  72. I had 3 fish tacos composed of mackerel and fresh corn tortillas and a really cold Dos Equis at a walk up tacqueria in Puerto Vallarta. There was a variety of salsas covered with plastic wrap that were unlike anything I’d ever tasted in the States.

    It was so good I ordered the fried fish skin afterwards.

    I still don’t know the name of the place but it was near Los Arcos.


  73. A memorable meal…scene: The front porch of a small house in a tiny village high in the Peruvian Andes….with a wonderful mountain view…the only ‘restaurant’ for fifty miles.
    There was no menu, the patron served me a vegetable soup followed by a stew…tasty but with chewy meat pieces.
    ME: “Que es este carne?” (What is this meat?”)
    Padron: “Pero, senor?”
    Well, in my minimal grasp of Spanish, I knew that ‘pero’ meant ‘but’ in English. I was baffled, repeated the question and got the same answer.
    I finished the meal, and the next day found out that ‘pero’ does mean ‘but’, but perro means dog.


  74. Commanders Palace in New Orleans, 1995,on the second floor, among the trees. Spicy French Creole menu washed down with champagne. Runners up include great meals at Bacco in NO in 1997 and Bayonna in NO in 1999.


  75. [...] Dr. Vino [...]


  76. Best meal, Le Bernardin, not very original but the quality was the most beautiful experience I had in NY, light, taste the ingredients with just fade accents that enhanced the whole thing, not hid the inner power of the fish.


  77. One great meal: Lunch outside on a gorgeous late spring day in Beaune at Le Jardin des Remparts on my honeymoon.


  78. Best and most memorable meal: at the Hotel Chateau de La Tour restaurant in Chantilly, France on 6/6/08. The dessert was six tiny and delicious flavors of Chantilly with nuts, fresh fruits, and/or pastry.


  79. I can’t believe McDonald’s is trying to sell “gourmet” coffee. Who the hell is going to go to a cheap fast food restaruant for a mocha?


  80. Great blog! Sorry to change the subject, but, since Nashville is getting a lot of press lately, I’m looking for a great Nashville sushi restaurant or Japanese restaurant. Have you read any recent buzz? There’s a new one called Nomzilla Sushi Et Cetera, but I’ve only seen a few reviews. Here’s the address of this new Nashville Japanese Restaurant, 1201 Villa Place, Suite 101 Nashville, TN 37212 – (615) 268-1424. Thoughts? Thanks!


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