2009年8月28日 星期五

不算新點子的小點子



上上週末去芝加哥時適逢一年一度的 Air and Water show,可惜週日有空時天公不作美,在水邊什麼都沒看到,進到市區卻又從四面八方聽見F-16和F-18呼嘯而過的聲音,空軍雷鳥小組的空中分列式就這麼被櫛次鱗比的大樓給分裂了,至於海軍藍天使的表演,我則是週六的餐廳裡,和 Charlie Trotter 用聽音辯位的方式的欣賞完了。


還有一件憾事,當我們趕到 John Hancock 大樓,我在等電梯的時候眼見頂樓咖啡吧的廣告,這時在記憶底層彷彿若有光地閃過了一丁點什麼,接著那想法跟我們一起搭乘超高速電直衝腦門,噹的一聲,我想到這座城市是全美唯一有賣Ferran Adria的固態咖啡 espesso的地方,其中一處應該就是這裡。奈何我到的時候店員剛幫最後一位客人結完帳不再賣了,落空的心情又盪到摩大樓的地下室去。

對,我又去進行那個很不幸演變成一年才能夠有一次的頂尖餐廳採訪了(還差點胎死腹中,因為當初想要的位子得三個月前訂)。幾乎是在整整一年之後再次來到芝加哥,發現他又長高了。這城市直到現在似乎還是很熱中建造超高層大樓,而且蓋的很好看,襯著新舊並陳的景致,不禁讓人懷疑東京汐留老了是不是就長這樣呢?

這一次的採訪非常好玩,不輸 Le Calandre 那回,學到的東西也更多了,這才是比吃飯喝酒更吸引我之處,畢竟後者只要花錢就有了。除了跟主廚請教許多心中長久以來的疑惑,也從側面觀察了他和手下廚師們的互動,感覺建立一個餐飲帝國就跟帶兵打仗沒兩樣,而 Charlie Trotter 在面對疑問侃侃而談的樣子與其說像個廚師,我倒覺得更像學校裡呼風喚雨的明星教授,廚師帽一擱就可以上大衛賴特曼的節目似的。

必須坦白的說,這樣一趟下來,我在很多方面有被"說服",這些在文章裡應該會有所著墨。而料理和服務的水準比出發前想像的還好,是比較意外的---這種心情轉折挑明來講好像有點對不起雜誌就是了。

兩次去芝加哥之前,不曉得是先入為主或有事實根據,我對美國的fine dining,或者說哪怕認真做菜的餐廳,心底終究還是覺得差歐州一截,一路走來,我一直想替自己釐清這究竟只是風格的差異或真的水平有所不同,坦白說目前仍說不出個所以然,但可以確定如今對現代美國料理,我能夠少帶一點偏見地欣賞他。

應該這樣說,我相信在美國(尤其我比較熟的東岸)幾個重要城市,無論哪一個層級的餐廳大約都能找到與歐州差堪比擬的對照,雖說若論絕對的質與量還是沒有得比,這點看米其林指南的編法和厚度就知道,但至少有做到"讓一部份人先富起來"的那種提升效果了。

一地料理水準的提升除了經濟能力的許可之外,還有人的自覺在裡面,我想這就是像紐約、波士頓、芝加哥這種人文薈粹之處料理可以精采的原因,因為人口和智識都達到某個臨界值之上。一件令我覺得可喜的事情是,哪怕在學校附近不引人注意的巷子裡,或你以為只有偽中菜能夠生存下來的角落,竟能藏著一些令人驚訝讚賞的獨立餐廳,由一群堅持自我風格、對料理手法和在地食材有莫大熱情的人們快樂經營著。這樣的餐廳沒有海外或甚至全國性的聲名,主廚沒有顯赫的米其林星級餐廳經歷,卻更貼近來用餐的客人,沒有足堪寫成論文的料理美學與哲學,卻有令人聽之不厭的故事。

如果可能,希望往後能有系統地探索這類的餐廳,目標先定在紐約和波士頓,然後靠記錄與書寫把他們帶給我的快樂深化進去、延伸出來。

當然這不是說 Thomas Keller 或 Charlie Trotter 的餐廳就不該去吃,不用去寫啦,兩者都是飲食生活裡不可或缺的一塊,相輔相成,這點絕不可以搞錯了。


4 則留言:

Starberry 提到...

Becco,

Going to apologize right away for the long response.

I actually think the difference b/w fine dining in the US vs. Europe (ie. France) is a microcosm of how the two economies work.

In the US, the restaurant is a business, and the owners must find a way to survive on their own. Whereas in France we often hear about the government bailout of failing star chefs. (http://www.salon.com/march97/wanderlust/postmark970325.html)

So how does this matter? Well it comes into play in terms of pricing/cost, and diminishing marginal returns. In the US, the restaurants must survive on their own and must price accordingly. For example, you know this very well, that fine dining in NY is much cheaper than in Europe. In NY, most top end places come in under $200 pre-tax (with the exception of Per Se). Do I believe that the $400USD place in Paris is likely to be better because of the ability to spend more freely on ingredients, talent etc? Sure. However, can I ever justify that increased cost? Not really. The price might be doubled, but the food might be 5% or say 10% better. To me, that diminishing marginal return is something most consumers won't make.

------------

Additionally, I think tastes differ in the sense that American gourmets, due to cultural diversity, have chosen to branch out more broadly (horizontally), vs. say a French gourmet who has more of a laser focus (ie. highest quality in French cuisine).

I might be biased, but I am willing to make the statement that while say most French gourmets can tell you way more about French food than an American gourmet, the American gourmet likely know more about Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian, Chinese etc etc.

-----------

In the end, I tell people, the point is not that French food in NY is better or as good as say Paris, because it doesn't have to be. If you want the best French food in the world, you should go to Paris, just as if you want the best Chinese food in the world, you should go to China.

The good thing about food in America is that you can find food of very high quality in any cuisine, that's close in quality to its home country. It will never be the same, but the diversity and the broader view you gain is worth the trade off.

Cheers,

Wilson

becco 提到...

Hi Wilson,

千萬別apologize,我感謝都來不及!

不過關於你的評論,有關400美元的巴黎餐廳是不是比200美元的好一倍,我自己的經驗是:就算沒有一倍,也有百分之五十以上,加上服務的話,再多送25%,但這只是一個 rough idea

舍妹(她在巴黎和紐約待過的時間遠長於我,味覺比我敏銳百倍)和我們共同的心得是,在法國很多餐廳,食物端上來的視覺震撼就已經贏過美國那種看似寫意其實是隨意的擺盤,吃到嘴裡的味覺衝擊,那種豐富飽滿的程度,渾不像是一天到晚只想搞簡約冷調風的美國fine dining,那種full hearted的感覺是完全壓倒性!!

在法國小餐廳,你會覺得老闆的菜在說"我不管自己能夠從你身上賺多少利潤,只要菜做得爽,你吃的爽"

米其林星級餐廳可能是"我不在乎你得掏多少錢付這一餐,或吃完會不會傾家蕩產,我只在乎端出最極致完美的食物出來"

美國則是"look,can you imagine how much value you can get out of this 200$ prix fix menu!"

well, 這就少了那種為美味豁出一切的熱血感啊!!!!

感覺像身受"Joba rule"保護的Joba Chamberlain,而不是當setup man時那種98 mile 火球狂飆的張伯倫了


至於bailout的事情,我覺得就算有也不見得是100%發生,不然Pierre Gagnaire 以前就不會倒,Bernard Loiseau 也不用舉槍自盡了,更別說那些賣冷凍食品或在東京香港狂開分店的星級名廚了。

關於Breadth 和diversity之辯,這的確牽涉到價值觀或喜好的問題,我只能就自己的偏好講: 如果真的要把這個事情提升到廚師們愛宣稱的藝術境界,那麼我想深與高度可能會比廣泛要更得到我的崇敬。

畫電影看版的美工可能很輕易的就畫出有梵谷、塞尚或畢卡索"風味"的作品,但梵谷、塞尚和畢卡索終其一生就只畫他們自己,不是嗎?

在一個交通、旅行方便的時代,只要時間許可我願可親身去巴黎、去東京吃最精深的法國、日本料理,而不是all in one的"fine dining",我認為這點在精神上是有矛盾的。

對我來那的確是 trade off,但不在"精深vs寬淺"之間,而是…這該死的實驗物理business和phd害我好久不能去旅行以致於只能去紐約享受(maybe)物超所值的大餐,可惜真正的愛是沒在算c/p,而是absolute value的…

寫完我要哭了,唉。

Starberry 提到...

Ah. I guess it's a step in the evolution process on my culinary arts journey that I need to make.

Unfortunately, at this point, I cannot really accept the diminishing marginal return. However, I know that as my finances improve (not that they are bad now), it will become more and more acceptable to me.

My personal example is that back in college, I loved $25 all you can eat sushi. Then I started working and found an authentic place owned by Japanese chefs for a nice $40 to $60 dinner. Then I moved to NY and found $100 omakase. Then I found $200 omakase, where literally every time I went, there was something I had never tried before. Is the $200 omakase 2x better than the $100 omakase? Or course not, but the extra $100 is within an acceptable budget for me so I am happy to make that trade off for the improved quality of food.

I feel that it will likely be the same for me in terms of say fine dining. Where as right now within my budgetary constraints, I cannot justify the increased cost. I am still at the stage where I would rather go to $200 place 2x than $400 place once. However, I do know that just like the sushi example above, (hopefully) one day that my finances will improve to the point where I wouldn't mind the marginal quality/cost trade off.

As for a recent real life example, my mom will be visiting me in NY early October, and let's just say I was unable to justify the cost difference of Per Se vs. Daniel (magnified by 2x since I am paying..heh heh). I really wanted to go try Per Se, but in the end because I had to budget for other activities. (SAD!)

One quick question though. In terms of these high end michelin restaurants in Europe, how "often" is it designed for people to go? Ie) Do they expect their regulars to go once a month? more often? less often? I am hoping you could help me clarify.

Cheers,

Wilson

becco 提到...

Hi Wilson,

雖然我現在對美國的食物(fine or rough dining)高得多,但絲毫無損於歐州在我心目中的地位,有些東西就是需要時間的累積,無論資產或包袱都是,所以…感謝現代交通的進步吧!

關於margin的問題,我只是覺得,很多東西愈往上追求,愈沒有辦法量化,投資與獲得的比看似愈來愈非線性,但反過來說那其實是因為有太多其他的"gain"不能被放到那個計量的模型裡,或說再好的計量都沒有辦法言傳那些感動吧。

歐洲的星級餐廳是不是讓人常去吃? 我不曉得,因為畢竟不住那裡對當地的文化不夠了解,但我粗淺的觀察是,對法國人來說上館子是一件比美國人平常的事情,你看紐約的好餐廳客人看來總是有別的任務似的,(多半)不是dating就是business,或者special occasion,但我感覺在法國比較不必如此,享用一頓好的食物就已經夠special了

至於用餐的頻率,可能得看好不好訂了。這問題你去問忠道站長一定會有正確的解答。