Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.




Democracy and the Kid

on November 11th, 2010
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Last week, many Americans took part in democracy by voting

Last week, many Americans took part in democracy by voting

by André Gayot


Tim is the smart, nine-year-old son of my young friend and colleague Mac Bramble. I like it when he calls me “Uncle” because it makes me feel younger, as Grandpa would be more appropriate. He enjoys asking questions, as well as teasing me a little bit. He listens to the news, and — what’s extraordinary for this generation — reads the newspapers (or at least their first page) left by his dad on the couch, but he does not understand everything. So, he often demands clarifications:


Tim: Uncle André, what are the elections about?


AG: They are an exercise in democracy. People elect people to represent them.


Tim:  Represent them for what?


AG:  To tell them what they have to do. We call that the law. It tells you what’s right and what is not. In brief, this is what they call democracy. The majority determines for you and me the good and the evil.


Tim:  But if I don’t like what I am told to do, am I against democracy?


AG: Not necessarily, but you are the minority.


Tim: And then, what are my rights?

  Continue reading “Democracy and the Kid” »

Last Night with Bernie

on November 03rd, 2010
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Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank

Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank

by André Gayot


I don’t want to keep you awake tonight, but I have to report the conversation I had with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, Ben Bernanke.


– AG: Hi, Ben, how are you? Reading that low interest rates are responsible for the subprime disaster because people bought houses left and right that they could not pay for, I was wondering if the current very low rates would not give birth to another house buying spree and another bursting bubble.


– BB: Don’t worry; people are not buying.


– AG: But that’s not too good for the economy, because construction is its main driving force.


– BB: This is a transition period and we have other sectors that do well, like TV, where so much money flows to conceive and propagate electoral messages, mostly mud-slinging maybe, but a good sign if you consider that mud is an inexhaustible natural resource. Continue reading “Last Night with Bernie” »



Chicken Snack Toast Rectangles

Chicken Snack Toast Rectangles

by André Gayot

In my European journey, despite the seasonal French pseudo-revolutionary sitcom, I was able to visit the SIAL in Villepinte near Paris. I guess the acronym is used instead of the full name — Salon des Industries Alimentaires or Food Industry Exhibition — because it’s shorter for the media and maybe also because we don’t like to be reminded that the content of our plates is nowadays largely concocted in industrial factories by Big Business. But there are also artisans who strive to find improbable ways to find a magic formula, such as the one who creates his “caviar” from truffle juice. Caviar is expensive, but so are truffles. I am missing his point.

Continue reading “Food Flair at the Food Fair” »

My A– !

on October 25th, 2010
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“All asses were not created equal" billboard

“All asses were not created equal"

by André Gayot

I was puzzled the other night when a brightly illuminated billboard promoting pants over the boulevard drew my attention. It read: “All asses were not created equal.”

True enough! All of a sudden, as I was so far relatively satisfied with that part of my anatomy, I felt uncomfortable in my mind to have ignored this important issue and its intricacy. I did not feel guilty, though, because no trace of the lower back problem could be found in my favorite readings, that of Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin. Reflecting on the human condition, and on the research of equality among men, they were – it seems – mostly concerned by the inequality of the heads and by the difference it could make at the end of the day if nothing was done to take care of natural or acquired imbalances.
Continue reading “My A– !” »

When I was a Hostage

on October 20th, 2010
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Are airlines today exploiting their passengers with astronomical fees?

Are airlines today exploiting their passengers with astronomical fees?

by André Gayot 

In the last century, terrorists of many descriptions found a spectacular way to make their point: they hijacked planes and seized the passengers as hostages to monetize them.

This lesson has not been forgotten. Airlines that were in the epicenter of the drama realized that they, too, could take advantage of this strategy and mimic the principle. It would be even easier because they already had the planes, and the passengers as well, in their grasp. Thus, they did not even need to capture them, which incurs additional costs.

Becoming a hostage seems to us to be an improbable event. Don’t believe that.

Continue reading “When I was a Hostage” »

No Foodies in LA, Indeed?

on October 18th, 2010
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Is this scallop dish from Providence restaurant not good enough for Michelin?

Is this scallop dish from Providence restaurant not good enough for Michelin?

by André Gayot

Monsieur Jean-Luc Naret, the director of the red Michelin restaurant guide who is leaving his post at the end of the year, is a strongly opinionated person. Based on his brief stints, I presume, in the city of Angels, he affirmed to our colleague John Mariani that people here are not real foodies. He feels that they are not interested in eating well, but rather to look at other people going to restaurants, where they have to go to see them. In a word, they don’t really eat; they only devour the others with their eyes.

We poor Angelenos! As if it were not enough to cope with the earthquakes, the fires, the crises, and the gangs, now we also have to deal with the mediocre content of our plates. One of the tragic consequences of our ignorance is that Michelin will not publish any more restaurant guides for LA. So now, how can we learn how to eat? Sad! Continue reading “No Foodies in LA, Indeed?” »



Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's memoirs, A Journey: My Political Life

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s memoirs, A Journey: My Political Life

by André Gayot

On this proposition, scientists are, at least, unanimous: “We are what we eat.” Fine, but even if I trust the verdict, I am not sure of what it means and entails exactly.

For example, in what capacity could we, with the content of our plates, supersede or contradict the Darwinian theory of evolution? Would it be possible via eating to transform ourselves into creatures different than the ones pre-determined by our genes? Without digging too deeply into this philosophical comestible matter, one sure thing is that eating is the most common and frequent act of our lives. We all — including the Pope, the Kings and the Presidents — do eat, but some of us do it better than others. As to ourselves, if we are smart enough in that endeavor, the Presidency of the United States could very well be in our lunch box. Continue reading “And One Burger for the President” »

by André Gayot

Who wasn’t bewildered by the magnitude and the architectural riches of the South Coast Plaza in Orange County, California, when it first opened in 1967? We were among those filled with admiration for the shining, marble-tiled, majestic alleys of what was then one of the largest shopping malls of the world. (Of course, that is now dwarfed by The Dubai Mall). Today, we remain impressed with the flamboyant style of this cathedral of consumption adorned with the names of the luminaries of the chicest commerce of the globe. Overwhelmed by the Gucci’s, the Tiffany’s and the Louis Vuitton’s, we like to pause and seek some relief from grandeur in a human proportioned asylum, with the reassuring French name, “Marché Moderne.”
Continue reading “When the American Dream Has a Taste of Brie” »



Samples of local cuisine

Samples of local cuisine

By André Gayot

As the world gets global and progressively engulfs its denizens into a single one-fits-all mold, it’s an encouraging sign that here and there some rebels are proclaiming a personality of their own. Interestingly enough, the affirmation of such an individualism stems from the food, not as a raw material, but from the understanding we have of it and the procedures we invent to process it.

I had the privilege to observe such a comforting manifestation where last week in Puerto Rico when I attended the third annual “Saborea” (Spanish for “Savor” or “taste) event. It takes place along a sandy beach fringed with coconut trees on this American-style Caribbean island. The tropical setting is enough to tell what is reasonable to expect under these latitudes. Indeed, location, tradition, and production determine ipso facto the limits of the gastronomy. But imagination, this essential human addition, can transcend—or not—the regional capacities.

Continue reading “The Global Show of Savor” »

L20 the Place to Go

on March 09th, 2010
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Poire Belle-Hélène: poached pear, pistachio, ginger & chocolate sauce.

By Andre Gayot


Hey Laurent, isn’t there a better way to let us know that this is a fish-oriented restaurant — and an excellent one for that matter — than this esoteric acronym of L20? L is for Laurent, we understand, and replaces the H which is half of the chemical symbol of water, H20.


But Laurent, you have nothing to do with chemistry except maybe when, with a funny allusion, you mock the molecular cuisine concealing your succulent foie gras under a cloud of sugar candy. Moreover, you make it difficult for the search engines to find this elegant and worthy eatery hidden in the chic Lincoln Park West area of Chicago in the databases of good restaurants, a pity for the uninformed who will miss a memorable dinner in this serene, almost spa-like space filled with Makassar ebony columns, plush couches and white leather chairs. The single onyx two-top has “it table” status written all over it.


Continue reading “L20 the Place to Go” »

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