I’m still in a bit of shock from my long weekend in Los Angeles last month. Shock from the mediocre meals I had. Shock from spending hours navigating the filth and rubble of downtown L.A., and shock from how I was sold a bill of goods describing how a “downtown Renaissance” was going on there. Something is going on all right — every block seems beset by either new construction or a condo conversion — but the progress has been glacial since last we visited a few years ago, and don’t hold your breath if you expect it to look like mid-town Manhattan (or even downtown Seattle) anytime soon.
It’s that time of year again, when Restaurant magazine, an industry journal published out of London, names the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” an annual list so nonsensical as to make “Alice in Wonderland” seem like a serious guidebook.
Years ago I was invited to be one of the hundreds of judges for this awards program (and I was to pick the other North American judges), now made up of more than a thousand food writers, chefs and restaurateurs, and well-traveled gastronomes. Each judge casts seven votes, “three of which must apply toward restaurants outside of his or her home region. Voters must have dined at a restaurant within the past 18 months.” After that first year on the panel I realized the whole thing was a farce, for several reasons.
Wine Travels in Germany + A Few Words(?) About the Ironic Inscrutability of Germany’s Greatest Grape
German wines and America have had a difficult relationship over the past one hundred years, to say the least. Two world wars in twenty years weren’t exactly conducive to good public relations (or wine sales), and dumping boatloads of plonk on the American market back in the 1970s — in the form of Piesporter, Liebfraumilch and the dreaded Blue Nun — didn’t help matters either. The overall effect has been to seriously damage the reputation of Riesling — one of the great drinking grapes of the world.