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Finding the Frauds – John Mariani on the Absurdity of the World’s 50 Best List

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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.

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I Know a Little German

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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.

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50 Things I Now Know About Tokyo

Traveling is living intensified. – Rick Steves

 When you’re in a foreign country, it’s like you’re a little kid again: everything is a little frightening and fascinating. –  Hugh Alexander Curtas

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50 THINGS I NOW KNOW ABOUT  TOKYO:

1) It’s time to forget Pearl Harbor; the Japanese are a lot friendlier than Germans.

2) Tokyo is the world epicenter of sensory overload. Nothing you have seen or heard prepares you for the bombardment (poor choice of words) of lights, people, and urban intensity.

3) Tokyo Station makes Grand Central look like Wichita, Kansas.

4) That said, it’s a very quiet for a place that’s moving 30 million souls around.

5) They’re not very big in the hips, butt, or breasts (and you’ve never seen so many bowed legs in your life), but Japanese women don’t know how to dress poorly.

6) The men aren’t far behind.

7) African-Americans are rarer in Tokyo than a Republican in Botswana. In eight days we saw five black people. One of them was a chef in a kitchen.

8) New York: 20 million people, 20 million stories. Tokyo: 30 million people, one haircut.

9) You’re as likely to find bad fish in Japan as you are to find good sushi in Sioux City.

10) There are no fat people in Japan, except Sumo wrestlers. The only slobs we’ve seen were all speaking English.  American English.

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