A slew of articles about some judging the “best” restaurants in the world and naming a “winner”.
Of course, this is absurd. There is no such thing as “best”. Why should anyone believe the opinion of people with opinions, especially people who make their living catering (no pun intended) to this industry. Food writers will write glowing reviews of expensive top-rated restaurants, because the want to show their appreciation for the free meal they received and/or expect to receive. Food magazines thrive of glossy pieces about fancy troughs and newspaper insist on having a “food editor”.
I have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world, enjoyed street food in many countries, and satiated my hunger at most US chains. My “favorite” sandwich was bought at a rest stop outside Genoa, Italy, on the highway between Nice and Milan. I have had too many hamburgers and too many steaks to pick a favorite. Best is not something one can easily apply to something so varied, which often is affected by mood, company, and...hunger.
The worst thing I have eaten is sea anemone at a fine restaurant (except for this dish) in Spain. I noted that this is served that the restaurant the won “best”. It seems that offering weird stuff helps to win prizes, but I prefer normal food. I appreciate creativity and enjoy the meals I have had at one of France’s best, the Auberge de l’Ill, where every meal over the decades has been memorable.
The most memorable meal, although not the “best” was at a restaurant that is not even a restaurant. This was outside Kyoto, Japan. The place takes one small party a night. You sit on the floor and the waitress serves you on her knees. I do not recall what I ate, but each course was special. Mostly, I recall the setting. In a country known for being crowded, this small building was located in a huge wooded estate and offered pure tranquility. The ambience made the meal special, because I did not particularly enjoy the company.
I have enjoyed to many “bests” to pick one. Anyone that does is being disingenuous. Anyone that believes the selection is a fool.
We drove to France today for dinner. We have enjoyed meals at the same restaurant for decades and will continue to make the journey for as long as I am able. In years past, we drove there for lunch, ate and drank for four hours, and then drove home. Now, we stay overnight, which prevents drinking and driving.
On the way, I thought about the absurdity of driving three hours for a meal. Cavemen hunted and gathered...and then cooked a meal in a cave. Early farmers worked year around to feed themselves and their families. None every visited a restaurant. People today can choose from a variety of means to feed themselves, but driving so far for a meal must be at the end of some scale.
When I consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I know that I am perched on the pinnacle of a pointy triangle. At the bottom is man’s need for nourishment and shelter. At the top is something called self-actualization. That trait must include self-indulgence, because that is what I am doing. Life does not get much better than this.
Thanks for asking. My birthday celebration in Alsace could not have been better.
We had a pleasant drive (after leaving the Autobahn and hitting the back roads), which improved greatly as soon as we crossed into France. Perfect weather and peak growing season added to the splendor. Rural Alsace is beautiful, kept that way by strict rules and regulations that prohibit excess signage, ensure traditional architecture, and require flowers on public streets. It is like entertaining the past, but with modern conveniences and good roads. The people are friendly, despite having suffered through (seemingly) constant battles over which country gets to fly its flag over their heads. At the moment, the French flag flies, but everyone still learns German in school (just in case).
The restaurant we were fortunate enough to enjoy, Auberge de L’Ill (it sits beside the Ill river), could be the best in the world (depending upon who is making the judgment). The ambiance is wonderful—in the dining room or spacious riverside garden—the service is exquisite (friendly—yes, friendly, even in France!), and the food could not be better (different, perhaps, but not better in terms of flavor and quality). I have been enjoying this restaurant since the 70’s; it is always worth the trip and never disappoints.
The slide show should whet anyone’s appetite to make the journey. A few editorial comments:
The saumon souffle was invented by the current chef's father. It is a unique specialty and something I have each time I eat there. One might think that the salmon was born with the souffle on its back and swam around in the Atlantic Ocean. The peche Haeberlin (peach Haeberlin) is another specialty, including a poached white peach, pistachio ice cream and a zabaglione. I did not eat the other deserts (although I would have liked to also have had the vacheron!), but thought the photos might appeal to those gourmets out there. No country in the world has cheese like France, whose government fiercely protects it from encroachment by EU regulators.
Plan ahead; it is booked out well in advance.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.