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.
I found this sentence in the following linked article in Time:
“Being able to eat out, at least once in a while, has for at least three or four generations, been part of the birthright of most Americans.”
My memory of eating out as a child (which resides somewhere in that “three or four generations”) was a Easter restaurant visit, paid for by me grandmother (I think). I did not feel disadvantaged, because we ate very well at home. Restaurants were like trips to Europe: people with money did that. Eating out was not seen as a birthright, merely something others did. I recall my first visit to McDonald’s (in Hartford, Connecticut), which replaced sandwiches made by my mother on trips to visit relatives in the South. My father’s dream was to own a restaurant, which I understood only later in life, and at which he failed. I still have not grasped his disappointment...or my mother’s. But, at least he tried. Now, I enjoy restaurant meals, to the point of having tried the best in the world and top addresses in many countries around the world.
I recall the advent of Friendly’s to my town, because I was already a regular patron of any and all other outlets within driving distance. In the beginining, I enjoyed only ice cream; food came laterI introduced my children to the chain; our first stop after landing (if on the East coast) from Germany was a stop at one of their franchise. My daughter still yearns for an orange sherbet cooler. At home, I try to replicate the kind of cheeseburger they “invented”: a grilled cheese sandwich, pulled apart, with the hamburger added. It’s okay, but can never be the same. I miss the Fribble, which started out as the Awful Awful, until Friendly’s was sued for stealing the name: the treat remained the same, proving that an Awful Awful by any other name is just the same. I have found memories of trips to Friendly’s in my mother’s tiny car. I will sorely miss visiting Friendly’s on my next trip (if I ever overcome my aversion to US airports).
Of all the changes that have occurred in the country of my birth, the demise of Friendly’s might be the saddest. I was unhappy about the sale to Hershey, because they bastardize many of the traditional favorites, but going out of business is a shocking blow.
I had a very pleasant dining experience last night. It was to celebrate my wife’s birthday, which she did not want to acknowledge. A fine dinner was acceptable.
We often travel to France to enjoy meals at starred restaurants. We are believers in the Michelin sect. There is a restaurant in the next town, which we usually ignore. It has a star, but its proximity tends to tarnish its appeal. There is something about driving to France, which enhances any fine dining experience. Last night, I discovered our mistake. It was one of the best meals I have had; I can’t imagine how it could have been improved. The wine was equally perfect for the occasion.
I doubt that many will be in the vicinity of Frankfurt. But, if you ever are and want a great dining experience (it’s more than just a “meal”), then try to get a table at Hessler in Dornigheim (a few miles east of Frankfurt). It’s any unattractive town with no tourist appeal, but the restaurant makes the trip on an ugly street worth taking. Once inside and enjoying the experience, location and route do not matter. Of course, one must be willing to leave behind more than one might for a Happy Meal, but the pleasure is exponentially greater.
Next time, when my yearning leads to thoughts of France, I will set my sights on a place closer to home and that requires a shorter drive. I will be contributing to saving the planet, without suffering a decline in earring pleasure.
Anyone not interested in European royalty might not appreciate the horror, shame (and hilarity) of a story I noticed in the local newspaper. First a bit of background, for those not enamored with this foolish anachronism.
The king of Sweden married a German commoner (both words causing shock in Sweden), after meeting her at the 1972 Olympic Games. Many Germans rejoiced, having felt slighted and slightly inferior to countries with a crowned head to fawn over, since losing their last emperor early in the 20th century (seems he started a war with his cousin). Over the years, Queen Silvia has become more popular than the king and most Swedes have forgotten or forgive her origins. She and her family feature heavily in gossip pages and magazines in Germany. I recall one headline of the leading boulevard title during a slow news cycle that read “Sivlia’s Baby Kidnapped”. She had not had any children at the time; anyone falling for the headline and reading the article learned that there was speculation that her child might be a kidnapping target.
Back to the point: It seems that the “royal” couple was refused a table at a restaurant near the queen’s hometown in Germany, after showing up without a reservation. It would be like Michelle Obama being turned away from a Chicago restaurant.
Such treatment has shocked anyone interested in such triviality. Supposedly, the place was packed due a wedding. The guilty girl that did the deed claimed that she did not recognize them. “I don’t have time to read such trash,” she said, when someone pointed out the queen’s frequent presence in gossip media. The owners feel shamed and plan to write a letter. They are surely upset at not getting a photograph to hang in a prominent position in the restaurant of the royal couple enjoying a meal at their place.
It seems that these two like to show up unannounced at restaurants. It might work in Sweden, where the guy should be recognized, but some places accept and honor reservations. They pulled this trick recently at a French restaurant that I visited (a place commonly booked weeks in advance). The waiter told me that these two had showed up unannounced and had to be served in the kitchen at the staff table. Noblesse oblige.
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.