Monday, June 15, 2009

Are French ingredients better?

We may have surpassed the French

On Friday, I reviewed Au Petit Paris. I argued that French restaurants in America are rarely as good as French restaurants in France because French have access to higher quality ingredients. I argued that it is part of their culture.

Misha (Tasty Bits) kindly sent me a link to this article. It argues that the quality of ingredients in America is now better than France.

I haven't been to France in 10 years. It may be that high-end American restaurants now have access to better quality produce, meats, and seafood than French restaurants.

My lunch at Andre's

Still, in Houston I have never had any bread, or any cheese, quite as good as the bread and cheese in ordinary French convenience stores.

For instance, on Saturday, I had a ham and cheese sandwich from Pastisserie Thierry Andre Tellier in Uptown Park. The "French baguette" was not at all crisp. It had a texture that reminded me of hoagie bread. And it tasted dry. The cheese was tasteless. It reminded me of the shredded swiss packages you get at Randall's.

Andre's sandwich was not half as good as the worst convenience-store sandwiches I ate in France. The ingredients just were not as good.

Our best restaurants now may have access to superior product. Yet many of our mid-level restaurants could use some improvement.


John said...

I was in Paris in the spring. Some (but not all) street vendor baguette sandwiches have better bread, cheese and pate than you can find anywhere in Houston. And many small restaurants, off the beaten path, had top-notch, fresh seafood, etc. I think you are right -- maybe at the high-end the US does very well these days, but just take one step down and your average, neighborhood, 20-seat restaurant has great food. -- John C

jonross said...

Not even a question. Most American restaurants still can't find the balance between quality and quantity. Cheaper ingredients for more food, or less of the good stuff? But what is great is that there are a lot of places, especially in our community, that are making an effort.

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Misha said...

I don't think the article argues that American bread, pastry or dairy is anywhere near what the French are used to in every day life. Produce was specifically singled out and I have to admit I was surprised at how average the produce was in all than a few Michelin starred restaurants.

As for meat, it varies. American chicken is just about as bad as French beef. America does have an abundance of great seafood, however.

In general, however, I think our access to premium ingredients is getting better every year. Albert Roux mentioned the stunning difference between what was available in the US just 10-15 years ago and today.

More of his comments here (note his dismay at the effect of logistics in Europe):

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