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A Meal Observed
In this seductive account of a long, luxurious dinner at the venerable Paris restaurant Taillevent, Andrew Todhunter is both the American abroad sharing a rare gastronomic adventure with his wife and the apprentice-cum-reporter who has spent several months working in the restaurant’s celebrated kitchen, learning what goes on behind the scenes. As Todhunter describes it, Ta ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 10th 2004 by Knopf
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I cringed when I read that the author was an American in Paris "interning" at Taillevent (the book's featured restaurant): "Swell, a dilettante yuppie (yawn)." Not so ... aside from mentions of Martha's Vineyard (Menemsha) in passing a couple of times, he goes out of his way to stress that he's not from an upper class background. I would've liked a bit more on how he came to intern there; without that background, it does seem rather a "whim". Still, not a deal-breaker in terms of my taking the b ...more
A Meal Observed succeeds. It succeeds in large part because the concept is brilliant - an entire book about a single meal. It also succeeds because Mr. Todhunter's prose is up to the challenge of such a high concept endeavor, requiring the need to frequently depart from the meal to explore a host of seemingly tangential concerns while somehow staying on course. However, just as a Chef of haute cuisine must walk a knife's edge between leaving the diner merely satiated and leaving them overly burd ...more
I just loved this book. I love food and I love cooking, and well, I'm also living in Paris. So it was the right time for me to read this one. However, that being said, so much of this book is not about Taillevent and Todhunter is a brilliant writer. Laugh out loud funny in all the right places. I enjoyed it so much more than I had thought I would and he has great human insight. I definitely recommend it!
I've noticed in the last year or so that the books I enjoy, remember and recommend the most have tended to be about how things are made or how they work, though generally not in the form of an instruction manual. The authors tend to be interested amateurs rather than seasoned professionals, though there are exceptions to that rule. Some of the most enjoyable have included Michael Pollan's A Place of My Own, Tracy Kidder's House, and David Owens' Sheetrock and Shellac. In the same vein, though ab ...more
I couldn't get over the perceived arrogance of the author, somewhat ruining the book, since it's a pseudo-food memoir. Billed as part natural history, part memoir, it's almost exclusively a memoir. There are paragraphs here and there about the history and circumstances surrounding the meal, but they are few. Todhunter apprenticed at a 3-star Michelin restaurant, worked with some of the top chefs in the world, and all we get of the experience is about twenty full pages. So frustrating. Yes, I enj ...more
Dreaming of dining at a Michelin three-star restaurant in Paris? Foodies will devour this delicious book, which recounts an entire meal at Taillevent. Between the amuse bouche and the fantasie, the author riffs on his favorite cheese shops in Paris, the history of salt, and the kitchen politics behind the scenes in a renowned restaurant. Yummy armchair dining at it's best! Desperate to taste a morsel? Pastry chef, Gilles Bajolle's, Marquise au Chocolat et a la Pistache recipe is thoughtfully pro ...more
Here's an interesting idea for a book: Go to an exclusive French restaurant, indulge in a long and pricey meal, and then write about it. That's it. That's this book. It is a course by course description of a single meal. Todhunter tells about the food and the service and the restaurant and the chefs and wanders around here and there into all sorts of fascinating tangentially related topics. A fun quick read.
Oct 25, 2007 Amanda Vogelbaum rated it 4 of 5 stars · review of another edition
Recommends it for: chefs, food lovers, and beyond!
Todhunter is not as arrogant as he may first come off as. Read on to get to know him a little better. Todhunter's descriptions of food, and the intricate dance humans have choreographed around the aromatic and flavorful symphony which is food, is often breathtaking and memorable.