I spent Saturday involved in very un-French pursuits—no petanque, profiteroles or pommes frites for me, unfortunately. Years ago, when I was working at a cooking school in France (an experience that was in equal parts miserable and glorious) we celebrated Bastille Day by producing 1,000 gougeres (cheese puffs) and 1,000 palmiers (elephant ear pastries fashioned from puff pastry that we made from scratch) for the celebration in the town square. By the end of it I was so tired and so sick of pastry that I didn’t even attend the party.
This year, my only nod to the French holiday was the purchase of this cookie and a fine baguette from Patisserie Philippe, on Townsend Street.
Speaking of French food—I had dinner at Ducca last week and had the chance to speak with chef Richard Corbo, an East coast ex-pat who was formerly chef at Mecca. We were discussing the East coast-West culinary divide (my favorite hobby), and Corbo said that he thinks the East coast has a stronger Italian influence, while the West Coast, culinarily speaking, has a greater French influence. By Richard’s assessment, this boils down to mean that the food (generally speaking, of course) on the East coast is on the whole bolder and saltier than West coast restaurant food, which tends toward more delicate combinations, more fresh herbs, less salt. An interesting thought, certainly, but is it true? If anything, our town had quite suddenly become overrun with rustic Italian eateries. What gives? If you’ve eaten on both coasts, what is your take on the similarities and differences between the two?