Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Everything Old Is New Again

On Monday night's No Reservations, Tony and company visited Prague, a city I've wanted to see for a while (because of the architecture, not the food). In between helpings of goulash and streetside sausages, Tony dined at a restaurant called La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise, which updates Czech classics for the modern palate.

The restaurant clearly aspires to be modern in the most global definition of the word. They're the first restaurant in Prague to serve a tasting menu and the food is prepared and presented with all the care of a strong Top Chef contender (like a Voltaggio brother). And what they're doing is thoroughly that it's steeped in history.

The dish that really caught my eye was Prague ham aspic with chopped egg. Even Tony admitted that it sounds kind of gross, but he insisted it was good. I'll take his word for it (but seriously - it sounds gross to me). Taste wasn't what struck me about the dish, though. What I found most interesting was the word "aspic."

When I think aspic, I think Julia Child. I think the old restaurant that used to be part of the Woman's Industrial Exchange on Charles Street in downtown Baltimore. I think grandmothers and doilies and out-of-date preparations, not fine modern dining.

That's silly, though. After all, what's the difference between a gelee and an aspic, except for fancy French pronunciation? Nothing, as far as I can tell. And gelees are modern enough, if a little overdone.

Right now, I'm reading Mike Steinberger's excellent book about the decline of the French gastronomic scene, Au Revoir to All That. At the start of the book, Steinberger walks through the evolution of French cuisine, from Careme to Bocuse. Reading this, I found myself wondering what really could be next, and assuming that somebody smarter or more creative than I am had some ideas.

But now I'm thinking, maybe there are no new ideas. It's all about reinvention, right? Reinvention and repositioning (aspic becomes gelee).

Does everything, then, boil down to marketing?

[Photo credit. Travel Channel.]

1 comment:

Beth said...

You should really go to Prague. It's beautiful. Really unlike any other city in Europe with it's German meets Mediteranean style.

But the food there was awful. Too heavy, too much. But the beer was good! :-)


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