food 06.20.05

Fingerspitzengefuhl

Fingerspitzengefühl is that great mouthful of a German word that describes having a sure instinct about something, an intuitive understanding. New York magazine could be said to pride itself on having reliable fingerspitzengefühl about the trends and desires of us New Yorkers, or to continue with German, the zeitgeist.

MUG readers know that we've been fans of New York magazine under the stewardship of Adam Moss, but the issue out today that focuses on the high-end of the restaurant business strikes us as curiously out of touch.

It seems to us that we're in the middle of a fundamental shift in our dining habits when chefs want to move down the food chain: Michelin-starred chefs renouncing their stars, the classic French restaurants in town on the verge of extinction, American chefs and restaurateurs seeking less formal, more relaxed settings, and lateral extensions. It's worth noting that while no one has a problem discussing American wines, American cuisine is another matter: you probably couldn't get any two chefs to agree on exactly what that might be. And chefphilia certainly seems to have abated. One marker: Page Six used to feature chefs regularly; now the mentions are infrequent.

The Jay McInerney piece on Jean-Georges Vongerichten seems especially myopic. We like reading McInerney on wine, but this piece is full of dubious assumptions and loopy assertions: "Vongerichten's fusion cuisine was the gastronomic equivalent of 'Blade Runner.'" Snappy sentence—what's it mean? And this howler: "With the opening of Mercer Kitchen, in 1998, Vongerichten created a new kind of fusion—a merger of cuisine and scene, a place where you might see Laurie Anderson sitting next to Jeffrey Steingarten." The piece would have benefited from someone born before 1975 giving it a look.

"Eat Yourself Into Debt" sounds an awful lot like New York magazine of old, full of Daily Candy-like cluelessness about how most of us live here. Yes, "Per Se" is a big hit but it's worth again noting that the restaurant, located in the public excrescence of the Time Warner building, feels like a grafting rather than part of echt (German again!) New York.

Of course there are different circumstances, different events, different moods, for which our infinitely varied restaurants play their part. We wouldn't want it any other way. But when we see on the cover of New York magazine "The Obsessive Pursuit of the Perfect Meal", we can't help but think this is reflexive, not reflective. The way we eat now can tell us something useful about who we are as New Yorkers in 2005. That's a story waiting to be told.
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