Based in Toronto and New York City

, Nancy Matsumoto is a writer and editor who covers sustainable agriculture, food, sake, arts and culture.

Archival posts from my former blog, Walking and Talking

Joël Robuchon makes magic on 57th Street

Whenever the boss is in town, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the Four Seasons Hotel crackles with an extra jolt of electricity. Today, the Robuchon force field was so powerful that his team of precision alchemists turned out a feast for the ages, what for me was the best meal of my life.

The occasion was hosted by M. Bernard Margez, the French wine magnate who owns 36 vineyards in eight countries and champions the idea of micro-cuvées, limited-production wines from vineyards that lack the cachet of the great terroirs. Margez has teamed up with the exporter Maison Joanne and is ready to spread his message and his product in the U.S.

So there were ravishing wines, notably a 2007 Château Pape Clément white, and double magnums of 1986 Château Pape Clément red, from the Pessac-Léognan region of Bordeaux, where wine has been made since 1252. Magret apologized for his English, quoted Montaigne on friendship, and thanked the Americans, without whose intervention in World War II, he said, “we would be speaking German today.”
Sommelier Jason Wagner

It was Robuchon’s food, however that stole the day for me: sea urchin in a domed glass cup covered in a white tea and carrot mouseline, king crab in a thin turnip ravioli with rosemary, sea bass surrounded by an ethereal lemongrass foam and stewed baby leeks, sliced wagyu rib-eye scented with wasabi. The wonder of Robuchon’s cooking and his menu is its simplicity and perfect artistry. He keeps his descriptions short, and throws in tiny accents, like the unheralded miniature enoki mushroom caps and the crispy pearl onion rings that helped make the wagyu dish soar.
Le Mikado: light chocolate cream with crackly strudel and intense coffee dome

When he made his appearance, the chef, who commands 26 Michelin stars in 16 cities around the world, was gracious and charming, hardly the exacting taskmaster he is known to be in the kitchen. During my interview with Robuchon in 2006 at the time of his New York Atelier launch, he revealed that he has a weakness for gadgets. On this trip, the man who sings the praises of a simply grilled baby lamb over a wood fire and strives to strip food down to its unadorned essence said he satisfied another craving: he bought an iPad.

The West Village's real meat market: Florence Prime

Thai food via Harold Dieterle lands in the West Village