Malibu Seen

SKAJ front man Marco Forieri with a devoted fan in Venice, Italy. Photo by Barry Glaser


Between Wolfgang Puck, Mario Battali and Joachim Splichal, Malibu Seen is well-fed and up to speed when it comes to what our American celebrity chefs are creating in their kitchens. But what about their starry counterparts on the continent?

We set off to find out with a look at Europe’s top tastemakers and culinary trendsetters. My research began in Paris where Joel Robuchon is getting all the buzz. But is his hip L’Atelier in the City of Light worthy of all the praise and endless adulation?

His dramatic black and-red contemporary interior is sleek and inviting enough-Left Bank cool meets upscale elegance. If you’re lucky enough to snag a reservation, sit at the bar and watch the artists do their magic. Some offerings like the caramelized quail glazed in shallot-perfumed sauce may work, but other concoctions are more odd than appetizing. L’oeuf sounded like a safe bet, but what arrived was the strangest egg I’d ever eaten. Instead of the fluffy omelet I was anticipating, out came a pea-green potion with the algae-esque color and texture of Las Flores Creek, served in a large martini glass accompanied by an equally large spoon. My Dr. Seuss special of green eggs turned out to be a weird half cooked affair sloshing around in a sea of thick parsley juice and small gritty mushrooms. Je n’aime pas Joel-I-am.

Michel del Burgo is another rave fave for French foodies. At his L’Orangerie hotspot, he’ll whip up a minestrone of fruits and veggies, perfumed with basil essence and served with lemon sorbet. Michelin-rated Taillevent can also get quite creative on the food front. On my visit they were extolling the virtues of risotto fashioned from barley instead of rice. Although interesting, my taste buds began to yearn for the old school classics at Brasserie Lipp and Balzar.

Next, we opted for the food of love and decided to take in a performance of baroque favorites the church of Saint Germain des Pres. Catherine Cantin, the flute soloist for the L’Orchestre National de L’Opera de Paris, soon made me forget the green eggs I consumed days before.

The classic fare of the Loire Valley was a little less complicated. At the rustic Domaine des Hauts, the Bonnigal family offers a delicate John Dory with watercress and steamed veggies. The outcome was pure and simple.

All this eating was making me hungry for my favorite place on earth. In Venice, I took a break from fussy French eatables and tucked into a sublime plate of white truffle pasta at the always amazing Do Forni restaurant and my usual tagliolini gratini at the always expensive Harry’s Bar. I also went in search of the city’s best reggae band-the often elusive SKAJ.

I got wind that the Venetian troubadours might appear at a local fundraiser for African relief. Low and behold I found them in San Polo where they played up a storm in the Foscari courtyard. The boys did not disappoint. A group of devoted fans along with several dogs and random children grooved to the band’s greatest hits like “I’m in the Mood for Love.”

There was just enough time to squeeze in a homemade meal for local pals at our place. For our frequent stays, we always use Venice Apartments, which provides some of the city’s best properties at about the same price as a hotel. Fresh porcini mushrooms were available at the Rialto market as well as all the fixings for a magnificent salume platter-spicy salame, melt in your mouth breasola, thinly sliced prosciutto, enormous juicy olives, tangy asiago cheese as well creamy panna and woodsy ‘shrooms draped over a bed of hot fettuccine. For a cook and lover of Venice there could be nothing better than hosting a dinner party in our own private palazzo on the Grand Canal, and even doing the dishes seemed somewhat magical.

True, there were lots of tasty treats during my travels, but a simple self-cooked meal in Venice turned out to be the yummiest of all. While we love the world’s haute, hip and celebrated chefs, in the end there’s no place like home (with good friends and a warm plate of pasta). Salute!

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