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I've been encountering stories lately that make the claim that Paris is over-rated when it comes to food. I don't know if it's laziness or the inherent Francophobia present in many Americans, but it disturbs me greatly. First is from a column in the National Review by Lisa Schiffren. Here are some points she makes about Paris:

  • Food is too expensive
  • Few places are truly child friendly
  • You cannot have a meal whenever you want, you have to abide by their hours
  • Meals take forever
  • There is a lot of bad food, especially around tourist joints

So, basically, she wants the American experience in a place and time of her choosing. No wonder American tourists overseas have such a bad reputation. This quote, though, is the kicker for me:

There is much excellent food, of course. But who wants really excellent food every day? Sometimes you just want to get everyone fed and get on with your activities.

What are you doing in Paris, then? Stick to Disney World.

The second is from the Washington Post, in An Unsavory Holiday In France by Zofia Smardz. She writes after returning from Paris:

Where, in fact, were any dishes affirming the country's rep as the great culinary stronghold of the Continent? Because it wasn't just one bad meal, you see. In a week, we had maybe one good, never mind great, meal.

She provides the reason for this a few paragraphs later:

But if you're a casual tourist, you need to know: You're not going to find a fabulous meal around every corner.

Ah, so I see. She doesn't want to do the work find good places. Paris was never that way. You've always had to get off the beaten path to find the best food at reasonable prices. Despite her claims that it takes an expert to find good food in Paris (she names Joe Yonan who's the food section editor), anyone can do so if you're willing to do some research. Use the internet, ask locals and get off the main streets! Only the lazy, idiots or your those with your typical American palate could return from Paris without eating well. I have no sympathy.


There is a wide variety of sources on food: books, magazines, websites and television. Likewise, what is presented ranges from traditional cookbooks to history and travelogues. Despite this diversity, I will use the following general evaluation to rate food media.

Content (60 points)

What did I learn? While this varies depending upon the subject, I need to feel like I learned something useful or that this would be a good introduction for a newbie. Does this provide you with new techniques or knowledge that will aid you in the kitchen or make eating more enjoyable?

Quality (20 points)

How well was the content presented? Was it well organized, well written? Was there something in the content that makes me question the author's credibility? While this measurement is closely tied to my evaluation of the content – a low content score will likely also mean a low quality score – I keep these separate to account for the case where good stuff is obscured by a crappy presentation.

Food Porn (20 points)

Show me the money shot! Yes, I want to learn, but I want to salivate, too.

Recipes (10 points extra credit)

I do not want a simple recitation of recipes. Divorced from context, this is solely rote memorization. Recipes, if present, serve to support the content.

Grading Scale

I will divide the points awarded by the maximum possible (rounded to nearest whole number) and assign a letter grade according to this scale:

A: 93 - 100%

A-: 90 - 92%

B+: 87 - 89

B: 83 - 86

B-: 80 - 82

C+: 77 - 79

C: 73 - 76

C-: 70 - 72

D: 60 - 69

F: Less than 60

The other day, I set out to clean our spice cabinet and herb drawer. After emptying both, this is the complete collection:

The Don't-Yuck-My-Yum Spice, Herb and Related Stuff Collection
The Don't-Yuck-My-Yum Spice, Herb and Related Stuff Collection

3 half full containers of salt? A dozen vanilla beans, some in a bottle with an expiration date of 2004? Why do we need 12 ounces of tumeric? WTF?

New rules in House Lenoir:

  1. Verify that we do not possess something before buying more (duh!).
  2. Buy stuff in the smallest quantity possible.
  3. No more mixes. We can assemble our own with the base ingredients.

At least I now have a large supply of small glass bottles.

A variety of factors interact to influence my opinion on an eating establishment, be it a taco wagon or an upscale restaurant.

The Food

Obviously! But it is much more than just how it tastes, although crappy food can never be balanced by other factors. While all of the elements that go into taste such as quality ingredients and skillful preparation matter greatly, I'm looking for more. How unique is it? I am more likely to drive 50 miles out of my way for some good carnitas than I would be for a great hamburger. How different is it? If you serve me something that I would have never thought of doing, and it's good, I will bow down in homage.


I want prompt service that does not intrude on my dining experience. I don't want to be your best friend and I don't care what your name is. I do want a drink in my hand ASAP, though, and you better make sure my glass is never empty. If you provide good recommendations, you will make me a happy man. The food better be damn good to make up for bad service.


How I rate this one depends upon the restaurant's and the meal's context. It encompasses noise level, background music, the decor and clientele. I will make an effort to point out circumstances in which it might be better to visit a place. Sometimes what works for lunch just doesn't ring my bell at dinner. It is hard to overcome bad ambiance since I cannot enjoy a meal if I'm in a bad mood.


The more expensive a place, the harder I'll grade it on the above factors. All else being equal, a $5 burger is always better than a $10 one.

The Ratings

I will try to visit a place multiple times before I write a review. Sometimes, though, a place is so bad, it only takes once. On the other hand, I would like to bring attention to place that has potential, so I'll flag it with Quick Bite and will follow up later after additional visits.

5 Stars: This is among the most amazing food you will ever eat. I will visit this place as often as I can so I can work my way, continuously, through the menu. You cannot get this rating unless the food is top notch and the ambiance perfectly matches the context. I will over look the occasional service slip, but not if it appears to be systemic.

4 Stars: This is a good place. You will get a very good meal here. This will always be a good fall back option when you're stuck for where to eat out. They offer enough good dishes to allow you to see past the items on the menu aren't that great, how loud the place is, or the fact that their prices are a tad too high.

3 Stars: Eh. I don't feel like I wasted my money, but I probably won't come back here. If you have no other options, I suppose. Likely, the low price allows you to stomach the less than stellar food or consistently bad service.

2 Stars: This place sucks. I finished my meal, but I was not enthused. This place must be avoided!

1 Stars: Why is this place in business? I didn't finish my meal either because the food was inedible or the service was catastrophically bad. I don't need to tell you to avoid this place, since it will probably be shut down soon.

Hi, my name is Bill Lenoir and I seek joy in every bite I take. I am not defined by what I won't eat, but, rather, what I will. Which is to say, anything and everything. Good food and drink stimulate not only all 5 of my senses, but my brain, too:

  • What is this?
  • What are the ingredients, flavors, aromas, textures?
  • How was it made?
  • Is it something I can do? Or, can I talk my wife into doing it?
  • Where is it from?
  • How did this come about?
  • Is there a story behind it?

I resist the title of foodie. Although I do enjoy gourmet foods and seek the unusual, I will not look down on anything that tastes good, even if it comes from a can. For this reason, I promise to make a good faith effort not to mock the tastes of others, but to learn why someone enjoys something that I currently do not. Am I missing something?

I will share with you all that I learn in my quest for good food. I will write reviews, provide recipes that I've enjoyed, rant about various topics and even recount interesting meals in literature or the movies. All I ask in return is that you don't yuk my yum.