Snob Appeal? First it was Monica Eng calling me a food snob.  Now it’s David Kamp, an expert in food snobbery, over at grub street.  How come writers can be food snobs but not chefs?  Ain’t fair.

Some stories I liked recently, a welcome acknowledgment that French food done well will never be out of fashion and increasing evidence of the reality of the dire situation our oceans are in, both from the nytimes. And from the latimes, a review of new Vegas restaurants, which will save me a trip to what is surely hell on earth, and the return of gin cocktails (my new favorite is Hendrick’s, from Scotland, it’s fantastic).

Woolly pigs move to the Bay Area!  Thanks to Heath Putnam for bringing them to the States and farmer Kylan Hoover who bought a batch of piglets to raise (and to the power of the blog to connect.)  Said Kylan in an email, "Currently am raising the hogs free to range and feed on mast and supplemental barley, as per Heath and his Austrian friends standards.  Although they do not have access to acorns, as I do.  We hope to make a limited number of hogs available this spring, but primarily plan to sell in the late fall after the acorn season comes to a close."  Any interested chefs, Kylan can be reached at kylanhoover@gmail.com.  Heath sent me soeme extraordinary which I’ve got on the cure now–incredible layering of fat.   Story on Heath in the Seattle paper.

All hail the pig!

And this just in: Fantastic cooks story by Shuna, about Eric Ziebold, now chef of CityZen, and The French Laundry.

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63 Wonderful responses to “Notes 4/10/08”

  • rockandroller

    OMG that is hilarious. I like the comment below it too, where the person said their GF would punch them if they wore an apron.

  • Ulla

    I am a huge fan of your Charcuterie book. My parents are beef farmer’s and I convinced them to raise some pigs last so that we could have fresh meat, and I found your book to be so invaluable! You are not a snob at all!

  • Claudia

    He’s just insanely jealous of your kitchen, Michael. And having taste, class and a palatte does not a food snob make. Oh, wait – maybe it does. In that case, embrace it.

    Claudia
    Fellow Elitist Foodie Swine

  • doodad

    Championing good food does not a snob make. I have never read or heard you speak down to anyone regarding the subject.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Aaron

    For a great gin, try Blue Coat from Philadelphia. It’s a nice, smooth gin that is great by itself or mixed.

  • NYCook

    Speaking of the pig and Seatlle and charcuterie; I was wondering Ruhlman, would a post about Salumi making or at least an interview with the master himself, Armando Batali, be out of the question? His guanciale is ridiculously good. I also feel it relates to your last post about upcoming food trends for this year. More and more places are really focusing on making their own salumi or doing in house Charcuterie. Hell Chef Bouloud just opened a restaurant almost devoted to it, and at the venerated Gramercy restaurant where I work, we’ve been making lamb pancetta, duck breseola, and even our own mortadella! Just some food for thought. Keep fighting the good fight

  • The Urban Eater

    If you’re a food snob, I’m the freakin’ Queen of England.
    Although, I will say my copper pots don’t get polished as nicely as yours. Nor do I use them as often as my Le Creuset.
    I agree with Claudia, embrace it.

  • Julie

    I’m totally envious of your kitchen– okay, mostly the range. And the hood.

    I’m terribly excited about gin drinks being “back in”, particularly with summer coming up. So refreshing.

  • Julie

    I’m totally envious of your kitchen– okay, mostly the range. And the hood.

    I’m terribly excited about gin drinks being “back in”, particularly with summer coming up. So refreshing.

  • amber

    for those of us who haven’t made it out to NY yet, vegas is a great place for trying those restaurants from well-known/respected chefs. my husband and i try new places every time we’re out there (which is fairly often as we live in LA) and are rarely disappointed. :)

  • Spicehound

    I thought I was so clever when I installed foot pedals for my second sink when I remodeled my kitchen two months ago. You are the second person I have since read about who had the same idea. I don’t know why they aren’t more common.

  • artnlit

    So they are calling you a food snob based solely on this photo?? Have I missed something here? While I don’t always agree with everything that you say/post, Ruhlman, I don’t know if I would label you as a food snob. They’re just jealous of your fan base…and hair!

    Cheers, Bonnie (artnlit), proud member of the FFP club (ask Bourdain!)

  • frenchtart

    hey, at least you only got called a food snob, and yet another lame jab at your hairdo (i’m sure you’re pretty tired of that by now). i had some anonymous brat call me fat and to not quit my day job. oooh were my feelings ever hurt! (not).

  • Bob delGrosso

    Tell me what a food snob is, and I will tell you if you are one.

    In my experience a snob is anyone who tries to put another in his/her place by via evasion (snubbing), ridicule or ostentatious display of knowledge/power/wealth/couture.

    Not sure I’ve ever seen you do any of this, but someone who writes a book that puts down people who like to cook and eat good food might qualify.

  • Patrick R

    “I like the comment below it too, where the person said their GF would punch them if they wore an apron.”

    My wife actually gets mad if I DON’T put on an apron, since she’s the one who does laundry. Anyway, I don’t get their argument. Maybe they should look up “snob” in a real dictionary. Having strong opinions about ideal tools and procedures doesn’t make you a snob (that goes for any profession); it’s only when you let those opinions sway your view of other people that it becomes an issue.

  • Natalie Sztern

    I, for one, do not think of you as a snob of any sort, let alone a food snob.

    You are a man of the people in the food world and your blog highlights that.

    you have answered my emails when you have found them worthy and that makes you, in my eyes, a ‘celeb worthy of his fame’

  • Tags

    At least they’re not calling you “food police.”

    If they did, you’d know they were stooges of the food industry, which seems to have a trademark for that term.

  • Connor

    Love this quote from Eric Ziebold:

    “I think we need to define the four basic groups as salt, fat, pork and Burgundy.”

  • blowback

    That review of the restaurants in the Palazzo Las Vegas reads like the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for the US Empire.

    I didn’t know that Chianina were used as draught animals in the USA, although with the price of gas going ever upward, it won’t be long before Americans are eating real Bistecca Fiorentina.

    You are a man of the people in the food world – you are certainly more a “man of the people” with your flip than either of these two pathetic examples of Old Etonians.

  • Lee

    Mr. Ruhlman-

    I am a huge fan of your written work. Never mind your knowledge of the culinary arts, you are just flat-out entertaining. That being said, you are most definitely a food snob. I also believe
    the fact that you are a snob is at least part of what makes your stuff so fun to read.

  • Lee

    Mr. Ruhlman-

    I am a huge fan of your written work. Never mind your knowledge of the culinary arts, you are just flat-out entertaining. That being said, you are most definitely a food snob. I also believe
    the fact that you are a snob is at least part of what makes your stuff so fun to read.

  • latenac

    “Do you know how many bartenders I’ve confused by asking for a cucumber in my Hendricks and tonic?”

    How can you put Henricks in a drink meant to disguise the taste of gin? It’s like using real champagne for mimosas. *sigh*

    I don’t think you’re a food snob, Michael. There is a fine line between the quest of good food done well and food snobbery but I don’t think you’ve crossed it yet. When you start talking about how the higher cost of food will drive people to buy better quality food in lesser amounts, then you’ve crossed that line. But I’m sure my statement in the first paragraph invalidates my opinion.

  • milo

    While it sounds like the vegas restaurants in that review are all way overpriced, it IS a fantastic city for eating.

    I was just there a couple weeks ago, and the places we went were fantastic. Bouchon, the Payard bakery for snack/desert, Batali’s pizza place Enoteca San Marco (probably the closest to the pizza ate in Italy I’ve had in the states).

    I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you make the right choices, it can be an excellent foodie destination for a couple days.

  • Kate in the NW

    Uh – there’s a word for “food snob”, and it’s “connoisseur”, defined as follows:

    con·nois·seur
    –noun
    1. a person who is especially competent to pass critical judgments in an art, particularly one of the fine arts, or in matters of taste.
    2. a discerning judge of the best in any field.

    And we thank you for being one! I don’t think there’s anything there about hair.

    (P.S. – being the unsanctioned, tragically unpaid tourist board rep for Seattle, I’d be remiss in not mentioning that the Wild Boar salami at Da Pino’s is the best cured meat product ever – present company excepted, of course. If you take the suggestion in the response above and pay a call on Batali – who I also love – go here too, just for comparison:
    http://www.tastingmenu.com/archive/2006/09-september/20060919.htm
    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/dining/venue.asp?venueID=7300

  • Sarah

    Most of the time when people make critical remarks about someone else it is pure jealousy—I think everyone on this blog would agree that your insight and thoughts on a variety of culinary subjects are really enlightening. Besides any pig lover is not a snob in my book! PIG IS KING!

  • Bob delGrosso

    Kate in the NW

    Yes, Ruhlman is a connoisseur, and in the fullest sense of the definition that you have provided.

    But if you look at the body of his written work you will have to agree that he is more a connoisseur of the craft of cooking than one of food. I think he cares a lot more about the process of making food than the food itself. And I trust you will be happy to know that his competency to pass critical judgment on that process derives from the fact that he can cook better than most of us -minus me (I hope!).

  • Cameron S

    I love the charcuterie book – worked my way through a lot of it in the last 6 months of ownership. I now own many other books on the subject. Grigson’s book is also very interesting and is my current focus. Anyways, keep up the good work.

  • Scott

    Standards are hard to come by and even harder to live by. If I we’re you Ruhlman I’d wear that snob label with pride.

  • luis

    Ouch! Snob Appeal is jealous of Michael….don’t anybody sigh at once!.
    I wish folks would stop bothering Michael so he could get back to the “Elements o’cooking”.
    But hey! whatever works for you Michael. Nobody can say you took the easy way out. I admire that and think you have a lot of potential.
    Hey! my Joyce Chen cookbook is in the house. Unbelievable, I don’t think I paid a dollar for it. The book originally sold for $5.75 and it came used and marked up by someone who I think cooked and anotated each and every page of the book. How cool is that! And I couldn’t resist and bought another of Michaels books… “The making of a chef”… won’t post what I got it for here on Michaels blog. But really can’t wait to read it. Glad to see Heath is prospering as well. I would love to taste some of his Mangalitza’s…pork.
    The little mangalitza’s are cute… Honestly if I ever had them I would never harm a hair on their hairy bodies.

  • Adele

    I’m with Kate, et.al. — you’re definitely more connoiseur than snob, and I do think that you’re as interested in the process and preparation of food as you are in its consumption. Probably how you keep your boyish figure.

    And speaking of gin cocktails, would a snob have quickly answered my first post asking about Negronis? I don’t think so. And speaking of Negronis (here’s a potential trend for you), I’m ashamed to say that I watched the trailer for Sex And The City, The Movie, at the end of which, the girls were drinking something that looked very much like Negronis.

    Oh yeah, I’m with you on Vegas as well. I don’t care how good the food scene has become; it’s a hellish place. I spent 5 weeks out there summer of ’06, participating in an evaluation of their child welfare system. Talk about getting to see the wretched underbelly.

  • luis

    It’s not hard to understand the jealousy thing. Working chefs most but the very best have really work long hours and slave over hot kitchens and patrons etc. What t.v. makes into a glamour job in reality is nothing but a big sweatshop. We all know that and I was thinking this yesterday as I caught a glimpse of Top Chef. All the competitors in that show dress alike for the most part and all looked like regular sweat….gs. I am not dissing them by any means, but you make your own observations and rock stars these chefs are not. One thing is to run a show like some of the cookie good looking female chefs in FN and quite another is to face the music of a restaurant kitchen. That is enough to make anyone..ANYONE jealous. The difference between writing and celebrity chefs and journeyman/women chefs is HUGE.

  • Tana

    I can’t believe you have a SALT SHAKER on your kitchen counter. Any true food snob would have a salt pig. (Or several: one for the Maldon’s, one for the kosher, one for the fleur de sel, one for the Black Himalayan, etcetera, etcetera.)

    Poseur! White trash!

  • Posteur

    “Snob” might not encapsulate the taste that Mr. Ruhlman leaves on some of our palates. But clearly it’s a taste. I’d say “self-indulgent over-earnestness” captures the essence of it for me.

    With that said, I enjoy that Senator Ruhlman takes food so seriously, as his life’s work and passion. I guess his being a spot tedious and precious sometimes is what draws many and repels others.

  • luis

    Wow!, my Joyce Chen cookbook was copyrighted in 1962. In the intro it reads there are two great cuisines in the world. The French and the Chinese. I am not sure this is so in circa 2008. In fact I think we live in a time that has numerous great cuisines. What if anything has changed since 1962 Michael?

  • Vincent

    Agreeing with Posteur here…passion and snobbery walk the thin line of insinuation to most. Digging deeper, passion brings depth and discovery, snoberry (snobbishness?) brings disdain and resentment.

  • Tags

    Snob is a word the corporate types in the food industry propagate to slap down anybody who tries to get back to making food the way it was always made…

    …before agribusiness and corporate food companies took over.

  • JR Prospal

    Michael and Spicehound: Regarding the foot pedals, I’ve also had that idea for years and also do not understand why they are not more common. Where did you find the foot pedals for your sinks?

    Also, quality and precision are not something I consider snobbery. Those who do simply have lower standards and demand less.

  • HappyHoarfrost

    Soooooie! To hear the pig is back makes me squeal with delight, though if my BPL (Blood Pig Level) and BAL for the past decade are documentation, neither the jambon nor the juniper berry were ever “out.” But then, I’m tragically un-hip (or is that politely called “timeless?”)

    I love snobs, they give us standards. Bring me more snobs with silver palates. And “self-indulgent?”– Who better to indulge?

    The Dial soap is a wonder to me—and the last coif to get this much play was “The Rachel” on Friends. To me, it’s always looked like Doll Hair—as in my daughter’s dolls. This is neither criticism nor sanction.

    Finally, I am trading in my simple ricer for an antique meat tenderizing mallet. Now that the kids are older, I need more HEFT to my parenting skills.

  • Rebecca

    Thanks to commenters who distinguish snob from connoisseur and cooking from food. One can be a connoisseur of food without ever picking up a knife or turning on a burner, but connaissance (to be snobby-sounding) of cooking requires putting in time and effort and trial and many errors until one is capable of describing even complex cooking so that a non-cook thinks “I could do that!” That was Julia Child’s gift, which is why she is still beloved. And she was never a snob.

  • lisadelrio

    Michael, thanks for the foot pedal idea. We’re building a house this summer. What kind of counter tops are those? More importantly, how do you like them?

    I love the blog. And your hair.

  • luis

    There is a new race horse in my barn. Goodness… the flat bottom cast iron Joyce Chen wok is a performer. If you guys are stuck with an electric stove top…. cast iron is the way to go. On another note I watched what has got to be some re-run of Daisy Cooks in PBS. (PBS has the best cooking shows). Daisy said words like Yum, Yummo!, and Smellavision. Her kitchen featured stainless steel fridge…. So My respect for Emeril and Rachel was dealt a severe blow.
    Julia Childs, Jacke Pepin, Sara Moulton, Rick Bayless, Ming, Jan, Daisy…and lest not forget chef Esposito and the other italian lady chef with her son the wine guy….are the genuine thing. Foodnetwork is NOT!!!!!!!!
    Not bad…FN has its virtues but FN is no PBS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If I had to choose between PBS and FN…. FN would lose. FN is 75% total CRAPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I am sure some of you and Bourdain will tend to agree with me on this.

  • luis

    Here is the problem… chinese egg rollls? I don’t know?. But I am hungry for Italian sausage, dates, fresh basil from my terrace garden, onion shallots, Parmesan cheese, jalapenos, celery, carrots and onions for starters…………..a touch of fresh ginger? a squeeze of low salt soy sauce? Oh crap I have chicken waiting to be brined…

  • bourdain

    One need only watch Ruhlman at the unfairly maligned Skyline Chili, the fine eatery much loved by his Ohio comrades (and right thinking peoples everywhere), pinky extended, his face screwed up as if sucking a mouthful of lemons, looking down his nose at the end of his fork as if examining a hunk of nuclear waste to know that he’s guilty as charged.
    Snob. Snob. Snob.
    How much more obvious could he be? Note khaki pants. Etonian flip (as noted elsewhere). Suspicious familiarity with the French. Neatly pressed bespoke shirts from British shirtmaker. All that’s missing is a fucking ascot!!
    Contemptuous of the Working Class, dismissive of waiters, casually capricious and cruel to underlings; when the revolution comes, his head will surely be among the first on a pike!!

  • Bob

    Let’s give the flop haired lad another chance Tony…Marks Texas Hots in Rochester NY. I need to see his take on the garbage plate to really decide. You both would have to attend at 2am, after the punk shows get out, to really judge the atmosphere vs cuisine. Haven’t been back for years, but I know it’s exactly the same….That will be the benchmark, then off to Gitsis for gravy fries.

  • Kate in the NW

    Wait, wait….speaking of process v. product as regards food/cooking, connoisseurship/snobbishness…there’s an important question to answer before the Revolution!

    …is “Etonian flip” being charged as coiffure or attitudinal orientation? Noun or verb? Comb technique or hand gesture? Makes a world of difference, though the rabble with the pike may not care. I think we’re all goin’ down, every last foie gras-licking one of us.

  • Charlotte

    You went to Skyline Chili (with cameras!), how can you be a food snob after that? If I recall correctly, you actually ate some of it, which defies comprehension by those of us with gag reflexes.

  • luis

    Jessus Bourdain, Oh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it’s not about you! or boy wonder….This is so pathetic I can not take much more of it….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Claudia

    Oh, Tony, you can’t blame Michael for his preppy clothes – he was an only child. AND his mom still buys him oven mitts. Just bear that in mind every time you get pissed that he can do an Etonian flip, and you can’t.

    PS: Aren’t you glad that you, at least, have a younger brother? You could’ve been Little Lord Fauntleroy-ed out, otherwise . . . (!)

  • lee

    Ruhlman= food connoisseur
    Bourdain= food connoisseur
    Ruhlman= humorous, talented writer
    Bourdain= humorous, talented writer
    Ruhlman= snob
    Bourdain= not
    Why? Hard to explain. It’s like porn- I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.

  • lee

    Ruhlman= food connoisseur
    Bourdain= food connoisseur
    Ruhlman= humorous, talented writer
    Bourdain= humorous, talented writer
    Ruhlman= snob
    Bourdain= not
    Why? Hard to explain. It’s like porn- I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.

  • Claudia

    Bourdain: nominated for Webby Award for best blog on the Web.

    Ruhlman: Not. This time. But certainly cleaned up last fall in the food blog catgory.

    http://pv.webbyawards.com/

    Ruhlman: Eats cheese puffs.
    Bourdain: Not to our knowledge. But, then, there are those Gray’s Papaya hot dogs.

    How snobby can a person really be if he occasionally needs to dust Day-glo orange cheese dust off of his Ralph Laurens? Like I said, I think the writer was just insanely jealous of Michael’s kitchen. Oh, and his hair. Because Michael quite obviously still has a full head of it.

  • Adele

    And Claudia, let’s not forget Bourdain’s admitted fondness for The Colonel’s mac and cheese — only slightly less day-glo than cheese puffs. Both guys go food slumming from time to time. Neither has entirely lost the common touch.

  • Claudia

    Indeed. I don’t think any of the people being called food snobs (us included) actually are – there’s having a discriminating palate and taste, and there’s having a discriminatory (i.e., elitist) one. And we all have one deep, dark food secret . . . somewhere (!)

  • Skawt

    Bourdain bespoke:

    “Suspicious familiarity with the French.”

    Says the man whose family IS French. Not to mention the episode of A Cook’s Tour you did with your brother Chris in southern France called “Childhood Flavors”.

    FESS UP FROGGY!

  • kanani

    “How come writers can be food snobs but not chefs? Ain’t fair.”

    From one writer to another: it’s because in general, writers are snobs. Ain’t fair, but true. It’s a mark we must bear with humility, as we take out the trash, the go into the yard and pick up the dog poop before facing yet another rejection letter.

  • fala

    Hendrick’s is AMAZING gin, can’t believe it took you so long to find it!