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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thermidor: Can Retro Succeed Without Kitsch?

Posted By on Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 4:58 PM

click to enlarge Lobster Thermidor: Maybe there's a reason we all stopped eating this? - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • Lobster Thermidor: Maybe there's a reason we all stopped eating this?
Thermidor can feel as hard to penetrate as Don Draper's psyche. On one hand, chef Bruce Binn's dinner rolls and baked Alaska and pommes dauphine leave a buttery trail through memory, depositing you smack in the middle of a midcentury-modern childhood you might know only from Mad Men. On the other hand, there's a reason why chicken Kiev ended up in the freezer bin of history ― we've moved on, gastro-culturally.

That's the line Jonathan Kauffman walks in today's "Eat" review of Thermidor for SF Weekly, "Rocking the Retro."


It's hard for me to know how the dishes on Thermidor's menu resonate with the generations that bookend mine (and the chef's, for that matter). Diners in their sixties may have eaten chicken Kiev at their wedding receptions, but by the late 1970s it was a cheap, greasy frozen dinner staple. Meanwhile, diners in their early twenties may have never heard of scallops Newburg or Moscow Mules, which read to me as culinary kitsch. And yet, despite my wariness, my first encounter with Binn and Jorgensen's mid-20th-century cuisine brought back a pleasurable jolt of time regained.
Read Kauffman in full at Manhattan optional.

And for an extra hit of retro, check out Lara Hata's Thermidor slide show.

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