Question: Name the American city that is home to seven of the country's top 50
restaurants as ranked by the readers of Condé Nast's Traveler in a 1994 awards
Answer: A big surprise! Philadelphia! The city that is known
for scrapple, hoagies (submarine sandwiches), cheese steaks and soft pretzels
is now a premier town for dining out. It seems to have happened overnight. The
successful gentrification of the downtown in spiffy Colonial style and the scrapping
of blue lawsó liquor can now be served on Sundaysóled to the opening of new
restaurants in rapid succession.
To revamp its food image and to get the word out that Philadelphia is the place
to eat, the city began hosting "The Book and the Cook"
a decade ago. The top names in the food business gather here every March. Cookbook
authors are paired with local restaurateurs to feature their best recipes in
a series of about 60 lunches, brunches, dinners and teas. Prix fixe menus only
are de rigueur during "The Book and the Cook." Food, service and prices
are no different than what you might expect at other times. Special events include
kitchen and market tours, seminars, galas, films, wine tastings, book signings
and a fair.
Saturday lunch at Le Bec-Fin with visiting food authorities Pierre Franey
or Craig Claiborne is a "Book and Cook" tradition. Other than Franey's
or Claiborne's presence, it's business as usual for Chef-Owner Georges Perrier who
placed first in the U.S. in Condé Nast's Traveler's poll. The decor is posh,
the service is impeccable and the food is perfect. Mushroom ragout, smoked salmon
terrine, light corn soup, sautéed salmon, filet mignon and Grand Marnier soufflé
were served in '94.
Le Bec-Fin, 1523 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102. Tel. 215-567-1000.
Lunch, Monday to Friday; dinner, Monday to Saturday with seatings at 6 and 9.
The menu changes every six months. Expensive. www.lebecfin.com
Deux Cheminees, another one of the city's seven restaurants cited in
the poll, draws praise for decor. One patron was heard to say, "I wish
I lived here." The townhouse with regal period furniture, damask drapes,
lace tablecloths, chandeliers, fireplaces and oil paintings is indeed the home
of Chef-Owner Fritz Blank. The food is French (of course) and Blank's stack
of favorable reviews is as thick as a dictionary. In the " '94 Book and
Cook" he teamed up with Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet. At $75 for dinner,
it is regularly $62 with optional supplements, there was nothing frugal about
the meal, which was for the most part quite pleasing.
Deux Cheminees, 1221 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Tel. 215-790-5414.
Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Expensive.
For a detailed brochure about "The 1998 Book and Cook" (March 20 to
29) phone or write the Philadelphia Visitors' Center, 16th Street and Kennedy
Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19102. Tel. 800-537-7676, 215-636-1666 after January
1, 1998. www.thebookandthecook.com