Off to join the circus

What really complicated my re-entry was succumbing to a lunch promoting the rip-off of “Mostly Martha.” I had to go back and grab a glass of wine from the bar on arriving and seeing a crowd best described as motley. All but two of the myriad hosts were graciousness personified, though, and my table was modesty central, with Jacques Pepin introducing himself as “a cook” and Phil Suarez informing the woman between us that he is “partners with someone you might have heard of, a guy named Jean-Georges.” The gazpacho with avocado and the foie gras ravioli were blowaway, but what will linger in my brain were the sight of a thong under a clingy St. John knit that looked unfortunately similar to a Kotex belt and the whispered confidence that one guest had been comped by the venue. Twenty-two times, in fact. And the funniest moment came when the director got up to pontificate and one of my tablemates reached for the book with the movie poster cover that had been placed on each of our chairs. First he said: “I want to see what else he has done.” Then: “Oh. It’s a Michelin.”

Maybe you can judge contents by cover, though, because I invested in a new red Guide to France, and it is twice the weight of my last one, and half as useful. What was once the most brilliantly designed compendium on the planet now has many more words than symbols, which is a bizarre step backward in an age of communication through texting and emoticons. The energy that went into spelling out details — repeatedly — could have been directed toward downsizing for the iPhone. Instead they produced the Michelin for Herniated Dummies.