Paying the Price for Art You Can Eat

Honey, would you please pass me the wine, so I can cry into it?" As the bill for a dinner at L'Arpège in Paris was served up, its recipient couldn't restrain a shocked yelp ("$900 Canadian!"). His female companion, whose menu displayed no prices, had only been able to guess how much anything cost by her partner's cringes as she ordered. I cringed, too. French haute cuisine is frequently underwritten — and then written off as mugging at Sabatier knifepoint — by hapless tourists.

Since the late 18th century, when the Revolution cooked the goose of French nobles...

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