The New Yorker's annual food issue hits shelves today (we'll feel lucky if we get ours in the mail before Thursday). Articles include Calvin Trillin on Candians' beloved poutine, a peek inside flavor labs, Adam Gopnik on cookbooks, and John Colapinto’s "exclusive" look at the rating process of the New York Michelin guide. Apparently this is "the first time in its history" Michelin has permitted a journalist to speak with one of its anonymous inspectors. Colapinto joins an anonymous inspector for a meal at three-star Jean-Georges. It's a lonely and fattening life:

Assigned specific areas of the city to cover, Maxime, who lives in Manhattan, spends weeks riding the subway out to the farthest reaches of Queens to make her way through a selection of Thai restaurants, eating two meals a day, every day, and she typically eats alone, since talking with a spouse or friend is frowned upon... Maxime eats out more than two hundred days of the year, lunch and dinner. She eats the maximum number of courses offered—at Jean Georges, we were having three courses, plus dessert; that way, she said, “you really get to see the most food”—and she is required to eat everything on her plate. It is a regimen that calls to mind the force-feeding of the ducks that supply Vongerichten with his velvety foie gras.

Nice work if you can get it—each Michelin inspector must have a degree in hospitality, hotel management, or cooking, and make it through a rigorous application process, followed by an apprenticeship under one of the European inspectors. But it's this systematically intense approach to dining that makes critics like Frank Bruni "wonder if a certain sort of chromosomal stodginess can ever really be completely leached out of the Michelin guide and the system... They claim a lot of science to them, but is there a lot of soul to them?"