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Snack Cart: The Washington City Paper is Trash.
Brie-Oncé is actually made out of cheddar. Your argument is invalid.
“Why was an Afghan man named Zarif Khan making a small fortune plus a whole lot of Mexican food under the name Louie Tamale?” An old story by Kathryn Schulz at The New Yorker that is new to me. It’s a history of one Muslim family, Wyoming, and what it means to be American.
A school served chicken nuggets on a hot dog bun for lunch. Our horrific school nutritional policy notwithstanding, if you put chipotle aioli on that you could sell it for $15.
I got a question about salad dressings via Twitter spawned by this statement by our President’s press secretary. So here’s a quick rundown:
French dressing - Not actually French. Originally the American name for vinaigrette. When Kraft foods got into salad dressings, they introduced paprika and tomato paste (my guess would be as emulsifiers, but they may have just made up the name for marketing), leading to the current pinker, thicker sauce. Still the thinnest of the dressings.
Russian dressing - Not actually Russian. Invented in New Hampshire, apparently. A mix of ketchup and Mayonnaise and likely to have chives or pimentos finely chopped up in it.
1000 island dressing - Actually 1000 islandese! (New York/Ontario border area). Accounts vary, but it seems likely it was developed on a base of French dressing with more substantial things mixed in (chopped eggs, nuts). The recipe from there, and this is the stuff you get on Big Macs or In & Out burgers.
The history of really popular Happy Meal toys is just a terrible clickbait slideshow, but damn if I don’t get the shakes just looking at Changeables (those knockoff transformers I collected obsessively).
One of my favorite things right now is Bon Appetit’s “How to throw a dinner party” series. This most recent one, on how to throw a chill one for $40, is great. There are realistic, funny, and human. Bonus: this is why everyone was bitching about “hand salad” on Twitter.
I really, really love the phrase “Lisa Frankenfoods” in this Randell Colburn article about the current trend of swirly, colorful dishes (those rainbow bagels). These are a subgenre of the foods primarily meant to be consumed via Instagram. I don’t say that cantankerously. I like something Eater’s Helen Rosner said once, that we eat with our eyes as much as any other sense. So food primarily designed for that sense is fine.
Another story about a restaurant being overloaded after it’s “discovered” by a major national outlet.
I know we are all supposed to be obsessed with the life-changing magic of tidying up, but I like things being at reach or exposed. That’s why I love this story about Julia Child’s kitchen. It looks messy, but drill down and everything has a place and is there for a reason. Someone please invent a dutch word for “purposeful clutter” and we can co-write a book about it and never work again.
The Economist highlights how municipal governments across Southeast Asia are struggling with street food. Local food hawkers provide most people in cities like Saigon or Bangkok their food, but can increase congestion, trash, and vermin. If you clear them out, are you killing a part of the city’s soul? I don’t want to tell other countries they can’t strive to improve the quality of street life, but I went to an aspiring Thai street food food market last time I was in Bangkok and it suuuuucked.
Pelin Keskin at Eater goes deep into the effect Brexit will have on London’s restaurant scene. It leads with an absolutely horrific anecdote of a burger chain calling all their back-of-house employees into a special training, then turning them over to the immigration authorities. A war on immigrants is a war on food. Full stop.
Duncan Hines was not only a real person, he was also a traveling salesman (pre-cake fortune) who wrote one of the first travel and dining guides to America. If someone wants to buy me a copy, that would be great.
Eric Konigsberg at New York Magazine profiles the team taking on what might be the toughest food challenge in New York: opening the new Four Seasons. The article does a great job explaining why this may be an impossible task. The Four Seasons was beloved by its regulars, but by no one else. Any change to make it approachable will turn off the people who kept it open for years. I physically cringed at every big idea and “move” the young hotshot opening team is thinking about, but that’s what you need to do to make this place work. They do seem like the team to do it. This is going to be the big moment for the current throwback trend to early 20th century hotel dining in New York.
Like the Avengers, it’s always fun when my favorite food writers team up. I feel bloated just reading this Eater NY story of critic Robert Sietsema and Gustavo Arellano’s taco blitz of New York. Taking place mostly in Queens, this story covers a little bit of New York’s Mexican food history. It has a lot of dish names to Google, and overall it’s a little boring.
Seitsema also dropped his first installment of what promises to be a series: great sandwiches of the world. He starts on Avenue U in Brooklyn, for a Sicillian vastedda at Joe’s of Avenue U.
Ligaya Mishan is in the Bronx, where she has followed the City’s best Bangladeshi chef a few blocks from his old restaurant to his new one. Neerob at Packsun Halal Chicken rotates the menu of spicy and strong Bangladeshi dishes daily, as well as providing fried chicken and burger standards. Point at one of the steam trays and they’ll try to tell you some of the ingredients, warning you against the heat.
Spring is late, but this Times story makes it sounds like the perfect time to take a day trip to Greenport (not Greenpoint) and visit the oyster farms supplying some of the City’s best restaurants. Lots of neat information about how Oysters grow.
Tony Danza’s Grub street diet is beautiful. It contains one tap dancing lesson, one hangover, 4-5 meals of chicken parm, and one “ayy yo, give me a break”
Pete Wells reviews Augustine, the latest restaurant from chef Keith McNally. The review is an elaborate comparison to airport novels. McNally is the author who always does the same thing, but people like it and keep showing up to see what’s slightly different this time. One star.
Today’s story that needs to be a movie: A Worcester restaurateur and real estate developer pretended to be Muslim, gave up co-defendants and implicated his girlfriend to cut deals with feds over his drug trafficking.
Scott Kearnan at the Herald drops his straightest review in a while, visiting B3 in Back Bay. A collaboration between Berklee college of music and the former head chef of Hungry Mother. This place features seemingly inspired Southern food and live music seven nights per week. In a city that has some of the best music schools in the country and almost no live music, this is a welcome development.
Another Worcester resident (not the same one, presumably) has successfully sued a chain of Central Mass Dunkin Donuts for using butter substitute when he requested butter on his bagel. “A lot of people prefer butter,” said [the man’s lawyer]. Can’t argue with that.
Ted Weesner (sigh) gets dispatched to drop an official review of Pabu in Downtown Crossing. His “this place is crazy” schtick seems to work well as a subtle critique of the uneven and expensive menu. Nothing I read about this place makes me want to go there unless someone else is paying.
Marc Hurwitz writes about Massimo’s Ristorante in Wakefield for the Weekly Dig. It’s a nice reminder that you don’t need to go to the North End for Italian-American classics.
A column by Nicholas Dello Russo for North End Waterfront isn’t written well, but it’s a fantastic picture into mid-century urban Boston and a place I’d never heard of, Blinstrub’s Village.
My biggest Boston food knowledge gap is never having eaten at O Ya. Here’s a video of their inventive sushi-esque menu.
A story by Janelle Nanos in the business section asks if Boston is reaching salad overload. I found this story cliched (Betteridge's law, to start) and in some places wrong. For example, fast casual doesn’t mean healthy food. Five Guys would be another standout fast casual example. Still, there’s lots of nicer places to get lunch that sell salads. Talk to me about peak salad once we have places like this outside the Seaport or Downtown Crossing.
Sheryl Julian reviews two newy opened pizza places in Newton: Anthony’s and Stone L’Oven. Both are new spots from suburban chains, and both seem like thoroughly fine local spots. I finish this review wondering, why?
J. Gold visits Holbox, a sister stand near USC to the already famous Chichen Itza. He calls some of the food transcendent and notes with praise that they seem to serve mostly sustainable fish (Gold’s brother is a major seafood sustainability advocate). I’m calling it now: Mexican regional cuisine is the next Chinese regional cuisine.
The first line of the LA Weekly article by David Chan made me angry I didn’t think of it: “One of the most significant trends in Chinese dining in the United States in the past decade is the appearance of "authentic" Chinese food near college campuses all over the country” -- This article, focused on the mainland Chinese student community at USC, is relevant to anyone who lives near a major university.
Torrii MacAdams writes about Randy’s Doughnuts for Extra Crispy. It’s a great short history of Los Angeles and the tiny, iconic doughnut shop. When I fly in to LAX, Randy’s is my first stop if it’s before noon (In & Out if it’s after noon). If you want to read more about why California’s donut scene is primarily fueled by Cambodian refugees, check out this old Lucky Peach article.
I said earlier I don’t have a problem with food designed to be consumed visually. Still, I have no idea, functionally, how one consumes a sushi donut any way but visually.
Besha Rodell visits Kismet in Los Feliz. This local-ish place boasts an all-day menu of Middle Eastern-ish food. Rodell says the food is unequivocally great, but expensive to the point it is distracting. $17 for a side of potatoes and the cost of the Turkish breakfast made me gasp. She gives it two stars. I didn’t read Rodell before this newsletter, and I really have come to appreciate her as a counterbalance to Gold. Gold is painting a transcendent landscape of Los Angeles and America with food (Check out his Kismet review). He will have insights that stop you in your tracks. He rarely mentions price. Roddell doesn’t always make sweeping points, but she views herself as part customer advocate. It’s a good reminder to read multiple sources.
Did you know the Chicago Reader is a thing? I didn’t ! I searched that combination of words randomly and found this long story on the collapse of the Chicago food truck scene. It’s a mixture of the things, but it seems like most trucks were ignoring the crappily written and poorly enforced laws. After a media exposé, the city cracked down and the shoddiness of the legislation is showing. This has cut the number of food trucks in half.
Julia Thiel at the Reader also reviews Temporis in West Town. This is that place with an 11-course tasting menu and a hydroponics garden in the basement. It’s two relatively rookie chefs, and it shows. The menu features staggeringly good technique, but Julia was still hungry when it was over. Dat cheese course, tho.
AV Club writes up 12 foods and one liquor that are forever associated with Chicago. Lots of things you would expect are here, with a few stretches (brownies?). Come for the list and stay for the Malört, which is a wormwood-based schnapps that doesn’t get much traction outside the region. The article quotes John Hodgman describing the taste as “pencil shavings and heartbreak.”
Jeff Ruby at Chicago Magazine reviews Dolo in Chinatown. Ruby admits he’s not an expert, but that Dolo has converted him to the church of dim sum. Dolo is trying harder, with better ingredients and technique. The dinners sound a bit lacking, but man I wish we had a second-wave dim sum parlor near my apartment. He gives it one star.
A photo gallery of great moments in Chicago food history is a step above the Tribune’s usual trashy slideshows.
David Hammond, for Fooditor, writes a sort-of review of NaKorn, an upscale Thai restaurant in Evanston. It’s mostly an interview with the young Thai owners, who came to America for school and stayed. Hammond talks about the conflict over authenticity. Just because it’s upscale, many people will assume it’s not. But here are two Thais making the food they grew up on. Sounds worth the trip. Also reminded me of when I asked Thai friends for recommendations of where to eat in Bangkok, they sent me to get sushi.
Michael Nagrant at the Chicago Tribune drops a mini-review of DMap in Logan Square. This food truck turned brick & mortar is influenced by Dungeons and Dragons. The food sounds good, and the logo features a demon wielding scimitars amidst flames. Would roll for initiative.
I led off this section in my first draft with a story about a Joe Biden themed pop up bar. I was about to send. I even tweeted about it. Someone on Twitter saved my ass, pointing out that it was a stupid lie. I say SHAME on the Washington City Paper. We have to deal with this Internet bullshit for one day a year. Do NOT publish it early. The ONLY recompense I will accept is you actually putting on this popup.
Tom Sietsema reviews Mirabelle, a new high-end French restaurant two blocks from the White House. It’s opening with an all-star cast, including the wine and service director from the Inn at Little Washington. There are definitely flaws, but considering it hasn’t even opened for dinner yet, it’s worth giving them time to work out the kinks. The attention to ingredients, in particular, makes this a place to watch.
Pinball is having a moment and Tim Carmen reviews two places driving that trend in D.C.: Vük in Bethesda and Lyman’s Tavern in Petworth. He uses the review to highlight how little sense it makes to pair food with pinball. The review loses the thread but you should at least start it.
Out of context Pete Wells hauntingly poetic quote of the week
He excels at building rooms that evoke vintage Paris — not exactly the real Paris, but the city the way you remember it a year after taking a vacation there.