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Snack Cart: Remember last week?
Food & Wine released their best new chefs list of 2017. As with many lists like this, there’s always a lot to nitpick, but regular readers of this newsletter will recognize a lot of names and the editors clearly went out of their way to find women and chefs of color. I gotta get to San Antonio ASAP, apparently.
This interview with the two guys behind the @wingsofatl Instagram account might be the best thing of the week. They go into why they felt the need to document the chicken bones that litter Atlanta streets and why they themselves still drop bones.
The food media establishment (and lots of nonfood media like CNN) spent the early part of the week covering the “World’s 50 best list”. The ranking the top restaurants in the world dropped with a lot of fanfare. Eleven Madison Park is back on top! Noma is dead, long live Noma! Then, of course, there was the immediate backlash. It’s sexist, it’s eurocentric, etc. etc. (these are super true and valid points, btw). Eater managed a somewhat scummy task of writing it up, writing up a takedown, then writing up an explainer of why they cover it. I get it, but maybe be a little less holier than thou in your takedown, then. The best critiques came from @shitfoodblogger, who focused more on how the whole list resembles an extortion racket more than anything else. If you read one thing about it, read Marian Bull writing for GQ.
Besides, a 50 best list that doesn’t include Senor Frogs is completely out of step with the times.
A podcast that started off as a parody of shows like Serial or S-Town has grown a small but real cult following of people brought together to answer one question: “Whatever happened to pizza at McDonalds?”
It was the Masters this week, and stories about the famous snack bar are the real tradition unlike any ot*has keyboard taken away violently* -- okay sorry, but stories about the famously cheap menu are a lot of fun. Garden & Gun goes deep into the Pimento Cheese sandwich. I love this 2013 article by Charlie Warzel at Buzzfeed where he tries to eat the entire menu in one day. Or leave the course, like nj.com writer Steve Politi did, to visit one of the 16 Waffle Houses within 10 minutes of the stadium.
The Outline tells a bit of the story of the Anthora. The beloved New York coffee cup design has scores of imitators and is losing market share as people’s coffee consumption habits change.
Jessica Myers at the Los Angeles Times tells the story of Sriracha’s launch in Vietnam. The popular sauce was created by homesick Vietnamese immigrants, but is different than versions available in Southeast Asia. This is a great story for anyone interested in immigrants, hot sauce, or economics.
Some similar larger effects are at play in this VICE story about how Colombians are just starting to drink Colombian coffee.
Tove Danovich at WGBH digs into how the bone broth trend is causing the price of bones to skyrocket. It’s interesting to see this cycle keep repeating itself with worse and worse cuts of meat.
Because there isn’t enough online food content, Anthony Bourdain / CNN has launched a companion site to his travel show. This is long overdue, as the web content for the show has tended to suck. This, a guide to Vietnamese soups, is great.
Robert Moss at First We Feast writes up a great article at how the rise of Texas Barbecue is skewing the entire world’s conception of what barbecue can and should be. I didn’t realize a lot of my assumptions about what barbecue is are in fact a very specific set of trends.
I don’t post a lot of cooking stories, but this Food 52 piece about how Burmese cooks use scissors for most kitchen tasks is just so damn good. I will 100% click their affiliate link to buy a new pair.
Bloomberg previews Joan Nathan’s upcoming cookbook, King Solomon's Table. The book, three years in the making, tries to tell the vast scope of Jewish cuisine beyond bagels and brisket. Get it for your Mom for her birthday.
A bunch of new liquor laws just kicked into effect. Most relevant to you is that you will probably start seeing wine in grocery stores (but only in growlers???).
The New York Times sent Katie Rogers to Cafe Milano, a Georgetown establishment known as the restaurant of choice for to see and to be seen. This line sums it up, “Mr. Trump calls this city a swamp, and Cafe Milano is one of the places where members of his cabinet are learning how to swim.” The bipartisan quotes in this story are great.
Becky Krystal at the Washington Post breaks down why a Jambon Beurre costs $26 at new power spot Mirabelle. This article has a click-baity headline but does a great job breaking down why food fancy restaurants costs so much. I’m not a chef, but sacrificing dining room space for a pastry kitchen as well as making your own butter, seems overkill. I wonder if we’re seeing shades of Shaw Bijou.
Tom Sietsema drops a long feature on Los Angeles’ vegetable-centric dining trends. He manages to hit all the high points, (Sqrl! the Santa Monica Farmers Market!!) while avoiding the condescending tone certain outlets tend to have writing about Los Angeles food. There’s little here for D.C. diners (Convivial is apparently a place?) but it’s a good survey of the trend.
Sietsema had enough time after his trip to drop a full review of Ruta del Vino in Petworth. This seems like the perfect neighborhood restaurant. Good food, reasonable prices, and enough flaws to casually complain about. He gives it two stars.
Tim Carmen, who I’m growing to really like, reviews Matthew’s Grill in Gaithersburg. He says this place is a great place to get a tour through Filipino cuisine, and uses his review to help guide you through it.
Eater interviews Barbara Lynch about her next steps. The legendary chef plans to focus on her dehydrated vegetable line (ehhhh) and a woman-focused bank (yayyy!). She also plans to turn over ownership of her restaurant group to her employees, which will certainly send shockwaves through the Boston food community.
Grub Street gets into Lynch’s diet (for the Grub Street Diet, not in a weird way). Pretty boring stuff (a glass of white wine!), though I call foul on her saying, “I had one chicken finger and one French fry.“ That is physically impossible.
The Globe dropped a huge feature on the war for baristas. We’re opening and second-wave coffee shop every other week, and they are having a hard time attracting talent. It’s strange the story doesn’t draw a direct parallel to same struggle for chefs and other restaurant talent. It also doesn’t do a good enough job pointing the finger at housing and transportation.
I’m very confused as to what this story is or why. It seems like the story / interview of a single meal? Anyway, the Toscano bar in Beverly is nice.
Is it weird that Eataly seems to feed a ton of people but is completely irrelevant to the Boston food scene? Like, it’s completely packed but no one is saying, “oh, you have to go to Eataly!”
Ellen Bhang does a Cheap Eats column at Maynard’s Battle Road Brew House. Revolutionary War-themed beers and Texas-style barbecue (see the story in the top section in the newsletter about that) seem like a great combo.
The Globe drops their big review on Mida in the South End. This is near my apartment, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting to see what they say. Sacha Pfeiffer is up (not my fav), and her review is pretty boring. She finds the restaurant ambitious and in need of dialing it back. She seems really hung up on pickled things, which makes me wonder how much she actually follows food trends or eats out when not reviewing. That being said, I really appreciate that she takes the first half of the review to build up chef Douglass Williams. As one of the few (only?) black chef-owners in Boston running a restaurant in a black neighborhood, I’m rooting for that guy so hard.
New York City
Pete Wells revisits Babbo. The Greenwich Village Italian restaurant that is the heart of Mario Batali’s culinary empire. Wells thinks it’s slipped a bit since it was last reviewed in 2004 (Frank Langello has been the head chef since 2003 and checks in with Batali weekly), and downgrades it from three to two stars. From his review, I get the impression he wanted to drop it even one more. I really like when critics revisit places. It’s a nice chance to check in on how the city, and we, have changed around a place. For me, I just got nostalgic for my birthday dinner there with my Mom in 2008.
The Washington Post did a relatively charitable look at how California vegetable cuisine is taking over the food world. The New York Times goes in another direction.
We all know about Manischewitz, but the Times digs into the new war over non-alcoholic grape juice for Passover. Like kosher wine, there’s traditionally been one big player. But Welch’s wants in on the action, and is teaming up with Manischewitz to make it happen. Great story.
Ligaya Mishan goes to Mama Lee in Bayside for simple Taiwanese food and finds grace in a turnip omelette. I’m glad Mishan disobeyed Mama Lee’s injunction not to tell anyone.
Adam Platt at Grubstreet (I think the full reviews count in New York Magazine) reviews 4 Charles Prime Rib. I swear I just read a review of this place, but I think I might just be agreeing with Platt’s point: these kind of interchangeable “Dude Cave” restaurants are a bit on trend right now. You know exactly what this place will be. If the idea of dropping a lot of money on martinis, steaks, potatoes, or a hard-to-get burger appeals to you, this is as good a place as any. Honestly, that kinda sounds great to me right now, though I’d probably go to Keen’s first. Platt brings up an issue I hadn’t heard before: that the chef already has several successful locations in Chicago.
Nick Kindelsperger get the duty form the Tribune to do a full review of Quiote in Logan Square. This is a Mexican twist on the all-day restaurant trend. Pastries in the morning, tacos and tortas at lunch, inventive regional Mexican shared plates at dinner, and Mezcal whenever. Kindelsperger says they by-and-large pull it off, though the lunch is so good he’s upset they don’t do tortas all day. I need the salt and pepper shrimp tacos immediately (the restaurant has a few tips to Mexico’s once-large Chinese population). The first-time owner, who is neither Mexican nor Bayliss-affiliated, seems to be succeeding like a seasoned pro
Jeff Ruby at Chicago Magazine releases a beautiful feature on Chicago’s ten best new restaurants. A lot of familiar names on the list (Quiote is having a great week!) and it seems varied enough to be a great bucket list for the next few months.
Mike Sula at Chicago Reader reviews Mirabella. Unlike some others, he declares it a success. He also goes much deeper into the backstory, how it was opened by the dishwasher-turned head chef from Chicago institution Gene & Georgetti. Mirabella isn’t great, but it’s earnest and eager to please, both things Sula says modern steakhouses lack.
The Los Angeles Times interviews Michael Twitty, an African American and Jewish food historian, on the similarities between the African-American and Jewish food diasporas. Interesting interview, and I link to it mostly to also promote Twitty’s Twitter account, which I really like. That unfortunately alliteration only just struck me.
J. Gold travels to AR Cucina in Culver City. There, chef Akasha Richmond has flipped her Indian restaurant Sambar Italian, explicitly because she can charge more for Italian food. Gold is good at not being political while being political. He says he isn’t sure how to argue the unfairness of that in a somewhat throw-away line. Still, most of his review seems to be comparing different Italian and Indian dishes. For each, he finds a counterpoint in technique or some kind of flavor. He seems to be arguing, in his laid back way, “you idiots, this is all the same stuff!”
Besha Rodell reviews Chez Tex in Venice. She gives two stars to the “kinda French kinda Californian” wine bar. She says the place could use a few tweaks, but she loves how unpretentious it is. From how she describes it, it sounds like all the best places in France: Small labors of love where the food is a bit better than it has to be.
Out of context Mike Sula quote of the week
High prices, occasionally indifferent service, and frequently exclusionary deference to regulars test the patience of even G&G admirers such as myself. And yet Gene & Georgetti doesn't give a fuck about your whiny Yelp reviews.