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Olfactory molestation was the case that they gave me
The best thing you will read this week is a tweetstorm about a knife fight at an Olive Garden.
The New Yorker published their annual food and travel issue. This usually contains some of the best food writing of the year, but I confess I haven’t picked it up yet. Still, I’ve already read this amazing piece by Lauren Collins on barbecue, America’s most political food. It’s one of the most perfect things I’ve read about eating in this imperfect age.
There’s also a neat story by Lizzie Widdicombe about Laurie Wolf, one of the many chefs focusing their creativity on cooking with weed. The article is really a look at the state of the edible marijuana as we move ever closer to full legalization. I’ll read and report back more, but finishing a copy of the New Yorker is a modern labor of Hercules.
Daniela Galarza at Eater goes deep on Cassata, a traditional Italian Easter cake made with ricotta and candied fruits. As with most things Italian, there are as many “correct” ways to make it as there are Italians.
Chances are someone you know has posted a picture of Starbucks new limited-time psychedelic ‘Unicorn’ Frappuccino. This is a great time to revisit Eater’s guide to Lisa Frankenfoods. Also, the difficult-to-make drink is driving baristas around the country insane.
A court in Italy has ruled stinky cooking odors constitute a crime: “olfactory molestation”. This article contains a number of stories of hilarious neighborly squabbles. You have have my fried anchovies when you pry them from my cold, dead, oily hands.
I wonder if the fact that our hottest cookbooks are about eggs and vegetables says something about the underlying uncertainty in the modern economy.
Bloomberg published a long story on how legal weed is hurting the restaurant industry. Competition for workers (who are taking jobs in dispensaries instead of kitchens) and people using pot instead of alcohol are cutting into sales. This didn’t feel right to me, and this Eater piece has some good caveats in the last two paragraphs. Still, it’s almost like we need an influx of workers or something. Or build the wall, whatever.
A restaurant management blog named “Toast” (that name should be retired to the Internet Hall of Fame) breaks down how to get written about by critics and bloggers. It’s not a well written piece, but it is interesting what a system this is.
Mari Uyehara at First We Feast writes a fascinating exploration of the off menu burger. Modern restaurants across America are offering expensive and fancy burgers. Sometimes it’s a gimmick, sometimes it’s a plan, sometimes it’s in limited numbers, but they always sell. This creates a tough choice for chefs. Few of them opened a high-end spots with the hope of selling hamburgers, but can you really ignore a high-demand, high margin item?
A lovely story by the New York Times sports section introduces us to the Tea Ladies (and Men) of the Premier League. These semi-volunteers are a vestige of when these really were clubs, not just billion dollar international brands. Read this if the line “He has little time, then, for the ‘scientists and boffins’ who have decided that tea doesn’t do active players any good, that it dehydrates them” appeals to you. Side note: This is an awesome sports story and April Spayd is not a good Public Editor.
STAT (a health care publication) reports on how early results show that banning trans fats in New York has prevented thousands of heart attacks. Last time I checked, New York still had fried chicken, so I'm fine.
Wyatt Williams writes a short but poetic ode to the Georgia gas station biscuit. Amazing gas station food seems like a Southern thing and I would like to understand it.
Katie Heaney at Extra Crispy asks the only food question that matters: “Are you eating too many gummy vitamins?” The answer is, of course, yes. Thank God this isn’t also true for Flintstone Chewables.
Citylab and Narratively are collaborating on a series, “My Secret City.” This one, an essay about a Filipino karaoke bar in Abu Dhabi, is a treat. Did I mention it’s inside a hotel older than the entire country? Why haven’t you clicked yet?
FYI (a network) and Sur La Table are teaming up to produce a new series where the head chef of Sur La Table will travel the country creating meals from food waste. It’s a neat idea, and my friend is the Executive Producer. Pimp your friend’s projects in your own damn newsletter.
You have to, have to, have to read this Bloomberg story about the $400 juicer / juice subscription service that is a total fraud. Does it feature a founder who calls himself the Steve Jobs of juice? Yes. Investors who clearly have too much money? Yes. A product that actually doesn’t do anything? You know it. I think my favorite line (and I have many) is, “The device also reads a QR code printed on the back of each produce pack and checks the source against an online database” Such beautiful, subtle shade.
GQ has released their Best New Restaurants list for 2017. The list, and the accompanying article by Brett Martin, is as a good a look at the state of America dining as I’ve seen. Focusing on restaurants run entirely be immigrants seems to have pushed them outside the traditional ones that would dominate a list like this.
The most intense Isaan food in Los Angeles is in the back of a North Hollywood swap meet, you say? Sorry, I stopped listening and starting pricing airline tickets.
Besha Rodell fires back at a critique by Bill Esparza (sorta). If you missed it, Esparza (an expert in Mexican food) took issue with reviews he felt didn’t respect the subtleties of modern Mexican cuisine. I wrote last week that his article felt thin, and Rodell correctly notes that he took one line out of context and used it to justify a sweeping assumption. She goes on to say he has a point anyway. She deconstructs how food writing is too white and too male, partly because the only people who can do it are people privileged enough to get experience to work for free. *tugs collar awkwardly*
Nas is opening a fried chicken and waffle place, so the East Coast / West Coast rap feud is over and The West coast... won? Hit it!
Jenn Harris at the Los Angeles Times writes that the best banh mi in Los Angeles is at Banh Oui, a small stand tucked into an auto repair shop. That’s probably not true, but you do have two very legit chefs cranking out fantastic sandwiches at this Silverlake pop up. It’ll be around until midsummer.
I don’t know why, but I never realized that sake is closer to beer than to wine. Probably because I’m dumb. Anyway, learn more about sake by watching this fantastic-looking documentary.
Besha Rodell for L.A. Weekly visits the new downtown vegetable-focused P.Y.T.. J. Gold reviewed this place a while back, and I wondered what took her so long. I didn’t realize that this is the same chef, Josef Centeno, as nearby Bäco Mercat. Rodell says that Mercat is already one of the best vegetable restaurants in Los Angeles, so why go elsewhere? However, over the course of the review she highlights how Centeno is doing something different here. Rather than WHAM vegetable flavors designed to compete with meat, he’s trying to draw out the essential flavors of the freshest produce he can find. As Roddell describes it, “turnip to the power of turnip.” She gives it three stars and calls is the best of the new wave of vegetarian-ish restaurants.
J. Gold visits Mas' Chinese Islamic in Anaheim. He’s at his J. Goldiest here, riffing on bygone Islamic Chinese restaurants past and calling and omelette “heroic.” The service is slow, portions huge, and the place seems designed for families and groups. This review has me jonesing for some fried lamb with cumin big time.
Duck. Muffin. Breakfast. Sandwich.
Tom Seitsema is in the middle of dropping a list of the ten best new restaurants in D.C. I’ll wait until he’s done (he’s doing one per day), but check here to keep an eye on the progress.
Meanwhile, Tim Carmen goes to Pitmaster Barbeque in Alexandria. Opened by a collection of professional barbecue circuit judges and champions, it seems like an unpretentious place to eat a bunch of ribs and watch sports on TV. The review is a great read, as the chef describes a few tricks and tips competition barbecue cooks use to cheat that also help a restaurant chef keep his food stable throughout the day.
No, we haven’t reached peak uni. Jesus, people. Still, this is a good read if you, like me, haven’t ever been exactly sure what uni is.
Laura Hayes at the Washington City Paper visits the basement Pub & People’s, where she gets a tour of the growhouse for Little Wild Things, a hydroponic microgreen service supplying some of the city’s top restaurants.
Why doesn’t D.C. see more local wines on menus, given how much pretty great wine Virginia is producing these days? The answers are complicated.
It’s the 10th anniversary of one of the seminal food moments in Boston sports history.
Logan Airport has switched commercial landlords. This is the kind of technical and highly boring deal that has a huge impact on what and how we eat. Case in the point: the new landlord, MarketPlace Development, has committed to more local restaurants (I presume not named Legal Seafoods). Airports are the gateway to a city, so local restaurants can bridge travellers to places and types of food they wouldn’t have otherwise. Give me an airport Haley House!
Buried in this story about the Boston Globe moving headquarters is the news that they are closing the cafeteria. It wasn’t so much a perk as a requirement in the food desert of Morrissey Boulevard. Still, I’m giving a thought to the people who worked there, many of whom had been at the Globe for years. The day Tony first called me “hijo” was when I felt like I had made it.
The Row 34 team is opening a new French restaurant in Harvard Square. This hits the overlap of a lot of food trends (French, Harvard Square… a third thing probably…) but mostly I’m excited because this team can do no wrong. Seriously, have you been to Branch Line?
Kara Baskin at the Globe writes a clear-eyed look at the financial challenges of being a chef-owner. Even the highly successful ones only make between $80-100k, which I’m going to remember next time I get haughty about a chef opening a Vegas outpost or a fast casual concept. The breakdown at the end really shows that no one gets rich operating a restaurant. Except the landlord.
Speaking of which, Boston super-chef Ming Tsai is closing Blue Ginger, the restaurant that served as the cornerstone of his mini empire, to focus on new projects. Those project include (you guessed it) a fast casual concept. Blue Ginger did a lot to bring Asian flavors to Boston, and Data Hatic at Eater Boston points out it was also one of the first high-end restaurants to take food allergies seriously.
There was an amazing blink-if-you-missed Twitter scandal this week. In an interview with Barbara Lynch (everyone is doing one) The New York Times used several times used the phrase “a Southie” to describe someone from Southie. Worse still, they quoted Lynch as doing the same. This is wrong enough that it was mocked in the Simpsons. Boston twitter erupted, Lynch angrily said she would never say that, and the story was changed quietly and then loudly. Sorry New York Times (though to be honest I still kinda like SoBo).
Scott Kearnan at the Boston Herald seems to be the only person who noticed one of the most celebrated chefs in Puerto Rican cooking is in Boston. Giovanna Huyke, the Julia Child of Puerto Rico (complete with TV show) is the new chef at La Fabrica Central in Central Square. Read Huyke’s story, and get excited because this thing also seems backed by one of the other can’t miss restauranteur teams in Boston restaurants.
No full review, but Sheryl Julian does a cheap eats at Gre.Co on Newbury Street. The food is uneven, but she makes the case that with Newbury Street getting more corporate by the minute, we should cheer on every single small, independent business we can. Also, the chef insists, correctly, on putting French fries in Gyros, so what else do you need?
I don’t write about beer much because I’m not really a beer person. But I’d be remiss not to mention this great piece from the Boston Globe’s beer reviewer, Gary Dzen. He talks about reviewing Heady Topper (the king of beers) in a world in which, well, other beers are pretty damn good. If you are a beer person, make sure to follow Gary.
I JUST DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT, OK!!!!
New York City
The most essential piece in the New York Times this week is a long profile of Kabir Ahmed. Ahmed is a chicken and rice guy. He’s one of the thousands of New Yorkers (usually immigrants) who feed hundreds of thousands more from tiny metal boxes that dot the city. You walk by them every day, so find out more about how hard these people work. I cried at the end.
Atlas Obscura highlights the Lexington Candy shop. Located at Lexington and 79th, it’s an old-school New York luncheonette, seemingly frozen in time.
Wolfgang Puck was on the Eater Upsell, and he SHAAAAADED Eater New York’s Ryan Sutton. It’s a delightful interview but he definitely comes across in cranky old man mode during that part. That being said, his thoughts on sex are spot on. Well THAT felt weird to write.
Eater New York will also be at Balthazar all day on Friday, April 21. They’re live-blogging the restaurant’s 20th anniversary. So expect next week’s newsletter to have a lot of Balthazar #content and an obligatory mention that the only time I went there I got food poisoning.
Phil Vettel reviews Entente, a new spot it Lakeview from Brian Fisher, the opening chef of the Saved by the Bell pop-up. Vettel mentions that Fisher did a lot more with that place than he had to to make the food interesting. Now that he has his own place, Vettel says every food lover in Chicago needs to stop by. It features deceptively complex food in a small and homey setting. Sounds close to my ideal.
The gordita is dead. Long live the gordita.
Chicago Magazine talks about the bottle-sharing program at Edgewater wine bar. I’d never heard of this concept, but you can order any bottle, drink what you want, and leave the rest for other patrons to order by-the-glass. The ownership claims they are ending up with very little waste (though they do slightly discount these open bottles). The idea of sitting down at a bar and asking, “what’s open?” appeals to me immensely.
Mike Sula at Chicago Reader reviews Mango Pickle in Edgewater. He puts it in the tradition of several other big name places across the country like Houston's Pondicheri or New York's Paowalla: Indian restaurants making higher end food using natural and local ingredients. Maybe not the most authentic, but in a country as blended and jumbled as India, who’s to say? My eyes lit up when I saw they have a daily dal special. Go here and learn what those dishes you ordered for take-out last week can really do.
At Fooditor, Sabriana Medora examines Devon Avenue. It’s too quiet to be her home of Mumbai, but each stop at the various Indian and Pakistani cafes remind her of home. She hits a lot of places that would be familiar to anyone who reads Chicago “best of” lists (she says, I have no idea), but it’s a good read as she reminisces over each dish. Also, as she eats a ton. How much hot yoga do you DO, girl?
Out of context J. Gold of the week
"There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Islamic Chinese cooking looked like the future; a future awash in sesame sauce and mutton-organ warm pots."