The unbearable whiteness of eating
The must-read of the week is this essay from Lauren Michele Jackson in Eater. She examines how the “Craft movement” has systematically removed black and brown voices. It has turned products and traditions, many of which have origins in communities of color, into things made by rich white people for other rich white people. The section about coffee seems a bit thin, but the ones on barbecue and whiskey are dead on. I had no idea that Jack Daniels himself learned whiskey distilling from a former slave. It’s also worth pointing out that a lot of fine dining tradition in America has its roots in slavery. James Hemmings (brother of Sally) was a slave Thomas Jefferson sent to France to apprentice as a chef. He was one of the first classically trained chefs in America. Also, if you haven’t read this piece in The New Yorker about barbecue, you are really missing out.
A great compliment to this is an essay Michael Twitty, better known as @KosherSoul. He writes about what it means to be black, gay, and Jewish after Charlottesville and how he thinks writing about food is a weapon against hate. He’s actually going to be recreating slave kitchens at Monticello this week, which, after last week, damn.
This is all very heavy, so let’s find something we can agree on: St. Louis pizza isn’t a thing.
Did you know there’s a specialty magazine (online and limited print runs) dedicated to Chinese food? I didn’t and I am HERE for it. Here’s an essay by Angie Lee from The Cleaver Quarterly about tea. Sorta. It’s really about gan, a property some of the best teas possess that I’m still not quite sure I understand, even though I read this twice. Then again, it sorta seems like the kind of thing you won’t understand until you taste it. Anyway, I’m also going to be keeping an eye out for copies of Cleaver Quarterly at my local bookshop.
Bon Appetit released their annual list of the best new restaurants in America. They pick 50 for the hot list, then narrow it down to the top ten. There’s not a lot that’s surprising here, other than it seems like the most interesting dining is happening in smaller cities in the middle of the country. I was surprised that Elske, which was not reviewed well locally in Chicago, made it to #2 on the list. #1 is some sandwich place in New Orleans that sounds fun.
Bill Addison writes an interesting essay about high end service. He mentions how truly elite restaurant service seems to be shifting a little. It’s becoming a bit more inclusive and accepting that things go wrong. He also blows up a place out in San Francisco for a particularly bad experience. Definitely worth a read if you’ve ever felt uncomfortable at a fancy restaurant.
I’m not sure why, but I desperately want stupid expensive streetwear-branded chopsticks.
Food & Wine has a quick profile of Elizabeth Blau, the queen of Las Vegas dining. She’s talks about what goes into running all the food for a mega resort and casino in Vancouver, which opens soon. I’d read a much, much longer version of this.
The Sporkful has a new series “Your Mom’s Food”, where they take on the complicated intersection of family and food. It’s interesting to listen to whole thing, since the first episode (about the white, midwestern producer of The Sporkful and her Indian husband) is a bit off and they spend part of the other two explaining, apologizing, and giving context.
Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast conflicts me. The first season left a bad taste in my mouth, but the second has been really quite terrific. He is annoying, but the episodes are beautiful. Still, there’s a recent one that’s worth your time. He talks about McDonald’s fries and why they don’t taste as good anymore. I thought this was just a joke, but they actually did stop cooking them in tallow in 1992 and they taste much worse. The description of the logistical challenges of moving to vegetable oil were very interesting.
Chris Schonberger, editor of First we Feast, writes a Grub Street Diet that is both lovely and normal (plus there’s a photo of his puppy). I appreciate someone who seems to have a relatively average eating routine and acknowledges how insane the one part is.
New York City
Apparently one of the best dumpling shops in Manhattan has closed. This is a good reminder that I’ve always wanted to be the kind of guy who stocks his freezer with cool frozen dumplings but I’m also very lazy.
A tiki bar that also serves chicken parm sandwiches in Times Square? It’s too beautiful to even think about.
I also did a solid LOL at the stupid Bubble Tea article. I see this more as a fuck-up of the way newspapers are siloed. Someone from the business section is assigned to write about food, hilarity ensues. Still, there’s some low-key racist stuff in there and I’m very excited for next week’s feature on kale.
Ryan Sutton reviews Made Nice, the higher-end fast-casual things-in-a-bowl concept from the team that runs Eleven Madison Park, the best restaurant in the world. Sutton finds the whole thing blah, though I don’t know if anyone but a critic would be able to pick up all the references inside the food. I find his review kind of terrible. Some parts border on unreadable as he tries to say… something… about Manhattan.
Pete Wells also reviews Made Nice! He points out that the chefs are setting themselves up for criticism by directly linking dishes in a fast casual setting to their most famous dishes at high end kitchens. He also spends about half the review talking about how the rise in delivery is affecting restaurants. This is a good “how we eat now” review.
Ligaya Mishan goes deep on tamales at Factory Tamale in the Lower East Side. The chef makes masa in the traditional way, a painstaking process that almost no one does anymre. I would like about a million of these in my face right now.
A critical question answered: What is the best hot dog mustard?
Phil Vettel is in his element, reviewing a spendy French place. Michael Mina, the San Francisco chef turned globe-spanning culinary titan, is opening two new outposts in Chicago. Vettel reviews the fancier one, Margeaux Brasserie, located in the Waldorf Astoria. He finds lots of traditional French brasserie dishes executed very well.
There’s a new fancy food magazine. Dill, based in Chicago, plans to dive deeply into Asian food. The first issue looks beautiful.
Mike Sula reviews Proxi, the much-anticipated follow-up by chef Andrew Zimmerman (not that one, I checked). It’s a more casual restaurant that focuses on “global street food inspired small plates.” Those kinds of places tend to be terrible, but Sula says that it’s fun and done with enough skill to be worthwhile.
Some guy published a really great list of food bloggers of color in Massachusetts. I don’t read nearly enough of these (I don’t read many food bloggers, tbh) but if you’re hiring people to write about Massachusetts food start here.
Interesting interview with Ed Kane, who has had a pretty large impact on the Boston dining scene as the owner of the Big Night Entertainment Group. One thing in this interview that is news to me: the coming of of 21,000 square foot dance club to the Seaport. Which… of course.
An article about how portions are too small and one about how waiters complain about customers on social media. The Boston Globe Magazine, delivered straight from 2009.
Are we *sure* Mooncusser’s isn’t a chain? I swear it’s a chain.
This story by Aaron Morrissey in this week’s Washington City Paper is very good. In it, he defends out-of-season beer releases and why things like Oktoberfest seem to be released earlier every year. This could have easily been nothing but hectoring (and there’s a bit of that) but it also goes into the business and chemical reasons certain beers are released at certain times.
Five bros you are going to meet at every D.C. beer event describes way too many of my friends (I love you all).
I'll agree that personalized nutrition is a thing, but you have to agree that it's very much pseudoscience for now.
What a unbelievably huge dick move.
Tom Sietsema is at Bistro 1521 in Arlington, where he wonders why D.C. doesn’t see more Filipino restaurants after the success of Bad Saint. I’m wondering why we don’t see more Asian or Southeast Asia sports bars. It’s a cuisine ready-made for drinking.
How about some Ca-li-for-ni-a Char-donn-a? (I don’t know, that SNL sketch).
Besha Rodell makes her way to Cosa Buona, the old-school pizza place turned new-school pizza place in Echo Park. She pegs her review on the idea of “pizza gentrification”, citing a few other places that have gone through the same transition. I don’t know if I totally buy it considering Los Angeles’ history of high-end pizza, but it’s interesting. She’s also honest that even though she wanted to dislike the place because of what it represents, the food is too great and she really likes it.
Out of context Pete Wells praise that sounds like criticism of the week
Eating food like this at your desk would not feel like a complete surrender.