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A herring scandal in the Netherlands
2017 has been a lot. I think what we all need is an absurd scandal in a funny foreign country. Thanks, Netherlands! Accusations have surfaced that the national herring test is rigged. One of the two judges is a consultant for a major herring brand, and has systematically given fish from that brand a higher rating. I want to swaddle this story in fabric and clutch it to my bosom.
If you read one thing this week, it should be a review by Brett Martin of The Grill and The Pool. As you’ve read here, this pair of restaurants took over the previous Four Seasons space. I’m bumping this up from the New York section because Martin wrote the SHIT out of this for GQ magazine. It’s less a review, and more a long essay on what these restaurants mean. What they meant to Martin as a New Yorker. What they mean to New York. What they mean to America.
This is a funny and incisive defense/roast of Guy Fieri from comedian Shane Torres. Ironically, the best defense of Fieri I ever heard was from Anthony Bourdain (Torres slams Bourdain in the video). During a live show of his I attended, Bourdain said, “Fieri has the hardest fucking job in the world. Week after week he goes to a place and gets excited about the most basic stuff. 'What are you putting in that omelette? Are those onions? WOW!'" I think about that a lot.
Sarah Zorn writes a very thoughtful and well-researched article about food media for Esquire. Increasingly, the food media is run by women. But male chefs are still the dominant subjects. Why the disconnect? The articles goes into a number of complicated reasons this might be so. I sort of think that food itself is moving more slowly than the media.
Interesting story by Elizabeth Dunn in the New Yorker about the hidden challenges of food halls. They have a lot of promise and are being built at an incredible clip, but a lot of owners struggle to keep them sustainable and many operators make little or no money on them.
A long and somewhat meandering article in Racked by Rikki Byrd is worth your time. Byrd is a professor (hence the meandering) who focuses on fashion and race. This essay expands that to food, tracing how department stores have treated black people and black food. The essay goes from the Woolworth’s lunch counter to that Neiman Marcus catalog selling frozen collard greens for $70 bucks.
America is already great.
A lovely essay by Kenzi Wilbur for the Awl talks about starting out in food and in life. Wilbur talks about the first time they learned about Piment d'Espelette and how it made them insufferable. Because no one out-insufferables Josh in his own newsletter, I’ve BEEN to the village of Espelette and it’s a delight.
This video is very funny and you should watch it.
There are two kinds of people in this world. Those that will read more than a thousand words on whether soup is a beverage or a food and those that don’t read this newsletter.
At some point in the horrific Republican tax bill “process”, someone tweeted this amazing New York Times story from 2010. Reporter Robert Pear got to the bottom of the old phrase, “there are two things you don’t want to let people see you make: laws and sausages.” Apparently, sausage makers take offense at that. They are way more organized than congress.
I’d really like to go to an oyster roast.
SUPER into this video from Quartz. In it, chopstick expert and historian Edward Wang discusses the historical and cultural trends that lead different countries to have differently-shaped chopsticks.
Interesting deep dive from Punch about Costco’s house whiskey brands. Experts around the world are puzzled at how Costco’s Kirkland brands are pretty good scotch, whiskey, and bourbon and still sell for impossibly low prices. Aaron Goldfarb digs into why, gets a bunch of sandbagging from the company, and maybe uncovers a few answers.
I wish this take, about why ketchup is a pickle, was more compelling. I love both pickles and ketchup, as well as making fun of pretentious food people. However, this one doesn't do it for me.
As I get less and less excited about football, the sheer insanity of everyone in the NBA keeps growing on me. Both the sport, and the fact that basketball players seem way crazier than most pro athletes. Case in point, this story from Bleacher Report about the rise of vegetarianism and veganism among NBA players. It focuses on Kyrie Irving, the Boston Celtics superstar who credits his early success this year to his change in diet. I would have thought he’d credit it to extra traction because of the flatness of the earth, but hey!
The dream of the early 00’s is alive in the New Yorker, where Emily Gould writes a short profile of Deb Perelman, the author of the Smitten Kitchen blog (and cookbooks). The first time I had ever heard of this blog was when Perelman’s first cookbook came out and my sister and Mom went to about five stores looking for it. Everyone you know reads her blog, even if you don’t.
Want pure, unadulterated lifestyle porn? The New York Times Magazine profiles six new Paris restaurants that are all seeking to be more ambitious in their design than the traditional brasseries.
This is old, but new to me. In honor of The Big Night’s 20th anniversary, Bon Appetit interviewed the stars. It’s less an oral history and more a series of questions about their relationship with food. I would like Stanley Tucci to be my friend I see for drinks every five months. We text whenever we have big life news, and we each always wish we saw each other more.
In an essay for TASTE by Rebecca Flint Marx, she identifies an interesting trend: a movement towards a new food minimalism. In both restaurants and cookbooks, we’re seeing people embrace basics after a decade or two that saw a focus on elaborate constructions and complicated processes. This is one of those things where I wonder how much “food trends” really just mean the trends of a certain subset of people. How many people in America were really buying the French Laundry cookbook?
Sodastream has launched a DIY sparkling wine kit! It’s only in Germany for now, but you can carbonate your own white wines. I don’t know why you would do this, but my sister who lives in France is smuggling some in from across the border so I’ll report back.
The University of Texas at San Antonio has the country’s only collection of Mexican cookbooks. Lesley Tellez explores the almost 1,800-strong collection and what it means to her as a Mexican-American.
I’ve partnered with a number of other publications to bring you a free digital cookbook. The TASTE Sweater Weather Cookbook has ten recipes designed to fit the season.
Here’s a good one: Sake-and-Soy-Marinated Pork over rice from the VICE Munchies cookbook. While most of the recipes in Sweater Weather are of the “big pot of braised stuff” variety, this one calls for quickly grilling ultra-thin pork chops. While we mostly grill in the summer, I can think of few cozier feelings than sweet and slightly charred pork slices over a big bowl of steaming rice. The pork only takes a minute or two per side, so you could do this outside without too much pain. Or just use a grill pan.
Michael Dukakis’ turkey soup is the greatest of all holiday traditions. For those that don’t know, the former governor of Massachusetts is famously thrifty and practical. Two years ago, the Boston Globe profiled how he collects unused turkey carcasses from his family and friends after Thanksgiving and makes soup for the upcoming year. The story exploded on local media and Dukakis received 27 carcasses from friends and strangers (he ended up making mammoth batches of soup and bringing them to a senior center because he’s an actual saint). This year the Globe checked in, and the Duke only had one carcass dropped off. Proud to say it was from my good friend and former coworker Amy Mahler.
This story, about the first Wahlburgers opening in Palo Alto, is like an absurd Boston parody Mad Libs. There is a whole back-and-forth, but I found the whole thing too exhausting to keep up with.
God bless local newspapers, who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is.
Nestor Ramos stunting on that Dunkin’ Donuts name change (they are experimenting with a store only called “Dunkin’”) is a fun, if fluffy read.
The Daily Beast writes a history of Friendly’s. Writer Joanne Chen *gets it* (mostly because she uses the term ‘jimmies’) and recaps how the beloved local chain rose from a single ice cream stand to almost 800 locations. It went through a rough patch, but with new ownership the future looks bright. There is SO MUCH IN THIS STORY I LOVE. The founders are STILL ALIVE and at 103 seem like a delight. They introduced grilled cheese sandwiches so Catholics would have something to eat on Fridays. The new Friendly’s concept will have wifi and cell phone chargers! I need a clown sundae and I need it yesterday.
This is delightful. Yvonne’s is raiding the old Locke-Ober menu and doing classic lunches every Friday in December.
Jolyon Helterman review Ruckus, the new Chinatown ramen spot from the Shojo team. I wasn’t nuts about it when I went, and Helterman calls out that it can be hit or miss. He went 10 times, and 70-80% of the time, Ruckus was amazing. The remaining times were aggressively not good. Still, when it hits, it hits big. Helterman also provides a nice short recap of the evolution of Boston’s ramen scene over the past ten years.
If you write a story about Rao’s (this one is about Bo Dietl), I will read it and alternately laugh, sigh, and cringe. The future is good, but the past is sure something. Also, oh my god, this article features the guy who had Nicki Minaj at his kid’s Bar Mitzvah and launched one of the greatest essays of all time.
This Robert Sietsema first look at Hwa Yuan is interesting. The original restaurant, at 42nd and Broadway, was first reviewed in the Times decades ago. We certainly seem to be swinging back to giant temples of dining in midtown.
Ryan Sutton visits the Aviary, Grant Achatz’s high-end cocktail spot. The Chicago original never pretended to be democratic, but Sutton still struggles with the prices and the general blandness of the place. As he points out, molecular gastronomy doesn’t have to be this… not fun.
The New York Times crew is feeling Thai. Pete Wells is at Ugly Baby, a new Thai place in Carroll Gardens. It’s a standout, delivering sometimes brutal heat while also maintaining nuanced and complicated flavors. There are a few dishes that are already among the best Thai food the city has to offer. Ligaya Mishan is in Elmherst, where Khao Nom is serving up Thai desserts, which tend to be small, varied, and delicately flavored.
Then Pete Wells visited Jeju. When we thought we had seen everything there is to see about ramen, Korean ramen has hit New York. He found the service lacking, but the food great.
Sierra Tishgart’s Grub Street diet is a bit overwritten, but he sounds like an absolute delight and I want to move to his neighborhood immediately and be invited to posole parties.
Daniel Duane writes a loooong and gooood profile of Daniel Patterson for California Sunday. If the name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Patterson is the other cofounder of Locol. Patterson, feeling unfulfilled by haute cuisine, joined with everyman Choi to create the a fast and healthyish option for neighborhoods that didn’t have access to food. Patterson brought the expertise and creativity that could make a burger made out of sprouted grain and seaweed appealing. Despite their combined pedigree and sky-high hype, It hasn’t gone well. Petterson, who didn’t feel like belong in the high-end world, is wondering if he belongs here. Definitely read this if you have followed this story at all.
It was heartbreaking to visit LAWeekly.com and see they haven’t published a new food story since November 29th (As a sidebar, it’s delightful that this terrifying pile of NOPE is the last story). The venerable alt-weekly, which I used to read while eating tacos and burgers at Yuca’s, was bought by a mysterious investor group who proceeded to fire pretty much everyone who worked there. It’s hard to not notice that a conservative billionaire and a bunch of people from Orange County bought a profitable Los Angeles liberal news outlet and gutted it for… reasons? If it is a conservative plot, it seems idiotic. They are hemorrhaging advertisers and it’s 50/50 they’ll actually put out a print edition this week. They also had to cancel an upcoming food event amid the backlash. Former writers are organizing a boycott. I’m going to keep checking the site, but I’m not optimistic there will be anything worth sharing for a while.
The most recent (and probably final) restaurant review was likely pre-scheduled. Javier Cabral visits ink.well, the newest spot form West side superstar Michael Voltaggio. It’s a great final Weekly review. It brings Cabral, an expert in Mexican street food, into a completely different setting. It’s raw but enthusiastic. It has a super-dirty quote from a Nate Dogg. This fucking sucks.
Jenn Harris writes up a “Food Truck Report”, which is a great idea for a feature. She’s at the Queso truck, explaining why people are so obsessed with melted cheese dip.
J. Gold does the impossible, and actually likes a fast casual concept. He’s at Uovo, an italian super-fast pasta place from some of the team behind Sugarfish. He spends a long time meditating on sushi for a review about pasta. He notes that perhaps the same things we’ve come to value as the pinnacle of sushi (simple things prepared and served quickly) apply to some of these fast-casual chains.
Gold also drops a double review of Playa Amor and Amor y Tacos, both from chef Thomas Ortega. Gold says that Ortega deserves as much attention for what he is doing with Mexican and Mexican-American food as more famous Mexican chefs around town. Gold also focuses on context, how the same dish can mean different things based on the location.
Nick Kindelsperger looks at the pizza puff. It’s exactly what you think it is. Kindelsperger questions whether the the greasy but delicious snack, which has always held a minor place in the Chicago food pantheon, is actually from Chicago.
Phil Vettel visits Marisol, the new restaurant in the Museum of Contemporary Art. He calls out some standout dishes, bust mostly references a bunch of art stuff and Chicago restaurant history. I had a tough time following. In the end, he says the place’s best feat is feeling like a natural part of the museum.
Somerset is a new Gold Coast restaurant from the Boka Restaurant Group that is country club themed. Mike Sula says the affordable wine list and seasonal American food make up for the concept. He makes a LOT of jokes about country clubs that I felt were personal attacks on me. To be clear, it’s not nailing the theme unless there are little individually wrapped club cracker packets on the tables.
Michael Gerbert is in the West Loop, where he’s talking with the owners of The Press Room. I’m a sucker for a bar with that name, and Gerbert is a sucker for their low-key and unpretentious ambition. That’s rare in the West Loop.
Mostly linking to this story because we don’t acknowledge that Foggy Bottom is probably the funniest neighborhood name anywhere. I also like Indian street food very much.
Tom Sietsema drops a full review of Requin, the last major restaurant to open in the District Wharf project / neighborhood. You’ll find fresh takes on French brasseries classics here, which every city needs more places doing.
Washington City Paper has the only feature you really need. Is MOM’s, a local chain of organic grocery stores, actually a cult? With lines like this, “And managers take the company’s core values—commandments like ‘let go of your ego’ and ‘compassion is the antidote to judgement’—to heart. Leaders frequently check-in with employees to see how they have been able to apply these values to their lives.” Kinda for sure yes it is a cult.
Washingtonian has a long and wonderful feature on the lengths restaurants will go to identify and impress critics. We hear a lot about how critics try to remain anonymous, but rarely hear about how hard restaurants try to pierce that veil of anonymity. My favorite anecdote is restaurants making two or three versions of the same dish and only sending out the best one. Also, hiring actual opposition researchers to put together binders on top critics.
Out of context J. Gold quote of the week
Does a bracing, spicy michelada mean something different in a Cerritos strip-mall restaurant hard by a martial arts dojo than it does in an marina-adjacent mall steps from a Pilates studio?