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The head chef at Walter Reed is changing how the Army eats
If you aren’t listening to Francis Lam’s Splendid Table, you are really missing out on one of the better podcasts out there. Recently, he took some tea he inherited from his grandfather to a specialist to learn more about where it’s from and how to properly taste it. It’s a wonderful and emotional segment.
Kelly Conaboy, writing in The Cut, tackles the only question worth asking: Why are goat cheese containers so damn annoying? She finds a lot of reasons, but mostly she makes me feel seen.
Food and Wine discovers that something like 95% of the San Marzano tomatoes on US shelves are fake. Listen people, the imported food market is a SHITSHOW. There is like a 30% chance at BEST the olive oil you buy is from the country it says it is.
Punch looks at how J&B became an iconic scotch film brand. This article is SUPER up my alley (this was my grandparents’ favorite scotch) but doesn’t really deliver any answers. It kinda was in a lot of movies, but we aren't sure why. I tend to trust occam's razor, so my guess is that it was affordable and the label really pops on camera.
I know the name is changing. I know we all have takes. But the only good Dunkin’ Donuts opinion belongs to my friend Roberto.
José Andrés continues to be amazing.
Lionel Hutz: Mrs. Simpson, what did you and your husband do after you were ejected from the restaurant.
Marge: We... pretty much went straight home.
Lionel Hutz: Mrs. Simpson, you're under oath.
Marge: We drove around until 3 AM looking for another all-you-can-eat fish restaurant.
Lionel Hutz: And when you couldn't find one?
Marge: We went... fishing.
Want to feel old? Cynthia Nixon eating that bagel was like two weeks ago. Anyway, Kelly Alexander in the Atlantic wrote up a really great summation of the weird anthropological connection between politicians and food.
I had a professor of International Relations in college who instilled in me some core beliefs. The main one was that though names and governments may change, most places kinda remain the same. That thought struck me reading about the clashes between French and English scallop fishing boats. The French just really hate the English.
One of the wonderful things about food is that it’s a constantly changing thing. A particular dish is the ultimate symbol of a time and place. So is a particular restaurant. Kathryn Schulz, writing in the New Yorker, profiles a place that is in so many ways a symbol of America today. She writes about the owners of Hell’s Backbone Grill, a small farm-to-table restaurant in Utah that is suing the President. The restaurant is in a small town next to a huge chunk of federal lands which Bill Clinton made a monument. President Trump just opened those lands for mining. The two women who run the restaurant, and who grew it from nothing, relied on the federal land for their customers base (ecotourism). So did a big chunk of the rest of the town. They’ve joined a lawsuit suing the Interior Department, as well as starting to fight back against their gerrymandered and corrupt state and federal officials. Officials have refused to meet with them and outright lied about the facts on the ground. God, I should stop writing in bars because this is such a perfect encapsulation of everything that is fucked up and and I’m so fucking mad.
I’ve read a lot of stories about the future of beloved ethnic food traditions, so it’s weird to see the same tropes reflected back in an article on New Jersey diners from the BBC. The gallery-style format of this article ruins it. No one likes galleries.
Anna Hezel, in the midst of writing her cookbook about lasagna, comes up for air to teach us all about the Buffalo chicken sub. It’s a Buffalo tradition (more so than wings) and Rob Gronkowski’s cheat meal of choice. Lovely essay and it really makes me want to go to Buffalo (which I have kinda wanted to do for a while now?).
Across Europe, much like in America, small towns are hollowing out as residents age and young people seek their fortunes abroad or in big cities. The New York Times profiles a bookstore in Bad Sooden-Allendorf, Germany that managed to head off its own demise. When the local baker and butcher shops closed, the bookstore owners cleared off some shelves and started selling fresh-baked bread and local sausage. This saved the bookstore, and helped keep at least one local hub in the community.
The New York Times Magazine profiled ranch dressing. It’s definitely America’s favorite salad dressing by a mile, but is it one of the most American of all foods? Kinda! I didn’t know there is ranch dressing and pizza controversy. It’s also wild that Hidden Valley was sold in 1992 for only $9 million. That feels like an absolute ripoff.
Responding to the Time’s ranch piece, long-time food writer Mimi Sheraton tweeted her distaste for maple syrup. She elaborated on her thoughts for the Washington Post, saying she finds it cloying and doesn’t really like pancakes either. I sorta agree with her on both but have been thinking about re-embracing pancakes.
Though it feels like summer vanished, the New York Times took a lovely look at a late summer tradition: the fish fry (the Times is really stepping it up). I could have read another 1000 words on the nuances and regional variations of the fish fry, which started on slave plantations but evolved as Irish and Italian Catholics flooded the country.
Vox.com has launched “The Goods”, a new vertical based on culture via the lens of the things we buy. One of their first stories is a look at the economics behind why so many movie theaters are offering most expensive and more elaborate food and drink. A lot to learn here. In particular, I was blown away to find out that back in the 30s high end movie theaters didn’t sell snacks because it was beneath them. When the depression hit, it was the low-rent places, with extra revenue from their popcorn and candy, who survived.
JJ Goode’s essays in TASTE are just so delightful. In his most recent, he tries to give us all permission to cook normal food. He says that while cookbooks (many of which he co-wrote) can bring out feelings of ambition and inadequacy, most of the time you just have to put food on the table. It’s OK to not whip up an herb sauce or execute Kenji López-Alt's six step process for perfect salmon.
The BCC writes an article on the process behind making decaf coffee. I have *always* wondered about this, so it was great to learn how it is done. The beans, while green, are soaked in a solvent that leaches out the caffeine while leaving (most) of the flavor intact.
Jen Agg is the most essential food writer right now. In a recent Eater essay, she writes about the Thomas Carter, a hit New York restauranteur that Eater NY just outed for abusive behavior (Important to note, this was not sexual abuse per se). Agg argues this is an important shift towards a broader view of abuse. The restaurant industry has too long accepted the kind of verbal, physical, and mental abuse that most workplaces wouldn't.
Several tipsters sent me the story of Senator Ted Cruz joking that if his Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke (seen here crushing the drum solo to Baba O’Riley while on the drive-through line for Whataburger), is elected, he will outlaw barbecue. Meghan McCarron at Eater dives into the ways food, identity, and masculinity all play into this joke, and into barbecue more broadly. Weirdly enough, this joke is also playing off another scandal in the slimiest way. The Republican Agriculture Commissioner of Texas is actually fining barbecue restaurants (and frozen yogurt shops, weirdly) across the state. The Commissioner has opted to enforce a long-dormant law saying that any business with a scale needs to certify it with the Ag Commissioner (to make sure it’s not ripping off customers). Cruz, by bringing this up, gets to conflate the two. The average voter has heard there are stories about BBQ and stories about Beto. It's not that big a jump to combine those in your head. For example, please explain to me the difference between the two separate email-related issues involving Hillary Clinton’s campaign in summer of 2016.
El Felix, a Dallas institution and one of the homes of Tex-Mex, just turned 100 years old. Neat story about a family and a part of America’s culinary history.
Definitely read this short interview with Warren Luckett, the founder of Black Restaurant Week. The interview is very “business magazine profile” but this is mostly a chance for me to plug Black Restaurant Week, which is an awesome idea.
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New York food vendors are horribly mistreated in a shadow economy reminiscent of our terrible taxi laws. State Senate candidate Jessica Ramos is running to change that. Also, I guess I just found my new political cause.
Bill Addison, who was barely here long enough to unpack, has decided to hit the road again. Eater’s roving critic will move his new home base to Los Angeles (Though he’s on the road so much it almost doesn’t matter). He WAS in New York long enough to write an ode to the calzone, the under-rated and much-mocked supporting player of the pizza joint. As someone who has liked calzones for a while (like I needed ANOTHER reason to identify with Ben Wyatt), it was nice to see them get their due.
While none of us are the Broadway-hopping cultural sophisticates we said we would be when we moved to New York, it’s still lovely to get guides on where to eat in the theater district.
Pete Wells highlights a new place in Prospect Heights that just might be the best new Iranian restaurant in the city. He awards Sofreh two stars, and spends most of his review trying to inform readers about the mainstay dishes of Iranian cuisine.
The New York Post profiles the six best slices in the city. It’s a great list, and author Hannah Sparks points out that while the city has been obsessing over perfecting Neapolitan pies there’s been more innovation in the slice game. Also, Di Fara’s is in Williamsburg!
Sadie Stein, writing in the New Yorker, pens an obituary for Cafe Loup, the restaurant and bar in the village whose closure seems to represent the end of so much more. I like pieces like this. Even if you have no idea about if this place is worth the hype, we can always relate to places that felt special to us at certain times in our life.
If you, like me, are full of yourself because you can successfully navigate H Mart, then this New York Magazine article about the immigrant grocery megastores of New York will leave you quaking in your boots. It’s… it’s just so much. There’s too much food. Please stop telling me about new food.
Wells *really* likes the sushi and kaiseki menu at Shoji. He chastises New Yorkers for not supporting chef Derek Wilcox, then waxes rhapsodic about his precise command of seasonal ingredients. I get it, but it’s also hard to think about spending $300 (before drinks) on a tasting menu that includes things like a single sweet potato. He awards it three stars.
OH MY GOD A MALAYSIAN BREAKFAST PARLOR I MUST GO THERE IMMEDIATELY GET THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY JERKS *pushes down several small children in rush to Chinatown.*
Ligaya Mishan highlights Fan Fried Rice Bar, a tiny counter-service-only spot in Bed-Stuy. Really, she spends most of the essay dissecting what makes the perfect fried rice. I really appreciate the way she highlights the chef and his technique. That’s not something that usually happens in reviews of Asian restaurants, even hipstery take-out ones.
Ryan Sutton absolutely ETHERS Hudson Yards. Sutton points out how in this, the largest real estate development in America, there are no women-led businesses, very little thought or attention given to streetscapes, and no plans to support interesting or local food. Instead, it’s going to be a giant mall, with the kind of places you can see in Miami, Dubai, or Logan’s Run. It’s really hard to stick to my aggressive YIMBYism when I see a mega-development like this geared exclusively at the ultra-rich. Everyone involved should be ashamed.
Sutton adores the views at Manhatta, the new Danny Meyer place downtown. Rather then flatten they city, they make it feel more real and 3D. He praises the team for keeping prices reasonable when most other other restaurants with a view are absurdly priced. However, the food is generally so-so. Sutton meditates on why every time someone opens a restaurant at the top of a skyscraper, it’s always competent if boring continental cuisine.
I still think that rent (and liquor licenses) are the biggest impediment to Boston restaurant innovation, but a reader sent me a link to her personal food blog that includes a bunch of favorite places she’s discovered exploring Boston. Some of these are old classics, but a lot are underrated and some are completely new to me. Any of them could be a great and relevant places to reviews right now. We can all do better.
Kara Baskin makes a bold claim, that the new Dragon Pizza in Somerville is home to the best pizza in town. A *bit* ambitious for a first bite column, but color me intrigued.
You had me at Greek Eataly.
I’ve heard mixed things about Southern Proper, but Colin Kingsbury in Boston Magazine enjoyed it, giving it 2.5 stars. The food sounds solid, though with the ethos of the South being ultra-specialization, these places doing pulled pork AND beef brisket AND Cajun AND fried chicken feels like a miss. I’ve heard mostly OK things about the food, but that the space is incredibly loud and service hit or miss.
I will instantly link to anything featuring Roxbury food, and this sub shop with a Portuguese twist is EXTREMELY my shit.
haley.henry is one of my favorite bars anywhere. Nathálie, a new place by the same team, just opened near Fenway. It will be my first stop next time I am back in Boston. It sounds very similar to haley.henry, but with a full kitchen so the food can be a bit beefier to match the aggressive wines. Check it out.
I love Heather, and have been a big fan of Top Shelf Cookies for a long time. Definitely pick them up when you have a chance.
The Michelin Guide is out, and Washington has bumped up in the rankings. The newest of the four U.S. Cities featured in the guide (joining San Francisco, Chicago, and New York) was awarded a single three-star restaurant (plus a bunch of twos and ones). Not shockingly, it’s the traditional (but still great!) Inn at Little Washington. According to Laura Hayes, the guide originally said it was only going to do restaurants in D.C. proper, which is insane. Thankfully, saner heads prevailed.
Many outlets reported the forthcoming opening of a Brooklyn-themed restaurant on U Street. While we all rolled our eyes, no one did it with as much style as DCist, who created a restaurant bingo card. I laughed out loud at “Black and white cookies, but savory”.
I really wanted to make a “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” joke about this article about good affordable Virginia wines, but I just couldn’t land it.
Tom Sietsema reviewed Pisco y Nazca. The food sounds serviceable and the drinks good, but Sietsema used his sound meter to clock the bar at the same volume as a jet engine taking off. I’ve never seen a review turn a place down based on volume, which is really interesting.
Sietsema wrote up a fuller review of Gravitas, a new spot in Ivy City from chef Matt Baker. He’s on his own, and has given Ivy City its first fine dining restaurant, full of all the fine dining concepts you are imagining (ash as a flavor is… man it’s going to be the thing we all look back on about eating in the late 20-teens). The restaurant does have a novel concept. Diners get a tasting menu, but made out of elements they pick from four menu sections. Sietsema says that the standouts are all in the opening and closing sections -- the middle is a bit weak. He awards it two stars.
It’s sorta wild that the D.C. city council is going to vote to ignore the voters referendum on the tipped minimum wage. I’ll be the first to argue that direct democracy is garbage, but man. I suppose I’m biased because this very much feels like a richer and more influential group (restaurant owners and developers) winning over a less influential one.
Laura Hayes profiles Ted Stolk, the head chef at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (Apparently Walter Reed Hospital merged with some other place, who knew!). Stolk has been the head chef for more than a decade, and has moved the entire operation to scratch cooking. Stolk came from Marriott, and launched a room service program for patients in the hospital too sick to eat in the cafeteria, which was adopted in Army and Navy hospitals worldwide. His most recent innovation, Caribbean Friday, has lines out the door 30-40 minutes before lunch service starts.
The Hamburger Hop is an annual burger competition to name the best burger in the city. It’s a bit of a fraud, because chefs make custom burgers for the event. Chef Tony Priolo became the first entrant in the contest’s 11-year history to win both the people’s choice and judges’ vote. His burger had a lot of foie gras, as you can imagine.
Phil Vettel of course reviews the most recent iteration of Next. This season’s theme is Alinea 2005-2010. Vettel talks about a wonderful trip down memory lane it is. Well, sure, maybe for you? I would have preferred to hear more about how these dishes, some of which I have heard about, have influenced the wider Chicago culinary world. Honestly, these Next reviews drive me nuts. The food is great and interesting to write about, but he’s going to the most expensive place in the city every six months. It’s a disservice to the rest of the restaurants in the city, and who is he writing for?
Nick Kindelsperger reviews Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods. He meditates on how hard it has been for New Orleans restaurants to survive in Chicago before walking through the menu. He says this place comes closer to an authentic po’boy than anywhere else in Chicago. Also, you can get fried chicken for $6 and half-price cocktails during what might be the best happy hour in the city.
Michelin stars are also out in Chicago, with this year’s list being a carbon copy of last years plus Temporis. Of course you can’t announce stars without everyone getting huffy, especially since many of Chicago’s best restaurants weren’t on the list and some people are asking why no restaurants in the greater Chicagoland area ever get any love.
Jeff Ruby at Chicago Magazine also loves Passerotto. While previous reviews put the Korean/Italian hybrid in a larger context, Ruby goes local. He is from the neighborhood, and calls out how Passerotto is in a death spot. It becomes a useful frame to call out what makes this place special. GOD I want to eat that rice cake gnocchi.
Considering the city’s heritage, it’s surprising we don’t see more modern takes on German food. Chef Mark Steuer’s Funkenhausen is sort of that, but mostly an excuse to add as many puns to the menu as he possibly can.
Mike Sula also enjoys Etta, the new live-fire-focused restaurant in Wicker Park from the team behind Gold Coast’s Maple & Ash. While Maple & Ash is an over-the-top steakhouse with the skill to make it worthwhile, Etta is a lot more down to earth. Sula calls out some dishes for being generic, but nothing that isn’t satisfying and delicious.
I’m not sure I’ve seen L.A. Taco do sponsored content before, and it makes me happy that they are experimenting with new funding sources. This guide to the best Mexican food on the West Side (the part of LA not known for Mexican food) is worth a read regardless of who is paying. It probably could have used *one* more edit.
This episode of Good Food will teach you more about tortillas than you ever thought you could know. Plus, their tortilla contest is down to the “Fuerte Four”.
You really, really need to Instagram the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe Bow Room.
Laura Newbury in the Los Angeles Times profiles Cuties, an East Hollywood cafe that is focused on being a safe space for the LGBTQ community. Even in liberal cities, it can be hard to find non-alcohol-centric queer spaces. And gay bars aren’t always friendly to lesbians or transgendered people. Cuties, like a lot of cafes and spaces like this, is struggling with rising rents and their stated values of paying staff a living wage.
I am exceptionally into the idea of attending cooking classes taught by immigrant grandmothers, but it might be problematic? I am not sure yet, but I think no.
Out of Context J. Gold of the Week
But mostly, there are burgers and pies: ultra-sweet pecan pies, custardy coconut creams with marshmallow topping, banana creams oozing from beneath tall lashings of meringue, gummy fresh-strawberry pies and classic canned-cherry pies, none of them great, but the ideal conclusion to a genteel hamburger lunch. - link