The Alabama football of the meat judging world
All stories are food stories. And also all stories are sports stories. So this story about meat judging is the most food and sports story of all time. It’s wonderful, and contains the phrase, “Today the Red Raiders are the Alabama football of the meat judging world.”
Mel Magazine, which I assume is a real thing, has a really funny article about one man’s quest to debunk the Domino’s pizza tracker. It turns out it is all bullshit! It’s more a general idea of where your pizza “probably” is in the process than a real tracker. I am irrationally angry about this considering how many times I’ve been in “We need a Domino’s pizza tracker but for (fill in the blank of your shitty process here)” conversations. Also, I want to reread Snow Crash.
Laura Shapiro, writing in the Atlantic, reviews two books about food. The first barely merits a mention, but Shaprio spends most of the review raving about “Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won't Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It”. That book points out that much of the moralizing around the health crisis completely ignores intersectional issues around health, poverty, and inequality. When a Mom has worked a double-shift at McDonald’s, can we blame her for not cooking dinner from scratch?
Being a regular is an ineffable thing. It takes a certain kind of person, but it also takes a certain kind of bar. The New York Times profiles the regulars at a half-dozen bars across Manhattan. This is a beautiful portrait of humanity that made me cry.
I remain a Polar Seltzer partisan, so I am delighted over the decline in LeCroix.
This article in The Takeout about the (very small) community of people who collect vintage Kool-aid packets is really about why people collect anything at all.
Amanda Mull, who isn’t really a food writer so much as a writer of societal questions that will haunt your soul, dives into why exactly American breakfast is so bad. I DEMAND BREAKFAST NOODLES AND I DEMAND THEM NOW.
No one talk to me about anything but this Twitter account that just describes the food from the Redwall books.
I have SOME issues with this Grub Street list of the best chef movies. Mostly that The Big Night is not close enough to the top.
So far, the #metoo movement’s repercussions in food have been mostly restricted to relatively elite spaces. Celebrity chefs have finally seen some consequences for their actions, but that hasn’t always trickled down to more anonymous establishments. A new lawsuit against McDonald’s will show if things will actually change for the majority of women in the food services industry. The numbers regarding harassment for women who work in fast food, highlighted in this article, are staggering.
Tejal Rao for the New York Times and Shane Mitchell for TASTE both write amazing profiles about a road trip with Diana Kennedy (big car!). If you haven’t read about Kennedy, she’s a British woman who has devoted her life to documenting Mexican cuisine. At 96, she’s donating her collection to the University of San Antonio. There’s a lot of problems with the fact that it takes a white woman to bring attention to Mexican cuisine, but it’s hard to dispute the work of scholarship Kennedy has brought to her collection. There’s also something to the idea that it takes someone from outside a culture to really put in the work to document it. This article reminded me of Andy Ricker, who in an interview about his cookbook, said he was half writing it to get these recipes on paper before the Thai people who knew them stopped making them.
Laurie Woolever is an absolute delight. You could do worse than spending an hour listening to this interview and then forming some kind of cult in her honor.
Eric Kim in Food 52 makes a compelling case for ketchup spaghetti. I will probably try this, because my girlfriend loves ketchup and when I made omurice for the first time she lost her mind.
A profile of Gary Vaynerchuk? What is this, 2011? *rim shot* But seriously, it’s kind of neat to reflect on how amazing Wine Library TV was and how influential it was (2008 baby Josh was a HUGE fan). Even if Vaynerchuk has become something of a parody of himself.
Next City writes about the Chinatown food supply chain. I had no idea, but Chinatown in New York has a supply chain that is almost completely separate from the rest of the city. Small, diversified farms and local wholesale markets mean huge amounts of produce are moving quickly through the system. This is a long tradition that I have to imagine is partly fueled by the exclusion from more traditional supply efforts. I am already planning to take this walking tour.
One of the things you start to realize as you read more about food is just how much we don’t really know about it. This NPR story highlight’s “ultra-processed” food, and makes me hopeful that we are starting to move out of the “if I avoid X, I will be healthy” trap that’s plagued us for the past 40+ years.
Dunkin’ donuts nail polish is a brand extension completely targeted at my friend Caroline.
Emily Atkin, writing in the New Republic, writes up a very good profile on the future of fake meat. At this point, these articles are pretty standard (“Less greenhouse gas, but what’s actually IN it!”) which feels unfair to criticize Atkin for. She does make an interesting point that a “real” hamburger, even if unhealthy, is not processed the same way an impossible burger is. Increasingly, modern health science is showing us that processed foods by their very nature are less healthy than a seemingly not healthy less processed food. That being said, there’s a MASSIVE number of heavily-processed meat-like substances we all eat (Hello, my beloved chicken nuggets) that could be replaced by fake meat relatively easily.
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Ligaya Mishan doesn’t review a restaurant so much as profile an entire dish. She talks about the fan tuan at three places in Brooklyn and Manhattan, reviewing everything the Taiwanese (and Chinese) breakfast roll can be. It sounds like an onigiri or arancini: rice wrapped around a filling. Asian breakfasts are so much better than Western breakfasts.
New York isn’t really a city so much as it’s ten thousand cities all living next to and on top of each other. Grub Street profiles nutcrackers, ultra-sweet alcoholic beverages that are sold illegally all over the city. I’ve seen dozens of guys with coolers selling these, and never realized what they are. It’s about 80000 degrees and 90% humidity today, so I would like to drink one.
Author Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Grub Street diet is truly excellent. It’s a diary, but she uses the record-keeping as an opportunity to write with honesty and humor about her life and her feelings about food.
The Four Seasons has closed. Seems like the new location was the “Arrested Development Season 4” of the restaurant’s history. Some things end because it’s their time to end.
Definitely spend some time with Eater’s package on what to eat (and what to avoid) at Hudson Yards. You get the sense that Ryan Sutton, who has been a vocal critic of the new Manhattan mega-mall projects, was very excited to write this. He says wonderful things about David Chang’s Kawi, but you are going to read him completely destroy Estiatorio Milos and Thomas Keller’s TAK room.
Pete Wells also like Kawi, though maybe not as much as Sutton did. He devotes some space to profiling chef Eunjo Park. He compares Park to Alain Ducasse, saying that her food is choosing to innovate inside the classic forms of Korean cooking rather than convert it into different forms. David Chang may be more likely to be on Netflix than in a kitchen these days, but he clearly has an eye for talent and the self-confidence to let each Momofuku become a reflection of the person he chooses to run it.
Helen Rosner zooms in on the one place in all of Hudson Yards that actually feels like New York: the restaurant inside Neiman Marcus. This is a beautiful story about a dying tradition that maybe isn’t dying: ladies who lunch. It’s also a million years old because for some reason I haven’t been reading Helen’s stuff and got call up all at once.
Wells does a follow-up review of Una Pizza Napoletana, the Lower East Side pizza spot from chef Anthony Mangieri. This is less a review, and more a combined essay on the New York food scene and a plea to chef Mangieri not to leave. Wells had reviewed Napoletana shortly after the restaurant opened last year and found it a mixed bag. He argues that it’s not only fixed those issues, but is probably the best pizza in the five boroughs. It’s rare that the Times revisits a restaurant so soon after reviewing it, but Wells clearly feels he needs to more actively tout the places he finds special. He reflects on how there’s so much middle-to-great food in the city that it’s relatively easy for a place that should be a big deal to be overlooked. Definitely give this a read.
Ligaya Mishan seems to be kindling a Burmese food movement with the desperate optimism someone stranded on a desert island would blow on the first sparks created by striking two rocks together. She profiles Asian Bowl in Forest Hills, where a husband and wife team have unobtrusively taken over a small Chinese takeout spot and are serving the food they grew up on. I’ll definitely be visiting.
“Jocón, a Guatemalan stew, can be so green you’d imagine it had its own Pantone color.” Marian Bull can really, really write.
The Boston Globe has redesigned their website. I wish them well, but somehow the redesign has BROUGHT BACK THE CHEAP EATS LABEL. Be better than this.
I know I was just recently making fun of the South Coast for making up sandwiches, but I will read literally EVERYTHING anyone writes about the Chow Mein sandwich. This article, from the local NPR affiliate, also tips us off that there is a SONG about them.
Kill it. With Fire. From Space.
It’s very, very odd to me (and judging by the intro from the local editors, to them also) that the team at Eater Boston felt the need to create an entirely separate Ax bar vertical. But there are four in Boston already, with more on the way. WHY!?!?
Holy shit, they finally reopened Cinderella’s. Can a place that I knew for takeout pasta and 12:30 am drunk subs become the kind of place I would go out on Tuesday? I hope so.
I have never heard of this restaurant and after reading the review couldn’t tell you where it is.
Richard Morgan at the Washington Post asked ambassadors from around the world where they go out to eat when they are homesick. The answers are delightful, and a good study in how the things we are nostalgic for don’t always relate to where we grew up. Sometimes, they relate more to particular times in our lives. Bonus points for the various ambassadors who were clearly staying on message about how great their country is.
“Turning rockstar chefs into DJs” has caused me to roll my eyes so hard that I died. RIP Josh.
Washingtonian writes about 14th St, but the phenomenon is applicable to cities around the world. As neighborhoods get trendier and more popular, the rents rise so high that the only places that can afford to open are chains. That makes the neighborhoods boring, and people stop going there (Yogi Berra was right!).
The City Paper writes about the potential upcoming strike by the workers who make the in-flight meals at DCA. Sounds like brutal conditions, but it’s going to be an uphill battle. There are rules preventing strikes by transportation employees without special exemptions. A strike could also be hugely disruptive. Flights aren’t allowed to take off without food onboard, so a strike by the food preparers could materially cripple the nations airlines.
We probably shouldn’t revoke the President’s liquor license because of his poor character. However, isn’t it usually hard for someone so obviously crooked and mobbed up to get a license?
I’ve come to realize that washing produce is the hardest fucking thing in the world.
This Washington Post article debunking fast food myths is… shockingly great! Shoutout to writer Adam Chandler. He calls out how many of the things we think about fast food are out-of-date at best, classest and ignorant at worst. In particular, “Studies and surveys show that fast food is most popular among the upper-middle income brackets. “Wealthier Americans — those earning $75,000 a year or more — are more likely to eat it at least weekly (51%) than are lower-income groups,” a 2013 Gallup survey found. “Those earning the least actually are the least likely to eat fast food weekly — 39% of Americans earning less than $20,000 a year do so.”
You can feel how relieved Tom Sietsema is that the new generation of ownership of The Hitching Post has embraced and maintained everything that made the restaurant great. This is an interesting review to read in a meta-sense, since Sietsema brings up off-color signs and accessibility issues. Those are huge problems, but do you want to blast a beloved neighborhood restaurant over them? Some, I am sure, would say yes. I’d probably say no, but even a year or two ago they might not have been mentioned at all.
CUTE GOTH GIRL CHEESE INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT? Never before have middle-school Josh and adult Josh’s interests blended so seamlessly.
“New contenders on the hot-fried-bird front” is just such a wonderful subheadline. Also, I need some fried chicken like RIGHT NOW.
Jack Ruby waxes rhapsodic about Jeong, a new restaurant from a young husband and wife team who were previously operating a food court stall with a hipster tasting menu on the side. They’ve stepped up to a real restaurant, and Ruby says they’ve rekindled his love of the tasting menu form. I read a LOT of descriptions of tasting menus, and this one was as compelling and interesting as the meal itself sounded. I’m reminded of that guy who wrote about how there is no good Asian food in Chicago some time last year.
Phil Vettel also loves Jeong. He tends to play it more classic, so he doesn’t use it as a chance to reflect on the state of the tasting menu. As such, you’ll learn a lot more about the restaurant’s a la carte menu and a bit more about the couple behind it. It’s interesting to see Korean food leapfrog into the haute cuisine category.
I will read ten thousand loving profiles of family pizza joints.
Mike Sula is one of my favorite food writers, and this guide to the food Kerala is one of the reasons why. It combines a commitment to exploring a community and neighborhood of Chicago with some really helpful service journalism! I didn’t know what Kerala was before reading this, and now I also know a lot about how to order from this very specific catering hall. He followed it up with a review of Chicago’s only sit-down Keralite restaurant that tells the story of a husband-and-wife teams’ effort to recreate the perfect biscuit.
Phil Vettel really likes Galit, where a former James Beard rising star is coming into his own, serving inventive Middle Eastern food. Vettel calls it Isreali but the chef wisely demures. In Vettel’s descriptions, you can see how the chef is blending his own American South experiences into Middle Eastern food.
In general, I am consumed by guilt and self-loathing when I take too long before writing a new edition of the newsletter (and when I do most things, tbh). But sometimes, it lets me miss some kind of food world *thing* I would rather ignore. So it was with the Michelin guide’s return to California (and specifically Los Angeles). Predictably, the things that make Los Angeles eating great are completely lost on a bunch of fusty French people. I would not be surprised if Eater’s “What they got wrong” was almost completely pre-written (it’s still very good). The idea that this was some elaborate troll is very silly, but I don’t think that’s even what that story was arguing? It’s increasingly clear that Michelin, like so many late 1900s icons that helped make the food world what it is today, is hopelessly behind the times. The next question is if catering to the guide is actually holding back the European cuisines and countries that still hold the guide in high esteem.
Do you want to read a profile of the owner of Wally’s, the ultra-fancy wine store and bar that was name-checked in a Drake song? Of course you do, this is Los Angeles.
VICE profiles the karaoke DJ behind Los Angeles’ famed Brass Monkey karaoke bar. True Angeleno’s know that LA karaoke is a mug’s game. This city is full of aspiring classically trained singers who all LIVE to bust it open at karaoke. It’s amazing, but makes you feel like a real shmuck.
I was initially really skeptical of Frank Shyong’s column where he brought Howlin’ Ray’s chicken to the local residents of Chinatown who can’t afford it (or the 2-3 hour waits). However, it lived up to the rapturous response it got on Twitter. Shyoung does a great job exploring the complexities of gentrification and displacement, and doesn’t let himself off the hook for what he admits is kind of a dumb stunt. I’d be interested to read more about this, factoring in how the Chinese community really moved out of Chinatown a long time ago.
David Karp digs into the Southland’s long history with celery. It turns out that the stringy vegetable’s history of weird and wacko health and status claims long predate GOOP. Never forget that celery used to be an essential part of the Thanksgiving table.
Bill Addison visits Jiang Nan Spring, where he writes about the cuisine of Shanghai. It’s got a very funny opening, and this is a regional Chinese cuisine I don’t know anything about. I learned a lot reading this one.
Patricia Escárcega reviews the chef’s table at Bulgarini. It’s actually a gelato place, but with a reservation (you’ll need one) you can enjoy a tasting menu in the back with chef Leo Bulgarini. It sounds like dinner with the Italian chef friend you wish you had. Escárcega spends a lot of her review writing about Bulgarini, whose passions an idiosyncrasies power the menu. Who else would interlace traditional courses with scoops of gelato covered in wine? At the very bottom of the article is a photo of the chef, who looks EXACTLY like you imagine he would.
Bill Addison visits Dear John, a one-time hangout of Frank Sinatra that’s closing its doors. Addison finds an ownership that is both in the middle of an extended farewell and also putting out food that’s the best it’s been in a long time. Thankfully, we have until April 2021 to make it there. Who feels like a martini and a tableside Caesar salad? Addison also uses the review to reflect on why fancy places like Dear John or Musso & Franks still have such a following in a city as dedicated to casualness as Los Angeles.
Out of Context J. Gold of the Week
Still, I always end up with the quail in the traditional black mole, so dark that it seems to suck the light out of the airspace around it, spicy as a novela and bitter as tears, a mole whose aftertaste can go on for hours. La Tía’s mole negro appears so glossy and rich that I am always tempted to test its consistency by stabbing an index finger into it, and the resulting stain lingers as long as the empurpled digits of patriotic Iraqi voters. The last time I was as inspired by glossy black, it was part of Charles Ray’s infamous sculpture Ink Box, and it was enshrined in a major museum of art. - link