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Jiro dreams of stars
What does it mean when one of the world’s best restaurants is stripped of its Michelin Stars? Usually a lot. Sukiyabashi Jiro, one of the most famous restaurants in the world after 2011’s “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, lost its stars in this year’s Tokyo guide. The reason: regular people can’t eat there anymore. It’s no longer possible to save up and just make a reservation. You have to know someone, or be connected at an ultra-luxury hotel. Even though the Michelin Guide has become the symbol of ultra-luxury and exclusive dining, it *started* as an attempt to tell a newly mobile French middle class what restaurants were worth spending their hard-earned money on. Michelin dropped Jiro because it only rates restaurants at which its readers can actually eat. There is something honorable about that.
This Gastro Obscura article about what happened when the prune lobby tried to get America’s kids to eat prune burgers is funny and cute. It’s alsoman insane story of the power the Federal Government wields over the food we eat. My brain is broken, so this is all I can think of.
I am EXTREMELY here for the tiny cocktail trend. This will get me an angry tweets from friend of the cart Ratty, but honestly I’d rather order two or three smaller martinis than one large one. They just don’t taste that good by the end! Also, it’s a chance to taste/order more things! That’s fun. The exception to this is the GIANT martini where they bring you a sidecar, which is the greatest thing in the world. Oh god, is there a martini/quality bell curve?
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Gang, people are into porróns, and the New York Times is ON IT. Perhaps these Spanish drinking vessels really are a new trend, but I feel like if I’ve had one for a few years and first saw them at Boston’s Toro almost a decade ago, they can’t be that cool? Anyway, everyone should have one and learn how to drink out of them. In fact, I dare you to watch Season 4, Episode 17 of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and not immediately order one.
This NPR Morning Edition has a thoroughly charming story about meat raffles taking over Buffalo. Reporter Kate Kyle reports on how community groups are turning to meat (and drinks) to offer a wholesome and family-friendly way to raise money. I promise you that you will not regret clicking on this story, if only to see the photo captioned, “Meat sentry Ray Stack oversees raffle prizes at the Polish Falcons Hall in Depew, N.Y.”
This column explores an intriguing idea: If you are a Waffle House manager you can succeed at any retail outlet in America. After reading about the policies and processes these folks embrace, I actually think that statement is too narrow. If you are a Waffle House manager, you can succeed at anything.
This newsletter is firmly, unabashedly in favor of Dave Holmes writing all things. So his essay in Good Beer Hunting praising White Claw is a must-link. He argues that White Claw’s popularity is a response to what came before. Holmes calls it the Punk Rock of beer: it’s a simple and fun reaction to the complexity and pretension of the last decade of the drinking world. Holmes is a sensational writer, tossing off phrases like, “While the country’s indie breweries were adding notes of pine, stone fruit, and cardamom to their products, the brains behind White Claw posed a question that spoke to the college freshman in all of us: what if water got you drunk? Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren couldn’t have done it better himself.” Not convinced about how great Dave Holmes is? This essay is one of my favorite things ever written and describes being young in New York better than any failed sitcom you can name.
I’m not familiar with Chinese writer Yan Ge, but I adored her essay about what it means to be a woman at a Chinese banquet. It’s a tough read. This is a casual deconstruction of a horrifically sexist situation that is all the worse for how everyday it is. Food and hospitality can be a lot of wonderful things, but they can also be weaponized against the less powerful. Especially baijiu.
Claire Voon, writing in Gastro Obscura, directly nails the Venn Diagram of my interests. She writes about the history of train dining car food. I recommend clicking through even if you don’t care about trains, as there are a lot of great images of vintage menus. I hope Amtrak doesn’t discontinue the dining car, but honestly that’s very low on my list of things I hope Amtrak does.
“It came from a local organic farm. From a farm, then straight to the table! Lunacy, absolute madness, but somehow it works. I expect this will soon be a worldwide phenomenon.”
It’s exceptionally hard to read pure emotion into writing. This HEATED essay by Kerri Conan (the outlet, not the emotion), about her mother’s death and her attempts to revive her sourdough starter, does it well. It’s fractured, poetic, sort of predictable, and beautiful. Kind of like grief itself.
Laura Hayes writes a long story on the lack of representation in the Washington D.C. food writing community. It’s honestly quite a bit broader than D.C., as Hayes (who is always thoughtful and comprehensive) looks at the overall whiteness of the food writing world and the various barriers keeping it that way. This is a great read.
Michael Stein surveys the state of salaries in the district’s beer industry. Stories like this make me more positive than ever that state-sponsored health insurance would unlock a massive amount of entrepreneurship. Most brewers report a deep passion for their job, but most admit they couldn’t raise a family on it.
You had me at “Malaysian-American Gastropub”.
Hayes also writes an in-depth piece on what happens when a restaurant closes down. D.C. residents will appreciate the first half of this piece, which goes into the specific local factors driving a spate of recent closings. EVERYONE will love the second half, which rounds up the signals that a restaurant is on the ropes.
The fancy burger was probably the defining food trend of the 2000s, but the 2010s took it from trend to ubiquity. This is a great story about the psychology behind fancy restaurants putting a fancy burger on the menu. It involves a lot of quotes from chef’s opining on why people like burgers, but I think sneakily this article is highlighting just how much fun chefs have making an ultra-luxe and ultra-fancy burger.
I’ve been vocal about just how much I want to visit Chiko, the Chinese-Korean high end fast casual spot. Now, the team behind Chiko has opened Anju, a sit-down location in Dupont Circle focused purely on Korean drinking food. Ann Limpert in Washingtonian loves it, calling it the best restaurant of the year. Definitely read this review, which paints a picture of a team that took a tragedy and forged the funnest spot in D.C.
I did not love this review by Limpert of Thamee, a new Bermese place on H Street. It’s somewhat cliche for restaurant critics to mention “most people aren’t familiar with Burmese food”. But it sort of seems as if Limpert didn’t bother to get familiar with it herself. She ably describes dishes, but misses her opportunity to inform the dining public about Burmese food.
I somehow missed it (or forgot), but Tim Carman dropped the “$20 dinner” title from his column. This is great, as tags like that tend to unfairly stereotype food from minority communities as cheap and not worthy of consideration. In his review of Silpancho House, a Bolivian restaurant in Alexandria, Carman shows consideration for the food of the often-overlooked South American nation.
You can feel some newfound dedication to highlighting the full breadth of D.C. cuisine in Tom Sietsema’s fall restaurant guide. Mixed in with the white tablecloths and the José Andrés are more everyday places-- though I’d argue something like Bad Saint is more in the José Andrés category because of how difficult it is to actually eat there. For trend watchers, Anju is also on this list.
BOY do I enjoy this Tom Seitsema review of the House Members’ Dining Room. Until recently, the dining room inside the US Capital was only open to House members and staff. Recently, the government opened it to the public when the House is in recess. Seitsema starts with the famous navy bean soup (which is fine), before lashing into the rest of the offerings. The verdict: Some of the most powerful people in the country are eating shitty wedding banquet food.
It’s pozole season motherfuckers.
Javiar Cabral at L.A. Taco reviews PhoKingNgoc, Los Angeles’s first street Pho stand. All I want, in my entire life, is a street Pho stand somewhere vaguely near my office where I can eat on the way to work. Cabral says that once you’ve tried the Pho here, you won’t go back to real restaurants.
Pozole Taco? Pozole taco! #PozoleTaco
Do you want to listen to a podcast about the history of Thai food in Los Angeles? Of course you do, dummy.
I read a lot of food writing. A lot a lot. And compared to everything else, it’s hard to overstate how strong the Los Angeles Times’ food section is. There are two fantastic critics. There are wonderful features. There is an unparalleled events business. There is amazing video content. It makes me miss living there more than usual.
Patricia Escarcega reviews Maquina Taco in Pasadena. Escarcega likes the place quite a bit, but she only hints at something that stood out me. Owner and chef Greg Lukasiewicz is dedicated to a minimal amount of toppings. Just one or two things per taco. In SO MANY attempted high end taco places there is a vaguely gloppy filling covered in 50 kinds of toppings. The results are muddled and boring. Maquina laser focuses on the fillings, offering dozens of innovative combinations. Plus, a place where you can get a grasshopper taco and a lobster taco? That’s OK in my book.
Bill Addison makes the case that the new Sushi Shin in Encino is a new standout destination for sushi obsessives. Chef Taketoshi Azumi focuses on traditional sushi preparations, forgoing the mix-ins of beef or vegetables we are seeing in more omakase/Western tasting menu hybrids we are seeing.
It is easy to forget, amongst the canonization of Jose Andrés, that the man still runs a top tier restaurant group. It’s hard enough for a successful chef to expand, but doing so while giving your lieutenants space to innovate is incredibly hard (See Keller, Thomas). That, plus his newfound passion and dedication for disaster relief make him even more impressive. This is a looooong walk to introduce Bill Addison’s rave review of Somni. The ultra-high-end mind-bending tasting menu is the child of Andrés and his protege Chef Aitor Zabala. Addison really crushes this review, making a $300 tasting menu full of molecular gastronomy techniques seem visceral and appealing.
So many of the things we consider staples of Mexican cuisines are actually imports. Patricia Escarcega digs into this in her review of Milpa, a fast-casual-ish place devoted to the cuisine of Mesoamerica. Things like rice are not on the menu. Instead, the food focuses on beans, squash, tomatoes, and corn. Some things read as Mexican, while others seem almost new. I love this concept, and the idea of restaurants limiting the pool of ingredients they pull from.
Out of Context J. Gold of the Week
But anyway, when Orkin commands you to try a scrapple waffle, you pretty much try a scrapple waffle. - Link