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Chowhound bows out
Read the New York section to learn about the death of a pizza-making legend.
Snack Cart is about nothing if not blatant self-promotion, so let’s lead with the the thing that involves me. This week Eater dropped a profile on my favorite restaurant in the world: The Kowloon in Saugus, Massachusetts. I’m quoted several times in the piece (To clarify, I only had one junior prom but we did go to Kowloon after most school dances). If you haven’t read this story already, please read and share. Even if you don’t care about a Chinese food restaurant on the North Shore, you probably have a beloved local institution that you remember from growing up.
I’ve been remiss in highlighting another newsletter you all should be reading. Earlier this year, New York Magazine hired Tammie Teclemariam as their “Year I Ate New York” writer. New York has given her a huge expense account to eat her way across the city and write a weekly newsletter about it. This is… SUCH a good idea. I hope more places do this. It’s a great way to highlight new voices and revisit classic restaurants outside the traditional review format. Teclemariam is doing a lot with it, calling out trends and heading farther out into the boroughs. I really enjoyed a recent article where she observed how some of the city’s trendiest places seem to be serving elevated fast casual (“like Applebee’s, but good”) and what that says about the world. Though she did bury the lede by not titling her email “HERE’S WHERE TO GET A BLOOMING ONION IN NEW YORK CITY LIMITS”.
I had never heard of Pierre Franey and that’s my fault. Thankfully, Adam Reiner at TASTE helps me fix that. Franey was a chef and author of the New York Times’ 60-Minute Gourmet column. Reiner draws a direct line from that column to Allison Roman and Rachel Ray. This is a profile of a mid-century chef, but really it’s about the entire rise of the modern home cooking industry.
Hrishikesh Hirway’s Grub Street diet! It’s one of those ones where the writer prefaces it with “oh god I eat so badly” and then they eat an absurdly healthy diet (a.k.a – they live in LA). I will say the man consumes a TERRIFYING number of protein shakes but I did really appreciate how much he loved chicken finger subs. He’s also a fellow Route 1 connoisseur.
Chowhound, the early website / message board that predated and established a lot of Internet food discourse, is shutting down after nearly 25 years. Eric Asimov writes an obituary for the site in the New York Times while Robert Seitsema talks about his own experiences with the site and its founder. Both of these dwell on the heady days of early-Internet food writing and how Chowhound was where like-minded folks came to more fully explore their cities and debate the best slice of pizza. It seems like Chowhound was the victim of its own success, as the food discourse there has spread to every other website and media outlet.
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Major food companies have continued to pull out of Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine. McDonald’s, Coke, and Starbucks are some of the companies getting pressure from customers and (probably more importantly) major institutional investors. This feels like the kind of thing that will depressingly and quietly walked back in 6 months.
Congress has decided to tell the restaurant industry “good luck”. There will be no money for restaurants in the 2022 Omnibus spending bill. Not surprising, but this will cause a BUNCH of places to shut down.
Charles E. Entenmann, the last of the family that grew a small New York bakery into a global brand, died last week. His obit in the New York Times offers great context on his life, while Dan Barry in the Times writes about what Entenmann’s meant to millions of people on Long Island.
Absolutely loved this Eater story on why there are bootleg Simpsons Bars across Latin America. Mostly trying to figure out if the two guys who call Moe Szyslak, “the best bartender in history” were joking or not. I think… not?
The Florida Times Union profiles the Pink Boots society, a growing national organization designed to highlight and support women in the craft beer industry. Being a woman in craft beer sounds, unsurprisingly, rough!.
It’s also not much better in wine! Dave McIntyre in The Washington Post profiles attempts by the American Court of Master Sommeliers to reinvent itself after it was rocked by a number of scandals over the past few years. I wish them well, though it’s interesting there is literally nothing about the rest of the organization. If there is one thing I’ve learned from my sister, it’s that the wine industry is still absurdly sexist and racist.
I am low-key obsessed with subscription meal kits though I’ve never actually subscribed to one. The Washington Post checks in with the industry, which is crashing again after a huge boom early in the pandemic. The article focuses on how a lot of their most active customers get good enough at cooking to no longer need the kits, but it seems like what’s killing the industry is that there are 150 similar meal kit services offering absurd discounts to get people in the door.
The world's largest potato is not, in fact, a potato. Come for the weird photo of the giant not-potato, stay for the charming New Zealand gardeners who call it “Dug”.
I had heard that Netflix was launching a digital media site (what could possibli go wrong), but I didn’t know it was out yet. It came into my feed with an Alicia Kennedy-drafted oral history of Pure Food and Wine, the restaurant at the center of the Netflix show “Bad Vegan”. The article is a great picture of a New York it restaurant, with enough left out that I want to watch the show. Which I suppose is what it’s supposed to do!
The vaccine and mask mandates are lifted for New York restaurants. This is all complicated! Ryan Sutton at Eater argues that New York should keep a vaccine mandate. I feel worse going out now, but the manager of my local bar is thrilled he doesn’t have to check anymore. One thing we can all agree on is that these people protesting Dame for continuing to enforce mask and vaccine rules are shitheads. Civil disobedience is a thing, but like, this wasn’t that! I couldn’t just walk into a restaurant with no reservation and refuse to leave even if I had a mask on! Anyway, I spend more time than I should wondering if I’d have the confidence to dump a beer on the head of someone I saw doing this. I like to think I would.
It’s a rough week for New York food legends. Domenico “Dom” DeMarco, the owner and pizzaiolo behind Di Fara Pizza, died at 85. Di Fara’s was a rarity in the food world: a place that lived up to the hype. DeMarco was also an amazing presence, slowly but surely cranking out pizzas that would actually make you cry.
Pete Wells offers a so-so review of Commerce Inn, the new venture from the team behind Buvette and Via Carota. The restaurant is Shaker themed, which Wells correctly points out it’s more broadly based around New England farmhouse cooking. It sounds like the place is hit-or-miss, but I deeply want to go since I have a huge affinity for this kind of food based on my own New England heritage. It always *feels* to me that it should be more popular but outside of gimmicks it never is. Seafood! Beans! Pickled things! Hard Cider!! It’s all there!
Wells raves over The Musket Room and chef Mary Attea, which he says is the“closest I’ve ever come to learning that a very good restaurant had been operating at peak levels right under my nose in the heart of Manhattan, without my knowing anything about it.” One undercurrent of Wells’ recent reviews is quietly beating the drums for “going out” again, highlighting food that can only be had at restaurants. It’s a complicated time, but I appreciate it.
Evelia Coyotzi, a Queens tamale vendor whose cart was featured in No Reservations and countless reviews and IG posts, has opened her first brick-and-mortar location. Eater covers the opening in East Elmhurst, diving into the new specials and the challenges of going from a cart to full store. I wish I lived near enough to have breakfast, even if I would immediately gain 20 lbs.
From what I’ve seen on Instagram, the hottest place to eat in Boston is downtown at High Street Market. Kara Baskin rounds up all the restaurants and the best dishes at each spot. Snack Cart favorites include Grace Note Coffee and Mike & Patty’s.
This is a damn shame, but the Sevens is like 200 feet away. Meanwhile, the best dive bar in the world is back open and one of my favorite restaurants in Cambridge is closing.
While everyone writes about Corned beef and Cabbage, Deva First highlights the best way to celebrate Irish Heritage: a full Irish breakfast. There are numerous variations, but all of them boil down to fried eggs and a pile of different meats. It’s truly a magical experience and First lists out all of the best places around town to have one.
The North End outdoor dining story continues to be a shitshow.
Kara Baskin visits La Royal, a new Peruvian spot in Cambridge from the team behind Celeste in Union Square. It sounds awesome, though these stories from Baskin make me wish the Globe was writing more reviews vs. these drive-by “visits”.
Jacqueline Cain at Boston Magazine rounds up ten openings she is excited about for this spring. These lists are usually boring, but Cain knows her stuff and highlights places you wouldn’t expect, like the state’s first Latino-owned brewery in Hyde Park or a vegetarian sports bar next to Fenway Park.
Eater Boston’s Rachel Leah Blumenthal loves momo’s (at least, according to her Instagram), so her list of where to get them in the Boston area is worth a read.
Ling-Mei Wong, a new name to me, pays a visit to Newton’s Cafe St. Petersburg for DigBoston. Wong highlights the Russian classics, as well as the waiters’ support of her blue and yellow attire.
This is not food related at all, but I wanted to plug Chicago Public Square, a daily newsletter of National and Chicago news from reporter, editor, and newsreader Charlie Meyerson. I chatted with Charlie last week about newsletters and he’s an awesome guy. If I lived in Chicago, I would subscribe and donate.
Louisa Chu rounds up 24 of the best corned beef sandwiches across Chicagoland. A decent blend of the classic and the unexpected.
Joel Noel reports from a conversation the Tribune put together with four restaurantours about their COVID experiences. It’s been rough, and none of the folks on the panel seem particularly optimistic about the future.
Block Club Chicago profiles the opening of Brewed, a horror-movie-themed coffee shop in Avondale. I am a tiny baby when it comes to horror, but how lovely and fun.
Louis Chu’s review of The Wolfhound Bar and Kitchen is not positive, per se. But there’s a lot to like here and Chu makes sure to highlight it. It’s hard to root against chef and owner Brendan Byrne, a first-time restaurateur who previously was the cook at his firehouse (where he is still an active firefighter). The review does a great job teasing apart Irish and Irish-American cuisine, and Chu highlights how Byrne is trying to do some innovative things with a cuisine that usually sticks to the hits (black and white pudding pizza is… SO SMART). Hopefully the rest of his menu evens out.
Today I learned a new term, “Slashie”, a Chicago term for a combination bar and liquor store (I can’t imagine they are legal anywhere else). John Kessler in Chicago Magazine profiles Konbini & Kanpai, a new slashie in Lake View specializing in Japanese beers, sake drinks, and Japanese snacks.
Tejal Rao writes about the rise of Laotian food in Los Angeles. The more aggressive cousin of Thai food, many cooks with Lao backgrounds have felt uncomfortable sharing the full funk of the cuisine (which is so, so good). But that’s changing across the Southland.
Like a lot of night markets, Avenue 26 can be extremely overwhelming. Los Angeles Magazine highlights five places to check out next time you are there.
It’s Nowruz, and L.A. Taco tells you seven Persian restaurants to help you celebrate the new year.
If you, like me, have seen Tik-Tok videos or IG stories about a knock-off McDonalds and been confused, Jenn Harris has the story. She reports from “Mr Charlie’s”, a vegan fast-food restaurant with a red and yellow decor serving all plant-based versions of the classics we love. The article makes a joke out of everyone refusing to acknowledge the clown, but I wonder what McDonald’s lawyers will make of the overall decor and “unhappy meal” packaging. Copyright infringement aside, the food sounds good and the owner is trying to do good things.
Bill Addison’s review of Yangban Society, a new Korean-American deli in the Arts District, is an unquestioned rave. However, I actually found it hard to follow. Addison jumps rapid-fire between dishes and concepts. I realized about half-way through that the review is all over the place because the restaurant is. Addison makes the place, which serves innovative takes on Korean and Korean-American food both as hot meals and as deli counter containers, sound both essential and confusing.
I didn’t know the French Laundry pre-dates Thomas Keller. The original founder, Sally Schmitt, opened it in 1978 and helped launch farm-to-table cooking in the area (and by extension, the country). She died last week, and you should read her Los Angeles Times to learn a bit more about the history of American restaurant culture.
Daniel Hernandez writes an opus in the Los Angeles Times about trying to find Mexican fermented drinks in Southern California. Mexico has over a hundred beverages that are naturally lightly fermented, but the three major ones are tepache, tejuino and pulque. Hernandez fell in love with these drinks while living in Mexico and tries to find them here in the states. He hits street vendors, start-ups, and guys in pick-up trucks in a visceral story that I could *feel* at times. I’ve been desperate to try pulque for years, but the drink doesn’t last longer than a day or two after brewing so it’s hard to find outside of Mexico. Mostly while reading this I was hoping he was changing the names of the vendors. Most of them were not just illegal street vendors, but illegal street vendors selling alcoholic beverages. That could end poorly for them. Hernandez writes a companion piece for those interested in finding the drinks themselves.
Out of Context J. Gold of the Week
The vast, high-ceilinged dining hall is the size of your high-school cafeteria, with steam tables at one end and a picture of Guadalajara’s central square toward the other, acres of wood-grain Formica, dozens of empty beer bottles crowding the tables. Payment is on something like the honor system. link