We should not make the giant english muffin
Scroll down to Los Angeles for a great story on the history of the avocado and the best tacos near SoFi Stadium
David Hanson, writing in The Bitter Southerner, profiles the last oyster tongers of Apalachicola, Florida. Tonging is a much older form of oyster farming that involves using a huge rake to pull up oysters. It was the main form of harvesting oysters back when they were plentiful – individual tongers could harvest certain leased plots or on public reefs. This is a melancholy story about a disappearing way of life, but tonging is really bad for the environment! It’s taking giant rakes to the ocean floor and to oyster reefs! Hanson touches on it later in the story, but this way of life is dying because the uncontrolled oystering exhausted the local supply. This drips with the author’s admiration and romance of the individualistic lifestyle, but come on.
NEWSLETTERCEPTION – Matt Rodbard, in TASTE’s newsletter, interviews Jonathan Nunn, the editor of Vittles. Nunn talks about what he's trying to do with Vittles and why he gets uncomfortable when folks describe what he does as “like Jonothan Gold but for London”. I am a paying subscriber of Vittles, which I find wonderful even if I barely understand the more extremely British stuff.
The big English muffin would be a logistical nightmare and we should not do it. Imagine how quickly an English muffin slice would collapse, sliding all the toppings into your lap. Madness.
It’s a weird and wonderful experience when you realize a tiny thing you’ve been obsessed with has a bunch of fans. So it was when a reader sent me this Jaya Saxena Eater story about @_restaurant_bot. The bot posts a random restaurant every hour alongside random photos from its Google entry. Saxena talks about why, in an increasingly optimized content world, the randomness feels so delightful.
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You know those weird and vaguely big brother-y end-of-year Netflix promotions where they talk about what everyone watches? Did you ever want those for food? YOU’RE IN LUCK. Instacart has put out a list of the most popular hot sauces in America.
Get your citrus now, because this year’s Florida orange crop will be historically low. Citrus Greening disease is the culprit. And, because I know you are thinking about it, here’s an explanation of what they were actually doing at the end of Trading Places.
God bless local newspaper columnists. Not sure who Adam Bass at the Lynn Daily Item is, but he writes a charming essay on the state of Food TV. He bemoans the dearth of food television, pointing out that traditional shows like Emeril (sometimes called “dump and stir”) have basically been replaced by cooking competition shows. I found Bass’ contrast of competition shows that are centered on food (GBBO) vs. centered on conflict (anything with Gordon Ramsey in the title) quite insightful.
Then again, The New York Times is expanding to meet all needs. Eric Kim also writes a loving ode to the Food Network shows he was raised on and which taught him to cook. He points out how they were a bit slower compared to food content today, which edits out most of the actual… well, cooking. This article highlights a recipe for a pan sauce that sounds unreal.
The best thing I read this week is not actually about food - Snack Cart is about food, but it’s also about cities. As such, I wanted to make sure you read this absolutely bonkers and wonderful long read on The Miami Moment from the Financial Times Magazine. Author Joel Stein dives deep into everything animating the rise of tech culture and crypto hustle in The Magic City. This article is hilarious and wild AND THEN he’s interviewing A-Rod and Dave Barry. This rides the line between parody and straight news better than anything I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s just so great.
You have probably already seen the tweet sharing a blog post from a local St. Louis paper saying that Los Angeles food is worse than St. Louis food. It’s being properly mocked everywhere. But GOD reading the actual post is just wildly bonkers. Defector already made fun of his Los Angeles food stories. I can’t stop rereading the section where he randomly says Paris has the best ice cream in the world? Which? Maybe? Sure? Is that a thing? Super Bowl week is a dangerous, lawless time in the media world. Watch yourself.
Someone fed an AI model with descriptions of new cereals and then had it invent its own cereals. My favorite? Orb Crumpets, obviously.
I had NO idea that the West Coast and the East Coast of the United States sell butter in different shapes. I’m sure I must have noticed and dismissed it when I lived there? Anyway, a new thing for us East Coast people to feel superior about is to be treasured. Thanks, butter!
McDonald’s launched a bunch of “menu hacks”, special deals that combine multiple menu items into fanciful creations like surf n’ turf burgers. Simpsons writer turned fast food influencer (high school Josh’s fucking dream) Bill Oakley hamstrung the promotion pointing out that you have to make the items yourself! If that sounds like too much work for a burger with a Filet-o-Fish patty on it (and it does!) writer Nick O’Malley at Masslive assembled and reviewed all of the frankenfoods for you.
The Wall Street Journal’s wine writer, Lettie Teague, pens a memoriam for wine educator Dewey Markham, Jr. Markham, a black New Yorker who knew little about wine when he started, wrote what many consider to be the definitive book on Bordeaux and the classification system.
You’ve heard about the new pasta shape, cascatelli. Now watch a video as 6000 lbs of it are made (you don’t actually have to know about cascatelli in order to find this hypnotizing).
David Wondrich, bartending legend, writes his final column for the Daily Beast. He goes back to basics and teaches us how to make the best dry martini you’ll ever have. I have had more than my fair share of martinis and I learned a ton reading this. Not all gins are created equal!
The New York Times dives deep into how inflation is causing fast food restaurant prices to creep up at sometimes startling rates. This is one of those things where people in cities are really brain-broken, as even cheap places here are $10+ for lunch. However, the Times maintains their commitment to finding the most unpleasant people in the world to quote. The guy in the lead is…. Woof.
WIRED travels across the pond to look at the state of food delivery gig workers in the UK. Drivers increasingly don’t work for food delivery platforms themselves, but for large subcontractors who promise full time pay and benefits. Shockingly, drivers dispute that these pay and benefits ever actually emerge. It seems like this is just an attempt to shield the actual platforms from worker issues and bad press. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see something similar if gig companies in the US start to lose court cases.
The best thing *about food* I read this week - Danny Chau in Punch asks (and answers) why the drinks world doesn’t have the equivalent of the term “foodie”. This is a deeply thoughtful piece about the myriad ways an interest in alcohol resists the cultural acceptability an interest in food allows. If that isn’t interesting, then read to learn the origin of the term foodie!
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The most bizarre thing for the past 3-4 months has been how clearly obvious it is that Mayor Eric Adams doesn’t follow a strict vegan lifestyle while still insisting that he does. I felt like I was taking crazy pills. Well, the cat is out of the bag. Anyway, read David Roth at Defector to reflect on how truly weird and upsetting it is that he so aggressively lied about this dumb thing.
Gloria’s is resurrected! The beloved Crown Heights establishment closed early in the pandemic for bizarre reasons. The team behind it has reopened a new place two doors down with an identical menu and a new name: Gee’s Caribbean Cuisine… Wait, really? Scott Lynch in Brooklyn Magazine says it holds up to the original. I mostly want to know why I am Mr. Sparkle.
Michael Callahan in Airmail publishes a LOOOONG history of El Morocco. I’d never heard of this legendary New York nightspot, and this story does a great job of highlighting the good and the bad. The article is also packed with amazing photos.
The world is marginally better this week for some of the hardest workers in New York: food delivery drivers. A slate of bills passed by the city council last year are kicking in. Drivers are required to have access to restrooms and more clarity about their tips, among other reforms. A good start.
Pete Wells finally visits Taqueria Ramírez in Greenpoint. Wells spends most of his review explaining the biology and technique behind the speciality: suadero tacos. I so desperately want to go to this place.
This Wells review of Barbuto has a FANTASTIC headline, but it’s also a great read to learn some recent New York dining history. You will know more about eating in the city after reading this.
Leticias, a new spot in Queens, combines Ecuadorian dishes with some Mexican touches. When Pete Wells calls their burrito a monument to Corona, Queens, he means it in the best way possible.
Erika Adams in Eater New York writes about how tasting menus are helping neighborhood restaurants survive this bizarre “sorta a pandemic still but we are all going out sometimes” era we are currently in. While considered fancy, more limited menus make it easier for corner places to make cooking and staffing more predictable. I love it! The fewer things a restaurant makes the better it is.
As a companion piece, critic Ryan Sutton visits Olmsted, which has fully shifted to tasting menu mode. Sutton’s review is favorable, but he does call out that the tasting menu is a *bit* more expensive than the sticker price would indicate. Dinner there will probably cost about $100-$150 per person, but if you are up to it the seven course menu seems to be a great mixture of hits and innovative new dishes.
I don’t know if anyone from the Chicago Tribune reads this newsletter, but if you do I am begging you to work on your website performance. Going to the main food page just about crashes any browser I dare throw at it, and that’s WITH a subscription (well, a log-in).
A loyal reader has gushed to me about 88 Marketplace, a giant grocery store / food court just west of Chinatown. Nick Kindelsperger and Louisa Chu tag team for a review of the food court, visiting all eight current occupants. There’s too much to summarize, but this is a great read if you ever plan on stopping by. They translate signs that might be intimidating in another language and give recommendations of the best things to try at each stall.
I had my first Korean corn dog this past weekend, and I gotta say that it slapped. Now Chicago residents can also enjoy the del Toro-esque treat.
Kindelspargar seems to be on a mission to single-handedly elevate the taco reputation of Chicago and honestly, it’s kinda working! He reviews Barca Birrieria y Restaurant, where the namesake speciality of the house has a long Chicago pedigree and is probably the best birrieria in the state (made with goat, natch).
Chicago’s best feature is its neighborhood bars. Chicago Magazine roars in with a huge package of great stories on 16 of it’s best. There is a ton here, but start with the letter from actor Michael Shannon, which is sorta all over the place but overflowing with love. Kinda like a great neighborhood bar.
Joel Stein, the Chicago Tribune’s beer writer, used dry January as an excuse to sample the full range of nonalcoholic beers. His article on the state of the industry highlighted some of the best, which he said are so good he plans to drink them year-round.
I don’t really know how to describe the menu at pop-up Funeral Potatoes other than AGGRESSIVELY MIDWESTERN. Though to be honest that’s enough.
Devra First checks in with local Boston celebs to find out their favorite treat. It’s vaguely Valentines-themed, but mostly it’s just a fun rundown of people talking about foods that make them happy. Except for the one person who listed seltzer. She did not understand the assignment.
It’s exciting to think about restaurants *opening* rather than closing, and the Globe profiles a bunch of new places they are excited about. I’m most excited about the new sake bar opening in Brighton.
I appreciate the Globe highlighting both in-person and takeout options a bit more aggressively. Kara Baskin reviews Fattoush on the Arlington/Cambridge border. It’s got a great backstory: a Syrian doctor couldn’t find good Syrian food in Boston, so he opened his own restaurant.
Baskin’s in-person visit is to Little Spoon in Needham Center. It’s delivering Thai classics, but with a bit more attention to detail than your average take-out spot. Seems like it’s also a great spot for take-out, but the food deserves to be eaten fresh.
Snack Cart has a loyal Western Mass contingent, so here’s Boston Magazine’s guide to ten places to eat in North Hampton.
You may have heard rumors that iconic Somerville bakery Lyndell’s is closing because the building is being redeveloped. The Dig finds out that that’s not true and that Lyndell’s has big plans.
The Super Bowl is the biggest avocado consumption day of the year. Los Angeles Times writer Daniel Hernandez writes about how the avocado has slowly but surely taken over American dining. Great history here, along with some information about how the avocado trade is driving contemporary organized crime in Mexico.
Visiting Sofi stadium this weekend? Check out L.A. Taco’s guide to the best tacos in the area. Not visiting? It’s still fun to read and drool.
Cathy Chaplin at Eater Los Angeles dropped a bit of a bomb on the food world this week with a deep dive into the working conditions under Jordan Kahn at Vespertine. This is a really interesting story. There’s less of the overt bad behavior than we see in most stories like this, but it raises the question of how much staff should suffer for a restaurant’s vision. In this case, it seems like there was an overall cult-y atmosphere that made even small slights into massively traumatic experiences. Add in the fact that Kahn *immediately* hired a high-end PR firm, and there’s something here.
Javier Cabral, writing in TASTE, criss-crosses the city to explore some of the best street corn. Cabral does a neat job going past elote to highlight other street corn preparations.
“Filipino rotisserie and natural wine bar” is 2022 restaurant Mad Libs, but Bill Addison does a great job telling the story behind Lasita and why being perfectly of the moment can be a really, really good thing.
Addison also reviews Bacetti, an Echo Park Italian restaurant that finally opened after years of delays (pandemic-related and otherwise). The few skews Roman with some California twists. It sounds like the kind of place that will easily become a better-than-it-has-to-be neighborhood stalwart.
Rachel Schnalzer in the Los Angeles Times profiles Iris Rideau, the first black woman to own a winery in the United States. Rideau recently sold her Solvang vineyard, but her legacy lives on.
If you haven’t read Gustavo Arellano taking on bleeding heart liberal Santa Monica over their crackdown on street vendors, you haven’t seen Shakespeare the way it was meant to be played.
One dude’s passion for Korean barbecue and data analysis has resulted in one of the most amazing charts of all time. Rajesh Niti ranked every KBBQ spot in the city by popularity and price. I finally understand what big data is.
If I’m going to find out about a new (to me) taco, it’s going to be from L.A. Taco. Read Hadley Tomicki on Belizean Orange Walk tacos.
The absolute best part of learning I am lactose-intolerant is that it wasn’t the coffee that was giving me heartburn all those years, it was the milk I had started adding. I am back to drinking black coffee, and god I’ve missed it. I’m still mostly just making drip coffee, but reading Bill Addison about his evolution into a coffee drinker makes me think I should be getting more serious about the Chemex.
Out of Context J. Gold of the Week
Bay Cities makes a decent turkey sandwich, a loud, greasy meatball sandwich and a very respectable hero with Parma prosciutto, ripe tomatoes and cheese, but the sandwich of choice here is a monster called the godmother, which includes a slice of every Italian cold cut you’ve ever head of, and a couple you might not - link