Image: Roger-Viollet, Children’s Snack, France (1950).
We will keep our weekly update punchy and a little shorter this week. But there is still lots going on, good and bad, heartwarming and heartbreaking. Plus we added a restaurant and checked in on a favorite for our dining guide. So, let’s get going!
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
El Secreto de Rosita – The old Chi Cha has rolled over to a friendly spot with good drinks and food.
Sababa – The Cleveland Park spot serving up the food of Israel is still doing right by its neighborhood and worth a visit.
D.C. Dining News
The Current Slog: Duke’s on 17th had a fire. Fire Department put it out quickly, but they shut down for a few days. Now reopened.
There are indications that both locally and nationally, this January is worse for restaurants than last year despite the vaccine.
Bright Spots: Philotimo unveiled! The food hall with Pogiboy is getting more. Eat DC continues to get scoops, this one on a brewpub at Navy Yard. Colada Shop expands.
Laura Hayes has a great story about the chef at La Jambe and how he found a place to shine in restaurants but only after a tough journey.
The WCP’s take-out critic Crystal Fernanders is getting to see the impact her work is having, in this case her write-up of Southern Peach BBQ and its loaded potato.
José Andrés picked up an award for his disaster relief work. He then responded to the ubiquitous Rex Chapman to explain why pouring chocolate on your hands to begin a meal is not so crazy. Several restaurants around the world have started using the practice, including D.C.’s own El Cielo and twitter immediately rushed to mock a video of it. Andrés retorted that “My best childhood moments is when I had my hands full of chocolate or bechamel and my mom let me get my hands ‘dirty’ and I will lick them until last drop and my hands were clean…why not?” Which was actually an interesting insight into the mind of a creative soul who asks, “how can I tap a powerful childhood memory and use it in an adult setting?” It also explains how we ended up with cookie dough ice cream.
Barred in DC compiled a list of fan favorite dishes for D.C. We would add a few – Chloe (nee Proof) cauliflower, Cork avocado, Zaytinia brussels sprouts, but it is a fine list and a reminder of how much good food we have, both high and low.
Watching the Detectives: Tom has to figure out how to present ID with proof of vax without revealing his identity. He got mocked a little. Luckily for us, we don’t have a name to match, and no one would care even if we did. Following up on last week’s discussion of places you miss, someone asked Tom for his list. He thought it was a fun question and went very old school. Coincidentally, we just finished reading Bill Buford’s book on French cooking and were reminded how lucky we were to have Michel Richard in our city.
Wine Culture: There are some interesting trends in the wine world. They may pre-date the pandemic, but the last two years may also play a role in some cases. Dave McIntyre’s most recent column in the Post pierces the pretensions of those who say that there is a “proper” way to drink wine. He cites a recent survey about the number of people who do not swirl and sniff first, or add ice cubes to wine. It is probably not a coincidence that the survey was sponsored by Woodbridge, a Mondavi brand. It matches its advertising campaign of “wine your way.” Another indication that the wine world is moving to find a broader audience and maybe finding traction is that there are three new TV shows (subscription required) that center around the drink. NBC has a show about young black professionals in Los Angeles that takes place in a wine bar. The show is called Grand Crew, the bar on the show is called Cheers. Just kidding, it is called Cru – but you saw that coming. There is also a show called the Kings of Napa on the OWN network that is the drama of a Black family in the wine business. Promised Land is “an epic, generation-spanning drama about a Latinx family vying for wealth and power in California’s Sonoma Valley.” There is of course a more than minor inconsistency between the diversity of TV land and the reality of the wine world, though there are indications of change. These all seem to be positive signs for the industry and wine-lovers.
Nevertheless, despite these boundaries fading and rules being relaxed, there are some rules that cannot be ignored.
Lo/No: Snuck in the weddings section of the Times last week was a quick guide to non-alcoholic drinks. It’s like there is a movement happening.
Umm: The opening question to the former social media director for PBR in this interview is: “First things first, why did you tweet from a brand account about eating ass?”
More Current Slog: Hanna Raskin crunches numbers: “Food service managers accounted for 102—or 14 percent—of the 711 Covid deaths in Georgia’s food service-and-accommodations sector between March 1, 2020 and Sept. 1, 2021.” The F&B sector was the 9th deadliest, with manufacturing and health care topping the list at 2,979 and 1,810 respectively. Keep that in mind when walking through the front door adjusting your mask.
The industry has been one of the hardest hit by a workforce just walking away. The Times has a story on how quitting can be contagious.
CNBC drops an article that is reminder that different sectors think about the food world differently. The headline is “Rapidly rising food prices may give restaurants an edge—here’s why.” Yet, when it talks about restaurants it is giant chains, like Domino’s, Checkers and Rally’s that they are talking about. A piece in the NY Times digs into the price sensitivity of customers for fast food, including passing along delivery fees. One guy objected to a $1 increase for his Chipotle burrito, another was willing to twice the original price for delivery. As anyone following closely, independent restaurants are not as well positioned to take advantage of any fluxes.
BBQ joints in Texas are having a hard time finding good wood to cook with.
Industry Issues: The Guardian flags a study that, “The physical isolation of chefs working in Michelin-starred kitchens can lead to violent misbehaviour and a feeling that ‘the rules don’t apply.’” This probably has analogies outside the kitchen.
Eleven Madison Park’s PR team keeps having to do some heavy lifting. They added a price to pay staff and eliminated tipping, then brought back tipping but kept the price the same. Savvy customers are understanding and will pay extra in price or service charge if it is explained. But playing games is not cool. Considering EMP’s pre-pandemic position, is this indicative of high end dining struggling in the current times, or is it one restaurant being dumb?
Just for Fun: A guy whose family owned the Palm chain of steakhouses has parleyed serving celebrities in L.A. and N.Y. to a podcast.
We’ll leave it there for now, but be sure to give us a follow so you don’t miss this great content or updates to our dining guide. We are on FB, Insta, and Twitter. Click on the icons at the top or bottom of this page to stay up to date.
As for our D.C. dining guide, well it has has 300 recommended restaurants that you can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current operating status (dine-in and/or take-out, etc. – though things are in flux currently so check before you go!) in either LIST or MAP format.
Be kind and patient. Get the shot. Carry proof.