Image: William Powell and Kay Francis, on set of One Way Passage (1932).
Dear Gentle Reader, there was lots of news this week with awards and rankings, economic data looking up nationally while downtown D.C. struggles, and even we were busy on our humble little site. It is time to recap updates to our D.C. dining guide and and flag dining news of interest. So shall we proceed? Let’s…
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Il Piatto – The repurposed Mirabelle is serving up quality Italian comfort food.
Little Pearl – The warren of rooms has evolved over the years. The latest iteration is a tasting menu that excels.
Comings and Goings:
Popville flagged that half the old Sorrelina space is now a cafe called La Bicicletta, which seems an appropriate name because one of the decorating themes of Sorrelina was the local cyclists, especially the old school messengers. Though it is no longer called its little sister, it appears to be a sibling of Emissary across the street. The other half became Compliments Only.
D.C. Dining News
The Emerging Local Economy: After the last few years, it is really hard to imagine writing an article that is sympathetic to commercial real estate landlords. The Post tried.
Large appliances are a kink in the supply chain. Nevin Martell collects the data on delays in openings for new restaurants because they can’t get a fridge.
Doing Good: Tonight, D.C. chefs will do a fundraiser for Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate at Moon Rabbit. The sense of tragedy hanging over the AAPI community, even during times of celebration is heartbreaking. Though we were glad to see them able to enjoy Lunar New Year a little. Keep in mind, even if the event is sold out, it doesn’t mean you can’t contribute.
An ice cream shop in Brightwood Park is spreading cheer and sense of community. When you get to the story below about restaurants and gentrification, keep this in mind.
Congratulations to All: The Washingtonian Top 100 returned this week after a Covid-hiatus. They only “ranked” the top 25 and seemed to go out of their way to include casual spots near the top. We applaud the more-inclusive, less-competitive tone. Meanwhile, maybe next year Bub and Pop’s!
The Beard semifinalists were also announced with a few locals making the cut. Laura Hayes flags that those receiving credit also manage to put some good back into the world.
We congratulate all that got a nod of some kind, and also congratulate all who managed to survive to this point.
Wine Struggles: Jane Anson flags a scholar responding to Esther Mobley about how broken our use of language is when it comes to wine. He offers a slight rebuttal: “this paper presents the justification for concluding that the language is not, in fact, broken. The language is moving with society.”
Alder at Vinography on the state of the wine industry. The numbers show a downward trend in volume, especially at entry level. And the young folks are not coming to the rescue. Asimov in the Times gives his take.
Something to Wash It Down: Italian Wine Producer Reminisces About Past Truffle Hunts In New York City’s Central Park. Catherine Todd tells the story.
The Sting: In the great movie, one of the little cons is to make money early off the mark to pay for the big con. The National Restaurant Association is now subject to a class action lawsuit that goes after its practice of charging workers for training and using the profit to lobby on behalf of the employers. One side benefit of the suit is that it might highlight the degree to which much mandatory workplace training is of “little or no value.” Meanwhile, the NRA posted its new board officers this week.
The Emerging Economy: Fourth quarter GDP numbers came out and looked strong. Inflation numbers also trend positive: “Inflation readings moved considerably lower to end the year after hitting 41-year highs in the summer. The personal consumption expenditures price index increased 3.2%, in line with expectations but tdown sharply from 4.8% in the third quarter. Excluding food and energy, the chain-weighted index rose 3.9%, down from 4.7%.”
The Times finally put together that the Fed’s “free money” strategy implemented in the wake of 2008-09 separated the investor class from the rest of the economy. Rising interest rates has made tech sinkholes look less attractive (along with real estate as an investment). “Even the biggest tech companies are affected. Amazon was willing to lose money for years to acquire new customers. It is taking a different approach these days, laying off 18,000 office workers and shuttering operations that are not financially viable.” For companies like Zillow that rode the tech and real estate bubble it is even more obvious: “Low rates not only pushed up house prices but also made it irresistible for companies such as Zillow as well as Redfin, Opendoor Technologies and others, to get into a business that used to be considered slightly disreputable: flipping houses.” Reality is now setting in. “In June 2021, Zillow owned 50 homes in California’s capital, Sacramento. Five months later, it had 400. One was an unremarkable four-bedroom, three-bath house in the northwest corner of the city. Built in 2001, it is convenient to several parks and the airport. Zillow paid $700,000 for it. Zillow put the house on the market for months, but no one wanted it, even at $625,000. Last fall, after it had unceremoniously exited the flipping market, Zillow unloaded the house for $355,000. Low rates had made it seem possible that Zillow could shoot for the moon, but even they could not make it a success.”
A restaurant trade publication says that one in four restaurant workers expect to leave the industry in the next year. The article does not say if this is within the traditional range for a sector that is often relies on young workers cycling through. To the point of the fractured sense of the economy, while some restaurants are holding off on hiring or downscaling, among those looking for new workers, 44% say they are having trouble filling spots.
“The world of the traditional big cafeteria is dead.” Work from home is killing it off, but workers still need to eat, reports Kim Severson in the Times. “Smart leaders know that informal interaction can keep corporate culture from eroding as remote work persists, and may be the main purpose for coming to the office in the future.”
Bon Appétit talks to an activist who tries to work with restaurants to be more responsible in the face of gentrification. The article seems to dodge the idea that restaurant investors often bet on gentrification when opening a spot. Sometimes they guess right, sometimes not.
Compensation: CBS posts a story giving voice to whiners over tipping. For too long we pretended that tips were a discretionary “bonus” and not part of wages. For example, this guy: “If you work for a company, it’s that company’s job to pay you for doing work for them,” said Mike Janavey, a footwear and clothing designer who lives in New York City. “They’re not supposed to be juicing consumers that are already spending money there to pay their employees.” Maybe one day we will realize the true costs of eating out.
The Emerging Global Economy: Brexit hit restaurants who relied on cheap labor cycling through from the rest of Europe. Now British farmers are realizing the implications.
Media: Maybe AI-generated bots will flood Yelp and kill it off. “In October, representatives from Yelp, Tripadvisor, Trustpilot, Google and several other review sites met for a one-day closed-door conference in San Francisco to discuss how they could work together to tackle fake online reviews.” Of course, this is just for the fake reviews. The dumb ones remain the core of Yelp’s crowd-sourced model.
Tejal Rao flags that there might be one redeemable thing about TikTok. Or maybe not. “But the exhilaration of Grandmas Project isn’t in the cooking. The most interesting moments come when the grandmothers themselves offer commentary about the process of being turned into images of grandmothers — and their discomfort with it.”
Food and Culture: Perhaps if the word fusion was not already taken it would work to describe the good things happening when food cultures mix. “Alejandro Tamez [in Athens, Georgia] fully expects customers to order Brunswick stew, a tomato-based barbecue side dish that mingles proteins, such as pork shoulder or chicken, with creamed corn or sometimes lima beans. But he prides himself on serving some of the only Texas-style barbecue in town and has infused his menu with Mexican dishes.”
Chocolate’s Magic: “In the licking phase, fat is absolutely important for the sensation that lubrication creates,” she said. “But as you go down into the chocolate’s inner contents and its core, and this all starts mixing with saliva, the amount of fat doesn’t matter. So, you should have enough fat to coat the cocoa particles initially, but you don’t need too much fat after.” Sorry, got distracted. What were we talking about?
From the Sublime to the Absurd: In the middle of a college basketball game an UberEats delivery guy walked onto the court and wandered around the stadium to get a McDonald’s meal to someone. Or it was a prank. Or a publicity stunt. It is bad enough when they park randomly holding up traffic.
Speaking of publicity stunts, after M&Ms announced they were suspending use of their anthropomorphized animated shells as “spokespersons” after some controversy about the gender of candies with added limbs, A&W’s social media team had some fun. Fox Business apparently fell for the joke, but later updated to paper it over.
Who among us hasn’t….Swedish senior official resigns after getting caught illegally fishing for eels.
That is it for this week. Thanks for reading this far! We offer our constant reminder that if you are looking for dining suggestion in the District we can help. Our site has 300+ recommended restaurants in our dining guide. You can sort by cuisine or neighborhood in either LIST or MAP format.