Image: Pour one out.
Dearest Gentle Reader, our recap is a little shorter this week, but a couple really interesting pieces about dining habits and restaurant economics. Plus, we revisit a couple classic Indian spots. So let’s proceed…
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Indique – The Cleveland Park mainstay maintains its reputation for an overachieving neighborhood spot.
Masala Art – With two locations and really solid cooking, we put it back on your radar.
D.C. Dining News
Labor/Compensation: Virtue signaling and virtue are not the same thing. Workers at MOM’s Organic Market in College Park are protesting union-busting tactics.
Tim Carman won an award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals for his reviews of casual dining spots.
Alicia Kennedy is doing posts about her book tour. This week’s includes the stop at Bold Fork Books where we learn she can’t resist the outdoor racks of a bookstore either.
Allegra Aggregator was off this week at Washington City Paper, so no food postings there in nearly two weeks. Most of the content for these weekly round-ups comes from other media outlets, so when the local sources go a week without any enterprise (proactively reported) or interesting stories, it is noticeable. We believe there is an audience for these stories (our own traffic numbers notwithstanding) and do not want to see the greater food beat (beet?) die a neglected death. We would note that it is not just D.C. media. The two interesting stories in the Times about the baguette contest winner and African chocolate originated outside the Food section. But they made sure to pounce on the social media story of the week, also cross-posted from the business section.
One bright spot for the last couple years is WETA’s Signature Dish, where host Seth Tillman visits local restaurants and has them walk through the preparation of a dish. The new season just started. Apologies for not flagging this last week. Last week’s episode included an eye-popping moment when the giant bathtub of a device that Caruso’s Grocery uses to make its red sauce was revealed.
Big Schlim has a signature pizza and Pizzeria Paradiso this week (lamb sausage and Mumbo sauce). He is apparently one of four SM figures that they partnered with.
Odds & Ends:
McDonald’s came out with a Mumbo sauce. It relied on a chef with D.C. roots to develop it, but made the announcement in NYC.
“There are three Black-owned beer companies in the District and none have their own brewery. Eamoni Collier of Urban Garden Brewing is trying to change that.” Amanda Michelle Gomez has the story in DCist.
Last week we noted how wine is closer to its agricultural sources than other beverages. The beer industry may not have the directness of vintages, but that does not make them immune to change. “Asahi’s chief executive has warned that climate change could lead to beer shortages as warmer temperatures hit barley and hops supplies around the world.”
An anthropologist from Belfast pokes at craft beer culture’s exclusive practices. “But when does the passion for a local product ooze over into the territory of a classist snob?”
The Emerging Economy:
We haven’t checked in on the macro economy in a while because it was largely holding steady trending in a positive direction. This week August inflation numbers came in confirming that view. They looked good. Even the inflation hawks conceded as much. Krugman questions whether those that argued that it was transitory early on but backed off may have backed off too soon.
Though there were a few kernels of caution: “Inflation on the month was largely driven by energy costs, which accelerated 6.1%, according to Friday’s reading. Food prices increased 0.2%. On an annual basis, energy was down 3.6% while food increased 3.1%.” Keep in mind that the 2021/22 spike in oil prices played a role in tipping the economy into crisis. Oil producers have cut production jacking up prices, though they claim they are not jacking up prices.
An interesting bit of research from Brookings (that’s their job right?). Work-based eating out (think going out for lunch from the office) was down 23% between 2019 and 2023. Eating out between work and home decreased by 15%. Eating out trips originating from home, however, were up 31%. Brookings is looking at it from the lens of transportation, but it is also a useful insight for investors and zoning purposes. Curious to see if the Friendship Heights new development ends up outperforming the one at International Square.
Texas Monthly follows up on the story we flagged last week about the downturn in business at BBQ joints. “As much as the owners I’ve recently spoken with blame their downturns on the heat, the high meat prices, or the competitive labor market, I think there’s a psychological factor we’re all dealing with as well. For over two years we focused on survival, and for the restaurant owners who are still around, 2023 felt like the year they should be seeing some reward.” It is that last insight, that the hard times deserve a reward that may govern a lot of the mood right now.
Nick Kokonas of Alinea and Tock fame argues that restaurants do not have to be losing propositions. He reacted to a S.F. Chronicle piece (paywall) about a notable restaurant seeking to cash in on ways other than dinner service. The restaurant, SingleThread in Healdsburg, is a Michelin 3 Star. Its backers are real estate developers. Locals fear that the restaurant is a stalking horse for real estate investment. Interestingly, this 2015 piece that is classic publicist-driven puffery had a preview in Google saying: “Residents had no say and resent this development on the same property.” But the article itself does not include that language (anymore?).
He also calls BS on all the pieces that said fine dining is dead after Noma closed by noting Noma did not actually close.
(As an aside, if you are going to wine country this story is a reminder that Sonoma is generally more interesting than Napa).
Compensation: The Illinois Restaurant Association is facing criticism from its ranks over caving on elimination of tipped wage in Chicago.
Feeding kids is a good thing. “A new analysis suggests the program positively affects not just children but also their families, tying subsidized child-care meals to better child health and lower rates of household food insecurity.”
Is thinking too much about gut health swinging the pendulum too far? “I don’t think the popularity of ZOE is driven entirely by the fear of death, nor am I suggesting we swap out fibre for Freud. But coming to terms with the fundamental arbitrariness of our health seems just as important as achieving mastery over our gut flora.”
Food and Culture:
A Sri Lankan immigrant won France’s prize for best baguette. “God gave me the hands to make the best baguette in France! I am never angry with the flour as I knead the dough.”
The distortion of the grain market because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
How West African countries can get a bigger cut of the chocolate pie. “The global chocolate industry is a multibillion-dollar confection, and Africa grows 70 percent of the world’s raw cocoa beans. But it produces only 1 percent of the chocolate.”
The BA podcasts fell off my radar as it went through its tumult and staff turnover. But listening to a recent one Mark Bittman talked about freezing tomatoes – fresh, whole tomatoes. Found this old piece that explains it is closer to canned tomatoes than fresh when they come out, but still something to think about right about now.
Odds & Ends:
They guy who designed the nutritional information label died.
I may be just a simple caveman food blogger….”Hunter-gatherer societies on the Iberian Peninsula were making sophisticated baskets with decorative geometric patterns 9,500 years ago, more than 2,000 years earlier than previously thought, researchers in Spain have reported.”
That is the wrap up for this week on food stuff.
Be safe. Enjoy another 45 days of federal funding. Tip big.
Wheels up? Wheels up.