Image: Bagels racked (Seattle).
Dearest Gentle Reader, we have two weeks worth of dining news content after a trip to Seattle last weekend where we ate really well and saw a great football game in a sea of purple. There is a lot of news of comings and goings, the state of the restaurant industry, and many a think piece about wine. On top of all that Michelin made an announcement and we can’t resist taking some shots. So settle in and enjoy.
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Shouk – The plant-focused fast casual spot expanded to Georgetown and we used it as an excuse to check in.
Comings & Goings:
Real estate news offered some hopeful signs. The man who created one of the quintessential downtown power lunch spots is moving uptown. There is movement in the old Mintwood Place space. Al Volo appears to be making a move into Brightwood Park.
Perry’s added Japanese Breakfast on a limited basis – every other Saturday for now.
D.C. Dining News
The Emerging (Local) Economy:
Jessica Sidman does an interview with Matt Baker with the new opening of his casual cafe Baker’s Daughter third location, this one in Georgetown. It is far from the typical preview/opening piece, as Sidman prods and Baker talks with a lot of detail about restaurant margins, labor costs, and the inevitability of a service fee post I82.
Montgomery County leans into agricultural tourism (In the City Paper!!!). Eater throws some cold water on the trend. Related, researchers at University of Maryland are working on a better apple.
Comings & Goings:
Along the U Street corridor, legendary cocktail spot The Gibson is closing. The Hawthorne is also closing. The miniature golf and booze spot Swingers quickly closed its second location at Navy Yard. Not booze related, and specifically laid at the feet of the landlord, Ice Cream Jubilee on T Street closed.
Sidman in Washingtonian looks at the dark side of brunch. “I know a lot of people I worked with that will never go to brunches. They’re just scarred.”
Law enforcement seems to be upping their game toward the hospitality industry: District Nightclub Owner Guilty of Bribing Tax Officials.
According to Axios, using Resy data, diners are eating earlier. Well, if you eliminate commuting time….
Watching the Detectives:
D.C.’s dining scene hit a new golden age over a decade ago. This little website was created to highlight and track that development. Getting a Michelin guide for the city a few years back was a nod of recognition for the depth and breadth of what D.C. built, but we on this site have been critical of Michelin. Too often it has felt like they were mailing it in, making mistakes, not updating entries, and making some strange choices (Opal but not Nina May? A soft spot for Dupont brunch?). Michelin began doing a staggered roll-out of its annual guide with interim announcements (though still not updating existing content on the website on a routine basis). In the spring, it announced the addition of eight new restaurants. This month it announced ten more. Taking away nothing from those who got nods – in fact, congratulations to them all! – Michelin has not cleaned up its act. One of the ten spots, Little Vietnam, announced they were closing just as the Michelin released happened. They made no note of that fact (“This address in Petworth has been a revolving door for numerous chefs, but we’re bullish on its latest tenant”). Another spot on the list, Chang Chang (“well-known local chef Peter Chang” is one way to phrase it), has been changing up its approach, while consistency is one of Michelin’s benchmarks.
Then there is the announcement itself, that reads like it was done by ChatGPT. “Whet your appetite with a sneak peek of the 2023 MICHELIN Guide Washington D.C.—eight new additions spread across the nation’s capital.” There are ten new places added, bringing the total to 18 for the year. Probably didn’t update from the spring post. “That’s why in spite of the delicious flavors within the nation’s capital, check out these 10 tasty additions.” In spite? Didn’t you mean because? Well, actually the phrasing is so odd it is not clear what Michelin meant. The odd language did not stop with the announcement. It extended into the actual entries. “Pork soup dumplings are comfort in a bowl, but here they’re precise with superb broth and tender meat.” “Chicken Vesuvio never disappoints, just like this experience, where a buzzy bar is always packed.” “Pork croquette is served with a creamy Dijonaise and sided by fruit.” The entry for Rania starts cold with: “Cocktails are designed to complement the rich, bold flavors.” It reads like a phrase cut and pasted into the wrong spot and left floating in the text unconnected to what follows. Good to know our no frills, no budget site has the same editorial standards of the world’s most famous guide.
We also flag that the only new French restaurant is Petite Cerise, which means Michelin continues to snub D.C.’s favorite French spot. Stars and Bib Gourmands to be announced next month, when they can atone for its most grievous oversight.
A data analysis company said D.C. has the 4th most diverse cuisine choices in the country, boosted by African restaurants. “[T]he company collected data from 158 metro areas, and focused on three key points: how many different types of cuisine it takes to make up 90% of an area’s total restaurants, the global diversity of restaurants and how knowledgeable people in the metro are when it comes to different types of foods.” L.A., San Francisco, and Miami took the top three spots (take that NYC!). “Overall, the list of cuisine types that add up to 90% of restaurants in the D.C. area is 28. For Wausau, Wisconsin, which was at the bottom of the ranking, only 11 cuisine types got that area to 90%.”
For more insightful and coherent thoughts than Michelin, we would refer you to Rick Eats DC, who made a long post with many hot takes coming off summer hiatus. “Ivy City just needs to hang on until Union Market can get there.” Rick also does a round-up of some recent favorites, joining those who have made the Manifest Bread/2fifty pilgrimage and those who are excited by what is happening at Perry’s and Lutece. Worth the read.
Labor issues roll through. “According to research collated for the The ProWein Business Report 2022, nearly half of all companies working with wine have suffered from worker shortages.” The Covid-era shakeup of the labor industry is one of the under-reported, unexplained phenomenon of the last three years.
In the U.K. there is an obvious pool of labor that has been sidelined. A survey of 726 women working in the wine industry found, among other things, “54% of women feel that discriminatory pay and conditions;” and “44% of women have considered leaving the industry because of challenges faced.”
Alder Yarrow on: “How can wine continue to be relevant enough to survive? The industry needs to appeal to new customers, to engage them in new ways, to learn to do business in new ways, and to do all this while coping with the existential threat of climate change. It’s a tall order.”
One of the issues is the language of wine. “So, let me stress that the ‘language of wine’ does not consist of words only. Quite unsurprisingly, it also consists of the various ways in which those words are put together. As wine writers want to focus on the contents of what’s written by their colleagues, in contrast, I think the form of what they say is by far more interesting.”
A comparison of “national wine consumption (average per person) with reported national happiness.” The sweet spot is about a bottle a week, but the writer’s bias is clear and using this data for this conclusion is suspect.
Per Yarrow above, and as flagged before, alcoholic beverages are facing declining sales and dealing with growing evidence that any consistent consumption is detrimental to health. The writer above is trying to argue that mental health is also important, but is probably opening a can of worms. Tom Wark leans into the Mondavi Defense from 1989. “[T]he neo-prohibitionists and anti-alcohol people have stated repeatedly that wine is a hazard and is dangerous to our way of life. This is not the truth—nowhere near the whole truth. These groups talk only of the abuse of wine—not its many benefits. When wine is drunk moderately and intelligently, it is part of gracious living.” The case being made is that wine is a different kind of alcoholic beverage than the heathen-like other kinds. If alcohol is facing a cigarette-like backlash, the wine industry is fleshing out an argument that they are pipe tobacco.
Customer preferences/health are not the only problem facing the wine industry. A disturbing study finds correlations between children raised near vineyards and leukemia. Wine makers in Provence faces changes from climate change.
A priest writes about wine and the Bible. “The beginnings of wine in the Bible tell a story that involves the whole of creation. It’s a story that emphasises our relationship to the land, to God and to one another. How we care for and keep the soil is a reflection of how we care for one another.”
The Emerging Economy:
Alaska’s lone House Member raises concerns about consolidation in the supermarket sector.
Food & Culture:
“Mx. Sampson and Ms. Walker live in the town of Cherokee, N.C., within the Qualla Boundary, a 57,000-acre piece of land owned by their tribe. And they often host visitors: In recent years, non-Native people have shown a growing interest in Cherokee knowledge, culture and food.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the link between occupation and likelihood of drug overdose death. Those working in restaurants are the second most at risk. “Overdoses killed 163 of every 100,000 people who usually worked in construction and extraction in 2020, whether they were on the job or not, making it by far the most dangerous major occupation, drug-wise. Restaurant jobs were second at 118 deaths per 100,000, according to new data from Rachael Billock, Andrea Steege and Arialdi Miniño at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Carbone leans into fleecing the rich. “Soon its celebrated chefs will expand beyond their Italian-American playbook and cook anything you want at a new members club on Manhattan’s West Side—provided you pony up $30,000 in initial application and annual membership fees.” (paywall).
Taking a different approach, a chef/owner in the Bay Area writes about how he thinks the restaurant industry can shift and survive. It involves less labor, fewer ingredients, and multiple ways to get food to customers. He also suggests people whine less as restaurants try to figure out how to make the needed changes. “You might have noticed more top-rated restaurants have summoned the nerve to charge you reservation fees or for entire meals up front and more prix fixe dinners instead of the be-everything-to-everyone menus we’ve gotten so used to. You’ll probably see some offbeat service models. Embrace it, because a lot of this stuff is working for us and will work for you.”
Health & Nutrition:
Will Ozempic fundamentally change the world? “Morgan Stanley anticipates about 7 percent of American adults, or around 24 million people, will be on these new drugs by 2035, with a 1.3 percent reduction in U.S. calorie consumption overall — but not all calories are created equally. Barclays strategists have said these drugs pose a significant threat to fast food, while Morgan Stanley expects a huge surge in the sale of fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Times opinion piece from Tressie McMillan Cottom on what it can’t solve: “Inequality of access to Ozempic and Wegovy is not between the deserving sick and undeserving obese. The inequality is in attaching any moral clause to why people use the drugs in the first place. As long as most Americans cannot afford the drug that democratizes weight, the stigma of obesity is still controlled by those who can afford to be thin. GLP-1 drugs — or any miracle drug that cures obesity on label or off — works only if people who need the drug can afford it. But solving for obesity will require more than drugs. It will require solving for a culture that makes being fat a woman’s burden, a means test for dignity, work, social status, and moral citizenry. Until we end that stigma, we can create drugs that help people lose weight, but the conditions for making some people undesirable — at a cost — will still be lurking in the shadows.”
An older eater on the value of improving your diet. It is not like we don’t know the core of a good diet: “Those common denominators [for health] include eating plant-based meals, nuts, and whole, unprocessed foods. In general, researchers recommend eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, plus lean sources of protein such as seafood, dairy and fortified soy alternatives (beans, peas and lentils), while cutting back on saturated fats, sugar and salt.”
Shortage of young workers in the fishing industry makes dim future. It is one of many issues facing the sector. “For the wider world, it also offers a glimpse into a future disrupted by environmental pressures, chiefly, but not only, linked to climate change. We have seen fisheries collapse before, traumatizing communities and economies dependent on them and robbing the world of rich sources of nutrition and biodiversity. Abstract as dots on a map of Alaska may seem, there’s an early warning in these villages’ crisis: We urgently need to rethink how we manage fishing fleets and apportion rights to a resource that is, globally, on the defensive. We should begin by expanding our concept of an ecosystem beyond just fish to include the well-being of those whose fate is bound to it.”
Moving away from ocean farming of salmon? “In the next two decades, they say, land-raised fish will become a significant part of America’s salmon supply.”
Stopping food fraud. “Makers of premium products such as Spanish saffron, manuka honey and authentic Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are stepping up their efforts to expose imitators whose cheaper products they consider fraudulent. They are increasingly deploying high-tech tools to detect culinary deceit, including edible holograms, QR codes, serial numbers and invisible ink.”
Odds & Ends:
The Post asks why can’t we stop watching terrible cooks on Tik-Tok. The bigger question may be why can’t real news outlets quit writing about fabricated social media phenomenon.
Burger King’s poor punctuation. (one of the annoying things about this WordPress format is the “open and close” quote marks are the same, which looks odd when used with the formal ones that get cut and paste in).
Speaking of record, a new hottest pepper has been unveiled. “Until the “Hot Ones” episode was taped a few weeks ago, Currie was the only person who’d eaten an entire Pepper X. He did it again for the show. In an interview Tuesday with The Post, he said the pepper’s earthy flavor lasted for a split second, followed by a brutal heat that persisted for three hours, then stomach cramps that went on for four more.”
Bonus Seattle Coverage:
As mentioned at the top, we had a great trip last weekend to Seattle. On IG there are pictures from the excellent New American/Pan-American restaurant Eight Row. More classic New American in the back of a converted industrial building was The Walrus & The Carpenter.
That is it for this week! Sorry for the downer pieces. We’ll try better next week.
Don’t whine. Be kind. Tip big.