Image: Pointy headed cauliflower.
Dearest Gentle Reader, thank you for clicking through to read our weekly roundup of dining news from D.C. and elsewhere. We posted only one piece this week, but it was about a big deal place. Some mostly good news about the D.C. restaurant world, which is nice to see. More big thoughts on wine, and the end of an era in NYC, or was the era already over? Who can say, but you can read about it! So let us proceed with this week’s review.
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
El Cielo – The food is amazing at this tasting menu Colombian spot, but we have some thoughts.
Comings & Goings:
Mélange – The beloved burgers spot gave up its lease in Mt. Vernon Triangle a few months back, but owner Chef Elias Taddesse has since opened Doro Soul Food and added burgers to the menu out of the Shaw spot. He still intends to re-open a stand-alone Mélange again.
Call Your Mother opens a spot in Denver!
D.C. Dining News
Baked and Wired breaks with GrubHub. “In addition to charging you fees, grubhub also charges businesses with exorbitant delivery fees. also, we have no control over the quality of our products after they pickup at our store or how long it takes them to deliver the order to you, so you may receive an order that has not been handled with proper care – which reflects poorly on us. when you order directly through us, you can pickup for free and get a delivery for a flat $5 fee.”
Profile of Nino’s Bakery.
More Comings & Goings:
Philotimo, Nick Stefanelli’s ode to Greek is finally reopening after a fire knocked it out in June 2022. They have done some redecorating and switched to a la carte. The most curious thing in the story is that the fire sounds like a flaw in the building that was just recently built and includes several other restaurants. Investigators told Stefanelli, “they suspect the exhaust from the kitchen equipment was somehow causing heat to build behind the tiles, causing the blocking in the wall ‘to turn into a big giant piece of charcoal basically, and it combusted inside of the wall.’”
Kitchen Cray chef/owner James Robinson lands a new spot at Capitol Square Bar & Grill after the H Street restaurant closed.
The rumors and promise of Ruta, the Ukrainian spot on the Hill, seemed to last forever before they finally opened. Now its opening chef is leaving after just six months. His sous chef is taking over. We wish all the best of luck.
Food & Culture:
The story on the White House dinner for the Australian Prime Minister includes this interesting aside: “The Bidens’ invitation to [Chef] Button can be explained by her devotion to seasonal American ingredients and the culinary traditions of her home region. It could also read as a way of making up for a Trump-era snub: When a group of restaurant owners were invited in 2020 to the White House to discuss federal pandemic relief, the Independent Restaurant Coalition requested that Button represent the group. But according to IRC co-founder Tom Colicchio, someone at the White House said no — and without her, the group wound up being male and mostly white.”
The summary of a documentary “MSG: Mysterious Savory Grains” in the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific FilmFest is, “To share his culture through food, Chef Tim Ma must defy monosodium glutamate’s unsavory reputation.” Trailer here.
A World Central Kitchen event at the American History museum. “Join World Central Kitchen team members Mollie Kaufmann and Laura Hayes who have led WCK’s responses across the globe as they share stories from the field and how they are growing the organization’s capacities in the face of increasingly frequent climate disasters.” November 3rd.
The Washingtonian Guild of writers posted this shocking stat: The highest paid woman in the Washingtonian’s union makes the same as the lowest paid man. All the more shocking when you ponder how central food coverage is to the Washingtonian and how the food staff is primarily (completely?) women.
McIntyre in the Post on winemaking in Texas Hill Country.
Asimov on the long tradition of home winemaking, though doing it in California wine country is a bit more serious. It includes this bit of history: “Americans have always made a little wine at home, particularly immigrants from wine-producing countries who wanted to reproduce a bit of the old country. But the practice really took off during Prohibition, when the authorities created an exception for home winemakers, who were permitted to produce up to 200 gallons a year. Vineyards were able to stay in business catering to them. Cesare Mondavi, father of Robert Mondavi, moved his family from Minnesota to California in 1923 to start a business selling grapes, largely to home winemakers. The 200-gallon household limit persists today, and winemakers are not permitted to sell their wares. Most give it away to friends and family, enter amateur winemaking competitions sponsored by WineMaker, the American Wine Society and numerous local entities, while stashing some away to see how the wines evolve.”
When the winery sends a marketing email with text lifted by ChatGPT from your own website. What percentage of tech ideas are based on violating laws or privacy?
And more on the existential thoughts in the wine industry. Peter Pharos on the eras of wine and wine writing, starting with classical – “It was big on stories, usually stories of eccentricity and charm. It had a uniform aesthetic and a rigid hierarchy, drawing in equal parts from tradition and mysticism. It also had a finite corpus and a bounded canon; you could learn anything worth knowing in a few weeks, and drink everything worth drinking in little less than a year.” Then modern, where the world blew open, but with new rules: “Old mythologies worked only up to the point they could be attractively repackaged. Market success required attention, attention required excitement, excitement required winners and losers, winning and losing required someone to keep score. In the new rationalism, your wine was exactly a 93 out of a 100.” Now we are in postmodernism. “There is no canon, and no real rules. Traditions and hierarchies are everywhere, as a pastiche. Narratives are simultaneously historical and ahistorical. Critics have never felt more irrelevant and more ubiquitous. The discourse feels superficial and concocted. This week’s bane of influencers is next week’s promoter of big brands.” Pharos mocks those adding issues like climate change and social justice to the discourse. “You can say what you want to say about the great estates and commentators of old; they never used their pulpit to tell us how Syrah will stop the rise of fascism in Europe. The simulacra of action that are so prevalent in wine today, have something weirdly commendable about them, if only for their performative merits and impeccable poker faces.”
Dwight Furrow on his blog applauds Pharos. “This antidote to despair—stop talking and find interesting wines to drink—is not unlike Lyotard’s response to the postmodern condition. Present the unpresentable in itself. In other words, focus less on meaning and more on the materiality of the work—color in painting, timbre and nuance in music. The ephemeral qualities of an unrepeatable event—the wine unfolding in your glass—will never return. No experience will ever quite be the same. Such events are worth savoring even if you have nothing to say about them.”
Decanter explainer on Calvados in time for autumn.
A Times big story: “When Maine lawmakers tried to rein in large-scale access to the state’s freshwater this year, the effort initially gained momentum. The state had just emerged from drought, and many Mainers were sympathetic to protecting their snow-fed lakes and streams. Then a Wall Street-backed giant called BlueTriton stepped in. BlueTriton isn’t a household name, but its products are. Americans today buy more bottled water than any other packaged drink, and BlueTriton owns many of the nation’s biggest brands, including Poland Spring, which is named after a natural spring in Maine that is no longer commercially viable.”
The Emerging Economy:
The Times has a piece on the obvious, economists don’t know how this economy works.
Related, one inflation measure ticked up. The core personal consumption expenditures price index, which the Federal Reserve uses as a key measure of inflation, increased 0.3% for the month, in line with the Dow Jones estimate and above the 0.1% level for August.
Momofuku Ko closes. BA tries to explain what it all means. So does the Times, with the dining equivalent of “They were cool before they sold out.” Ryan Sutton along similar lines. “Is this the end of Momofuku? Of course not. But it’s hard not to see this as anything other than the end of Momofuku restaurants as we know them.” We feel fine.
The success of Kitchen + Kocktails in Dallas. “Kitchen + Kocktails is one of Dallas’ top-grossing restaurants. According to TABS Report, an alcohol sales tracker that uses data from the state comptroller, Kitchen + Kocktails sold $648,726 of liquor in the month of March.” They have a large D.C. spot.
The value of a poem in Miami. “Producer Elisa Baena and host Carlos Frías found themselves at the Wynwood bakery of Zak the Baker. Right there on the counter, a canary yellow index card reads: Poems for Bread. The challenge? Write a haiku about Miami food and trade it to the bakery for a loaf of its sourdough.”
Stopping herring poaching in the Potomac. “In Virginia, catching herring is banned. Across the East Coast, the herring population is near historic lows. It’s the most imperiled of the Potomac’s fish. For that reason, you can’t target them by hand, or by net, or by hook-and-line—not at any time of the year, nor at any stage of maturity, even if you release them back into the water.”
Trying to turn back the clock, from Civil Eats: “Despite the state’s $4 billion-plus agricultural economy, only 3 percent of the food Montanans eat is produced there, down from 70 percent in the 1950s, according to a 2022 report from Highland Economics. Operating within an increasingly consolidated and globalized market, most of Montana’s commodity crops—beef, wheat, barley, safflower, lentils, and chickpeas—get exported out of state.”
FYI – Civil Eats appears to be a small upstart doing non-traditional food stories, but they are hiring. They might pay more than the Washingtonian. For you dear reader, that means we can justify our beating the drum that there might just be a market for a broader journalistic approach to food that can compete with recipes and best brunch lists.
The Times looks at cheese rules and traditions in France in the face of climate change. “The rules for the Picodon [cheese], for example, run for 13 pages. None of them takes into account climate change.”
Seems like a while since we’ve seen one of these: “Dozens sickened with salmonella from tainted onions.”
Health & Nutrition:
Working through back issues of the New Yorker, this article mostly is a debunking of the “carnivore” diet gurus. But buried in it are some startling stats: “As a species, humans once ate thousands of plant foods, but only a hundred and fifty are cultivated at scale for food today, three of which—rice, wheat, and maize—constitute fifty per cent of all calories.” A thousand different plants! And this one from Alicia Kennedy, “It takes about a hundred times more land to produce a calorie of lamb or beef than it does to produce a plant-based alternative. Given that half the world’s ice- and desert-free land is used for agriculture, shifting to a fully plant-based diet would unlock vast resources. By one estimate, agricultural land use around the world would decrease by about three billion hectares—roughly four times the area of the continental United States.” Emphasis added.
Emily Heil in the Post on how the breakfast sandwich became a cereal killer. “Across the board, from fast-food and convenience stores to groceries whose freezer and refrigerator cases are stocked with all kinds of options, sales of breakfast sandwiches have for years been steadily trending upward. This year, they were the fastest-growing item at fast-food restaurants, beating out staples such as chicken nuggets and burgers, and at convenience stores, too, according to data from Circana.” Wonder if this is also related to the rehabilitation of eggs?
Odds & Ends:
And one to Candy Corn.
Thanks for reading! Enjoy this last bit of summer (as if you didn’t know D.C. does this). Depending on how you are celebrating Halloween remember to hydrate and brush your teeth.
If you are looking for a spot to dine in the District, then please keep us in mind. Our dining guide for D.C. has 300+ recommended restaurants, sortable by cuisine or neighborhood in either LIST or MAP format.
Be cool. Be kind. Tip big.