Image: David Seymour, Rome, Street Market (1952).
Dearest Gentle Reader, thank you for joining us for the weekly summary of dining news from D.C. and elsewhere, as well as a recap of activity on our site. It was a light week on D.C. news, so we engage in some speculation and suggest a story or two for enterprising writers. In wine news, Bordeaux is hit by the demographic shifts and South Africa is finally catching up to them. In national news, the worst impact of inflation and the plutocrat solution, more on food and culture, plus the Panera purse at NY Fashion Week? Indeed it is true, so let us get started.
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Primrose – The special spot in Brookland is still great.
Comings and Goings:
The Partisan is not coming back. At least not in the old space.
Thai X-ing is closing. This place started as a rumor among foodies (when that was a thing), then became a thing itself. Now the owner is retiring. Though, like a legendary athlete, he went back to the original spot to do it. We wish them well.
D.C. Dining News
Assignments Desk: Tim Carman reviewed Yasmine with a positive take. We flag it because it raises several interesting things, beyond the scope of the review, that might make for an interesting piece about the former Maydan chefs. They have opened (in various combinations) four places in three years. That is a lot. Each of those places focusing on a different cuisine (Caribbean, fried chicken, Italian, Lebanese). The press roll-outs have often included a similar backstory of a connection to the cuisine, a research trip (eating lots of chicken in Jamaica and the American South), and a menu development process of testing with someone more expert than them. We couldn’t help but notice the backstory on Yasmine was a bit more developed and closer the pitch from Las Gemelas that seemed to work better. There is also an element of ambition, and presumably investor backing, that propelled them forward when the rest of the country was in an economic whirlwind. They replaced (displaced?) Rappahannock Oyster Bar from Union Market, and the review notes that the Union Market spot is a “test” of the concept with other locations “on the boards.” The rapid expansion has required adjustments along the way. For their first spot, Bammy’s, they brought in a highly-respected chef to right the ship after two years. Finally, both Bammy’s and Yasmine face the prospect of getting upstaged by a stronger entrant into the category. Grazie Nonna already faces tough competition. It looks like lots of interesting threads to pull on.
Odds & Ends:
D.C. gets a role in a Gordan Ramsay-backed reality show called Kitchen Commando. This was apparently the show that was seeking subjects a little while back.
The Times Southern Africa correspondent does a trip to South African wine country to note the slow but now substantial progress made by Blacks to break into ownership ranks.
In Bordeaux, the consequences of a drop-off in wine consumption by the young – even in France! – leads to appeals for government assistance to unload stock and subsidize reduced production. “The Bordeaux producers are proposing to pull up 10% of their vineyards , amounting to about 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres). They want the government to compensate them by up to €10,000 (£8,800) for each destroyed hectare. They also want to destroy unsold stocks to make room for this year’s vintage and push up prices, without which, they say, the sector risks collapsing, threatening the jobs of 80,000 people. Local representatives claim that about 300 struggling vineyard owners say they want to give up viticulture altogether.”
Not exactly a drink story, but a related economy. In California, cannabis shops are not profitable if they only sell product. So they are going the Capital One route.
The Emerging Economy:
Inflation came in higher than expected, it is not good, though not that bad. The stubbornly high numbers moved, however, from one sector to another. Goods prices continue in the right direction, but services increased. The classic economist fear of inflation is that it gets built in to expectations, sustaining itself, but this bout appears to be different. We got injections of inflation in certain sectors (energy, supply chain, housing) that then appear to be working themselves out of the system sector-by-sector, like a cold moving from the head to the chest until finally being beaten. Which makes the Fed plan to inflict pain across the board less effective and more destructive. But when you only have a hammer…
The Times (in the Business section) on where inflation hits hardest. “As prices climb, experts worry that older individuals who are in poor physical or mental health or who have lower incomes are at greater risk for not having enough food or for eating less healthy foods. The squeeze also has the potential to isolate them socially, if they back away from activities like eating out with friends.”
For a less empathetic approach to the problem, the Wall Street Journal suggests cutting back on eating.
One of the advantages of the end of free Fed money is investors may have to think through ideas better. “The former head of Walmart’s e-commerce business is the CEO of Wonder. The food-tech startup began by preparing meals in vans parked outside customers’ homes in New Jersey but is pivoting to delivering meals from storefronts using couriers on electric bikes.” Rather than concede the model failed, he says, “The decision to shift our operational model was made to help us serve more customers and grow more efficiently.”
Meanwhile, in cosmopolitan Asia, fine dining is booming. “What recession?”
Food and Culture(s):
Two stories this week focus on indigenous cuisine in the United States. The Post looks at the emerging restaurants and shops rooted in Native American foodways. “We are the oldest cultures on the continent, but in many ways we have the youngest cuisine, because it’s not clearly defined. We are reestablishing our voice for our ingredients. It’s an inspiring time for Native foods,” said Ben Jacobs of Denver, who is Osage. Sean Sherman, the focus of the story said last year, at the Beard awards, “This is showing that we can get through that, that we’re still here. Our people are here. Our ancestors are proud tonight because we’re doing something different: We’re putting health on the table, we’re putting culture on the table, and we’re putting our stories on the table.” Loretta Barrett Oden of Oklahoma City. like many others, operates out of a space in a museum, which adds a challenge because as she says, “All these museums, my own included, are run by the big feeders: Sodexo, Sysco, Aramark.” The article notes that the “celebrated Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has been searching for a head chef since 2020.”
In Civil Eats, a look at how this renewed focus is being taught to the next generation. “Those traditional food systems that helped Native people grow and thrive are still important today, and teaching about this history and contemporary context helps students learn that we continue to grow and develop as communities.”
Brett Anderson, who the Times picked up after the Times-Picayune dropped him, still is covering New Orleans. He takes note of a trend in the city. “Dakar NOLA is part of a wave of Black-owned African and Caribbean restaurants opening at a time of growing awareness that much of New Orleans culture can be traced to West African and Caribbean antecedents, from its music and architecture to its Carnival traditions and signature dishes like gumbo, jambalaya and étouffée.”
Not in the Post Food Section:
In the Travel section, making airline food less bad. It is strange these stories still get done when on cross-country flights meal service has disappeared in economy.
In the Business section, meatpacking firms fined for child labor. Last week we talked about the hidden costs of food that have been traditionally masked but are now coming to the fore like labor and credit card fees. The mass production of meat was another Covid-era story that feels like it has more to tell.
Also in the Business section, proper nutrition is not starting young. “In 40 states and the District of Columbia, more than half of children drank a sugar-sweetened beverage at least once during the preceding week (in Mississippi, it approached 80 percent). And parents reported that more than 70 percent of Black children drank a sugar-sweetened drink in the previous week.”
We noticed that Bitches who Brunch is dead. Locally, Bottomless Bros lives. We still don’t do brunch, one of the few areas where we concede ground to Michelin.
Eater London folded up shop. This follows layoffs at NY Eater. Is this a food thing or a media thing? It feels like a little of both.
Odds and Ends:
The Panera Purse was a hit at NY Fashion Week. Irony is dead.
The Oyster War of 1882 happened during this week 141 years ago.
This man’s thoughts, contrary to his name, do not sit well.
That’s it for this week. Hope you get to enjoy some of this sunny three-day weekend. As always, keep us in mind if you are looking for a place to eat in the District. Our site has 300+ recommended restaurants in our dining guide for the District. You can sort by cuisine or neighborhood in either LIST or MAP format.
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