Image: Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr, Comrade X (1940).
Welcome readers to our weekly recap of activity on our site and other dining news. It is a relatively light week in the news, but we did manage to post about a couple recommended spots. Natural wine seems to be like chum that sets off a frenzy every few months. This month it was in the Wall Street Journal. Setting off a frenzy in Italy is a scholar disputing the mythology of Italian food. With that as preview, let us proceed…
Updates the D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Pappe – The welcoming refuge of good Indian on 14th Street.
Seylou – The fierce baking project with some of the most flavorful breads you can imagine.
A New Hope:
Makoto in the Palisades was one of the most transcendent dining experiences around. It is good news that Chef Ogawa, who already has a shrine-like spot in Kalorama, is trying to revive its spirit.
D.C. Dining News
Delivery Fees: Sidman in the Washingtonian does a service in unpacking the delivery fee issue and how to order wisely.
A Lede: From Deb Freeman. “Mary Hill was born and raised in Hobson, Virginia, the seventh generation descended from the deep roots of a powerful Hobson community. She is currently making history as one of only a few Black waterwomen, supporting herself and her elderly mother while managing 2,000 acres of oyster beds located primarily in tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay.”
Watching the Detectives: Not opposed to Tom doing more of this.
Restaurants and Memory: Tastee Diner in Silver Spring is closing after 88 years. Rax King wrote a piece a couple years back memorializing her father’s NA friends in which the diner plays a role. In light of the closing, she posted about it and linked to the original article.
In The Burbs: VDOT is expanding Richmond Highway to make it more “urban” with the result that business are getting closed, including the Virginia location of Mezcalero.
Natural Wine Whining: Lettie Teague, who has been a wine writer for 26 years claims she isn’t quite sure with the deal is with natural wine is (Paywall)(though this from 2008 shows great knowledge). Teague’s article, which came across more as a slam on wine bars and bartenders than natural wine, got ridiculed, with Jason Wilson coming down hard, calling it, “a masterclass in what’s wrong with wine writing.”
Natural Wine Winning: In Esquire, Kevin Sintumuang argues that the best place to start when visiting a city is the bars that focus on natural wine. “If a city has a natural-wine bar, that serves as stop number one for me. I know it’s going to be the de facto hangout for the local creative set.” We have fond memories of having a glass (of Arnot-Roberts if memory serves) at Terroir (now closed) in San Francisco many years ago. It was everything good about wine culture – inviting, passionate, principled and tasty. Let the haters hate, we are glad natural wine managed to become big enough to be mocked.
Lo/No: Can non-alcoholic wine be a thing? Laura Reiley’s piece includes a fascinating insight into the industry, where technology was used to lower ABV in wine when it was taxed at a higher rate if it went over 14%. Then 16% became the threshold and the use of the technology fizzled…until the lo/no movement came along. Maybe there is a reason people started looking to natural wine.
Women of Wine in D.C. is hosting an Info Fair at Wine Lair. Be There! They describe the event as: “an information session to update our members on WOW’s intentions to become a public non-profit, the formation of our Board of Directors, and the creation of member-based committees. Our primary goal for this event is to to educate members on what the expectations of each committee are and to start the application process so that we can start planning our next year of events!” First session sold out, seats still available for the second session.
Coffee: In the Post: “A rigorous new study that examined the health effects of coffee consumption found good news and bad news for coffee lovers. The research showed that coffee has striking effects on physical activity levels, causing people to move more, taking, on average, 1,000 extra steps a day — a significant boost in activity that might help explain why coffee consumption has long been linked to better health. But the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, did find some downsides to a daily cuppa. It showed that people lost about 36 minutes of nightly sleep on days when they drank coffee — and the more coffee they drank, the less they slept.”
Food and Culture: What if “traditional” Italian cooking is bunk? A scholar in Italy is calling out the purists. “Grandi’s speciality is making bold claims about national staples: that most Italians hadn’t heard of pizza until the 1950s, for example, or that carbonara is an American recipe. Many Italian “classics”, from panettone to tiramisu, are relatively recent inventions, he argues.” With a Marxist-tinged interpretation he argues that it is really more about the emotions of identity after World War II. “When a community finds itself deprived of its sense of identity, because of whatever historical shock or fracture with its past, it invents traditions to act as founding myths.” The article notes how food traditions have become a political prop for nationalist politicians. Parmesan becomes the last refuge of scoundrels?
Here is another piece arguing that pizza is not really Italian.
Eating Like the Detectives:
In the Times, Rao and Wells offer tips on how to read a menu like a critic. They say burgers, steak, and braised short rib tend to be boring, or at least not that indicative of a place’s merit. On the other hand, soup and any classic dish is a chance for a chef to prove themselves. (A reminder why Corduroy is under-rated).
Hillary Dixler Canavan, in Eater, gives questions to ask to get a better meal. Asking what the chef likes on the menu is a great question, that sometimes works. However, asking what is “popular” seems to result in either lowest common denominator dishes or upcharges, or both (“Everyone loves the truffle wagyu!”). Though as Wells notes, if it is an established restaurant the popular dish is the one that stood the test of time.
Stock: A mass death incident leaves a river swamped with carcasses.
Industry Culture: Adam Reiner of Restaurant Manifesto has thoughts on Ming Tsai.
Odds & Ends:
Skittles are not healthy for you. A bill in California is introduced “to halt the manufacture, sale or distribution of any food product in the state containing red dye No. 3, titanium dioxide, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil or propylparaben, arguing that those chemicals are ‘dangerous’ and already banned in the European Union and other countries.” Interestingly, candy companies did adjust their recipes for products sold in the E.U. instead of getting them banned.
Reba McEntire opens a restaurant in her hometown.
Greenhouse strawberries in Japan. “Japan’s swing toward cultivating strawberries in freezing weather has made strawberry farming significantly more energy intensive. According to analyses of greenhouse gas emissions associated with various produce in Japan, the emissions footprint of strawberries is roughly eight times that of grapes, and more than 10 times that of mandarin oranges.”
We told you it was a quick read this week!