Image: Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, Chinatown (1974)
This week we added two spots to our dining guide this week. The Times does the story we’ve wanted to read on how Instagram screwed the food community. The emerging economy continues to send mixed signals. And if that is not enough reason to read on, there is a tuber of unusual size, but not a Guinness record.
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Simply Banh Mi – They do banh mi and bowls out of the basement kitchen Wisconsin. Order ahead for take-out our delivery.
Menya Hosaki – The ramen shop on Upshur does everything in-house, including some tasty and chewy noodles.
D.C. Dining News
Media: Longtime reporter for Eater DC Tierney Plumb has been named Editor. She replaces Gabe Hiatt, who is now at the Post. We are looking forward to seeing where Plumb takes it.
In related news, recently departed Washington City Paper food editor Laura Hayes has a new gig with World Central Kitchen. We will miss her voice, but look forward to seeing the impact of her future work. Not exactly backfilling, but taking up a post at WCP is Nevin Martell, who will be writing a “opinion” column on places to eat, which sounds like what we used to just call a review. His first one is on Piccoletto, the Italian/Asian mashup from Paolo Dungca, one of the guys behind Pogiboy.
WCK’s driving force José Andrés was also appointed to a new position. He and Elena Delle Donne were named co-chairs of President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition. As with many things in D.C., there is a political angle to the appointments.
Evil Companies: D.C. AG Karl Racine announced that his office is suing Grubhub for deceptive practices. One of the eight deceptive practices was an initiative called Supper for Support that Grubhub billed as a restaurant relief program, but the assistant manager at Bub and Pop’s noticed in the fine print it really meant “handing over even more money to Grubhub for its services, given that restaurants would have to cover the $10 discount awarded diners for every order over $30. Restaurants would also have to pay Grubhub’s commission based on the full price, not the discounted price, of the meal.” As Laura says, don’t mess with Bub and Pop’s.
Covid’s Continuing Impact: Amanda Michelle Gomez has a fascinating story about the long-running downtown restaurant Siroc facing eviction from their landlord, which happens to be the ACLU. The interesting stats are about the state of downtown business: “According to the DowntownDC Business Improvement District, its restaurants were at 80% of pre-pandemic sales in late February, while the city’s were at 97% overall. Restaurants in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs were at 99.7%.” Eighteen restaurants closed in the Downtown BID area in the last two years, compared to eight in Adams Morgan.
We have picked on Zagat’s coverage of D.C. (like we have of Michelin’s), but as the website moves from being a dining guide to an ancillary piece of The Infatuation (which no longer covers D.C.), they actually did a series of interesting stories talking to D.C. chefs coping in the age of Covid. Pepe Moncayo of Cranes talked about his commitment to providing health insurance because of his perspective of coming from Spain. Jason Berry of Knead Hospitality talked about rapid expansion and providing his workforce flexibility, they “went from a one-year waiting list to three months for medical insurance for our staff.” Danny Lledó of Xiquet and Slate Wine Bar talked his ideas behind the tasting menu spot, supply chain issues, and the mysteries of plating.
Two recent articles report on women winemakers making a difference in specific regions. Catherine Todd at Dame Wine provides an overview of the impact of women winemakers in Sicily. Dave McIntyre looks at the three generations of women behind Horton Vineyards in Gordonsville, Va.
The Post Travel section has a piece by Paris-based writer Lily Radziemski about the wine region of Jura. The more you delve into terroir, the more you end up talking about geology, especially in France. If you are more curious, this podcast of Levi Dalton talking to Brenna Quigley about French geology is one of the most enlightening introductions one can find on the topic.
Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff wrote about having a healthier relationship with alcohol after thinking about the example she set for her children. We quipped a couple weeks ago about wellness being the new black, but there is a trend here that is more than just fashionable.
Instagram’s Self-Inflicted Problems: The Times Food Section finally does a piece on what has been obvious to many. Not only did Instagram’s algorithm change screw a bunch of people who post about food, but as a result food people are now giving up on IG. The food world is a visual world, but it is one best captured in still photography. It was made for IG. And then IG told us to fuck off. From the Times: Instagram tells its users that successful Reels are high-quality; use text, filters and camera effects; are set to music and trending sounds; and are “entertaining and fun,” featuring content that “delights people, grabs their attention, makes them laugh or has a fun surprise or twist.” It also explains that Instagram executives are complete tools, who use large crayons to develop strategies, filtering it through a narrow scope with a short horizon that loses people’s attention and makes them want to delete their accounts (we are inferring that from their moves). Our plucky little site doubled its IG followers in the last couple years and had views of our posts drop by over 50%. We’ve stopped thinking about IG when creating content. It has become an afterthought. In the meantime, if IG is looking for additional executives to pay millions to destroy their product, we are available.
The limitations of social media platforms to be the leading source of information about food was highlighted in this piece in the London Review of Books. Bee Wilson reviews Sejal Sukhadwala’s The Philosophy of Curry and goes down a path that may make you question more than you can imagine. She writes, the word “curry” is “a) inaccurate and b) offensive. If curry is a blunt misrepresentation of Indian food, this is a symptom of a deeper problem: its strong association with British imperialism.”
The Emerging Economy: The Times also had this story last week that we forgot to flag, but is still worth a read. Writer/Photographer Gary He looked at how a NYC restaurant, Saigon Social, fought to survive through the last two years. “We spent three months with Ms. Nguyen this winter as the arrival of the Omicron variant threatened the survival of a restaurant that was already battered by the pandemic. She had to figure out how to keep cash flowing while her dining room was closed and staff tested positive for the virus. She bartered for tests with alcohol, and reinstated masking rules inside the restaurant. On top of that, she navigated racial violence in a neighborhood that is home to a large Asian diaspora. Two years after first opening its doors, Ms. Nguyen was still trying to find a way to transform the restaurant into what she had originally envisioned. As spring approached, the restaurant changed drastically — one more time.”
Laura Reiley continues to look at the ongoing impact of how isolating Russian for invading Ukraine is affecting world food markets. “The number one issue right now … is energy prices; then fertilizer prices, because Russia is the second-largest supplier; then you have the chemicals farmers need for their soil.” To pick up on another theme we’ve had for the last month or two, this is reflected in Formula 1 racing where Russian oligarch Dmitry Mazepin’s company Uralkali, a fertilizer supply company, was dropped as a sponsor of the Haas team as was his son as a driver. The awkward sight of a Russian flag color scheme on the only U.S. F1 team is now gone. The good news for Haas is that they may now be more competitive without the less-than-stellar Nikita behind the wheel.
Derek Thompson writes in The Atlantic that the there are several myths of the new economy: 1) Americans don’t want to work anymore; 2) Most people hate their job; 3) The Great Resignation reflects that job hatred. He argues they are all wrong. In short, if you can’t find candidates for a job it is not because people don’t want to work It is because they don’t want to work for you.
Of Note: World’s largest potato candidate turns out to be a 17 lbs. gourd. Dreams of glory are dashed. The reigning champ remains 11 lbs.
Alexandra Frost reconsiders what date-night means for couples in a fading pandemic world.
Somehow we missed that the FDA stopped regulating the contents of French Dressing. The lack of interest in French Dressing by the FDA, which really isn’t French at all, matches its decline in interest among the broader population. The leading dressing choice is Ranch.
To our faithful reader, thanks for checking in this week. If you are coming into the District, like for Cherry Blossoms, and looking for a place to eat that we are the best way to find a great place to eat in D.C. We have 300 recommended restaurants that you can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current operating status (dine-in and/or take-out, etc. – though things are in flux currently so check before you go!) in either LIST or MAP format.