Image: Excelsior Paper, L’Equipe Photo © Agence Roger-Viollet
Dearest Gentle Reader, we have a overflowing basket of news items for you today. We also need to correct an oversight. Last week we thanked those who have liked and retweeted our posts to help us scrape our way to 1000 followers. We were remiss in not calling out Eating Beagles, who are indefatigable tweeters and consistent likers. With that now clear, let us proceed with the weekly recap of activity on our site and other dining news, there is much to cover.
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List:
Mi Cuba Café – The cute cafe around the corner in Columbia Heights doing Cuban.
Colada Shop – They added another location south of Dupont. We added a page for them.
Daru switched reservation app (now Tock), which we appreciate them flagging because it is the most difficult thing to stay up to date on!
D.C. Dining News
The Emerging Local Economy: The lost of tax revenue from empty office buildings will have an impact on D.C. revenue. “Tax revenue from commercial properties in the District, particularly large office buildings valued over $50 million, significantly declined in the past fiscal year and was the main reason for the reduction in overall real property tax revenue [from Oct. 2021 to Sept. 2022].” There is an hopeful vision where D.C.’s downtown gets a chance to change. For all the new urbanists talking about raising the height limit, or razing Dupont, there could be blocks and blocks downtown to pursue your vision. Or it goes to crap like some replay of the seventies, where we spend decades waiting to rebuild.
The Washington Post editorial page lives up to its reputation by arguing more money should go to the developers. That seems like imposing a plan on the market rather than encouraging the market to adapt. Elsewhere in the Post a cautionary tale on that approach. (Also a reminder that the Times can be insufferable about D.C.)
Emily Martin, in Washington City Paper, looks at how the Vietnamese community tied to Eden Center is looking to anticipate change. “Nguyen-Long and Nguyen are part of Viet Place Collective, a grassroots group working to ensure the future of the Vietnamese commercial hub in light of a small area plan proposed by the city of Falls Church.” WCP published the story in Vietnamese as well.
Barracks Row Defense: A citizens defense league sprung up on behalf of Crazy Aunt Helen’s when some losers attempted to interrupt Drag Storytime. Which raises a question, considering the number of drag queen events, does D.C. have a higher-than-average number of drag queens? Are we a drag queen capital? Whether that is the case, it is good to see D.C. choose humanity.
Tennessee goes the other direction. A lack of “specificity has many worrying the bill could result in people being punished for being in drag at all, or just existing as a trans or gender nonconforming person in public.”
Happy Anniversary: Barred in DC celebrates 10 years.
Restaurant Manifesto sings the praises of the service bar bartenders. “In busy cocktail lounges, upscale restaurants, and high-volume bars, at least two bartenders are usually slinging drinks at a time. One is assigned to serve guests seated at the counter where chitter-chatter is an expected garnish (the personality), and the other is responsible for churning out cocktails for hungry guests in the dining room, typically from a tiny crevice at the end of the bar.”
Dave McIntyre in the Post adds thoughts to the simmering discussion on wine language. The issue gained steam when Meg Maker wrote a piece arguing in McIntyre’s words that, “Wine is Eurocentric, and we tend to talk about it using analogies and metaphors centered in the European experience.” He spoke with Mailynh Phan, chief executive of RD Winery, Napa’s first Vietnamese-owned winery who said, “A lot of people didn’t grow up with that experience. I didn’t. There are people who have rice with every meal. They talk about wine differently.”
Gene study shows wine grapes were domesticated about 11,000 years ago. There is probably a hustler out there trying to sell a first vintage bottle to a billionaire.
The Emerging Economy:
The National Restaurant Association released its report on the state of the industry. The toplines paint a positive picture, with some challenges. Sales numbers are expected to grow, but mostly due to increased menu prices. They predict that the industry will finally get back to pre-pandemic employment levels, though prior analysis showed full-service restaurants will continue to lag over fast food in that sector.
Related, The Post data team looks at labor statistics on job turnover (scroll past the story on what people do before bed). Stability is coming back, but the chart shows just how much turnover there is in the industry, with an average job stint just two years.
Krugman does an overview piece on inflation that Furman largely agrees with. So, the optimist and pessimist are basically in the same place that the Fed has not finished its work. But is small adjustments not big ones that are needed.
The Remnants 19th Century Economy: “First, [the 14 year-old] lost the job that burned and blistered her skin but paid her $19 an hour. Then a county judge sent her stepfather to jail for driving her to work each night, a violation of state child labor laws. Her mother also faces jail time for securing the fake papers that got the child the job in the first place. And her parents are terrified of being sent back to Guatemala, the country they left several years ago in search of a better life.”
Starbucks gets busted for union-busting. “According to the judge, the Seattle-headquartered coffee chain illegally monitored, penalized, and even fired employees attempting to organize over 18 months of a unionizing campaign.”
Post-Covid Thoughts: Ginia Bellafonte asks whether it is time to take down the streateries. She calls them dining sheds, which tips her hand. She contrasts the languid pace of rolling up benefits for businesses while moving faster for less privileged. “It almost seems as if bureaucracy is less attentive to whether the poor can adequately feed themselves than over how much public space we ought to award restaurants that cater to people who will spend in a single evening what a SNAP recipient is expected to live on for weeks.”
DCist covers the ending of added SNAP benefits: “An emergency increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits that were put in place by the federal government at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 is officially ending after three years.”
Media: Speaking of DCist covering something not typically found in the Food Section, the Los Angeles Times announced that it is hiring a reporter to cover “the way we eat.” Cindy Carcamo will look at “how food intersects with immigration policy, labor issues, agriculture, economics and the environment.” We flagged it for the Post, though the Post did note that Heinz found their guy.
Food and Culture:
We have been working our way through the Taste of Place podcast by Dr. Anna Sulan Masing, who uses pepper to explore many aspects of life. Listening to Episode 5, there was an explanation from Dr. Kimberley Wilson, a psychologist who studies how we interact with food. She provided an insight about why some of the most heated disputes are about the “right” way to cook something, especially when it is food tied to our identity and childhood.
“And so when we think about nostalgia, often we are conjuring up a sensation, and it might not necessarily be particularly accurate, but because it’s pleasant and we like it, we tend to leave it. We tend to think it’s more accurate than it really is, but we tend to be transported back to a place. And the other thing about nostalgia is that it’s often associated with a sense of belonging. You’re transported back to the smell of your grandma’s house or you’re transported back to school dinners, it’s about where you are in relation to other people. And so when we’re drawn back into nostalgia, we’re actually often being drawn back into those earlier connections. And so you get this tripartite, which is the, the biology of it, smells connect directly into your memory. And therefore it will trigger a memory along with our need for soothing and connection and the importance of place and belonging for humans. We always need to feel connected. It’s part of our neurology to be in connection with another, and so we are always us in relation to whatever context we’re in at that moment.”
She goes on, “We’re responding often to things that are below our level of consciousness, but when you tie that in with identity and belonging, as food does so powerfully, then it becomes something to defend…. And that’s why we have so many food tribes, particularly on social media, where food becomes a marker for identity.”
She makes a related point, about trying new food, “Say you are trying an oyster for the first time, then you are remembering not just the taste of that oyster and the effect of the nutrients from that oyster on your body will be embedded unconsciously, but also who you were with, the kind of general mood you were in, what temperature it was outside. Was it a sunny day? Was it kind of cold? Because that’s gonna affect the valence, the kind of physiological state of your body in that moment, and that will be tied in with the memory of your first taste of an oyster. You should always try to eat new foods when you’re in a good mood and relax because that’s going to put your body in the best state to kind of accept it and to associate good feeling with the consumption of that food.” As they say, it is worth listening to the whole thing.
Expanding on a story about New Orleans from last month, Kovie Biakolo in Eater looks at the national trend of fine dining restaurants of West African cuisine. Chef Nana Wilmot says it is a reflection of the times, “We’ve been empowered to really feel like I can do this with something that feels like home.”
Kim Severson profiles Raghavan Iyer, who taught himself to cook the food of India when he came to small-town America and couldn’t find it. Then he helped teach America about Indian cuisine. He is publishing his last book.
Jimmy Carter’s ties to Mexican food noted by Texas Monthly. “Ahead of an October 30, 1976, campaign stop at the Alamo, the National Taco Council made an unusual decision. It would bestow one of its greatest honors on Carter: a ridiculously large portion of Mexican food. Until then, such dishes had been reserved for U.S. presidents, not candidates. The council decided on a 110-pound chalupa piled with 10 pounds of refried beans, ten heads of lettuce, and 5 pounds of Georgia peanuts.” We would note that he is the last Democrat to win Texas.
A poor understanding of food and culture might lead your company to be attached to this headline: Starbucks puts olive oil in its coffee, hoping to entice Italians.
Food and Fashion: Influencers who combine the two. Bettina Makalintal has additional thoughts that she “would love to see someone use the perspective of being fat to actually question WHO is allowed entry and recognition in the growing food x fashion space.”
Related, The Cut pulls back the curtain on off-brand use of Ozempic for weight loss: The appeal of an effortless, near-instant fix proved irresistible to many, especially in the corridors of fashion and entertainment where looking a certain way is a professional requirement. In September, Variety quoted a “top power broker” who said “half of her call sheet last week was full of friends and clients wanting to discuss the risks of Ozempic.” “I was talking to somebody from a project that I will be promoting, and we both kind of confessed that we were about to start it, both of us knowing the visibility that was to come,” Allison tells me. “We just kind of laughed. And I bet we’re not the only ones.” One of the sources for the story concludes on the possible health risks: “If they said it’s an increased chance of lung cancer, I wouldn’t take it,” she says. “I mean, this is so humiliating, but I’m like, Thyroid cancer’s not that bad?”
Odds and Ends:
David Chang found out his dad ran a steakhouse in D.C. “Costin’s Sirloin Room – The finest and most beautiful dining house in the entire Eastern United States.”
A restaurant held a fundraiser and someone stole a frog: “The frog, which is an artwork made of cutlery, is one of the oldest ornaments that adorn the26 tables in the longstanding Michelin-starred restaurant. It went missing on an evening held in honour of his late father, Albert.”
Thanks for joining us on this beautiful day. If it puts you in a mind to get out as the weather warms, we would like to remind you that 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.