Image: Katharine Hepburn and John Barrymore, publicity photo for A Bill of Divorcement (1932).
Dearest Gentle Reader, this week’s post covers two weeks of recapping as we took off the three-day weekend. Sadly, the extra time did not mean more activity on our site, increasing our backlog of work to do. We assure you, it is coming! So we turn to news, including more confusion about the state of the economy and the curious case of the missing chat post.
Updates to the D. C. Recommended Restaurant List
Tortino – The little neighborhood Italian spot on the south end of Shaw does good work under the radar. And might have you humming Billy Joel on the way out.
Comings & Goings:
Moon Rabbit abruptly closed, reportedly over a union fight. Chef Kevin Tien keeps the name Moon Rabbit to use again. We hope he does.
D.C. Dining News
The Post does a “how much should tip now?” story. The bottom line hasn’t changed. 20% is the answer. Yes, service charges make it difficult to do the math sometimes, but if it is less than a 20% service charge, then take a second or two to do the math.
PG County is using grants to subsidize wages. “Prince George’s County restaurants could receive thousands of dollars if owners commit to raising employee wages to $15 per hour by the end of the year and apply to a new grant program. The organization seeking to eliminate tipped minimum wage, One Fair Wage, in partnership with PG County and Capital One, created the grant for restaurateurs in response to a staffing crisis. One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman says local restaurateurs are struggling to hire because of low wages in the county and competitive wages elsewhere.”
Nevin Martell profiles three bakers. Don’t know exactly what it said because we ran out of free articles for the month. But it looked interesting!
H&H plans to open 10 stores in the region using frozen bagels. They might have missed the window on that.
“George Washington University is teaming with chef and humanitarian activist José Andrés to launch a Global Food Institute in the nation’s capital, with a mandate to study inequities in hunger, nutrition and related issues, as well as identify solutions to problems with the world’s food supply.”
Watching the Detectives: Tom does a week-in-the-life of a restaurant critic. Bottom line: he eats and writes a lot. He does drop some tidbits. He says, “I visit places an average of three times” when reviewing for his dining column. This is a bit of a drop-off from when he said he would “typically visit a restaurant for a starred (or not!) review in the Magazine three times, sometimes more, depending on the nature of the restaurant.“ Note the industry standard is two times minimum for a full review. Out to dinner with his editor he says they discussed several thing, including a theme for the Fall Dining Guide. We recently suggested it could be a valedictory piece announcing his stepping aside having matched the beloved Phyllis Richman’s run of 23 years, but no such hint. “My to-do list of restaurants is dozens of names long, a mix of the new and the established.” Us too brother.
Media: Wine Spectator is getting sued for discrimination. But the suit makes another claim as well. “The lawsuit also alleges that senior editor James Molesworth violated the company’s blind tasting protocol, and Louis’ complaints about these breaches contributed to her termination. Louis also accuses Worobiec of making “demeaning and harassing remarks” about her throughout their working relationship. Molesworth declined to comment.” Specifically, “Louis also alleged the magazine retaliated against her after she reported that a reviewer violated blind- tasting protocols and wine scoring policies, according to the lawsuit. Paper bags cover wine bottles during blind tastings. Beginning in October 2022, Louis alerted Worobiec that a wine reviewer “repeatedly” changed wine scores after opening bags “mid-flight” – after the wines “were no longer ‘blind’ in the wine tasting process,” according to the complaint.” Not the first time wine scores or wine critics have been brought into question.
Spirits: “A state-run lottery to give Virginians first dibs on pricey whiskeys suffered from what was likely a human-induced flaw that wildly skewed the results, allowing several lucky participants to win multiple times.”
The Brewers Association held its Craft Beer Conference in Tennessee. It had some problems, some of them indicative of the culture in the brewing industry. The most noted issue was a presentation by the former head of Diversity and Inclusion at industry giant Constellation Brands called Privilege Is Your Superpower.
Speaking of Constellation Brands, it found success with Mexican labels like Modelo and Corona recently. Now it is selling off its craft portfolio (paywall).
FX Matt Brewing Company is acquiring Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland. Brewing will shift to FX Matt’s facility in New York, though they intend to do something with the Frederick location, perhaps an innovation lab.
Other Dining News
The Emerging Economy:
Lots of big economic numbers out over the last couple weeks. Inflation continues to be not bad, but not good. Increasing the odds of one more rate boost. However, it may be that the Fed’s work is done and it just needs to let it settle in. The jobs numbers are equally confusing, but leaning more toward toward good and a soft landing. “May’s hiring jump was almost exactly in line with the 12-month average of 341,000 in a job market that has held up remarkably well in an economy that has been slowing.” Hospitality did not lead the charge, but it did gain 48,000 jobs.
Inflation is hitting specific food stuffs hard. “Behind the sticker price for a loaf of bread includes the costs for not only key ingredients but also processing, packaging, transport, wages, storage and company markups.”
One factor is companies increasing prices to cover inflation and then some. Some blame greed, free market folks blame the government for giving consumers a cushion with stimulus, which companies couldn’t help but try to grab. “It seems to me that many telling the profit story forget that households have to actually spend money for the story to hold.”
Stacy Mitchell, writing an op-ed in the Times says it is market concentration. “To understand why grocery prices are way up, we need to look past the headlines about inflation and reconsider long-held ideas about the benefits of corporate bigness.”
Beard Foundation handed out media awards last night. Congratulations to all.
Meanwhile, more fall-out from the story about Beard using investigators to vet nominees. “Ms. Fore is among the first subjects of an investigatory process created in 2021 as part of that overhaul. But in many ways she is the kind of chef the retooled awards are meant to recognize more fully. Early indications suggest that the new process is vulnerable to failure in several ways.”
QR codes start to fade according the Times. “Fewer restaurants are creating new QR menus, he said. And about 75 percent of their existing QR codes are essentially dormant, with fewer than 90 views in the last year. (Half had fewer than five.)”
Also according to Kim Severson in the Times, “[Diners] want to feel like welcome guests again, wrapped in the kind of warm, competent hospitality they fantasized about while the pandemic took it all away.” You probably can have that experience again if you pay 50% more for a meal, in order for the restaurant to pay for the staffing required to do pre-pandemic service in a post-pandemic labor market. She quotes Will Guidara, the New York restaurateur of Eleven Madison Park fame that “Great food in the absence of hospitality is not a great value.” We think he is wrong. Perfunctory service and great food is still pretty darn good.
The psychology of fees is even more complex because they arrived at the same time as delivery services, which did not create the same backlash from consumers. The Post breaks down how the money gets distributed.
St. Acela(m)? The corridor train gets a cuisine upgrade from Stephen Starr.
Georgia peach crops are off. “Peach farmers across Middle Georgia say their crop has been all but wiped out by an unusually warm winter, which caused fruit development earlier than normal,followed by a brutal cold snap in March that killed the nascent buds.”
Ethical carnivores: “Social media has intertwined with the age-old practice of raising animals for meat in a distinctly modern way; everyone and their mother is quite literally on social today, and America’s family farms, butcher shops, and heirloom meat geeks are no exception.”
Catching up on New Yorkers, we found this strangely positive piece on Taco Bell’s research team.
Food & Culture:
The New Yorker also did a profile of Stephen Satterfield. “He worked tirelessly for three years to establish Whetstone. Two crowdfunding campaigns yielded barely four thousand dollars—enough to print two hundred copies. At first, his contributors wrote and photographed for free. People told him he was crazy. Gourmet had folded, Saveur was struggling, and David Chang’s Lucky Peach was about to go bust after six years. There were no other Black American publishers of food magazines.”
Meena Venkataramanan, in the Post, writes about the network of Punjabi restaurants in sparse places feeding long-haul truckers. “The Vega eatery is among an estimated 40 dhabas, and likely many more, that have popped up along American highways across the country in response to the growing number of Punjabi truckers, who have dominated the Indian trucking industry for decades. Punjabis now make up almost 20 percent of the U.S. trucking industry.” And there is a map!
Tejal Rao on the pop-up Filipino market in L.A. “They imagine the Manila District as an intergenerational space where new Filipino businesses can experiment, connect with their audience and grow. Though they’d like to have the market in Historic Filipinotown, gentrification is transforming that neighborhood, which is close to Echo Park and Silver Lake. For now, a parking lot in downtown Los Angeles is just more affordable. The Filled Market staff looks for vendors who are running small businesses all over the city, and into Orange County and Long Beach. Many of their most popular vendors, regardless of where they’re based, don’t have brick-and-mortar spaces.”
WTF: The Post profiles a farm-to-table operator northeast of Moscow using the cliched language of food writing while circling around the war. “Akimov’s dream for a better Russian future lies not in politics, protest or struggle, but in an idealistic and perhaps vain hope that people will follow his example, setting up farms, businesses or schools in rural regions, sacrificing materialistic values, and enriching local communities.” Hmm, maybe like an archipelago of them across the land? “Summer will bring luscious berries, tomatoes and cucumbers and later, toward fall, people will forage in the forest for prized white boletus mushrooms and vivid orange chanterelles.” It should be noted that Ukrainian rural regions are less serene these days due to Russian actions.
Padma’s run will end on Top Chef. “Lakshmi’s other television show, “Taste the Nation,” aired its second season, on Hulu. On it, she travels the United States, exploring what it means to cook and eat in America.” There is also the strange parallels of two former models hitting it big in the food world and then being in the same SI swimsuit issue.
There is a model emerging for how we can cover restaurants. “Mr. Cho, 34, is the public face of Righteous Eats, which shines a spotlight on small New York restaurants, ones mostly run by immigrants and members of minority groups. Righteous Eats, which has nearly 400,000 combined followers on TikTok and Instagram, is not in the business of so-called food porn. In the crowded market of food influencers, where butter boards and cheese pulls are common attempts at going viral, Righteous Eats offers viewers a more nutrient-dense content experience. Food is the hook, but Righteous Eats is really a platform to celebrate the people who make up one of the world’s most diverse cities.”
Odds & Ends:
Gloucester Cheese Roll. “Canadian contestant Delaney Irving, 19, won the women’s race despite being briefly knocked unconscious.”
A burglar broke into a Vancouver bakery. Then called to apologize and offered to pay for the damages.
We missed this from Jaya Saxena a little while back. “So yes, when I get a text [from Resy] that says ‘Great, done. Thanks.’ I feel somehow scolded. I didn’t do anything to deserve a period.”
Phew. That was a lot. Thanks for reading!