Image: Philip Guston, The Line (1978). Did the National Gallery anticipate Barbenheimer when it slated the Guston show for this summer?
Dearest Gentle Reader, we hope you are keeping cool as we buckle down for the home stretch of summer. We suggest a cold drink and some shade while you read our weekly recap of activity on our site and other dining news, including some contrarian takes on a couple issues. So shall we proceed? Let’s…
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Petite Cerise – The Dabney spinoff does French with some flair but keeps it neighborhood friendly.
Panda Gourmet – The legendary spot in the Days Inn off New York Avenue is a treasure.
D.C. Dining News
Media: Tom Sietsema made news with his review this week by dinging the Ivy City restaurant Vera for missteps, possibly his first semi-negative review in years. The headline characterized it, “Vera stylishly blends two cuisines, but service leaves a sour taste.” Closer examination showed it was more management problems of how to deal with various problems for the new restaurant not technically service. Vera opened just two months ago, and would have been open a month or less when Tom started visiting. Both the problems identified by Tom, mismanaging the 90-minute time limit on tables and not having a printed bottle wine list that resulted in a price gouge, are things that are likely to be sorted out (and may have been sorted out before the review went to print) as the place settled in, especially because Tom posted on Twitter about them (without mentioning restaurant). The review instead focused on the missteps, possibly knocking backwards a restaurant with potential in an area with low foot traffic. Sadly, the food got a strong thumbs up from Tom, but that is overshadowed by the take-down. That said, the set-up of the review was where Tom matched Vera’s misstep with one of his own (he’s on a roll). Tom seems to think the covid/inflation/labor shortage era is a thing of the past and restaurants should be able to perform at a high level with no impact from that last three years. That is oblivious to reality. Adam Reiner called out this sense of entitlement and the underlying problem of the state of food journalism.
Compensation: Likewise the workers at Compliments Only may not realize that there is a difference between social media buzz/winning awards and actual profits. In response to their demands for unionization and a large salary increase the owners push back in a respectful way, unlike Starbucks.
Will popularity crush a traditional Mexican fermented beverage? “As a growing number of entrepreneurs look to the beverage as the next breakthrough category in the booming ready-to-drink market in the United States, some worry that the culture surrounding the living beverage will be jeopardized as it’s transformed into a shelf-stable format.”
Beer: Last week Sapporo USA announced it was shutting down craft brewing pioneer Anchor Steam. We suggested that the corporate model may not be reconcilable to the craft beer industry. Vinepair reports now that employees at the company are looking to turn it into a co-op.
Health: Alder Yarrow comments on Emily Oster’s piece in the Atlantic on the correlation of alcohol and heath. Oster comes down with a summary as to the current state of play: “We cannot conclusively prove that moderate alcohol consumption is totally benign, much less beneficial. Based on the data we have, it also seems extremely unlikely that moderate alcohol consumption is fully “bad” for your health.” Yarrow’s practice/advice is: “Enjoy your wine. Not too much. A glass a day a few days a week, or split a bottle with a friend once or twice a week.”
Illegal muscle-building drugs were found in pork exported to Mexico in 2022 from plants in North Carolina and Minnesota. We should note this story was in the Food section of the Post. Well done.
A large lake re-emerged when massive snowmelt flooded the farm lands of California’s Central Valley. In a series about milk production world-wide and its impact, a British magazine tells the story of the original lake from the perspective of those who were displaced.
“Agricultural pesticides leach far from their original sources into the world’s waterways, according to new research which finds pesticides exceed safe levels in 13,000km of rivers globally. Analysing 92 of the most common agricultural pesticides, scientists have estimated that 710 tonnes of pesticide active ingredients leach into the world’s oceans each year.”
An oversupply of milks has Midwestern dairy farmers dumping product (paywall).
From a different story from the milk series cited above. “In the UK, there are over 1,000 intense mega-farms, some housing as many as a million animals. Over the last 50 years, dairy farming has become more intensive and the amount of milk produced by each cow has increased dramatically.” The story looks at the impact on soil health.
The founder of Eater, Resy has a new idea of a loyalty program. Don’t think of Eater as a “watchdog” of restaurants.
Just like the stories about Vera and Compliments Only above, what there is a story out of England that takes on a different hue post-2020 – and where we dissent from the consensus. A fancy tasting menu restaurant is charging double for solo diners, essentially charging for the table rather than the meal. The owner explained, “If we didn’t implement this, revenues would be down up to 25% and empty seats left in the restaurant – often only to be followed by larger groups wanting to book tables allocated to solo diners.” As many noted this is not the height of hospitality, which must be conceded. But hospitality is often an expense. Just like with service charges, this is one where the restaurant is making the expense explicit and directly passing it along to the customer. We would note that The Menu anticipated this in a way, but the less awkward/expensive tact is to take a friend out to dinner.
Food & Culture:
Bettina Makalintal takes note of the cultural moment that pie is having, especially as an emblem for the idea of the United States. The focus of the piece is on Stacey Mei Yan Fong’s 50 Pies, 50 States book where the author does a pie for every state. Fong recently did a fun talk at Bold Fork Books where they are sure to have copies to purchase.
The future of Fish and Chips in the U.K. Excerpt from a long piece: Earlier this month, I was back on a tattie run through the East Neuk. The weekly delivery was no longer being driven by Richard Murray. It was no longer weekly. With fewer businesses to sell to, potato orders in the region were often so reduced that Murray’s boss, Conor Booth, could handle a delivery using his pickup truck. Booth met me in the truck and we thundered along the coast road. It was raining, “a real dreich”, Booth said. As we went, he talked about potato prices, twice what they were a year ago and causing yet another threat to businesses. There had been a weak seasonal yield. It was unfortunate timing. In fish and chips, Booth said, “if there wasn’t bad luck, there wouldn’t be any luck”.
Odds & Ends
Ice cream so good. We fear AI, we imitate AI.
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