Image: Gregory Peck, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956).
Dearest Gentle Reader, this week on our recap of activity on our site and other dining news we highlight two neighborhood Italian spots and take note of larger economic trends locally and nationally. Climate issues also have a big week, and the changing British palate. So shall we proceed?
Updates to the D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Morgana – The relatively new spot in Adams Morgan does snacks and pasta for hanging out or sharing.
I’m Eddie Cano – The now-established spot in Chevy Chase continues to do well by its neighborhood.
D.C. Dining News
Jessica Sidman in the Washingtonian does a couple of lists, one for hidden gems and one for vibe spots. The hidden gems is interesting because it shows just how many great spots we have in D.C. that are under the radar or underrated or underappreciated. For the vibe spots she throws Vera a bone after it took some lumps from Tom.
Media: Tom did an interview with City Cast DC podcast. Is he being more available in doing speaking outside of his writing? Per the story below about food writing, it is interesting that the rest of food writing is obsessed with current trends and formats, yet Tom continues to view the job primarily through the consumer advocate lens that is a legacy going back some fifty years.
The Emerging Local Economy:
Office occupancy is down in the District, below 50%. “In-person office work has reached only about 40-43% of pre-pandemic levels on an average weekday in 2022 and throughout the first few months of 2023.” For the hospitality industry the results are mixed. “While in-person office work and new development has yet to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, the DowntownDC BID report indicates that the area’s retail and hospitality industries are faring better, and it’s the BID’s hope that a forthcoming “action plan” to revitalize the district will help bridge the gap between consumer demand and the area’s offerings. Hotel occupancy, “destination” restaurants, and high-end shopping are all performing at 90-130% of pre-pandemic levels, per the report. (Office-dependent cafes and restaurants are performing at 60-70% of pre-pandemic levels, a testament to how thoroughly changes in work life have upended the area’s landscape.)”
Axios on the I-82 fees. Notably, Knead’s Jason Berry says he is not longer going to open spots in D.C. “I’m not opening any more restaurants in D.C. The city is no longer welcoming to small businesses.” Eat DC reports that Knead continues to move forward with a new spot near Union Station that will open later this year. So maybe it’s like the other Barry who will change starting……now!
The Vin. Vitalité. group, previously Women of Wine, continues to chug a long. They are hosting a meet-up in Arlington.
Will France change the rules to allow adding water as climate change jacks up alcohol levels. “Producers in Southern Europe know water addition to must goes on, but few want to admit to using what remains a taboo practice. Unlike in the US, where watering musts to facilitate fermentation is permitted, the procedure remains prohibited in the European Union, other than for dissolving food additives and processing aids including bentonite.”
The Emerging Economy:
Big numbers came out this week. One measure of inflation and the one the Fed prefers, show progress. “Headline PCE inflation including food and energy costs also increased 0.2% on the month and rose 3% on an annual basis. The yearly rate was the lowest since March 2021 and moved down from 3.8% in May.” The Fed remains hawkish, raising rates again this week, but it might be the last time this year.
Our Boiling Planet:
Salmon season feasting by Grizzlies delayed because of warm weather.
Hot water in the Atlantic and fisheries. “Scientists are concerned that if the current North Atlantic marine heat wave continues it could repeat the impact of similar marine heat waves around the globe. Both the 2011 Western Australia and 2014-2016 US West Coast marine heat waves reduced fish populations to such an extent that fisheries closed for more than three years to help rebuild fish stocks.” More on the overall trend.
In Columbia Journalism Review, Alissa Quart, who generally writes about inequality, looks over the fence at journalistic fields adjacent to hers of restaurant and real estate coverage. She says real estate coverage caters to the investor class and the aspirational but gives short shrift to major topics or audiences like, “refinancing, foreclosures, modest homeowners, anyone who has a home or wants a home.” Likewise, food coverage, “includes costly recipes involving specialized or expensive ingredients and reviews of high-end restaurants and profiles of famous chefs. Food writers note to me that what is often minimized or passes unmentioned: the restaurant workers themselves; the un-compostable plastic that encases almost all take-out meals; the unaffordability of certain recipes (saffron! pounds of fish!); or even regularly noting that the cost of fine dining, especially in inflationary times, is often out of reach of many of us.”
Karen Stabiner, writing in the Times, calls influencers shakedown artists. “Traditional restaurant reporting comes in two basic flavors, celebratory and, more recently, investigative, but I think both approaches have in common a love of the subject — of the role restaurants play in our communities and of the people who work in them. When influencers take advantage of restaurants, there’s no love to be found. They’re in the business of exploitation.” She is focused on the most egregious of the practitioners, but it raises the same questions raised in the high days of Yelp. Who can you trust? The problem is more grave now that social media has squeezed out the bloggers, diminished the message boards, and undermined the food sections in old-line publications.
Amanda Michelle Gomez, who flagged the CJR piece, notes that this was the kind of writing Laura Hayes did in Washington City Paper. It is also what she is doing at DCist, but publications supporting this are dwindling, including WCP, which did not backfill Hayes’ position.
We will also note the clear implications of the Athletic substitution for in-house writing/editing at the Times sports section. If you are food section doing lists, press release re-writes, and recipes as your primary content (which is to say nearly every major publication in D.C. right now), you will be lucky to be replaced by contracted staff. The A.I. future is gunning for your section and staff.
Food & Culture:
Alicia Kennedy uses the “girl dinner” story to delve deeper into food and politics. “As I’ve been reading and talking about what makes a leftist recipe, I keep coming back to this point. And I think what would make a leftist recipe, a revolutionary recipe, would be—first and foremost—the creation of conditions where a person’s gender doesn’t explicitly or implicitly undergird their relationship to food and its cooking.” Note she has a book coming out and will be in town to promote it discussing it with Rob Rubba at Bold Fork Books.
This is more about the culture of the food industry. Jay Rayner in the Guardian defends the solo diner, though it is not really under threat.
Also in the Guardian, how hot sauce is taking off in Britain contrary to the tradition of British palate. “The traditional British aversion to spicy food seems to have finally been allayed as sales for hot sauces increased significantly in the last year. According to Waitrose, sales of hot sauces are up 55% year on year. Sales of sriracha are particularly strong with a rise of 22%.”
Vittles out of London has a bunch of new content this week, including this gem, “I’ll admit that, as an American, my first reaction to London’s taco scene was disgust.”
Odds & Ends:
The Cheese Game. A funny old George Plimpton clip.
Thanks for reading. We hope the storms did not hit you too hard. Enjoy the slightly cooler weather. We will be taking advantage of the D.C. August slowdown, so no Week in Review for a couple weeks.