Week in Review – 9/24/2023

Image: Hold on for one more week.

Dearest Gentle Reader, this week activity on our site is brought you by the letter “B” and many comings and goings. Food media focused on really important stories and stories that had no importance, but as one sage soul explained you can play for wins or clicks. So, shall we? Let’s…

Updates to the D.C. Recommended Restaurant List

Revisited:

BlackSalt – The long-standing fish palace in the Palisades remains good, sometimes surprisingly so.

Beefsteak – Veggies reign supreme at the last outpost of the fast-casual concept.

Comings and Goings:

Landlords and leases seemed to be driving a lot of decisions. We start with Equinox moving to 19th Street.

Booeymonger gives up the ghost of its last spot in D.C. A legend the did not die, but faded away.

Fancy Radish, which did a lot for D.C.’s culinary scene and H Street calls it quits. Closing October 14.

Andy’s Pizza continues its run. It is taking over the Tigerella spot in Western Market. No slight to Andy’s, but it is a shame something a little nicer could not be found for that spot, but the economics are probably bad for anything counting on dinner.

D.C. Dining News

Mitch Ryals in the City Paper flags legislation to improve jail food.

Jessica Sidman does a service by creating a list of when hard to get spots go live with reservations.

Compensation: Montgomery County is considering a minimum wage increase for tipped workers. See also Chicago below.

Getting Paid: Paola Velez designed kitchen wear for Urban Outfitters in honor of undocumented kitchen workers as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. She also is working with Nordstrom Cafes.

Media:

Big Schlim looked at another low-rated spot in the DMV. His order brought to mind the history of Chinese take-out spots in the District that Dish City did an episode on. Consider showing him some love.

Serious question: is anyone on the City Paper staff getting paid for these? Or is it auto-generated?

We notice that Tom’s chats are routinely overrun by questions on where to eat in places other than D.C. That though also brought to mind that Tom won his Beard award for writing about food elsewhere. Seems like there is a niche to be filled if the Post wanted to.

Drink

Wine:

A reminder that the connection between agriculture and wine production is more direct than almost any other beverage. “As Italy’s autumn grape harvest begins, winemakers are braced for a sharp drop in output after a rampant fungus ruined vines, thriving on drought followed by torrential spring rain.”

The ongoing fight between cannabis and wine in California.

The fight between mass producers and smaller-scale winemakers in Rioja. “ABRA and BFR, who largely share the same grievances against Rioja’s wine board over the excessive production of high volume relatively low-cost wines are formed of small and medium-sized producers who want to ensure economic and environmental sustainability through the production of quality artisanal wines.” Once you sell your soul it is hard to get it back. Just ask Chianti.

Are wine growlers going to be a thing? Feels like a return to the old ways.

Understanding the bell pepper thing in cab.

In the Telegraph from London, how somms pair vegetarian food. Essentially look at the overall nature of the dish – the sauce, the herbs, the preparation (stewed, seared, raw, etc) – as much, if not more than the main ingredient. The somms polled also tended to emphasize the acidity of the wine as a key matching component.

Lo/No:

Starbucks sued over fruity drinks that lack the fruit. “A New York court decided that the proposed class-action suit could proceed despite Starbucks’s request for dismissal, saying in a Saturday ruling that it was reasonable for consumers to expect drinks with fruits in their names to have those fruits in them. Central to the suit, which was filed in August 2022, are claims that despite several Refresher drinks having the words “acai” “passionfruit” or “mango” in their names, the drinks don’t have these fruits in their ingredients.”

An intrepid soul is trying all the coffee shops in D.C. Having labored in similar fields, we wish her luck.

Other News

Food Sources:

Black farmers in Washington State build a community. “But, as part of the nonprofit Black Farmers Collective, Small Axe is more than just a place for growing food. It’s also a place for growing Black-owned farm-based businesses and helping the collective to fulfill its mission: building a Black-led food system that heals and enlivens Seattle’s Black community. The collective collaborates with Black-led markets and food banks, and brings people together to celebrate life and land, with its farms and farmers at the center of its efforts.”

Salmon fisheries, by their nature, often are canaries in the coal mine. In Alaska a different kind of mine raises red flags. For decades, a Canadian company has sought to excavate an enormous open pit mine at the headwaters of the 40,000 square mile Bristol Bay watershed in southwest Alaska. Called the Pebble Mine, it would destroy the planet’s most productive salmon fishery and impoverish the communities the fishery sustains.

Southern Louisiana facing “saltwater intrusion” due to lack of freshwater keeping the seawater at bay. Flagged by DC Food Pundit.

More on the crab invasion in Italy.

Compensation:

Chicago is moving toward eliminating the tipped minimum wage. Interestingly, the proposal moved forward after a deal was struck with the Illinois Restaurant Association, which wanted a longer phase-in period. Does that signal a shift by restaurants to accept the trend or do they think five years will give them enough time to create the same post-Initiative 82 backlash that we are seeing in D.C. and ultimately undermine the effort?

Food & Law:

Tyson and Perdue are under investigation for violating child labor laws.

McDonald’s sued for hot coffee spillage again. The famous case was third degree burns, this one first and second. Beware of unsecure lids.

Food & Culture:

What if the future of Chinatowns is younger Chinese-Americans? “In some ways, this is the story of Manhattan’s Chinatown, too: born in another era and yet urgently of this one, old and new at once, ever in flux and yet somehow timeless, if only in the mind.” Thanks to our special correspondent for flagging.

Derek Guy, the menswear commentator who Twitter’s algorithm turned into a thing, wrote about how to enjoy nice men’s clothes that are tailored, like suits, now that work is so casual. His suggestion is to dress up to eat out. “If outdressing your coworkers still makes you feel uneasy, there’s a simple solution: go to a nice restaurant. By “nice restaurant,” we don’t mean three-star Michelin-rated establishments where you pay a month’s rent for an appetiser. Think something a little more upscale than where you go for lunch.” Of course, in D.C. few people dress up even for fancy places and long-standing decorum is fading even in the most traditional of institutions.

Andrew Zimmern is arguing for thinking big about food’s biggest challenges.

From the Times: Last year, UNESCO officially deemed harissa, the brick red, aromatic chile paste, “an integral part of domestic provisions and the daily culinary and food traditions of Tunisian society.” Keyword: Tunisian.

The decline of pepper? “Black pepper was a form of currency, a sacrosanct salve, and the prime source of heat in subcontinental food for millennia. Europeans colonized India as it sought the priceless pepper. Yet, over time, the world’s most-traded spice transformed from “black gold” to ubiquitous kitchen staple, one we often take for granted.” (Subscription Required)

Industry:

We normally don’t link to longer videos, but this interview with a prominent and successful owner of a BBQ spot in Texas helped explain and frame a lot of the issues facing the industry. The interview followed a FB post where owner Arnis Robbins wrote as part of a longer post: “2023 has been the most difficult year of our existence. There was a point in March where we were facing a tough reality. I wasn’t sure if we would survive April. Up to that point we had always operated 4 days per week, not because we were lazy, but because that worked from a labor scheduling standpoint and the revenue generated those days was always enough to cover overhead and operating expenses. 2023 was different though, all of a sudden we were short, sales were down, bills were up. We were left holding the bag of a business we had grown as fast as we could… we were a 15 passenger van on a corvette chassis that was all of a sudden half filled and driving through a school zone. When faced with the reality that we may not make it through April, I sprung it on our team that we were going to expand our days of operation to Tuesday-Sunday. When the end was near, we buckled down and realized we had to work harder to net the same relative success that we had before.”

It echoes what Jessica Sidman posted recently. “We as Americans haven’t been paying for the true cost of food for a long time. We’ve been paying for unsustainably low wages. We’ve been paying for unsustainably thin profit margins. We’ve been paying for commodity ingredients which are easily disrupted by supply chain issues.” It is also a retort to those who seem to think what appears to be a successful business is running huge profits.

Vittles asks Londoners what is wrong with its restaurants. They have many answers, most of which will sound familiar to those of us in large American cities.

Restaurants in China as support for cash-strapped youth. “The waitress set a pot of boiling broth in the middle of the table and arranged the small dishes of snacks that come free with any meal here at Haidilao, one of China’s best-known hot pot restaurant chains. It was just before midnight. ‘I can bring you a blanket and a pillow,’ she said, ‘but you’ll have to be out at 7 a.m.’ This offer — to sleep in a booth and get a night’s rest in central Shanghai for the price of dinner — is one that scores of young people have recently taken her up on, the waitress said.”

A restaurant in Japan that offers support to elderly with dementia. “This 12-seat cafe in Sengawa, a suburb in western Tokyo, hires elderly people with dementia to work as servers once a month. A former owner of the cafe has a parent with dementia, and the new owner agreed to let them rent out the space each month as a dementia cafe.”

Big food falling short on greenhouse goals.

Media:

In 2019, an Egyptian outlet wrote a story about how one company had been given a monopoly to export Halal meat to the United States from Egypt. The reporter, Nada Arafat, covers stories at the intersection of food, economics, and the environment. This week, the United States Department of Justice brought charges against the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for corruption. At the heart of those charges is the Halal meat scheme. This story sat out there for four years, but no one picked it up.

This week the Times and Post did devote space to David Brooks’ social media post about a meal in Newark airport, how tik-tok stars are getting cookbook deals, which follows last week’s story about how tik-tok made a Paris bar famous. The Post also did a hard-hitting investigation into a Chik-fil-A pilot restaurant serving burgers in Maryland, which uncovered a press release about it. Big Schlim got there three days before, though he was not credited.

Which is also a way to say if the Times comes out with a list of the 50 Best Restaurants in the U.S. and they don’t include a single spot from D.C., then it is hard to get worked up about it. The purpose, like many lists, is not to be authoritative. It is to be fodder for discussion. Probably on social media. At least, unlike Michelin, they cover New Orleans. The bigger worry, given the end of the Sports section this week, is that in five years it will be done by ChatGPT and you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Also on the social media intersection, Barstool Sports rose on crassness and abuse. Now it’s owner is trying the sponsor a pizza-tasting contest. There is backlash.

Odds & Ends:

The Board of Tea Experts is shutting down.

Maybe we need a board of hoagie experts? Our understanding is that mayo was standard on a hoagie. That and the bread is what set it apart from other subs.

###

That’s it. Thanks for reading this far. If you are looking for a place to eat, please keep us in mind. Our D.C. dining guide has 300+ recommended restaurants sortable by cuisine or neighborhood in either LIST or MAP format.

Please give us a follow, if you don’t already. We are on FB, Insta, and Twitter.  Click on the icons at the top or bottom of this page to stay up to date.

Be Kind. Be Patient. Tip Big.