Hot vax (mandate) summer, Tex-nix, Greenblatt's gone, and more...

Family Meal - Friday, August 13th, 2021

Hello Friday the 13th,

Tuesday’s Family Meal is copy / pasted below for the non-paying among you who missed it. I love you all like a mama Voorhees loves her cub, but if you have the means and desire to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays…

Let’s get to it…

The Mandates – Light background piano; Ella Fitzgerald voice: New York does it / San Francisco does it / Even wild New Orleans does it / Let’s do it / Let’s mandate vaccines.

NYC announced it was mandating at least one dose for eating / drinking indoors over a week ago, but per Trisha Thadani in the SF Chronicle yesterday: “San Francisco will become the first major city in the country to require proof of full vaccination against the coronavirus for a variety of indoor activities, including visiting bars, restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues that serve food or beverages…. Nearly 80% of the city’s eligible population has been vaccinated, and officials hope the new rule will push holdouts to finally get the shot. The mandate will take effect Friday, Aug. 20” for customers. “Employees of the establishments will have until Oct. 13 to be vaccinated.”

And on Nola.com yesterday, via Ben Myers: “New Orleans to require COVID vaccines or negative tests for bars, Superdome, other venues. 'We really have no choice,' said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. 'The situation is dire.'…  The requirement covers anyone currently eligible for the vaccines. In addition to eating and drinking establishments and the Saints' upcoming preseason games… the rule will be enforced at fitness centers, casinos, strip clubs and race tracks, as well as events at the Smoothie King Center. It also covers outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people if the total attendance is greater than 50% of the venue's capacity.”

Meanwhile, in Texas, mandates are illegal: “Two days after announcing a new policy that required indoor diners to provide proof of at least one round of COVID-19 vaccination, sister restaurants Launderette and Fresa’s changed their policy after receiving a phone call and letter from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission alerting them that they were in violation of Section 14 of Senate Bill 968…. The bill, passed this summer, prohibits businesses from requiring customers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.” Details via Matthew Odam in the Austin Statesman.

Austin reaction probably best summed up by Eater’s Nadia Chaudhury on Twitter: “this is so fucking ridiculous and dumb”.

And a quick follow-up on the festival circuit: Food & Wine’s Family Reunion has again updated their COVID guidelines, now going with daily temp checks and universal masking (indoors and out), but still no vaccine requirement.

P.S. – I don’t understand constitutional law and I recommend never responding to trolls, but if you do mandate vaccines and need a “I hope you take it all the way to the Supreme Court!” link for your virtual host stand, here’s a Thursday NYT headline courtesy of noted liberal justice Amy Coney Barrett: “The Supreme Court won’t block Indiana University’s vaccine mandate.”

The End of an Era – In LA, “Greenblatt’s Deli and Fine Wines will be closing permanently today after 95 years of business in West Hollywood. The iconic Jewish deli, which has fed countless Angelenos and Hollywood stars over the years, will close due to the difficulty of running the business and finding staff, says a source at the restaurant.” Eater’s Matthew Kang has the story, and some hope that “a buyer such as Irving and Shelli Azoff, who purchased famous Beverly Hills deli Nate n’ Al Delicatessen, as well as the Apple Pan in West LA, could come in to save [it].” Or maybe YOU?

The (Media) Zeitgeist? – Quick observation for food media followers / critics: At time of writing, two of the top four articles that make up the above-the-scroll section on the NYT Food homepage are about climate change (Victoria Petersen on salmon and Eric Asimov on wine), while the next section down has Pete Wells reviewing the relatively casual Banh Vietnamese Shop House; Priya Krishna thinking through “ethnic aisles” and defining restaurants struggles for guests with Julie Creswell; Christina Morales announcing a second season of Netflix’s show about the history of African American cuisine, High on the Hog; Kim Severson on a program to help landless small farmers in Georgia; and two articles on vegetarian cooking, one of which is a teaser for Tejal Rao’s new newsletter, The Veggie.

Do with that anecdotal snapshot what you will. I’m just saying I noticed.

And last and least – Check out the new website Stolen Stories, which allows users to download Instagram stories from pricey restaurants like Per Se, Carbone and Le Bernardin and post them as their own. The site explains it best: “We ripped Instagram stories of rich people’s expensive food so you can flex like those suckers who paid $100 for one scallop on a 20” plate.” Living large in 2021, baby!

There’s helpful background on the site from Jelisa Castrodale in Vice, and also I plagiarized almost that entire previous paragraph from Danielle Hyams and the Expedite newsletter just to stay on theme.

And that’s it for today! Except of course for Tuesday’s Family Meal which is copy / pasted below as usual. Again, if you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays, please do…

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or a variety of indoor activities, including visiting bars, restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues that serve food or beverages to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, become a paying subscriber! If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!

Here begins Family Meal from Tuesday, August 10, 2021:

$48B for RRF, Rents down for NY, $15 for all, Jock in Oz, and more...

Hello Tuesday,

Have you read the latest climate change report? No spoilers please! I’m hoping it’s good news.

Let’s get to it…

The Relief – On Saturday, “A bipartisan group of senators — including U.S. Senate committee on small business and entrepreneurship chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — introduced legislation… to add $48 billion in emergency funding to the depleted Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The group of senators sought unanimous consent to pass the funding legislation but were blocked by an objection.” Reminder from Joanna Fantozzi in RH: “This is the third attempt Congress has made to introduce a replenishment for the [fund],” since two earlier bills have yet to advance to voting.

Given that those two other bills called for $60B in new money, $48B is obviously a bit of a step down, but for all the angry comparisons to airline bailouts and 2008’s too-big-to-fail banks, maybe fun to look through the Dems newly proposed $3.5T budget framework and to see what else $76.6B (original $28.6B RRF plus the refill) might buy the government this year? Maybe? Let’s do it.

Per Dana Farrington and Barbara Sprunt’s breakdown of the budget proposal on NPR: $76.6B for RRF would be almost four times the “$20.5 billion [budgeted] toward Native health programs and facilities, education, housing, energy, and language programs”; over four times the “$18 billion toward upgrading VA facilities”; about twice the “$37 billion toward improving cybersecurity infrastructure, border management investments, federal investments in green materials procurement”; and a little more than half of “$135 billion to go toward agriculture conservation, drought and forestry programs to reduce carbon emissions and prevent wildfires, climate research, debt relief, child nutrition, and funding for a Civilian Climate Corps.”

Still, there is always a lot of money in Washington (real, imaginary, future, temporary, zero-sum, quantum, etc.), and if President Kevin Kline taught us anything, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The Non-Norm  – Industry problems made the front page of the NYT on Sunday, under the headline: “Back to Normal? It’s a Tall Order as New York City Restaurants Struggle.” They even sent out a push notification for Priya Kirshna’s story: “Grand Reopening? New York’s restaurants are packed again but behind the scenes, it’s a scramble for staff, supplies and survival. And the Delta variant looms.”

Mostly an explainer for people outside the industry, but good for at least two things inside: First, as press pressure on congress considering those RRF refills. And second, as anecdotal pressure on landlords if you’ve got a tough one:

“‘Nobody is looking at the old rents that we were paying and saying, “You have to pay that,”’ said Danny Abrams, who shut the East Village location of his Mermaid Inn last fall but plans to reopen this fall. ‘Everybody has come down. But it took a while for some landlords to get there.’”

The New Norm – Headline in the Washington Post: “For first time, average pay for supermarket and restaurant workers tops $15 an hour.” Details via Andrew Van Dam and Heather Long: “Overall, nearly 80 percent of U.S. workers now earn at least $15 an hour, up from 60 percent in 2014. Job sites and recruiting firms say many job seekers won’t even consider jobs that pay less than $15 anymore. For years, low-paid workers fought to make at least that much. Now it has effectively become the new baseline.”

The (international) Little Pieces – Quick trip to Oz? Quick trip to Oz! A wild one is playing out in The Sydney Morning Herald right now, with writer Tim Elliott publishing a massive fact check one of the country’s most famous chefs: “Jock Zonfrillo is now among the most recognised chefs in Australia. Certainly, his work on MasterChef has made him an influential figure, with the capacity to make or break careers. Now he has released a memoir, Last Shot, a gripping tale of drug abuse, violence and kitchen chaos, much in the vein of Anthony Bourdain’s 2000 global bestseller Kitchen Confidential…. Yet according to a number of people I speak to, many of the stories that Zonfrillo tells about himself in the book and elsewhere differ markedly from their own recollections of events.”

Marco Pierre White says the star role he plays in Zonfrillo’s origin story is completely made up; none of the chef’s close friends seem to believe he was ever addicted to heroin (as he claims); his early CV is mostly in question; and he is accused of lying about everything from jobs he’s been “offered” to the extent of burns he caused a line cook to having closed his restaurant because of COVID (when it was allegedly just never making money).

Zonfrillo and his publisher stand by the memoir, and Simon & Schuster threatened to sue the newspaper if sales are damaged by the article, but… woo boy. Worth the read before you go and publish a memoir yourself, you fabulist beast you!

And last and least – Everyone knows the lyrics from Dave Mathews Band’s famous song, 3AM (“Well I can't help but be scared of it all sometimes / And the rain's gonna wash away I believe it,”) but not everyone knows their origin story. Big shout out to Ashok Selvam and Aimee Levitt for using a celebrity dining sighting to remind us all that nearly two decades ago, DMB’s tour bus dumped 800 pounds of sewage onto a packed tour boat in the Chicago River: “Dave Matthews Dines on the Chicago River 17 Years After His Tour Bus Famously Befouled ItRPM Seafood is about a half mile from the 2004 incident.”

Perfect.

I hope we do this every year.

And that’s it for today!

I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal. Oh, and if you got this as a forward and wish you were getting this thing on Tuesday too…

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or drought and forestry programs to reduce carbon emissions and prevent wildfires to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, become a paying subscriber! If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!