NY AG spots pigs, SF "PR" shakes down, The Black Hoof turns legend, an honest First look at Boston, and more...
Family Meal - Tuesday, August 21st, 2018
Back home from Taipei, and wow that town deserves more attention. Lots of little side streets chock full of restaurants worth popping into, a commitment to snack / candy innovation (and tradition) that almost forced us to check a second bag, and a pop art / craft scene that was pure cartoon joy. Highly recommend. (And happy to go back if any media readers need Taiwan content…)
Let’s get to it…
The Investigation – The NYT’s Danny Hakim and Julia Moskin report: “On Monday, the office of Barbara D. Underwood, the NY state attorney general, issued a subpoena to the Spotted Pig’s holding company and its majority owner, the restaurateur Ken Friedman, according to a person with direct knowledge of the subpoena who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was not yet public. The subpoena, part of a civil rights investigation that the person said the office had been conducting for months, seeks records related both to Mr. Friedman and the celebrity chef Mario Batali… The NYPD said in May that it was investigating whether to charge Mr. Batali on criminal counts related to two women’s complaints that he sexually assaulted them at the Spotted Pig and Babbo…. The attorney general’s office, on the other hand, is conducting a civil investigation to determine whether city or state laws were broken at the Spotted Pig.”
The Unlisted – Don’t roll your eyes at this headline – “Why don’t Boston restaurants win national awards?” – in the Boston Globe. Critic Devra First is not whining. She basically agrees when the national critics tell her the city doesn’t deserve awards right now, and takes an honest look at the barriers to entry the city has put up (think: $400k liquor licenses), the brain drain those barriers have caused (think: pastry chef Justin Burke-Samson ditching town for Kindred and Hello, Sailor in NC, and Andrew Taylor heading up to Hugo’s, Honey Paw, and Eventide in Maine), and her own blind spots when it comes to championing less prominent restaurants in a “segmented” (and segregated) city. Highly recommend this read. The national critics quoted (Eater’s Bill Addison, Food & Wine’s Jordana Rothman, Bon Appétit’s Andrew Knowlton) don’t say anything very new (mostly some variation on, “Find an interesting way to tell your local story well!”), but if you’re struggling for attention and think you deserve it, always worth hearing what they say they’re looking for.
The Profile Treatment – The NYT’s Melissa Clark has a short write-up on Nasim Alikhani of Sofreh in Brooklyn, who came to the industry a bit later than usual: “The idea to open a restaurant was always in the back of her mind, but she put it off year after year, waiting for her children to grow up. She started the process in earnest when they were in middle school, but it wasn’t until they were out of college that she finally was able to open Sofreh in June. Just after she opened, Ms. Alikhani turned 59.”
The Gimmick – D.C.’s Drink Company (The Columbia Room) has used its spaces for temporary, popular, and lucrative tributes to Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, and (the decidedly less trademarked) Christmas, but when owner Derek Brown tried to do a Rick and Morty pop-up this month, producers at Comedy Central’s Adult Swim forced him to shut it down. An IP lawyer representing Drink Company told the Washington Post’s Fritz Hahn, “Companies are getting more and more upset with fan tributes — fan art, fan fiction — and they're trying to enforce their rights in a way that hasn't been done before…. I think this is about a line being drawn in the sand. They're looking to control fan tributes, to make sure it's authorized.” Fair warning re: fair use. A look at what might’ve been in Vice.
The Tribute – “A public event to honor the late Jonathan Gold will be held in downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 26 and will feature food trucks, remembrances from his family and friends, and previously unseen footage from the documentary ‘City of Gold.’ The evening gathering will be free and held downtown on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall.” Details and schedule in the LAT.
The Shakedown – In SF, the Chronicle’s Justin Phillips reports restaurants are getting amateur extortion emails lately: “Serpentine in the Dogpatch neighborhood received an email from a person calling herself a ‘PR manager.’ The email… said the sender was hired by one of Serpentine’s competitors to share negative information, such as ‘awful photos of the food containing hair and insects…. I don't want to hurt your restaurant reputation therefore I offer you to have a deal,’ the email reads. ‘I’ll refuse to fulfill this order if you compensate me the amount that I'll lose in case of failure to fulfill order.’” Reply cc: SFPD.
Some sad news – “Before food writing went digital, he wrote for almost every publication that mattered, from Esquire to Gourmet, and spent decades on the masthead of Town & Country. James Villas died Friday at the age of 80.” Full obit via Kathleen Purvis in the Charlotte Observer.
The end of an era – Last night was final service for Jen Agg’s Toronto trailblazer The Black Hoof, and critic Corey Mintz has this tribute in the Globe and Mail: “For the past decade, The Hoof has been the place… By now, you probably have a restaurant or 12 like The Black Hoof in your town, a 40-seat room where they cure their own charcuterie and ferment their own pickles, a place with complex cocktails but no tablecloths, where the owners play the music they like at full volume, where surprising flavours explode out of labour-intensive sharing-sized dishes, all presented with a rock 'n' roll nonchalance that belies the high bar of the room’s hospitality… But in late 2008, there was nothing else like The Black Hoof in Toronto.”
The end of an era too – Per the LA Times, “Long before Highland Park became the latest go-to food enclave in Los Angeles — Hippo, HomeState and Triple Beam have all recently opened in the neighborhood — there was Good Girl Dinette, chef Diep Tran’s Vietnamese spin on the local diner… Tran is closing Good Girl on Oct. 5.”
The Title – In his ongoing fight to remain in charge of the Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, Alain Ducasse is claiming rank: “In court Ducasse's lawyers argued that the 61-year-old impresario, who has won a total of 21 Michelin stars for his restaurants dotted across the globe, was now ‘the most-starred chef in the world’ after the death earlier this month of fellow culinary legend Joel Robuchon.” You better recognize?
That Influencer $$$ - Chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins, and JJ Johnson are apparently repping Buzzfeed’s food video outlet Tasty now. Good for them, but the uncharacteristically slow, painful press release video does not bode well.
For design fans – Here’s the Eater LA photo spread for new “mid-range casual” (TM) The Gables in Santa Monica, where I’m a sucker for the Portuguese(?) tile patio space, but feel the need to remind designers that there are almost zero configurations or use cases in which cinderblock makes anything more attractive.
And I have no idea why I am so charmed by these basic, plaid booths at Theorita (“The ‘dinette’ and bakery from Che Fico pastry chef Angela Pinkerton (plus partners Matt Brewer and Che Fico chef David Nayfeld”), but… de gustibus etcetera.
And last and definitely least – If you, like me, are more comfortable with horror movies than candid camera cringe, please scroll past. If you want to witness Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) trick food critic Bill Jilla of DinnerReviews(.)com into reviewing condom encased veal and “human meat” dishes, here you go. Gross on many levels, including Cohen’s. Ugh.
And that’s it for today. Before I go, a quick, public apology to the staff at Taipei’s excellent Hoshina Udon: The noodles were great. My kids had no idea how to eat them. Entropy increases with hunger. We are sorry.
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.
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