Skenes Sued, CBD crack down, truffles crop up, RateBeer sells out, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, February 8th, 2019
Good luck out there to readers in Seattle today. Judging by food writer Naomi Tomky’s ongoing coverage of the empty grocery shelves meme on Twitter, you may want to keep an eye on the walk-in.
Let’s get to it…
Of Suits and Expansions – Shot: “San Francisco’s Angler, the glitzy Embarcadero seafood restaurant from Saison chef Joshua Skenes, is expanding to Seattle. The new outpost is about two years from opening, Skenes told the Chronicle.” Chaser: “Chef Joshua Skenes, the owner and longtime chef of three-Michelin-starred Saison and newly-minted Michelin bait Angler, is facing a lawsuit filed by an investor, with claims of misuse of funds and failure to repay a loan.” And a dash of salt from chef Preeti Mistry on Twitter: “Is this whole fine dining industry a ponzi scheme? Yes, grasshopper. Yes it is.”
The Long Game – “Northern California is suddenly awash in locally grown black truffles: About a decade ago, California-grown black or Périgord truffles were at best a dream, and at worst a long shot. That’s when about a dozen farmers started planting orchards of hazelnut and oak trees, their roots inoculated with Tuber melanosporum spores. If the orchard was carefully tended, the first black truffles could form within five to eight years, though it would take a couple more years for an orchard to really bear fruit. It’s happening: For the first time, California has a truffle season, which goes from December into March, as growers are making serious progress toward creating a viable locally grown version of the European luxury ingredient.” Pounds and pedigrees from Tara Duggan in the SF Chronicle.
Some Sad News – Out west, “Mary Ann Graf, who paved the way for California women winemakers, dies at 76… Graf is best known as the winemaker for Simi Winery in Healdsburg, where she preceded a string of other notable women winemakers. But the majority of her career was spent running Vinquiry, a laboratory that provided testing services to wineries. She was also the first woman board member of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture.” Esther Mobley has a full obituary here.
In North Carolina, Karen Barker, former owner of Durham’s Magnolia Grill and quasi-founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, passed away last Saturday. “On the death certificate, [her husband] Ben instructed that the mortuary list Karen’s occupation as ‘greatest pastry chef.’ The director didn’t think that would be accepted. Ben said, ‘Try it anyway.’ And so it was. And so it is.” A brief statement from the SFA site is here, and a full obituary from Drew Jackson in The News & Observer is here.
And in the LA Times, Gustavo Arellano has the obit for Margarita Avila, co-founder of Avila's El Ranchito restaurants, who died Tuesday at 93. Avila emigrated to the U.S. from a small town Mexico, and worked her way up to cooking for a President (Nixon, but still).
Michelin Season – The 2019 Swiss Guide launched this week, with two new two-stars (focus in Vitznau and Pavillon in Zurich), and 21 new single-stars. Press release and link to full list here.
The Media – Big news in print: “In April, the Los Angeles Times will bring back its standalone Food section, seven years after it was folded into the Saturday features pages. Food will run Thursdays and be devoted to dining, cooking, drinking and entertaining…. Expanded cooking coverage will be a hallmark of the new section. To that end, The Times also announced two hires Tuesday: Genevieve Ko as cooking editor and Ben Mims as cooking columnist; both begin this month.” Congrats, all and us!
Cracking Down on the Placebo Affect – Per Eater NY’s Serena Dai, “Cannabis foods have indeed landed on the chopping block in New York City. The Department of Health confirmed on Tuesday that restaurants, bars, and other venues under its purview cannot sell cannabidiol (or CBD)-laced edibles — noting in a statement that it’s not ‘safe as a food additive’ according to federal guidance. Inspectors started to embargo products in January, which means that though restaurants were asked to stop offering them, DOH staff did not take the goods away. So far, officials have asked five restaurants to end CBD food and drink and sales.”
For the bar – “Here’s a wild hypothetical,” from Food & Wine’s Mike Pomranz, “Let’s say you were the largest brewing company in the world, and you became the sole owner of one of the largest community-driven beer rating sites in the world. Though those two things could exist without any impropriety, it’s also very easy to see how it could be problematic…. [Welp, on Monday], RateBeer announced it has been fully acquired by AB InBev.” Nothing to see here. Move along.
For Design Fans – Not much exciting going on in this Eater NY photo spread of Gran Tivoli in Nolita, but do I spy wall-to-wall carpet in the basement bar? Can’t remember the last time I saw that in a new space. Design readers, is this a thing?
And last and least – Headline from Pete Wells in NYT Food: “How to Complain at a Restaurant? Just Ask Our Critic.” Ugh. I didn’t even read the vast majority of the article and I can tell you the entire thing is awful. The opening paragraph included both a “not only, but also” and a “not to mention”. Gross. On top of that, Wells uses “in three dimensions” to refer to real life. IRL, that metaphor isn’t just pre-VR, it’s pre-time. Luckily, I started dozing off as soon as it became clear we would be hearing from “people who study complaints”, so I had a nice nap instead of reading the final 10k words or whatever. If you must read them, they’re here. To be fair, that portrait pic of the Shopsin’s team is pretty cool. Two stars.
And that’s it for today. Two stars?
I’ll see you here Tuesday for next Family Meal.
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