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The Washington City Paper is just out with its Best of D.C. lists and already they are out of date. The addition of Le Diplomate to the city scene could change a few of them–best burger, best brunch? At the very least, I’m sure the editors will add Best French to their categories (there’s Best Italian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Irish, but no French, which says plenty), but I’d suggest they also add Best Dining Experience and Le Diplomate would run away with it.
And when you find one, you can go every Sunday for brunch or every Friday and Saturday late night or several times a week for lunch. The best diners do all the classics well, but win you with their range and versatility. The Greek diner near my college, for example, had addictive tzatziki and superb silver dollar pancakes and inexpensive pitchers of beer. Heaven.
I read last week’s food sections from the comfort of a poolside chaise in Miami, but even that tranquil setting couldn’t buffer me from the annoyance I felt at the big food-editor-of-the-Washington-Post’s “coming out” piece–as a vegetarian, that is, though Joe Yonan did compare it to his earlier coming out. (I wonder if he was plugging his new book that time.) But the bad taste didn’t end there. Using Anthony Bourdain as his villain, Yonan countered the argument that the worst dining table crime is to tell someone’s grandma you’re not eating the meal she cooked because you’re a veg with this: “I think the absolute rudest thing you can do is to show a lack of respect for someone else’s decision about what they are going to consume.” So this is just another rant from the infamously thin-skinned Post food editor, and I’d say who cares except that a guy who doesn’t eat like 96% of us shouldn’t be the editor of a mainstream food publication/section. Alan Richman at GQ just ranked Johnny Monis’ Dupont Circle Thai Little Serow the most outstanding restaurant of 2013. Shouldn’t the Post’s food editor be able to eat there (not to mention love it)? (And is it just me or was Mark Bittman trying to distance himself from Yonan when he called himself a “true omnivore” in the Times Magazine this weekend?)
I will take Jane Black’s do-gooder public service pieces over Mark Bittman’s smug moralizing any day. In the Washington Post, Black writes about healthy shopping classes taught at grocery stores across the country. In the New York Times, Bittman weighs …
Best read of the week in the food sections goes to Bart Barnes in the Washington Post. If you’re familiar with that byline, you must be a regular reader of the Post’s obit page. His charming piece in the food section chronicles his desire to have a sandwich named after him, so for his 75th birthday party, guests were asked to bring their nominations. In the end, the Bart is cut up hot dogs, onion, peppers, cheddar cheese, and hot sauce on cheesy jalapeño bread. Sounds intense.
In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, the food editor of The Atlantic rants about weighs in on the subject of the rise of the tasting menu and specifically the “tyranny” of tasting-menu-only restaurants. He’s got a nice little history and the piece is a better read than Pete Wells similar grump from last fall. Wells’ gist: “The consumer of such a meal may feel as much like a victim as a guest. The reservation is hard won, the night is exhausting, the food is cold, the interruptions are frequent. The courses blur, the palate flags and the check stings.” That does sound like “a form of torture,” as Corby Kummer mildly puts it.
The pizza coverstory at the Washington Post food section this week is an example of style over substance. The behind-the-scenes narrative of the Tim Carman/Joe Yonan pizza cook-off, which Carman playfully suggests is rigged because Yonan is the boss, is light reading, but the ongoing joke leaves the reader thinking more about what Yonan’s year away from the Post did for his sense of humor than about pizza slinging. However, it did remind me of Pete Wells’ puzzling review of a Brooklyn pizzeria last week–strange in that it warranted a review and that Wells used an ill-concieved metaphor throughout (as in “the pizza version of the sparkly oven” and “the dessert is another of [the] tiled ovens”–editor please!) Anyway, this is the long process which brings me to this suggestion: On your next at-home pizza, try fennel, sausage, cheese, and red pepper flakes.
Bon Appetit has been doing a little feature called the BA Q&A where they talk to stylish people about their eating habits. It reminds me of the New York Eats feature at Grub Street, which pretty much always works–basically a celebrity maps out everything they eat in a week. It’s pretty interesting for us voyeurs. But this month’s interview at BA should have made its home on the cutting room floor, not on the pages of the magazine. Someone called Kelly Wearstler would be totally mortified if she ingested enough calories to feel things.
The new year brings with it new and exciting flavors and techniques. No, I’m not referring to Mark Bittman’s two most recent columns on Potatoes and Sandwiches. Instead check out Sophie Brickman’s piece in the New York Times about cooking in your microwave. I’ve been trying some of the less frequented buttons, so this was inspiring. Reviewing Nathan Myhrvold’s follow-up to his six-volume bible for the modernist chef, a slimmer edition for the modernist home cook, Brickman suggests we try frying parsley, steaming fish, and dehydrating fruit, all in the microwave. We most definitely will!
I’ve read some Gunter Grass, and even excerpted Local Anaesthetic here. I got my Thanksgiving stuffing recipe from him. Then a year plus ago New York Magazine mentioned The Flounder in a list of great food books. It seemed natural that I’d pick up a copy and now finally I have. This should be an interesting read. Here’s a sampling from the first pages: