The Family Meal – Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Hello Tuesday,

Once again the Pulitzer Board has snubbed newsletter writers. I’m sure you’ll all agree this is a great injustice, but we must all move on together.

Let’s get to it…

The Media – Congrats to Kim Severson and Julia Moskin, the two NYT Food writers who won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for their December 12th piece detailing sexual harassment allegations against Ken Friedman. They shared the award with multiple writers from the NYT and the New Yorker, but as Severson rightly points out via tweet: “The real heroes are the women who came forward so we could tell their stories.”

Guiding principles – Wildlife activists tell me they are planning to protest Danny Meyer’s flagship Shake Shack in NYC this weekend. Hong Kong based WildAid has been trying to pressure the company on its partnership with Maxim’s Caterers, a local chain that serves shark fin soup at large banquets. Shake Shack’s rapid overseas growth has often meant copying Starbucks‘ successful relationships with companies like the Sabazy League in Japan, Alshaya in the Middle East (Alshaya could copy/paste an entire mall’s worth of stores at this point), and Maxim’s in Hong Kong. WildAid argues that the latter’s trade in fins is pushing blue sharks closer and closer to the endangered list, and I had a hard time finding compelling research saying otherwise. Their (long) letter to Mr. Meyer et al. is here.

NB: The protesters also have one kinda famous Hong Konger on their side… (no clickbait: it’s Jackie Chan).

The Critics – I rarely include reviews here, but the disclaimer on Jonathan Gold’s recent Majordomo take is worth it: “Is this review a hard one to write? It is indeed… I appear in [David Chang‘s] Netflix show, and he has a moment in a documentary about me, which also includes a scene shot in his soon-to-close New York restaurant Má Pêche… He once tried to get me to denounce Filipino cuisine in front of a roomful of his (non-Filipino) friends. I once tried to punk him by taking one of his chefs out to a K-town bossam restaurant when she visited, and she didn’t quite recognize that the delicious dish she was eating had anything to do with the most famous preparation at Ssäm Bar, the restaurant where she worked.

“Also, for the last several months I have been furious at the chef for dismantling Lucky Peach, a splendid food magazine created by him and Peter Meehanthat I truly loved and wrote for. As I’ve said, it’s complicated — I’m not sure whether I’m here to praise Caesar or to bury him.” Full review and unabridged disclaimer here.

Tell PR – Last week, the SF Chronicle launched a new column called Housemade, in which “culinary scientist Ali Bouzari… will take diners on a guided tour of the silent sciences, brilliant ideas and awesome techniques behind your favorite restaurant menus.” First up, three dishes from Duna where “Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns serve weaponized grandma food.”

Q: Who will be the first editor to walk up to the front line and stick a flower in our overuse of “weaponized”?

E. Coli Outbreak – Via NY Daily News: “The CDC advises consumers who have recently purchased romaine lettuce, including as part of salads and salad mixes, to throw it away, even if no one in your home has gotten sick. They also instruct that restaurants should not sell or serve romaine lettuce that has been sourced from the Yuma, Arizona, region. As of now, their investigation is ongoing. To assess your area’s risk, see the full map of case counts from the CDC.”

For the somm – The NYT’s Eric Asimov sat down with “Burgundy iconoclast Laurent Ponsot”, who left his family’s Domaine Ponsot in early 2017 for undisclosed “personal reasons” and has stayed “silent and hidden” until now. Apparently he spent his free time thinking high tech, and now wants to start producing again, but with microchips for tracking bottles, temperature sensors in cases, and a 20 million euro visitor’s center that uses “virtual reality, interactive screens, films, performances, conferences and a library, with the purpose of educating people about the wines, vineyards and terroir of Burgundy.”

Wine country, but with screen time!

Screen time – Alain Ducasse is getting his own documentary where – prepare yourself – he travels the world in search of great ingredients and meets interesting people along the way. To be fair, it’s a formula with a lot of potential for variation, and there does seem to be some good stuff in here: “I think Chinese caviar is the best right now. There’s a production method imported from Iran.”

Pardners – Via Eater NY: “Turns out the new partner behind the relaunch of Malaysian cafe Kopitiam has some serious cred from one of LA’s hippest restaurants. For the new, bigger Kopitiam in LES, chef-owner Kyo Pang teamed up with Moonlynn Tsai, who helped open super-popular Taiwanese restaurant and cafe Pine & Crane in LA.”

Investors – Also via Eater NY: “Here’s one big reason why restaurateur Stephen Starr ended up joining the new Pastis: After famed restaurateur Keith McNally suffered a stroke more than a year ago, his investors pulled out of the project to bring back the iconic Meatpacking District restaurant.”

Long read – I’m at the “looked at all the pictures” stage of reading this epic profile of oyster folk in Apalachicola, Florida, but I’ll go ahead and say it’s worth a click already. (Plus, it’s by Tampa Bay Times author Laura Reiley of Farm to Fable fame.) Teaser: “When T.J. was a young man, he left his family’s 13 Mile Oyster House, sustained for four generations by the daily miracles of Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, to try to make something different of himself in college. When the bay and his family were all but destroyed, he came back. And then T.J. did something he never thought he would. He motored into the waters of the next county, where such things are allowed, and began experimenting with technology that could leave four generations of Ward family oystering obsolete.”

And last and least – I find it (almost) endlessly funny that Adrian Reynolds, a prolific commenter on Eater LA’s website – with 3,327 comments in his name to date – officially announced his retirement on Twitter, while taking one last shot at his arch nemesis, an unnamed “vastly unqualified twat”, who I suspect is an editor whose only crime was occasionally asking Mr. Reynolds to be more polite. Godspeed, Adrian. Godspeed.

And that’s it for today. Don’t let the comments section get you down. I never do, which is why…

I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and send tips and/or Chinese caviar to andrew@thisfamilymeal.com. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself at thisfamilymeal.com!

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