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Poivrot Farci

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  1. To Whom Are You Drinking Right Now?

    A toast my sister (WWF Germany) a dear friend at USAID and another from Miriam’s Kitchen/GW Hospital who have selflessly and nobly been to the least prosperous places on earth -plundered by empires and devastated by nature- in a daunting effort to snuff out little bits of rampant crimes against humanity, nature and animals; merciless corruption, civil rights abuses and hopelessly inadequate medicine all while witnessing elements of daily life that would totally reset your standard of reality and comfort. Their contributions to humanity are sobering. The depths of my shame as an American citizen are worth mollifying with triple pours of liquor and donations.
  2. Despite the menu marquee, the Chesapeake Bay does not appear to be bountiful if oysters and quail eggs are the only items deemed representable from a 64,000 sq mile watershed (not even the crab cake gets MD designation). Might as well pave portions of the bay for parking and drill for oil in the rest.
  3. Herring

    The District Fishwife might have some fresh. Not sure if she pickles her own. If The Partisan or another "charcuterie" focused place doesn't have them this time of the year, well that is unfortunate. Same applies for a kitchen specializing in fish. But the herring may be too far north a this point. The herring are running in the Long Island Sound. I bartered 30lbs of freshly caught Atlantic herring from a fisherman in exchange for some finished pickled product. Some with red wine and red wine, the rest with white wine vinegar and lemon juice. The fisherman in question catches them by the ton, to the tune of 1-3 each day. He sullenly sells them for bait ($0.13/lb) or to the local aquarium for food. This is a legitimate tragedy, that such a plentiful, nutritionally beneficial fish which has low levels of mercury is being caught and sold for lobster bait.
  4. Affluent areas such as DC/NoVa do not need more food courts or restaurants or concepts peddling recycled iterations of commodity crap. They need better outlets to promote the concept of consumers that care enough to buy quality ingredients they can take home and cook for themselves and their families at a more rewarding $$/time ratio.
  5. Most of those folks are not aware that virtually every other modern country has paid sick days, multiple weeks of paid vacation and paid maternity leave. Americans have been bred to work long hours for little reward and time off is stigmatized. Kudos to Aaron Silverman's model of treating his staff with fundamental financial dignity despite it's effeminate and socialist "sharing is caring" brushstrokes.
  6. I have not heard a convincing or reasonable explanation to uphold the notion that a restaurant employer with more money will spend more on their employees, other than perhaps to retain employees by throwing a holiday party -which some have to stumble out of early to work the morning shift and the occasional bonus. The elusive and mystifying “trickle down” altruism defies the mission of a business which is to increase profits and cut the costs of production. There is no federal law for paid sick days, paid vacation or paid public holidays in the United States whereas the rest of the modern world has at least 2 weeks paid mandatory vacation. According to the BLS, the average number of paid vacation days offered by private US employers (77% of them) after 5 years of employment is 14 days. After 20 years it is 20 days. Albania has more paid public holidays and vacation time than the US. A former colleague of mine works at the flagship NYC restaurant of a highly celebrated and awarded restaurant group that has no less than 39 establishments throughout the world. They appear to be “killing it” if they have not already “killed it”. The benefits are minimal. Hours are strictly regulated (no more than 5hrs overtime) and cooks are expected to work pro-bono to finish the work that can not be done within 40+5. At the other end of the gilded table: Carmine’s (NYC) which grossed $33 million in 2016. It is owned by Alicart which has 6 Carmine’s locations and as of 2011 grossed $70 million with 1,200 employees. A cursory search suggests that they do not offer much. An anonymous former senior sales manager (possibly an anecdotal outlier) reviewed the operation: “Though the salary is very competitive, almost nothing else is: no paid holidays, 10 days of PTO for the entire year (to include sick, vacation, and personal time), a PTO blackout from October 1st to January 1st, VERY expensive health care, no flexible spending, and short and long term disability are additional. Expect to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas. They require 10 hour workdays, weekends, and nights." Employees allegedly get 30% food discounts though, which, given the portions, one could stash in the freezer for a rainy day or make a cardiologist's payday. While these are only 2 examples of a powerful restaurant groups within the highly profitable “killing” range, I would posit that such entities are financially successful because they "stifle", offer little to their employees, maintain low wage/benefit standards and invest at the top (executives, investors, shareholders, etc...) rather than the bottom (hourly employees). If neither the fancy group nor Carmine’s coffers can provide the benefits enjoyed by the rest of the modern world, who can? Perhaps a forensic accountant can explain how an industry with $800 billion in annual sales in a country with a GDP of $18.5 trillion can not afford paid sick days, vacation days or at least paid public holidays for all employees as is standard on other poorer countries. Of course the simplest explanation is that American workers simply do not know the level of mandated benefits offered abroad, therefor do not want and ultimately do not demand work/life/family balance orientated policies such as paid maternity leave, paid vacation and paid sick days. If American workers do crave more fundamental benefits they certainly do not elect legislators to fulfill those cravings.
  7. Other than flying coach and the hopelessly arcane process of signing up for aenemic health insurance, there are few indignities worse than working for a restaurant in the US, small independent or multi-Michelin outlet. Restaurant work is fetishized with very little reward and that is baffling. Across the Atlantic, the value -even reverence- of quality of life persists. While looking for a place to eat in Strasbourg (FR): Further north, Geranium will be closed for Christmas vacation from the 23rd of December through the 9th of January. If only time off from work was more ingrained in the greedy ethos of Capitalism.
  8. Long Island, NY

    The failing, frail, Ol' Grey Lady (not Flo-Fab) has a scoop on the agricultural livestock renaissance of sorts going on out on North Fork, which might bump up their readership. Quite a few organic farmers growing top shelf produce and exceptional seafood as well -though less abundant than yesteryear. A few roses in one of the state’s thorny Trump patches.
  9. Doubtful. More than most likely slowly cooked stove-top in a stainless steel pan with not too hot olive oil. Black bass that is not overcooked is neither flaky or firm. I don't think Frank has ever cooked fish SV and probably is not going to start now.
  10. At a glance from the picture of the clucker on their webpage, and according to a CSA, they grow Cornish Cross. That’s pricey for CC, but maybe the staff is paid well, the schmaltz supply is tight and the landlord is fleecing Mr. Langhorne in return. Either way, if people are willing to pay for that before seeing the Eagles downtown, god bless Mr. Langhorne and special tip of the hat to Rettland for taking advantage of free market capitalism, though if they are using organic (certified) feed that would be a selling point onto which they can charge even more.
  11. 2017 James Beard Awards

    Conflating the entire restaurant industry with head chefs and a contorted awards process compensated with extra dough prospects makes a pretzel of sense at best. These are luxury services in the entertainment industry, not elected legislators directly affecting our livelihoods or providing essential services, though both receive votes that are based on anything but objective scoring. Ostensibly, minorities are less represented than others because there are less of them. It may not be exclusively wholesale discrimination and more symptomatic of a litany of other social, economic and legislative factors. The $3billion NASCAR and the $4billion NHL (other stakeholders in the entertainment industry) were conspicuously absent from the NYTimes power exposé, and their profitable whiteness is probably because accessibility to go carts and ice rinks is more limited and costly than your average ball sports, instead of a collusion against anyone darker than the darkest Italian. As it pertains to restaurants that fall within the grade worthy of JB/Michelin/GaultMillau/TopWhatever consideration, there is no reasonable expectation that the chefs who invariably work 60+hrs/week, nights, weekends and holidays represent the general population/labor force and statistics from the BLS concur. Americans work longer hours for less pay and vacation than their international counterparts but 2/3rds still have weekends off and work somewhere in the 9-5 realm, perhaps less with telecommuting, which presents challenges in trying to oversee and manage a kitchen from home. Absolutely not. Women make up 50.8% of the general American population (58.5% of the labor force and), but not of the industry (closer to 15%) and people of color/LBGT even less. If LBGT people of color make up 15% of the chef population, then one can expect 10%-30% winners, but not more. That's just a matter of numbers and calculations and it would be a stretch to implicate 10th Century Arabs in the numerical conspiracy to deprive minorities from awards shows a millennium later. The awards (which, along with the Oscars have very little tangible merit other than driving up sales and egos) are an inward looking masturbatory gala (every industry has them) that "should" represent the makeup of the industry (Asian chefs are the largest minority) but with so many categories the odds dictate that the largest population has a better shot of winning. It's more chance than malicious and a medal to hang on the mantel, not a scholarship. In the first 20 of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, 3 are Asian, 1 is Indian and 5 come from central/southern America. Working in a professional kitchen that strives to offer a premium product as a career is far from drinking snifters of scotch in club chairs at, chewing cigars and chuckling with the investors/owners/beneficiaries of said restaurants The odds of breaking through to fame and acclaim in a fine dining restaurant (about 60,000 in the US) are worse than that actor who can't act like a server going to Hollywood or getting attacked by a blue lobster on the Cape. The restaurant portion of the food service industry is awful. It is underpaid, under-insured and essentially an unskilled labor force that works shitty hours which are not conducive to a healthy, social or prosperous lifestyle. Dangling hopelessly rare prizes on the end of a sparkly stick is certainly not an effective way to court more passionate female chefs to a business that is one of the mascots for economic inequality & servitude to the privileged and no less flakey than encouraging little girls to grow up to be princesses. Anyone choosing to cook as a career for fame & fortune should invest in PR and a pair of ice skates or a tiara as a fail-safe. It is an honor for these chefs to be nominated and validation for their work by peers who have established themselves as masters of the trade, but it is by no means meant to be a Benetton ad and I'll bet a fancy ham sandwich that most chefs were driven to cook out of necessity and to satisfy a creative craving for which there is an paying audience, rather than dreams of an elusive awards show indulged by star-fuckers.
  12. 2017 James Beard Awards

    Sure it is a pompously subjective affair that differs from the objective scoring of Track & Field and competitive eating and there is no harm in tokens on the podium, "but this year, 27% of the semifinalists were female, compared with 19% in 2009". That exceeds the demographics compiled by the Census Bureau and BLS. #statisticallymorechefsaremenandwhite Congratulations to Mr. Furstenberg, and his tireless head baker Ben Arnold who only gets crumbs of recognition and praise.
  13. It doesn’t have to be but it is and forever will be under the survival of the richest economic model. The costs of living, goods and services are very high in the D.C. area which is commensurate with an area flush with fat cats. In terms of cosmopolitan cities, Berlin is a gruff, thrifty outlier more in line with Montreal where rents are still very affordable and ½ of Berlin/DDR was essentially off limits (and backwards) up until 25 years ago. Germany is much more affordable than this land of opportunity and Germans enjoy far less income inequality despite having the 4th highest GDP. And you can get a 18th century fixer-upper manor house in the former DDR for $45K. -deputy archivist and executive cheerleader of the FR fanclub.
  14. Charging $50 for a gallon of diesel and potato chips during a hurricane in the midst of a siege is gouging. Charging a premium for hand made leather shoes, top shelf booze or truffled noodles at a fancy restaurant is not. That ham sandwich is a blatant splurge, not an essential consumer good. Consumers are free to purchase other options for ½ the price, at Taylor Gourmet, where a commodity vegetarian sandwich somehow costs the same as a one with commodity meats. Spendthrifts can also buy cardboard flip-flops and burlap sheets. Mirabelle makes the bread, butter and ham from infinitely better ingredients, which commands a fair amount of knack, and none of that comes cheap. Ultimately, your gripe is with commercial landlords who are the scourge of humanity and deserve to collectively get syphilis.
  15. It is reasonable to consider whether the markups support healthy employee wages (cheers) and/or cushion revolting commercial landlord greed (jeers). Roger Marmet is known to be an exceptionally fair and even generous employer. And better ingredients cost more money than marginal ones.