Dining section digest: A condensed reading list

Embattled street vendors, daytime drinking, and Guy Fieri -- the best of today's newspaper food coverage

By Thomas Rogers
December 2, 2009 7:03PM (UTC)
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Some of the highlights from this week's Wednesday dining sections:

  • The Washington Post devotes a long, meaty piece today to the fierce struggles between mobile food vendors and government red tape. Over the past few years, street vendors have offered some of the most exciting, fun and hip food in the country, including LA's Korean-Mexican fusion Kogi BBQ truck and New York's Twitter sensation, the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. The problem: These moving vendors don't easily fit into a category for local regulators, and, as a result, frequently run into problems with the law. Kogi, for example, racked up $800 in fines in its first day in Beverly Hills (whose rules stipulated, among other things, that the truck must move at least 500 feet every 30 minutes). But San Francisco chef Charles Phan has some great suggested solutions -- including turning empty lots into "street-food hubs," and encouraging location agreements between vendors and office buildings.
  • While we're on the subject, the Boston Globe has a short Q & A this morning with Charles Kelsey, a former Gourmet writer and Cooks Illustrated editor who tried -- and failed -- to open his own food truck. His money-quote, about the city's street-food bureaucracy: "I felt as if I was trying to open a gun store in Cambridge."
  • The Globe's Kathleen Pierce attended the opening night of Food Network host Guy Fieri's baffling 21-city cooking tour. Based on her description, the performance is part cooking-tutorial, part low-end Reno variety show. Among the highlights of the evening: a 6-foot tall blender for margaritas, t-shirt shooting guns, and jokes "punctuated by erupting squirt bottles." Unsurprisingly, it's probably not the best place to learn how to make Hong Kong-style noodles, says Pierce: "Much of the cooking disappears into a mash of sound bites." If, by any chance, you're unfamiliar with the "extreme" Guy Fieri experience, the following video will help you get acquainted:

  • In the New York Times' "Winter Drinks Issue," Pete Wells writes about the return of rum among trendy booze-hounds. Apparently, rum is no longer just for summer-time consumption -- partly because people are sick of drinking "snobby" drinks. The real highlight of the piece, however, isn't the liquor talk, but the descriptions of upcoming L.A. Bar the Tar Pit -- which serves drinks dressed up in bondage gear and a ball gag. I strongly recommend the accompanying slideshow.
  • The NY Times  profiles the burgeoning trend of drinks-centric brunch spots -- where the real draw isn't the food, but the fancy cocktails. Bars like Brooklyn's Fort Defiance and Henry Public, and Manhattan's Mayahuel, now serve complex mixed drinks in the early hours (including something called The Breakfast Cocktail and a bourbon and milk concoction). The reason for the shift, suggests Brooklyn bar/brunch-place owner, Julie Reiner: People are bored with the bloody mary. The taboo of daytime drinking also seems to be fading. (Though, for some of us, that taboo faded somewhere in our late teens).


Thomas Rogers

Thomas Rogers is Salon's former Arts Editor. He has written for the Globe & Mail, the Village Voice and other publications. He can be reached at @thomasmaxrogers.

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