It was one rollercoaster ride of a year. We celebrated a lot at Food Republic, like the different regional cuisines of Mexico and the secret that makes Five Guys fries so great. We also got down to the not-so-nice truth about TV’s Jon Taffer and what’s making so many great New York City restaurants close. We also tried our hand at making our own charcuterie. Here are Food Republic’s top 10 stories of 2016 based on popularity.
“Mexican food” is a misnomer, or, at least, woefully inadequate to describe the many distinct regional cuisines that encompass the term. The pork dish cochito, ubiquitous in Chiapas, might be a mystery to someone in Tamaulipas. Recently, when a (now-shuttered) burrito place opened in an upscale Mexico City neighborhood, the press coverage was careful to clarify what, exactly, a burrito is.
According to the intro to Bar Rescue, “Nobody knows more about bar science than Jon Taffer.” For more than 30 years, Taffer has allegedly transformed hundreds of failing bars around the world into success stories. His mighty fish lips hurl insults at bar owners who plead with him to clean up their crappy bars, transforming them with elbow grease, business education and, of course, flat-screen TVs.
At some burger chains, French fries are a side dish. At Five Guys, they’re an obsession for customers and employees alike. The Lorton, Virginia–based chain now has more than 1,300 locations around the globe, with rabid fans who swear by the savory burgers and that glorious single side item: hand-cut French fries.
“It was weird to look over and see some single person eating next to you ten years ago,” says Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of Dirt Candy in New York City. “Now it’s pretty normal.”
It’s happening all over New York City, to restaurants big and small, from acclaimed pioneers, like WD-50, Union Square Café, Telepan, the Campbell Apartment and the Four Seasons, to more humble and beloved spots, like Bianca, Hamilton’s and Brooklyn Fish Camp. All shuttered or packing up because the rent is due and it’s too damn high.
When that eye round is staring back at you and it’s July — and you know no one is going to roast it — it’s just begging to be turned into bresaola. And it’s possible with just four ingredients: salt, humidity, temperature and a little time.
Next time you run into a chef, don’t ask how they’re doing. Chances are, the answer will not be a smile and a “Fine, thanks, how are you?” More likely it will be some sort of frustration-fueled rant about staffing: “I can’t find line cooks, I don’t have a sous, I need a chef de cuisine. No one sticks around — my kitchen is a revolving door!” The staffing crisis across the country has reached a boiling point; there are not enough cooks in the kitchen.
A couple of weeks ago I was on the phone with Laura Reiley, a writer and restaurant critic for the Tampa Bay Times, running down a list of what was and wasn’t local on the menu of my restaurant, the Refinery. She was working on a piece called “Farm to Fable — At Tampa Bay Farm-to-Table Restaurants, You’re Being Fed Fiction” that’s sorta set the restaurant world on fire by exposing who lived up to their claims of using local sources, who made an oversight, and who outright lied. I was excited about this piece because I’ve known of blatant lies from some of the restaurants mentioned for years and been justifiable pissed, but couldn’t say anything — ‘cuz professionalism. The truth came out last Wednesday, and I was happy.
Mustard: You know it, you love it, you want some more of it. I know. I feel the same way. But if you’re stuck on the yellow stuff, it’s time to change things up. There are a lot of mustards out there, and hopefully this guide can help you figure out which mustards you should be adding to your diet.
Most people probably associate vodka with Russia and other territories of the former Soviet Union, the spirit’s ancestral home, or perhaps Sweden or France. But there is a surprisingly high number of good vodkas being made right here, right now in the United States.