This past week wasn’t all about sweets. Two chefs shared their perspectives on hot topics of the day including the impact of North Carolina’s highly controversial “bathroom bill” and racial inequality’s intersection with the restaurant industry. In California, journalist Tara Duggan shared a sobering report on the state of the San Francisco Bay’s coastal ecosystem. A writer for The New York Times also offers a revealing portrait into the double life of Hugh Johnson, a world-renowned wine authority who also happens to be an expert on trees.
Assess your own personal envy of Ina Garten’s husband Jeffrey, who stars as an often unseen character on the Barefoot Contessa and received his own cookbook ode this month, with the series “I Like This Bitch’s Life.” On the (coincidentally) dessert-centric side of things, explore America’s candy factories with Atlas Obscura and learn about the history of The Cheesecake Factory through the recountings of its founder. Here, now, are seven excellent stories to dig into this weekend.
Raleigh is my home, and the location of my seven restaurants, which employ 265 amazing people. Politically, it’s an interesting place — in many ways, the town feels very liberal, very "blue." But it’s also the capital city of North Carolina; the governor’s mansion is just six blocks away from our restaurants. It’s the site of many rallies and protests both supporting and opposing the state government’s decisions, and this election cycle, we’ve had multiple visits from both presidential candidates and their surrogates. Here, we see political fights play out in real time.
The New York Times
With stolid determination, most wine writers fixate on telling readers what to do: buy this bottle, drink by 2020. For Mr. Johnson, wine is never so simple or so certain. It’s the questions wine raises that fascinate him and inform his conversation with what’s in the glass.
“The appellations of Burgundy are a work of art in their own right: never were so many shades of rank and meaning packed into so few words,” he writes of three young white grand cru Burgundies he’s tasting. “‘Silky, sulky, sour,’ is what I wrote in my notes, inebriated with words I fear. What are ‘crosscurrents of energy’? A switchboard? Energy, though, is the point: the quality that all good wines possess, and a few to an electrical degree.”
In the middle of Main Street Cambridge's Central Square, squished between a UHaul and a pan-Asian restaurant, sits an anonymous, foreboding building. Its walls are graying and dingy, and its windows are covered from the inside. No signs identify its purpose. It doesn't seem like a great neighbor.
But several times a week, as the sun sets over the city, the building begins releasing a sweet, chocolatey-mint scent. As it turns out, it's home to a branch of the Tootsie Roll Company—specifically, the one that churns out Junior Mints.
My parents had a little cheesecake factory in Detroit. My mother [Evelyn Overton] got the recipe out of a newspaper, and she said she moved it around a little bit—people loved it. We never had a lot of money. When my sister and I got old enough to go to school, she didn't like the idea that we would be latchkey kids, so she took all of her equipment from this store in Detroit. [She] moved it into her basement, and then for 25 years she made cheesecakes in Detroit out of her basement.
New York Magazine
It was hard not to: She constantly referenced Jeffrey, her perpetually-absent husband who returned from business trips in the nick of time to meet Ina’s warm embrace and a kitchen full of fresh, delicious food. (Jeffrey was the former Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade in Bill Clinton’s administration, worked on Wall Street, and is dean emeritus of the Yale School of Management, hence all the business trips and limited Food Network screen time.) Ina may have been the show’s main aspirational figure, but I wanted to be Jeffrey, minus the boring jobs: cared for and well fed, without having to do any of the actual work. I have liked that bitch’s life for going on a decade now.
Modern dining reflects our ambivalence towards combatting racial prejudice, and reinforces racial hierarchy. And that’s why they say never to discuss religion and politics at the dinner table. For when we disobey them it becomes impossible to deny the politics of racism, racial capitalism, racialized underemployment, poverty and gentrification, and patriarchy, which permeate many of our well-meaning dining spaces, organic farms, food publications, and plates.
San Francisco Chronicle
In the shallow waters off Elk, in Mendocino County, a crew from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife dived recently to survey the area’s urchin and abalone populations. Instead of slipping beneath a canopy of leafy bull kelp, which normally darkens the ocean floor like a forest, they found a barren landscape like something out of “The Lorax.”
A single large abalone scaled a bare kelp stalk, hunting a scrap to eat, while urchins clustered atop stark gray stone that is normally striped in colorful seaweed.
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