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How the Pandemic Broadened My Horizons as a Diner

From the Editor: Everything you missed in food news last week

The exterior of Nami Nori which has a semi circular tent covering tables and chairs
Nami Nori in New York
Nami Nori [Official]

This post originally appeared on January 16, 2020 in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.

Reflecting back on how I dined in 2020, the overarching theme is one of austerity. Pre-pandemic, I ate most of my meals outside of my house, always with friends and coworkers and new acquaintances. In 2020, I cooked most of my meals and ate with my family. I imagine you did too.

That said, when I did engage with restaurants and food businesses over this pandemic period, my experiences were more varied and unique than any other year. Meanwhile, I’ve grown into a better, more forgiving, and more adventurous diner and customer.

Last month, I joined a waiting list to have some fried chicken delivered to my door, which is something that would not have crossed my mind in 2019. I’ve dined outside in 95-degree and 27-degree weather. I’ve dined out in the rain. Under heat lamps, propane and electric. I’ve done the yurt, the cubby, the tent, the upmarket shanty.

Over the summer, I took up biking to bakeries miles from my house just to try a new croissant or cookie (and to re-spark my sense of curiosity and food-fueled adventure). I’ve ordered bread and baked goods off Instagram, picking up orders at brownstones and restaurant-kitchen side doors. I’ve bought meal kits and groceries, multi-course takeout meals and wine boxes from my favorite local places.

We’ve hit a grim milestone this week in the deadliness of this pandemic, and I won’t pretend that consumption is a pathway out of this. But I’m hoping that expanding how we engage with food businesses and appreciating the lengths we’ll go to to support the creative people we admire can be lasting positives.

On Eater

— London’s restaurants and pubs may not return until May, and Vegas, D.C., Michigan, and New Orleans extended their restrictions. Meanwhile, indoor dining has or will soon return in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Minnesota. Per a judge’s ruling, New Yorkers outside of New York City may eat indoors, but perhaps just temporarily.

— Disneyland is now a mass vaccination site.

— Seattle wins the competition for having the most confusing guidelines around indoor and outdoor dining restrictions (which now involve CO2 monitors).

— A very helpful FAQ from Ryan Sutton on how the new round of PPP loans will work.

— Chicago’s only full-time restaurant critic, Phil Vettel, took a buyout this week from the Chicago Tribune, ending his 41-year career there.

— Shake Shack, an international fast-food chain, added a chicken sandwich with gochujang-glazed fried chicken and kimchi slaw to its Korean stores. The company and its South Korean partner toured a range of fried chicken restaurants in Seoul while they were developing the sandwich and sourced information on fried chicken and Korean food in general from food writers and influencers. Before bringing it to the U.S., they contracted an Oregon-based kimchi producer to provide the topping. But when they announced the introduction of their “Korean-style” and “Korean-inspired” chicken, they still encountered a slew of criticism.

A beef rib over rice with kimchi.
Dino bone curry from Zef BBQ in California
Wonho Frank Lee

An olive oil company was so frustrated by the rampant fraud in the industry that it created its own 33-point quality certification program… that it won’t let anyone else participate in.

— Eater LA checks out a very exciting underground, family-run barbecue restaurant operating out of a garage in the suburbs.

— A Chinese restaurant in Montreal received a lot of attention this week for its charmingly honest menu descriptions, including “Comparing to our General Tao Chicken, this one is not THAT good” and “We used to have the beef pieces on small sticks but several customers cut their lips by it, thinking it was some hard ingredient.”

— COVID-19 may be the nail in the coffin for many mom-and-pop bowling alleys.

— A cooking challenge for you: Buy and eat more rabbit meat.

— And, to lighten the mood, here are some bonkers Instagram videos from a restaurant in Berkeley.

Off Eater

  • A touching look at the San Antonio school bus drivers now delivering food and supplies to families in need along their old routes. [Texas Monthly]
  • I’m sure you’ve already read Lawrence Wright’s epic issue-long examination of what went wrong (and right) at every step of this pandemic, but I just finished it and I can’t recommend it enough. [TNY]
  • An incisive and bleak critique on the pre-pandemic restaurant scene and what restaurants can and should be post-COVID. [n+1]
  • Love this story of a Florida couple who bought a viral shag-carpet house sight unseen. [Curbed]
  • Rebecca Traister talks with Pramila Jayapal about what it was like to survive the siege. [The Cut]

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